Here’s to the first annual Lint Trap Best of 2003. No, I will not be picking my favorite entries. That would be lame. And it would come off even more self-absorbed than I am already ashamed to be. Instead, here’s my tribute to the best of movies, music, television, books, trends, personalities, sports, and news stories of the year… out of those I’ve actually seen or heard, at least! Enjoy.
Keira Knightly could be the smartest person in Hollywood. She herself has not proven much acting talent yet (unless you count her unique ability to evoke the likeness of Natalie Portman or Winona Ryder with each role), but her choices—or her agent’s choices—were dead-on. Case in point: three of my five favorite flicks this year, Bend it Like Beckham, Pirates of the Carribbean, and Love Actually. But while Knightly faded into the background, her costars turned out brilliant performances. Beckham‘s Parminder Nagra!? Hello! Beautiful, funny, talented… why are we not seeing more actresses like this? With their similar premise, Beckham beat the hell out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It’s a nonoffensive family film with heart AND depth. Fantastic. Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean is perhaps the performance of the year. Who would have thought the brooding, mysterious indie actor would agree to such a film? And make it soar? It was supposed to be a big-budget, commercial, made-from-a-Disney-theme-park-ride nightmare, but turned out to be one of the more truly enjoyable films of all time. Will I be singing the same tune when the sequel comes out in 2005? We can only hope. I drove 45 minutes in the pouring rain to see Love Actually in the last Bay Area theater playing it AND against the advice of a coworker who reviews movies on the radio. It was more than worth it. This movie puts the comedy in romantic comedy. I have never laughed or smiled so much in 2 hours. Covering every manifestation of love—from school crushes to adultery—the interwoven storylines were such a pleasure to watch unfold. And as much as I loved eight continuous hours of him in Pride and Prejudice, THIS was Colin Firth at his best. His storyline—a budding relationship with a Portuguese woman who cannot speak a word of English—was a screenwriting gem. Are you at the edge of your seat wondering about my next two picks? No, nothing about hobbits. Or The Matrix. Or sand. Or fog. As fate would have it, the girl who names Magnolia as her favorite movie of all-time adds two family films to the mix: School of Rock and Whale Rider. Jack Black is still nowhere near my list of favorite actors, but his rock wannabe-turned-substitute teacher had me at the cineplex not once, but three times! He is a riot and the kids are phenomenal. Oh, and don’t forget the killer soundtrack. Whale Rider is an indie film from Down Under, a fascinating look at the clash of traditional and contemporary culture within the Mori tribe. Keisha Castle-Hughes is the next Anna Pacquin, if only she continues to make good choices.
What a strange year. First, to get it off my chest, Clay Aiken is SO much better than Rueben Studdard. The poor boy was robbed. Now that we have that settled, it’s on to the real deal. Unlike 2002, 2003 was somewhat slow in the female singer/songwriter genre. Even Tori Amos opted for a re-release of her greatest hits. However, there were a few worth mention: Beth Hart, Nelly Furtado, and Evanescence. After a 4-year hiatus (and a bit of rehab), Beth Hart returned with arguably her best album ever: Leave the Light On. While it is a bit more “pop” than Immortal or Screamin’ For My Supper, the Janis Joplin-esque projection of her lyrics on this disc could not contain more passion. I’m particularly fond of the cheeky gospel-infused “Bottle of Jesus” and the heartbreaking and upbeat “Monkey Back.” The latter is perhaps one of the best songs written… ever. Nelly Furtado’s second album comes after the birth of her first child… and apparently after her discovery of the banjo. There’s a lot of that on here! If possible, Folklore is even more eclectic than Whoa Nelly, but it still falls short of the debut in overall greatness. The movie Daredevil introduced one of the year’s most successful breakout groups: Evanescence. They’re also the most drama-ridden. Shortly after their disc’s release, Christian retailers who earlier praised the group’s spiritual lyrics, pulled it from the shelves after the group’s interviews with mainstream mags that prodded their mysterious Christian-or-not-Christian aura. The record label soon followed, cutting distribution to said chains. Then only months later, founding member Ben Moody bolted during their European tour, leaving vocalist Amy Lee solo for the awards show circuit. Despite it all, Fallen remains a work of art: hard core rock meets haunting piano meets spiritual searching meets soaring female vocals. The pop scene got interesting this year with three very good albums. Justin Timberlake and Beyonce Knowles proved their worth as solo artists and then some. Justified is hands-down my guilty pleasure of 2003! I’ve been caught in a number of embarrassing dance moves in my car. Christina Aguliera (despite the turn in “Dirrty”) was at her best on the recent singles from Stripped. Britney, however, continues to get worse. Maroon 5 pulled off perhaps my favorite mainstream pop/rock single of the year with “Harder to Breathe,” but the rest of their debut album falls flat. The same goes for actress Taryn Manning’s brother-sister band Boomkat. The first single “The Wreckoning” is brilliant, but the rest of Boomkatalog One just doesn’t live up to it. And, of course, no list would be complete without a nod to Josh Groban, my future husband. “Opera Boy”s sophomore effort, Closer, is stunning. In the video realm, Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” tribute to The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show is genius.
Best new show? No question: Joan of Arcadia. I thought we’d never see Amber Tamblyn again after General Hospital, but she showed up in a small role in The Ring, and now she’s up for a Golden Globe for her role as Joan Girardi, the teenager who gets seemingly random visits and instructions from God. It sounds syrupy and happy, but the series is surprisingly dramatic and thoughtful. Its only downfall is the overemphasis of the father’s police work story lines. There is no need for another CSI or Law and Order… stick with Joan and everything will be A-OK. Returning favorite Alias is still going strong this season, despite some major character changes (goodbye perfect Lena Olin, hello evil Melissa George!!!). Gilmore Girls, however, appears to be suffering with Rory’s college departure and has been in reruns since mid-November. Though I never thought I’d be saying this, Survivor made a triumphant comeback this season, thanks in large part to Johnny Fairplay, the most evil castaway ever. Of course, that made him my favorite to win. The much-hyped Simple Life looked cheesy but still promising for an episode or two. Then just like its two stars, once the pretty little shell wore thin, the ugly truth was exposed. The filthy, immature terror Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie inflicted on the small town of Altus is unforgivable. And last, I must address the hype that is The Fab Five. Completely worth every column inch of media coverage! Queer Eye For The Straight Guy reduces every other makeover and home improvement show to a total bore!
While I did read many books this year, few were actually released in 2003. I tend to be a year behind on these things (it’s worth it to wait for the paperback!). However, the fifth installment of Harry Potter (And the Order of the Phoenix) was one hardcover I’m glad I splurged on. J.K. Rowling’s series gets better with each year the young wizards spend at Hogwarts, introducing new characters like the wildly amusing headmistress Umbridge and delving further into old favorites like Professor Snape. So far, the movie adaptations have not been near as good, but the trailer for Prisoner of Azkaban with the haunting school choir performance looks quite promising. One 2003 book in particular was a disappointment. I was quick to purchase The Devil Wears Prada when I heard it was about a young magazine employee. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype (and there was a lot of it!)… the plot was drawn out too thin, losing my interest. Young Wiesenberger got another contract, however, so perhaps her sophomore effort will be an improvement.
There’s no doubt the buzzword of the year was “metrosexual,” which I tried to incorporate into any and all conversation no matter what the topic. The need to label men with good hygiene and fashion sense seems unnecessary since we would all hope this is already standard. In the fashion realm, Louis Vuitton further proved designer handbags are ugly and ridiculously unnecessary. His multicolored logo collage toted by every A-list actress reeks of so much discord, I’d hardly pay for it at the dollar store. For this, I thank him and can only hope others see the light.
As stated earlier, I could have lived without this year’s Paris Hilton obsession. Same goes for the endless scrutiny of Michael Jackson… and Bennifer! But probably the most annoying personality of 2003 is French president Jacques Chirac… for many things, but especially his recent campaign to ban all things religious from schools and hospitals. Out of the many celebrity deaths of 2003, I’m most saddened by Mr. Rodgers. He is perhaps one of the coolest people to walk the Earth. Another death that affected me was that of actor Jonathan Brandis, who took his own life at 27. He was my first childhood crush, and I made my parents rent Ladybugs and Never Ending Story II more than they wanted. Very sad.
It finally happened: The Year of Sasha Cohen. She’s been my favorite figure skater ever since she came out of nowhere to beat Michelle Kwan in the short program at the 2000 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Even then, Sasha proved she was the most talented of the amateur field, but rewards were slow in coming. In 2003, things changed. She captured four gold medals in a row and beat Michelle Kwan in the season opener. Her long program to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” is phenomenal. It’s like watching the Bolshoi on ice… and it makes you wonder why her competition doesn’t have equally beautiful extension or artistry. There’s really no excuse. Ah, but I digress. Hooray for Sasha. Finally ranked numero uno. Onto the other sports… er… are there any other sports?