Art and Soul

From our innermost insecurities to the wildest flights of fantasy, 2002 stimulated both heart and head

7. Scarlet Diva: Everyone I know who owns a camcorder has made a self-confessional, semiautobiographical piece of videotaped wankery, but Asia Argento does it better than all of them. Maybe her fame gives her more resources, or maybe she's just more shameless, but this self-portrait looks a lot like art.

6. Spider-Man: The best live-action, cinematic, superhero comic-book adaptation ever. Organic webshooters aside, it's nice to see that faithfulness to source material can work. Pay attention, DC Comics.

5. One Hour Photo: Robin Williams was born to play creepy, and writer-director Mark Romanek finally expanded upon this potential. Critics unfairly bashed the ending there's more ambiguity to it than initially meets the eye. Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek's eerie, moody score was outstanding.

Face value: Spirited Away tops Thompson's 2002 list.
Face value: Spirited Away tops Thompson's 2002 list.

4. jackass: the movie: Don't fight it. Laugh out loud it's okay. Its creators may have intended it as a trivial goof, and its producers were looking for franchise dollars, but what actually resulted, and the fact that it screened nationwide, was the biggest act of cinematic subversion this year. More disgusting than Pink Flamingos, and director Jeff Tremaine is much handier with a camera than John Waters. Lars von Trier should be ashamed he's been out-Dogme'd by Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville.

3. Lovely & Amazing: As acerbic a look at the L.A. woman as May, Lovely & Amazing also has heart, as it takes a light-yet-unflinchingly unsentimental look at female body image and self-loathing through three different generations. Catherine Keener finally gets a lead role worthy of her talents, and newcomer Raven Goodwin is accurately described by the film's title.

2. About Schmidt: This one's probably going to be on everyone else's list, too, so let's just say it'll finally let the world know that not all country people in America have Southern accents.

1. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi): If it were live-action, there'd be no doubt; still, Hayao Miyazaki's animated fantasy is the best movie of the year. Unencumbered by Hollywood notions of three-act structure or simplistic good and evil, the episodic saga of a young girl trapped in a bathhouse for Earth spirits has the magic of the best children's literature. A vast imagination combines with an eagle eye for character detail, and the result is a family movie truly fun for all (well, maybe not quite all the Christian Web site Movieguide called the film abhorrent for promoting animistic spirits). Cheers to Disney for doing a careful dub and releasing the subtitled version simultaneously; jeers to Disney for not opening the film wider and promoting it more heavily virtually everyone I recommended the flick to claimed they never heard of it.

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