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Best Books and Films of 2003

I hear the collective groan. Not another list of 2003 stuff! Well, I'll keep it short: just my top 10 favorite books that I read in '03, and top 10 movies that I saw in '03. Note: this does not mean that these were all released in 2003; just that I didn't discover them till then.

If you're interested in the best albums of 2003, I suggest you look here, at the Top 90.3 Albums of 2003, as voted upon by the listeners of Seattle's KEXP, 90.3 FM. They sum it up nicely. (Of those, I only have the Stellastarr and British Sea Power albums, but I intend to get several of the others.)

So then, without further ado, my book and film lists:

Books (Novels, specifically.)
Keep in mind that graduate studies impeded my reading time for the first half of the year, so I didn't actually finish all that many books in 2003. Thus, the pickings for this list were a bit slimmer than they were for my movie list.

1. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson. I have already babbled about the massive coolness of this massive novel. Crazy, funny, amazing. You go, dude.
2. The Shipping News, Annie Proulx. I was also in the minority of those who liked the film version. Am much impressed with the detail she gives to life in an icy little Newfoundland town, and the relationships between family, friends, and coworkers. Guess they don't just hand out the Pulitzer Prize for nothing...
3. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym. This was written decades ago, but I hadn't read anything by her till this year. Very charming and gentle and funny. Recommended if you're a Wodehouse and/or Austen fan.
4. American Gods, Neil Gaiman. I didn't love this quite as much as some people did, but the concept was so rich, and the writing so evocative, and the dialogue so hilarious sometimes, that it does deserve a fairly high placement on this list.
5. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons. Again, written a long, long time ago; but despite adoring the film, I hadn't read the book till this year. It's just as good as the film, though of course different. I saw something nasty in the woodshed. Just so you know.
6. Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner. Another Pulitzer Prize winner - from 1971. Impressive, if somewhat sad, account of a couple's life as they move around the American West in the 1800s, trying to scrape out a living and raise a family. As told by the descendant of the pair, who is going through their old letters and clippings in the mid-20th-century.
7. Uneasy Money, P.G. Wodehouse. Light-as-air fare, but you've got to love Wodehouse. Every so often I pick up something of his to boost my spirits after novels like some of the ones listen above. He has yet to fail me.
8. Vanish With the Rose, Barbara Michaels. I don't usually care for mysteries, but this one blended some tasty supernatural activity, and some gardening (roses, specifically) into the story, so I ended up approving of it.
9. The Scent of Wisteria, Caitlin Conway. Sure, I'm biased, since this is one of my fellow authors published at Scheherazade Tales, but really it was a charming book. As romance novels go, definitely a cut above the average.
10. Trans-Sister Radio, Chris Bohjalian. Ever wondered what a sex-change operation is like? And what the repercussions on the transsexual's friends, family, and lovers might be? This interesting little tale may go a long way toward answering your questions. Much more accurate than the Jerry Springer Show for such topics.


Movies

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Who here's surprised? Seriously?
2. Holes. Clever, slightly magical, and cute without being saccharine. More kids' stories need to be like this.
3. Spirited Away. Uber-cool Studio Ghibli Japanimation. My favorite of theirs so far, slightly above Princess Mononoke in concept and execution.
4. The Pianist. Chilling, sure. But they managed to pull off a Holocaust movie that was more an adventure film than just a horrifying drama, and did it well. (Pedophiliac director notwithstanding.)
5. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Tally ho, chaps! We'll give that Frenchie ship what-for! Sorry, but for swashbuckling coolness and quality of script, this beats the pants off Pirates of the Caribbean. Though, yeah, I'd much rather have a poster of Johnny and/or Orlando than of Russell.
6. Bend it Like Beckham. Ever so fun. Kissing your dishy soccer coach: what's not to like? (Though I agree with whoever said he should not be allowed to run on film.)
7. The Virgin Suicides. Am writhing in jealousy of Sofia Coppola, for not only having the connections to be able to make this movie, but for pulling it off so beautifully on her first time out as director. Haunting and lovely film.
8. Secretary. Oh, James Spader, you naughty, naughty man. I think I misspelled something this entry. I need to be punished. *eyelash flutter*
9. Iron Monkey. It's like a lite and non-depressing version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with some laugh-out-loud cleverness and some remarkably pretty shots. Oh, and the martial arts stuff is really cool, too. Even though I'm not normally into that.
10. Rabbit-Proof Fence: True story of some poor little Aboriginal girls in Australia, who walked hundreds and hundreds of miles to return to their family after being taken forcibly to a boarding school. They used Australia's famous continent-long rabbit fence as their guide. Rather astonishing.

Honorable Mention in Movies:
A Mighty Wind: Not as good as Best in Show, but still quite funny.
The Italian Job: Despite the presence of fine actors like Edward Norton, it is Scott Evil (er, Seth Green) who steals the show.
Adaptation: More amusing to a writer, perhaps, than to normal people.
One Hour Photo: Interesting. Kept me guessing. Naked Michael Vartan.
Catch Me If You Can: What do you know, Leo diCaprio can be charming!
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys: Ultimately depressing, but has its funny and cute moments.
The Hours: Again, depressing, but very finely crafted.

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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
patientx
Jan. 1st, 2004 04:33 pm (UTC)
One Hour Photo: Interesting. Kept me guessing. Naked Michael Vartan.

Yeah, kept me guessing as to when the naked Michael Vartan scene would come!
mollyringle
Jan. 3rd, 2004 09:15 am (UTC)
Hee hee! Exactly. Can't have too many of those in a movie.
bluesound
Jan. 2nd, 2004 02:16 am (UTC)
I've only read Neil Gaiman's 'Smoke & Mirrors' which was his collection of short stories, oh actually I also rewad his biography of Douglas Adams 'Don't Panic' which is rather informative and entertaining. I shalt look more into this one, when I finish the Robert Rankin books I got for Xmas.
lordreaibn
Jan. 2nd, 2004 05:58 am (UTC)
very nice lists
jedmiller
Jan. 2nd, 2004 10:58 am (UTC)
I just started Cryptonomicon this month and just saw "The Virgin Suicides" this fall, so we are on the same page. But I will plan to read every single book you mention since you are probably the best predictor of what I will like among everyone I have ever met ever.
mollyringle
Jan. 2nd, 2004 03:09 pm (UTC)
Hehe! Well, that's a hefty title to live up to.

As I said, it was a slim year for reading, so you might just want to pick and choose from that list. But hey, you're a grown-up and are capable of doing your own research on these books. :)

Cryptonomicon, as you will have noticed, is quite a commitment. But the hilarity (and the RESEARCH! jeez!) is too great to pass up.
aerin_pegadrak
Jan. 2nd, 2004 09:56 pm (UTC)
The thing that struck me most about The Virgin Suicides was how monochrome it was. Every shot seemed to be one solid color. It was amazing. Though I think the book was better.
mollyringle
Jan. 3rd, 2004 02:13 pm (UTC)
Didn't notice the colors. Cinematographers are so creative sometimes.

And I haven't read the book. Perhaps I should!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )