The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'
tops Best of 2003 list


January 1, 2004
By Franklin Harris

Another year has come and gone, and that means it's time once again for my annual year-in-review column. Who am I to argue with tradition? These things are bigger than any of us.

Best Movie: "Kill Bill: Vol. 1"

Uma Thurman stars in ''Kill Bill: Vol. 1.''
Photo © Copyright Miramax
Uma Thurman stars in ''Kill Bill: Vol. 1.''
Sure, you can argue that Quentin Tarantino's latest film (which is actually only half a film) is a self-indulgent spectacle. To some degree it is. But it is also a well-made spectacle. Tarantino has lovingly assembled a film that is greater than the sum of its parts. Every shot and every musical cue may refer to some half-forgotten kung-fu flick, spaghetti western or blaxploitation movie, but the whole is a seamless work of art. Every blood-soaked frame is a painting, and every scene is expertly choreographed to an eclectic soundtrack, which includes everything from Japanese pop tunes to the "Green Hornet" theme. Throw in the best performance of Uma Thurman's career and a cameo by the godlike Sonny Chiba, and you have the makings of a cult classic.

Honorable mention: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Worst Movie: "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"

Sean Connery is fun to watch even when he is on autopilot, which he is. But not even he and a reasonably good supporting cast can save this mess, which bears little resemblance to the literate, character-driven comic books that Alan Moore wrote. The blame rests squarely on James Robinson's script, which is the worst comic-book adaptation since "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace." Everyone involved should have known better.

Dishonorable mention: "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions."

Best Television Sci-Fi/Fantasy: "Battlestar Galactica."

If you had told me at the beginning of 2003 that the best SF on television would be a miniseries remake of a bad '70s space opera, I'd have said you were crazy. But a strong cast, solid writing, impressive special effects and a healthy regard for the laws of physics can overcome even the most unpromising pedigree.

Honorable mention: "Angel."

Worst Television Sci-Fi/Fantasy: "Tremors: The Series."

Repeat after me: "The Sci-Fi Channel canceled 'Farscape' for this???"

Dishonorable mention: "Mutant X."

Most Improved Sci-Fi Series: "Star Trek: Enterprise."

"Enterprise" has gone from being awful to being merely mediocre. Even so, the show's prospects are dim, and it looks like next season will be its last.

Best Ongoing Comic Book Series: "New X-Men."

Bless Grant Morrison. He did the impossible. He made me care about mutants again. In years to come, fanboys will look back and say that Morrison's run as "New X-Men" writer was the title's Golden Age. The scary thing is how simple Morrison's approach is. He brought back Magneto. He brought back Phoenix. He even brought back the Sentinels (sort of). If anyone else had tried Morrison's strategy, "New X-Men" would be just another backward-looking retro comic. But by infusing the mix with his brand of cyberpunk sci-fi, Morrison made the formula new and improved.

Honorable mention: "Lucifer."

Worst Ongoing Comic Book Series: "Uncanny X-Men."

With writer Chuck Austen at the helm, "Uncanny X-Men" has become the evil twin of its sister title. It reads as if Austen ransacked Marvel's offices, found a file cabinet full of rejected scripts and recycled them as his own. For instance, Nightcrawler's parentage has been a mystery for years, although writers have dropped hints that his mother is the evil mutant Mystique. Forget all that. Austen thinks he has a better idea. You know how Nightcrawler looks like a demon? Well, what if it turns out that his father really is — get this — a demon! Wouldn't that be cool?!

Dishonorable mention: "Superman/Batman," written by DC Comics' answer to Chuck Austen, Jeph Loeb.

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