John has already written a Facebook response to one of your points on DOGVILLE, and I tend to agree with him on it. The citizens of Dogville have rejected the concept of grace and Grace herself and exposed their vicious and morally reprehensible natures in the process. Grace, who is in control of their fate at the end, decides they do not deserve to live and should be wiped out. It sounds like you were looking for some New Testament style forgiveness, but this is Old Testament wrath all the way, baby. I can't blame you for wanting room for forgiveness or roundness to the characters, but I still feel that the film is deliberately exaggerated to serve its several functions and makes no pretense of being a character study. As I was mentioning, I think the film is part LVT prank, part Bertolt Brecht social critique/moral provocation, part Biblical allegory, part anything else you want to add. The characters are more symbolic than flesh and blood, but on purpose.
However, I do have to say that your WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and its bastard brethren comment is quite fair and something I don't think I have an argument against. The only reason I can give for why I like DOGVILLE but loathe other modern feel-bad cinema is that to me DOGVILLE is trying to be funny and provocative whereas something like KEVIN is just trying to rub your face in the dirt and pass it off as character study. Perhaps you don't see a difference between the two, but that's all I can come up with. Great point.
THE RETURN OF THE KING could have been higher and maybe should have been. I never know with these damn lists.
I'd love to call out some of the picks for your list, but I haven't seen most of them, for shame. It isn't that I don't have any love for SCHOOL OF ROCK, but only that I've never seen it. Nor WINGED MIGRATION nor VICTOR VARGAS. Sorry.
I've already expressed my, perhaps misguided, annoyance with FINDING NEMO. I don't know...I've never liked it.
I don't remember a single thing about MYSTIC RIVER. I should probably watch it again at some point.
Everything else we seem to agree on. I have forgotten most of CABIN FEVER except for its terrific ending, which has stayed with me all these years. That got it the honorable mention alone. There's probably room for it on my list if given another viewing.
ELF is wonderful, and I completely forgot about it until Chris wrote me a comment. I quickly added it to honorable mentions once I realized the mistake, but really I'm gonna go ahead and put it in the top 10. It rules, and I don't care what you have to say against it, Brandon Potter-Grinch-Scrooge.
Ben, I'm aware that LOST IN TRANSLATION has already caused a big stink on here before my time, and I'm not about to add to the smell. I actually worshiped it back when I saw it for the first time (I remember being really mad that Bill Murray lost the Oscar to Sean Penn–in fact, I still am; damn that Penn!). I tried watching it again a couple years ago, and it had lost something for me. I still like it, but not as much as I used to. Still, I can't fault you for liking it so much. Who cares what any of these other goons say.
For the rest of your picks, same problem as with Brandon's. Haven't seen THE BEST OF YOUTH, NORTHFORK, THIRTEEN, THIS GIRL'S LIFE, AMERICAN SPLENDOR, or SWIMMING POOL. And though I haven't seen any of these, I somehow managed to see ANGER MANAGEMENT, BRUCE ALMIGHTY, and TERMINATOR 3 instead. Ahh to be 14.
Just looking over a list of films released in 2003:
Any GIGLI or MALIBU'S MOST WANTED fans out there? Speak up.
I should have added INTOLERABLE CRUELTY to my honorable mention list. I found it funny, but haven't seen it in a while.
I slept through nearly all of HULK. Apparently so did everyone involved in making it. I watched the whole thing of DAREDEVIL. I wish I had been asleep instead.
BIKER BOYZ, anyone? AGENT CODY BANKS? HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE starring Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett?
2003: an intrepid, trailblazing year for cinema.