AFI AWARDS 2003 – American Film Institute

AFI Awards

The year's most outstanding films and television programs.

AFI AWARDS 2003

AFI AWARDS celebrate the year’s most outstanding achievements in the art of the moving image — with 10 films and 10 television programs deemed culturally and artistically significant.

AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR

AMERICAN SPLENDOR

…is a celebration of the painful dance between life and art. This wry and original comedy of depression tells its story through fiction, documentary, animation and archival footage as if it were turning the pages of a comic book. Harvey Pekar and Paul Giamatti, in a brilliantly bruised performance as the fictional Harvey Pekar, capture the theme of the film best when they say, “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” Read the AFI Catalog entry

FINDING NEMO

…swam its way into America’s heart by combining a razor sharp script that harkens back to the comedy of Preston Sturges and a stunning animated world that entrances with each shift in the light. Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres bring a funny, but always touching human element to the film that will make it an animation classic for generations to come. Read the AFI Catalog entry

THE HUMAN STAIN

…is a moving exploration of three American obsessions — sex, race and class. The bold casting of Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman addresses the fundamental issue of the film — the silent pain of passing for something you’re not. Their brilliant performances and Robert Benton’s nuanced direction create a complex, emotional core for this skillful adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel. Read the AFI Catalog entry

IN AMERICA

…is a spellbinding fable that captures the modern day immigrant experience and retells it through the eyes of a child. Jim Sheridan’s heartfelt tale struggles between the thrill of a new life and the longing to escape the ghosts that follow us there. Real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger bring a sense of wonder and excitement to a film that overflows with joy for the adventure of tomorrow. Read the AFI Catalog entry

THE LAST SAMURAI

…presents a timeless story of honor in the cinematic tradition of Akira Kurosawa. This beautifully crafted star vehicle serves one of America’s modern screen icons, and Tom Cruise not only rises to the challenge, but carries the film into the history books with great dignity. The recreation of 19th Century Japan is a feast for the eyes, and Ed Zwick’s masterful direction not only presents spectacular battle scenes, but never loses sight of what the individual warriors stood for. Read the AFI Catalog entry

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

…punctuates the greatest trilogy in American film with an exclamation point. Peter Jackson proves himself to be the true magician of this masterpiece, for only a wizard could summon all the forces of American film three times and utilize them to such astounding success. Against all odds, Jackson met the challenge of visualizing J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved classics for a demanding, global audience. Read the AFI Catalog entry

LOST IN TRANSLATION

…is only the second feature film by Sofia Coppola, yet it presents a unique voice in American film. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson bring great humor and credibility to characters adrift inside the neon and steel of today’s Tokyo. The film creates and sustains a bold, but delicate mood where they share days of isolation and celebrity and marriage and loneliness — two foreigners who need each other in an alien landscape. Read the AFI Catalog entry

MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD

…transports its audience to a 19th Century ship and shows what it would be like to live among its crew. The film unfolds in the tradition of sea-going movie classics, but with a modern attention to detail and camerawork that fully enlists the viewer in the journey. Russell Crowe proves once again that he is the leading man for human tales in epic form. Read the AFI Catalog entry

MONSTER

…tells the gruesome story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos and manages to find a human being amidst the horror. Writer and director Patty Jenkins brings light to this dark tale of a woman whose tragic story is never condoned but deftly brought to life in all its complexity. Charlize Theron gives a breathtaking performance that ranks among the best of the year. Read the AFI Catalog entry

MYSTIC RIVER

…is a masterful portrait of fate and friendship across generations. Director Clint Eastwood draws brilliant performances from an outstanding ensemble cast in which Sean Penn’s searing portrayal of a father in pain calls to mind a young Marlon Brando. The use of locations in working class Boston presents an authentic background for a story of people whose lives are woven together in a world that they cannot escape. Read the AFI Catalog entry

AFI TELEVISION PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR

24

is a Molotov cocktail of conflict, tension and surprise. Hour by hour, this groundbreaking exercise in sustained suspense never ceases to amaze. Most importantly, what may appear to be a sheer guilty pleasure is also a rumination on how far people will go for their country and demands viewers to ask this question of themselves.

ALIAS

is a weekly thrill ride that races through mind-bending plot twists and drops viewers in a maze of identity and motive. There is a rare, emotional core to this spy saga, however, as family and friends find themselves loving and loyal, but never trusting. With production values worthy of a James Bond film, ALIAS also boasts one of the finest acting ensembles on television.

ANGELS IN AMERICA

was born a masterpiece of the theater and lives on as a masterpiece of television. The imaginations of Tony Kushner and Mike Nichols explode and embrace as their collaboration expands the boundaries of the art form. This heroic achievement carries a message for the ages that is delivered by some of the greatest actors of our day.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

is a quirky comic voice in the grand tradition of MISTER ED and GREEN ACRES. Entertaining and distinctive in its documentary style, this eccentric look at the extremes of American family life delivers the all-too-rare belly laugh and instills new hope for growth and maturity in today’s stunted comedy environment.

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND

continues to tilt America’s laugh meter as it enters its eighth season. The show’s writers never fail to find timeless comedy in the simplest details of everyday life. Each member of this peerless comic cast makes the effort appear effortless, and together, they have become part of the nation’s extended family.

JOAN OF ARCADIA

is proof of divine intervention. Just when it appeared that original family dramas were dead, the airwaves brought America this fresh and funny story of a girl who talks to God. Spiritual without being self-righteous, Joan’s struggle to live with the inconvenience of a moral life raises issues the entire family can watch, discuss and enjoy.

NIP/TUCK

takes a glamorous look at the ugly reality of plastic surgery. The series is propelled by an addictive storytelling style that graphically cuts under the skin of America’s obsession with appearance and, ultimately, will change the way audiences look into the mirror.

PLAYMAKERS

takes viewers into the locker room for an unsparing look at the lives of professional football players, coaches, fans and fanatics. This courageous programming for an evolving sports network not only shatters assumptions about the world of football, but it also humanizes these modern day gladiators by dramatizing the pressures they endure both professionally and personally.

SOLDIER'S GIRL

carries the flag for thoughtful television movies that address extraordinarily complex and emotional matters through the strength of character. Inspired by the true story of a soldier who falls in love with a transgendered woman, the film skillfully finds a voice for two people who grapple with emotions they can’t explain, all without exploiting the haunting tragedy of their destiny.

THE WIRE

portrays mundane police work with tragic grandeur and, in doing so, captures the seemingly intractable problem of drugs in American society in a daring and unique way. Complex and subtle, the series offers a look at police procedure more realistic than any show on television.

MOMENTS OF SIGNIFICANCE

PIRACY ISSUE ACHIEVES CRITICAL MASS

The crucial moment has arrived for motion picture makers as the threat of piracy has begun to affect decision-making at every level of the process-production, distribution, exhibition and marketing.

How the industry will combat the global threat of illegal copying and swapping of movies is yet to be seen, but with the troubled music business as a model, film studios have made this issue a priority.

At stake is the future of the motion picture as we know it.

AMERICA'S EYE ON QUEER EYE

Bravo’s QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY captured the nation’s fancy each week as five gay men known as the “The Fab Five” provided a make-over to a straight man in each of their respective expertise: fashion, food, interior design, grooming and culture.

QUEER EYE brought gay culture to the national fore by spoofing and celebrating stereotypes, and unlike other reality shows, it did so in a winning and genuine manner that developed a bond between the gay and straight men.

Its impact proved far-reaching, effectively changing the meaning of the word “queer” by bringing it into the vernacular in a positive light.

It also broke broadcast barriers as the show’s popularity encouraged NBC, Bravo’s parent company, to air the show for its more mainstream audience.

TWO TICKETS, PLEASE...TO A DOCUMENTARY

2003 marked the emergence of a new trend in exhibition in which people who go to the multiplex for entertainment have the opportunity to choose documentaries.

Old barriers between non-fiction and fiction films have fallen in part because of the narrative intensity and unique subject matters of such films as WINGED MIGRATION, SPELLBOUND and CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS.

EMBEDDED REPORTERS IN IRAQ WAR

Television reporters who wish to cover the war in Iraq must now comply by rules provided by the United States Government.

This double edged sword provides the American public a real-time view of the war, but also threatens the purity of a news voice by requiring reporters to shape their view of the war as the government mandates they experience it.

AMERICAN FILM GIANTS PASS ON INTO THE FLICKERING LIGHT

In 2003, America said goodbye to several movie legends: Gregory Peck, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Elia Kazan, Art Carney, Stan Brackage, Donald

O’Connor. The cumulative effect of these dimming stars is a forceful reminder that a generation has passed. It is AFI’s mission to preserve and protect their film legacies, but the institute also looks to the future to see who in time, if anyone, will take their place.

REALITY OWNS THE WATERCOOLER

Reality programming continues to capture the fascination of viewers across America. From the rise and fall of JOE MILLIONAIRE to TRISTA AND RYAN’S WEDDING, viewers are attracted to the idea of unscripted television, even though the number of writers and story editors on “reality shows” continues to increase. Interestingly, this type of programming is among the least recorded by VCRs and TiVo, suggesting that an added value to the viewer is the ability to share the experience the next day with family and friends.

DIGITAL REVOLUTION CONTINUUM

The availability and relative affordability of the tools to make movies has more filmmakers doing so in their homes and away from Hollywood.

In 2003, this trend is personified by multi-hyphenate Robert Rodriguez, who created two mainstream films from the comfort of his personal studio in Texas. The success of both ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO and SPY KIDS 3-D will provide more power to people who own their tools and hopefully open the door for other voices.

ERA OF TELEVISION PASSES WITH FRED ROGERS

Known to generations of people around the world as “Mr. Rogers,” Fred McFeely Rogers passed away in 2003. Rogers’ death is emblematic of the end of an era, one where children’s television was a new tool for learning.

Mr. Rogers was a unique figure who had a one-on-one relationship with his audience, teaching children tolerance and understanding for people not like them. Rogers was also notable for the measured and mannered way he presented information to children.

Rogers served as star, writer, composer, puppeteer and producer of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD since its initial broadcast in 1968, making it the longest-running program on public television. The show’s library of nearly 900 episodes continues to be seen around the country.

WAR OF WORDS

Television provides a window on a world where an increased lack of civility in political discourse and commentary are threatening to undermine creative freedoms. People with opposing views no longer discuss and debate, but instead, destroy.

This is notable in news talk shows where commentators shout over each other to prove their point; in television programming, where a movie about former President Ronald Reagan found unfavor among a vocal group who demanded it not be aired on network television; and in the movie world, where Mel Gibson’s film THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is being damned by many groups who have not yet seen it.

Differences of opinion should be embraced in this nation and discussion should be encouraged to explore all sides of an issue, for only then will our nation truly be able to find its voice and, ultimately, its cultural legacy.

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