By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
8. Lagaan The Oscar rules are so insane I'm ignoring them for this one. It would qualify if it hadn't been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film last year; if it had merely been entered but not nominated, it would qualify for all the other awards this year. In effect, it's penalized for having gotten a nomination. (I couldn't make this stuff up.) Certainly the best four-hour musical about cricket you'll ever see.
9. One Hour Photo Robin Williams really is creepy as all get out in Mark Romanek's perfectly controlled thriller, which is maybe too finicky in its attention to design. Still, it's a winner.
10. The Pianist A great director, Roman Polanski, mutes his usual trademarks to deal with the Holocaust (which, of course, he experienced firsthand). This is a film more to admire than enjoy: It's grueling, appropriately enough, but not the kind of thing you want to watch over and over.
Final cop-out: Every year there's a film that I can't quite make up my mind about. This year, it's the much-lauded About Schmidt, directed by Alexander Payne. Jack Nicholson is great in it, and Payne--channeling Sinclair Lewis, the Coen brothers and Elaine May--seems to be trying to find some dignity in pedestrian lives. Still, it's hard to escape the feeling that his contempt for all his characters, Schmidt included, outweighs his compassion.
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