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2002 is the best year for movies that I have experienced as a movie lover.  The greatest year started with Changing Lanes and ended with Igby Goes Down (seen in February of 2003).

Favorite films for the year 2002
The thing about "Adaptation" that thrilled me the most was its unique look at the screenwriting process.  The torment Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage playing the actual screenwriter) puts himself through to adapt Susan Orlean's (Meryl Streep playing the actual author of "The Orchid Theif") book "The Orchid Theif,"  is vividly realized on screen.  Nicolas Cage gives a fantastic performance, reminding everyone that he can act when he wants to.  He plays two complex characters, Kaufman and his fictional twin brother Donald, with ease.  Each character is its own separate entity.  Cage disappears into both roles, stripping himself of any stylized cool he relies on for his action blockbusters.  The direction is detailed, but also wide open, allowing the actors to act, but keeping them in character always.  The script is terriffic and I'd be hard pressed to say this wasn't the best film I saw in 2002 as well as my favorite.  
2.Changing Lanes
Chaging Lanes is a thriller that keeps a hold on the drama it has to have to work.  Ben Affleck gives an performance worthy of an Oscar nomination.  His performance peels away the layers like an onion until we reach the character's true self, similar to the self discovery his character experiences in the actual film.  Samuel L. Jackson throws away his suave coolness that he relied on in films like "Pulp Fiction," "Jackie Brown," and "Shaft."  He's just a regular Joe (or Doyle if you want to get specific about it) trying to make repairs on the life that he had spent years tearing apart.  As he slowly falls back into old habits, we feel for him and want him to get the family he sees leaving him.  It's a film that serves as a expertly written morality play more than anything else.  It keeps you entertained with its action while touching you with its drama.
3.Igby Goes Down
Igby Goes Down is the modern day Catcher in the Rye.  That's a compliment.  Catcher is the piece of literature frequently referenced as the pinnacle of written teenage angst.  If that's true, Igby is the modern day pinnacle of filmed teenage angst.  The ensemble cast is incredible, carried by the breakthrough performance of the title character played by Kieran Culkin.  A teenage on the lam in New York...yep, that's so similar to Catcher that it's eerie.  But, while the feel and setting of the book and the film are alike, Igby separates itself with a quirky set of characters and differing plot.  It's the film that I think gets the teenage mind most accurately.   
4.Road to Perdtition
Road to Perdition is a mob movie with the skill and the scope of The Godfather.  The film is beautifully shot by the late Conrad Hall, winner of the Oscar for best cinematograohy.  If he had not have won, I would have been outraged.  It is perhaps the best shot film since American Beauty, also his handiwork.  Sam Mendes follows up his Oscar winning film debut as the director of American Beauty with another great film.  Once again, he brings out nuanced performances out of his cast, headlined by Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, and Jude Law, who all give award worthy portrayals of mobsters and hitmen.  It's a story of Father and Sons and few films say so much without saying much at all.  
5.Punch Drunk Love
Punch Drunk Love is one of two films that I have ever seen that has made me want to fall in love.  Most romantic films feel contrived, forced, whatever.  The point is that the love received and given in romantic films, especially romantic comedies, seems confined to the fantasy movie world.  It never really seems attainable to me.  But the love story in Punch Drunk Love seems very real, even though the characters are extremely quirky and the plot sometimes is exaggerated.  The core themes and the relationship between Barry and Lena seems entirely real and enviable.  What more do you want from a movie than to have genuine emotions played for you on the big screen where everything else tends to go fiction? 
7.Catch me if You Can
8.The Bourne Identity
9.The 25th Hour
10.Reign of Fire

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