It was a year ago today - assuming I keep down my distractions and keep to the point - when the first review went up on That Cow. I'd been hoping for 1000 reviews by now, but almost 700 is pretty darn good too.

The numbers are pretty good too. Recent films dominate - half coming out in the last three years - but we have reviews of movies from 60 different years, spanning every full decade since talkies came on the scene - nothing yet from the late 1920s, I'm afraid, but you won't find much on your video store's shelves in that period either. We are also starting to show some broadening of our base here - more titles with multiple reviews, and more regular reviewers. There's still a ways to go before the top rated films on this site have real meaning - though I think we can agree the bottom rated ones are some real stinkers.

Any other self respecting review site has surely put together some sort of "best of" or "year in review" article by now, gearing up for the all important awards season (some of these folk actually create their own awards... imagine Robert De Niro receiving a certificate saying "That Cow thinks you did an Udderly Fantastic Job in Analyze That"). Nobody here is a professional reviewer (that I know of) and while I feel like I've seen a lot, most of it was on cable - films that didn't see their initial release this past year. Still, I think it's worthwhile to take a little tour of 2002's notable films.

There were a number of really good films, but none of them stand out to me as simply tremendous. The ensemble performances in Moonlight Mile make it one of the most enjoyable and personal experiences of the year. The Emperor's Club was a quiet but intriguing morality play that, more than anything, shows the continuing habit of aging actor to pursue artistic respect.

Whether it was for respect or the relief from sheer boredom with Disney films and heartfelt dramas, we can thank Robin Williams for turning to his dark side this year with One Hour Photo, Death to Smoochy, and Insomnia. These films represent quite a mixed bag, but it is refreshing to see something different from Williams, and he's shown us he can do more than free associate with the wind.

We saw Sam Mendes' second outing with Road to Perdition, who continues to show a deft hand at weighty subjects. K-19: The Widowmaker was a flop, but an interesting one. Steven Soderbergh produced a couple middling but interesting flicks in Solaris and Full Frontal - they were a letdown from the heights of 2000's Traffic, but good filmmakers have to experiment, and that comes at the risk of failure.

This was also a year of blockbusters. Led by Spider-Man, along with XXX, Scooby Doo, and Signs. Throw in well performing entries for all these franchise films too - Austin Powers, Star Wars, Men in Black, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter - and you've got a record breaking year (but really, how many years aren't record breaking?). But honestly, none of these truly excited me. Most of them are a combination of some decent creative ideas and that bland homogenization that Hollywood can be so good at.

And there'd be no way to talk about 2002 without mentioning the least likely blockbuster of all - the $200+ million My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I had my issues with the film, but evidently the public didn't. Yet I am very pleased that an independent film didn't have to rely on any gimmicks to rise so high, simply a general accessibility and a distributor that gave the film a chance to find its audience. It's encouraging for the future of film.

Looking beyond My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the year held a vast slate of interesting independent films, many of which have yet to be reviewed here (we'll do better in 2003, won't we?), but we have covered such interesting films as 24 Hour Party People, Secretary, Briar Patch, Kiss the Bride, and Interview with the Assassin. There were some good films in this group, but were there any true standouts?

There's a couple important late entries I've yet to see - Far From Heaven and Adaptation. Whatever I end up thinking about them, you can be assured - and not just from the reviews that are there already - that these two are important films for the serious moviegoer.

Ane important film to mention here, one I've seen but have yet to review, is Bowling for Columbine. Documentaries rarely get a lot of press, but Michael Moore's examination of violence and fear in America has received both critical and popular appeal, even to being declared the best documentary ever by the Internatinal Documentary Association. My thoughts are conflicted on the division between the medium and the message, which is why my own review is on hold, but there's no denying the power of the film.

My own personal favorite? It's by no means my highest rated, but I think Punch Drunk Love may just be it. Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Sandler thrown together in the blender make for a mighty stiff mixed drink. Being a favorite has to come from beyond the technical and artistic merit, in wanting to watch something again and again. That's why it's a tentative decision - the DVD isn't out =)

Lastly, I want to think all the other reviewers on the site. Without them, this would be a dreary place as I start to fear that I'm writing the same review over and over again - I know I'm not, but it feels like it sometimes.

This next year will be an interesting one. I want to see more event coverage, and more opinions on not just movies, but the state of film in general. There is a site redesign that's been in the works for a while and will see the light of day soon, which will bring enhancements I hope will prove both useful and fun. I'm going to work to grow the community here, which may mean fewer reviews from me, but after averaging a smidge more than one a day for a year, perhaps I can let up a bit.

In the meantime, I hope we've all had some fun, some laughs, even some tears in the dark of the theater or on your couch at home.

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