My favorite movie of 2003:

Lost in Translation
Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a 50-ish actor who is in Tokyo to film a series of advertisements for Scotch. Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, a 20-ish young woman who is visiting Tokyo for a few weeks with her husband, a photographer whose time is entirely occupied by his current assignment. Bob is weary and cynical about his career, his life, and his marriage. Charlotte is beginning to see where her marriage is headed, and doesn't like what she sees. Bob and Charlotte, with lots of time on their hands, bump into each other in the hotel and connect through their shared loss of illusion about where their lives are leading.
They spend the next few days weaving through parts of Tokyo culture. Will they indulge in more than companionship? Director and screenwriter Sofia Coppola balances the tension beautifully.
My other favorites for the year:
Nicholas Cage plays twins — one is a screenwriter struggling to write his next screenplay, and the other is a novice who writes a hit screenplay. There is no way to describe the plot of this odd, intriguing movie. Chris Cooper is wonderful as an exotic plant collector.
The Cooler
The always wonderful William H. Macy plays Bernie Lootz, whose luck is so bad that his job is to stand next to people in the decrepit Shangri-La casino so that his bad luck will rub off on them. Then he falls in love with a cocktail waitress, and his luck takes a turn for the better, which means that his job takes a turn for the worse.
There's a lot of buzz about Alec Baldwin's performance as casino owner Shelly Kaplow, but I think Macy's performance was even better.
Finding Nemo
Wonderful fishy fun. As we were watching the credits at the end of the film, a four-year-old boy in the row behind us said to his father, "Dad, thank you! That's the best movie I've ever seen!" I can't top that review.
The Good Thief
Nick Nolte as a nearly retired thief, out for one last adventure.
Keep the River on Your Right
A documentary about an anthropoligist returns, years later, to visit the natives he'd studied years earlier. Don't be scared off (or attracted, as the case may be) by the subtitle — it's entirely misleading.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Though this is a good story well told, visual effects are king in this movie. The effects are astoundingly good.
Love Liza
Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of my favorite actors, plays Wilson Joel, whose life slowly unravels after his wife commits suicide.
Owning Mahowny
Philip Seymour Hoffman again, this time playing Dan Mahowny, a talented bank manager whose life slowly unravels as his debts and gambling addiction feed each other. I've never seen Hoffman do anything less than brilliant, and this is my favorite of his performances.
The Pianist
The scene where the Jewish father carefully cuts a small piece of candy so that each of his children can eat a piece, all the while knowing the fate that awaits him, is heartbreaking.
The Quiet American
Michael Caine as a washed-up reporter in 1952 Saigon. He wants to marry his Vietnamese mistress, but cannot because his wife, from whom he has long been separated, will not give him a divorce. I was also intrigued by the backdrop, in which American "advisors" stage bombings as a pretext for further involvement in the country.
Shattered Glass
The true story of Stephen Glass, a rising star reporter who falls from grace when his credibility shakes and then crumbles under scrutiny.