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HTF Top 10's of 2004: Time To Throw Down! (1 Viewer)

Jason Whyte

Jun 3, 1999
HTF's Top 10's of 2004: Time To Throw Down!

Well it's the end of the year, so you know what that means! Every year we have a generous supply of HTF film fans from all over the world posting their favorites in Cinema.

Please be creative in your lists. If you wish to add any further thoughts besides your Top 10 (ie. favorite performances, soundtracks, etc) it's all good.

Rules for this thread:

-It is recommended that you have seen at least 40 official 2004 films to participate in this thread.
-Your list must contain a Complete Top 10. No exceptions. If you choose to have a "Worst Films of 2004" section on your list, it must contain at least 5 entries, none of which that are on your top 10 list.
-While some posters will have different scheduling criterias, please only use either "2004 Worldwide First Release" or "2004 USA/Canada First Release" for your criteria. Films that have had platform releases in 2004 from a limited 2003 engagemt (ie. Cold Mountain, Big Fish, Monster) are NOT permitted.
-Placeholders are welcome, but please post a list within a week of your posting.
-Dana Fillhart will be tracking Top 10's using his film tracker system and we will be posting results in this space towards the end of January.

If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to private message me or email me at [email protected]


Jason Whyte
The Film List Guy.

Jason Whyte

Jun 3, 1999
The Year of 2004 In Film, The Good And The Bad -- Just One Guy's Opinion
By Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
This piece can also be found HERE.
Note: Mentions of the word "cam-era" are intentionally typed this way to remove embedded links.

The year of 2004 has been a pretty interesting one in the realms of the cinema. A lot of bad product has certainly been released in the forms of black men playing white teenage girls, Vapoo-rizer, Nicolas Cage finding treasure and Brittany Murphy being…well, Brittany Murphy, but if you knew where to look, there has been a generous supply of great film to be found in the form of independents, foreign and even the occasional Hollywood blockbuster. It has also been a year where some of the major studios have made smaller, more light-budgeted films that have turned out wonderfully – and performed well at the box office to boot, proving that perhaps being smart isn’t such a dumb idea after all?

Anyway. Another year, another couple of hundred of films. I pretty much lived in the cinema this year, seeing over 300 movies through various film festivals, public releases, screeners and so forth. I’ve been busy, but I loved every moment of it, even when I accidentally walked into a screening of a pro-Bush documentary. I am happy to report that when you look at the following group of films, you’ll most likely agree that it’s been a pretty good year. Without further ado…

The Ten Best Films of 2004

#1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (USA, Dir. Michel Gondry)

Memory is a blessing and a curse, especially to those who wish to rid themselves of a horrific event or person that they feel could be better without. The genius to Michel Gondry’s masterpiece, an endlessly fascinating piece of cinema that is challenging AND funny, is that it argues that no matter how bad our memories may be, it is important to keep them. Jim Carrey’s Joel Parish is one of the year’s most interesting characters, as a man who wishes to rid his memories of his former flame Clementine (a great turn by Kate Winslet), and he is supported with work by Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson where all of the characters are interesting and lend great importance to the overall story, as well as Gondry’s amazingly “kooky” direction where nothing is ever predictable. The way it should be.

#2. Sideways (USA, dir. Alexander Payne)

Alexander Payne impressed me with “About Schmidt” and wowed me with “Election”, but “Sideways” is his best film, a gem about a stubborn, middle-aged man named Miles (Paul Giamatti) who finally tries to get a grip on reality when he takes his best friend on a bachelor trip through the Wine Country in California. Payne’s simple flow of sharp, observant dialogue with hilarious, sudden bursts of sex and violence keeps this movie fresh and alive, and it features a scene between Miles and a possible love interest named Maya (Virginia Madsen) discussing fine wine that is so winning that we wish it would just all go on forever.

#3. Before Sunset (USA/France, dir. Richard Linklater)

In 2003, Richard Linklater appeared to be on a roll with his fine “School of Rock”, which was not only a hit but a great kid’s film. Suddenly, it was decided to question the very question I’ve been thinking about since I saw “Before Sunrise” in 1995: what if Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), two strangers who met on a train in Europe and spent only one night together in Vienna, ever met again? Nine years have passed as “Sunset” begins on a hot Parisian evening where Jesse does indeed meet Celine again, and the next 80 minutes follow them through the city as they reminisce about the past as well as the future. The film has the best finale of the year, as it ends on a note of complete ambiguity, since we’re watching a story about ambiguous people who don’t know what’s going to happen in the next moment.

#4. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (USA, dir. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky) and Dig! (USA, dir. Ondi Timoner) (tie)

There were many, many documentaries this year, but the two that shone the brightest had to do with music. “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” and “Dig” I must refer to as “thrilling”. One of the best documents of two musicians I’ve ever seen, “Metallica” is thrilling because of the overall emotional experience I had while watching the complete process, thick and thin, of making an album under extreme circumstances. It features verbal sparring matches between drummer Lars Ulrich and frontman James Hetfield (as they prepare their 2003 album St. Anger which took nearly two years) where they must have forgotten the cam-era was rolling. It’s a great document of a band at each other’s throats, but if you take away the band, the struggle is like anything else.

“Dig” follows two bands – the Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols – throughout seven years, as the Warhols slowly move up to major stardom while the mass stubbornness and power tripping of Anton Newcombe in Brian Jonestown Massacre pretty much kept him out of the major spotlight. Director Ondi Timoner flawlessly paces the struggle of the two bands, and it all comes out alternately heartbreaking, powerful and a great entertainment with relentless energy, and I’m forever a fan of BJM’s music from watching it.

#5. Dogville (Denmark, dir. Lars von Trier)

Here is a film that was released to festivals in 2003 and then found its way to a nervous release this year. I have seen “Dogville” a few times now (and also Trier’s fine “The Five Obstructions”, a runner-up selection on my list, where he challenges director Jorgen Leth to remake a short film in several “Trier” forms) and have been repeatedly awestruck at his amazing use of minimalism, so much so that this film could be used as a dictionary example. He paints a simple story of an escaping woman (played by Nicole Kidman) and her quest to live amongst a town of strangers that has a very painful, very horrific quality to it. The use of chalk outlining instead of actual sets and props brings everyone close-up and gives us a unique look at a simple story, told Lars von Trier’s way.

#6. The Aviator (USA, dir. Martin Scorcese)

One of the most prolific figures in the film industry, let alone the 20th century, was Texas tycoon/movie conglomerate Howard Hughes, an obsessive-compulsive who threw millions of dollars into every film production to make it as accurate as possible. The film opens on Hughes creating “Hell’s Angels” using 26 cam-eras at an unheard of $4 million budget and follows Hughes right through to his airline fiasco with TWA. Martin Scorsese has made one of his best films in years about a troubled soul who gets a great idea, throws lots of money at it, then finds another great idea, throws more money at that, and so forth, and it helps that Leonardo DiCaprio gives his best performance as the stubborn, OCD-affected Hughes. That it’s also funny, entertaining and beautifully directed is just a bonus.

#7. Distant (Turkey, dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

I haven’t seen this film in over a year since a viewing at the Vancouver Film Festival (in 2003!), and its eventual American release was spotty at best, but Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film from Turkey has not left me. It’s a tale of a struggle between father and son is completely heartbreaking, and it’s set against the backdrop of Istanbul, with it’s lingering shots of a sunken ship and dark, dank weather make everything and everyone look lost and forgotten. Some have reviewed the film as “slow”, but I didn’t think it was intentionally so; Russian-god Andrei Tarkovsky’s work was also slow and Ceylan is certainly a fan of the Russian master, even going so far to include scenes from “Solaris” and “The Mirror” to show eternity slowly panning outwards.

#8. Undertow (USA, dir. David Gordon Green)

Last year, David Gordon Green’s “All The Real Girls” was on my Top 10 list, and here he is again with a quasi-Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel story of two brothers who run away from a crazy uncle who has killed their father. It seems like a simple story, but Green throws traditional storytelling right out the window and focuses on the kids and the forgotten world around them. Every scene flows effortlessly with new, interesting characters and life that is engrossing and unpredictable. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

#9. Closer (USA/UK, dir. Mike Nichols)

A great film on how truth, not lies, can destroy relationships. Mike Nichols’ film is so rife with caustic wordplay and double-crossings that it works like a quiet thriller. Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman are all featured in a love story where all the paths cross in unpredictable ways. The film is carefully edited but the process of time is left out, because not only does it give us a little work to do, these characters matter more in their struggle than how long they have been with each other. Features one of the best scenes of the year where Clive Owen completely disarms Jude Law in a doctor’s office.

#10. The Corporation (Canada, dir. Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott)

“The Corporation” angered me, but in a way that made me stand up and further question our existence in this world and the changes that we have the power to make. It balances hard truth by fusing well researched information and fascinating interviews by different people from all over the world as to how corporations have shape-shifted our entire planet, and that many of them have more power than governments. This is an important film that should have had as many viewers as Michael Moore’s inferior “Fahrenheit 9/11”, but will hopefully find a larger audience on video in 2005.

Special Jury Award: Runner-Ups

11. Tarnation (USA, dir. Jonathan Caouette)

In Jonathan Caouette’s $218 dollar-budgeted “Tarnation”, Caouette is his own subject as he tells his story about his troubled upbringing, his cancer-ridden mother and his own struggles with his sexuality. What is brutally unique about this movie is Caouette’s decision to tell much of the story through old movie clips, video footage and titles instead of narration. It gives us a weird, quasi-realistic look into his troubled existence. This was the best film I saw at this year’s Vancouver Film Festival, and I certainly wish it a well future.

12. I [Heart] Huckabee’s (USA, dir. David O. Russell)

David O. Russell’s quirky comedy has been given kind of a bum rap since its release in October, but to me, this is a weirdly fascinating look on philosophy and existentialism that creates comedy out of deep thought in a much better way than the clunky, cultist “What The Bleep Do We Know?” also released around the same time this year. Everything just made perfect sense to me; from the wacky existential detectives played by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin to Jason Schwartman’s character questioning coincidence because of a doorman that he keeps seeing in strange situations. While it may not be at the “think tank” level of something like “Magnolia”, Russell’s themes and direction are standouts in a year of traditional Hollywood crap-cake.

Thirteen Runner-Ups:

Baadassss! (USA, dir. Mario Van Peebles)

A terrific film about the making of Melvin Van Peebles’ “Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song” that is actually BETTER than its subject. The original “Sweetback” is an important film in the history of independent cinema, even if it’s very rough around the edges with a wandering story and furious editing. But hey, indie-cinema had to start somewhere. This quasi “Making-of” by Melvin’s son Mario is brilliant in the way it fearlessly juggles Mario playing Melvin, while also having a younger actor (Khleo Thomas) play the young Mario, as well as all of the financial struggles the film faced, right from Bill Cosby’s assistance through to the Black Panthers saving the first screenings.

The Brown Bunny (USA, dir. Vincent Gallo)

One of the most talked about films this year that no one saw, Vincent Gallo has made an edgy piece of work about the troubled sexual history of Bud Clay (Gallo) on his way to Los Angeles to see his girlfriend. The use of long takes, drawn-out dialogue and off-kilter performances keep an intentionally dreamy mood as Bud wanders his way from one moment to the next. The film, among other things, is about those long, drawn-out silences that one experiences while on the open road.

The Five Obstructions (Denmark, dir. Lars von Trier & Jorgen Leth)

One of the funniest documentaries I’ve seen in a long time, here is what happens when Lars von Trier wants to get under your skin (besides making another movie, of course). He challenges director Jorgen Leth to remake his short film “The Perfect Human” five times, each utilizing particular laws by Trier that Leth must work around. The funniest “re-cuts” include the version of the film where no take can last more than twelve frames (one-half of a second, and the result is nothing short of hilarious) and another where the story is set in the worst part of the world.

Hero and House of Flying Daggers (Hong Kong, dir. Zhang Yimou, both) (tie)

Zhang Yimou’s two films are beautiful landscapes of classic storytelling mixed with startling cinematography (Christopher Doyle, the best DP working in the industry today, lensed “Hero” and should be up for an Oscar next year) and have certainly found an audience stateside.

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (USA, dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Tarantino’s second-part, concluding chapter to his Bride-revenge tale is a completely different tale than the first. The first film was a gory, action-filled masterpiece that combined Eastern/Western philosophies and was a homage to, well, everything that Tarantino loved. The second film is a morality play in which the Bride (Uma Thurman) faces off her next nemesis and finds her way to Bill (David Carradine). The film looks and feels like an old noir-ish western that finalizes on a scene with Bill that we certainly don’t see coming.

Mean Creek (USA, dir. Jacob Aaron Estes)

“Mean Creek” is an utterly realistic horror story where a group of kids simply try to tease a local bully but wind up in a situation far over their heads. Not only is it a telling story of teen angst (the bully turns out to be from a broken home and is really just lashing out his anger in the wrong way), the film features some of the most natural performances I’ve ever seen from young actors; Rory Culkin, Carly Schroeder, Scott Melchowitz and Trevor Morgan are all outstanding as kids who finally get a dose of reality.

Mooladde (Senegal, dir. Ousmane Sembene)

This story about female liberation in Senegal is as unique and fascinating as any movie I saw this year; a brutal tale of a society that still has complete control over its female populace and dictating how they should act. The central story is a group of women who are standing up against forced female circumcision, but is also about the old and outdated laws of the land where the women are looked down upon rather than being the backbone to their society. It also contains images of beautiful tradition; one of the film’s lasting shots is a piece of cloth that is suspended over a door frame, and curses anyone who should cross it.

The Motorcycle Diaries (Brazil, dir. Walter Salles)

Here is a simple story about a great revolutionary – Che Guvara (played in the film by Gael Garcia Bernal) who spearheaded the Cuban Revolution in the 1960’s – but is rather about how he finds himself while on a motorcycle journey across South America in the 1950’s and finds a land rife with poverty and forces himself to make change. Whether you agree or not with Guevara’s life during the revolution, this is not a movie about that particular subject but rather about a man who becomes.

Nothing (Canada, dir. Vincenzo Natali)

Vincenzo Natali, who directed “Cube”, strikes again with a peculiar tale of two best friends named Dave and Andrew (played, naturally, by David Hewlett and Andrew Miller) who get in over their heads and wish the world away…and their wish is granted. The remainder of this film has Dave and Andrew trying to deal with all of their surroundings completely vanished while their house – and turtle – still remain. Another Canadian film that was never really noticed in theatres, it now has the chance to find an audience on video.

Primer (USA, dir. Shane Carruth)

Here’s a movie that left me reeling, confused, scratching my head…and wanting more. Director/Writer/Lead Actor/Caterer Shane Carruth has made a dirt-cheap ($7,000 budget and old 16mm cam-eras) first feature about four scientists who have stumbled across an invention that may or may not be world-changing…you know what? The explanation of the plot is pointless because the use of dialogue, editing and timing in “Primer” is near-flawless, and while the film may have confounded me, I’d rather be confused and fascinated than have everything explained and left bored.

Spartan (USA, dir. David Mamet)

A film that seemed to come and go theatrically (that seems to have happened with a lot of films on this list!) was David Mamet’s terrific thriller about secret government agent Scott (Val Kilmer in a great performance) who is asked to find a kidnapped daughter of a government official, and as the film un-spools we slowly are shown the identity of the daughter and why she was kidnapped. Mamet’s dialogue is top-notch; the people in the film (CIA agents, FBI officers, Secret Service) talk without exposition and the plot twists in a way that is surprising and edgy in an era where we didn’t think that happened anymore.

Touching The Void (UK, dir. Kevin MacDonald)

Although I’m never going to climb a mountain in my lifetime, I was still blown away by “Touching The Void”, which is a quasi-documentary about the physical and emotional torture of a lost climber who has nearly his entire body broken after a fall in a mountain climb in the Andes. The film is intercut with interviews with the real climbers as well as outstanding re-created footage of the climb that is downright scary.

A Very Long Engagement (France, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

While it may not have the long-lasting effects of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amelie”, this World War One drama has a bit of the melodramatic storytelling that partially sunk “Cold Mountain” last year, but not in this tale. This WWI drama focuses on a woman (Audrey Tautou) whose fiancée has disappeared from action and becomes obsessed with her quest, believing that he is still alive despite evidence going both ways. Jeunet’s caffeinated storytelling is another character in the film, using unlikely visuals and haunting music score (by Angelo Badalamenti) to give us one fascinating moment after another.

The Ten Worst Films of 2004:

"I saw that movie "The National Treasure". Heh. It was so smart I was like "Whoa! Heh. That Nicky Cage is pretty smart to find a treasure map. That's not based on a true story, is it? No, seriously! Is it true? (a moment passes) Uh...soverign entity!"

01. George W. Bush: Faith in the White House

This “film” never really did get a theatrical release, rather a curious screening at this year’s Vancouver Film Festival that was booed, laughed at and widely discussed afterwards as one of the most inaccurate and biased documentaries ever made. It is also one of the worst things I have ever witnessed since the Spice Girls made a movie, hence this film making a much-needed appearance on my Worst of the year list. At number one. This “documentary”, which paints a positive light over George Dubya’s Christian ethics is not only laughable in its ignorance to what’s really going on in this world, but is also just piss-poor filmmaking, right from the self-promoting “host” to read quotes hilariously out of context (“No one has spent more time on his knees than George W. Bush”, one narrator says while talking about ‘ol Georgie’s religious devotion) to quite possibly the most laughable sequence in the history of the medium, where an obviously coached child reading from a teleprompter recounts his experiences with meeting Bush right before the start of the Iraq war. The kid didn’t realize that Bush only met the child as a publicity stunt to help himself in the polls.

02. White Chicks

Wow, what a gob-smackingly bad movie. A nearly TWO HOUR comedy (that somehow made money) about two FBI agents who go undercover, unconvincingly, as partying socialite girls (not too far a cry from Paris and Nicky Hilton) and the hundreds of people that they MAKE BELIEVE that they are female. Even in a comedy situation, I wasn’t buying it for a second, but what’s worse is that Keenan Ivory Wayans, the film’s director, still thinks that a multitude of fart gags and toilet humour is funny in this day and age.

03. Envy

“Envy, the shit disturber” I taglined in my original review. Since then, the film has faded into obscurity and lays unseen, unrented on video store shelves. As someone who SAW the movie, however, I’m still in pain over Ben Stiller and Jack Black’s whining, Christopher Walken’s embarrassing performance as “The Jay Man” who spends a twenty minute segment in burying a dead horse, and an invention called “Vapoorize” that is beat to death like that very horse.

04. Connie and Carla

I like Toni Collette and have enjoyed her work in the past, but why oh why did she sign on for this crappy Nia Vardalos vehicle in her first film since that “Greek Wedding”? This is an embarrassing ripoff of “Some Like it Hot” that features Collette and Vardalos as women who go undercover as drag queen FEMALE broadway singers hoping that they can elude the bad guys after them for witnessing a murder. David Duchovny plays a straight man who becomes gay with lust for Vardalos’ male-persona, not the real woman beneath. I wish I was making that up.

05. Little Black Book

This film made me angry. It asks us to have sympathy to fall for an un-likable shrew (played by Brittany Murphy of all un-likable people) who schemes, lies and gets her way despite hurting a lot of characters, and gets away with it at the end. One character in particular is played by the wonderful Julianne Nicholson, who you may remember from the indie favourite “Tully”, who is such a nice character here that they should have just made the film about how a good person was duped and shamed by somebody like Brittany Murphy.

06. National Treasure

Somehow, this cookie-cutter, mass-produced piece of garbage was a hit with audiences in late November. This is nothing more than swill put together by the Bruckheimer empire that would rather give you the McDonalds style of filmmaking (the standardized recipe, if you will) rather than trying something new. Nicolas Cage, looking half-asleep, plays an explorer who is looking for a treasure where its map is located on the back of the declaration of independence. Sounds like a nifty idea “borrowed” from “The Da Vinci Code” but is replete with brain-dead action sequences, insipid exposition and Diane Kruger’s adorable features surprisingly unappealing.

07. My Baby’s Daddy

Thankfully, I don’t recall much of this crap after viewing a DVD copy back in the summer. What I DO remember, however, is an endless array of baby poop jokes and whining adults (Anthony Anderson in full scream mode) and awful, CG-enhanced sequences where the babies talk jive to each other. And another film where someone from Kids in the Hall gets embarrassed.

08. Christmas With The Kranks

A married couple, whose daughter goes away during the holidays, decides to skip Christmas altogether (no presents, no decorating the house, and so forth) and wind up with some pretty awful neighbors who object to that idea. This is an awful comedy that teaches you that it’s okay to bully others to conform to your conformist needs.

09. Sleepover

The worst teen-oriented film of the year. Annoying actors, horrendous dialogue and one silly plot contrivance after another pretty much sum up this poorly-planned mess. It asks us to believe that four “nerdy” looking girls, who look like lovely young actors, are up against a “bet” between four snotty “hot” girls (two of which didn’t utter a line of dialogue) and the loser gets the “hot eating spot” at lunch. Whatever happened to lunch car trips to McDonalds?

10. The Chronicles of Riddick

Works not as a sequel to “Pitch Black”, a cult hit, but rather to the famous mega-bomb “Battlefield Earth” with some of the same garish sets and ugly costumes. Vin Diesel looks embarrassed and shot in dark tones, hiding him from the silly story of evil forces that Vin must face. That also includes Dame Judi Dench in a career-low as one of the evils. Did she lose a bet?

Other Notables This Year:

The Best Guilty Pleasure of 2004: Cellular

“Cellular” is simultaneously dumb as well as very smart about the knick-knacks of a thriller, and is a B-movie all the way. On the one hand, you have a gimmick involving a kidnapping of a woman (Kim Basinger) who pieces together a broken phone and calls a teenager (Chris Evans) which is silly, but then is very smart about the little phone that the teenager has with him, and it becomes strangely watchable. The gimmick suddenly becomes a unique idea that is a lot of fun to watch.

The Biggest Disappointment of 2004 Award: The Phantom of the Opera

Aye-yay-yah! Joel Schumacher’s rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s play is not one of those musical-movies where only fans of the play will appreciate it. This is just a simply bad movie with lifeless music and Schumacher’s complete lack of framing a shot properly. Newcomer Emmy Rossum is beautiful and fiercely talented in an otherwise drab and forgettable opera. Stick to the live musical.

Best Improvement in 2004: Spider-Man 2

To me, “Spider-Man” was a disappointment (it made a mention on my Best/Worst of 2002 list for that very reason) for being too flashy, too theme-park and not enough spirit and thoughtfulness of the source material. “Spider-Man 2” transcends the first film and stands on its own as a living, breathing epic with interesting characters, storyline as well as great pyrotechnics and action.

Best Dance in 2004: Napoleon Dynamite’s “Pedro’s Pep-Rally Dance”

A movie that gets funnier and funnier on repeat viewings, “Napoleon Dynamite” a hit at Sundance, a smash in theatres and the hottest DVD rental out right now, is a surprisingly likable comedy despite the lead character being totally un-likeable. But that’s okay. When Napoleon decides to help his friend Pedro at his pep rally by using his recently-honed dancing skills, the resulting dance is like nothing I’ve seen before; that a curly-haired, rail-thin whiner can bring down the house (both in the school auditorium in the film AND the advance screening I attended) is really something. Sweet!

Best New Filmmaker Award: Gavin Heffernan for “Expiration”

While Zach Braff may be getting all of the attention for breaking out of his “Scrubs” show and making a hit first feature, and I congratulate him for it for sure, it’s Gavin Heffernan, who made such an impression with his first feature “Expiration” at this year’s Victoria Film Festival that I absolutely can’t wait to see where he heads next. “Expiration” is somewhat like a serious take on Scorsese’s “After Hours” where two people (Heffernan and Janet Lane, who is an amazing, natural talent) who embark on an odd adventure through the strange underbelly of Montreal. In a day and age where most student films are either Tarantino rip-offs or bad comedies, Heffernan shows amazing promise with his first feature. A native of Toronto, Heffernan is now directing short films through the AFI in Los Angeles, and I wish him the best of luck.

Best DVD release: Freaks and Geeks

2004 was a great year for DVD releases, and I went through it all: Criterion box sets, old movies, special editions of blockbusters and TV series. The best out of all of them, however, is Shout Factory’s amazing release of “Freaks and Geeks” which depicts teenage life at a suburban high school in Detroit. All 18 episodes from the series are housed in either the 6-disc collectors edition, or the 8-disc Yearbook edition which is only available online. Whatever route you go, please just take the path and watch this series. It really is something special.

For a more in-depth look at the show and the set, please read my in-depth DVD review HERE. (Clicky on the link, please!).

So, my campers, I lay to rest another great year of cinema that will not soon be forgotten. A lot of bad films this year, but a lot of good ones as well, and here’s hoping that 2005 will be as unpredictable!

Bill Harris

Stunt Coordinator
Apr 1, 2001
Top 10 : Best and Worst of 2004


(1) The Aviator - USA - Martin Scorsese
(2) Closer - USA - Mike Nichols
(3) Sideways - USA - Alexander Payne
(4) Primer - USA - Shane Carruth
(5) Tarnation - USA - Jonathon Caouette
(6) Dogville - Denmark - Lars Von Trier
(7) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - USA - Michel Gondry
(8) Kill Bill : Volume 2 - USA - Quentin Tarantino
(9) Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban - USA - Alfonso Cuaron
(10) Metallica : Some Kind of Monster - USA - Berlinger/Sinofsky


(1) A Hole in My Heart - Sweden - Lukas Moodysson
(2) The Phantom of The Opera - USA - Joel Schumacher
(3) Catwoman - USA - Pitof
(4) White Chicks - USA - Keenan Ivory Wayans
(5) Twentynine Palms - France - Bruno DuMont
(6) YuGiOh : The Movie - Japan - Hatsuki Tsuji
(7) Envy - USA - Alan Smithee
(8) Ella Enchanted - USA - Tommy O'Haver
(9) Torque - USA - Joseph Kawn
(10) Sleepover - USA - Joe Nussbaum

Other Things

CD of the Year - Social Distortion - Sex , Love and Rock and Roll
TV Series of the Year - Lost
Anime Series of the Year - Monster
Videogame of the Year - Half Life 2
Concert of the Year - Franz Ferdinand - September 2004 - Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver , B.C

Rob Willey

Apr 10, 2000
Real Name
Last Updated: 02/23/05
Criterion Used: Oscar Eligibility
Number of Films Seen: 37

The top ten so far:

1. Fahrenheit 9/11
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. Sideways
4. Hero
5. Million Dollar Baby
6. Control Room
7. Maria Full of Grace
8. Hotel Rwanda
9. Mean Girls
10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The best of the rest, in order:

Finding Neverland, Spanglish, The Passion of the Christ, The Aviator, Saved!, House of Flying Daggers, The Hunting of the President, Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear and the Selling of American Empire, Super Size Me, The Terminal, Ray, Kinsey, The Motorcycle Diaries, Spartan, Bush's Brain, Collateral, Miracle, Hidalgo, Festival Express, Outfoxed, Jersey Girl, Spider-Man 2, The Ladykillers, I Robot, Shrek 2, Iron Jawed Angels, Van Helsing

Yet to see are:

The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Baadasssss!, Bad Education, Being Julia, Cellular, Close Your Eyes, Closer, The Door in the Floor, The Dreamers, A Foreign Affair, Garden State, Going Upriver, A Home at the End of the World, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, I'm Not Scared, The Incredibles, Intimate Strangers, The Machinist, Mean Creek, The Merchant of Venice, Moolaade, Open Water, Orwell Rolls In His Grave, Osama, Overnight, The Polar Express, Riding Giants, Secret Things, Seeing Other People, Silver City, Still We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Movie, Tarnation, The Twilight Samurai, Undertow, The United States of Leland, Valentin, Vanity Fair, Vera Drake, A Very Long Engagement, Young Adam


Stephen R

Stunt Coordinator
Mar 28, 2000

By first international release

*1.) ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (United States, Michel Gondry)
*2.) BEFORE SUNSET (United States, Richard Linklater)
*3.) SIDEWAYS (United States, Alexander Payne)
*4.) KUNG FU HUSTLE (Hong Kong, Stephen Chow)
*5.) KILL BILL, VOLUME 2 (United States, Quentin Tarantino)
*6.) THE INCREDIBLES (United States, Brad Bird)
*7.) HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (Hong Kong, Zhang Yimou)
*8.) MEAN CREEK (United States, Jacob Aaron Estes)
*9.) TROPICAL MALADY (Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
10.) PRIMER (United States, Shane Carruth)

By first NY/LA release

*1.) ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (United States, Michel Gondry)
*2.) DOGVILLE (Denmark, Lars von Trier)
*3.) SIDEWAYS (United States, Alexander Payne)
*4.) THE BROWN BUNNY (United States, Vincent Gallo)
*5.) BEFORE SUNSET (United States, Richard Linklater)
*6.) BLUE GATE CROSSING (Taiwan, Yee Chin-yen)
*7.) COWARDS BEND THE KNEE (Canada, Guy Maddin)
*8.) KILL BILL, VOLUME 2 (United States, Quentin Tarantino)
*9.) HERO (Hong Kong, Zhang Yimou)
10.) THE INCREDIBLES (United States, Brad Bird)

Top Ten Albums

1.) DESTROYER - Your Blues
2.) THE ARCADE FIRE - Funeral
3.) MALADY - s/t
4.) SUFJAN STEVENS - Seven Swans
5.) CASTANETS - Cathedrals
6.) DEVENDRA BANHART - Rejoicing in the Hands
7.) THE GO! TEAM - Thunder Lightning Strike
8.) RICHARD BUCKNER - Dents and Shells
9.) ISIS - Panopticon
10.) THE MOUNTAIN GOATS - We Shall All Be Healed

Top Ten Older Films Seen

1.) A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE (Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
3.) PARK ROW (Samuel Fuller)
4.) I WAS BORN, BUT... (Yasujiro Ozu)
5.) UNDER CAPRICORN and THE WRONG MAN (Alfred Hitchcock)
6.) RIDE LONESOME (Budd Boetticher)
7.) THE HOUSE IS BLACK (Forugh Farrokhzad)
8.) FIGHTING ELEGY (Seijun Suzuki)
9.) HIGH AND LOW (Akira Kurosawa)
10.) ONE WEEK (Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline)

Edwin Pereyra

Senior HTF Member
Oct 26, 1998
My Top 10 for 2004:

10.Infernal Affairs (Hong Kong, Wei Keung Lau and Sui Fai Mak)
9.Touching The Void (United Kingdom, Kevin McDonald)
8.Hotel Rwanda (United States, Terry George)
7.Sideways (United States, Alexander Payne)
6.Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (Korea, Kim Ki Duk)
5. Sea Inside, The (Spain, Alejandro Amenabar)
4.Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (United States, Charlie Kaufman)
3.Maria Full of Grace (United States/Colombia, Joshua Marston)
2.Before Sunset (United States, Richard Linklater)
1.The Aviator (United States, Martin Scorsese)

Beyond The Top 10:

11. Million Dollar Baby (United States, Clint Eastwood)
12. The Saddest Music In The World (Canada, Guy Maddin)
13. The Incredibles
14. Hero
15. Kill Bill: The Complete Film
17.The Polar Express
18.Spider-Man 2
20.Finding Neverland
21.The Village
24.Crimson Gold (Iran)
25.Osama (Afghanistan)

~Edwin ô¿ô

Fred Bang

Stunt Coordinator
May 7, 2000
Here's mine.

Being a fan of Adaptation and Malkovitch, I was already sold to this movie, but was not expecting it to be that good. Jim Carrey is fantastically subtle, and this movie is strangely romantic. Gets better with each viewing.

As Ebert said, this is the best super hero movie ever. The problem with most superhero movie is that we always are impatient for the "super hero" scenes and the "alter-ego" scenes are always a bore. With this movie, the scenes with Peter Parker are as good as the one with Spider Man (if not better). For the first time in my adult life, a movie has made me want to wear spandex and leap from a building. ;-)

I wasn't expecting to be as entertained as I was before going to this fantastic movie. The family chemistry is an absolute joy. Not sure it is intended for children though.

This movie is high on the list but seen in conjonction with Volume 1. Both movies make each other better. Still on the second viewing I though the movie dragged a bit. I cannot wait to scene the Cannes version.

Tom Cruise gives an excellent performance as the cold killer and I was surprised by the plot (even though there's a couple of plotholes)

A surprising movie with a warm performance by Natalie Portman, absolutely adorable in it

The best zombie flick I have ever seen! For some reason, it creeped me out more than Dawn of the Dead or 28 days Later...and it's a comedy!

The best of the three. The Spoiler:
time travel
scenes were mindboggling.

Leonardo DiCaprio is marvelous in this very well made movie. Cate Blanchett is fantastic. Surely not Scorcese's best, but a must see for sure.

Despite a ridiculously caricatural ending, this movie is a visual gem. I thought HERO was a more inteligent movie, but Dagger much more entertaining.

Didn't saw Sideways, Kinsey, One Million Dollar Baby and Finding Neverland, which could change my list.

Some good movie that did not made the list

Farenheit 911
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
The Terminal

Seth Paxton

Senior HTF Member
Nov 5, 1998
Need to see - Vera Drake, A Very Long Engagement, Hotel Rwanda

As of 2/4/05

1 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Beautiful love story with a wonderful sense of visual imagination to go with it. It's also an outstanding scenario for expressing a person's love for another (the fear of losing them) AND for spicing the film with a person's inner thoughts and history (right inside the brain no less).

2 - The Incredibles
One of the most fun rides I've had in years. While not as poignant as TS1 or TS2, it's the best looking and most uptempo fun of any of the Pixar films.

3 - Closer
Wonderful, intimate film about non-likeable people hurting each other. To me this was like a relationship version of a Tarintino film, made up of nothing but powerful moments of 1 on 1 confrontational dialog.

4 - Finding Neverland
The film put me in tears on several occassions, and I really was trying to fight it. Touching story and some great characters within it.

5 - Before Sunset
Besides some outstanding dialog, Linklater does a great job of making multiple scenes out of what is really just one long scene. Having backgrounds pass the characters by as they walk or ride on boats gives the scenes a visual life that normally wouldn't be there with just 2 people talking. It makes the conversation into both a literal and metaphorical journey.

6 - I Heart Huckabees
Some were put off by the metaphorical approach to the film which to me resulted in some terrifically absurd (and funny) moments. I liked the characters as representations of ideals, especially when those ideals then battled it out to win over the minds of the lead characters. The entire cast was great, but Wahlberg stood out the most to me.

7 - Dogville
It took me a few scenes to warm up to it, but once its storybook charm had me I was on for the ride. While it played like a typically difficult Von Trier film, his final act questioned all that he had done with his female characters before then in a way that made me say "Hey yeah, that's a good point." Like Linklater, Von Trier took a minimalist set and camera movements and turned it into pure visual magic.

8 - The Aviator
This powerful epic of one great American's life is a showcase for DiCaprio, though Blanchett shines as well. It's only flaw might be in running too long at points, and that some of the traditional Scorsese zip is missing from the direction. But otherwise it a grand, sweeping film that represents the very best of big film art.

9 - Garden State
Takes the standard "coming home/disfunctional parent-child relationship" film and breathes new life into it, almost without you knowing it. It is comfortable enough to be both silly and thoughtful in the same scene with just enough spicing of quirkiness to keep you really interested without it becoming that annoying "weird for weird's sake" sort of thing. Zack Braff really nailed the writing, acting and especially the directing with this debut.

10 - Sideways
The anti-Aviator. Here is a small film about a small man who takes a very small journey. But the truth of his outlandish needs and quirks, as well as his best friend's own bad behavior, make the film hit home. If Aviator Hughes is a man beyond our own aspirations, then Miles Raymond is right next to us suffering the same inferiority complex about it. And in doing so he lets us laugh at ourselves and feel that we can still make something of our life, small though it may be.

Friday Night Lights
Million Dollar Baby
Life Aquatic w/ Team Zissou
Kill Bill Vol. 2
The Passion of the Christ
Harry Potter 3
Leminy Snicket
Spider-Man 2
The Manchurian Candidate
Dawn of the Dead

The Girl Next Door
In Good Company
Control Room
The Bourne Supremacy
The Motorcycle Diaries
Napoleon Dynamite
Shaun of the Dead
Shrek 2

Worst 10 (only 5 so far, most of the bad films remain unviewed so far)

1. Van Helsing - likely to hold on here
2. The Big Bounce - ditto
3. Eurotrip - could be others worse, but this is sure to stay at the bottom 10
4. Saw - might slip out, but it wasn't very good
5. 13 Going on 30 - more bland than just bad
6. The Terminal - just a very bad script and story concept, and the weak story only brings out the formula script aspects all the more


Supporting Actor
Jan 14, 2001
St. Louis, Missouri
Real Name
Top 10 of 2004
(As of February 7th)

1. Million Dollar Baby

2. The Incredibles

3. The Aviator

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

5. The Life Aquatic

6. Spider-Man 2

7. Sideways

8. Kill Bill Volume 2

9. Collateral

10. Friday Night Lights

Bottom 5 of 2004
(As of December 28th)

1. Van Helsing
2. Envy
3. Exorcist: The Beginning
4. Johnson Family Vacation
5. The Day After Tomorrow

Dustin Woods

Dec 4, 2002
[color=dark-blue]TOP TEN OF 2004[/color]
(as of December 30)

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. The Aviator
3. Touching the Void
4. Friday Night Lights
5. Garden State
6. Hero
7. Super-Size Me
8. Dawn of the Dead
9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
10. The Bourne Supremacy

NOTE:Top Ten is subject to change as I still have yet to see Sideways, Million Dollar Baby, Shaun of the Dead, Kinsey, and The Life Aquatic. I think all of these films have a chance to move into the top ten, and hopefully I will have seen them all in another week or so.

[color=dark red]BOTTOM TEN OF 2004[/color]

1. Christmas With the Kranks
2. The Manchurian Candidate
3. Cellular
4. Shark Tale
5. Along Came Polly
6. 50 First Dates
7. Seed of Chucky
8. The Alamo
9. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy
10. The Big Bounce


1. The Arcade Fire - Funeral
2. Wilco - A Ghost is Born
3. Of Montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic
4. Elf Power - Walking With The Beggar Boys
5. Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
6. Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
7. Velvet Revolver - Contraband
8. Ryan Adams - Love is Hell
9. Brian Wilson - SMiLE
10. Incubus - A Crow Left of the Murder


Senior HTF Member
Apr 20, 1999
Real Name
A note about reserving a spot in this thread (and other threads): It doesn't seem to make much sense to me, since people who have visited this thread already won't likely return to the beginning of the thread searching for your list, or they won't even remember that you reserved a spot; they will revisit the thread to look at the most recent posts. By reserving a space, won't your list get ignored more than get read? :wink:



Jan 6, 2003
1. Finding Neverland 10/10 (seen on 12/27)
2. Garden State: 10/10 (seen on 10/24)
3. Passion of the Christ: 10/10 (seen on 2/25)
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: 10/10 (seen on 3/19)
5. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou: 10/10 (seen on 12/15)
6. Donnie Darko: Directors Cut: 10/10
7. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 10/10 (seen on 4/17)
8. The Incredibles 10/10 (seen on 11/13)
9. Spanglish: 9/10 (seen on 12/31)
10. Sideways: 9/10 (seen on 11/7)

*if you don't count the Donnie Darko: DC as a 2004 then put in Dogville at #10 with a 9/10

Nick Sievers

Senior HTF Member
Jul 1, 2000
Nick’s Top 10 of 2004

Last Updated: 22nd March, 2005

1. Closer

2. Before Sunset

3. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

4. Million Dollar Baby

5. Sideways

6. I ♥ Huckabees

7. Kill Bill: Volume 2

8. The Aviator

9. The Incredibles

10. Garden State


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Larry Sutliff

Senior HTF Member
Jun 17, 2000
Top 10 of 2004:
10. HERO

Definitely a year when commercial mass audience films seemed to be better than the usual "arthouse" fare, at least to me.


Richard Kim

Senior HTF Member
Jan 29, 2001
My Top 10 for 2004:

1)Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2)The Incredibles
4)Spider-Man 2
5)Kill Bill Vol 2.
6)Fahrenheit 9/11
7)Shaun of the Dead
8)Napoleon Dynamite
9)The Aviator
10)Hero (Ying xiong)


Supporting Actor
May 13, 2001
The year's Ten Best

1. The Incredibles
For so long, it seemed certain that The Passion of the Christ would remain the year's best film. When The Incredibles arrived, as great as Pixar usually are, I quite simply couldn't believe what I was seeing onscreen. A faultlessly characterised comedy and comic-book composite, with something for everyone. Full of little character treasures, part of the real delight of being a passive participant is seeing how many you can dig up. Proof, that the quality of a movie isn't just how much it makes you empathise, but how it works with you emotionally, counterbalancing drama and delight in equal proportions. The year's best film.

2. The Passion of the Christ
If film is indeed a medium for empathy, then The Passion of the Christ isn't a place I want to be for long. This film hurts, and for many a valid response is to avoid staring it in the face. A time-capsule film, impeccably photographed, realised and directed by a creative force as shattering as any cross. Gibson's Passion is by design a psychological conundrum, presenting us with the guilt of sin for which the Christ suffers horribly onscreen. No clergy has been able to lay down the Paschal Lamb sacrificial story with the same strength. "By his wounds, we are healed".

3. Kill Bill Vol. 2
Quentin Tarantino has fashioned a soup of East/West cultural nuggets, around a straightforward revenge story. But this, in itself does not levitate Kill Bill to greatness, what works is the sheer passion and energy in making each reference in this showman's piece entirely his own. He borrows cinematographic setups, and devices from everywhere, and cleverly skewing it, so that it appears fresh and fun. And indeed, much of both movies is purposeless, the screenplay prefers to just spend time with the characters, it's about visualising the movie world that exists in the mind's eye. Kudos to Uma Thurman, for finding the skill in portraying an purposefully underwritten and iconic character, and David Carradine delivering a great comic performance of apathetic villainy. Especially loved the delivery of the Superman speech, with Tarantino writing his bit of cheerful and funny self-satire.

4. The Return
Chilling, cold and brilliantly told, Andrei Zvyagintsev's terrific coming-of-age tale is a film about brotherhood, solidarity and finding inner strength. The Return deals with the social microcosm of two teenage brothers, who meet their father for the first time in 12 years, and he is neither welcoming, compassionate, nor does he appear to have the right stuff for preparing them for the world. Three stunning performances anchor our attention and the film's themes remain universal. The recurrent cold imagery of water, constant movement, and facing fears multiplies the menace of the situations.

5. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
The great Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow evokes a wonderful time for film, 1939. Similarly so, Kerry Conran's technologically-assisted triumph is to not forget what makes serials plain fun to watch. He gives us lots of wild action and beautifully imagined backdrops against feisty and fun one-dimensional characters drawn from the Amazing Stories pulp books of the period. I would have watched this film repeatedly as a child, and along with The Polar Express, and Spider-Man 2, 10-year olds of all ages are well catered for with great entertainments in 2004.

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
7. The Polar Express

8. Spider-Man 2
An equal film to Richard Donner's great 1978 Superman, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 takes the origin, and runs with it, giving Peter Parker an alarming crisis of faith, and a far better story to run things with. A fantastic entertainment, and the characters are given as much attention as the showdowns. Alfred Molina's brilliant potrayal of Dr. Octavius has become one of the great cinematic villains, by equal means cool and frightening. The visual effects are entirely convincing, and it's dexterity in convincing the audience of effortless flight, that it's by mere force of will that I don't whoop with delight as Parker whizzes through the city. Great to see Raimi's Evil Dead style of visceral filmmaking back, too.

9. Closer
10. The Machinist

As more 2004 US release hit my shores, expect frequent updates. (inserted Closer at #9)

Shad R

Supporting Actor
Oct 8, 2001
9. Hero
8. Harry Potter
7. Oceans 12
6. The Incredibles
5. Shrek 2
4. Team America(am I the only one who liked it?)
3. Garden State
2. Kill Bill vol. 2
1. Spiderman 2

Close contenders: Anchorman, Napolean Dynamite, Spongebob(I'm a huge fan of that little guy)

Matt Stone

Senior HTF Member
Jun 21, 2000
Real Name
Matt Stone
2004 Top Ten*
Updated 20 January 2004
Eligible Films Seen: 73

1. Garden State
Director: Zach Braff

I've heard people say that The Graduate has lost it's meaning over the years and while I disagree; if it has, Garden State takes it's place for today's (my) generation. It has an overall theme of aiming to simply live life, rather than self-medicating to avoid the highs and lows . Simple concept masterfully written and directed with some of the best performances of the year. Natalie Portman especially shows her charm. It's strange how cold her performances have been in the Star Wars prequels compared to what she gives in this film. My only guess is that Lucas is either wrong and getting what he wants, or he just can't direct her to save is life. Back to the film at and, Zach Braff's intro into the directing world is the best of the the year. Much like The Graduate and Wes Anderson's films, the soundtrack elevates the film from strong drama to an amazing experience. Whether this film stands the test of time remains to be seen, but it was the best film I saw all year.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Director: Michael Gondry

Another A+ from the mind of Charlie Kaufman. I was a little worried to see the pairing of Kaufman and Gondry after the disaster that was Human Nature, but with such a strong cast, how could they go wrong. Jim Carrey shows yet again that he's one of the best actors working today, dramatic or comedic. His range is all over the map from happy to confused to lost to understanding. Winslet is as charming as always, and the supporting performances from Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Wilkinson are all spot-on humorous. With Garden State being a little more art-hosue, I sincerely hope this gets some nominations come Oscar time. Considering the subject matter and method of storytelling, the direction of Eternal Sunshine is the best of the year. Small and understated when it needs to be; big and wacky to keep things interesting. In the tradition of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, the subject matter continues to follow in style, yet remain original.

3. Kill Bill: Volume 2
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Different in tone from the first film, but even more entertaining. The story is more personal as far as the relationship between Bill and The Bride. The film is humorous, charming, violent, and most of all fun. All the style of a Hong Kong martial arts film, with QT's personal touch. Character interaction is the films biggest strength, with great sequences between The Bride/Elle and Pai Mei, The Bride and Bill, and The Bride/Elle and Budd. Like my other top two films, the cast is amazing. David Carradine gives an award-worthy performance, and Madsen turns in another A+ supporting performance. People may attack QT for lack of originality, but his method of compiling common archetypes and regurgitating them in a style all his own with such amazing dialog and direction far surpasses expectations.

4. Spider-Man 2
Director: Sam Raimi

What a fantastic year for action films, and sequels for that matter. Much like X2, without the need to dwell on an origin story for more than half of the film, Raimi is able to focus on internal struggles and external conflict. The strong screenplay and direction make for a great blending of eye-popping action sequences with a really good love/loss story to elevate the material. As a big Raimi/Evil Dead fan, I was jumping in my seat during the Doc Ock/Operating Room sequence. The editing style and camera zooms gave it a really creepy, and yet comic book-y feel. This is the Empire Strikes Back of comic book films. Some say over-rated...I say best comic book film ever.

5. Collateral
Director: Michael Mann

This film is further proof that Tom Cruise is one of the best in the business. He can play big action films well, as well as smaller understated performances, and with this (and Magnolia) he proves that he can really play a great villain. Jamie Foxx makes his big acting arrival a month or so before Ray and goes to to toe with Cruise throughout the film. The direction is understated, contemplative, and very cool in a Michael Mann sort of way. Cruise is absolutely wolfish, and in a perfect world would finally win that Oscar this year. The supporting players are strong, especially Jada Pinkett Smith, but the Mark Ruffalo cop sub-plot is the only thing that drags the film down. Not that it isn't played well, it just seems like a bit of a deus ex machina. Luckily it's dismissed and doesn't hurt the film much, but I'm still not sure I bought Rufallo as badass, slicked-back hair cop. This may not be the best film of the year, but it's damn close.

6. Napolian Dynamite
Director: Jared Hess

Maybe the most polarizing film of the year. Some hate it, some love it. Maybe it's my small midwest upbringing, but the material had some sort of odd resonance with me. Some feel the dialog was stilted and the characters were annoying, and that's probably true, but god knows I've met a hell of a lot of people that fit those descriptions in my life. While the characters don't fit "in our world," they certainly fit in theirs'. The best example is when La Fawnduh arrives to meet Kip. Instead of the expected rejection at him being a small white guy and her being a large black woman, they fall in love. The film is endearing; the characters are quirky; and I laughed the entire time. This film may have not made it on to my top ten had I not watched it on DVD a couple more times. It's definitely grown on me. Love it or hate it may be true, but I know where I plant my flag.

7. Kinsey
Director: Bill Condon

I usually slam bio-pics for being boring and relatively uninspired, but today I saw two bio-pics that both knocked me on my ass. The first was Kinsey. Liam Neeson gives the hands-down best performance of the year with fantastic supporting work from Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard (damn is this guy good), Timothy Hutton, and Chris O'Donnell. Neeson's Kinsey is able to come across as selfish, singularly motivated, lacking in basic human understanding and yet remain very likable. It's really a testament to Neeson's performance, because he portrays Kinsey balancing on the very thin line of flawed and likable. The film is visually interesting, utilizing different styles for flashbacks as well as stock footage that gives it a grittier documentary feel. Condon is able to present a motherload of information without becoming boring. Regardless of the timeline in the film, it's information is as applicable today as it was in 1948. Kinsey may be a bio-pic, but I think it explored the cause and effect aspect of human sexuality much more successfully than the similar themed Closer.

8. Baadasssss!
Director: Mario Van Peebles

The second of the strong bio-pics from this year. Mario Van Peebles directs and stars in a movie about his father's troubled production of Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song: the first blacksplotation film ever made. Like Kinsey, the story is what draws you in. Usually with bio-pics, I find the story leaving something to be desired, because frankly, the truth is usually much more boring than fiction. It works as a fantastic homage to Melvin Van Peeble's fabled film, as well as a lesson in low-budget, guerrilla film-making. The characters are interesting, and their interactions are real. The inter-cutting with interview footage (with the actors during the film and the real people during the credits) helps with the films documentary nature. The editing style is mostly quick paced and inventive, and the visual look of the film is solid and raw. The camera work is simple without being boring. It doesn't draw attention to itself. I can guess that this was both a chore and a labor of love for Van Peebles to complete, but it came out beautifully and is one of the best films of the year.

9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Cuaron makes a film that's artistically stronger than the first two Harry Potter films. The film wasn't as faithful to the book as I would have liked, but considering the first two films stuck too close to the books, that's not such a bad thing. The palette is visually dark and the style is gritty, reflecting the story. Editing and camera moves are much more interesting than Chris Columbus's typical point-and-shoot style. The performances from the Daniel, Rupert, and Emma are all strong and keep getting better each film. Oldman and Thewlis are both amazing. They both were perfect representations of the characters from the books. I hope the remaining films utilize a similar style to Azkaban. The only problem I foresee is not being able to make a 2.5 hour film that accurately reflects 800 and 900 page books.

10. Shaun of the Dead
Director: Edgar Wright

A romantic comedy...with zombies. It plays well as an homage to the Romero films, a comedy/spoof, and a horror film in it's own right. It cribs style from great horror films, and puts it together with some great actors (especially Simon Pegg). Comedic timing is spot on, and the writing was brilliant. As a horror fanatic, the in-jokes were fun to look for, and I would guess that it's equally interesting to watch as a horror laymen. I can't wait to see what's next from Wright and Pegg.

Other Films Worth Mentioning
Director: Shane Carruth
Director: Mike Nichols
Dawn of the Dead
Director: Zack Snyder
Haute Tension
Director: Alexandre Aja
Director: Guillermo Del Toro

2004 Best of the Rest
(Films seen for the first time in 2004)
1. Once Upon A Time In The West
Director: Sergio Leone
2. Escape from New York
Director: John Carpenter
3. Videodrome
Director: David Cronenberg
4. The Devil's Backbone
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
5. Maniac
Director: William Lustig

*Still have a few films I'd like to see. Namely Sideways and The Aviator. Consider this a work in progress.

Dec. 29: Saw Kinsey and Baadasssss! today. They're both going in the top ten, but I have to decide where to put them.
Dec. 30: Dropped Sky Captain and Spartan from my list.
Dec. 30: Added Primer as an honorable mention.
Jan. 18: Saw The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou today. Not as good as Anderson's other films, but still good.
Jan. 20: Saw The Assassination of Richard Nixon today. Very good film, but I don't think I'll be bumping anything to fit it into the top ten.

Nick C.

Second Unit
Dec 27, 2001

1. Hero
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. Twilight Samurai
4. Before Sunset
5. Blue Gate Crossing
6. Since Otar Left
7. Blind Shaft
8. Last Life in the Universe/Undertow
9. Dogville
10. The Woodsman

Honorable Mention:
Primer, Collateral, Dawn of the Dead, The Five Obstructions

Even in late December, as I anticipated the late rush of award-seeking pictures, my impression remained that this had been a relatively weak year for movies. In reflection, generating the ol' top ten list the past several days, however, the year has been quite strong in both variety and quality. Just a minor detour while on the subject of time...it confounds me that Focus would release Eternal Sunshine in March. Although fans (it looks to be a lock for #1 in our HTF poll) and critics (easily among the three best reviewed films of the year), Oscar voters will most likely have forgotten it by now, under the mindset “What have you done for me, lately?” Not that I or most HTFers think Oscar equals quality, but I would like to see Kaufman (no one remembers three nominations), Gondry, and, especially, Carrey receive some recognition, and in turn, larger audiences, box office, and, most importantly, funding and freedom to keep making great pictures.

Getting back on subject, 2004 was quite a good year for movies, even outside the context of political and religious zeal. Looking at some of my favourites the past few years, foreign films emerged to take over the majority of my slots. Not to discount critical American darlings Sideways and Million Dollar Baby (here’s hoping Eastwood will be relieved of having to be funding, even after $90mil Mystic River box office receipts), nor stirring summer sequels in Spider-man 2 and The Bourne Supremacy, the above Asian and European pictures just drew me in more. I suppose the trend, if there is one, in my subjective list creation, is one of humanism, may it be the endearing relationships, nostalgic yearning for the past or an ideal, or simple existence before it seeps out from temporality’s grasps. As such, I found the decision to include Dogville quite a struggle, before noting the daring appeal created by such void and disconnectedness from the aforementioned humanism when circumstance and environment reinforce such antithetical actions. A tidbit about my selection number eight, the two pictures were grouped together rather than making a formal eleventh pick on the basis of their beautifully photographed naturalism and shared narratives of escape from forgettable pasts. A final observation, I’m glad interesting nonfiction films continue to abound in the likes of The Five Obstructions, Bright Leaves, and Super Size Me, as is the trend in recent years when they have been, deservedly, well distributed and received.

2004 movies watched (US first release eligibility)

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