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TOP 10 FILMS - 2004

Another year, another so-so draw for movies, according to me. Even as the year started, I didn’t particularly see many films that we’re jazzing me up for 2004, but despite a few sleepers and indies crawling into the woodwork, the year on the whole, particularly its back-end…wasn’t as memorable as one would have hoped. That said, I still managed to catch over 150 movies in theaters this year and still managed to enjoy quite a number of them, 10 of which I considered as my “favorites” of the year, and elaborated on below. It’s to note that my runner-ups were also all very good movies, all of which I would highly recommend in a heartbeat.

Note: There are a handful of movies which I was not able to screen before putting together this list, some of which might make the list once screened, including THE AVIATOR, CLOSER, FINDING NEVERLAND, OCEAN’S 12, FAT ALBERT (yeah, dassa joke) and others...

Anchorman - The Assassination of Richard Nixon - The Bourne Supremacy - The Butterfly Effect - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Fahrenheit 9/11 - Hero - The Manchurian Candidate - Maria Full of Grace - The Motorcycle Diaries - The Passion of the Christ - Team America

10. Collateral

I could easily buy Tom Cruise as the “bad guy” and Jamie Foxx was solid as the “average Joe” cab driver, but what ultimately took this film to that other level for me was its intense build-up, its psychological interaction between the two characters, the late night palpability of the streets, the crooked situation at hand, as well as the continually engaging developments, as shit had to get done, and get done, quick! Cruise proved, once again, that he’s a very capable actor, and director Michael Mann showed us why he loves crime movies so much; he just makes them so goddamn well! Kudos go out to Mark Ruffallo’s goatee and the kinetic shootout in the discotheque.
9. The Girl Next Door

I still have issues with this film’s final 15-20 minutes, which I believe veered further than was really required, but pretty much everything before that was just a good ol’ throwback to the innocent, sexy, fun, non-toilet-humor related teen fantasy flicks from the ‘80s, all of which gave me a hard-on, including and specifically, the lead fantasy woman of most men’s dreams this year: the lovely Elisha Cuthbert! Major kudos go out to the film’s soundtrack as well as its ability to make us give a shit about the characters. I’ve literally watched this movie 4 times already and had a blast each time.
8. Garden State

A pretty brilliant debut by actor/writer/director Zach Braff whose trailer alone invoked in many, feelings of nostalgia and heartfelt times. The film came through on both the melancholic and comedic fronts, with Braff taking some of the very basics from one of my personal favorite movies of all-time, BEAUTIFUL GIRLS (including one charming Natalie Portman), and adding to it, the anxious nature of many of those still attempting to “find themselves”. Peter Sarsgaard is also a stand-out. “Yeah, like DeNiro and shit.”
7. The Notebook

We rarely get any straight-forward “romance” movies these days, which is why many and their mother-with-the-Kleenex-box were both surprised and impressed by this old-school romantic drama featuring a charismatic two-some in the lead in Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, as well as plenty of real-life connection, nostalgia, flirtation and ultimately…love, baby! This film made a ton of money, especially for its genre, but was either loved or hated by most. I fell on the “love” side and so did the tears in my eyes. A great film to cuddle up to with your better half. Gorgeous scenery and cinematography only added to the film’s unique splendor.
6. Before Sunset

Wow, two romantic movies in one top ten and only one featuring T&A and one hot-ass girl?! I must be getting goofy in my old age. This follow-up to Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNRISE worked very effectively despite an extremely limited amount of characters, story arcs or anything beyond two people just walking around and talking life and love. Of course, what makes the film work is that we’re entirely invested in both these real characters, particularly if you’ve known of their past, and either way, because both Hawke and Delpy’s chemistry and obvious connection, shares with the audience, a beautiful place where many of us would love to inhabit. The film’s final line is genius.
5. The Machinist

I saw two of my five favorite movies at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. I say that because, unfortunately for most audiences, neither this film or my number one choice below, were seen by many on this side of the ocean (although OLDBOY will apparently have a release date in 2005). That said, despite seeing this movie in the wee hours of the morning (at which time, my erection hadn’t even gotten up yet), I was truly taken inside this dark, grungy, Hitchcockian world of a man seemingly lost within himself and the strange set of behaviors and actions around him.

The master at the center of this ceremony, along with the continually impressive director Brad Anderson, was brilliant actor Christian Bale, who after nailing the part of Patrick Bateman in 2001’s AMERICAN PSYCHO, lost over 60 pounds and completely inhibited and imbued the lead character in this film, which for all of its darkness and mystery, ultimately turns out to be about a human emotion, to which many of us have surely related. A gorgeous Aitana Sánchez-Gijón comes through as window dressing, Jennifer Jason Leigh flashes a boob and the always-fun Michael Ironside wanders through the film as well. A very memorable score adds to the film’s success.
4. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

I’m saddened that this film didn’t do as well as it could have, but I can certainly understand why, especially since most people had simply never seen anything like the vision that was this computer-based WWII-era adventure film, and just didn’t know what to do with it (including the studio marketing the picture). I say that because I truly believe this movie to be one of the funnest, most entertaining, all-out action/adventure comedic flirty flicks of the year, one that most any of you who enjoyed either/or STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES or those flirtatious back-and-forth pictures from the 1940s, should get a kick from. I didn’t just enjoy this movie’s country-hopping adventures though, I truly was breath taken by its very unique and eye-catching visuals, the fun interaction between its characters and its action sequences, many of which were both tense-ridden and memorable. The chatty interaction between Law and Paltrow were also brilliantly conducted.
3. Saw

There are very few Hollywood horror productions that seem to give me anything but a cheap-ass woody between the legs and a penchant to purchase one-day-to-garbage soundtracks, but when I watched SAW for the first time in early summer, I was slapped across the face like a man who hadn’t known what a visceral thrill was since a little film back in the day called SE7EN. This film made a ton of money for the little-studio-that-could named Lions Gate Films (who unfortunately, has already penciled in a more-than-likely-to-be-crappy sequel for next Halloween…slow down, guys—think quality, not quantity!), but was also hated by many who saw it.

I’m not sure where we differed, but the motion picture that I witnessed had me shitting my pants, tensed up during most of its visually dynamic and stylish sequences, puzzled by the many gruesome tasks associated to innocents by a killer who we did not see -- save for a very creepy puppet and one f*cked-up voice -- and enough blood, kills, thrills and unbelievably stressed-out moments, to remain engraved in my mind for the rest of the year. And if the film’s final 10 minutes don’t tense up your tits and blow your eye-sockets out, then I guess we differ in the definition of suspense.
2. Man on Fire

Looking back over the year, I just couldn’t help but remember this movie over and over and over again. Several bits about it just stick out in my mind, including specific scenes like the one featuring Denzel Washington’s character standing over a man bent over a car with “something” up his butthole, specific cool lines like “I got all the time in the world. *You* don't, but I do.” and “I'm gonna take your family apart piece by piece, you understand me? Piece by piece!”, one very specific and special relationship between Washington and the brilliantly tiny actress Dakota Fanning, who established a genuinely loving relationship during the film’s first one-sided hour, only to enrapture you even further into Washington’s precise acts of revenge and investigation during the film’s more kinetic second half. We also got many other slick elements like director Tony Scott’s wickedly overdone text blogs on the screen (which may annoy some, I could see that), a pounding soundtrack, a wonderfully underplayed performance by Christopher Walken, a very hot Radha Mitchell, plenty of jolting kills and action sequences, but in the end, a story about heart, love, family and yeah…a tiny bit about revenge. The film’s dying moments are also “for the books”.
1. Oldboy

I don’t usually like to put movies that haven’t come out in North America during the year of my review list in my top 10, but in this case, I caught this Korean thriller during my first stint at the Cannes Film Festival this past summer (where it actually won the second prize with Quentin Tarantino as the Jury’s head), and was so impressed and smacked around by its sheer vitality, original style, violence and creative story-letting, that I just couldn’t help but include it at the very top of my list of favorites, since no other motion picture truly knocked me upside the head like this one did during 2004 (it will apparently be released in North America in 2005—more info on that here).

From its opening sequence in which a man is forced inside a room for a period of 15 years, for no apparent reason, to the film’s real beginning, when the man is let out after all that time, with his wife and kids murdered, with him as the suspect, and only a cell phone and a bit of cash to figure shit out, this movie truly inspired me to keep watching, as the inconceivable circumstance and building psychoses and sheer anger within the man, barreled the film along a variety of strange and unbelievable turns, all of which helped make the film stronger, more exciting, more thoughtful and ultimately, quite mind-boggling. This picture also features a number of over-the-top gross/violence sequences that some may not be able to stomach, so watch your steps.

10. Raising Helen

9. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid

8. Exorcist: The Beginning

7. De-Lovely

6. The Big Bounce

5. Envy

4. Incident at Loch Ness

3. Resident Evil: Apocalypse

2. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

1. The Whole Ten Yards