Thursday, December 30, 2004

My Favorite Movies of 2004

This post has become embarrassingly long - a clear indication of my compulsive interest in movies, I guess. As usual, there were so many flicks I didn't get to see, but here's my list of favorites for this past year. I reserve to edit it over the next few days. Some movies were released earlier than this year, but in every case, I saw it this year - often because Charlotte's a la C-Level city for movie releases. Wish that were a joke, but it's true. For now my list in no particular order:

>Control Room - sorry, Mr. Moore, but this documentary easily bests Fahrenheit 9/11 as the year's best. Both thought-provoking and provocative, but - most importantly - much more honest than Moore's admittedly stirring effort.
>Crimson Gold - a gem from Iran, also written by Abbas Kiarostami who wrote and directed personal favorites The Wind Will Carry Us and The Taste of Cherry
>Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - he thrilled you with his rock videos, now Michel Gondry blows your mind with his cinematic directorial debut. Written by Charlie Kaufman, of course. What a pairing!
>Kinsey - a solid portrayal by Neeson and if not exactly a masterpiece as a movie, it's certainly playing an important role in our current culture.
>The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - you'll love it or hate it. I loved it. Call Wes Anderson eccentric, precious, whatever, but you leave his movies thinking most of the rest of the stuff that makes it to theaters is dull and colorless. Bill Murray's hilarious and who'da thunk Willem Dafoe could be so funny?
>Sideways - charming, funny colorful both sunny and sour. Back to back hits for Paul Giamatti with this and American Splendor, and what a run for Alexander Payne, too, with this, Election and About Schmidt.
>The Son (2002) - takes a while to get used to the claustrophobic camera work, but The Son proved utterly realistic, profoundly moving. Magnificent. One of the best movies in recent years. And who saw it?
>Super Size Me - you'll never look at Big Mac a bottle of Coke the same way again. Morgan Spurlock proves a funnier more amiable Michael Moore. Apparently, Spurlock was rejected five times by the USC film school. Joke's on them.
>Hero (2002) - finally released in the US - beautiful, if you love the cinematography of Chistopher Doyle (Wong Kar Wai's shooter for Chunking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, etc) as I do, see this movie for that alone .It's painterly.
>My Architect (2003) - Thrilling documentary about the odd relationship between a famous architect, Louis Kahn, and his son, Louis. Kahn had three families - one by marriage and two other not-so-secret families with two other women. Louis Kahn traces his fathers steps around the world, trying to get to know the father who spent so little time with him. Would you imagine weeping over a documentary about an architect? One of the best documentaries I've ever seen.
>The Fog of War - another documentary and one of those rare ones that compel you to see the world in a new way. Timely as all get out, too.
>Maria Full of Grace - "Grace" being cocaine, in this case. OK, bad joke, but a fascinating movie and a compelling performance from a brand-new actor.
>Touching the Void - I hate the cold and this superb documentary about two friends and a horrific mountaineering accident did little to change my feelings about it.
>Osama - tragic story of an Afghani girl trying to pass as a boy.
>The Mother - sad, disturbing, yet oddly humanistic and touching. After the death of her husband, an older woman becomes obsessed with her daughter's all too obliging boyfriend
>The Manchurian Candidate - a bit loony, almost lapsing into camp here and there, but overall, the year's most surprisingly successful remake
>Napolean Dynamite - another love or hate movie - I loved it - what can I say? "There exists a long and honorable history of intellectuals fully enjoying both the high and the low art." That work for yah?
>The Machinist - worked for me and it was about much more than Christian Bale's truly disturbing weight loss. It's a story of redemption with clear aspirations of Dostoevsky in mind.
>Enduring Love - I'm a huge Ian McEwan fan and I thought this movie did his novel of the same name pretty good justice. The male lead is Daniel Craig, also the boyfriend in The Mother.

Also ran:

>Team America - might've been a favorite, but I found the treatment of liberals in the movie particularly vicious compared to, say, the treatment of Kim Il Jung! I mean, come on! Some criticism of Hollywood's often vacuous style of dissent is certainly called, though, and Team America itself proved a spectacular metaphor for the United States' foreign policy--though the South Park boys drummed up more sympathy for the neocon modus operandi than I've been able to.

Worst Movie:

>Stepford Wives - by a long shot - utterly, irredeemably disappointing - full of plot holes and inconsistencies which are an insult to the viewer's intelligence. An atrocity of a movie.

Other contenders which I didn't see: Alexander, which sounded like an unmitigated disaster and Christmas with the Kranks which was apparently little more than a wowser love letter to red stater types. Celebrate Christmas or else! And Taxi - based on the trailer alone.

Disappointing Movies:

>Collateral - I have a Michael Mann fetish, but that didn't stop him from losing me after the ridiculous coincidence in the second half of the movie - stylish as hell though and great performances by Cruise and Foxx.
>The Village - most of us got the telegraphed ending early on, only I thought maybe the girl would walk into Eckerds or something at the end to fill a prescription.
>Ocean's Twelve - sorry, it had it's moments and was fine for a no-brainer, eye-candy movie, but that whole Julia Roberts thing in the second half - ugh, nonsensical.

Didn't See/Mighta Liked:

>Before Sunset, Anatomy of Hell, Dogville, The Sea Inside (Is Javier Bardem ever bad?), Vera Drake (Does -- ever direct a bad movie?), Hotel Rwanda. Bad Education (Amodovar: say no more), Moolaade, Tarnation, Time of the Wolf, The Big Red One (re-release), Goodbye Dragon Inn, The Corporation, 2046 (my not be released in US yet, but it's Wong Kar Wai and a semi sequel to In the Mood for Love, so ...) Why haven't I seen these movies? Mainly 'cos Charlotte's movie scene sucketh. Thank god for the Manor, though.


>Documentaries - what phenomenal year for documentaries, and I'm not even talking about Fahrenheit 9/11. Look at how many of my favorites above were documentaries. And, yes, I enjoyed Fahrenheit 9/11. But it was a masterpiece of propaganda, and I wish Moore had been a little more even-handed and somehow kept the humor.

>Bombast: Troy, Alexander, Passion of the Christ, etc - pretty self-explanatory

Final Thought:

Can someone please give me a job as a movie reviewer? Maybe at the New Yorker or New York Times. I ain't picky. Salon or Slate'd do.

What'd ya'll like?

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