Miguel's Top 10 for 2004!
Posted by miguel on 2005-01-05 11:20:20
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2004 was filled to the brim with exciting movies coming at you from all sides. It was also peculiar in that a lot of the art-house hits I was looking forward to seeing just weren't up to par while independent genre films like Shaun of The Dead and Napoleon Dynamite exceeded all expectations.
Bear In mind that I havent seen Sideways, The Aviator, Before Sunset or the Return yet, which by most accounts are very good movies.
This was a tremendous year for horror with Shaun of The Dead, In my Skin, Haute Tension , Calvaire and even Dawn of the Dead coming on board. North American Audiences finally got to see what all the Ju-on fuss was about as well.
It was really hard to narrow this down to just 10 movies, so I decided to put in a top 10 runners up in no particular order.
Spider Man 2
Is there any doubt that Sam "Evil Dead" Raimi was the right man to do the webcrawler? This sequel to the first hit was more insightful and character driven, but still delivered enough furious action to satisfy any testosterone fueled audience members who were worrying about Peter Parker becoming a flaming pansy.
Speaking of balls to the wall action, once Thai Warrior (Ong-Bak) gets going, martial arts fans feel like kids in a candy store. The movie gets demoted from the top ten because after watching a few times, you begin to notice some bad pacing issues. The North American theatrical release will have new editing and a new score by Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional). GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!! It is like Bloodsport for the new millenium. Remenber kids, real men dont use wirework.
Hero/House of Flying Daggers
Im cheating and putting these two together, because I feel that they really complement each other. Amazing cinematography and breathtaking fight choreographies are coupled with strong storytelling to make these two critical hits. I think I might like house of flying daggers more because A. Zhang Ziyi kicks ass and B. I dont like the "submitting to a higher power" theme of Hero very much. But Hero has the better cinematography. Thanks Miramax for being dickheads and sitting on Hero for over 2 years until Tarantino bitched you out!
Try watching this in a cottage at night with some friends....while intoxicated with various substances. Right up untill the ending this was the venerable slasher done right, and if you ignore the ridiculous finale, this is still a solid 80 minutes of pure horror and suspense. So good.
This quirky gem from Iceland is a coming of age story/romantic comedy/pure weirdness. I guess you could call it a european, artsy Napoleon Dynamite. Not for everyone, but if you're in the right mood, its top notch.
In my Skin
David Cronenberg body horror done by the French. I told this weird gothy chick at work about this movie and she fucking adored it! Whenever she looks at me now she smiles and pretends to gnaw at her arm....Not safe for dates/squamish etc. Everyone else hop aboard please.
David Mamet, strips the thriller down to its bleak essentials. No crazy Michael Bay special effects or insane car chases, just solid dialogue and an increasingly tangled web of intrigue and suspense. I love how the secret service people don't mess around at all! Intimidation, torture, threats....whatever just get the presidents daughter back.
Whimsical and funny, this movie has a special place in my heart because its all about 20-something loafers, my favorite demographic by far. Towards the end it gets maybe a little too precious and symbolic (Ok you shouted at an abyss, I get it). But it is a very solid writing/directing debut by that Scrubs guy.
The one runner-up that should maybe be in my top-10. The incredibles is perfect family entertainment that doesnt just do simple one-off sight gags and pop culture riffs (Are you listening Shrek?) . It actually tells a story and tells with with panache, the chase scene with dash being one of my favorite movie scenes of this year.
Another hard-boiled thriller like Spartan, that is weaker in dialogue but much stronger in set action scenes. The final chase scene/demolition derby is freaking genius.
And now the cream of the crop for this year.
10. Calvaire (The Ordeal)
Icky Icky Icky. I saw this at the Film Festivals Midnight Madness festival and the presenter introduced it thusly: "There are two types of horror movies, the ones that make you jump in fright and the ones that disturb you and make you feel....wrong. After Calvaire you will have to take two showers." Calvaire is weird for the sake of being weird, and thats fine with me. Like a combination of deliverance, straw dogs and haute tension injected with random creepyness and strange religious symbolism. Loved every minute of it.
9. The Fog of War
What a documentary, a must see for anyone interested in history, politics or life itself. Robert Mcnamarra who was secretary of defence under nixon and johnson is 85 years old and still smarter than 98% of us. Did you ever wonder what was going on through people's heads in Vietnam, why did it all start? This movie is especially relevant in today's political climate and should be mandatory viewing for generals, diplomats and defence bureucrats. Unfortunately Mcnamarra was still nimble enough to evade one of the central questions in the movie: "how did he really feel about Vietnam?"
8. Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring
As simple as its title, this, emotionally powerful Buddhist parable lets the seasons change and the years pass as an old teacher watches his student struggle, fail, and struggle some more in his attempts to understand the necessity of surrendering desire, and the profound consequences that come to those who persist in their attachment to worldly things. Perhaps the best cinematography of the year, and an essential movie to watch.
The most incendiary movie hitting American theaters in 2004 wasn't Fahrenheit 9/11 or The Passion Of The Christ. It was a bullet from Lars Von Trier being shot at America from overseas in the form of Dogville, a damning parable about a desperate woman on the lam (Nicole Kidman) and the small town that takes her in. A scathing attack on christian morality and America's immigrant experiences done in a bold fusion of cinema and theatre.
6. Harry Potter 3
I am not that big of a Harry Potter fan, I will never read the books and the first two movies were just ok for me. So why ish Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban in my top 10? There is one central reason… Alfonso Cuaron. The director of Y Tu Maman Tambien makes makes this episode of the ongoing series into an actual movie, not a cutesy toy story. The main difference beween Cuaron's and Columbus's versions is that Cuaron treats his primarily young audience with the respect that viewers who will watch a movie over and over and over again deserve.
Take the flying animal sequence with Harry that for the first time in a long time does not include the Neverending Story style close-up of the young actor being thrilled by the experience of flight, usually while sitting on a rug that matches the color of the effects-created creature. Instead, we get an absolutely beautiful series of long shots that are perfectly cinematic.
5. Shaun of the Dead
The most beautiful eulogy to frienship, love, dicking around and Romero's trilogy ever. The final 20 minutes devolves into standard zombie movie mode, but Shaun of the Dead hardly suffers for it. 2004 was an extremely fun year primarily due to this movie and....
4. Napoleon Dynamite
Use Napoleon Dynamite like a litmus test for friendship. If your prospective friend doesn't laugh uproriously and love the movie in its entirety....then they are X'ed. Its that simple. The genius is in the details: the hair, gestures, music dancing, the looks on Napoleons face......With endlessly quotable dialogue and amazing characters, this movie makes me so happy.
3. Old Boy
The real winner at Cannes, Old Boy is a meticulously crafted masterpiece. While its direction, cinematography and story are its muscles, the character of Oh Dae-su, played astoundingly by Min-sik Choi, is the true heart of the film. His character is either a successful experiment on repercussion or a dangerous tour in inner turmoil. Either way, OLD BOY does what most films are incapable of doing: to entertain by analyzing meaningful and significant emotional pain. When the reveals are revealed and the reversals are reversed, people will be talking about Park Chan-wook’s Old Boy and its ending for a long, long time. The one long shot where Dae-Su takes on 18 people with a hammer is a finalist for my most Ninja moment of the year award.
2. Kill Bill 2
What can I say that hasnt been said before? I always thought that releasing Tarantinos epic in two parts was a marketing ploy, but the wait for the emotional component absent from Kill Bill: Volume 1 was well worth it. Volume 2 is still stylish and kinetic, especially the scenes of Beatrixes tutelage under the chinese master and her final confrontation with the AMAZING David Carradine. I can't think of a better movie for pure movie geeks.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Come for the Charlie Kaufman script, another one of his postmodern exercises wherein a handful of neurotics struggle with each other and the narrative. Stay for Michael Gondry's visual inventiveness, which express a fascination with moments that repeat until they're either perfected, or they recede, uncatchable. Best movie of the year.
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