Favorite Films of 2004

Posted in Film on February 27th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: As posted to Blogcritics.com: By my count, I watched 115 films in 2004, but to compile a list of favorites, I’m restricting my choices to films which are eligible for the Academy Award, so will include films I’ve seen in 2005 which were released in 2004. It is not possible to compile a Ten Best List unless you are a full-time film critic. As such, I call my choices favorites, rather than the best of the year, and include twelve on my final list. In alphabetical order:

  • The Aviator: a sweeping, expansive epic, not Scorese’s best, but a remarkable achievement nonetheless. Was Di Caprio the right choice to play Hughes? Perhaps not – he still looks too young for the role, but I found his performance more believeable as the film progressed. Cate Blanchett steals every scene she’s in.
  • The Bourne Supremacy: A rock-solid sequel to The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon creates (again) the most unlikely action anti-hero of the year. Easily the best white knuckle ride of the summer.
  • Collateral: Tom Cruise in his best role since The Minority Report, Jamie Foxx in one of many star turns of the year. Another piece of Michael Mann’s eye candy night vision of Los Angeles.
  • Fahrenheit 9/11: Compelling and frightening at times, serving to remind the world how screwed up life in America is under the Bush regime. Would have been better if Michael Moore had edited out his theatrics on Capitol Hill.
  • Finding Neverland: Johnny Depp disappears into another role, adding to his resume another brilliant performance. Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn deserved an Oscar nomination, but only so many can be given out per year. A touching story of JM Barrie’s relationship with the Llewelyn family, at the expense of the one with his wife. Great to see Julie Christie on screen again.
  • Hotel Rwanda: Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo anchor a strong supporting cast in the story of a man who saved hundreds of Tutsis from being macheted to death in Rwanda in 1994. Cheadle brings humanity and courage to his character, Paul Rusesabagina, whose role in saving so many lives reminds one of Oscar Schindler. But whereas Schindler had power to allow him to do what he did, Rusesabagina needed to be a politician, peacemaker, and saviour at the same time, while hiding his fear for his family and those he housed in his hotel. Nick Nolte deserves mention for his role as the helpless UN commander, so obviously modeled after the real one, Canadian General Roméo Dallaire.
  • House of Flying Daggers: Makes the list because of the breathtaking cinematography and special effects. Not as satisfying as Hero, the film is still amazing to look at, pure pleasure for the eyes. A love story that ultimately ends in tragedy, featuring remarkable martial arts scenes, especially in the bamboo forest.
  • Million Dollar Baby: Clint Eastwood acted in, directed, produced, and wrote the music – not bad at all. A boxing movie that takes an unexpected turn, Eastwood and Hilary Swank excel in their respective roles, as does Morgan Freeman, who makes it look all too easy. Controversial to some, thought-provoking for sure.
  • Napoleon Dynamite: An alt-indie weirdo of a picture, worth the price of admission just to see him dance on stage. Anyone who walked out during the credits missed another 10-15 minutes of the movie afterwards.
  • Team America: World Police: Rude, obscene, ruthless, disgusting, and easily the gut-busting funniest movie I’ve seen in years. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so much and so hard in a movie theatre.
  • Vera Drake: Brit stage actress Imelda Staunton in the performance of the year as a gentle, loving, working-class woman in post-WWII England. With brilliant supporting performances all around, director Mike Leigh recreates the suffocating, shell-shocked atmosphere of that time in a movie about a controversial subject that never feels preachy.
  • The Woodsman: Kevin Bacon in the performance of his career, sadly overlooked in the Oscars, in a film about a convict just released from prison, trying to establish his life on the outside. But his crime was horrific, and once revealed, we are left to decide if his character deserves sympathy and a second chance. Mos Def and (real life wife) Kyra Sedgwick deliver strong supporting performances.

Runners-up: Before Sunset, The Clearing, Closer, Code 46, The Corporation, Garden State, Good Bye, Lenin!, The Incredibles, Kinsey, The Machinist, Man on Fire, Maria Full of Grace, Open Water, P.S., Primer, Ray, Shrek 2, Sideways, Super Size Me, Touching the Void.

Films I didn’t see which might have made the list: Bad Education, Being Julia, Dogville, The Door in the Floor, Friday Night Lights, I’m Not Scared, The Mother, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Sea Inside, A Very Long Engagement, William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice,

I (Still) Don’t Get It: The Saddest Music in the World.

2004 Great Disappointments: The Stepford Wives, Troy, The Village.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Posted in Books on February 26th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: I finished reading Bill Bryson’s book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, earlier this week. It’s a great read, a long book of almost 550 pages, but never a dull moment. Bryson spent three years learning about the origins of geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, paleontology, evolution, and many more subjects, condensing them to short chapters that feel much more detailed as you read each one. His writing is clear, concise, and he avoids the use of scientific and technical jargon that might alienate a reader not comfortable with science writing. Highly recommended.

I worked out this morning, and yesterday morning as well. Historically I have not been a morning workout person. I would find myself becoming light-headed as I progressed through the exercise routine. This time, before each workout, I ate a banana to get a few extra carbs in my system before doing 30 minutes on the cross-trainer and then a brisk, 15-minute walk on the treadmill. I experienced no light-headedness, and felt good afterwards. My lower back continues to give me some problems, however. I followed the routines with a series of stretches for my lower back.

Various

Posted in Random Thoughts on February 20th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: Entries are few and far between of late. On the other hand, Tony is on a blog roll, so to speak, creating interesting, diverse, lengthy, and intelligent posts on various topics. It is a long weekend in Alberta, and in other parts of Canada, I believe. On Saturday morning, I rehearsed with Amelia for a concert we are performing on Wednesday, Feb 23. Last Thursday evening, I jammed with Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys’ drummer David Leigh, just the two of us. We ran through the twelve songs I’ve learned since joining the band in November, now down to two people. I’ve decided to continue playing with David as he recruits another bass player. The truth is, the practices and rehearsals in December and January were becoming more and more enjoyable, and I was having fun creating loud, angry, noisy, interesting electric music again. I don’t have a lot of fun, or to be more exact, probably don’t allow myself to let more joy enter my life. I remain too guarded.

What has happened in these practices is that the rock musician deep inside me is stirring, wanting to remerge again. I’ve played guitar for 38 years, most of it acoustic, but I’ve always felt I was an electric guitarist at heart. I hope David can find a bass player soon; he insists he has a number of candidates interested in joining up. I am impatient for progress on this front. I want to play live again and have fun.
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Charlie Rose Goes Blogging

Posted in Blogging on February 15th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: Charlie Rose discusses blogging on his show tonight with four well-known bloggers: Andrew Sullivan, Ana Marie Cox, Glenn Reynolds, and Joe Trippi. This group represents political bloggers, and Trippi hasn’t updated his site since February 6th. Should be worth dialing up, nonetheless.

Update: I watched the first fifteen minutes of the segment (will watch the rest tomorrow), and it was good. One point made: that blogs allow the submission of comments by readers, immediately after reading the blogger’s post(s), thus connecting reader and writer in real time, as opposed to, say, a magazine or newspaper column, which can take days or weeks, or months in some cases. Readers can provide feedback and opinion, point out errors, make suggestions, etc. What’s interesting is that of the four bloggers on the show, only Joe Trippi’s blog allows for immediate submission of comments. Sullivan’s site allows for submission of e-mail for publication, which are then published anonymously, if at all. The most recent e-mail published is dated 31 January 2005. Reynold’s and Cox’s blogs do not allow for immediate comments either, but accept e-mail feedback. And who’s linking to whom: Cox: links to Sullivan and Reynolds. Sullivan: links to Reynolds. Reynolds: links to Sullivan, Cox. Trippi: links to Cox.

:: I have been extremely busy at work the past while, preparing a couple of major presentations, one on Friday, one next Tuesday. I will resurface soon. Also, regarding the rock band, I’ve decided to stick with it and see what happens. More on that later.

Battlestar Galactica

Posted in Television on February 12th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: A few weeks ago at practice, a fellow band member mentioned the revived, or as it is being called, reimaged Battlestar Galactica series, speaking favourably of the new version. (Canadian site here.) I was vaguely aware that a mini-series version had aired in 2003, but paid no attention to it at the time. When the original series first aired in the late 70s, I detested it, with the exception of having a major crush on Maren Jensen at the time, which caused me to watch more episodes than I care to admit. The show was pure camp, featuring characters with horrid names like Starbuck, Apollo, Athena, Adama, Boomer, and Cassiopeia, combined with bad acting and writing.
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Stuff

Posted in Mixed Bag Special on February 9th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: I haven’t been blogging a lot lately here, more so on STLQ. (I’ve been asked to speak on a blogging panel at the Canadian Library Association Conference in Calgary in June, 2005.) Lack of inspiration and other things, heavy workload, etc. I’m also trying to catch up on e-mails dating back to last fall, and found a few items that may be of interest, some or all of which may be old news to you already.

More to come.

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