:: 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.