Best Movies of 2004

 

1) Sideways (Alexander Payne)

Sideways is -in a way- a perfect movie. In fact, the only perfect one of 2004. A melancholic tribute to love, relationships, friendships and wine. Its director Alexander Payne is the perfect filmmaker to tackle such subjects, each one of his first 4 feature has had to deal with men in the midst of a mid life crisis. In this movie Paul Giammati's Miles, a still single, wine loving schlub, goes on one last road trip with his soon to get married best friend -impeccably played by Thomas Hayden Church. You think you know where this is going but you don't. the truths you find in Sideways sting, so do the laughs. Alexander Payne has made his best movie yet.
 

2) Maria Full Of Grace (Joshua Marston)

Here comes a stunner from Columbia that will get you from very first frame. Joshua Marston -an American filmmaker- decided to make a small indie all in Spanish about a drug smuggling mule named Maria. Every relentlessly intense step you are with her as she bypasses through countless hazards in her journey to freedom. It helps that Marston cast Catalina Sandino Moreno as Maria, an actress of eloquent beauty that brings real depth to her role. It's the type of movie that doesn't get made anymore in Hollywood, a character study with ideas and enough tension to blow the roof off of the theatre.



3) Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)

The colorfully eccentric world Michel Gondry has created in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is unlike any you've ever seen before. It is then not surprising that the source material comes from a screenplay written by Being John Malkovich scribe Charlie Kaufman. The end result is one of the best romantic comedies in ages, a film that is more truthful about love -but more specifically relationships- than any other movie you will likely see this decade. Kaufman believes that the bitterness of a break-up overshadows what is essentially the most important part of the process; the memories have been created. It helps that Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet give us the performances of their lives. A flawed but ambitious visionary treat.

 

4) Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi)

Now this is what I'm talking about. After the letdown that was the first Spider-Man movie in 2002, director Sam Raimi completely redeems himself by creating one of the best superhero movies ever made. A mind blowing mix of action, heart and character that had viewers on the edge of their seats. Raimi knows that to make a great superhero movie you need to care about the characters that are onscreen, well DUH why didn't anyone think of that sooner. The special effects are outstanding and the action sequences -including a thrilling train crash finale- make this a knockout through and through. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst look more alive that in the original.



5. Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood)

So Clint Eastwood, after last year's beaut Mystic River, keeps giving us thought provoking character studies. In this one Hilary Swank is an up and coming boxer that the Clint takes in his wings. No need to say more but be warned this looks like a Rocky-like tale from the outside but Eastwood is a changed man, he doesn't adhere to formula anymore and keeps springing surprises at us. Swank deserves another Oscar for this one ditto Morgan Freeman as Eastwood's right hand man. As for Clint, this might just be the best performance he has ever given in any movie.

 

6) Kill Bill:Volume Two (Quentin Tarantino)

So Quentin Tarantino decided to stop being a fanboy for at least a year and make the moviest movie he's done since Jackie Brown. No reason to complain there. The QT dialogue we've been so used to love is back and the story of the Bride is more layered than ever. You can now understand why the grindhouse influenced director decided to split both movies apart. They are two different beasts split into two different genres. QT still hasn't gotten back to the Pulp Fiction triumph he had back in 1994 and -to tell you the truth- I don't think he or many other filmmakers will ever reach those heights. I think he knows it and that's why he's treating us to movies such as this one. There's no reason to take Volume 1 or Volume 2 so seriously. Just sit back and enjoy the show.



7) Hotel Rwanda (Terry George)

The power of Hotel Rwanda comes in how intimate it makes its big moments appear. This isn't a showy film about one of the cruelest genocides every committed. This is the portrait of a country crumbling down in ethnic cleansing and a war that just doesn't seem to make much sense. What I gathered most from Director Terry George's powerful film was how such crimes could be committed without any international intervention. Most of the powerhouse states held back and let the mass murder go on. It was then left up to the small heroes the picture shows us to alert the ignorant international community. Don Cheadle is mesmerizing as a man putting everything on the line -including his life- to make the bloodshed stop.



8) Collateral (Michael Mann)

Bless Michael Mann for being, yes, Michael Mann. The director of The Insider, Manhunter, Ali and Heat has always been one to delve into the deepest, darker thoughts of the male psyche. In Collateral, his 8th film as director, he gives us the story of a hitman -indelibly played by Tom Cruise- and the Cabbie -Jamie Foxx- he meets one night to bring him to numerous different destinations. Along the way we learn more about these two fascinating characters as their journey leads them to an underground Los Angeles at night filled with violence and corruption that cannot be shaken. The journey is half the battle as Mann springs surprises that no one can see coming. He has crafted yet another male-dominated world that will haunt your dreams.


9) The Incredibles (Brad Bird)

It is just not that surprising to see yet another great Pixar movie in my list. Hiring The Simpsons scribe and creator of 1999's brilliant The Iron Giant Brad Bird was a stroke of genius. Bird creates a world that we have never seen before, where a family of superheroes must battle its deepest enemy; family dynamics. Yikes, talk about originality. Bird is a true original, the colors used in every frame are remarkable beautiful and the characters he has created oddly humane. If you're expecting a superhero movie for kids, think again. This is adult stuff laced with wit, laughter and breathless action.


10) The Manchurian Candidate (Jonathan Demme)
10) Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore)

Two politically charged films that couldn't be more further apart from each other. Demme's film is a remake of the 1960's classic and he does that film proud by hiring Hollywood pros such as Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington. It's his best movie since 1991's The Silence Of The Lambs. Michael Moore's hotly anticipated Bush bashing documentary seeks to give us "truthful" facts but never seems to back them up. No worries. Moore's knack for entertaining us is not gone. In his past movies we knew he was full of it yet we also understood what was at stake. Whether it'd be gun control, monopolized economies or a half-wit president - there is always much on the line in his films.

11. The Dreamers, Bernardo Bertolluci

12. The Motorcycle Diaries, Walter Salles

13. Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock

14. The Passion Of The Christ, Mel Gibson

15. The Ladykillers, Joel Coen

16. The Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass

16. Dodgeball, Rawson Marshall Thurber

17. The Door In The Floor, Tod Williams

18. I'm Not Scared, Gabriele Salvatores

19. The Punisher, Jonathan Hensleigh

20. Since Otar Left, Julie Bertuccelli
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