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CJ Keddy on the Best Films of 2004
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The best movies of 2004
(and a few more thrown in from years past that I finally got around to seeing last year)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Director: Michel Gondry
This is one of those movies that makes you want to call up all your ex-girlfriends and apologize. It explores the best and worst parts of a relationship, and then reveals that if you can make it REALLY work with someone, even just in moments, it makes it worth the trouble. A great romantic comedy for my generation--a generation of technology and convinience--that then explores how those two things can get entangled in our lives--for good and for bad. Beautiful. The killer moment for me? When Jim Carrey's character looks down at the bird in the wheel barrow. See it an understand.
Director: Gus Van Sant
I was a highshcool kid when Columbine happened, and I didn't need Larry King to explain to me how such a tragedy could happen. Anyone walking our halls with their eyes open knew how easy it would be--not only to make the logistics work, but how a kid could become so alienated and filled with hate to arrive at that breaking point.
Gus Van Sant tells that same story like a painting, with such elegance of storytelling and cinematography that you just can't take your eyes off the screen.
The killer moment for me?... The photographer takes his last picture.
Director: Brad Bird
This movie made me miss my dad, and that was before he died. Coming out I saw a father and young son walking to their car, talking about the movie they'd just watched with such intensity, and it blew me away how far filmmaking had come since I was a four year old walking out of the movies with my dad. This wasn't all nostalgia, tho'--this movie deserves all the conversations it's created, and all the acolades it's received.
But I still can't wait to have a kid, take him to the movies and let him see how, more and more, anything is really possible on the screen.
The killer moment for me?... the part between the opening and closing credits.
Million Dollar Baby
Director: Clint Eastwood
Mortality is a tricky and personal thing to talk about. So too articulating how to continue living when you feel like life is over. These are big issues--bigger than we are--and endlessly difficult to tackle, especially in a film.
These issues are at the heart of Million Dollar Baby, but the best thing about this film is that it doesn't preach or attempt projundity, but instead just tells its story.
And what a story. This film is about friendship and loyalty, about two people who simply need each other and in the end love each other. As the narrative unfolds, and the issues at the heart of the story become most intimate and personal, we are drawn into the film, and begin to feel like we are peeking in on the protaganist's most heart breakingly personal moments. At the film's end, however, we are drawn back out again, as tragically restricted to being on the outside of a window looking in and not fully knowing as the characters in the film.
The killer moment for me?... Franky eating pie by himself.
Director: Zach Braff
Maybe it's just my age, or the fact that I have ambitions of being a film maker, but something about this little movie rang true for me: From the way that our friends are always the same, for better or worse, to the way that no one really knows how to address a friend's deep loss, even the fact that I still have no idea what it was that I exactly liked about this movie. Whatever it was, it doesn't matter: I liked it.
I do know that I fell in love with Natalie Portman, and thats the real hook that keeps you in the movie.
The killer moment for me?... burrying the hamster.
Harry Potter: And the Prisoner of Azkaban
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
I love Harry Potter, and the only thing that worried me in the translation from book to film was the darkness inherent in this volume that sees Harry becoming an adolescent. JK Rowling has a way of bringing terrifying things into a world of children that is spellbinding, and I feared that eventually the movies would have to get cartoony to keep the ticket sales up. But bringing in Alfonso--director of the very adult Y tu mamá también--was true genious. The darkness he infused into Prisoner is human darkness, not a two-dimensional attempt to just "scare", and it made the movie believable fantasy. And wonderful.
The killer moment for me was?... "Expecto Patronum!!!"
Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Director: Brad Silberling
Jim Carrey is genius. The script is biting and great. The art direction and costume design got robbed by The Aviator at the Oscars, and best of all, it was truly funny--in a darkly scary way.
It's also the first time in my life I've encountered that kind of wonderful, troubling funny. I can't imagine another movie where a character as likeable and dislikeable as Jim Carrey would be able to gracefully push the great Meryl Streep to her doom in a lake surrounded by killer leaches. I can't wait to own it.
The killer moment for me?... what I just described.
Director: Alexander Payne
The strangest movie I've seen in a while, largely because it appears--on the surface--to be about something far too simple to keep an audience for it's 2 hour running time.
It made me want to drink Pinot Noir and go golfing in California and be a better friend.
And it broke my heart.
I told my wife I loved her on the way home, just because I could.
Movies that affect you like that are rare--and it made me want to meet director Alexander Payne and say "thanks".
The killer moment for me?... getting back the wallet.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Director: George Roy Hill
Finally watching my father's favorite film was a real joy for me--and I was very excited when I got to talk to him about it, and compare notes on our favorite scenes.
For a film as fun as this one, I can't imagine a deeper sadness than knowing that Butch and Sundance geniuinely didn't know what was awaiting them as they came running out of the building in the film's final scene. Having only seen clips of this scene, I had always been under the impression their mad dash, pistols in hand, was an act of simple bravery--not the tragic, ironic dash that it was.
When I mentioned this to my dad he said "life is like that. Some times you don't know."
That was a little over a month before he passed away--God was good in not letting something even as small as watching a movie not being left between us.
The killer moment for me?... the opening scene.
City of God
Director: Fernando Mierelles
This movie broke my heart. Plain and Simple. In the way that Scarface painted a warning into the glorification of the drug lord, so to this movie, which tells the story of a rise and fall of a child who becomes the most feared gang leader in Rio de Janeiro. The images and events are startling and unforgettable, making it hard to sleep after watching it. But it was essential viewing, important... and beautiful.
The killer moment for me?... the death of Sunny.
The Worst Movies of 2004
Director: Oliver Stone
For those people who think that good movies just happen when you throw popular people and lots of money into a pot, please go and watch this movie. Watching it didn't just make me hate the movie, it made me hate Alexander. I can't even watch the National Geographic stuff anymore. I just hope Baz Luhrman gets out there and does his to wash the taste from my mouth.
Worst moment was?... Angelina Jolie's bad accent.
Director: F. Gary Gray
This movie would have been bad on it's own, but it's made worse by the fact that it's the "sequel" to a great movie: Get Shorty. Worse still was its squandering of a good cast. Like watching a friend trying to do standup and failing spectacularly, I felt bad for everyone on screen.
Worst moment was?... the really long dance sequence that made me want to go home and give Pulp Fiction a hug.