thoughts//TOP TEN FILMS OF 2004

TOP TEN

It was a leap year. It was the year Facebook officially launched. It was the year NASA landed a rover on Mars. It was the year the Olympics were held in Athens, Greece. It was the year George W. Bush won the election, marking the start of his second term as president. It was the year a major tsunami hit the Indian Ocean region of the world. It was the year Ronald Reagan, Ray Charles and Marlon Brando died. It was the year The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won Best Picture. And, that year was now a decade ago! Can you believe it? After letting that sink in, take a look at this list of the best movies from that year. Again, these movies now came out ten years ago! Weird...

1. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

Directed by Michel Gondry

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet lead this clever look into the deep, dark pains of relationships. The film may have failed, initially, at the box office due to poor marketing, but the following over the years shows just how mesmerizing the twisted, erasing love story has become. Carrey and Winslet have neither been better. Plus, supporting turns by Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson make the entire film a treat. You'll want to watch this over and over again to catch each of the little nuances you've missed before. Director Michel Gondry is a genius and this proves why.

2. SHAUN OF THE DEAD

Directed by Edgar Wright

The first in Wright's trilogy of British comedies with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Shaun of the Dead takes a bite out of the zombie genre and infuses some very clever laughs. The film falls to slapstick at times, but never sacrifices the fact that its intention is to be a great, quality film. This is the type of sub-genre film that the Scary Movie franchise would be if the Wayans brothers were Oscar winners. Every detail is intentional and Pegg and Frost are the funniest comedy duo to come along in a while.

3. CLOSER

Directed by Mike Nichols

Based on the play of the same name, Closer is an interesting ensemble drama pieced around personal interactions. The film stars a cast of top Hollywood players including Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman. Each of the actors is at their best, with Portman and Owen even earning Oscar nominations. Brutally honest at moments that make you cringe, it's a great commentary on how far people are willing to go for other's attention. The film is just as visually stunning as the script is crisp and the soundtrack is the perfect complement. It's one of Hollywood's hidden gems from 2004 and definitely deserves any notice it gets.

4. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU

Directed by Wes Anderson

Anderson has definitely built himself a niche of fans who love his quirky and classy mix of visual treats. Starring Bill Murray, The Life Aquatic is a visually-stunning adventure in classic Anderson vein. The director assembles an amazing cast of characters, too. Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, and Jeff Goldblum all show up among the sets and colors. Murray is the best part of the film. This was shortly after his incredible work in Lost in Translation. That's not a bad duo of films. Anderson, too, was at his quirkiest best. The story is original and each and every scene is eye-catching in a very unfamiliar, interesting way.

5. COLLATERAL

Directed by Michael Mann

Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx are quite the team, especially when Cruise is the bad guy and Foxx is the unsuspecting victim/hero. This action/thriller is edge-of-your-seat in a quiet, subdued way. Foxx plays an unsuspecting cab driver just trying to make a living. He ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and an evening with Cruise's wolflike bad guy changes things quickly. Cruise is awesome as a bad guy, His way of being evil through a smile makes him one of the most devious of bad guys in recent years. Foxx earned an Oscar nomination and it was very deserving.

6. SAW

Directed by James Wan

The film franchise that followed didn't quite live up to the quality that this first installment showcased. Full of graphic murders and a sick, twisted nemesis, Saw was supposed to just be another horrorporn. Instead, it was a groundbreaking entry in the thriller genre with one of the biggest surprise twists in recent memory. The film was one of the first to be made on a minor budget and earn a ridiculous box office, comparatively. It didn't have a hugely-known starring cast and yet the great word-of-mouth sparked a franchise that has now included 5 or 6 (I've lost count) movies based on the premise of ridiculously clever and disgusting deaths.

7. FINDING NEVERLAND

Directed by Marc Forster

This was one of the year's best surprises. It tells the story of J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, and uses a clever storytelling method of interacting magical elements into the true story. Kate Winslet is heartbreaking and Johnny Depp is perfect as Barrie. The film also introduced us to Freddie Highmore, one of the better youth actors to come out in a while. The film earned a Best Picture nod and several accolades around the world. Each moment throughout the film is beautiful and the finale is one for the fairytale books. Death and life have never been so inspiring.

8. I HEART HUCKABEES

Directed by David O. Russell

Jason Schwartzman leads the cast, which also includes Naomi Watts, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Dustin Hoffman, and Lily Tomlin, of this strange comedy about a set of detectives who use their abilities to help people find their meaning in life. It is definitely one of Russell's more interestingly strange offerings, but also one of his most original. Watts is surprisingly witty. Schwartzman proves why he is always a fun addition to a cast. Huffman and Tomlin have hilarious chemistry. While some scenes may make you scratch your head, it all just feels right at the end.

9. GARDEN STATE

Directed by Zach Braff

As Braff's directorial debut, Garden State has become one of the most argued movies of the past decade. Some feel like it's pretentious and annoying, while others see pure talent and honest storytelling. I see a mixture of genius scriptwriting, quirky performances, and original ideas in a familiar genre. Plus, no one can deny the incredible soundtrack Braff pulled together to enhance the film. Each scene is perfectly placed. Despite Natalie Portman's sometimes-annoying nuances, Garden State has become one of those movies that gets even more delicious the more times you watch it. It's aged very well.

10. THE AVIATOR

Directed by Martin Scorsese

This was the first of the many collaborations between Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and it was surely a great place to start. DiCaprio proves why he's this generation's legend as he plays Howard Hughes through many stages of his life. Cate Blanchett co-stars as Katherine Hepburn, and earns an Academy Award along the way. The film isn't forgiving at all in its scope and scale. It's a lengthy watch, but ultimately worth it. Seeing the rise and emotional downfall of Hughes is heartbreaking. His affluent nature makes him both the victim and villain, becoming his own worst enemy. Scorsese has always been a classic filmmaker, but The Aviator takes it to a new level.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Mean Girls
  • The Notebook
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • The Incredibles
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
  • The Passion of the Christ
  • Million Dollar Baby




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