February 26, 2005

My Favorite Movies of 2004

Here are the answers to my previous blog: (10) 13 Going On 30, (9) The Aviator, (8) Million Dollar Baby, (7) Closer, (6) Spider Man 2, (5) Garden State, (4) Before Sunset, (3) Mean Creek, (2) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, (1) Kill Bill.

But this list no longer accurately reflects the order of my favorite films for last year. The reason is that I hadn’t yet seen The Aviator when I made it. Why’d I put it on the list, then? Because I knew I’d love it. I mean, come on—it’s Scorsese! Well tonight, I went and saw The Aviator and was not let down. In fact, I loved it so much that I had to move it to my #1 spot.

10. 13 Going On 30. Cheesy and formulaic. But who said those are always bad things? Jennifer Garner is energetic and funny. And her chemistry with Mark Ruffalo sets the stage for a number of heart-warming moments. If you’re looking for a sweet, feel-good movie, it’s hard to beat this one.

9. The Passion. This film honestly and beautifully captures one of the most significant events in human history. A number of complaints have been made of it—e.g., it’s anti-Semitic and too violent. I myself have a couple of hang-ups with the film, but still find it both morally inspiring and artistically masterful.

8. Million Dollar Baby.
Although the acting in the film is great, the unsung hero of this movie is its script. MDB never wastes a word of dialogue. But more importantly, it takes on a life of its own and unfolds into a suspenseful, unpredictable, and refreshingly honest story.

7. Closer. This movie is sometimes a bit longwinded, but its high points more than make up for this. The dialogue is fantastic. And I love how the film has four or five climaxes scattered throughout and then a master climax at the end. And, despite what many believe, this film is redemptive, shedding valuable insights into relationships and the darker side of human nature.

6. Spider Man 2. The first super hero movie I’ve loved as an adult. Along with a great plot, the movie contains depth and genuine character development. I also love the moral dilemma Peter Parker finds himself in. And I haven’t even mentioned my favorite part of the movie—the love story between Peter and MJ.

5. Garden State. This movie keeps growing on me. The first time I watched it, I felt it had some weaknesses and only deserved three stars. The second time, I thought it was absolutely perfect. Funny, beautiful, and deserving of many re-viewings.

4. Before Sunset. Richard Linklater just loves taking chances and making bold experiments. This movie could have easily flopped—after all, filming an eighty-minute conversation between two people that takes place in real time could have easily turned into a snorefest. But, as usual, Linklater pulled it off. This film is like a poem. No car chases. No cheap laughs. No formulas. Just a poignant and beautiful exploration into the nature of the human psyche and life in general. I can’t wait for part three.

3. Mean Creek. Except for The Passion, no movie last year was more life-changing for me. The movie opened my eyes to my own prejudice and mean-spiritedness and challenged me to be a better man. Along with this, the movie is visually beautiful and brilliantly acted by a group of mostly unknown teenagers.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This is one of the most original stories of recent years and it’s told with such flare. I love the bizarre sequences in Joel’s head, as well as the reverse chronological order much of the movie follows. And top this all off with great performances by Jim Carey and Kate Winslet, not to mention Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and Elijah Wood. I need to own the DVD!

1. The Aviator (tie). This film is perfect on so many levels. It tells a great story, one that is never dull and that keeps unfolding and surprising us. It flawlessly penetrates the psyche of its protagonist—and, in so doing, both fills us with awe for his vision and determination, as well as sympathy for his struggle with mental illness. It’s brilliantly acted by DiCaprio, as well as such supporting members as Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, and Alan Alda. On top of these achievements, Scorsese masterfully manipulates every available resource to fill the film with life and heart—from costume and set designs to lighting and color schemes to special effects. This is my pick for Best Film. And I hope that Scorsese finally gets a nod for Best Director.

1. Kill Bill (tie). This is what movie-watching is all about—being introduced to a universe of characters so intriguing, so fascinating that you become part of the story and completely forget about yourself. Not only is this film suspenseful and funny, but, even with all its shed blood and lopped off limbs, it contains a great deal of warmth and heart.

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