Top Tens of the Decade: 2004

I got really held up on my list of memorable 2003 films. There seemed to be a dearth of good cinema then. But 2004 was totally a different story. It was really difficult to just narrow it down to ten. I saw all of these films after the fact. The majority of 2004 I spent living in a suburb of St. Petersburg, Russia, called Nevsky. I didn’t watch any films or TV in 2004. I didn’t watch the news, listen to music, or anything of the sort. In fact, besides one hour a week used to write family emails, I didn’t even use the internet or telephones. So, this list will certainly be a little lopsided. Check out the lists for 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.

– For some reason, despite it’s relatively unpleasant subject matter, Closer is a film I can watch again and again. And again. I can’t get enough of the four leads in this flick. They’re all remarkable. And the direction is pretty spot on too. Not to mention, this film introduced me to Damien Rice, who I thought was the shit for about two months (until The Blower’s Daughter got really old). This is a really well shot film with a great mood, pace, and above average performances. It’s such a shame Mike Nichols followed this up with Charlie Wilson’s War.

– Another Roger Michell film on this list (see 2003: The Mother). Admittedly, this isn’t a cornerstone of cinema. Not at all. But it’s based on a book by Ian McEwan and is really quite fascinating/disturbing. This also stars Daniel Craig, along with a frighteningly good Rhys Ifans. It’s kind of a cliched story about stalking and obsession, but it’s wicked tense, and a lot of fun. I even have the movie poster hanging in my living room right now.

– There’s nothing more to be said about Eternal Sunshine. It’s easy to understand why it’s so awesome, I won’t even attempt a blurb.

– It’s refreshing to see Johnny Depp act in a role that doesn’t shout, “look how crazy and weird I am!” (Alice in Wonderland will be his next installment in this fashion).  Plus, Kate Winslet is in this, and they’re both remarkable.  The story is sad, sad, sad.  But still filled with magic.  It’s one of the rare PG movies that really caught my attention.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead has haunted my movie memory since I saw it.  The story is just so raw and, well, frightening.  It’s a rough film to handle, but it’s really bitchin’.  Mike Hodges took a script that could have been totally trite and turned it to a helluva good movie.

– Until the last few years, I liked Vol. 2 more than Vol. 1.  And even though those rankings have changed recently, this is still one of my all time favorite films.  There’s a lot more talk, less limb amputations, and more scenes dedicated to Tarantino’s foot fetish.  I will never get enough of Quentin and Uma.

– If there was ever a Hitchcock-ian film that Hitchcock didn’t direct himself, it’s The Machinist.  Brad Anderson and Christian Bale jumped to the forefront of my radar thanks to this fantastic film.  It’s worth a rental just to see Bale weighing in at 121 pounds.  That’s called dedication.  Plus I always like watching Jennifer Jason Leigh.

– This is where Tony Scott is teetering on the edge of ridiculous excess (he takes the plunge on his next film), but the result is wicked entertaining.  The pace, the story, the gory torture (it’s okay since it’s for Dakota Fanning), it makes for one of the best action movies of the last decade.  It’s one of the few Denzel Washington movies I really like.

– It’s difficult, I assume, to make swallowing bags of heroin look like art.  But that is what is accomplished in Maria Full of Grace.  It’s a difficult film for me to watch, but it’s one of the better drug-themed films I’ve seen.  There’s no sensationalism, no romanticism, it just is.  This sort of honesty is refreshing.

– Man, 2004 was a year of heavy films for me.  Rape, Drugs, Murder, adultery, and now, added to that list is a portrait of back alley abortions in England.  Mike Leigh always directs solid films, but this is one of his best.  And it’s one of the most thought-provoking of the decade.  That’s for sure.

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3 Responses to “Top Tens of the Decade: 2004”
  1. Ben says:

    The Machinist was difficult for me to stomache. Bale takes method acting to another level, and his performance definitely made me squirm. Enduring Love is as uncomfortable and tense as a turbulent flight. I felt like Man on Fire was incredible the first time, and worsened every time after. Everyone loves a good story, but I think when a movie is more than just a plot–that is when a film becomes great. Cinematography aside, Man on Fire was really just an engaging story. I also think Denzel Washington is basically the same character in every movie: a brooding black man about to snap and become some sort of anti-hero.

  2. Man on Fire: lots of flash, not as much substance. Plus, I think I got bamboozled by the ending, and it made me think the movie was better than it was. Not to mention Denzel’s symmetrical face.
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  3. Jessica says:

    I need to watch Finding Neverland again. Thanks for the reminder.

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