Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Top 10 Movies of 2004, or "I've finally seen enough of last year's movies to feel educated about this"

Back in the day - and when I say "the day," I obviously mean "the late '90s" - I actually got paid to watch movies. Now, the pay wasn't a lot, which is why I'm not still doing it today. However, there was a stretch of a few years where I didn't buy a single movie ticket, instead going to theaters under the guise of "critic."

I probably averaged seeing about 100 movies a year in theaters, which upon reflection is brazenly absurd. I was in college, for God's sake, which means I could have spent all those hours doing something worthwhile, like hanging out in a bar. Ah, the lessons my increasing age provides...

The years have certainly dulled my enthusiasm for film, along with absurd ticket prices and the increasing shoddiness of the theater-going experience. (Hell, I don't have a great home theater system, but at least I don't get four babies crying in surround sound either). In fact, while I might have averaged 100 theatrical movies in 1998, I have seen exactly TWO in 2005, and we're almost at the year's halfway point ("Hitch" and "Revenge of the Sith," for enquiring minds - and the first one was a date, I swear).

My past dorkiness haunts me, though. I still grade every single movie I see (A+ to F), I still occasionally come up with questions to ask actors and/or directors, and I still make a Top 10 list every year. The list, though, takes a little bit longer, considering I am seeing more of each year's releases on DVD these days. Where I wouldn't have missed "The Life Aquatic" as a theatrical release six years ago, in fact I just saw it last week in the privacy of my own home.

It really takes to June before I really feel I have seen most of the previous year's releases, at least to make an educated "best of" list. And, well, tomorrow being June 1st, I feel it's just about time to present the absolutely last, latest, stale-tasting list of the Top 10 Movies of 2004. Also, as a pointless extra feature, I reveal whether I thought enough of the film in advance to catch it at the theater. (And, by the way, feel free to post your own lists in the Comments section).

1) The Incredibles - Pixar's best. I have never been completely sold by the "Toy Story" movies, instead preferring the scattershot lunacy of "A Bug's Life" and pinpoint storytelling of "Finding Nemo" - and "The Incredibles" managed both of those qualities in spades, not to mention some genuinely thrilling action moments. Instantly rewatchable, and that's saying something for me. (DVD)

2) Garden State - Zach Braff has almost instantly become one of my favorite Hollywood personalities. He wrote, directed and starred in this gem (which, I believe, could become my generation's "Graduate" after some time), and he stars in "Scrubs," easily the most underrated show on television today. When I saw him cameo in "Arrested Development" last month, it became official - I have a new heterosexual man crush. (theater)

3) Collateral -
People that dog on Tom Cruise bother me. Sure, as his recent "Oprah" appearance proved, the man is bat-shit crazy. However, he has serious acting chops, not to mention a propencity for picking great projects (Katie Holmes included). Since "Cocktail" - which was 17 years ago, mind you - the guy has made exactly one piece of shit ("Mission: Impossible II"). Even his average films ("The Last Samurai," "Days of Thunder," "A Few Good Men") have their strong points, and more than once in a while, he'll completely knock the cover off the ball (as he does here). (theater)

4) The Motorcycle Diaries -
As a generally conservative guy, I was hesitant to watch the story of a young Che Guevera, as I pretty much disagree with everything the adult Che Guevera came to stand for. The filmmakers wisely stayed apolitical (for the most part), and told a universal story of a youthful coming-of-age. Fortunately, this film's "coming-of-age" had nothing to do with fucking pies or living next to porn stars, and in fact had the year's best performance (Gael Garcia Bernal) and stunning scenery unlikely to be topped any time soon. (DVD)

5) Hotel Rwanda -
A laugh riot. Ok, not really, but here is one thing that is true: friend and fellow blogger Doug Gillett wrote about this film with better words than I can muster right now. (DVD)

6) The Aviator - Not as great as I'd hoped, not nearly as bad as I'd feared. To be honest, Martin Scorsese hasn't wowed me in quite awhile, but he hits a solid triple with this biopic of Howard Hughes. Leonardo DiCaprio, who looks more like Ving Rhames than Howard Hughes, nevertheless infused his performance with such a passion that he cemented his status in the pretty-boys-that-can-actually- act-club (other members include Brad Pitt, Jude Law). (theater)

7) Kill Bill Vol. II - "Vol. I" was my favorite movie of 2003, and while I didn't enjoy the follow-up with the same enthusiasm, Quentin Tarantino and his cast created a storyline that I only hope will be continued some day. (theater)

8) Spider-Man 2 -
Full disclosure: I hated the first "Spider-Man," and still consider it to be an inane, poorly directed, hideously CGI'd crapfest. The fact I even went to see "Spider-Man 2" is something of a miracle, even moreso when I saw that Sam Raimi and Co. had fixed nearly everything that was wrong with their first installment. Having a tolerable villain certainly helps, and Tobey Maguire certainly seems more comfortable - but, really, it's all about story, and this is a great one. (theater)

9) Friday Night Lights -
Better than the book. Yeah, I said it. (DVD)

10) Shaun of the Dead -
Funny, funny shit. Any movie that uses the C-word within 30 seconds (not that one, that one) is worthy of my love. Any movie that does that and also involves zombies, a reunion of Tim and Dawn from "The Office," and random attacks on the "Batman"-era Prince deserve my first-born. (DVD)

Honorable Mention: "Sideways," "Man on Fire," "Mean Girls," "Million Dollar Baby," "The Bourne Supremacy"


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