Best Films of 2004

Richard Linklater, Before Sunset, 2004
Richard Linklater, Before Sunset, 2004
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?

- Keane, 2004 (via SG)

Choices Made.

As has become my habit/tradition, with a scant few hours to go before the Oscar ceremony celebrating the best of Hollywood films of the past year, I too want to offer a few thoughts on my favorite moments watching movies in 2004.

It was a varied and hurried year for me. I can’t remember having many opportunities to reflect on the films I saw to the degree that I am accustomed or prefer. I suppose the most celebrated and controversial of the year’s offerings was Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, an effort that left me strangely sympathetic for the targeted George W. The project backfired on both a rhetorical and emotional level, with its “shame on you” moral indignation. Trusted friends don’t share my intolerance for Moore’s tactics, excusing them instead on higher grounds, and I’ve decided maybe I just don’t like to be preached to, regardless of the message.

Other movies I should have liked more included Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, American Splendor (2003) and Garden State, solid outings all, by skilled filmmakers with interesting things to say. Loosely defined, they could be said to describe a kind of longing or searching, to map the emotional tumult of loss and displacement and that peculiar condition of loserdom. Each offers a schematic of how to cope with the heartbreak and kicks in the teeth, and even how to get back on track.

Sideways also has been widely praised for its adult take on life, its frank view of when things haven’t worked out the way one expected them to, and the different ways one might play the cards you’re dealt. Similarly, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset might be summarized as a thesis on growing older, making choices and choices making you, missed opportunities, and the what if musings of thirty-somethings. It’s the more nuanced effort, in my opinion, matured like the wine appreciated in Sideways yet still ripe with possibility and surprise.

Top 5:

Before Sunset

Hotel Rwanda

Maria Full of Grace

Shrek 2 / The Incredibles (tie)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Honorable Mentions: Yo, Robot, caught with SG in Lima before heading back to the States and Troy, viewed on a bus to Puno. Both were pure entertainment in unexpected contexts and both were testaments to the fulfillment of cinema’s early “universal language” aspirations.

Other recommendations in no particular order (viewed for the first time in 2004): Touching the Void (2003), Key Largo (1948), All the Real Girls (2003), Kieslowski’s Blind Chance (1987), Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest (1950), Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2002), Linklater’s Tape (2001), To Be and To Have (2002), Spellbound (2002), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), and The Station Agent (2003).