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January 01, 2005

Best Movies of 2004

With the caveat that I haven't seen a number of films released in the last few weeks, here are my favorite movies of 2004 in roughly descending order of which I liked(links to NY Times reviews). There were a lot of good films this year, but fewer that I really loved than some other years:

Sideways: Paul Giamatti does it again, playing an odd loser-hero trying to find love in wine country in this engaging film.

Baadassss: An ideosyncratic and engaging film about the making of Melvin Van Peebles landmark independent film, "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" by Melvin's son Mario is a film that simulataneously plays out the odd father-son dynamic that occurred in the making of the film, documents the rise of independent filmmaking in the early 1970s, and highlights the interaction of culture and the civil rights and black power movements.

Fahrenheit 9/11: Occasionally loose with the rhetoric and facts, this is still the best Michael Moore film since Roger and Me not just for the politics but for the fun and well-crafted technique of the film.

The Passion of the Christ: Yes, it's a Christian snuff film, but that's sort of the theological point of rightwing Christianity-- worship the dead body -- and only the masterful level of violence suffered by Christ, as portrayed by Mel Gibson, could explain why it's such a big deal for God to sacrifice himself for humanity.

Dogville: Another film about the flagellation of Christ -- Kidman as Christ seemed to be missed by a lot of reviewers -- with a more cynical view on whether the humanity was worth the sacrifice.

Garden State: Okay, I have a soft spot for a movie about suburban New Jersey -- the desert where I grew up -- but Zach Braff did a great job writing, acting and directing this film, and Natalie Portman was an amazing presence.

The Aviator: A relatively conventionally structured but well done narrative by Martin Scorcese about the very unconventional Howard Hughes.

Ella Enchanted: A hip, fun and sly fairy tale.

Control Room: One of the harshest takedowns of the media coverage of the Iraq War.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Jim Carrey has made a bunch of films that annoy the hell out of me (can we mention The Grinch), but this weird off-beat film actually had some deep things to say about love and loss.

[Okay, here are the films I intend to see which might have made the list-- Ray, Vera Drake, Million Dollar Baby]

Posted by Nathan at January 1, 2005 12:16 AM