Top Ten Movies 2004
by Stephen Notley
No surprise here. If people didn't know who Brad Bird was after The Iron Giant, they sure know now. The Incredibles it tour-de-force filmmaking, excellent on every level from the concept to the design to the performances to the sheer joyful realized ambition of it all. Funny, heartfelt, action-jammed, this is a movie doing what movies are best at. For cryin' out loud if you haven't seen it yet, go. GO!
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Writer Charlie Kaufmann (Being John Malkovitch, Adaptation) likes to dig deep and strange into the nature of identity and here he does it again, unwinding a relationship in a carefully-crafted lucid dream with no easy answers. Michel Gondry's fluid direction holds together this seemingly unfilmable journey and pays it off at every turn. Essentially tied for first with The Incredibles, EsotSM is the other great film of 2004.
This actually came out two years ago in
Nobody saw this; it made a paltry $30 million in theatres.
And yet even though it lacks the
5. Before Sunset
Nine years ago Richard Linklater of Slackers, Dazed and
Confused and Waking Life made Before Sunrise, in which Ethan Hawke and Julie
Delpy meet on a train, spark a connection and spend a night wandering through
Vienna. Fueled by Linklater's perceptive writing and the easy charm of its
leads, Before Sunrise is an essential romantic film. This summer the sequel,
Before Sunset, fluttered briefly into theatres and picked up the story nine
years on with the two meeting in
6. Shaun of the Dead
Lately it feels like the zombie movie is becoming the ur-genre, the ultimate basic scenario onto which any filmmaker can cast his own ideas. Shaun of the Dead is easily the best zombie movie in quite a number of years, a funny, low-key zombie-up that takes the unlikely step of investing its characters with life that goes beyond the immediacy of the zombie invasion. Shaun's gradual transition from a haze of dumped-by-girlfriend depression to the clarity of pursued-by-zombies terror is note-perfect throughout and the jokes are good cuz, y'know, they're British.
7. Fahrenheit 9/11
Nobody seems to have a good word for Michael Moore any more,
but even if Fahrenheit 9/11 failed to unseat the Beast there's still no
question it's one of the most rawly emotional films of the year, filled with
gut-level images of hard-rockin' marines, ragdoll Iraqi children and an
American mom sagging with grief.
Movies about depressive characters wandering around in a
blank haze shouldn't work. This one does, winningly, by filling the world
around said character with spark and life, detail and co-incidence. Written by,
directed by and starring Scrubs actor Zach Braff,
9. I Heart Huckabees
Another movie nobody saw, this one from Three Kings director David O. Russell. I Heart Huckabees is essentially a movie version of the Douglas Adams novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", except that Dustin Hoffman and a superbly great Lily Tomlin are the holistic detectives investigating the philosophical problems that afflict their clients. I(H)H has Three Kings's sense of fleet direction and visual invention; I particularly recall the pieces of the mouths of Mark Wahlberg and Dustin Hoffman floating into space, splitting and resplitting as the two argue about the relative superiority of the states of being and non-being.
An underground little movie that only popped up at the
Edmonton Film Festival [note to ed: fact check? It was the festival in October
with Don McKellar, I forget what it was called], Primer shows that if you've
got a good enough idea you can make a movie for under $10,000. Premier is a true
science fiction film, hard science, with characters who are scientists and
engineers working the problem like real scientists and engineers without all
the usual bullshittery of