The Flick Chicks

01/09/05 Top Ten List 2004

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Judy Thorburn

Eclectic Bunch Make Up Top Ten Movie List of 2004

Las Vegas Tribune -
Las Vegas Round The Clock

The Women Film Critics Circle -
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 There’s no getting away from it.  Life is about choices, in almost everything we do.  So, for me as a movie reviewer, when the end of December rolls around it comes down to having to choose my favorite flicks from the myriad of films I had seen the past year. Decisions, decisions, decisions.  Like every year before it, 2004 was filled with so many worthwhile films that it has been mind boggling for me to have to break down my list down to ten of the best and allow others the distinction of honorable mention. My number one stands out among the field. As for the rest, let’s me just say they I had enough trouble making up my mind WHICH ten to pick. Numbers 2 through 10 are in random order, since they were all equally great as far as I am concerned.  A few on my list were screened for Oscar and other award consideration having had only limited release` and did not hit theatres on a national basis by years end.   My advice is to catch all of the following if you haven’t already, and try to see the ones that will be opening soon.

l. KILL BILL VOLUME 2 – Putting this as my favorite movie of 2004 was a no brainer.  Released early in the year, Quentin Tarantino’s second and final installment of Kill Bill is an action packed, masterfully delivered achievement that could stand-alone. Uma Thurman is awesome as the martial arts fighting “Bride’, out to complete her revenge mission that was started in Volume I, to find and kill the remaining members of the elite squad of assassins and its leader, who shot her in the head and left her for dead on her wedding day.  The superbly written script by Tarantino brings all the pieces together perfectly. And, with great performances, pop culture dialogue from an excellent cast, and impeccable pacing, this is what excellent storytelling translated on screen is all about. Movie making doesn’t get any better than this!

2. HOTEL RWANDA-   Don Cheadle is magnificent as Paul Rusebagina, in the true story of the Hutu hotel manager who put his family and himself at risk when he sheltered over 1,000 Hutu refugees during the brutal Tutsi militia uprising and war in his country in 1994.  This is an explosive and very realistic look at a disturbing, very prevalent issue that is continuing to happen all around the world. Not since Schindler’s List has a movie shown the atrocities and devastation of racial genocide in such a powerful and emotionally heart wrenching way, without the overuse of blood and gore.  Yes, we indeed are our brother’s keepers. If only more people would take the courageous stand as Rusebagina did.

3. SAVED - What could have been just another silly teenage movie, this dramady comes across as a daring and brilliant satire of religious fundamentalists.  Christians might be the focus in Saved, but the story actually exposes the hypocritical tendencies of ALL religious fanatics and goes about it in a smart, biting and very witty way. The impressive cast includes Mandy Moore, Jena Malone, MacCauley Caulkin and Susan Sarandon’s daughter Eva Amurri, a talented actress, in her own right, and rising star who deserves more notice. Writer/director Brian Donnelly tells a story about a high school student, pregnant by her secretly gay boyfriend, who finds herself being attacked by her bible thumping best friend. Saved sends a message about real faith and values, and is refreshing and enlightening, thank heaven!

4. SPIDER-MAN – I am not alone in thinking this is the best superhero movie ever made.  Director Sam Raimi delivers an exciting, action packed, great story that is better than the first with another evil villain for Spidey (Tobey Maguire) to fight, the aptly named, multi-tentacled, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), a brilliant scientist transformed into a madman, as result of a experiment gone wrong. There is great graphics, romance, identity crisis, some humor, and fabulous characters. Super good in every aspect. Count me in for another installment, if another is ever in the works.

5. FINDING NEVERLAND - Is there any role Johnny Depp can’t tackle? Depp is once again splendid, this time as J.M. Barrie, the writer of Peter Pan. Finding Neverland is loosely based on Barrie’s friendship with the Llywelyn young boys and his deeply moving relationship with their mother Sylvia, (Kate Winslet) who was the inspiration for the renowned children’s story. Magical and enchanting best describes this movie that the whole family can enjoy.

6. THE SEA INSIDE (MAR ADENTRO)- Director Alejandro Amenabar moves away from thrillers (Open Your Eyes, The Others) into another direction with this true story of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro’s almost thirty-year fight for euthanasia as his right to die after being paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a diving accident.  No matter where you stand on this issue, one cannot deny the deeply moving performance by Javier Bardem as Sampedro, who has only his face and voice to work as the bedridden quadriplegic he is portraying, and the wonderful supporting cast, who represent both sides of this sensitive issue. The Sea Inside is beautifully orchestrated, emotionally riveting story in every way from start to finish.

7. SIDEWAYS – It may be a bit offbeat and quirky, but this film is also an intelligent, thoughtful comedy about self-discovery. Director/Co-Writer Alexander Payne’s tale is about two friends who go on a road trip through California’s wine country before one is about to get married.  No doubt, Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church’s strong performances as the two very different buddies who come to a new understanding about their lives after confronting the disappointments, will be mentioned come Oscar time.

8.  ZATOICHI – THE BLIND SWORDSMAN-   I would have never thought that a Japanese movie that mixed 19th century samurai tale, action, blood and guts, and humor with musical elements would actually land on my top ten list.  But, this very un-formulaic offbeat story written, directed by Takeshi Kitano (who works under the first name of Beat), was a surprisingly entertaining spectacle that blended all those elements into a piece of cinematic art that works. Kitano plays the role of the blind man, who is a masseur, gambler and master fighter.  With a sword hidden in his cane, Zatoichi comes to the aid of a young brother and sister who pose as geishas and helps them seek revenge for those responsible for the death of their parents. Trust me – this film experience is an unexpected treat you won’t be able forget.

9.     GARDEN STATE – Who says you can’t go home again? Twenty something actor Zach Braff, one of the stars of TV’s Scrubs, wrote, directed and stars in this poetic portrait of a young man who has missed out on life having been living most of it in a drug induced state. He returns home to New Jersey after nine years for his mother’s funeral, and has a reawakening with the help of a free spirited young woman named Sam (Natalie Portman).  Garden State is an impressive script that says a lot about growing up and finding your own identity. It would make sense that his character gets to bloom in the garden state. I just had to throw in my usual pun!

9. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s acclaimed award winning stage musical finally comes to life on the big screen, and it is a glorious interpretation.  Emmy Rossum stars as the young and beautiful angelic voiced singer, Christine.  She is breathtaking as the muse and object of affection for her unseen mentor in the dark, The Phantom of the Opera (Gerard Butler) a facially disfigured musical genius that dwells beneath the catacombs of the Paris opera house bringing fear to all the performers and patrons. The collaboration between writer/composer Webber and director Joel Schumacher is a winning one with lavish sets and costumes, sweeping camera work and of course, the memorable songs and music performed by a top notch cast that includes supporting roles by Minnie Driver, Amanda Richardson and Patrick Wilson.

10.              ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND – For something completely different and offbeat you can always depend on Charlie Kaufman, the talented writer who gave us the brilliant “Adaptation” and “Being John Malcovich”.  He’s at it again, this time telling the story of a love struck man (Jim Carrey) who fights to keep the memories of the women he broke up (Kate Winslet) with from leaving his mind.  Kaufman always challenges you to think when watching his films. Never ordinary or formulaic, this is another very surrealistic, mind-blowing excursion that will rattle your senses, but yet make you very glad you had the experience, especially since a main element is lots of heart.

Honorable mention goes to the following: 

THE INCREDIBLES – Pixar’s latest computer animated film takes on the world of a superhero family who have retired to suburbia, but are forced back to work doing the thing they like best when a villain rears his ugly head. Great characters and graphics, lots of action and fun story makes this a must see.

KINSEY- is the interesting story of Alfred Kinsey, the man behind the first study of human sexual behavior that resulted in the Kinsey Report. Liam Neesom is great as the determined scientist, bringing depth to the man who shocked America with his findings and had a troubled personal life with his long suffering, devoted wife (Laura Linney, also an understated, powerful performance) who stayed by his side.

THE AVIATOR – Martin Scorcesse’s colorful, lavish production details the life of eccentric billionaire entrepreneur and visionary, Howard Hughes up to his decent into seclusion as a result of obsessive, compulsive behavior.  Filmmaker, aircraft manufacturer, lover of beautiful movie stars and free flying aviator is the man Leonardo deCaprio portrays from the late 1920’s to mid 40’s in all his glory to his ultimate withdrawal from society. This is another impressive film by Scorcesee that might get him that golden statue that has been just short of his reach.  We shall what happens come Oscar time this February.

Also catch “Around the Bend”, “The United States of Leland” and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” as soon as they are out on DVD (if not already).

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