Before proceeding with my list of the top ten films/Non-English language films/Documentaries of 2004, I just wanted to point out a new feature of me blog. If you look over at that right hand column, you'll see a new feature, My Film Diary, which--if you choose to follow that link--will allow you the dubious pleasure of keeping abreast of my movie viewing habits.
Anyways, onward and upward. Let me present to you...
La Crème de la Crème of 2004
Wherein You Will Find Three Top Ten Lists (and a few brief comments on ten of the films that I really dug.)
---the most intellectually and viscerally provocative film of the year. LVT turns the tables on his critics who accuse him of grinding his heroine's into dust for his audience's perverse pleasure, and gives us an avenging angel who more clearly defines Von Trier's misanthropic vision. A film that will not likely win many new converts, but confirms his status as cinema's most fearless cynic.
---easily the most romantic film of the year, it is also one of the most intelligent. Linklatter manages to make Hawke palatable, while the lovely Julie Delpe proves a triple threat as co-star, co-writer and chanteuse extraordinaire. An exploration of lost idealism and desperate humanity, one of those rarest of birds: a sequel that surpasses the original.
---the most visually stunning film of the year (something fans of DP Christopher Doyle have come to expect), it also proved quite controversial in its historical interpretation of the tyrannical first emperor's attempt to unify the rule of China under his singularly iron fist. All that, plus we got to watch the Greatest Movie Actor of Our Time, Tony Leung resuscitate his on screen partnership with the regal and stunning Maggie Cheung. Regardless of whether you see the film as a subtle and ambiguous study of political hegemony or a blatant endorsement of Machiavellian (or Stalinist) violence, few can argue that the film is an unforgettable cinematic experience.
4.Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
---Kauffman continues to produce challenging and magnificently demented scripts on the existential (and romantic) desperation of the modern man. Director Gondry shows some flare with the subject matter, while Winslett is divine and Carrey surprisingly affecting as the central figures in this great 21st century romance.
---a stunning cinematic debut by writer/director/star Shane Carruthers, this cross between Memento and La Jetee may leave you scratching your heads in confusion and consternation, but the images and ideas will stick in your head, refusing to let you rest. Like the film's protagonists, who are determined to get things right, you'll find yourself coming back for more.
6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
7.An Amazing Couple (Belvaux)
9. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
10 . Touching the Void
BEST NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM
2.An Amazing Couple
---Lucas Belvaux is a complete stranger to me, but after spending some time with his terrific trilogy, which opens with On the Run and concludes with After the Life, sandwiching this dark comic piece in the middle, I will most certainly start scouring around for more. Reminiscent of Kieslowski's trilogy (Blue, White and Red) in its structure and themes (intermingled narratives, with characters touching on each other's stories in ways that suggest our lives are part of some larger pattern that we remain blissfully unaware of), Delvaux is not quite as accomplished a filmmaker (yet), but this middle film shows that he has a deft touch, balancing the romance, drama and comedy of these stories without sacrificing one to the others.
3.House of Flying Daggers
---take Hero, but put the politics away and plant your heart on your sleeve. Less challenging and provocative than its progenitor, it also lacks Chris Doyle's brilliance for composition. But still one helluva lovely flick.
4.Maria Full of Grace
---as unrelentingly naturalistic as any film I saw this year, this story of drug mules attempting to smuggle heroin from South America into America was often terrifying (the plane flight) and revolting (the hotel scenes), but always compelling.
---A great premise--an undercover cop infiltrates the mob and is given the job of finding out which cop is feeding the mob boss information, while simultaneously a young mobster trains as a cop in order to ferret out the mole in the mobster's midst, setting the two (Tony Leung and Andy Lau) on a collision course. A thriller in every sense of the word, stylishly directed and flawlessly acted. Did I mention that Tony Leung is a God?
6.On the Run
7. Bad Education
8.A Tale of Two Sisters
9.I’m Not Scared
10. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and … Spring
BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM
1.Touching the Void
---you will not see a better film on mountainclimbing. Thrilling, frightening, devastating and ultimately grimly celebratory of the qualities it takes to survive. Some of the recreations will have you reaching for the gravol. Powerful and disturbing stuff.
2.Born into Brothels
4.Super Size Me!
7.Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
9. Story of Weeping Camel