Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Top Ten Films of 2004

Merry Christmas to those who celebrated it, happy holidays to those who didn't, a pox on those who made a political Issue of it...and a prayer for those lost in the earthquake/tsunami that hit southeast Asia yesterday. That level of natural disaster is the kind of event for which there's really nothing to say - and everything to do. All good wishes to the people involved in the rescue and reparation efforts.

Seems frivolous to move from that to my movie ruminations, except that they've been ready for a while now - I just got back from out of town last night and didn't have time to post them earlier.

I saw "Ocean's Twelve" on Christmas, and enjoyed it well enough. It was as expected: stylish, witty, insubstantial, inferior to the first movie (which I loved); simultaneously overplotted and underplotted, but then the plot's not the point; self-indulgent and self-referential to a degree that would be intolerable if the movie weren't so light on its feet. That's Soderbergh's touch. The camaraderie of the cast helps, too, though they hardly ever come together as a whole for the better part of the movie - only in fragments and flashes - and for a significant chunk of time half of them are just sitting around and waiting for something to happen. Quite a contrast to the well-oiled perpetual motion machine of "Ocean's Eleven." Jury's still out on whether the contrast was deliberate. But it certainly ain't better.

And now, my annual top-ten list of movies, with a couple of caveats. First: I think this was a relatively weak year for the movies, or at least for Hollywood. Contrary to the usual pattern, the summer had a stronger slate than usual, while the fall was weaker, which averaged out to a lot of ok-to-good movies but very few great ones. Second - this is a sort of caveat to the caveat - I have not seen "Million Dollar Baby,” “The Aviator,” “Kinsey,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “Maria Full of Grace,” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “A Very Long Engagement,” or “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” not to mention scores of smaller and undoubtedly worthier films. I do intend to see the above-named movies at some point. However, I'm unlikely to do so before the end of 2004. That said, the best movie I actually *saw* in 2004 was, hands down, "City of God." But since it was released in the U.S. (and considered for awards) last year, I am not including it in this list.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Before Sunset
3. The Incredibles
4. Closer
5. Collateral
6. Infernal Affairs
7. Kill Bill 2
8. Fahrenheit 911
9. Hero
10. Garden State


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