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Letting Go Of 2004: Something To Remember (The Year's Best & Worst)
by Erik Childress

Another year in the books and all being equal, 2004 was a pretty good year full of ups and downs, ins-and-outs and parallel movements. Our spirits lifted (Before Sunset) and dropped just as quickly (After the Sunset). Films about forgetting (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 50 First Dates, The Forgotten, The Notebook) and films we’d rather forget about (Envy, Stateside, National Lampoon's Gold Diggers). So let’s take one final look at the trends, the best, the worst, the surprises and the disappointments of last year. It’s certainly better than seeing any of the new movies in January.

What’s a year without sequels? Probably a good year. For every Shrek 2 or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban we had a Scooby-Doo 2 and Princess Diaries 2. With The Bourne Supremacy came Anacondas and The Chronicles of Riddick. Meet the Fockers and Ocean’s Twelve did major business but Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason & Exorcist: The Beginning were D.O.A. And let’s face it, Seed of Chucky and SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 may as well have been the same movie.

Animal-based re-imaginings we just didn’t need (Catwoman, Garfield, Thunderbirds), some that just struck the “awwwww” factor (Benji: Off The Leash, Two Brothers) and franchise mashings that failed miserably (Alien vs. Predator, Van Helsing)

And if the creative departments weren’t sequelizing they were flat-out remaking. Sometimes they had success (The Ladykillers, The Merchant of Venice – I’ll even cop to enjoying The Big Bounce and Around the World in Eighty Days). Sometimes they were just updating (The Flight of the Phoenix, Ned Kelly) and sometimes they just couldn’t resist importing old foreign jobs (Shall We Dance?, Criminal, Taxi). Paramount made nothing BUT remakes (The Manchurian Candidate, The Stepford Wives, Alfie) and Takashi Shimizu remade the same film for a fourth time, only without subtitles (The Grudge). Undertow wasn’t a remake of The Night of the Hunter but could have been. The Girl Next Door practically was Risky Business Redux and First Daughter was, well, actually a remake of Chasing Liberty.

Films for the martial artists (Kill Bill Vol. 2, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Warriors of Heaven and Earth, The Twilight Samurai, The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi) and zombie lovers (Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, A Cinderella Story). Lovers of giant, great, big epics were shouting anything but “Remember!” (The Alamo, Troy, King Arthur, Alexander) and comic book/superhero films came in all temperatures; hot (Spider-Man 2, The Incredibles), lukewarm (Blade: Trinity) and snowball (Hellboy). Let’s be honest, Denzel’s Man on Fire would kick the ass of Thomas Jane’s Punisher.

All aspects of the industry were represented from the theater (Being Julia, Stage Beauty, Finding Neverland, This So-Called Disaster) to the moviemakers (BAADASSSSS!, The Last Shot, Bad Education) to porn (This Girl’s Life) and general jackasses on the fringe (Paparazzi, Overnight)

Music (and Musical) lovers took quite a hit in 2004 though as that Moulin Rouge/Chicago renaissance gave way to uninspired biopics (Beyond the Sea, De-Lovely, Ray), actresses who have no business singing and singers who shouldn’t be acting (Connie and Carla, Raise Your Voice) and one of the biggest disasters I’ve ever seen (The Phantom of the Opera). Truly The Saddest Music In The World redeemed only by the behind-the-scenes documentaries (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, Festival Express, Broadway: The Golden Age, DiG!)

In the sporting world, only Basketball, Bowling and Badminton enthusiasts were disappointed, since they were about the only sports not represented in 2004. We had Baseball (This Old Cub, Mr. 3000), Football (Friday Night Lights), Hockey (Miracle), Boxing (Million Dollar Baby), Golf (Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius), Tennis (Wimbledon), Soccer (Shaolin Soccer), Horse Racing (Hidalgo), Mountain climbing (Touching the Void), Scuba diving (Open Water, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), Surfing (Riding Giants), Rafting (Without a Paddle), Poker (Shade), Scrabble (Word Wars), Gymnastics (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) and Wrestling (Walking Tall).

Movies about the news business were in ample supply (Control Room, Outfoxed, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) while it certainly wasn’t news that many African-American films played down to the lowest common denominator (You Got Served, Soul Plane, White Chicks, The Cookout).

On a more up note, we found lovely seasonal movies (Springtime in a Small Town; Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...And Spring Again), but two of the most dreadful-want-to-shoot-yourself-in-the-face-with-a-bazooka holiday movies ever (Surviving Christmas, Christmas with the Kranks)

For every love letter to America (America's Heart and Soul), there was a critical one (Dogville). There were movies about Bush (Fahrenheit 9/11, Bush’s Brain, anything by Catherine Breillat) and movies pretending to be about Bush (Silver City, anything by Catherine Breillat). Films about addictions (Coffee and Cigarettes, Super Size Me, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle) and films just about dicks.

Kidnappers (The Clearing, I'm Not Scared, Cellular), Stalkers (Wicker Park, Enduring Love), those slowly losing their minds (The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Secret Window, Crimson Gold, The Machinist) and those who have already lost them (The Village). Killers (Collateral, Never Die Alone, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead), Serial Killers (Taking Lives, Suspect Zero, The Manson Family, Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer) and those who just wanted to die (The Sea Inside, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and, well, that other movie that I just can’t mention here.) There were films about Jesus (The Passion of the Christ, Saved!) and those that only sounded that way (Saints and Sinners, Maria Full of Grace, My Flesh and Blood, Godsend, Birth, The Return and Raising Helen; two with that creepy Cameron Bright kid), but also more films about dicks and bush.

We were told Sex Is Comedy, but while we laughed hysterically at the puppet sex of Team America: World Police, there’s nothing funny about making love to plastic (Love Object), impregnating lesbians (She Hate Me), masturbating in front of your sister (The Dreamers) and you don’t even want to know what’s going on (A Dirty Shame, Twentynine Palms, Anatomy of Hell). Some wrote sex books and punctured their own foreskin (Kinsey), which certainly sounds better than female circumcision (Moolaade) or the casting couch of The Brown Bunny. There was swinging (Seeing Other People), doomed threesomes (Head in the Clouds, A Home at the End of the World, When Will I Be Loved?) and foursomes doing nothing but yelling at each other (We Don't Live Here Anymore, Closer). Older women hooked up with younger men (P.S., The Door in the Floor) and vice versa (13 Going On 30, Sleepover, The Woodsman). Best of all, we got to see Neve Campbell’s boobs and Natalie Portman’s butt.

We were blessed with new films from Scorsese (The Aviator), Zemeckis (The Polar Express) and Spielberg (The Terminal) and overdues from O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees), L. Brooks (Spanglish) and just go straight to freakin’ HELL M. Night and Paul W.S.. Sorry.

There were also terrific debuts (Napoleon Dynamite, Saw, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), major league comebacks like Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen (Sideways) and films which only faked reincarnation (P.S., Birth).

Television stars Zach Braff (Garden State), Topher Grace (In Good Company, P.S., Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Ocean’s Twelve) and, well, SpongeBob SquarePants all flourished and yet we still had to endure a big-screen, anorexic Olsen Twins-in-towels-adventure (New York Minute)

Science-Fiction wanted us to think, but mainly about how poorly constructed the screenplays were (Code 46, Primer, The Final Cut). Then for those with no vested interest in thinking, we were given Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow) and films ruined by Will Smith (I, Robot & Shark Tale).

But this is the time of year that we must think back, separate the amazing from the mundane and prep ourselves for another trip back to the theater or clearing up some funds for the DVD purchases. Therefore, without further ado, here are my selections as the best and worst of 2004.

THE BEST FILMS OF 2004

10. The Polar Express
Pixar can “wow” me any day of the week, but no film “wow”’ed me quite the way Robert Zemeckis’ did. (A trend he has a habit of.) Zemeckis is like the smart kid on the block with the money for the best toy, who will then tear it apart, put it back together and make it even better. The way we move through the “performance captured” images in The Polar Express is just extraordinary. I didn’t see “dead eyes” in the characters any more or less than any non-real animated figure I’ve ever witnessed. I saw a joy in the filmmaking and felt a charge during the scenes of peril. The nice, simple message of Chris Van Allsburg’s 32-page pictorial children’s book is not least (even with the creepy, unnecessary Steven Tyler elf). I haven’t even seen the film in IMAX yet cause its sold out everywhere, but I can’t wait.

9. Sideways
The trailer may have given us the whole plot, but Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor and their cast left plenty of great wine and great conversation for everyone in the audience. Road Movie-Buddy Movie-Relationship Movie, all the labels fit but the discovery is in its own world of entendres slowly reveling in who these characters are and where they are headed. Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen give revelatory performances here, all worthy of the numerous acclaim the awards have been bestowing them and Paul Giamatti’s performance is just going to improve with age. Not often can a film save two of its best, unforeseen, gags for the final act and still end on one of the year’s most perfect beats.

8. The Sea Inside
How can a film about death be about so much life? Alejandro Amenabar has done it before with Open Your Eyes and The Others, but here takes it up a notch with the true story of quadriplegic Ramon Sampedro fighting for his right to die. The government wants no part of it. His family is torn between their love and their ultimate loss. And, not one, but two women fall in love with Ramon just as he’s on the verge of his quest. Javier Bardem puts most performances to shame this year and Amenabar challenges us with both sides of the debate without choosing one himself. An unconditionally, beautiful film.

7. The Incredibles
I dug this film a lot the first time I saw it. I now love it with a passion. Pixar always earns its props, but give it up for writer/director Brad Bird (who also supplied the voice of ecstatic fashion designer, Edna Mode). His overlooked 1999 gem, The Iron Giant, was just a springboard to what a great storyteller can do when surrounded by genius. The themes of celebrating mediocrity are a perfect window into our times and Bird molded it into an inventive satire and a superb adventure. Contains my favorite opening line of the year.

6. Spider-Man 2
It’s the best comic book movie ever made. Plain and simple, ousting even Superman II from way back in 1980. I don’t know what it is with Sam Raimi and his sequels, but God Bless Him! Hilarious without feeling jokey, emotional without the sappy padding and action packed in all the right ways. The “L” train sequence alone is something to behold for years and Dr. Octopus has to rank with General Zod as the best of the arch-villains. This is Raimi at his most unleashed and I can’t wait for Part 3.

5. Million Dollar Baby
Hopefully you’ve heard less about this film than the few words I’m going to string together here, because its power is in its ability to surprise you with all of the subtle levels it works on as a sports film, mentor/student, father/daughter, religious/moral, the list goes on and on. Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank both turn in the best performances of their careers. Morgan Freeman regal narration sets the tone. Eastwood has turned-in back-to-back pieces of maestro filmmaking after 2003’s Mystic River. You will not make the ten-count once the film is over.

4. A Very Long Engagement
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has shown Cold Mountain where it can stick itself. A bloody tale of war that shifts into the mystery of a lost romance, all wrapped within the quirky touches that he brought to the fanciful Amelie, again with the striking Audrey Tautou as his heroine. Equally the most beautiful-looking and horrific film to watch, but all with a smile as even the shocking scenes of violence seem fresh in a way which we haven’t seen since Saving Private Ryan.

3. The Terminal
Coming-in as the best modern Frank Capra tale since The American President, Steven Spielberg’s unfairly dismissed fable about an immigrant (Tom Hanks) caught in a loophole of U.S. security measures was both a brilliant comedy and a profound dissection of fear and policies in post-9/11 America. After the screening in June, I wrote that I could reach over my head and nearly touch Cloud Ten. Subsequent viewings have me going to Eleven.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The first time around is a mind-trip with a heartbreaking love story peeking out from the corner. It’s in the Memento-like remembrance afterwards where the film begs for repeated viewings where you’ll find the love story there right from the beginning. This is a wild, glorious piece of storytelling of two lovers desperately and simultaneously trying to forget and remember what kept them together in the first place. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann and Director Michel Gondry never rest on the strength of their gimmicks and techniques but seem to be trying themselves to discover the dynamics of a loving relationship as they go. Jim Carrey dials it all the way down to match the disillusionment and confusion of his character’s existence and Kate Winslet is just magical, full of life and bewilderment. I almost forgot myself how addictively connecting this puzzle was, but a recent viewing reminded me it could be no lower on my list.

1. Garden State
When I saw this film at Sundance in January, I knew it was going to end up on my year’s ten best. What I didn’t expect was the weight it carried with it in the months that followed. A hypnotic teaser trailer with its closing credits song by Frou Frou reminded me of how much I loved it. I waited months and months to see it again, organized groups for opening weekend and “guaranteed” that every one of them was going to love it. I shuddered as the tear-inducing moment at Sundance was left out of the theatrical version, but found new ones sprinkled throughout. Not only did the DVD include that moment in the deleted scenes section, but I could vividly point out each and every moment that was cut out from what I had seen some 11 months ago. How many films can leave such an impact? Very, very few. All the more remarkable since it was Zach Braff’s first shot out of the box as triple threat writer/director/star. Some call it The Graduate for my generation. I contend it’s even better, dissecting a culture of automotons all searching for a clone of the definition of happiness through a cavalcade of emotions, pharmaceuticals and financial schemes. Braff’s performance is a subtle exercise in unthawing and Natalie Portman evoked Diane Keaton in Annie Hall to continue her hold on to the title my friend likes to call “the coolest girl ever, period.” The year’s best soundtrack never left my CD-changer and only evoked more memories of the year’s best film. Great dialogue. Phenomenal soundtrack. Braff. Portman. Peter Sarsgaard. Garden State. The best film of 2004.


THE 5 RUNNERS-UP

11. Before Sunset
Rarely can a fade out successfully signal such a new beginning, but that’s precisely what Richard Linklater’s sequel did so beautifully after less than 80 minutes. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet nearly ten years after the events of Before Sunrise. They are older, wiser and possibly missing something that those years apart could have provided them. In a real time setting they walk around the streets of France and have conversations that could have been pretentious banter, but strike the simple truths that inquisitive minds think but rarely dictate. The time literally just flies on this one, but couldn’t have ended on any better exchange of lines.

12. Shaun of the Dead
I saw this film more times in a theater this year than anything else and it keeps getting funnier EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT! The British Romantic Comedy meets the Zombie Horror Flick and the result is a screenplay that should absolutely be studied in film school. No lie! More than just a satire of either genre, the jokes fly like a boomerang and come back to you when you least expect it.

13. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
It was better than any of the Harry Potter movies. Jim Carrey killed. The kids were great, using ingenuity to work their way out of scrapes rather than magic. I hope they venture into the other books very soon.

14. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
The biggest gut-buster of the year also staged one of the greatest battles of the year. You just have to see it for yourself, but this is Will Ferrell the way we want him, allowed to run riot and with a supporting crew that will literally try anything for a laugh. On par with the early works of the Farrelly Bros.

15. The Passion of the Christ
As a film constructed from a very popular story, this was the best adaptation of that tale I had ever seen. All the little details, seemingly forgotten about in all of the other Christ tales were brutally remembered. Jesus’ relationship with his mother has never been more emotively portrayed. South Park made great points about it that I agree with. Mel Gibson may be out of his mind, but a master filmmaker and storyteller he has certainly become. I flinched, I reveled, I was saddened and moved. I may not like the implications of what the film possibly helped set into motion in 2004, but as a piece of art it was beautiful, heartfelt and undeniable.

10 MORE GREAT FILMS

16. Friday Night Lights – The best football movie ever made. Period!
17. In Good Company – The most carefully observed drama about corporate anonymity in a world of cruel parallels since Changing Lanes
18. Super Size Me – Morgan Spurlock’s hysterical documentary actually kept me off McDonald’s for (most of) 2004.
19. The Aviator – DiCaprio is fantastic. The aerial sequences are some of the best ever. My favorite cut of the year all in Scorsese’s enormously entertaining biopic.
20. Miracle – The final hockey game is one of the most exhilaratingly edited sports moments in all of film.
21. Napoleon Dynamite – A bizarre, live-action cartoon with an uplifting handling of the power of friendship is one of my absolute favorites of the year.
22. House of Flying Daggers – The best of the Zhang Yimou-released martial arts epics of the year with a treetop battle that trumps Crouching Tiger.
23. I Heart Huckabee’s – It maddened most crowds. It had me laughing and thinking right from the start.
24. Saw – Pure, ridiculous, gory entertainment with a wowza of an ending, solidly made by James Wan and Leigh Whannell
25. The Machinist – Christian Bale’s performance alone is worth the ticket. Brad Anderson’s Hitchcockian labyrinth plays fair with the audience and is more rewarding as a result.


THE 5 BEST SURPRISES OF 2004


Broken Lizard's Club Dread – I didn’t like Super Troopers much at all, but their slasher parody with Bill Paxton and a human Pac-Man maze was a riot.
The Butterfly Effect – A refreshingly, ultra-dark Twilight Zone episode that survives Ashton Kutcher in the lead and got under my skin.
Dawn of the Dead – I gave the middle finger to the trailers. I now want to shake Zack Snyder’s hand for going balls-out with this action-packed, bloody update.
The Girl Next Door – So it was Risky Business 2004. It had heart, a terrific Emile Hirsch, a hot Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant belting out his Guido Killer Pimp role and one of the best-timed first kisses in years.
Mean Girls – A nicer version of Heathers perhaps, but more realistic, so ultimately scarier and much, much funnier. Great screenplay by Tina Fey and fine work by everyone in the cast.


THE 5 MOST DISAPPOINTING/OVERRATED FILMS OF 2004

Collateral – So you kill all the witnesses, why do you need to kill the lawyer? You preach about the importance of anonymity, but then start a melee in a nightclub with dozens of witnesses.
Hero – So it looked pretty. But did anyone else see the fight sequences unenthralling and bordering on self-parody? Give me House of Flying Daggers
Maria Full of Grace – The first half is intriguing until it dawns on you that Maria makes conceivably every wrong choice possible. Thankfully, she’s dealing with the forgiving drug carriers.
Ocean’s Twelve – Did you contribute $10 to their cast party fund?
Vera Drake – Mike Leigh makes another movie about a family in crisis and a woman crying for half the movie. There’s a big freakin’ surprise.

FIVE FESTIVAL FILMS THAT NEED A DISTRIBUTOR

1. Up For Grabs
The best documentary I saw in 2004 wasn't about George W. Bush, McDonalds or rock bands in therapy. It was Michael Wranovic's Up For Grabs, a story about the fifteen minutes sought in a society obsessed with an overriding profit margin. The fight over Barry Bonds' 73rd home run ball in 2001 twists like the best detective mysteries and works as a self-serving satire of greed and celebrity in the U.S. It's easily one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. (Screened at the 2004 SXSW Film Festival)

2. The Talent Given Us
In the spirit of films like About Schmidt and Pieces of April; voyages of reconciliation and bonding that are long overdue, The Talent Given Us is a wonderful example of why every road movie shouldn't be treated with a passing snicker. Shot in a documentary-like style, it follows the journey of the real-life Wagner family who take an impromptu journey to Los Angeles to see the son they've been out of touch with, who also happens to be the director of this film. There's a spontaneity to their conversations that cements its genuineness and adds to the absurdity, particularly with the real find of the clan, Emily Wagner, who is sexy, brilliantly funny and intimidating in that good way. The Talent Given Us is rich and hysterical that hits you in the gut in some way with every mile. (Screened at the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival; playing at the 2005 Sundance Festival)

3. A League of Ordinary Gentlemen
Are you a bowler or would just like a worthy feature to double-bill with Kingpin? Well, this commendably entertaining documentary about the world of professional bowlers. Taking a cue from films like Spellbound and Word Wars, filmmaker Christopher Browne follows around a small group of contenders (including notorious bad boy, Pete Weber) through a season of re-hyping the sport for television ratings. Great characters, big laughs and a helluva climax all combine to make this one of the most entertaining sports documentaries ever made. If spelling bees and scrabble competitions can grab your attention in this form, then why shouldn’t bowling. (Screened at the 2004 SXSW Film Festival)

4. Double Dare
If you don't know Jeannie Epper and Zoe Bell, Amanda Micheli's winning documentary about these two generations of stuntwomen makes you want to give them a high-five and a hug. From Wonder Woman to Xena, we go behind-the-scenes for a front-row seat with the stunts themselves as well as the personal anguish that comes with waiting for that next gig, particularly when age has caught up to a lifelong struggle in a male-dominated profession. Double Dare is exciting, funny and ultimately touching documentary that strips away the padding, gets us inside these women’s lives to the point where we want to be there to catch them when they fall. (Screened at the 2004 SXSW Film Festival)

5. Mitchellville
In only 80 minutes, director John D. Harkrider succeeds where filmmakers like David Lynch and Brian DePalma have only managed to frustrate. Using a dreamlike narrative to decipher the memories of a Wall Street executive involving the relationship with his childhood sweetheart and a suicidal jazz musician, Mitchellville dips its feet in the water of several provocative subjects from class structure and the way forms of art define our collective history to merge into a story that intrigues and ultimately moves us in a way we could never expect. It doesn't toy with and doubleback its audience into a corner. It rewards us with a solution, but never plays like it's exclusively about catching us off-guard. This is a film which urges a second viewing to capture all of its secrets, if only someone will give people the chance to see it a first time. (Screened at the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival; playing at the 2005 Sundance Festival)


15 FILMS ALMOST WORTHY OF THE TOP 25
BAADASSSSS!, The Corporation, Dogville, Fahrenheit 9/11, Finding Neverland, The Ladykillers, Man on Fire, The Mayor of Sunset Strip, Open Water, Shaolin Soccer, Shrek 2, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Spanglish, Team America: World Police, This Old Cub

YEAH, I LIKED THESE TOO
Around the World in Eighty Days, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, The Big Bounce, The Bourne Supremacy, Bright Young Things, Closer, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, The Door In The Floor, A Foreign Affair, Games People Play: New York, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Hotel Rwanda, Intermission, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Kinsey, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Manchurian Candidate, Meet The Fockers, Spartan, Stage Beauty, Undertow

NOT QUITE GOOD ENOUGH
Alfie, Along Came Polly, Benji: Off The Leash, The Clearing, Collateral, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hero, Jersey Girl, Maria Full of Grace, P.S., Secret Window, Shade, Walking Tall, When Will I Be Loved?

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE
The Alamo, The Brown Bunny, Criminal, De-Lovely, A Dirty Shame, Exorcist: The Beginning, Head in the Clouds, Hellboy, Hidalgo, Ladder 49, The Last Shot, A Love Song For Bobby Long, Primer, Ray, Shark Tale, Silver City, Stander, Starsky and Hutch, Suspect Zero, Torque, Van Helsing, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!

AND NOW…..

THE WORST OF 2004

10. The Phantom of the Opera
You pay a third of the cost to see it at the cinema rather than the stage production – you get about that. Let’s all play “Spot the Rolling Set” and “Guess Which Costumes Were Borrowed” and “Let’s Cover Our Ears” and, most importantly, “Let’s Fall Asleep” – “Asleep?” – “Yes, I said asleep, we’re falling asleep, A-SLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPP”

9. Alexander
Oliver Stone has made some of my favorite films. This one let me know how the anti-Natural Born Killers club feel when they watch that one.

8. The Village
Like all of jackass M. Night’s projects, one or two questions and the whole premise derails. Like why does William Hurt, knowing what he knows, send his blind daughter (whom he’s gone to ultimate lengths to protect) out to find medicine? Oh yeah, M. Night, Fuck you and your little “hey look, it’s me” cameos! This is the worst of your crap-filled resume.

7. The Grudge
Director Takashi Shimuzu made a crap horror film called Ju-On: The Curse. He then made Ju-On 2, which starts with a half-hour from the first film. Then he remade Ju-On into Ju-On: The Grudge. Then it became the American remake, The Grudge. Find some NEW material moron because what you started with sucks ass to begin with. How come, instead of just backing into a corner, no one bothers to just kick the little cat-squealing kid in the face?

6. Envy
Ben Stiller. Jack Black. Directed by Barry Levinson. Sat on the shelf for at least a year and a half. I’d say it should have been left there, but then we never would have believed how this threesome could make a movie and not produce a single, solitary laugh, chuckle or smile.

5. Resident Evil: Apocalypse
I may have actually been too hard on the first one. Unquestionably unwatchable.

4. National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers
This film actually played at the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival (where it was called Lady Killers) Guess what? It was the worst film there. As I said in my review, director Gary Preiser wouldn’t know screwball from a set of anal beads. Username “I want my money back” on our site said it even better – “I hope someone violently murders Gary Preisler for making this shit.”

3. 13 Going On 30
What a stunningly inept, thoughtless, intensely stupid and creepy piece of garbage. The poster example of how to misuse a collection of 80s music. Jennifer Garner’s performance is downright bewildering to the point of nausea. This is BY FAR the worst screenplay up-and-down, front-to-back of 2004.

2. You Got Served
As Stan on South Park put so eloquently – “Dude, what the fuck just happened?”

1. Alien vs. Predator
Paul W.S. Anderson may be every fanboy’s whipping boy, but he just keeps proving the point. He’s like the Spielberg of the Bizarro World, making films worse and worse and atrociously worse. He can blame all the studio he wants for cutting him down to a PG-13, there’s nothing here that a few minutes of gore could possibly save. Congratulations, Paul. You successfully managed to kill off two franchises, piss off every comic book, video game and movie lover you’ve come in contact with. You’re not even worthy of being referred to as this generation’s Ed Wood. I have way too much respect for him to demean his infamous name like that.

THE 10 RUNNERS-UP

11. Taxi – Jimmy Fallon tries to be Will Ferrell and fails miserably. Queen Latifah, please shut the fuck up!
12. After The Sunset – Brett Ratner. Stop. Just stop!
13. The Perfect Score – I saw Scarlett Johansson’s panties and the film was still unwatchable.
14. Christmas with the Kranks – The most fascist Christmas movie ever made?
15. Sleepover – Perhaps the creepiest, most inappropriate (and stupid) family film this year.
16. Around the Bend – A 90-minute KFC commercial
17. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid – Giant snake eats minorities while we sleep.
18. Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself – Please, by my guest.
19. Touch of Pink – A romantic, gay, Muslim, screwball, retro-comedy that isn’t even half that
20. The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi – Nothing but CGI blood. Go back to MXC, Takeshi

THE ED WOOD AWARDS
Five films so laughably awful that they belong on Mystery Science Theater 3000. With the right crowd, too much fun to be an excruciating experience, but awful nonetheless.

(5) The Chronicles of Riddick – You had to make-believe what was going on anyway.
(4) Twisted – The worst of the Ashley Judd “procedurals” goes into laugh overdrive during the final act, complete with another Andy Garcia screaming fit.
(3) The Punisher – More like “The Aggravator”. How else do you explain torture-by-popsicle?
(2) Stateside – Val Kilmer’s drill sergeant is a must for anyone into hilariously awful performances.
(1) Catwoman – The movie hits “suck” very early, but Benjamin Bratt’s Tom Lone, the most inept cop since Frank Drebin and Inspector Clouseau is almost worth seeing this by yourself. My recommendation: Gather an MST3K fan group.

AND YET…MORE CRAP!
Beyond the Sea, Birth, Code 46, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Day After Tomorrow, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Enduring Love, Eurotrip, Godsend, A Home at the End of the World, I Robot, King Arthur, Love Object, National Treasure, Ocean's Twelve, The Stepford Wives, Taking Lives, Troy, We Don't Live Here Anymore, Welcome to Mooseport



Sub-categories:
Best/Funniest Gag: Extended vomiting from Team America: World Police
Best Use of Music: The entire use of the soundtrack in Garden State
Best Line of Dialogue / Favorite Line of Dialogue or Dialogue Exchange: “You’re a smelly pirate hooker.” (Anchorman)
Best Dramatic Pause: (More like just a pause) but the little freeze-frame at the end of the “Raindrops Are Fallin’ On My Head” sequence in Spider-Man 2 or Paul Giamatti’s look at the couple having sex in Sideways
Best Fight: Anchorman
Best Newcomer: Morgan Spurlock “Super Size Me”
The “You Must Stop Making Movies” Award: Paul W.S. Anderson, M. Night Shyamalan, Brett Ratner
Worst Decision by an Actor: Adrian Brody “The Village”
Worst Decision by an Actress: Chloe Sevigny “The Brown Bunny”
Best Ensemble: The Aviator
Best Brainless Movie: The Bourne Supremacy
Worst "Smart" Film: Primer
Movie That Made You The Hungriest: The Terminal and Spanglish (who doesn’t want that sandwich Adam Sandler makes)
Most Underrated (Critically): The Butterfly Effect and The Girl Next Door
Guiltiest Pleasure (Film you like/love that was ravaged by critics & audiences): Paparazzi
Best Action Scene: “L” Train (Spider-Man 2) and the Treetops (House of Flying Daggers)
Most Romantic Scene: First Kisses (Garden State and The Girl Next Door}
The "F. U." Award (Given to someone - director, actor, anyone - you'd like to get out of the movies permanently - based on a film released in 2003): Queen Latifah
Worst Sequel: Ocean’s Twelve
Worst Remake OR Film Based on TV Show: The Grudge or The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
Best Cameo(s): Bruce Campbell “Spider-Man 2” or Tim Robbins “Anchorman” “No commercials, NO MERCY!”
Sexiest shot, moment or scene: Audrey Tautou undressing in the light and dark “A Very Long Engagement”
Best Actor: Cary Elwes “Saw” (Just Kidding) – Paul Giamatti “Sideways”
Best Actress: Natalie Portman “Garden State”
Best Supporting Actor: Clive Owen “Closer”
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett “The Aviator”
Best Director: Michel Gondry “Eternal Sunshine”
Best Cinematography: House of Flying Daggers or A Very Long Engagement
Favorite Song: Team America Anthem (”FUCK YEAH!”)
Favorite Score: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Favorite soundtrack (score or otherwise, best CD, let’s say): Garden State
Favorite moment that made you break down and cry: Bathtub Scene Deleted from “Garden State” (”I can’t get all of these”)
Best Movie That Never Received A Proper Release: Up For Grabs

Favorite Bad movie: Paparazzi or Catwoman (It was fun bashing the latter)
Worst actor: Jimmy Fallon “Taxi”
Worst actress: Emmy Rossum “The Phantom of the Opera”
Most overrated whatever (Picture, actor, director, etc.): Hero
Best Monologue: The Pinot Grape Speech “Sideways” or The Dicks/Pussies/Assholes speech “Team America: World Police”
Favorite Character: Sam “Garden State” or Tom Lone “Catwoman” (dumbest cop ever)
Most nail-biting moment: Final seconds of Hockey Game “Miracle”
Most stomach-turning moment: Cat O’ Nine Tails “The Passion of the Christ” or kicking the dog of the bridge “Anchorman”


Here’s to 2005…don’t waste your money!


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1290
originally posted: 01/11/05 05:32:25
last updated: 01/12/05 05:18:48
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