January 02, 2005

MOVIES: Best of 2004

If they let me pick the Oscar nominees, here's what you'd see in the biggest categories:

House of Flying Daggers
The Incredibles
Bad Education
The Five Obstructions

The top three are awfully close, and if you asked me tomorrow, they'd probably be in a different order. The rest of my top ten for the year: Paper Clips, Touching the Void, Kitchen Stories, Dogville, and The Door in the Floor. Not a good year for the Hollywood studios.

Gael Garcia Bernal, Bad Education
Jeff Bridges, The Door in the Floor
Colin Farrell, A Home at the End of the World
Jamie Foxx, Ray
Paul Giamatti, Sideways

Not a surprising list, I suppose, with the exception of Farrell, whose character was a walking distillation of all of the worst "all you need is love" excesses of the 60s. Bobby was so trusting and innocent and loving that you should have wanted to smack some sense into him; Farrell managed to make him not only believable, but likable.

Jennifer Garner, 13 Going on 30
Nicole Kidman, Dogville
Tea Leoni, Spanglish
Isabella Rossellini, The Saddest Music in the World
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Volume 2

There's a list of names you won't hear on Oscar nomination day. It was an absolutely horrible year for leading female roles, and you had to look in some weird places to find them. Garner, in the female version of Big, was every bit as good as Tom Hanks had been; Leoni's performance was trashed by most critics, but I thought it was a remarkable and brave performance. Rossellini in Saddest Music may have been more a case of ideal casting than of great acting, but either way, she was perfect for the part.

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
Phil Davis, Vera Drake
Gordon Liu, Kill Bill Volume 2
Josh Peck, Mean Creek
Peter Sarsgaard, Kinsey

Not enough people saw Mean Creek, in large part because it was such a miserably hard thing to market. It was rated R, so teens couldn't get in; it was a movie about teens, so a lot of adults wrote it off. The ad campaign that made it look like a stupid Deliverance ripoff didn't help. But it was a fine small movie, with a talented cast of young actors (Rory Culkin was the last name I cut from my Best Actor list), and Josh Peck's work as the bully was marvelous stuff.

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
Regina King, Ray
Laura Linney, Kinsey
Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Meryl Streep, The Manchurian Candidate

Not much to say about this group, except that Regina King's spot could just as easily have been filled by Sharon Warren or Kerry Washington, both also from Ray.

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