Posted: 01/27/2005


Oren’s Best Films of 2004

by Oren Golan

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A caveat—this list only includes movies that I actually saw in 2004, so as much as I might think that Hotel Rwanda, Crimson Gold, Without a Paddle, and Sleepover might be future classics, they cannot appear on this list.
1) Eternal Sunsine of the Spotless Mind—A wild thrill-ride anchored by an excellent performance by Kate Winslet, it broke my heart and mended it several times. Along with Before Sunset and Spanglish, this proved to be a very interesting year of subversive “date” films.

2) Before Sunset—Who could have expected that watching Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy having an awkward reunion while walking and talking could be so much fun.

3) Infernal Affairs—Jolly good fun with a mobster who’s really a cop, a cop who’s really a mobster, and plenty of intrigue while each try to find the other one out. Proves that action films don’t need wall-to-wall action to be great.

4) Million Dollar Baby—Eastwood, Swank, and Freeman, oh my.

5) Hero—Any movie with Ziyi Zhang I will go to see, forever—I swear—just please make them all this visually gorgeous.

6) The Saddest Music in the World—Guy Maddin isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ever longed to see Isabella Rossellini standing on glass legs filled with beer then this remains your only choice so far. I thought it was darn funny, although it didn’t have much heart it’s originality scores some extra points.

7) The Bourne Supremacy—Another action film on the subtler side, that takes the viewer on a whirlwind tour of the back alleys of Europe and Russia.

8) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban—The first of the Potter films that actually made me want to go out and read the next book, which I still haven’t done yet… Dark and mysterious, it allowed the characters a little bit of depth.

9) Garden State—I’ll take Natalie Portman’s performance in this little gem over Closer, but that’s what she won a Golden Globe for, so shows you what I know. A promising first feature for Zach Braff.

10) Spanglish—I wasn’t thrilled with this movie when I left the theater, but it’s stuck with me as a strange love story that’s really about parent’s love for their kids brought out through thoughts of infidelity. But it’s also pretty funny, and touches on class/cultural issues.

Also Worthy of Consideration:

Undertow—another golden nugget from David Gordon Green, not yet 30 and already an accomplished filmmaker. Does that bother anyone else?

Zatoichi—Takeshi “Beat” Kitano gets to flex some of his comedic muscle along with his swordsmanship. Check out the special dvd edition that includes a 2nd feature, “Sonatine”—a Kitano classic.

James’ Journey to Jerusalem—Don’t be a “freyer”—learn from James.

When Will I Be Loved—Neve Campbell gives a terrific, sultry performance that takes the art of flirting to another level.

The Terminal—If it weren’t for the wasted time on a love interest story line—even the beauty of Catherine Zeta-Jones didn’t make it worth the effort—this one would’ve rated higher.

Oren Golan is a film critic and lawyer who fights the daily battle for justice on the streets of Chicago.

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