The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Monday, December 15, 2014
THE TEN-YEAR CURSE: In December, it is customary for critics to list their favorite films of the year. Since I am not able to keep up with new releases as they appear in theaters, I do something else: I offer top-10 lists for 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and so on. This has become a tradition here at The Perpetual Three-Dot Column. Indeed, at this point, it's practically the only thing I use the site for.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 2004, it gave its Best Picture award to Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby. On balance, I liked that movie. But I didn't like it enough to put on my list:

1. Bad Education
Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar

No one wrings meaning from melodrama like Almodóvar does.

2. Kill Bill: Vol. 2
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

The second installment of the Kill Bill sequence deepens our sense of the story's characters, treats this objectively silly material seriously, and somehow makes me take it seriously too. Not by loudly proclaiming its seriousness, as so much trash aspiring to arthood does, but by earning my respect; by letting me get attached to these pulp characters with their truth serums, their kung fu superpowers, and their deeply human attachments and resentments and revealing little lies.

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Directed by Michel Gondry
Written by Charlie Kaufman

The best of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl movies, not least because it subverts every other Manic Pixie Dream Girl movie.

4. The Wire 3
Written by David Simon, Ed Burns, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Rafael Alvarez, and Joy Lusco
Directed by Ed Bianchi, Steve Shill, Rob Bailey, Ernest Dickerson, Dan Attias, Leslie Libman, Tim Van Patten, Agnieszka Holland, Alex Zakrzewski, Christine Moore, and Joe Chappelle

In which reform turns out to be difficult for an individual and just about impossible for an institution.

5. Deadwood
Written by David Milch, Malcolm MacRury, Jody Worth, Elizabeth Sarnoff, John Belluso, George Putnam, Bryan McDonald, Ricky Jay, and Ted Mann
Directed by Walter Hill, David Guggenheim, Alan Taylor, Ed Bianchi, Michael Engler, Dan Minahan, and Steve Shill

Studies in state-building.

6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach

"That's an endangered species at most. What would be the scientific purpose of killing it?" "Revenge."

7. Sideways
Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Payne and Jim Taylor, from a novel by Rex Pickett

The movie that made the critical establishment take note of Virginia Madsen. (Me, I've been a fan since Candyman.)

8. Palindromes
Written and directed by Todd Solondz

The most dark and sardonic treatment of abortion that I've ever seen on film, outdoing even Citizen Ruth.

9. The Incredibles
Written and directed by Brad Bird

"Everyone's special" does not, in fact, mean that no one is special, because people can have different specialties. But I get the point.

10. Team America: World Police
Directed by Trey Parker
Written by Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady

When future generations want to try to get a handle on the Bush years, they should watch this movie. I wouldn't say it explains the era, but at least it should give them a sense of what it was like to be there.

Honorable mentions:

11. Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Koreeda)
12. Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki)
13. In the Realms of the Unreal (Jessica Yu)
14. The Assassination of Richard Nixon (Niels Mueller)
15. Panorama Ephemera (Rick Prelinger)
16. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater)
17. Garden State (Zach Braff)
18. Light Is Calling (Bill Morrison)
19. Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow)
20. Primer (Shane Carruth)

Of the films of 2004 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Undertow.

posted by Jesse 8:17 PM
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