The Best Movies of 2004, 2005 – Bill’s Picks -- and 2006 (link below)


This is a list of the films in 2004 that I personally consider the most important and worthy of “Best Picture” nomination with any awards-granting entity (including the Oscars).


I will list films that were made available in some cities in the United States during 2004. Some films may have been made earlier and not be eligible for awards for the 2004 year based on various rules of various organizations.


  1. Bad Education  (La mala educacion) (Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Pedro Almodovar, in Spanish with Eng. Subtitles, NC-17).  This film is a layered mystery that presents a lot of difficult issues (gay lost loves, the “problems” with priests in the Roman Catholic Church, blackmail, greed, screenwriting, making it in the movies). The film gathers momentum as a Hitchcock-like mystery despite its social content. This, more than any other film this year, seems like a film that I could have written (though in English), and Almodovar’s mind works a like mine (as does his character Enrique).  But pedophilia is not such an important point in this film as is adult passion where homosexuality is a normal part of life.


  1. Garden State (Fox Searchlight Pictures, dir. Zach Braff, PG-13) is an ambitious independent film that presents a likeable young actor coming to terms with his own life after a family death. Again, this resonates with me personally, and I identify with what Braff is getting at. This film resonates more with me than does Sideways.


  1. The Passion of the Christ (New Market films, in Aramaic with English subtitles, dir. Mel Gibson, R) presents the Passion story with graphic, well, Passion. I admire ambitious Gibson’s work here for his conviction and his determination to express his own beliefs and faith, even if I do not agree with everything he says (I don’t). NewMarket is releasing a “gentler” version called “The Passion Recut” (presumably PG-13) on March 11, 2005.


  1. Ray (Universal, dir. Taylor Hackford, PG-13) presents a biography of blind artist Ray Charles (up through 1966).  This is both a film about music, making a case for his own message, as it is about the issues of Ray’s life. Ray is a hero, even if flawed, almost fatally—but he overcomes. Jamie Foxx just has to get a nod for best actor.


  1. The Woodsman (New Market films, dir. Nicole Kassell, R) presents Walter (Kevin Bacon), in his mid 40s, on parole from prison after conviction of sex with a minor girl—pedophilia. The film gets its power from the bald-faced simplicity of the screenwriting.


  1. Bear Cub (Cachorro) (TLA, dir. Miguel Albaladejo, in Spanish with English subtitles, R) presents an HIV+ gay man who winds up raising his nephew after the boy’s mother is busted for drugs abroad. The film is a valuable addition to the debate over gay parents and indirectly gay marriage.


  1. Hero (Ying xiong) (Miramax, dir. Yimou Zhang, in Mandarin Chinese sub English) presents Jet Li (“Nameless”) as the hero in a dynastic conflict—in cinematography so stunning as to take the viewer to another planet.


  1. Hotel Rwanda (United Artists, dir. Terry George) provides a riveting account of how a hotel manager (Don Cheadle) saves his guests during the massacres in Rwanda in 1994. Some of this film was shot on location in Kigali, Rwanda. This is an echo of The Year of Living Dangerously and just needs Linda Hunt.


  1. The Assassination of Richard Nixon (ThinkFilm, dir. Niels Mueller) shows a man who almost made it in life, perhaps, but has become a loser on the way down. It becomes an exercise in self-reflection to watch everything around him collapse, down to the bad news in the mail. A lot of good stuff about sales culture. The assassination attempt in the airport, with pre-echoes of 9/11, almost seems superfluous. What this movie does not have is a hero. You need other films on this page for that.


  1. A Very Long Engagement (“Un long dimanche de fiancailles”)  (Warner Independent Pictures, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet) is an epic long distance love story set in World War I with battle scenes as graphic as those of Saving Private Ryan. We want to know even more about how Gaspard Ulliel’s character prevails over the mayhem. 


2005 – Bill’s Picks


            1. Brokeback Mountain (Focus, dir. Ang Lee) traces a twenty-year relationship between two cowhands who love each other with more psychological integrity than they love their wives. This film provides an important moral exploration of individualism v. social conformity. It’s not really a “gay” movie after all, but it will make future films with similar themes easier to find $$$. WINS GOLDEN GLOBE FOR BEST DRAMA, 2005 (1/16/2006)


            2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Warner Bros., dir. Mike Newell) takes us to Ms. Rowling’s world and makes us live in it. Harry is now a young man and no longer a boy, and it shows in Daniel Radcliff’s appearance and performance. 


            3. Jarhead (Universal, dir. Sam Mendes) gives us an intimate view of military life in Desert Shield and Desert Storm from the viewpoint of a rather charismatic young soldier played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is also very grown up. 


            4. Kids in America (Launchpad, dir. Josh Stolberg) essentially Gregory Smith’s comedy film about free speech in high school. Maybe an odd choice, but the movies have almost never taken up this topic before.


            5. Good Night, and Good Luck (Warner Independent/Participant, dir. George Clooney)  Great black-and-white movie making, about Edward R. Murrow’s takedown of Tall Gunner Joe McCarty in the 50s.


            6. Syriana (Warner Bros./Participant, dir. Stephen Gaghan) fascinating layered and labyrinthine look at the Middle East, the CIA, the war on terror and the oil business


            7. Walk on Water (Samuel Goldwyn, dir. Eytan Fox). Maybe this belongs to 2004, but it is a fascinating matchup between an Israeli assassin and a charismatic young gay man.


            8. Thumbsucker (Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Mike Mills) is the best of the “smaller” family films this year, as it presents a very likeable high school student, potential debate star, going though his own rites of personal passage.


            9. Match Point (Dreamworks, dir. Woody Allen) is a great looking and detailed mystery drama of the British upper class, from the point of view of a past-peak tennis star (Jonathan Rhys-Meyes) who remains so likeable despite his total immorality in the end. This is not exactly Hitchcock (it is Woody Allen, after all), but it shows that any amoral character can be made likeable in a visually spectacular thought experiment.


            10. Hustle & Flow (Paramount Classics, dir. Craig Brewer) is a blowout film of the coming of life of a hiphop star, played with great virtuosity by Terrence Howard. Remember, as in the song, “It’s hard out there for a pimp!” 


            11. The Constant Gardner (Focus, dir. Fernando Mereilles) is a spectacular story set in Europe and Africa about the exploitation of African peoples by corporate giants (there is a tie-in perhaps to “Darwin’s Nightmare”). Fiennes has to investigate the murder of his wife, who considered her work more important than “family.”


            12. Paradise Now (Warner Independent, dir. Hany Abu-Assad) gives a chilling and detailed look at what two appealing Palestinian young men who are “drafted” to become suicide bombers go through, even bodily.


            13. Cache (“Hidden”) (Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Michael Haneke), from France, recreates a situation where someone, at the prime of his productive life, is haunted by someone from the distant past who feels aggrieved by him, with unsolicited surveillance videos as the communication device. It could have been done with the Internet. A sensation at Cannes.


            14. Capote (United Artists, Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Bennett Miller, is a chilling recreation of the writing of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” and of how a somewhat asocial person becomes a star. Indirectly, it recounts the murder case itself.


            15. Crash (Lions Gate, dir. Paul Haggis) is a fascinating Altman-like film with a chain-link plot about racial tensions in modern day LA.


Blogspot link for 2006 Picks.



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