The Best Movies of 2004

Due to time and budget constraints, I was only able to see about 44 of the 250 or so movies released in America in 2004, and many of them had to be DVD rentals.

I did not see any of the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, The Aviator, Ray, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways and Finding Neverland. Nor did I see movies that were raved about, like Maria Full of Grace, Friday Night Lights and National Treasure.

This list may have looked a lot different had I seen these movies. So this is less of a “Best Movies of 2004” and more of a “Best-of-the-2004-Movies-Tim-Olshefski-Was-Able-to-See-So-Far” list. So, with apologies, here they are.

1. Kill Bill Volume 2- I have a hard time recommending Kill Bill Volume 1 because of the gratuitous and glorified violence.

However, I can comfortably recommend Volume 2 for a few reasons: it’s not nearly as violent as Volume 1, it’s perfectly understandable for people who have not seen the prequel and it’s a better movie .

The second half of the Bride’s (Uma Thurman) quest for revenge against Bill (David Carradine), the man who killed her fiancĂ© and everyone else at her wedding rehearsal, is filled with creative and unbelievable scenes and hilarious dialogue that could come only from Quentin Tarantino’s twisted mind. The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei and the flashback to when the Bride discovers she is pregnant are two of the many scenes that are not to be missed.

2. The Passion of the Christ- Hardly the evangelical tool that many Christians were hoping for, The Passion is the most violent movie I have ever seen. It was so difficult to watch that I’m not sure I’ll ever let myself watch it again. One non-Christian reviewer called the violence nearly pornographic.

I would agree if I didn’t understand how the violence symbolized Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love for the world. It would be hard for me to understand the point of the violence if I didn’t already know, understand and believe the story. But I do, and that’s why the movie was so meaningful and moving. (Wait, The Passion is second to Kill Bill? Yes. Send complaints to the editor-in-chief.)

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- This could be the most creative chick flick ever made. A man (Jim Carrey) signs up to have a procedure that will erase his ex (Kate Winslet) from his memory only to realize too late that he doesn’t want the procedure done. A significant portion of the movie takes place in the man’s subconscious as he tries to hold onto those precious memories. It is a surprisingly touching movie.

4. The Ladykillers- There were a number of good comedies released this year, like Napoleon Dynamite, Mean Girls and Starsky and Hutch. But I thought the best one, as well as the most overlooked, was Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Ladykillers.

A group of con-men use a sweet, elderly, African-American Southern Baptist woman’s home as a kick-off point for a casino robbery. Tom Hanks, obviously enjoying himself, does not have an unfunny line as the silver-tongued, Southern “professor.” Those familiar with the Coen Brothers’ work (Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?), will know to expect something totally ridiculous.

5. House of Flying Daggers- Zhang Yimou’s martial arts masterpiece bears strong resemblance to its genre counterparts Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Yimou’s previous work, Hero. Beautifully choreographed action scenes, stunning cinematography and a touching (if also melodramatic) story.

The focus of Flying Daggers is less on the action and more on the romance between a manipulative officer and an equally manipulative, blind assassin.

Honorable Mention: The Incredibles- Everything about this movie, from the action to the dialogue to the characters to the animation, is simply incred… I mean, amazing.

(P.S. You may be wondering why this paper is featuring a Best Movies of 2004 list and not a best-of list for the other forms of media, like TV, theater, music and books. Frankly, it is because I am less familiar, less objective and less passionate about these forms of media.

But for readers who really want to know: the best television show was Arrested Development, the best theater production was Eastern University’s Measure for Measure, the best album was Pearl Jam’s Rearview Mirror: Greatest Hits 1991-2003, and the best book was Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby-or was that from 2002?)

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