I was merely a simple middle-school student back in 2004, and my taste in film was pretty undeveloped, to say the least. I vividly remember endlessly quoting, “Tina, you fat lard!” and “She doesn’t even go here!” with classmates in the halls. My brothers and I actually decided to name our family cat Napoleon (luckily, I can get away with saying he was named after that French guy). And to think about how many soppy make-out sessions were soundtracked by Natalie Portman’s go-to “life-changing” song sends a shudder down my spine.
2004 was also the year where: Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” ruled; celebrities got sexy in Mike Nichols’s “Closer”; Jamie Foxx starred in films for which he was later nominated for TWO Oscars; wine was the name of the game in Alexander Payne’s “Sideways”; children of all ages ran to see the new Harry Potter movie (the best of the bunch, in my opinion); people couldn’t stop arguing over Michael Moore and “Fahrenheit 9/11”; the revolt against M. Night Shyamalan began.
After ten years long years, looking back has a way of mutating perceptions and opinions. It appears that a lot of love thrown at certain films has soured and become antagonistic or mocking. “Napoleon Dynamite” is just something we used to know and love, and the jokes will now maybe lead to a mere chuckle. “Garden State” is actually a gushy, saccharin mess that is most memorable for its mega-popular indie mixtape of a soundtrack. One positive is that “Mean Girls” actually holds up and is now regarded as one of the greatest teen comedies of all time.
And yet, while our love may have faded for some, certain films that were shunned or given little attention have been given a second chance. When it was released, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” was seen as the first scratch on Wes Anderson’s pristine track record. Now, opinions have brightened, and the film is seen as a unique stepping stone on Anderson’s continual growth as a filmmaker (bonus: it contains one of Bill Murray’s greatest performances). Jonathan Glazer’s Nicole Kidman-starring “Birth” was seen as an unsavory, high-minded melodrama, but is now viewed as a Kubrick-esque portrait of the upper class, imbued with deep mystery and complimented by an amazing, ever-shifting score by Alexandre Desplat. I admit that I get a little giddy when little-loved films are given the critical reconsideration they deserve.
While all of the films previously mentioned were important to 2004’s year in film (regardless of whether they were “good” or “bad”), they weren’t quite the cream of the crop. That’s why I’ve compiled a top ten list of the “best” films of 2004 to guide you on your nostalgia trips. Today I’ll be covering the bottom five, and tomorrow I’ll be exploring the top five, so be sure to check in. Yes, lists are all relative and subjective, but when the films are this great, it’s hard to object.
|10. “Spider-Man 2” (directed by Sam Raimi, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco)|
|9. “I Heart Huckabees” (directed by David O. Russell, starring Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg, Isabelle Huppert, Jason Schwartzman, Naomi Watts)|
|8. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (directed by Adam McKay, starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard)|
|7. “Tarnation” (directed by and starring Jonathan Caouette)|
|6. “The Aviator” (directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, John C. Reilly, Alan Alda, Alec Baldwin, Kate Beckinsale)|