A Look Back at 2004

    What a year: Bush is in his second term and Britney got married a second time. Martha “It’s a good thing” Stewart is now doing time for doing something that wasn’t so good. In February, Americans were up in arms about Janet’s breast, and not so up in arms about watching a breast augmentation on reality TV. A random engineer from Berkeley is now rolling in cash for being, well, shit at singing. Americans gathered together to mourn the loss of six familiar friends and four ladies who loved their Manolo Blahniks. Inded, if art truly imitates life, I’m still waiting for the film to come out. Sadly, such was not the case with the movies of 2004, but here anyway is the requisite roundup of the year’s most important movies.

    In “Finding Neverland,” Johnny Depp took off the eyeliner to become the author of the much-loved “Peter Pan.” It was the commendable performance of young Freddie Highmore that stole the scene in the movie, leaving everyone reaching for a tissue.

    Zach Braff, of “Scrubs” fame, took off his scrubs and had his directorial and screenwriting debut in the summer hit “Garden State,” a quirky romance that gave everyone a nice, fuzzy, warm feeling inside.

    Encroaching upon his teenage years, Harry Potter returned to screens in June in the third installment of the popular Harry Potter series. In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón took on the mammoth task of following in the success of the previous Potter films, but he won critics’ and fans’ approval alike with his darker, edgier style. Both kids and adults were treated to “The Incredibles” in November, where Pixar continued its winning streak with a movie that was, well, incredible.

    Gore was a key theme in many of 2004’s movies; one need only bring up Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” The gore factor in Gibson’s epic was exceeded only by Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “Team America.” Only the makers of South Park could dream up a movie where puppets get political and save the world with a few bumps and humps along the way.

    After a long wait, Asian film buffs were treated to the much anticipated “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers,” both by esteemed Chinese director Zhang Yimou. Also from Asia was “Infernal Affairs,” the tale of a mole in the Hong Kong police and an undercover cop in a Hong Kong triad. If flying daggers weren’t your weapon of choice, then perhaps a cricket bat ought to do it? “Shaun of the Dead” showed that not only could one seek comfort in a pint at the pub, but it also makes for a good hiding place if you’re running away from zombies.

    Epics made a big comeback this year with movies such as “Troy” and “Alexander.” Both of which, however, were disappointing to say the least. One might describe “Troy” as an opportunity to see Brad bronzed and prancing around, but other than the obvious aesthetic value of “Troy,” the movie was a Trojan horse in its own right. And if Americans couldn’t get enough of the Greeks, there was also “Alexander” — with a different bronzed actor prancing around, this time an Irishman playing a Macedonian … go figure.

    One of 2004’s “It” girls, Lindsay Lohan, owes much of her rise to stardom to the witty comedy “Mean Girls.” Garnering much praise from critics across the board, Tina Fey of “Saturday Night Live” managed to capture the cattiness of high school. And of course the target of any mean girl is the dork, as was the case in “Napoleon Dynamite.” If there’s one lesson to be learned from this film, it is to not underestimate that socially awkward kid with the ginger hair, squinty eyes, boots and dance skills — he’s up to something.

    2004 was also a year of sequels, and surprisingly, they mostly lived up to their predecessors. After much, much, much bloodshed and an unbearably long wait, Tarantino fans returned to theatres in March to watch Uma finally kill Bill. And was it worth the wait? Definitely. Also returning to screens in 2004 were a loveable green ogre with his verbally incontinent donkey sidekick, and the boy who liked to dress in red and blue spandex and swing from buildings.

    Taking a step away from fiction, documentaries were suddenly the cool thing to watch. Michael Moore, author of New York Times bestseller “Stupid White Men,” put together one of the year’s most-talked-about docu-films. In typical Moore style, the polemic “Fahrenheit 9/11” lashes out at President George W. Bush and his administration and had audiences across the country booing, jeering, cheering and crying. Who would have thought that the chubby guy from Michigan could win the Palme d’Or? Clearly the approval of the Cannes Film Festival jury was not enough; Moore got his shiny trophy and Bush got his second term in office. Another documentary that had audiences squirming in their seats was “Super Size Me.” Who could look at a Big Mac in the same way after watching Morgan Spurlock throw up his dinner?

    Award season is fast approaching, and rumors are beginning to surface. The biggies of 2004, such as “Ray,” “Kinsey” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Aviator” and “Sideways” — which was adapted from the novel by UCSD alumnus Rex Pickett — all look to be possible contenders in the race for the big awards.

    So what can I say about 2004? It was an interesting year for movies, to say the least — but it was films such as “Napoleon Dynamite,” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Garden State” that, like the Bride in “Kill Bill,” roared and rampaged their way to become my personal favorites of 2004. Here’s hoping that 2005 is just as entertaining.

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