Film Honors: 2004

My own personal choices for the year. They reflect not just necessarily what I think is the best or essential cinema, but perhaps resonate with me or inspire, both at the time, and still today. Subject to alter choices if new viewings are worthy enough. Other published Film Honors posts can be found at the menu at the top of the page.

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Picture Editing

The Aviator
Collateral
*** Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ***
Shi mian mai fu
The Passion of the Christ

Directing

Pedro Almodóvar (La mala educación)
Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Alexander Payne (Sideways)
*** Yann Samuell (Jeux d’enfants) ***
Walter Salles (Diarios de motocicleta)

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Unknown outside of France then, and now, director Yann Samuell more than proved himself when he directed Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard together in a love story told like no other. A film that intentionally appears to be both rough around the edges and a visual splendor, demonstrates Samuell’s talent with not only the acting duo, but also shows competence in story-telling, eye-catching flair, and a deep sense of the joy and dangers of love.

Cinematography

*** Bruno Delbonnel (Un long dimanche de fiançailles) ***
Christopher Doyle (Ying xiong)
Eric Gautier (Diarios de motocicleta)
Robert Richardson (The Aviator)
Xiaoding Zhao (Shi mian mai fu)

Actor Lead

Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside)
Gael García Bernal (La mala educación)
Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
*** Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator) ***
Paul Giamatti (Sideways)

Actor Support

David Carradine (Kill Bill: Vol. 2)
Tom Cruise (Collateral)
Rodrigo De la Serna (Diarios de motocicleta)
Thomas Haden Church (Sideways)
*** Clive Owen (Closer) ***

Score Composing

Angelo Badalamenti (Un long dimanche de fiançailles)
John Debney (The Passion of the Christ)
Alexandre Desplat (Birth)
*** James Newton Howard (The Village) ***
Gustavo Santaolalla (Diarios de motocicleta)

M. Night Shyamalan’s consistent dip in film-making form did not somehow make way for his regular collaborators to jump ship. The Village is an okay film with some shining moments, but a disappointment without any doubt. Aside from the magnetic central performance from Bryce Dallas Howard, composer James Newton Howard teams up with the uber-talented violinist Hilary Hahn to produce a music composition so far beyond the caliber of the film, it also serves as one of the finest film scores of the decade.

Actress Lead

Marion Cotillard (Jeux d’enfants)
Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village)
*** Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace) ***
Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake)
Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

Actress Support

Cate Blanchett (The Aviator)
Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
*** Natalie Portman (Closer) ***
Meryl Streep (The Manchurian Candidate)
Yenny Paola Vega (Maria Full of Grace)

Mike Nichols and Patrick Marber teaming up is a big deal, and although the film version of Closer constantly lacks the full impact it desires, the acting is ridiculously impressive. Natalie Portman and Clive Owen stand head and shoulders about the rest (you know, Jude Law and Julia Roberts), one an actress delivering a range of emotions and body language within the same character it remains one of Portman’s finest moments, and the other an actor consistently bold in his performances, here chews up the room-filling lines with ease, spitting them out with such venom and charisma – depending on the scene of course.

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Screenwriting Adapted

Tina Fey (Mean Girls)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant (Un long dimanche de fiançailles)
Patrick Marber (Closer)
*** Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (Sideways) ***
Jose Rivera (Diarios de motocicleta)

Screenwriting Original

Pedro Almodóvar (La mala educación)
*** Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) ***
Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace)
Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love)
Yann Samuell (Jeux d’enfants)

An unthinkable notion to explore with a screenplay, something we all somehow think about in our lives, but almost impossible to imagine this could make it to the screen. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is like someone being able to explain the depth of dreams, to portray human memories onto film. The movie achieves its ambitious intentions  like magic (in spite of Kaufman’s standard third act wobbles), applying a true sense of love and loss and regret.

Motion Picture

Un long dimanche de fiançailles (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
La mala educación (Pedro Almodóvar)
Collateral (Michael Mann)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)
Les choristes (Christophe Barratier)
Jeux d’enfants (Yann Samuell)
Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston)
Diarios de motocicleta (Walter Salles)
My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski)
*** Sideways (Alexander Payne) ***

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Sideways somehow has the edge over some really innovative films this year. Alexander Payne’s drama slash comedy is just perfect at times, with a sense of feel-good, vacationing, life enhancing, crossing paths with often irrational, self-doubt, and fumbling social behavior. The superb cast, sun-drenched photography, light jazz music, not to mention a terrific script, and a man behind the camera who can do little wrong – a film that delivers on pretty much every level. A fine, fine motion picture, you don’t have to drink Merlot to appreciate the brilliance of this gem.

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