Oscar on my mind
From Jesus to Spidey, movie critic Bob Grimm heralds the most statue-worthy film fodder of 2004 to date
A majority of the year has passed, and with five months left, there aren’t too many released films that can be considered major Oscar contenders. While the critically applauded Fahrenheit 9/11 is probably a lock for Best Documentary, I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar leaves it out of the Best Picture category. Jesus has a good chance for ultimate glorification with The Passion of the Christ, but some Academy members might be put off by the fact that he took an awful lot of whip lashes and shamelessly displayed his godlike bleeding ability.
The coming months are traditionally the time for Oscar fare, and I have high hopes for films like The Aviator (Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio), The Life Aquatic (Bill Murray stars in the next one from director Wes Anderson) and I Heart Huckabee’s (David O. Russell, director of Three Kings, has a cast that includes Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman and Jude Law).
Here’s a list of 2004’s 10 best films so far. As you might notice, I have a fondness for movie characters who return from the dead and intense fast-food vomiting.
The Passion of the Christ: If Mel Gibson were to die and go to heaven, Jesus would be all freaked out. He’d be constantly looking over his shoulder, worried that prankster Mel would be staging a vicious sneak attack with the ol’ cat o’ nine tails. The Pope insists that this movie is “The way it was!” which sort of makes him presumptuous and insane. I flat-out found this movie to be an incredible statement on sacrifice and following through on one’s promises at all costs. I felt this while managing to expel Gibson’s nut-ball promo appearances and the Pope’s wacky-assed mumbling from my mind. Jim Caviezel is terrific as the J-Man, and Gibson knows how to put a good-looking, powerful movie together, despite having a few screws loose and a criminally ignorant dad. The Passion is 2004’s best film as of July.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Jim Carrey—who sucked hyena balls in The Majestic, a dreary attempt for further recognition as a serious actor—finds the right balance of Jim the Nut and Jim the Actor with this wildly innovative movie. Carrey plays a mopey-face going through post-breakup trauma, only to find out his ex (Kate Winslet) has had memories of him erased from her mind. Charlie Kaufman wrote the screenplay, and David Cross makes an appearance, further cementing its goodness.
The Ladykillers: Unjustly maligned! This is the funniest film of the year so far, and Tom Hanks gets a chance to leave his identity behind for the most cracked performance of his career. This film revels in how conventionally silly it is, and the Coen brothers, as usual, make every frame of their movie a brilliant work of art. Hanks should be recognized for his perfectly modulated, daring performance, but he’ll most certainly get more year-end accolades for his useless work in The Terminal (more on that later).
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Not impressed by the first one, severely liked the second, and absolutely loved the third. Director Alfonso Cuarón takes the boy wizard to all-new, totally creepy territories, and it works beautifully. Kudos to producers for taking some major creative risks. This is the first time I’ve truly enjoyed Gary Oldman since the late ‘90s.
Kill Bill: Vol. 2: The conclusion of Tarantino’s epic is just as satisfying as Vol. 1. Looking forward to the intended eventual release of Kill Bill as one film (Tarantino screened it as one movie recently and has hinted at an ultimate-edition DVD). Uma Thurman isn’t getting the credit she deserves for making the Kill Bill series pump. David Carradine (as Bill) probably has a better chance at an Oscar nom than Uma, and while he’s great, that’s a little unfair.
Dawn of the Dead: I actually preferred this one over the very good 28 Days Later. George Romero’s classic zombie tale gets a rethinking, with Sarah Polley actually showing her face in a big-studio motion picture. Can’t wait for the unrated DVD on this one (more gore!), and its success at the box office has prompted Fox to green-light a real Romero zombie flick from the master himself. This means that, in the near future, zombies will quit running around like they are on crank and revert to that plodding, shuffling pace.
Baadasssss! Hey, I caught Jaws 4 the other night, and it co-starred Mario Van Peebles, the director and star of this great movie about the making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (directed by his pops, Melvin). Mario has come a long way, and he not only redeems himself here for Jaws 4, but Highlander III as well. By the way, his death scene in Jaws 4 is the single-worst scene ever put to celluloid by anyone. Don’t believe me? Well, rent it. On second thought, don’t do that. Stay away from that movie. Build a large barrier within your mind that will prevent you from renting or watching Jaws 4. If it should show up on your television, and you should catch even a few minutes of it accidentally, promptly hit your TV with a tire iron, renounce television viewing for approximately 17 years, and you might (I repeat, might) be OK.
Anchorman: All hail Will Ferrell for giving us the best empty-headed experience of summer 2004. His phone-booth breakdown is the stuff of greatness, Steve Carell plays one of cinema’s all time great dumb-asses, and the words “I’m going to punch you in the ovary” actually make it into a mainstream movie.
Super Size Me: I’m picking this one over this summer’s other big documentary release (the one where Britney Spears and John Ashcroft make total asses of themselves) because, quite frankly, I enjoyed it more. Poor bastard Morgan Spurlock decides that eating nothing but McDonald’s for a month is a great idea for a movie, and his liver nearly ejects itself from his body as a result. While I enjoyed Fahrenheit 9/11, Spurlock impresses me more than Michael Moore. The guy puked up a super-size order of french fries and a quarter-pounder for his art. That’s commitment!
Hellboy/Spider-Man 2: Spider-Man 2 is a blast and deserves much of the critical praise it’s receiving. But let us take a moment to remember Guillermo del Toro’s equally good take on a less-iconic comic figure. Ron Perlman is awesome as Hellboy, and a sequel is already in the works. As for Spidey, I liked the Superman II plot and had a great time with Tobey Maguire’s sometimes eccentric interpretation of Peter Parker.
While I admire the films above, some certainly stand a chance of being bumped off the list in the coming months. On the flipside, The Terminal has earned a secure spot on my year-end suckage list. I love Hanks and Spielberg, but they did a nasty, horrible thing when they made that movie. Now we have to wait longer for Indy 4 because Spielberg felt compelled to film a movie with Hanks hanging around an airport sucking on ketchup packets. Damn!