Aye, aye, aye... another tough one.
If you recall my inner turmoil yesterday, I have come to a resolution with regard to it. If the film wasn't in theaters in my area until 2005 but was in limited release in 2004, I will count it as a 2005 film. I'm going by Academy rules on this one to make it easier. The reason behind this decision is because foreign films really muck it up a bit. For example, a film like Hero, which came out in the States in 2004, was actually released in its native China in 2002 and was on the festival circuit throughout 2003. That should still be considered a 2004 film, in my mind.
If you don't agree, take it up with management (management says, "tough luck," by the way).
Here you go...
1. Million Dollar Baby
Yes, this was a limited release film at the end of 2004, but I wasn't afforded the opportunity to see it until 2005. An absolutely brilliantly acted, written, photographed, and directed film about an aging boxing trainer and the young woman who wants him to train her. As usual, Morgan Freeman is great in the "voice of reason" sort of role he typically takes. But the big kudos go to Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood for their heartwrenching portrayals. This film deserved every Oscar it won.
2. Batman Begins
The Bat is back! Just when everyone thought the franchise was dead (thank you, Joel Schumacher!), Director Christopher Nolan gives the Caped Crusader a breath of fresh air by returning him to the gritty, vengeance-laden vision that Frank Miller dreamed up in the Dark Knight comic series. Combine that with spectacular casting in Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne and a supporting cast that includes Morgan Freeman (hmm, wonder if I can get him in any more of the top films of the year?), Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, and Gary Oldman and you've got a great film in the works. The film is dark, depressing, violent, and oh-so daring. I can't wait for the next two films. Oh yes, there are two more being penned.
Just kidding! Wanted to see if you were paying attention.
3. (for real this time) Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
At the heart of it all, I'm a geek. And Star Wars is my Bible. After being disappointed by the first movie in the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace), I was picked up a bit by Attack of the Clones. This film continued the heightening streak of the trilogy. I loved it. Yes, it was heavy on CGI, but the writing was a bit better (not too terribly much) and there was much greater emotion being doled out by a couple of the actors, particularly Ewan MacGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi. At least they ended the films on a high note. The series is over, isn't it?
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry and his friends are starting to get up there in years and the writers and directors of these last two films are finally exploring the characters' emotional depth and allowing the actors to really "let it all out," per se. It's about time, too. While not as good as 2004's Prisoner of Azkaban, it is still a damn fine film in its own right. I'm like a little kid as I sit in the theater and let the magic unfold around me. Oh, why couldn't these books and films have come out when I really was a little kid?
5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
It's the film that started the tabloid uproar and ended a beloved modern movie marriage. But, once you get past all that, you find a film about a bored married couple who both happen to be government assassins and don't realize this fact about each other. It's a really fun film with some serious ass kicking going on. I could watch Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie whomping on each other for hours on end, it was that cool.
I know, I know. These are pretty mainstream films. I realize that. However, there are no good arthouse theaters in my immediate area. The one good one in St. Charles closed down at the beginning of the year. So I have to wait for many of the smaller, independent films to come out on DVD before I can watch them. And there are several of these movies that I think could've potentially made this list based on what I've read and heard from others. This list would include Millions (sitting at home waiting to be watched); A History of Violence; Good Night, and Good Luck; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; Green Street Hooligans; and Syriana.