The Entries


Mubarak Ali

Michael J. Anderson

Geoff Andrew

Saul Austerlitz

Martyn Bamber

Mike Bartlett

Steve Benedict

Alexander Bisley

Stephen Brower

Thomas Caldwell

Mark Campbell

Michael Campi

Lorena Cancela

Michelle Carey

Neel Chaudhuri

Matthew Clayfield

Stephen Cone

Paul Coughlin

Adrian Danks

Brian Darr

John Demetry

Jorge Didaco

Russell Edwards

David Ehrenstein

Yaniv Eyny

Jean-Michel Frodon

Cynthia Fuchs

Chris Fujiwara

Geoff Gardner

Antony I. Ginnane

Chiranjit Goswami

Aaron Graham

Engin Gülez


Although there weren’t any essential retrospectives for me this year (as the Yasujiro Ozu retrospective was last year), I was pleased to have found some early film highlights at the beginning of the year from two perennial favourite programs – the Film Comment Selects series (a collection of noteworthy unreleased films) and Rendez-vous with French Cinema – which set the tone for several of this year’s eclectic, but uniquely memorable slate of accidental discoveries from new and emerging filmmakers, contemporary filmmakers who are clearly in their prime, as well as pleasant surprises from veteran filmmakers whose works seemed to have momentarily ventured off into unexpected trajectories before returning to assured form with their latest offerings.

In preferential order:

The World

Story of Marie and Julien (Jacques Rivette, 2003)
The World (Jia Zhangke, 2004)
War at a Distance (Harun Farocki, 2003)
Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003)
Last Life in the Universe (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2003)
Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (Theo Angelopoulos, 2004)
Kings and Queen (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004)
2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004)
Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar, 2004)
Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembene, 2004)

Honourable mentions:

Carlos Saura’s taut, lyrical, and unnerving The Seventh Day (2003) was, in some ways, a refreshing antidote to the manipulative excess of Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003) and made all the more relevant by its underlying factual core. Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s Born into Brothels (2004) and Alison Maclean and Tobias Perse’s Persons of Interest (2003) are thoughtful reminders of what humanity, faith and perseverance truly mean in this demoralising climate of arrogant insularity and intolerance of otherness. Jean-Luc Godard’s Notre Musique (2004) and Michelangelo Antonioni’s Michelangelo Eye to Eye (2004) restored my (at times tenuous) connection with these seminal filmmakers after a recent history of personally confounding experiences with some of their late period work. Lastly, for me, the short film Truth and Poetry (2003) could not exist apart from the integral presentation of its irrepressible author, Peter Kubelka, at the Views from the Avant-Garde program at the New York Film Festival, which elevated the experience from merely anecdotal to rare privilege.

Acquarello is a NASA Design Engineer and author of the Strictly Film School website.

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Mubarak Ali

The following films were seen either in general theatrical release or at film festival screenings in Auckland, New Zealand, throughout the year 2004. In most cases, these are films that have created their own universe by disregarding (or at least modifying) the rules of narrative storytelling or character development, and have invited new perspectives of “seeing”.

Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)
No other film this year was so formally daring or blissfully liberating in its attempt to represent Love and Lust through a structural dichotomy. The final act of animalistic primitivism is teasingly perched between the static and the dynamic, the spiritual and the sexual, the mystical and the mythical; and it is the rare moment when Transcendence has been achieved through images.

Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
After Tape and Waking Life, where else could Linklater’s love stream to, but here, surely one of the most irresistibly romantic films ever made. We’ll forgive him for School Of Rock, and call Before Sunset a culmination of his obsession with human relationships suspended in (real) time.

Twentynine Palms (Bruno Dumont, 2003)
Narrative development is held at longer-than-arm’s length until the two shocking events in the last reel elevate the film to some sort of abstract contextual meditation on sex and violence, phobias and madness. It’s the most indignantly uncompromising yet hypnotically watchable film of the year, and through Dumont’s nihilistic treatment of his own inflammatory characters displaced in an appropriately foreign landscape, it becomes a statement on the boundaries of Cinema itself, and Dumont’s canvas is stretched to the far reaches.

Dealer (Benedek Fleigauf, 2004)
Dealer is all about style being substance in its embodiment of a cold, cold hell on earth; so palpable is the guilt and seemingly endless cycle of self-debasement in the final moments of this drug dealer’s life (mesmerisingly shot in long, circling takes) that even a shot of the rising sun is suggestive of the act of weeping.

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2004)

Cowards Bend the Knee (Guy Maddin, 2003)
Male sexual pathos that playfully unspools as a quasi-silent film in a drop of semen!

Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)

Crimson Gold (Jafar Panahi, 2003)

Father and Son (Alexander Sokurov, 2003)
Beautifully distorted.

Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2004)
The understated sense of hope that inspires this indelibly moving film introduces an almost supernatural element to the proceedings, as exhibited by Kore-eda’s previous films (in other ways, of course, but playing around the recurring theme of Death and its aftermath). And what naturalistic, charming performances from the kids!

Honourable mentions: Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang, 2003), Samaritan Girl (Kim Ki-duk, 2004), The Best of Youth (Marco Tullio Giordana, 2003), Notre Musique.

Mubarak Ali is a Medical Laboratory Scientist based in Auckland, New Zealand, who occasionally contributes to the now-online film journal, The Lumière Reader, to express his tenacious love for the moving image.

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Michael J. Anderson

1. Goodbye, Dragon Inn
2. Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2004)
3. Story of Marie and Julien
4. Zatôichi (Takeshi Kitano, 2003)
5. Crimson Gold
6. Springtime in a Small Town (Tian Zhuangzhuang, 2002)
7. The World
8. Before Sunset
9. Doppleganger (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2003)
10. A Talking Picture (Manoel de Oliveira, 2003)

Runners up (alphabetical): Ana and the Others (Celina Murga, 2002), Café Lumière (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2004), Collateral (Michael Mann, 2004), Notre Musique, 2046, Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, 2004).

Most significant retrospectives: Boris Barnet, Im Kwon-taek, and Maurice Pialat.

Best (belated) theatrical premiere run: Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1991)

Michael J. Anderson lives in New York.

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Geoff Andrew

Best films of 2004 seen anywhere:

Five (Abbas Kiarostami, 2004)
The Company (Robert Altman, 2003)
Look At Me (Agnès Jaoui, 2004)
Triple Agent (Eric Rohmer, 2004)
Million Dollar Baby
Cinevardaphoto (Agnès Varda, 2004)
The Motorcycle Diaries (Walter Salles, 2004)
The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel, 2004)
Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow
Mondovino (Jonathan Nossiter, 2004)
Woman is the Future of Man (Hong Sang-soo, 2004)
Before Sunset
Aaltra (Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern, 2004)
Memories of Murder (Bong Joon-ho, 2003)
Yes (Sally Potter, 2004)
Antares (Götz Spielman, 2004)
The Consequences of Love (Paolo Sorrentino, 2004)
Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2003)
Chemins de traverse (Manuel Poirier, 2003)
My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004)
The Manchurian Candidate (Jonathan Demme, 2004)
Yasmin (Kenny Glenaan, 2004)
Vera Drake
The Aviator (Martin Scorsese, 2004)
Rolling Family (Pablo Trapero, 2004)
Duck Season (Fernando Eimbecke, 2004)
Bad Santa (Terry Zwigoff, 2003)
Turtles Can Fly (Bahman Ghobadi, 2004)

Best films released in British cinemas in 2004:


1. Uzak (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2003)
2. The Company
3. Look at Me
4. Triple Agent
5. A Thousand Months (Faouzi Bensaidi, 2003)
6. The Motorcycle Diaries
7. The Best of Youth
8. The Return (Andrei Zvyagintsev, 2003)
9. Collateral
10. Japanese Story (Sue Brooks, 2003)

Worst films of the year must include Big Fish (Tim Burton, 2003) for its unthinking, disgusting whitewashing of American history; as pernicious as The Last Samurai.

Favourite scenes of the year must include: the dogs turning into dots in Five; Neve Campbell and partner performing a storm-lashed pas de deux to “My Funny Valentine” in The Company; the conversation in a taxi that starts off Collateral; the conversation in a taxi that starts off Look at Me.

Stand-out performances must include: Gael Garcia Bernal in both The Motorcycle Diaries and Bad Education; Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa; Meryl Streep in The Manchurian Candidate.

Conclusion: not a great year for new films, though some of our veteran directors are still making some of the very finest movies around.

Geoff Andrew is Senior Film Editor, Time Out magazine, and London Programmer, National Film Theatre, London.

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Saul Austerlitz

1. Los Angeles Plays Itself
2. The Return
3. Time of the Wolf (Michael Haneke, 2003)
4. Before Sunset
5. I Heart Huckabees (David O. Russell, 2004)
6. Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)
7. Collateral
8. Moolaadé
9. Crimson Gold
10. Code 46 (Michael Winterbottom, 2003)

Saul Austerlitz is a freelance film critic and writes for the New York Press.

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Martyn Bamber

Favourite films seen in the UK in 2004:

Old Boy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
Before Sunset
Bad Education

Open Range (Kevin Costner, 2003)
The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
The Manchurian Candidate
I Heart Huckabees
The Incredibles
(Brad Bird, 2004)
Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1927) restored version, approx. 5hrs, 30 mins
The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) restored Director’s cut
Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) re-release: digital screening
Taxi, an Encounter
(Gabriela David, 2001)

Martyn Bamber provides subtitles for films and television programs, and is a writer for the UK magazine Close-Up Film. He has contributed several articles to CTEQ: Annotations on Film, including notes on Diary of a Lost Girl and The Virgin Spring.

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Mike Bartlett

1. Before Sunset
2. Uzak
3. Nobody Knows
4. The World
5. Zatôichi (Takeshi Kitano, 2003)
6. Tropical Malady
7. Triple Agent
8. The Company
9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
10. Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004) – for being there

Honourable mentions to: Basque Ball: Skin Against Stone (Julio Medem, 2003), The Saddest Music in the World (Guy Maddin, 2003) and Olivier Assayas’ much-maligned Demonlover (2002).

Guilty pleasure: Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004) – great fun!

UK-based Mike Bartlett subtitles films and TV programs for the hearing-impaired. Oh, and he loves movies!

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Steven Benedict

Bad Education
Before Sunset
The Best of Youth
The Bourne Supremacy
(Paul Greengrass, 2004)
The Fog of War
(Errol Morris, 2003)
The Incredibles
Lost in Translation
The Return

Although some of these titles were screened/premiered in 2003, they were not released theatrically in the UK/Ireland until 2004.

Steven Benedict is from 67 Pictures.

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Alexander Bisley

Despite all the rubbish, there were still lots of good and great films screening on general release, and in film festivals, at Wellington cinemas in 2004. It seems to me there’s probably about as many quality works being made as there have ever been. The number of decent releases for stimulating, important documentaries – political or otherwise – is particularly exciting. The following are my top ten general release titles (alphabetically). My festival-only favourite is The Last Train (2003). Of the more than 200 films I saw this year, this film is possibly the best. Russian tyro Alexei A. German Jr’s debut is an anti-war masterpiece that has received scandalously little attention.

21 Grams (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2003)
Control Room (Jehane Noujaim, 2004)
Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut (Richard Kelly, 2001/2004)
Fahrenheit 9/11
In This World
(Michael Winterbottom, 2003)
The Man on the Train (Patrice Leconte, 2002)
Spellbound (Jeffrey Blitz, 2002)
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2003)
The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003)

Plonker of the year? Mad Mel’s The Passion of the Christ (2004), of course. The Passion – without explaining the passion – is about as illuminating and enjoyable as watching an autopsy or a snuff movie.

Alexander Bisley, 22, is the lead film critic for The Dominion Post in Wellington, New Zealand. He also writes on film for several other publications including Salient and The Lumière Reader.

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Stephen Brower

Twentynine Palms

1. Twentynine Palms
Less a traditional narrative and more a psychological meditation on visceral human reaction/response, this deliberately paced masterpiece from former philosopher and self-avowed cinema hater Bruno Dumont is far and away the best film of 2004, and perhaps the best film I’ve seen in several years. The film, quite literally, changed the way I look at cinema – not an easy feat. In fact, I’m inclined not to continue this list, as almost everything else released this year paled in comparison.

2. Chrystal (Ray McKinnon, 2004)
Yet to receive domestic release here, but making the festival rounds, Chrystal was easily the best film I saw at a Los Angeles film festival this year. Veteran character actor and Academy Award winning short film director (The Accountant) Ray McKinnon delivers a brooding character piece that, FINALLY, gets the American South right. Remember all those accolades heaped so unjustly upon Monster’s Ball for its brutally accurate depiction of the rough South? Well, apply them here, because this time, they’re actually true.

3. Before Sunset
A damn near perfect romantic film. Linklater really knows his craft, and he’s nailed it again with this terrific film.

4. Red Lights (Cedric Kahn, 2004)
Director Kahn delivers a stunning return to form for the French “thriller” after a laundry list of disappointments in the genre (Read My Lips, Alias Betty etc.).

5. The Return
An absolute tour de force from the Russian director. Exquisitely paced.

6. Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette, 2003)
A difficult film to criticise in any way. Caouette’s first person documentary is a sharp, focused, and, obviously, intensely personal account of his tumultuous young life.

7. Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Tsai is a master of the poetic, and this film is nothing if not an elegiac tone poem to cinema.

8. Sideways
Fresh off the heels of the abominable About Schmidt, Payne seriously redeems himself by finally making a wonderful film without a trace of smugness or condescension about it.

9. Crimson Gold
Panahi executes Abbas Kiarostami’s socially weighty heist script with skill and precision.

10. Vibrator (Ryuichi Hiroki, 2003)
Another festival fave yet to receive distribution in the US, this hypnotic meditation on companionship and isolation is definitely worth a look.

Worst film of the year: It’s All About Love (Thomas Vinterberg, 2003) – a complete and utter turkey from a man who once upon a time directed a perfect film in Festen (The Celebration).

Stephen Brower works in Sales & Marketing for Vanguard and Sugar Hill Records in Santa Monica, CA. In his spare time he writes film and music articles for clinkmagazine.com.

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Thomas Caldwell

For my 2004 top ten I have limited myself to films that received a first run commercial release in Australian cinemas during 2004. My top ten films (in preferred order) are:

1. Irreversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002)
4. The Cremaster Cycle (Matthew Barney, 1995–2002)
5. Capturing The Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, 2003)
6. Elephant
7. In My Father’s Den (Brad McGann, 2004)
8. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring
9. Silmido (Kang Woo-seok, 2003)
10. Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003)

…with the following honourable mentions:

Bad Santa
A Cold Summer (Paul Middleditch, 2003)
The Company
The Dreamers
The Fog of War
I Heart Huckabees
The Return
Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995)
The Station Agent (Thomas McCarthy, 2003)
Tom White (Alkinos Tsilimidos, 2004)

Although I did not enjoy this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival as much as I have previously, Last Life in the Universe and Old Boy – two films screened there – were highlights and are deserving of a wide release.

However, the biggest highlights in 2004 for me were actually all the wonderful re-releases, reissues and retrospective screenings throughout the year. My five top re-releases/reissues (in preferred order) are:

1. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
2. La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)
3. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965)
4. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)
5. The Goonies (Richard Donner, 1985)

…with special mention to the following film events:

The Jacques Tati festival at the Astor
The Horror festival at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image
The Tim Burstall tribute screening of The Last of the Knucklemen (1979)
The Melbourne Cinémathèque’s screening of Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)

Although I do not wish to further criticise the obviously bad films of 2004, there were several extraordinarily well-received films that I found overwhelmingly mediocre. Hence, I wish to vent my disappointment and irritation toward the most overrated films of 2004:

Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella, 2003)
Garden State (Zach Braff, 2004)
My Architect (Nathaniel Kahn, 2003)
Somersault (Cate Shortland, 2004)
A Very Long Engagement (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004)

Thomas Caldwell is a freelance writer specialising in film criticism, based in Melbourne, Australia.

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Mark Campbell

Bad Santa
Sublime perfection – not just for the grinches! Thornton’s bruising performance is a lovely bookend to his deftly underplayed turn in The Man Who Wasn’t There.

Triumphing over a hokey plot, this film soars. Mann reminds me of De Palma and Scorsese – they all innately understand the jouissance of that pure rush of undiluted genre cinema. Their love of cinema is heartfelt and it effortlessly transmits to the audience.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Gondry’s Human Nature was unfairly maligned by critics, it is a small gem of a film that only loses speed in its final act. Eternal Sunshine holds all the way through, and it does tap at a deeper emotional core than Human Nature. The resonant emotionality all comes down to Jim Carrey’s wistful performance – he scores my vote for best male performance of the year. Jon Brion’s soundtrack needs to be mentioned too – achingly lovely.

Garden State
I resisted seeing this film for the longest time because the trailer made it resemble a half-baked update of The Last Picture Show. Still, I am eternally thankful that I did workshop my aversion as Garden State ties with Somersault for my prize-gong – best film of the year. The only missteps in Garden State are some narrative implausibilities (a decade-plus medication for Braff’s character feels a bit shonky) and some stinginess in character development – Ian Holm and Jean Smart deliver revelatory performances but they aren’t really given much material to work with. However, Natalie Portman more than makes up for these minor gaffes in a star-turn that tells me she is finally living up to the promise first exhibited all those years ago in her debut in Luc Besson’s spectacular The Professional. Working every angle in a role that could easily have veered into saccharine excess, Portman is indomitable.

Mean Girls (Mark S. Waters, 2004)
OK, OK, it’s a comedy – a Disney confection with some teeth. Still, Waters did direct Acting Mistress of the Universe Parker Posey (someone please give her some more decent roles and an Oscar – she deserves it) in the uneven The House of Yes. He does a great job on Mean Girls and the Tina Fey script is a delight. Amanda Seyfried as Karen, one of the misguided “Plastics”, turns in a dizzying comic performance that rivals Karen Black in her prime (I’m thinking Five Easy Pieces).

The Mother (Roger Michell, 2003)
There is something a touch workmanlike about the script and direction of The Mother. However, it is all held together by a welcome restraint in style – it could have easily tripped into melodrama or hysteria. Daniel Craig is going to be huge and Anne Reid delivers an unflinchingly honest performance.

My Life Without Me (Isabel Coixet, 2003).
Is there anything Sarah Polley can’t do? Best female performance of the year. Polley, Isabelle Huppert and Samantha Morton are the Holy Trinity of cinematic acting today. With these three performers it’s all a case of “jeepers creepers, where’d you get those peepers.” Their faces can be stonily immobile but emotional infinity shines in their eyes. And Amanda Plummer – finally someone gives her a role rather than a freakshow walk-on. She can act, check out Michael Winterbottom’s Butterfly Kiss. I say more directors should give her a break and lend her some decent leading roles!

One reviewing wag by-lined this flick “Heidi and seek”. Abbie Cornish makes her cinematic debut as Heidi, a 16 year-old runaway. Sure it’s a coming-of-age film – and such films can make anyone shudder as they are often the cinematic equivalent of junkmail. But Shortland’s deftly understated direction takes Heidi places I haven’t been to since Samantha Lang’s similarly wondrous debut The Well. Both movies share a bewitching visual style – lots of washed-out blues and greys, and the inscrutable narrative stylings of the best European arthouse fare. The only flaws for me were: Cornish spookily and distractingly resembles a feminised Jack White from alterna-rock duo The White Stripes; and the houselights were turned up too soon so some folk trooping out of the cinema espied me sobbing into my popcorn.

Thirteen (Catherine Hardwicke, 2003)
Brace yourselves! This flick hits almost as hard as Larry Clark’s über-gritty Kids: compassionate, intelligent filmmaking and career-best performances from Holly Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood; also a lovely turn from Deborah Kara Unger as the dissipated, treacherous Brooke. Ever since her stunning take-off in Cronenberg’s Crash, Unger has been a particular favourite – she really deserves more roles.

Suddenly 30 (also known as 13 Going on 30) (Gary Winick, 2004)
A few years ago I read a New Yorker review of the Famke Janssen vehicle Love and Sex. The reviewer (quite rightfully) described Janssen as a “long-stemmed unpretentious beauty”. The same phrase could apply to Jennifer Garner – who is a delight in Suddenly 30. Sure it’s a free-floating soap-bubble of a movie but the casting is sure – Judy Greer and Mark Ruffalo turn in their evergreen sterlings performances, and it never over-reaches. And in a year of overcapitalised messes like I Heart Huckabees and Hero, that counts for a lot in my book!

As at writing date (20 December) it has been a relatively limp year for cinema. In my opinion, there really haven’t been enough quality films released in Australia this year, hence my inclusion of a couple of comedies that arguably lack the gravitas needed for a top 10 list. I know the rush for Oscars contention is about to hit – and maybe some gems will unearth amongst The Aviator, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004), Kinsey (Bill Condon, 2004), Birth (Jonathan Glazer, 2004), Sideways, Vera Drake… And I know that a number of foreign works I am eagerly awaiting still haven’t released domestically – In My Skin (Marina de Van, 2002), Twentynine Palms, Vendredi soir (Claire Denis, 2002), Time of the Wolf… Perhaps 2005 will see a home-run for cineastes.

Mark Campbell is a librarian, part-time writer and film buff.

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Michael Campi

Bad Education

Bad Education
Blood and Bones
(Sai Yoichi, 2004)
Bright Future (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2003)
Bright Leaves (Ross McElwee, 2003)
Day and Night (Wang Chao, 2004)
The Death of Klinghoffer (Penny Woolcock, 2003)
The Fog of War
Good Morning, Night
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Los Angeles Plays Itself
Last Life in the Universe
Nobody Knows

(and Samaritan Girl and Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring)
Tropical Malady
That Day
(Raul Ruiz, 2003)

and then…

Akame 48 Waterfalls (Arato Genjirou, 2003)
All Tommorow’s Parties (Yu Lik-wai, 2003)
Come and Go (João César Monteiro, 2003)
The Company
Deep Breath (Parviz Shahbazi, 2003)
Father and Son
Goddess of Mercy
(Ann Hui, 2003)
Golden Swallow (Chang Cheh, 1968)
Holiday Dreaming (Hsu Fu-chun, 2004)
Letters to Ali (Clara Law, 2004)
My Generation (Noh Dong-seok, 2004)
A Page of Madness (Kinugasa Teinosuke, 1926) shown in Melbourne finally in 35mm
Since Otar Left (Julie Bertucelli, 2003)
Springtime in Wushan (Zhang Ming, 2004)
Throw Down (Johnnie To, 2004)
Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow
The Triplets of Belleville
(Diao Yinan, 2003)
Woman is the Future of Man

The very special events for me this year in cinema terms have included the ability to see a number of works by Japanese master Shimizu Hiroshi whose Ornamental Hairpin, A Star Athlete, The Masseurs and the Woman and many more are pinnacles of the cinema too long out of sight for me. The special DVD issue has been the remarkable set of works by João César Monteiro in beautiful copies with many extras, all subtitled in English. On a musical note, once again Ernie Corpus provided remarkable organ accompaniments for a diverse array of films: at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, in particular for E.A. Dupont’s Piccadilly (1929), and at the Melbourne International Film Festival for Tod Browning’s The Unknown (1927) and Wilfred Lucas’ The Man from Kangaroo (1920).

Special mention should be made of the work of the Cinémathèque in Melbourne and other fortunate Australian cities, particularly for the screenings of films by Ozu, Murnau, Boetticher and Pabst with many more to come.

Michael Campi has been under the spell of the cinema for half a century. He was involved with the film society movement, assisted with the former National Film Theatre of Australia and was a committee member of the Melbourne Film Festival in the 1970s.

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Lorena Cancela

1. Goodbye, Dragon Inn
A tribute by Tsai to “Las Meninas” by Velazquez: the picture that dreamt and theorised about cinema 350 years before its physical apparition.

2. Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, 1961)
The perfect combination: politics and existentialism.

3. Shara (Naomi Kawase, 2003)
A film that I like.

4. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
A nice story and a description of the dysfunction between the brain, the emotions and the legs.

5. La Libertad and Los Muertos (Lisandro Alonso, 2001 and 2004 respectively)
Magnificent rather than minimalist.

6. 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)
One case where Adorno is wrong? A lovely character and good music.

7. The Holy Girl
A baroque picture of Argentina.

8. The Ister (David Barison and Daniel Ross, 2004)
When new technology can create new forms and new type of concepts.

9. Since Otar Left (Julie Bertucelli, 2003)

10. Identification of a Woman (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1982)
A soft porn by the master.

Film criticism: A Spanish edition of essays by Serge Daney.

Lorena Cancela is the author of Mirada de Mosca: ensayos sobre films argentinos 01/03… She has contributed to several film magazines and film websites in Argentina. She teaches in Buenos Aires and is currently working in another book.

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Michelle Carey

2004: an excellent year for cinema. Providing you made the right viewing choices. I found 2004 to be a personally rewarding year; whether the year’s cinema was of better quality than that of previous years, or whether I was just lucky, it is hard to tell; and does it really matter anyway? I certainly don’t live my life by the calendar year! I just feel lucky to live in an era where there is such personal choice in film viewing, and so many avenues to venture down. And, hey, I bought my first DVD player just last month! My favourite films of the past year, in preferential order, are listed below.

Kings and Queen
Before Sunset
(Isild le Besco, 2004)
Shara (Naomi Kawase, 2003)
Notre Musique
Good Morning, Night

The Holy Girl
A Talking Picture
Come and Go
Woman is the Future of Man
(Jacques Doillon, 2004)
Los Angeles Plays Itself
Triple Agent

Kings and Queen

Many of these films convey a lightness of touch in what are very psychically burdensome times. This is not to say that they are in any way superficial but they proffer a way of looking at the world that is imbued with romance, that very politically incorrect notion, and hope, and do so in a matter very conscious of the time we live in. They also entangle story with incredibly beautiful mise en scène. In presenting varying degrees of personal pain with an intense desire to love and to live, these films – such organic, almost sentient beings – smile at us.

Some of them, such as Notre Musique, overwhelm the senses with a myriad of untainted images and questions posed directly at the viewer. Others, such as Triple Agent and A Talking Picture, charm with their dialogue and their impression that the past is very much with us in the present. Demi-tarif is a one-of-a-kind; it could only be a debut film, so pure in its joie de vivre is this rendering of children left uncared for. How is it that deep sadness and attainment of amusement can co-exist so easily? Only children know.

Other films I liked: Elephant, Café Lumière, Story of Marie and Julien, Repatriation (Kim Dong-won, 2003), Peep “TV” Show (Yutaka Tsuchiya, 2004), Petite (Viviane Vagh, 2001–2002), The Company, The Consequences of Love, Ana and the Others, Whisky (Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll, 2004), Clean (Olivier Assayas, 2004), Code 46 (Michael Winterbottom, 2003), Dreams for Life (Anna Kanava, 2004), 20 Fingers (Mania Akbari, 2004), Moolaadé, The White Diamond (Werner Herzog, 2004), 10 on Ten, At Five in the Afternoon (Samira Makhmalbaf, 2003), Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2004), South of the Clouds, Uniform, Goodbye, Dragon Inn, Last Life in the Universe, A Good Lawyer’s Wife, Nobody Knows, Writer of O, In the Moment (Paul Jeffery, 2004), The Ister, A Cold Summer, Empty Cage (Jiang Zhi, 2004).

And other highlights of the year: Playtime in 70mm; the Yasujiro Ozu season at Cinémathèque; the high calibre of films at this year’s Italian Film Festival; A Page of Madness and the selection of Middle Eastern films at the Melbourne International Film Festival; an introduction to the films of Hiroshi Shimizu.

Michelle Carey is co-editor of Senses of Cinema.

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Neel Chaudhuri

I am restricting my list to films from Asia. Even though the term “Asian Cinema” refers to a somewhat amorphous collective, films from parts of the continent seem to have reached a plateau of sophistication – in their subject matter, depth of storytelling, and striking aesthetics. Of course, cinema from the rest of the world does continue to occasionally delight (and even surprise) me, and I have seen some particularly awful work by Asian filmmakers. The exclusive nature of this list is really more out of convenience (it is a menace to pick a list of films from all over the world), and is representative of what I have seen this year (many Asian films!). Having said that, I am still tempted to suggest that filmmaking in the Eastern hemisphere is a step ahead of the infinitely more marketed West.

Note: Some of these films were released in 2003 but have been widely screened across the festival circuit in 2004. Also, the absence of some prominent films from this year’s Asian invasion at Cannes might be conspicuous. I will only get to see 2046 next month. Five, Tropical Malady and 3-Iron (this was at Venice) are high on my “to-see-soon” list but difficult to get hold of. Park Chan-wook’s Old Boy failed to impress me though I had little difficulty in recognising why Quentin Tarantino found it “grand”.

1. Earth and Ashes (Atiq Rahimi, 2004)
2. Samaritan Girl
3. Ben’s Biography (Dan Wolman, 2003)
4. Goodbye, Dragon Inn
5. The Missing (Lee Kang-sheng, 2003)
6. Woman of the Breakwater (Mario O’Hara, 2004)
7. Zaman, Man of the Reeds (Amer Alwan, 2003)
8. Forget Baghdad (Samir, 2003)
9. Nobody Knows
10. The Adventures of Iron Pussy (Michael Shaowanasai and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2003)
11. Last Life in the Universe
12. House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Yimou, 2004)

I refuse to comment on each film. Go out and find them.

Neel Chaudhuri is a writer from India, and currently works with the Berlin International Film Festival.

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Matthew Clayfield

Best film of 2004:
I Heart Huckabees

Before Sunset
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Ister
The best and most significant Australian feature of the year. I make this judgment based on both the quality of the film itself and on its importance to Australian filmmaking.

Million Dollar Baby
Samaritan Girl

Honourable mentions:

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)
A film that finds itself going off on so many tangents and indulging itself in so many digressions that, even though it misses a lot of marks, one can’t help but feel that there’s something inspired going on, on a level of absolute purity and unadulterated idiocy.

The Cow Goat Song (Cameron Edser and Michael Richards, 2004)
A short claymation by South Australian high school students that wipes the floor with last year’s good-but-not-great Harvey Krumpet (Adam Elliot). The general bizarreness that felt so calculated in Krumpet comes much more naturally to Cow Goat, which is over in a minute-and-a-half and doesn’t outstay its welcome: “Cows make great lovers/they’re quite well endowed/there’s no better night/than a night with a cow!” Indeed.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Brad Silberling, 2004)
It’s Potter without magic, souped-up on psychosis and absurdity, with a more-than-liberal dash of Dickensian darkness. Misunderstood and underrated by critics.

Best retrospective and festival screenings (non-2004; including shorts):

11 X 14 (James Benning, 1977)
This is, quite simply put (and I’m not experimental cinema’s most overt supporter), a masterwork

Crimson Gold
The Last Uncounted Village (Sharam Alidi, 2002)
The Story of the Weeping Camel (Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni, 2003)
Two Cars, One Night (Taika Cohen, 2003)

Best DVD releases:

The Battle of Algiers (Criterion Collection)
“John Cassavetes – Five Films” (Criterion Collection)
“Seinfeld” – Seasons 1–3 (Columbia Tri-Star)
Dennis Potter’s “The Singing Detective” (John Amiel, 1986) (Roadshow Entertainment)
Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991) (Criterion Collection)
A Woman is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961) (Criterion Collection)
Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983) (Criterion Collection)

Personal revelations of a young cinephile:

Note: in other words, films, filmmakers, critics and other events that I discovered or experienced for the first time in 2004 and which had the greatest impact on me as both a cinephile and a filmmaker.

My first film festival experience at Brisbane International Film Festival; the film criticism of Jonathan Rosenbaum; Adrian Martin’s “Mise en scène is dead, or the expressive, the excessive, the technical and the stylish” (1992) and “There’s a million stories, and a million ways to get there from here” (2004); William D. Routt’s “L’Evidence” (1992); Jonathan Rosenbaum and Adrian Martin (eds.), Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia; e-mail conversations with filmmaker David Lowery; Playtime; Jean-Luc Godard; Jim Jarmusch; John Cassavetes; Richard Linklater

Biggest personal letdown(s):

The Bourne Supremacy
Ocean’s 12 (Steven Soderbergh, 2004)


Kill Bill Vol. 2
The Passion of the Christ

And in conclusion…

“You’re going to miss your plane.”
“I know.”

Matthew Clayfield is a film and television student at Bond University in Queensland, Australia. He maintains a personal weblog in which he writes extensively about film and his own filmmaking.

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Stephen Cone

1. Vera Drake
2. Goodbye, Dragon Inn
3. Million Dollar Baby
4. Sideways
5. I Heart Huckabees
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
7. Son Frère (Patrice Chéreau, 2003)
8. Collateral
9. The Manchurian Candidate
10. Before Sunset

Runners-Up: Time of the Wolf, Twentynine Palms, Crimson Gold, Strayed (André Téchiné, 2003), Ocean’s Twelve (Steven Soderbergh, 2004)

Underrated Movie of the Year: The Terminal (Steven Spielberg, 2004)

Stephen Cone is a playwright/director living in Chicago.

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Paul Coughlin

1. “Deadwood” (Series-one, Walter Hill, 2004; television)
Because it made an art of obscene language, created vibrant and diverse characters and offered a weekly dose of Brad Dourif.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Because of its final validation of love as maddeningly impossible, but worth it in the end.

3. Gerry (Gus Van Sant, 2002)
Because Casey Affleck makes that jump. Also, Van Sant reconfirms that he is committed to making films that are unique, even when they’re ripping off sequences from Béla Tarr’s work.

4. The Bourne Supremacy
Because of the car chase through Moscow.

5. Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder, 2004) and My Life Without Me
Because of Sarah Polley.

Paul Coughlin is undertaking a Doctorate in the School of Literary, Visual and Performance Studies at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. His research focuses on the films of Joel and Ethan Coen.

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Adrian Danks

25 best “new” films screening somewhere in Melbourne (in order of preference):

1. Goodbye, Dragon Inn

Goodbye, Dragon Inn

By some distance the most profound and philosophical film about cinema in 2004. Tsai’s film also provided a neat antidote to one of the great curses of cinema-going – the distracted audience. No matter how hard the audience tried – walking out in droves, scurrying round on the floor, etc. – it could not short-circuit the bond created between the film and its audience (designed to mirror and reflect such wandering, distracted actions). A gloriously incorporative and faded vision of what we do and don’t do when we go to the cinema.

2. Good Morning, Night
3. Tropical Malady
4. Bright Leaves
5. Touching the Void
6. Nobody Knows
7. Notre Musique
8. S21, The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (Rithy Panh, 2003)
9. An Injury to One (Travis Wilkerson, 2002)
10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
11. The Holy Girl
12. The Incredibles
13. Infernal Affairs II (Andy Lau and Alan Mak, 2003)
14. The Decay of Fiction (Pat O’Neill, 2003)
15. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 2004)
16. The Ister
17. Los Angeles Plays Itself
18. Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (Robert Stone, 2004)
19. Walking Off Court (George Barber, 2003) short
20. My Architect
21. The Five Obstructions
22. Desperate Man Blues (Edward Gillan, 2003)
23. Mademoiselle and the Doctor (Janine Hosking, 2004)
24. Story of Marie and Julien
25. Cowards Bend at the Knee

10 worst “new” films of the year seen in any context:

1. Watermark (Georgina Willis, 2003)
2. Bright Future
3. Poker Kings (Maciek Wszelaki, 2004)
4. I’ll Sleep when I’m Dead (Mike Hodges, 2003)
5. Letters to Ali (Clara Law, 2004) for its saccharine, soporific and extremely unsubtle (especially Paul Grabowsky’s tinkly, sledgehammer compositions) execution rather than its largely laudable intentions
6. Bemani (Dariush Mehrjui, 2002)
7. Cinema of our Time: Abel Ferrara – Not Guilty (Rafi Pitts, 2003)
8. Big Fish
9. The Saddest Music in the World
10. Special mention also goes to the interminably cute The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002); the fascinating but often appallingly acted, scripted and staged Bob Dylan vanity-project, Masked and Anonymous (Larry Charles, 2003) (aside from Dylan’s thankfully lengthy musical performances, some of the political dimensions of the film’s militaristic image of America, and the polyglot world music renditions of Dylan’s songs on the soundtrack); and two retrospective lowlights – Michael Cimino’s overly simplistic and hopelessly pretentious (seemingly contradictory deficiencies elsewhere) Heaven’s Gate (1980) (extraordinary mainly for its experiential portrait of a specific time and place – a masterpiece of smoke, but little else) and Agnès Varda’s unbearably twee and self-indulgent Jane B. par Agnès V. (1987) (the scene featuring Birkin and Varda as Laurel and Hardy is probably the nadir of my film viewing in 2004 – and just about any other year come to think of it).

Overrated and major disappointments:

Somersault; Elephant; The Triplets of Belleville; The Station Agent; The Dreamers; The Manchurian Candidate; Kill Bill Vol. 2; Coffee and Cigarettes (except for the segments with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, William Rice and Taylor Mead); Ana and the Others; Kiarostami’s Five (OK within its own limitations, but a relatively redundant and unexciting use of digital video, as well as the long take) and 10 on Ten; Open Range; 21 Grams; At Five in the Afternoon; Zatôichi (particularly its ill-advised and completely non-kinetic final musical number); Last Life in the Universe (the most pretentious and “lite” film of the year); Raja.


Playtime on 70mm at The Astor (far and away the definitive highlight of the year); The Battle of Algiers at The Lumière; John Ford season (especially Bucking Broadway and Flashing Spikes), Agnès Varda retrospective (especially Vagabond and Jacquot de Nantes), Homicide ep. 504: Stopover, Jürgen Reble films (Zillateral and Das Goldene Tor in particular), Comanche Station, and the Ozu season (Late Autumn was a Tatiesque revelation on 35mm; Passing Fancy and The Only Son films of great intermittent beauty) at the Melbourne Cinémathèque; Chang Cheh retrospective, especially The Heroic Ones and Golden Swallow, and Charley Bowers showcase at MIFF; The Los Angeles, City of Mirrors season at ACMI (particularly Kent MacKenzie’s The Exiles and Thom Andersen and Noel Burch’s Red Hollywood); the endless parade through the RKO vaults on the ABC (revealing Robert Stevenson and Richard Fleischer as more interesting directors than we might have thought; revealing how Allan Dwan was able to make so many films – most were maddeningly routine and perfunctory; warning us off any Anthony Mann films made before 1947’s Desperate and T-Men; uncovering such interesting films as Irving Reis’ Crack-Up; illustrating the program filling intentions of the mass of the studio’s output).

DVDs of the year:

Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection vol. 2; Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines (particularly Education for Death and Victory through Air Power – very un-Disney sounding titles); The Leopard (Luchino Visconti) – Criterion edition; Film Noir Classic Collection; The Martin Scorsese Collection (After Hours and its outtakes, in particular); The Story of Floating Weeds/Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu); My Darling Clementine (John Ford) – double-sided US edition including release and composite pre-release versions; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde double feature (Mamoulian version, in particular); Judex (Louis Feuillade); Shaw Brothers releases; Decasia (Bill Morrison); The Small Back Room (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger); and the arrival of Accent Film Entertainment in the Australian DVD market – Sunrise, I Stand Alone and La Belle Noiseuse in their first batch of releases (things are definitely looking up).

Adrian Danks is President and co-curator of the Melbourne Cinémathèque, co-editor of Cteq: Annotations on Film, and Head of Cinema Studies at RMIT University, School of Applied Communication.

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Brian Darr

Here are ten new films that most challenged my cinematic perceptions in 2004. A recognition of the approaching end to celluloid seems to be a theme, which may be appropriately tied to my belated entry into the new millennium with the acquisition of a DVD player in late 2003. However, I saw each of these selections in a San Francisco cinema sometime this last year.

10. The Village (M. Night Shyamalan, 2004)
Shyamalan risks revealing to us the seams of his well-ordered universe, inviting us to deconstruct the very concept of creative fiction along with him.

9. Last Life in the Universe
A playful, joyful reflection on free-floating humanity.

8. Campus Queen (Tunde Kelani, 2003)
My first experience with a Nigerian videofilm, and it feels like an invitation to an entirely new paradigm of moviemaking.

7. Dogville
Calling this an anti-American screed narrows its target too much, I feel. Like Friedrich Dürrenmatt, von Trier is exposing universal human failings, and forcing the audience to investigate its own investigations into the petri dish.

6. Los Angeles Plays Itself
Using video to call forth a new age of cinephilia. Inspiring.

5. Before Sunset
Sequels don’t suck.

4. Papillon d’amour (Nicolas Provost, 2004)
This digital echo of Rashomon is the most spirited three minutes of moving image I’ve seen in years. And it does not piggyback on Kurosawa’s greatness; it helps further reveal it.

3. Tropical Malady
Apichatpong continues his exploration of the relationships between sound and picture, time and space, story and cinema.

2. Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Nothing captures the melancholy of the gradual end to moviegoing like this film. (Luckily it’s also a comedy.) It could only be more appropriate if it had played at the Castro Theatre, where the future of San Francisco cinephilia was thrown into uncertainty in 2004 by the firing of programmer Anita Monga.

1. The Company
A much more hopeful variation on the theme, as it demonstrates the potential of digital filmmaking to uncover new vistas in image-making, at least in the hands of a master director hitting another career peak.

Brian Darr works in libraries. He tries to make time to make music and films.

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John Demetry

Has cinema culture been deserted?

2004’s greatest mystery: Deserted Station (Ali Reza Raisian, 2004) Shot in 35mm, and featuring the year’s most defining moment, but presented in grotesque video projection by the Quad Cinemas in New York City

The best films of 2004:

1. Hero
2. Vera Drake
3. The Terminal
4. Son Frère
5. Infernal Affairs trilogy
6. The Manchurian Candidate
7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
8. (tie) Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess, 2004) and Mr. 3000 (Charles Stone III, 2004)
9. (tie) A Thousand Clouds of Peace (Julián Hernández, 2003) and Bear Cub (Julián Hernández, 2004)
10. (tie) The Dreamers and The Passion of the Christ

Runners up (roughly preferential): When Will I Be Loved (James Toback, 2004), Father and Son, Spanglish (James L. Brooks, 2004), Torque (Joseph Kahn, 2004), The Ladykillers (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2004), Zatôichi, Moolaadé, Strayed, Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow, 2001), Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (Danny Leiner, 2004), Cellular (David R. Ellis, 2004) and The Keys to the House (Gianni Amelio, 2004).

John Demetry is a film critic.

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Jorge Didaco

De lama lâmina (Matthew Barney, 2004)
Barney’s first film after the Cremaster Cycle started as a performance/installation for the Carnival in Salvador, Bahia. Mesmerising in its encompassing of organic and inorganic elements, in the rich fusion of Arto Lindsay’s industrial rock with Afro-Brazilian rhythms and in the way it appropriates symbols, gestures, codes and plastic motives from Brazilian culture and other references, to re-discuss, in fresh, perceptive and provocative new ways, issues of gender, ethnicity and ecology. We were lucky to see a complete retrospective of his work along with some other important retrospectives that included Guy Maddin (Cowards Bend the Knee), Ken Loach (Looks and Smiles, 1981), Amos Gitaï (Esther, 1985) and Kinji Fukasaku (Yakuza Graveyard, 1976).

Tropical Malady
Bodies in rest and motion, fearless, awkward, mystified, nurtured by desire and loss, longing, commuting; no one films these bodies like Weerasethakul. I was transfixed by it. Other strong current and recent releases: Proteus (John Greyson and Jack Lewis, 2003), The Raspberry Reich (Bruce LaBruce, 2004), Ken Park (Larry Clark and Edward Lachman, 2002), Elephant, In the Cut (Jane Campion, 2003), Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, The Company, Collateral, The Village, Zatôichi, Before Sunset, Blue Gate Crossing (Yee Chih-yen, 2002), The Human Stain (Robert Benton, 2003).

Los Muertos

Los Muertos
Some of the most unsettling images/sounds of the year. From the mysteries of the first glimpse into the heart of the jungle to its terrifying conclusion: black screen, red titles and Flor Maleva’s scratching music. I watched in awe. Other revelatory visions of Spanish-speaking cinema: Rebellion in Patagonia (Héctor Olivera, 1974), Juan Moreira (Leonardo Favio, 1973), Our Lady of the Assassins (Barbet Schroeder, 2000), The Southern Cross (Pablo Reyero, 2003), El Bonaerense (Pablo Trapero, 2002), La Ciénaga (Lucrecia Martel, 2001), The Summer of Miss Forbes (Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, 1988), Whisky, Bad Education and Pilar Miró’s unflinching, still powerful and almost unbearably painful to watch The Cuenca Crime (1980).

Wild Side (Sébastien Lifshitz, 2004)
As always Lifshitz directs his actors with disarming naturalness and an almost hypnotic sensuality, exposing his social, political and sexual topics with stark intensity and a beautiful eye for composition. Other French delicacies savoured throughout the year: Sach’s Disease (Michel Deville, 1999), Last Summer (Robert Guédiguian, 1981), The Wound (Nicolas Klotz, 2004), The Devil, Probably (Robert Bresson, 1977), Brief Crossing (Catherine Breillat, 2001), A Very Curious Girl (Nelly Kaplan, 1969), In the Land of the Deaf (Nicolas Philibert, 1993), The Best Way (Claude Miller, 1976), Officer’s Ward (François Dupeyron, 2001), Stan the Flasher (Serge Gainsbourg, 1990), Tandem (Patrice Leconte, 1987), Playing “In the Company of Men” (Arnaud Desplechin, 2003), Latcho Drom (Tony Gatlif, 1993), The Tree, The Mayor and The Mediathèque (Eric Rohmer, 1993), Fill’er Up with Super (Alain Cavalier, 1976), Special Delivery (Jeanne Labrune, 2002), Tiresia (Bertrand Bonello, 2003) and Women Women (Paul Vecchiali, 1974).

Garotas do ABC (Carlos Reichenbach, 2004)
Despised by a great portion of Brazilian critics as a minor film in Reichenbach’s oeuvre; and yes, imperfect it may be, but its large social canvas offers unforgettable characters, a bold rereading of popular genres (especially melodrama) and a memorable final punch line. Other important titles from Brazilian cinema: Raízes do Brasil (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 2004), O Prisioneiro da Grade de Ferro (Paulo Sacramento, 2004), A Love Movie (Júlio Bressane, 2003), Peões (Eduardo Coutinho, 2004), Na Boca da Noite (Walter Lima Jr., 1971), Selva Trágica (Roberto Farias, 1963).

Profession of Arms (Ermanno Olmi, 2001)
Transcendence and Beauty. Nothing less. It moved me beyond tears. A year I rekindled my passion for Italian cinema: Eugenio (Luigi Comencini, 1980), Metello (Mauro Bolognini, 1970), Death Rides a Horse (Giulio Petroni, 1968), You Laugh (Paulo and Vittorio Taviani, 1998), Respiro (Emanuele Crialese, 2002), The Dreamers.

Cairo Station (Youssef Chahine, 1958)
Everything we come to expect from one of the world’s greatest – humour, pathos, music, the social blending with the personal, and much more – in an earlier work that made him internationally recognised. I continued my quest through Arab cinema, discovering priceless gems: Fatima, The Algerian Woman of Dakar (Med Hondo, 2004), Bent Familia (Nouri Bouzid, 1997), Nahla (Farouk Beloufa, 1979), Stars in Broad Daylight (Usama Muhammad, 1988), and three remarkable shorts: The Chosen One (Khaled Ghorbal, 1997), The Cliff (Faouzi Bensaïdi, 1998) and April (Raja Amari, 1998).

Christmas Holiday (Robert Siodmak, 1944)
The first half hour alone is one of the most daring things I have ever seen: disorienting in its use of space (it goes from the Army, to a Dance Hall, to a Christmas Eve mass, in a blink of an eye!), in shifting moods, and in its darker undercurrents and implicit meanings galore. Although its appraisal has improved in recent years, it is still a neglected Siodmak masterpiece. Other notable visions of the past: Platform (Jia Zhangke, 2000), Full Alert (Ringo Lam, 1997), The Blade (Tsui Hark, 1995), Running Out of Time (Johnnie To, 1999), Machine-Gun Kelly (Roger Corman, 1958), No Place to Go (Oskar Roehler, 2000), Messidor (Alain Tanner, 1979), The Raid (Hugo Fregonese, 1954), The Left-Handed Woman (Peter Handke, 1977), It’s Better to Be Wealthy and Healthy Than Poor and Ill (Juraj Jakubisko, 1993), Breezy (Clint Eastwood, 1973), A Bee in the Rain (Fernando Lopes, 1972), You Only Live Once (Fritz Lang, 1937), The Spikes Gang (Richard Fleischer, 1974), Harakiri (Masaki Kobayashi, 1962), Sylvia (Gordon Douglas, 1965), Valerie (Gerd Oswald, 1957); and I was finally able to catch a quintessential American title from the ’70s: Electra Glide in Blue (James William Guercio, 1973).

Jorge Didaco is a Brazil-based teacher and writer in theatre, performance and film.

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Russell Edwards


Samaritan Girl
Kekexili: Mountain Patrol
(Chuan Lu, 2004)
Touching The Void
Capturing The Friedmans
21 Grams
Memories of Murder

The Corporation (Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar, 2003)
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring
Untold Scandal (E J-yong, 2003)
The Mother
Kill Bill Vol. 2
The Bourne Supremacy

Russell Edwards is a film critic for Variety.

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David Ehrenstein

Star Spangled to Death (Ken Jacobs, 1957–2003)
50 years in the making and worth the wait.

Not on the Mouth (Alain Resnais, 2003)
Alain Resnais finally makes a full-out musical – and it’s the best of its kind since Give a Girl a Break.

Liam Neeson turns himself into a nerd, Laura (“I think I’d like that”) Linney glows in the dark, and Peter Sarsgaard makes “strange twilight urges” more babe-a-licious than ever.

Fahrenheit 9/11
The year’s most misrepresented film. I’m listing it here not just because it’s a masterpiece and Michael Moore is our Sacha Guitry, but in order to tell the Republican party to go fuck itself with a rusty chainsaw.

The Aviator
A comeback for Marty – and if they don’t give him the Oscar for this one…

A Home at the End of the World (Michael Mayer, 2004)
Best use of the trio from Cosi yet. Dallas Roberts is amazing and I want to move to Canada and marry Colin Farrell. All that blather about Alexander overlooked the fact that it wasn’t his first leap into the bisexual mosh pit.

Control Room
I do hope the administration isn’t planning to terminate Josh with extreme prejudice.

I Heart Huckabees
The Jacques Derrida version of The Palm Beach Story.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Bill Murray is our Jean Gabin.

Alexander Payne is our Marco Ferreri.

David Ehrenstein is the author of Open Secret: Gay Hollywood 1928–2000 (Harper, 2000), The Scorsese Picture (Birch Lane Press, 1992) and Film: The Front Line 1984 (Arden Press, 1984). His essays have appeared in Film Comment and Film Quarterly. Visit www.ehrensteinland.com.

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Yaniv Eyny

Father and Son
A Talking Picture
The Dreamers
Kings and Queen
Playing “In the Company of Men”
Café Lumière

Tropical Malady
Notre Musique
Twentynine Palms

In collaboration with Alex Zubatov, Yaniv Eyny has written on cinema for Bright Lights Film Journal and Senses of Cinema.

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Jean-Michel Frodon

The Gate of the Sun (Yousri Nasrallah, 2004)
The Intruder (Claire Denis, 2004)
Lost in Translation
Oh, uomo (Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, 2004)
Notre Musique
Kings and Queen
Triple Agent
Tropical Malady
The Village
The World

Jean-Michel Frodon is a film critic in France and Editor of Cahiers du cinéma.

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Cynthia Fuchs

The Assassination of Richard Nixon (Niels Mueller, 2004)
Baadasssss! (Mario Van Peebles, 2003)
Code 46
Control Room
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Hotel Rwanda
(Terry George, 2004)
Maria Full of Grace
(Joshua Marston, 2004)
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Saddest Music in the World

Looking back

And I feel like I’m just writing my life away. I never thought shit could end up quite this way. There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from. I’m here for the good fight, only the fakes run.

– Jay-Z, “Ballad for the Fallen Soldier”

This annual ritual of looking back has rarely seemed so apt. As it turns out, a majority of the year’s worthy films take up precisely this theme, treating the messy processes of memory and/or history as exercises in creativity, anxiety and futility. Too many current events – from the recent US presidential election and the administration’s current war-making, from the genocide in Sudan and the imperialism of the world’s reigning superpower – are making the past seem relevant, even as it also seems so elusive, incomprehensible, and so subject to revision.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Among the films coming to memory as personal trauma to be survived more than shaped, are Michael Winterbottom’s science-fiction melodrama, Code 46, Guy Maddin’s Saddest Music in the World and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by the wildly inventive Michel Gondry. The first film is a complicated meditation on desire, will and responsibility, as Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton engage in a painful forbidden romance that he will be able to forget and she must live with, owing to a choice he makes. Maddin’s film, typically odd and aggressively revisionist, turns history into a mix of tragedy, competition, and deception (with film stock seemingly aged by Vaseline on the camera lens).

The third film is much better remembered, as it stars trendy-and-talented performers Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey, Mark Ruffalo and Frodo, with Carrey giving what seems likely to be the performance of his life. But even for its popularity, the film rethinks remembrance as a process of identity and self-determination: Carrey’s passive hero only turns active when facing the loss of himself as he is best reflected in Winslet’s blue-orange-pink haired dynamo (she gets points as well for her work in another movie about forgetting as a route to enduring fantasy, Finding Neverland [Marc Forster, 2004]).

Other films – based on, or better, “inspired by,” historical figures – grapple with the ways that history undermines and also creates heroes. While the final months of 2004 will be remembered for its surfeit of biopics (Beyond the Sea, The Sea Inside, The Aviator), the most compelling, The Motorcycle Diaries and Bill Condon’s Kinsey, are more broadly interested in collective reminiscence. Charting Che Guevara’s youthful introduction to poverty and need, Walter Salles’ film is at once enchanting and muscular; Condon’s movie, though imperfect, investigates the conflagration of celebrity, science, and sex spearheaded by intrepid researcher Alfred Kinsey and his brilliant wife Mac (Liam Neeson and Laura Linney). As the much publicised sex studies overtake their private lives, the film posits a moment when media became utterly invasive.

Other combinations of communal and individual experiences emerge in films built from historical events. First time filmmaker Joshua Marston claims he was moved to make Maria, Full of Grace by the story of a drug mule he heard at home in Brooklyn. That the remarkable result feels so immediate has to do with his decisions to emulate documentary camerawork and trust in his underplaying actors. As it happens, two other impressive films based on true events feature Don Cheadle. Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda reveres the incredible efforts by hotelier Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) to save 1268 people during the 1994 Rwanda genocide (the resonances with today’s crisis in Sudan make the film, which makes effective use of its episodic structure to show Paul’s evolution as he comes to realise the racism that sets the ground for the brutality, especially significant.

Niels Mueller’s The Assassination of Richard Nixon, also featuring Cheadle, similarly shows changes in one man, unheroic and small, but wanting to be more – masculine, lovable, important. Sam (Sean Penn), a would-be 1974 presidential assassin, not only dreams up a scheme to hijack a plane and fly it into the White House, but also finds a way to way to get on that plane with a gun. Our understanding of the inarticulate, excruciatingly pained Sam is helped by his efforts to explain himself, via audiotapes, to his maestro, Leonard Bernstein. Understanding himself as oppressed, Sam goes to visit the local Black Panthers’ office, where he encounters an aptly uncomprehending Mykelti Williamson.

The potential potency of multiracial collaboration is the point of Baadassss!, Mario Van Peebles’ incredible breakdown of his own past as layered into his father Melvin’s, as the film recounts the making of Sweetback, as personal travail and political revolution.

The year’s extraordinary documentaries include Robert Stone’s Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (reconsidering the story not so much through the SLA or even Hearst’s experience, as through the ludicrous behaviours of the press and the police and federal agents); Nick Broomfield’s powerful indictment of US legal and media collusion, in particular the death penalty system, in Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003); Patrick Paulson and Michael John Warren’s Fade to Black, a smart concert film, about Jay-Z’s historic MSG performance in 2003; and Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s revelation of the ways that children might see their world, as they become documentary photographers in Born into Brothels. Jonathan Demme’s The Agronomist makes the political life of Haitian radio journalist Jean Dominique significantly personal. Assassinated in 2000, Dominique here lives again, a memory turned vital and inspiring.

The standouts among the year’s documentaries rethink generic borders. For Tarnation, Jonathan Caouette pieces together his schizophrenic mother’s history in order to find out his own, as well as to chart a particularly small-minded culture that makes difference into deviance that must be “treated”. And Jehane Noujaim’s Control Room, which is less about its seeming subject, Al-Jazeera, than about the ways that wars are premised on media, propaganda, and lies.

Cynthia Fuchs is associate professor of Film & Media Studies at George Mason University, film-TV-DVD editor for PopMatters.com, and editor of Spike Lee: Interviews (University of Mississippi Press, 2002).

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Chris Fujiwara

The 28 Best Films of 2004

Group A. 14 best films of sojourns and visits:

1. Goodbye, Dragon Inn
2. Notre Musique
3. Uzak
4. Moolaadé
5. Springtime in a Small Town
6. A Visit to the Louvre (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 2004)
7. Café Lumière
8. Zatôichi
9. Crimson Gold
10. Woman is the Future of Man
11. Coffee and Cigarettes
12. Cowards Bend the Knee
13. Akame 48 Waterfalls
14. The Cat Leaves Home (Nami Iguchi, 2004)

Group B. 14 best films of homelessness, eviction, and displacement:

1. Triple Agent
2. The Big Red One (reconstruction) (Samuel Fuller, 1980)
3. Million Dollar Baby
4. South of the Clouds
5. The Brown Bunny
6. Los Muertos
7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
8. Cantando dietro i paraventi (Ermanno Olmi, 2003)
9. Since Otar Left
10. Sideways
11. The Aviator
12. Tomorrow We Move (Chantal Akerman, 2004)
13. La Blessure (Nicolas Klotz, 2004)
14. Vera Drake

Chris Fujiwara maintains a website Mostly on Film.

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Geoff Gardner

Ten best:

1. Uzak
2. Oasis (Lee Chang-dong, 2002)
3. = The Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo, 2003)
Crimson Gold
In My Father’s Den
Luna Rossa (Antonio Capuano, 2001)
Not on the Mouth
The Return
Two Angels (Mahmad Haghihat, 2003)

Best on DVD (films not previously seen):

Tu Ridi (Paolo and Vittoria Taviani, 1998)
Ogro (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1980)
Love Will Tear Us Apart (Yu Lik-wai, 1999)
Liliom (Fritz Lang, 1934)
The Life of Jesus (Bruno Dumont, 1997)
If You Were Me (omnibus of sketch films made by six different directors for the Koran Human Rights Commission, 2003)

Guilty Pleasures: Open Range; Immortal (Enki Bilal, 2004); Bad Santa

Narcissism prize: Garden State

Best cinephilic moment: the homage to Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mepris in François Dupeyron’s Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran (2003)

Greatest absence: the last two films made by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Distance and Nobody Knows

Best old movies: Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933); One Hour With You (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)

Geoff Gardner was once a film distributor and, 20 years ago, director of the Melbourne Film Festival.

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Antony I. Ginnane

Top ten 2004. Eligibility: theatrical or premiere DVD release or festivals in US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Calendar year 2004.

Spartan (David Mamet, 2004)
Bleak ’70s style conspiracy paranoia with oblique dialogue and nihilist sentiments.

Kill Bill Vol. 2
Less in your face flash than Vol. 1, but still a loving, learned visual lexicon of style.

Not since David Hockney has LA been so lusciously presented on screen.

The Aviator
All the usual guilt, pain and gender ambiguity splashed against Hollywood and the aviation industry – another slice of Scorsese’s American history.

Million Dollar Baby
America’s last classicist vies with Bresson in this stripped down analysis of rejection, respect and second chances.

Notre Musique
Cinema’s first and last radical muses on life, death, cinema and politics.

House of Flying Daggers
After Hero, Zhang is fast becoming Asian cinema’s Minnelli with this bravura mix of colour and balletic martial arts encounters.

Man on Fire (Tony Scott, 2004)
The florid violent melodrama of Aldrich and the revenge driven blood letting of Siegel and Leone coalesce.

Bad Education
Another stunning twist of noir and gay iconography spiced with sardonic humour.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
Not Get Carter but close. Sleek black existential take on revenge and redemption.

Not a bad year when you consider that I didn’t include The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Kinsey, Manchurian Candidate and Maria Full of Grace.

Antony I. Ginnane is a producer, distributor and commentator based in Los Angeles USA and Melbourne Australia. He is also president of IFM World Releasing Inc.

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Chiranjit Goswami

Overall I thought 2004 was on par with 2003, in that it had many good films but very few great ones. Based on internet forums, you would think cinema is dead. Thankfully it’s not…yet.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Tripping through the dreary reflections of a dejected clown, Charlie Kaufman fashioned a tender symphony of regret. When left to exhibit Kaufman’s designs, Gondry, through his own brand of visual chaos, not only wrecked havoc upon the notion of memory, but also upon the cinematic image itself. The resulting film successfully demonstrated that the anguish and turmoil of our relationships make the moments of joy even more vital and poignant, and then further entangled cinema and memory. The French critics may scoff, but nothing seemed more tragic than Mary’s inability to escape her own hopeless romantic impulses. That I was able to empathise with the plight of such an annoying couple is a true testament to the collaboration between Gondry and Kaufman.

2. Collateral
Dubbed “daft” by some, Mann’s digital-noir requires one to forgive its ludicrous premise. However, after he drops down a steely devil into the City of Angels after-dark and traps a cabbie in his frame, Mann uses the murky urban atmosphere to continue to examine the conflict between fate and free-will, only this time with destiny driving. He then employs the detached architecture and urban decay within this sprawling mess of a city to examine its racial tensions. Mann’s essay on LA seems crystal clear to those who have lived there, even if his images and intensions remain smoggy. His efforts allow me to absolve his rather trite finale.

3. Before Sunset
Rarely have I witnessed a recent American film so utterly in harmony with its structure and content. Watching Celine and Jesse discuss their struggles in their 30s in simple, long, verbose cinematic fragments allows us not only to reminisce of the decade that passed, the ideals we lost, and the choices we may regret, but also about what made American independent film once appear fresh and original. Just the final image of a successful American male, with his white-picket-fence life, gazing longingly at a modern French woman, holding fast to her social morals while she struggles with her romantic ideals, recalls a certain girl with white gloves on the ferry that Mr. Bernstein contemplates once a month for the rest of his life. While Celine dances an eternity away, perhaps love conquers time in Linklater’s cinematic world.

4. The Aviator
Grant Scorsese the same pardon Welles received for his “dollar-book Freud” psychology in Kane and The Aviator becomes something magnificent to witness in terms of personal filmmaking obsessed with the concept of obsession. Supported by DiCaprio’s fragile force and daunting devotion, Scorsese’s visual and aural methods of displaying Howard Hughes triumphant ascent and baffling breakdown are extraordinary at times, ultimately displaying a soul scorched in an inferno and a psyche isolated since the womb.

The Saddest Music in the World

5. The Saddest Music in the World
Leave it to my hometown cinematic heroes to create a delirious comedy about global gloom by plunging their film into the rampant alcoholism of the depression-era. While a Danish filmmaker made a commotion about a city filled with dogs, Maddin and Toles used a bittersweet melodrama within an anachronistic musical to gleefully rub our noses in American optimism and acoustic amnesia, in order to ridicule the “pizzazz” of current-day commercial entertainment, as well as American imperialism through pop-culture. Its elaborate musical numbers were only matched by its spectacular manic montage and created the most arousing time I’ve ever had in the 1930s – and I don’t even enjoy musicals.

6. Zatôichi
Another great musical sequence of 2004 came from a Japanese master in a film that radically revised a traditional genre. Though ignorance of Japanese culture prevents my grasping of how audacious this film may be, I do know that any film to include a transvestite within a classic Japanese genre picture that has 40 years of history is plenty daring already. The most astounding characteristic of Kitano’s film may be its cadence, sound, and rhythm especially during his razor sharp fight scenes that act as Western shoot-out. The teasing of the Zatôichi character is merely icing on the cake.

7. I Heart Huckabees
As an example of liberalism adrift now that the conservative Religious-Right has a home-court advantage in the battle over America Inc., Huckabees, while not exactly triumphant and definitely not a failure, remains fascinating even with its frenzied flaws. Russell returned home from treasure hunting in the Middle East, to find all he scrutinised before was now even more confused. Thus he shaped this Zen comedy to answer his “big questions”. Even though his answers are unattainable, it’s still nice to know others, such as the lovable Tommy Corn, are just as bewildered and perplexed by the world around us, yet are still willing to continue asking the same questions.

8. The Five Obstructions
I grow weary of artists who constantly complain they are not given complete creative freedom. They rarely understand that true ingenuity is often displayed when the artist is constrained. Without obstacles, both art and life turn bland. In attempting to recapture the creative energy he once “perfected” and jumping past von Trier’s creative hurdles, Leth proves creative talent can always overcome creative obstructions.

9. Kill Bill Vol. 2
My, Oh My! Tarantino concludes his cinematic love letter to his single-mother, by burying her alive before allowing her to be reborn once more. The sexual liberation she achieved in V1 through adopting male behaviour now discarded, The Bride becomes maternal and metaphysical when teaching her ill-fated pupils. All that bloody cartoon violence she wages on her way to kill her pimp is so droll I almost forget that awful Superman speech. Almost!

10. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Like a Kubrick film, time will be far more kind to this film than one viewing in a theatre.

Chiranjit Goswami once lived and worked in sunny Los Angeles, California, but returned home to the frozen tundra of Winnipeg in order to prove his appreciation of film by braving the frigid winters of Canada on his way to the local arthouse film theatre… so cinema better not be dead!

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Aaron Graham

“Deadwood” (pilot)
“Hustle” (Peter Bogdanovich)
The two greatest pieces of “cinema” I saw this year happened to be on television by two auteurs who should be back up on the big screen.

The Big Red One (the reconstruction)
Notre Musique
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Aviator
Kill Bill Vol. 2
I Heart Huckabees
Shaun of the Dead

Criticism: NY Press’ Armond White continues to be our sharpest and most important film critic in print.

Aaron W. Graham, 21, is a writer who divides his time between Manitoba and Nova Scotia, Canada. He also spends his time working on screenplays and planning his first film.

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Engin Gülez

I saw many good films in 2004, and those directed by women (such as Jane Campion’s In the Cut) were my favourites. Also Mira Nair’s film Hysterical Blindness, made for television, was much better than most of the theatrical releases. I could only wish there were more of them (I’m really looking forward to seeing Sally Potter’s and Mira Nair’s latest films).

As for the lists: The first two lists are limited to the films that were released in Turkey. The “Other Worlds” list is mainly composed of the films that I saw in the 10th Festival of European Films (Festival On Wheels 2004) and the 7th International FarEast Film Festival, which were held in Ankara.

Favourite films:

1. In the Cut
2. Old Boy
3. Girl with a Pearl Earring (Peter Webber, 2003)
4. Respiro (Emanuele Crialese, 2002)
5. Goodbye Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker, 2003)
6. Nói Albínói (Dagur Kári, 2003)
7. My Architect
8. Hellboy (Guillermo del Toro, 2004)
9. Kill Bill Vol. 1
10. Anatomy of Hell (Catherine Breillat, 2004)

Guilty pleasures:

1. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Alexander Witt, 2004)
2. Paycheck (John Woo, 2003)
3. The Butterfly Effect (Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber, 2004)
4. My Boss’s Daughter (David Zucker, 2003)
5. Jet Lag (Danièle Thompson, 2002)
6. The Forgotten (Joseph Ruben, 2004)
7. The Human Stain
8. Secret Things (Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2002)
9. The Bourne Supremacy
10. Alexander (Oliver Stone, 2004)

Most overrated: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Kerry Conran, 2004)

Biggest disappointment: Kill Bill Vol. 2

Other worlds:

1. Dr. Akagi (Shohei Imamura, 1998)
2. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, 1962)
3. Garage Olimpo (Marco Bechis, 1999)
4. Jonas Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (Alain Tanner, 1976)
5. Together (Chen Kaige, 2002)
6. The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu, 2003)
7. The Castle (Michael Haneke, 1997)
8. The Arm of Jesus (André van der Hout, 2003)
9. Rouge (Stanley Kwan, 1987)
10. Isola: Multiple Personality Girl (Toshiyuki Mizutani, 2000)

Engin Gülez is a 23 year-old would-be poet and filmmaker living in Ankara, Turkey. He is studying English Language and Literature at Ankara University. You can reach him at farharbor@hotmail.com.

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