2004 Top 10 - #3 and The Hall of ShameDecember 28, 2004
#3: Before Sunset : For an early summer Valentine to all of us romantic movie-goers, Richard Linklater not only formulated a worthy sequel to his early-'90s love story, Before Sunrise, but he crafted 2004's best English-language motion picture. Before Sunset picks up nearly a decade after the first film ended, and answers all the necessary "what happened to..." questions. We re-connect with the characters as they re-connect with each other. And, as the chemistry begins to emerge from beneath the rust, we realize along with the protagonists that there may be such a thing as a soul-mate. Before Sunset is talky (it takes place in real time), but, for those who loved the first movie, that will not be a drawback. It's possible to argue the merits of the original picture against those of its sequel, but they work best when viewed as two chapters of a single story. Although the tone of Before Sunset is a little darker than that of Before Sunrise (youthful exuberance has been replaced with a kind of world-weary pessimism), the ending of the second film is less ambiguous and just as optimistic. Before Sunset is a chance to once again fall in love with these characters. One can only hope that Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy will give us another opportunity to meet them in the near future.
The 2004 Hall of Shame
As I go about counting down the Best of 2004, let me not neglect the other side of the fence. I see no real need to keep anyone in suspense, so I'll reveal the whole gory list at once. If you have seen one or two of these movies, you have my sympathy. If you have seen three or four, you may need to consider therapy. If you have seen five or more, you must be a film critic. No one else would willingly subject themself to such abject misery. As a reference point, consider #1 to be the "worst of the worst" (at least for this year).
#1: Without a Paddle: Also known as Grizzly Adams Strikes Back, with an Oscar-worthy performance by Bart the Bear.
#2: Van Helsing: As if Bram Stoker didn't already have enough reasons to turn in his grave...
#3: Catwoman: Felines did not fare well in movies this year (see #8, as well). Even the vision of Halle Berry in the dominatrix suit doesn't make this one worthwhile.
#4: Eurotrip: Eurotrash.
#5: The Whole Ten Yards: Offical burial for the careers of Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry.
#6: A Dirty Shame: It's nice when a title functions as its own best review.
#7: Envy: It sat on the shelf for two years before being released. It should have sat there longer.
#8: Garfield: Aside from not being funny and arriving in theaters fifteen years too late, what's not to like about this movie?
#9: The Perfect Score: Proof that even an actress of Scarlett Johansson's charisma and talent cannot save every movie in which she appears.
#10: Walking Tall: The most ill-advised remake of the year, and, considering some of the contenders, that's saying something.
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