Top Ten 2004
Top Tens of: 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009

Music
Film
Chris and Melanie's year end film awards

MUSIC
Best studio albums by one artist/group (no compilations or live albums)
10. Tom Waits - Real Gone -- tom (i can call him by his first name because i talked with him when he bought the newest lucinda williams album) has always been one for bucking trends; and this album is plenty testament to that fact. while most musicians lose their touch with age, waits is somehow able to continue to push the boundaries of mainstream music while staying listenable. surely this isn't waits' most ambitious or avant-garde work, but he's lost very little of his signature touch and that's what's refreshing.
9. Talib Kweli - Beautiful Struggle --
8. Rokia Traore - Bowmboi --
7. El-P - High Water -- it's my guess that this album is much an El-P album as it is a Matthew Shipp album. i've got two albums by shipp and both have the same feel as this album, but perhaps it was el-p's production, or mere presence, that made this album as good as it is. the core of the album is certainly the jazz band's performance, but the flourishes that are added by el-p do set it apart from most acid jazz recordings. there's a dark atmosphere to much of the album that keeps it away from the lounge sound that i hear from so many generic jazz outfits. again, i think that's influenced by el-p's production, but the album really is a collaboration so calling it strictly an el-p album is a bit misleading. el-p's other album this year (catching the kid) is also an instrumental album, but it's not as promising as this one. instead it finds him recycling production from mr. lif's i phantom and remaining uninspiring overall. hopefully he comes out with a proper hip-hop album some time soon.
6. Black Keys - Rubber Factory -- thickfreakness is a better album than this one, but 2003 was a stronger year so it only placed number eight on my list. rubber factory does the same stuff as thickfreakness, but just not quite as well. that said, there are some really good moments on this album and there's even a softer, almost melancholy song on this album.
5. Tinariwen - Amassakoul --
4. Team Shadetek - Burnerism -- it's a mish mash of electronic styles somewhere between aphex twin, autechre, four tet and manitoba's last album. i don't think that team shadetek break any great new ground with this short album, but everything here plays well in the pocket. they seem content to find good beats, mix them up and let things be where they need to be. in other words, they don't push the music, or the listener, too much... and i think that ends up being a good decision because what results is a very listenable album that is still outside of the mainstream electronic sound.
3. David Byrne - Grown Backwards -- it's not as good as much of the talking heads stuff, but byrne shows that he's still got a good ear for instrumentation and harmonics. the first couple tracks are really good and the rest of the album is solid and fresh enough to come in at this slot.
2. Orbital - Blue Album -- take out track seven (which i do thanks to the track delete function on my cd player) and this album is pretty solid. i certainly think it's a step up from the altogether, which wasn't all that bad. the first half of the album was actually surprisingly good when i first heard it. orbital were so great in their heyday that i'm sort of obligated to give this album a little more props than it actually deserves. which brings me to number one...
1. Beastie Boys - To The Five Boroughs -- if anyone questions my placing this album in this spot my reply shall simply be: "it's my fucking list." that is to say that, objectively speaking, this album probably doesn't deserve to be number one, even though this year's lot was pretty fucking weak, but it's my list so i can put this album wherever i want. plus, it has grown on me more than any other album this year so i don't feel it's too much of a stretch to put the b-boys in their rightful position atop the list. the album produces a good number of laughs, clever samples and phat beats. sure, there are some weak moments, but they sample the dead boys to great effect, end the album on a high note, and are as political as ever. i love the beastie boys.

honorable mention:
MF Doom - Special Herbs Vol. 7, 8 --
Saul Williams - Self-Titled --
Eminem - Encore --

best albums that couldn't make the list (reason):
Jim Gaffigan - Doing My Time (Comedy) -- this guy is hilarious. i was first introduced to his work in 2001 while we were on the trip, and i was blown away by his routine. he does a lot of the same material here, but i have a bad memory and it's all so funny that listening to it over and over isn't a problem. he also has a small role in super troopers as the guy who was the victim of the "meow" gag. check this guy out, you will like him... guaranteed.
David Cross - It's Not Funny (Comedy) -- i think that cross' humor is the kind that you either really like or really dislike. he's a divisive personality because he bashs so many people and so many thoughts and actions. his humor is ascerbic, but it's also intelligent and informed.
Black Heart Procession/Solbakken - In The Fishtank 11 (EP) -- this was the first album of the year that got me excited, but it wasn't really an album and i actually got it in 2003.

FILM
A quick note: Two of the best films that were released this year were actually released (at one or two film festivals) in late 2003. since i use imdb.com as my reference point for year of release i can't include Open Water and The Corporation on my top ten, but they both belong there.

10. Deadline -

here's my review from the original viewing:
watched two films (documentaries) directed by women tonight; that's unusual. kirsten johnson, one of two directors for this film, was also a cinematographer on fahrenheit 9/11 and derrida, so she's a talent to watch. this documentary is similar to thin blue line or brother's keeper, but takes a more systemic, macro view of the issue. it focuses on the governor of illinois' struggle with whether or not to commute all death penalty sentences. the film saves that decision for the end and builds the argument against the death penalty using a two-pronged attack - it highlights both the ethical and systemic problems. the film convincingly demonstrates the fact that the death penalty is largely applied to the poor and people of color, and shows dozens of cases which were overturned - some only because college classes took up cases as class projects. there is a token effort made to show the opinions of the other side. captures some emotional footage including one hearing in which the parents of a murderer and his victim are in the same room. the victim's father makes his plea to the court for the death penalty and turns to the mother of the murderer and says "i'm sorry, but i can't forgive your son for what he did. i just want him to die." she says she understands and feels horrible, but still doesn't think it's right to kill her son in retaliation. the hero of the film is governor ryan who, despite having orgins as a small town republican, honestly weighed the facts and made an informed and gutsy decision. thumbs up to him and this film. B+.

9. Saw -

here's my review from the original viewing:
there are some films that are obviously the director's first, and this is one of them. that may sound bad, but in this case it really isn't. in this case it means the film had a fresh take and a fresh look at the thriller/horror genre. there were certainly some flaws in the film - some of the direction was a bit too frenetic (think nu-metal music video) and some of the plot devices were slightly contrived, but the overall the film benefited from a sort of filmic ignorance. once you know how to make a film, it's difficult to shake yourself out of the preexisting mold, and this film illustrates what new-comers have to offer. in a lot of ways it's better to have a film slightly flawed in some ways in order to keep the integrity of a new director's vision. it takes a lot of trust on the part of the producers and that seems to be what happened here. i really don't want to talk about any of the specifics of the film because i think it's better to go into it without any expectations. i will say, however, that i had some reservations throughout the film that were (mostly) put to rest with its conclusion. it's no se7en, but it's worth the price of admission for the thrills alone. B+.

8. Primer -

here's my review from the original viewing:
i don't know where to start with this film. it's definitely worth checking out. it's also a pretty tough film to watch in some ways. the film is constantly unfolding one step ahead of the viewer and that keeps things constantly interesting, but also a bit confusing. unfortunately the ending doesn't wrap things up into one nice bow, but i actually didn't mind that fact too much. the teaser is this: a film about a couple of engineers who are working on an unknown device which happens to have some unexpected consequences and far-reaching implications. the plot is, almost literally, infinitely fascinating and that's saying a lot. again, the downside to this is that one viewing really doesn't seem like enough because the film doesn't provide all the answers for your right away. visually the film is very indie. a lot of the film is yellow because of, i presume, underexposure and underlighting. the direction was mostly by the numbers and capable, but unremarkable. however, there were at least two occasions which rose above average. one was the turning point of the film, abe walks out onto the roof of a building and we are blinded by the sunlight briefly as he walks towards the edge to look down on aaron in the courtyard below. instantly i knew that the dynamic of the film had changed - we were outdoors, the camera looked directly into the light and the characters were on different levels. touches like this make a decent film better. a cerebral, compelling filmgoing experience. B+.

7. Door In The Floor -

here's my review from the original viewing:
sort of a cross between "the graduate" and "spanking the monkey." it's able to combine drama and comedy pretty well and the story revolves around a high school aged boy who has the hots for kim basinger. i think that the funny moments were more funny than the poignant moments were poignant, but both worked pretty well. the boy is played by jon foster, whom i've never heard of. despite being relatively new he's the star of the film and probably does an even better job than jeff bridges and kim basinger. the young daughter, played by one of the precocious fanning sisters (yes there's another one), is also good. a sexual coming-of-age film like this can have the tendency to peter out about half-way through the film. door in the floor, though, is able to keep moving forward by making subtle changes to the characters and their interactions. a small change in a character or two can change the dynamic of their relationship which then changes other relationships within the film. sometimes films stagnate and aren't able to find ways to change the character interactions in a believable and interesting way; this film doesn't have that problem. it's got two (at least former) A-list actors so it's somewhat surprising to see this playing in independent cinemas. i'm glad it is though because it may provide some welcome box office funds for smaller theaters. a worthwhile film. B.

6. Ray -

here's my review from the original viewing:
from the director of "proof of life" comes...maybe that's not the best way to start a review of a film i actually liked. okay...
biopics are a difficult lot. stone's "doors" was okay, mann's "ali" was unimpressive, harris' "pollock" was stock...the problem with biopics is that capturing a real person's life in an honest way, and finding someone decent to portray them, is usually just too hard. that brings me to jamie foxx. i basically said in my review of collateral that jamie foxx was officially a good actor, and this film will make others realize this. on npr the other day they had a film "expert" who was talking about the possibility of foxx winning an academy award. he said that foxx looked good, but didn't sing his own stuff and that best actor/actress nominees in the past haven't won when they lip-synched through the singing. he cited natalie wood in west side story who didn't win because she didn't sing herself. i think the major difference between past performances and this one is that ray charles is a real person and he was still alive during the filming of the movie. in other words, i don't think you can fault foxx's performance at all. plus he's got the public sympathy and the cripple card (think rain man, my left foot, etc.) so i'd bet on foxx, barring something great in the next couple months. regina king also turns in a good, powerful performance.
the film created several pretty inspiring moments. there was one scene in which charles had to fill twenty more minutes to complete his part of a contract. on the fly he creates another hit song. i don't know if it was a film contrivance or a reality, but it felt more like the former. at the same time it was one i was willing to roll with because it felt like charles really was that much of a genius. another similar scene came when his mistress broke us with him, which immediately led to him writing "hit the road jack" in her presence. it felt like an amazingly inspired moment, to turn that pain into one of the most popular songs in his catalog, right there on the spot. again, this was probably more a film contrivance than a portrayal of fact, but it felt right enough to roll with it.
charles' music was contextualized by hackford in a more meaningful way than i expected, or have seen from similar films. every song has a story and hackford reinforces this idea with judicious cross-cutting between the performance of a song, and the aspect of charles' life that inspired it. it elevated the meaning of the music and broke up the obligatory performance sequences; a nice touch.
the film begins with charles in the 1950s, he's already blind and about to hit the road to find his first job. his formative years are retold in fragments as we follow him through his first few jobs. hackford employs a different film stock and look to signify the flashback. colors are brighter, but the film is more grainy, like 16mm film or something. i liked this technique of telling the story of his becoming blind and the death of his brother, more than starting chronologically. hackford shows us effect and then cause, and it works well. we get to know who charles is, and then why he's that way.
the film isn't entirely a hagiography either, and that's extremely important with films like this. we see charles, warts and all. we see his fight with drugs, his adultery, and we see the negative effects (on his family) of his obsession with music.
without a doubt, the worst part of the film is its ending. like ali, ray doesn't quite know how to end. in ali it's a freeze frame after the rumble in the jungle and the film is over. in ray it's a text epilogue accompanied by photos of the real ray charles. it basically says that for the next forty years ray charles kept making music and was a good guy. it comes off as a bit awkward and a little precious. i generally don't dig academy bait like this, but they did a good job with this one. ray charles' story is compelling and moving; the film didn't get in the way of that too much, and hammed it up a bit (within reason) when it got the opportunity. it's sometimes said that a script is so good that not even a good director could ruin it. the idea is that "good" directors sometimes interject themselves into a picture too much, thus ruining decent screenplays. in this case hackford demonstrated a decent sense for when to let the story tell itself. hopefully when they make a film about johnny cash it's equally well done. B+.

5. Collateral -

here's my review from the original viewing:
for me every michael mann film i see from now on will be measured against "heat" because that's clearly his best work, and a modern masterpiece. though collateral doesn't match up to heat, it is a solid rebound after the mostly uninspiring "ali." jamie foxx and tom cruise essentially carry the film, for if it were not for their solid performances, the film would have been a bit flat. my biggest complaint about the film is the law enforcement aspect of it. in heat al pacino is the perfect counterweight to deniro's crew. in this film, though, the cops aren't nearly as sophisticated or played by the same caliber of actors. the film needed some sort of device to squeeze the action that is occurring with foxx and cruise, and the police subplot was a sufficient tool towards that effect, but i didn't feel that aspect of the film was executed as well as it should have been. about three quarters of the way through the film things get a little contrived and a bit conventional. some of the action and style seems a bit stock and un-mann like. however, mann quickly rights things by ditching the police, and refocusing the film's attention on foxx/cruise.
andrew sarris comments that the (john) fordian hero knows why he is doing something, but not how to do it. the (howard) hawksian hero knows how to do what he is doing, but not why. and the (raoul) "walshian hero is less interested in the why or the how than in the what. he is always plunging into the unknown." without getting into that broad statement too much here, i will say that jamie foxx represents the fordian hero and cruise represents the hawksian hero. it's not just that cruise is eminently qualified as a killer in the film, it's also the philosophical discussions the two have throughout the night. foxx certainly is a precise character, but to no avail. his proposed business hasn't gotten off the ground, and he's been driving as a cabbie "temporarily" for 12 years. foxx is clearly the ideologue who also happens to be inept in long-term life. cruise, though, is completely able in whatever he does - whether it be his profession as a hitman or posing as a lawyer or as a jazz connoisseur. but unlike foxx, he doesn't have a driving force behind his capable mind and body. in this sense the film creates a great duo that is worth the price of admission alone.
the film's style is also noteworthy. it struck me that in some ways michael mann may be the west coast version of martin scorsese. though i haven't really thought about it in much depth the theory is supported by some minor points: mann's films often feature urban protagonists who live outside of the mainstream, similar to scorsese's work. in some of mann's films the landscape becomes its own character, much in the way that the old neighborhood is itself a character in scorsese's films. in this film two things struck me about the style. first was the filming method being used - it looked like a cross between video and dv, but better quality than either. it looked grainy, but not like a 16mm film, it was more of a digital grain. turns out he used hdtv cameras in the filming to achieve the look. i like the choice. sure he could have used dv or even film and had decent results, but the camera he used give it a big budget quality (unlike 28 days later...) while maintaining a grainy, documentary look that supplements the feel. video does seem to have its aesthetic advantages from time to time. a lot of the exterior shots, particularly around the cab, were...not quite good looking, but somehow they had a unique style and visual impact. i can't really describe it. some of it was the camera and some of it was the lenses he was using because there were a lot of shots that had an odd sort of deep focus or, conversely, a sharp focus on the foreground. i can't really describe it, and i don't know why i liked it (other than the simple fact that it was different) so i'll just leave it at that.
early in the film he also has a lot of shots of LA which is similar to scorsese's "taxi driver" which features voice-over and shots of the urban cesspool. with heat and collateral mann sold me on thinking he was from LA. in a lot of ways mann shoots LA better than tarantino shoots it in jackie brown. in those two films you really get a sense of the city, and the landscape comes more to the foreground than it does in most other films (probably because so many other films are shot on backlots anyway).
despite a couple of lapses the film is solid all-around and visually interesting. foxx and cruise both advance their careers - foxx by adding a third (ali and any given sunday being the other two) solid, serious film to his filmography; and cruise by showing (again - remember magnolia) that he can step outside of the good guy role.
interesting note: this film begins in an airport and ends on the railway; heat begins on a railway and ends in an airport. B+.

4. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind -

here's my review from the original viewing:
let's first say that this isn't the highly original film that people are going to say it is. being john malkovich (also written by kaufman) was more original than this one or adaptation. adaptation was highly influenced by otto e mezzo and this one was highly influenced by the original solaris (and, to a lesser extent, mememto). that being said, the film is still good. i just wanted to squash any thoughts that kaufman is some sort of brilliant originator...something i'm sure some people are saying. it's a well-written, directed and acted film. it was pretty easy to follow considering how much it jumped around in time/space and explored reality/dream. jim carrey had his best performance, but kate winslet was just as good, in a more mercurial role. i like that it plays with reality/dream in a less assuming or pedantic way than one usually sees. it also addresses fate, love, identity, etc. it's a good film that's worth watching. B.

3½. Open Water (released in one film festival in 2003) -

here's my review from the original viewing:
pretty much exactly what an indie film should be. it's basically a "blair witch project" in the ocean, but it's not just a knock off, and even if it were it doesn't much matter because the film is so good. there will probably be some spoilers ahead... the film follows a yuppie couple on their island getaway. we get to know them for a little while and then, while scuba diving with a group, they are left alone in the middle of the ocean. that's the gist of the plot. it's low concept filmmaking at its best. the film is shot using dv and it perfectly matches the style and subject of the film. i'm sure it was more of an economic decision than anything else, but knowing your economic limitations and changing the way you shoot the film shows that you know what you're doing. you don't try to shoot ben-hur on dv, and the filmmakers clearly understood that.
by far the most important aspect of the film was the hook. if the couple didn't have an onscreen chemistry, and if the filmmakers didn't establish some normalcy from the beginning then the rest of the film would have suffered greatly. shots of the couple in bed, brushing their teeth, etc. all pay their dividends in the second half of the film. simply put, this film had me rapt in anticipation as soon as the couple got into the water. i think that some people will be put off by the ending, but that's more a function of what viewers have come to expect from thrillers than anything else. a recommendable film. B++.

3. Kill Bill Volume Two -

here's my review from the original viewing:
the first half of the two film opus is the hook. it's full of panache, style, humor and action. it references depalma, kung-fu films, yakuza films, samurai films, exploitation films, leone films, and everything in between. the more of these films you've seen the more you'll like it. if you've seen the master of the flying guillotine or cowboy bebop or any number of films that tarantino "quotes" then you'll be even more invested in both these films. the second film changes tone and pace from the first. it dwells much more on the characters and their relationships. it fills in the history of the bride and her training, as well as fleshing out bill's character. as a result it's slower and, if viewed as one film, probably would appear to be too much of a shift. it has a fair amount of action, but isn't as much of a ride as the first installment is. the ending is more serious than most of the film seemed to warrant and that threw me off a bit. it's not that it's not earned, but it changed the tone of the entire work. the first film had me thinking i was along for a fun ride through the history of film, and the ending was contrary to that. i think that when he reedits it, tarantino will make some adjustments to allow the film to flow a little more evenly than if you watch volume one and then volume two back to back. let me make it clear that the second film is very well done. he continues to experiment (though the only time shifts are flashbacks) with the craft, the characters grow deeper and the dialogue still has snap. it's tough to make a film like this. i wish the producers would have let him just make a four hour film since that's what it really is. together they are a bit awkward, so i'll grade them separately....volume one B+. volume two B+.

2. Miracle - i watched this film by myself after work one night in an attempt to not be home when melanie got back. it's a stupid reason to watch a film, but despite what was going on in my head at the time i found that the film immediately took me away to a different place. i like this film as much as any other that was released this year and it may have had the greatest potential to crash and burn. here's my review from the original viewing:
first some background, in case you're a sports ignoramus. in 1964, 68, 72 and 76 the USSR hockey team won the gold medal in each year's olympics. in 1979 (or was it 1980?) they played the nhl all-star team and beat them 6-0. up until the 1980 winter olympics they had been undefeated in the last 40+ games in their various travels around the world (including a win against the very same U.S. team that this story follows). once in the olympics the russians breezed through their first five games going 5-0 and scoring 51 goals (that's a lot). every expert in the world had them picked as the best team in the world with the best goalie in the world. but then they played a US team whose average player was only 21 years old, and they got beat. anyone who knows anything about the history of the modern olympics ranks the game as one of the top five greatest upsets in modern olympic history. add to that the political climate of the time and you've got a pretty great story. what most people don't know is that as huge as the game was it was only for the silver medal....the US went on to win one more game against finland for the gold medal.
but when you have a story that great there is a tendency for hollywood to fuck things up. here's a movie that could have so easily been bad...make that awful. it has all the trappings of a bad tv movie. the based on the true story of an american olympic hockey team defying all odds to beat the russian hockey team. there was easily the opportunity for flag waving and slow motion overload, but that stuff really wasn't there. this is one of the rare times when i thought to myself "this film is really well produced." i could tell that the producers of this film were committed more to the story than to the bottom line (i.e., profit). examples?...they hired the coach of the 1980 team that the film depicts as a consultant and dedicated it in his honor (he died shortly before the film was completed). i don't remember seeing any flags waving in the wind. they didn't hire big name actors to play any of the hockey players. in 1980 the olympics still required amateurs so none of the hockey players on the team were widely known...the same goes for the film. there were only two recognizable faces in the film - kurt russell played the coach (who in real life was the biggest star of the team since he coached a couple ncaa championship teams) and noam emmerich (who really isn't all that big of an actor) who played an assistant coach. again, if they had done a typical hollywood job on this movie you would have seen guys like josh hartnet or casey affleck or freddie prinze jr. instead the film adopts the philosophy of the team they are praising - it's more about the whole than it is about the individuals. and i really think that it works. there are some weak moments in the acting here or there (russell is actually very good), but as a whole the acting is sufficient  and the story carries whatever weaknesses the film may have elsewhere. the filmmakers (wisely) allow the story to shine on its own. like seabiscuit, the film places the story within its historical context and it does this because the story calls for it. rather than making it into a cold war allegory for the sake of plucking on our sense of patriotism, the film neatly places the story in its appropriate backdrop because it belongs there. it does not make the mistake of simplifying things either - it shows both sides of the cold war - there are those who want our team to beat those commie bastards and there are those who recognize that it's just a game and basically just wish we could all get along. if the film was made 15 years ago i think it would have been more successful, but it wouldn't have been as good and mature as it is. i also like the fact that they treated the win against the USSR as the climax of the film despite the fact that it was the next game (against finland) that was for the gold medal. most people might consider a gold medal game as more important, but in reality the silver medal game against the USSR was a bigger upset and more memorable. a very fine film. B+.

1. Fahrenheit 9/11 - truthfully this film is holding onto this number one slot by a thread and i sort of feel cliché by including it here, but, then, it does deserve it on a lot of different levels. i think i enjoyed watching miracle more and i think it was a better production, but fahrenheit 9/11 is probably a better film and certainly a more important one, and that should count for something.

½. Corporation (limited release in 2003) - This is the film that should/would have gotten the number one spot for the year, but it was technically released in late 2003 at a couple film festivals, so I can't include it in my official list. That said, this is the best new documentary I've seen in quite some time and should be seen by all. Here's the original review:
my three biggest socio-political issues right now are: education (because i feel 99% of our problems can be solved with the right education), corporate dominance, and (an offshoot of the second item) media dereliction of duty. this film tackles the second issue with a deft clarity and focus that quite simply had me amazed from the first reel. let me cut to the chase here for those too lazy to read on: THIS is the film of the year, and possibly the best documentary (with the exception of american movie) to come out in the last five to ten. if there's any film that you roll out of bed to watch this year, please let this be the one.
most people who have an interest in progressive causes will be somewhat familiar with the outline of the film - corporate personhood has essentially led to corporations having an insane amount of control over what we see, eat, drink, breathe and consume in general. corporations have become part of our consciousness at an unshakable and unwashable level. they are ubiquitous, single-minded (profit), subversive parasites that erode our society from within. with this in mind you'd think the film was a marxist commercial out to bring capitalism to its knees. you'd be wrong. the film is remarkably even-handed in its approach. governmental as well as market fixes are proposed by different interviewees. i'm very much into the work of noam chomsky and michael moore (both are interviewed), i've read fast food nation, i'm a big fan of adbusters, i own naomi klein's "no logo" and korten's "when corporations rule the world" so a lot of this stuff wasn't all that new to me, but some of it was and the film is a perfect amalgamation of all this information. archive footage is used extremely well, like a hip-hop artist melding together samples in ways that create an entirely different tapestry of sound. interviews, archival footage, and good old investigative journalism are used to present a solid case about the role corporations have in our global society; as well as how we've gotten to this point and where we may be going.
despite the heavy nature and brutal pacing of much of the film, there are a few moments of ironic comedy. i do think the film would have done well with a few momentary pauses early in the film to allow things to soak in. in feature films a director might cut to an exterior for a beat or two to allow a bit of a cushion from one scene to the next, something similar may have aided the pacing of this film. it's actually remarkable that i wished it had taken a little more time considering its 2 hour and 25 minute runtime. i think it's testament to the film's strength. i also want to note that the long runtime and heavy nature of the film never came off as dry or overly-academic. in other words, it's not a boring film to watch - quite the contrary, it's a rather engaging and almost fun film to watch. i say "fun" reluctantly because learning about the ways in which a corporation is bilking america and the world out of our natural resources and hard-earned money isn't fun, but if you're interested in learning then it is an exciting film. a quick side note - the narrator had a perfect voice for the material and she reminded me a lot of the narrator in the "second renaissance" portions of the animatrix. generally i don't give films i've only seen once anything better than a B+, but this film blew me away from start to finish on so many different levels...A.

Honorable Mention:
Hero (originally released in 2002) - Originally released abroad two years ago, it finally made its way over here in 2004 (thanks, in part, to Tarantino). The story left a bit to be desired, but Doyle's cinematography is extremely good, the score is quite good, and the acting and fight choreography are solid.

Chris and Melanie film awards...
Out of these movies released in 2004:

Voices Of Iraq
Dawn Of The Dead
Ray
Primer
Fahrenheit 9/11
Saw
Bush's Brain
Deadline
Garden State
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism
Miracle
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Kill Bill Volume Two
Control Room
Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle
Collateral
Door In The Floor
Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgandy
Meet The Fockers
Ocean's Twelve
Blade Trinity
Enduring Love
Spartan
Incredibles
National Treasure
After The Sunset
Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster
Man Who Knew Bush
Grudge
Bush Family Fortunes
Silver City
I Heart Huckabees
Along Came Polly
Girl Next Door
Team America: World Police
Unconstitutional: War On Our Civil Liberties
Forgotten
Envy
Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow
Butterfly Effect
Shaun Of The Dead
Hunting Of The President
Super Size Me
Mean Creek
Prince And Me
What The #$*! Do We Know!?
Cellular
Suspect Zero
Without A Paddle
Predator vs. Alien
Stepford Wives
Napoleon Dynamite
Manchurian Candidate
Spider-Man 2
Village
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Bourne Supremacy
King Arthur
Terminal
Mean Girls
Saved!
Trekkies 2
Twisted
Day After Tomorrow
Alamo
Ladykillers
Jersey Girl
Perfect Score
Starsky And Hutch
Secret Window
Hidalgo
Club Dread
50 First Dates
Big Bounce
 

Awards given:
best picture
chris - Fahrenheit 9/11
melanie - Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

best director
chris - Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill Volume Two
melanie - Michel Gondry for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

best actor
chris - Jamie Foxx in Ray
melanie - Jude Law in Alfie

best supporting actor
chris - David Carradine in Kill Bill Volume Two
honorable mention to Jeff Bridges in Door In The Floor
melanie - Dustin Hoffman in Meet The Fockers

best actress
chris - Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Volume Two
melanie - Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Volume Two

best supporting actress
chris - Sharon Warren in Ray
melanie - Sharon Warren in Ray

best comedy
chris - Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgandy
melanie - Shaun Of The Dead

best drama
chris - Miracle
melanie - Collateral

best screenplay
chris - Kill Bill Volume Two
melanie - I Heart Huckabees

flop of the year
chris - Terminal
melanie - Alamo

most likely to win a real award
chris - Ray
melanie - Ray

sleeper of the year
chris - Primer
melanie - Shaun Of The Dead

biggest disappointment
chris - Team America: World Police
melanie - Napoleon Dynamite

biggest surprise
chris - Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle
melanie - National Treasure