Friday, August 21, 2009

What is the defining movie of the 2000s? PART 5: 2004

This is an ongoing series to attempt to figure out what the defining movie of the 2000s is.

Earlier segments...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Let's start with the Academy Award nominees for best picture...

Million Dollar Baby
The Aviator
Finding Neverland

Right off the bat, I don't see a contender in the bunch. Million Dollar Baby arguably went off the rails at the end, sucker punching the audience with its ending and theme. I won't give it away even with the statute of limitations on spoilers long since expired. Let's just say it starts as a boxing movie and ends as a...well not a boxing movie. I give Clint Eastwood all the credit in the world for making the left turn; it's his prerogative obviously, but it's still a pretty big risk in today's world of society demanding more of the same and not rewarding creative risks. (That's an argument and theory that is way too big to get involved in right now.)

I will give Million Dollar Baby a lot of credit for taking Hillary Swank (she of Boys Don't Cry cross dressing fame) and turning her into a knockout (pun fully intended) at the 2004 Oscars. Say what you will about Ms. Swank, but she certainly got in shape for the movie and flaunted it for all it was worth.

The Aviator?
Scorsese's kinda desperate attempt to get an Oscar falls a little flat. A biopic pic about Howard Hughes, the performances are great, but it doesn't feel like a true Scorsese film. It's sad that he didn't win for the films that define his ability and art (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas), though I find it sadder that he did win for the deeply flawed The Departed. Of course, because he did, I have an excuse to post this:

Finding Neverland?
It's about Peter Pan, right? Ok, fine, it's about the dude who wrote Peter Pan, Sandy Duncan. Whatever. If I want some Wheat Thins I'll go to the store and get them myself. No chance this movie is the defining movie of the 2000s.

Great performance by Jamie Fox, with a terrible outcome: We now have to deal with Jamie Fox thinking he's a credible singer. So while we got a great tribute to Ray Charles, we also got another auto tune single. I call it a wash.


While the beginning of a century obviously is a cliched symbol for birth, growth, beginnings etc., and this film at first glance harbors few of those feelings, I'd argue Sideways is a good candidate for the defining movie of the 2000s. Sideways takes a slightly offbeat look at the conflicting nature of what make males tick, and what makes them attractive to women - all under the guise of being about wine. Great performances and a little deeper than a Lifetime movie, I'm going to add it to the short list. I realize many people have since forgotten about it and it probably doesn't have a shot, but whatever.

So, after a fairly weak 2004 Academy Awards selection, let's head to the mainstream...

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Sure, we all have seen Anchorman so many times we're tired of it; there's a backlash against it (as there is against anything that becomes mainstream popular); we use the many quotable lines from the movie as comedic crushes in our everyday dialog with coworkers at the watercooler. Still, if we can look past the cliched jokes and tiredness of it, and remember back to when it first came out, we can was a moderate hit. Nothing special.


It obviously gained a lot of traction on cable and DVD, because you can't spend time too many places anymore and not hear it quoted. Pairing the "holy trinity" of Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Judd Apatow together for the first time, the formula somehow works. Unfortunately for them, they didn't write down the formula and eventually went on to create mediocre films in an attempt to duplicate it. And though Elf and Old School came before it, this movie seemed to the the one that crowned Will Ferrell as the go to guy for comedies (at least for the next few years). So it simply has to be considered as the defining movie of the 2000s.

Kill Bill Vol. 2
I know this is breaking the sequel rule, but I'd argue that this is almost completely different than the first part. I'd also argue that making Kill Bill one long film, with just a few simple edits, and we wouldn't need to debate what the defining movie was - it would be this.

Personally, I enjoy Vol.2 much more than Vol. 1. It feels the more complete part, with a huge payoff at the end - something obviously the first part couldn't accomplish. While it still maintains the violence and vengeance theme, it also introduces regret and whether or not revenge is all it's cracked up to be. The consequences of the characters actions feel more real in this part, and as a result they seem more human.

Napoleon Dynamite
There are two types of people on this Earth: those who enjoyed Napolenon Dynamite, and those who will punch Jon Heder in the face if they ever see him on the street. Ok, so maybe that's a little drastic, but this movie seems to really split the audience apart.

I happen to fall in the latter category; while I'm not going to punch Jon Heder, I really don't understand the love a lot of people have for this movie. I chuckled at the climactic dance scene. Other than that, I feel it's a very mediocre film. (Quick aside - I'm fairly certain every high school variety show has spoofed - or more specifically mimiced - the dance scene from this movie.)

Still, because it causes such a fierce opinion - both positive and negative - I think it needs to be considered and make the short list of candidates for defining movie of the 2000s.

The Passion of the Christ

I wouldn't be a good Catholic if I didn't mention this film here. That I'm not Catholic is beside the point. Whatever your religious beliefs are, you can't deny the media storm and success this film generated. Not about to go into any detail here myself, I'll instead link you to the wikipedia page to read about the controversy surrounding it.

Reading that page, I noticed not only is this film the most successful subtitled film in America, it's also the most successful rated R movie. Such a controversial and yet still successful movie has to be considered as a defining movie, even if it speaks directly to a specific religious group.

Unfortunately, that seems to be it for 2004. Of course, I can't leave the year without taking a gander at some of the other movies of the year...

Apparently, I'm a 14 year old girl somewhat questioning my sexuality. That's the only explanation I can think of why I'd continually watch this movie. Well, there may be another reason...

D.E.B.S. is a very mediocre movie about a training school for women secret agents going after a beautiful lesbian criminal mastermind who falls in love with one of the agents in training.

I mean seriously, how could you not like a film like that?

I'm not sure if it's suggesting female empowerment or female soft core porn, but at the end of the day I'm gonna say I really don't care.

The Day After Tomorrow
One of my "go to" crappy disaster movies. Dennis Quaid pulls off a fatherly feel, and I've always had a soft spot for Sela Ward. And I haven't even gotten to the disaster stuff yet. Super storms, due to, I guess our wanton disregard to the environment, suddenly form and plunge the Earth into another Ice Age within a matter of days. And when I say Ice Age, I mean it. New York freezes over, soon, and with a killer ice cloud on its way, Dennis Quaid has to get there but quick to save his kid, who is burning books in the New York Public Library to stay warm and dodging starving wolves on a Russian(?) cargo ship he know what? Forget it. Just watch it for full cheese, a ridiculous Dick Cheney caricature and Dennis Quaid's partner/friend crash through a glass roof at a mall.

Oh, and to see what will happen if we keep raping the environment at the rate we are.

The Machinist
Not a great movie, but a great performance. Christian Bale, devoted to the role lost something like 250 pounds during the filming. A depressing Fight Club (and that's saying something) about displaced identities and insomnia, The Machinist is nothing too special other than Bale crazily jeopardizing his health for the role. Had he only had the same demotion on Terminator: Rise of the Machines.

Another sci-fi, though this one slightly more enjoyable, Primer is a mindfuck time travel movie that I'm not sure the writers can follow. Here's a diagram that explains the time travel theory; and here's a diagram that explains all the timeline the movie uses. (Note: If you haven't seen the movie, don't click on the second diagram. Rather, seek the film out first. It's worth it.)

The more amazing feat of this movie, other than creating a feasible, logical (sorta) time travel film, is that the whole thing was shot for $7,000. Trust me, it doesn't look like it was shot for that little. An amazing feat.

So that wraps up 2004. Agree? Disagree? Feel I've missed something? Please let me know in the comments below!

Coming up...2005!


Anonymous said... forgot Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Anonymous said...

Eternal Sunshine has to be atleast reviewed. I think it's a great representation of love, loneliness and dangerous medical treatments in the new millenium.

I agree with The Machinist, it's a less effective and more gothic Secret Window.

Mel said...

Eternal Sunshine should be a leading contender to "win" this title. It's a magnificent film!

That said, I would also consider at least nominating The Incredibles.

Joel said...

I'm going to have to suggest Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I'm very surprised it's not here. What say you?

Jason H. said...

I agree with everyone else about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's a great movie and it's changed the way we think about love stories.

However, you forgot another important (though not great) film: Fahrenheit 9/11. Its the most successful documentary ever, and it had the entire nation debating the authenticity of Michael Moore's claims. Surely you can't say that such an explosive film isn't a defining film, especially considering the similar documentaries that it spawned?

Anonymous said...

Indeed, I agree with everyone ... Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind should be on your list. I think it's the best film for 2004.

You other choices:

I haven't seen Anchorman and Napoleon dynamite. They seem to be pretty good movies but defining movie of the 2000's ? I doubt it....

Kill bill 2 : NO WAY !! It is the worse film made by Tarantino. At least, for my taste

The passion of the Christ : Good choice. I 'm definitely not a fan but it deserves a spot

You should have put Der untergang (do you watch foreign movies ? you should try...)

Jetspete said...

Looking at box office mojo's list of top grossing movies, i forgot just how many fun, watchable movies came out in 2004. But i would like to nominate two choices.

Closer saw Clive Owen give an outstanding heel performance, as well as a remarkably reserved performance from the lovely Julia Roberts. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing Queen Amidala in a bra and panties.

Despite being a pretty horrendous actress, Natalie Portman was also eminently pleasing in Garden State. For me, Garden State was for young adults what Lost in Translation was for middle-aged men.

Anonymous said...

i really wish you would not put passion of the christ on this list