FILM THREAT’S BEST & WORST OF 2004

THE BEST OF THE BEST AND THE WORST OF THE WORST

SHORTS THAT KNOCKED OUR SOCKS OFF

1. OH MY GOD
To say anything about this film is saying too much. If you’re in Park City this January, you’d be wise to check it out at Sundance.

2. WHY THE ANDERSON CHILDREN DIDN’T COME TO DINNER
This is the kind of film Tim Burton wishes he could make. Kind of touching, kind of morbid and totally original. And to give the answer to the movie’s “Jeopardy”-like title: “Because mom’s a psycho.”

3. CLOWN
Not to be enjoyed with a stiff drink, Karl T. Hirsch’s “Clown” delivers some major chills.

4. VIRGINAL YOUNG BLONDES
“Virginal Young Blondes” is a tight work where everything is never what it seems.

5. TACKLE BOX
What sets “Tackle Box” far apart from any other shorts is the complete lack of dialogue. It’s not filmed in the style of a silent film, but is blessed with astounding cinematography by Robert Newcomb. This is true cinematic poetry.

6. MISSING SOCK
“Missing Sock” is absurd and that’s where its charm lies.

7. BEASTER
Watch Jesus rise from the grave and chow down on everyone in his path. It’s also fun for the kids.

8. WHY NEAL
“Why Neal” is a consistently entertaining profile of one man trying to live life on his own terms.

9. MOST WONDERFUL PEOPLE
“Most Wonderful People” is a great ode to the silent film era.

10. SO, WE KILLED OUR PARENTS
Shane Ryan’s “So, We Killed Our Parents” is a fairy tale for the modern world, as fractured as the tales before it.

INDIES TO WATCH OUT FOR IN 2005

1. PURGATORY HOUSE
Dodging the nasty After School Special bullet, “Purgatory House” is a charming, touching, clever and all-around brilliantly crafted film about teen suicide. The key to its success? The story was written by a 14-year-old girl.

2. ALICE’S MISADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
This re-telling of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” presents its viewers with a production overflowing with talent and imagination so much so that we hold it right up there with Svankmajer’s “Alice”. With marvelous special effects and glaring heart and soul, this one stands as an excellent demonstration of talent overcoming budget. Filmmaker Robert Rugan has shown us that you can do anything with an indie.

3. HIDE AND CREEP
“Hide and Creep” has that “Shaun of the Dead” spirit about it – it’s made by people who clearly have great affection for the zombie sub-genre and they tip their hats to all of the living dead greats of the past without letting it interfere with their own story they’re trying to tell. In short, lovers of the dead won’t want to miss this one. It’s true zombie ass kicking fun!

4. FIRECRACKER
There are a lot of people out there itching to see Mike Patton’s feature film acting debut and Steve Balderson is the filmmaker ready to give it to them in this creepy looking tale about a true-life murder in smalltown Kansas. Check out our write-up on Wamego, the making-of documentary, to get a taste of what we’ll be seeing in theaters 2005.

5. MURDER-SET-PIECES
Just may be the serial killer movie to end all serial killer movies.

BEST DVD: “The Star Wars Trilogy”
Yes! We finally have the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD!

WORST DVD: “The Star Wars Trilogy”
No, damnit! We want the REAL original Star Wars trilogy on DVD!

BEST ARGUMENT TO LEAVE THE CLASSICS ALONE:
Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair and Michael Radford’s The Merchant of Venice decided to oomph up the old texts, as if Thackeray and Shakespeare needed polishing. In doing so, the filmmakers drastically changed the tone and focus of both landmark works, creating confused films lacking in wit, focus and purpose. Central miscasting with Reese Witherspoon as an obnoxious Becky Sharp and Al Pacino as a non-kosher Shylock didn’t help.

BEST ARGUMENT TO PUT KEVIN SPACEY OUT OF OUR MISERY:
Beyond the Sea has the 45-year-old star pretending to be Bobby Darin, who died at 37. Besides being way too old, Spacey insisted on singing the classic Darin tunes (he sounds more like Jerry Vale than Darin) and even dancing in dream sequences. The result is the most pathetic spectacle imaginable, and the gyrating noise we hear is Bobby Darin spinning in his grave.

BEST ARGUMENT TO BRING FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILMS OUT OF THE ART HOUSES AND INTO THE MULTIPLEX:
The Passion of the Christ, Hero and The Motorcycle Diaries enjoyed uncommon commercial success — even though all came with English subtitles. Message to distributors: audiences are not as dumb as you think — people can read and will read subtitles if there’s a great film behind them.

MOST IN NEED OF A VERY LONG VACATION:
Ben Stiller is averaging one dud every other month. Come on, Ben, let someone else make bad comedies for a while.

BEST REASONS TO PAUSE THE EPIC:
Troy, King Arthur, Alexader. For the simple fact that epic films look better on big screen than a TV, people will go to the movie theatre en masse. “Alexander” may or may not have done worse than “Troy” and “King Arthur” combined, but it certainly wasn’t as warmly received. Word-of-mouth managed to destroy “Alexander” with lightning speed. Even with hot stars and brilliantly filmed and edited battle sequences, perhaps Hollywood should take a break from (de)mythologizing legends.

WORST REMAKE: “Taxi”
Not only does it completely miss the charm and fun of the original, but it replaces everything that made the first one work with uninspired comedy bits that were cliche in 1986.

BEST EXCUSE TO DISREGARD MOVIE AWARDS:
Talk about too much of a good thing: The National Board of Review, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Circle, New York Film Critics Online, Boston Film Critics Society, San Francisco Film Critics Society, Golden Globes, Golden Satellites, National Society of Film Critics, Online Film Critics Society, Broadcast Film Critics Association, African American Film Critics Association…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Long before the Academy Awards comes around, every gaggle of critics bands together for their own award announcement. Honestly, who gives a shit?

BEST STAR-IN-WAITING WHO IS TRYING OUR PATIENCE WITH BAD FILMS: Rosario Dawson.
She has the look and the talent, but who reads her scripts? We were hoping for bigger and better things for her last year. In 2004, she gave us bigger (“Alexander”) but not better (“Alexander”). Hopefully, her casting in the film version of “Rent” will finally give her the role she deserves.

WORST CAREER CANOE-WRECK: Burt Reynolds/”Without a Paddle”
He of the wisecracking chuckle and macho charisma used both to incredible effect in “Deliverance” over thirty years ago. This amazing characterization, in which Reynolds surrenders his Alpha Male role to the less assertive Jon Voight after a hip-crushing river run, makes one wince at the star’s current descent down an even more treacherous chute. After thoroughly demolishing his momentum with “City Heat,” “Cop and a Half,” and a string of straight-to-video crime flicks, the one-time Cosmo centerfold was offered redemption at the hands of P.T. Anderson. Burt’s paternal porno producer from “Boogie Nights” should have landed him on a Travolta-calibre comeback trail. Instead, he fired the agent who landed him the Oscar-nominated role. Now he’s slumming again in horrid “Deliverance” knock-offs like this year’s odious “Without a Paddle.” Burt’s fearless river-runner Lewis once said, “I don’t believe in insurance. There’s no risk.” Perhaps Reynolds should take heed of this long-lost attitude and challenge himself with some projects as meaty as the gristle-coated femur bone that burst from his hip on the Cahulwassee River back in 1972.

MOST POPULAR ON-SCREEN VICE: Drugs and Booze
The entire sociocultural spectrum of chemical abuse was prominently featured in this year’s movies. Cinematic contraband showed up in 2004’s most highly acclaimed indies, including Maria, Full of Grace, where the plight of Colombian mules was brought into unsettling focus. Sideways celebrated the more acceptable vineyard scene of fermented grape imbibers, where has-been actors and wannabe writers scored bottles and babes during a Northern California road odyssey. DIG! observed uncompromising rockers snorting their breakfasts from mirrors to fuel two very different career paths, while Down to the Bone gave a sparse view of an addict’s slow, unpredictable road to something vaguely resembling recovery. While nothing as harrowing or definitive as “Requiem for a Dream” registered on the indie radar this year, our society’s drive to self-medicate was well-documented by filmmakers over the past twelve months.

MOST FORGETTABLE FILM: Catwoman
It was so bad that we forgot to mention it as worst film of 2004. This means two things: #1 Hollywood is actually making so many shit films that they’re all blurring into one another, and #2 Watching “Catwoman” was so traumatic for some people that they stored the memory of it in the same place reserved for events they desperately don’t want to remember like Uncle Cletus sticking his ding dong up their hoohah.




Posted on January 4, 2005 in Features by

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