Overall I thought this was the best year for TV in a long time, with a few new shows that really show promise and are already among my favorites. For movies, it was a little more hit and miss. There was nothing to equal last year's epic Tolkien finale Return of the King, but there were some great, quirky comedies which were probably the highlights of this year that saw the superhero trend finally start to jump the shark (cough*CATWOMAN*cough) with a few crappy entres into the genre. Anyways, on with the show:
DANNY'S TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2004:
Quick preface: While I saw a number of movies this year, there are some potential top 10-ers that I missed or didn't get a chance to see. Some of these include Sideways, The House of Flying Daggers, Garden State, The Aviator, Shaun of the Dead, and a few others. Now, on with the Top 10:
1.) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - I have been a fan of all of Charlie Kaufman's films, and this one was his best yet. Jim Carrey gave a great, subdued everyman performance, and Kate Winslet should win an Oscar for her work here. Great use of f/x and a classic Kaufman mind-bending story that has more heart than any of his previous films.
2.) Kill Bill Vol. 2 - While I wasn't crazy about the ending sequence, this film was, in a word, freakin' awesome. It was a little slower paced and a little less action packed than part 1, but some of the sequences were just unforgettable. The Bride's escape from her coffin was heart-pounding. The vintage kung-fu homage was a lot of fun. And the fight between Uma and Daryll Hannah is classic. When's the part 1 and 2 combined DVD come out?
3.) The Life Aquatic - Another great movie from Wes Anderson, as I said in my earlier review. Funny, quirky, poignant, and underrated, this is the unique director's best yet, with a cast that is perfect.
4.) Farenheit 9/11 - Regardless of political views, this movie made you think. It was a powerful documentary that had many interesting points to make, and those who criticize without having seen it are doing themselves and the national political discussion a disservice. With current world events as they are, this movie will be relevant for a long time to come.
5.) Spiderman 2 - While the first one was fun, the sequal was sensational. This had everything you want i na summer blockbuster - fun, action, romance, great f/x, and classic characters. Not only that, but director Sam Raimi really let loose here, showing off Evil Dead-style camera work, offbeat humor, and did a great job of bringing the comic to life.
6.) Napoleon Dynamite - This movie had been panned by magazines like Entertainment Weekly, and I don't understand why. For me this is one of the flat-out funniest and most quotable comedies ever made. It might be simplistic, but I argue that it DOES have heart. Some of the scenes are as tragically sad as they are hilarious. But most of all, this movie is friggin' sweet, even after you've seen it like, an infinity of times.
7.) Collateral - Another one where Iloved the movie but had some issues with the ending. Still, this was such a cool film. It had great action, great acting, and a really cool story about morality and getting the job done. This is one of those movie that will stay in your head for a long time after seeing it.
8.) Hero - This is just an incredible viewing experience, like watching a series of paintings rather than a film. This martial-arts epic has the most elaborately choreographed action I've ever seen, rivaling the likes of Crouching Tiger. The story is simple but memorable, like an old fairy tale, and the colors and costumes just shine off the screen.
9.) TIE: The Incredibles - and - Sky Captain and the World of Tommorow - Both of these movies use new computer f /x to pay homage to classic pulp heroes. I thought the Incredibles was a great movie, not just for kids but anyone with a sense of fun and imagination. But, I think it was a little overrated by some. Some of it's ideas were old hat for fans of comics and other similar stories, but I do admit that this was a new, modernist spin on things. A great if not wholly original movie, and a tribute to the genious of Brad Bird and Pixar, who much to Disney's loss will soon be on their own. As for Sky Captain, this movie was obviously meant as an homage, and on that level it really worked. No, it didn't reinvent the genre or bring much new to the table (except in the realm of f/x), but it had a classic sense of fun and adventure that brought you back to the old serials from the 40's.
10.) Metallica: Some Kind of Monster - This was a really interesting documentary that was enjoyable whether or not you area fan of the band, but it was all the more surreal and entertaining if you were at least familiar with the metal mainstays. This was a really powerful, funny, and thought-provoking movie about the price of fame and the dysfunctional lives of celebrities.
Honorable Mentions: Hellboy (great costumes and sets!), Anchorman (funny!), Saved (nice satire!)
Now, onto TV.
Danny's Top 10 TV series of 2004:
Note: this is only primetime TV series, and doesn't include late night, specials, short-run series on HBO, etc. Also I don't get HBO so I can't weigh in on The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, etc.
1.) Arrested Development - funny, fresh, and low-rated. A hilarious new spin on TV comedy, with great characters, crazy humor, and a breath of fresh air in TV comedy.
2.) Lost - A mind-bending new show that is already causing a huge stir. Great cast and an addicting mystery? What is going on on that island? Millions are dying to know.
3.) 24 - While it had some off-episodes in Season 3, 24 is still the most exciting hour on TV. The last five or six eps of this season were classic, nail-biting, must-see TV. Jack Bauer is still TV's best action hero.
4.) Veronica Mars - Where did this come from? A new, film-noir meets The OC ongoing dark teen mystery on .. UPN? It's still not on most people's radars, but it should be. This show rocks, and I can't wait to see who murdered Lilly Kane. But that's part of the fun.
5.) The O.C. - I wasskeptical at first, but now count me in as one of the OC faithful. I think the show has drifted a little too much towards the goofy / funny side lately, but still the writing is sharp and the soap opera stories really know how to kick into high gear - witness the recent "I am your father moment."
6.) Smallville - So far this season has been kinda lame, but last season had some of the series best episodes yet. The Perry White episode was golden, and last season's finale was a great cliffhanger. Now if only the show could get back on track ...
7.) Malcolm in the Middle - This comedy is aging, but it still has a unique brand of quirky humor and is still the best portrayal of family life I've seen on TV. As long as it can make me laugh and appreciate my own parents by having the most horribly sadistic mom ever on TV, this show remains great.
8.) Gilmore Girls - Yes, laugh all you want, but I've recently been enjoying some episodes of this show. Sure, it isn't exactly my typical viewing, but I'm always impressed by the sharp dialogue and witticisms when I check out this WB family-friendly show.
9.) King of the Hill - This underappreciated FOX mainstay has such a classic character in Hank Hill. Even when the episodes are off, it's fun just to see how Hank rects to the modern world that he seems so lost and confused in. You don't have to be a Red State-r to appreciate this down-home humor.
10.) Jack and Bobby - This new show has lots of potential but has yet to live up to it. Still, it is currently half great, which makes it better than most of what's on TV. What's great is the story of Bobby, the younger of two brothers who is destined to be President. What's not so great is the story of Jack, the straight from Dawson's Creek older brother who's a walking brooding teen cliche. Still, this show shows sparks of greatness, has an excellent cast, and has me intrigued.
Best Late Night Show: CONAN O'BRIEN, duh. It's the funniest, craziest, most intelligent (in a really stupid way) show on after 11 pm. The writing is great, the sketches are the best, and the segments, from Robert Smigel's talking heads to Triumph to crazy stuff like Steve St. Helens is awesome. Plus I worked on it, so of course it freakin' rocks.
Fond Farewell to: The Office. After viewing the DVD's of this BRILLIANT BBC show, this ranks as one of my all-time faves. It's an office epic, a unique kind of comedy that will make you laugh until you cry, literally, because in its own way this show is as tragic as it is hilarious. You have to see this if you haven't yet. The saga of David Brent and co. will go down as one of the greatest things ever on TV, in Britain, the US, or anywhere else.
Best Show I'm now seeing on DVD: Ali G - Respeck. This British import on HBO is so hilarious it's insane. There's only 6 episodes on season 1's DVD, but you can watch each multiple times and find new things to laugh at each time. Booyakasha.
Best TV Rediscovered on DVD: Millenium - This underrrated 1990's FOX series is, looking back, amazing and ahead of its time. Frank Black is simply a great character, unlike any you'll see elsewhere. This show is dark, poetic, scary, and insightful into the human condition. Each episode is like a mini movie, but better than any thriller you'll see in a theater. Because this show is all about psychology - the why's of evil, not the how's. Millenium is a must own for fans of Chris Carter, great TV, or just good stories in general. Don't watch it with the lights on.
OK - that's it. Happy New Year and peace out. More job updates to come. LA or NYC? To be continued ...