Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE TEN GREATEST MOVIES OF 2004! Man, that was a decade ago? Ugh! I wish these lists would stop making me feel so old.

2004 is very memorable to me. I was arms deep into what almost became a minor in Sociology and taking community college classes that were incredibly enriching mentally and knowledgeably engrossing, but basically was only immediately useful for becoming a hippie, something that, according to many people, was either a skill I already had, or at least already had the hair for it. That was the first and only year my Eagles went to the Super Bowl in my lifetime anyway; we loss, and we're still having trouble keeping the most talented wide receivers, or at least convincing them to not join a division rival after we release them. (Ugh, sorry Chip Kelly; I still trust you, but I'm really missing Andy Reid right now.) And that was the '04 Election; the first one I voted in and participated with a few PACs and groups like; the election which I'm still convinced John Kerry could've won on an Ohio recount (I'm still convinced the math never added up there for me) and we were doomed to four more years of Bush cutting taxes and doubling down on the war, and my family living in that temporary apartment for another five years. Well, things have definitely gotten better in some ways. Now, we have youtube for instance. I never trusted the American people again, but other than that.... Curiously the best films that year, seemed to have very little to do with the events of the time, and all seemed to be personal artistic pieces instead. Well, there were a few exceptions. The Oscars were interesting, but the People Choice Awards probably said more about the tone of the country at the time. "Fahrenheit 9/11" won Best Film, while the Best Dramatic Film, went to "The Passion of the Christ" (Neither made this list.); I strongly suspect that neither choice was voted on much out of quality of the films available (Something that's rare with those awards anyway) but out of an relentless and determined insistence on the continuously polarized views of the country, which reached it's zenith that year. No wonder, the best films, chose, probably wisely to avoid such nonsense, and instead, just tell great stories that most all of us can emotionally relate to, or at least be entertained by, but in any case, movies/filmmakers turned more inwardly artistically, and that's why so many of the really good films that came out that year, seem to exist in their own vacuums, and not try to make larger points of the world, and really dealt with the personal struggles of it's characters and tell a great story.

For those new to this, we've been doing this for a while, going back through the naughts decade and looking back each year, and determining the TEN GREATEST MOVIES of that year. For those who missed the previous lists, here's those lists, as well as links to their corresponding blogposts:

1. Lost in Translation
2. City of God
3. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
4. Love, Actually
5. Monster
6. The Fog of War
7. Dirty Pretty Things
8. The Twilight Samurai
9. The Barbarian Invasions
10. The Shape of Things

1. Adaptation.
2. Minority Report
3. 25th Hour
4. Spirited Away
5. Y Tu Mama Tambien
6. Bowling for Columbine
7. Frida
8. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
9. Lovely & Amazing
10. Far From Heaven

1. Mulholland Dr.
2. Dinner Rush
3. Waking Life
4. The Royal Tenenbaums
5. Gosford Park
6. Monsters, Inc.
7. Amelie
8. Audition
9. Ghost World
10. Memento

1. Almost Famous
2. Amores Perros
3. Traffic
4. Requiem for a Dream
5. Chocolat
6. Best in Show
7. Wonder Boys
8. High Fidelity
9. 6ixtynin9
10. Cast Away

Well, that's where we've been, we're about to hit the halfway point now; let's take a look now, at the best of 2004!



This is the first time since I started making these for each year of the decade that I didn't add any movies to my Top Ten, which is a bit of a shame 'cause my 11th choice "Saved!" was a film I really wanted an excuse to showcase, but while I couldn't find a spot for that or many other films,  I did end up switching a few around. "Hotel Rwanda" at the time, I probably would've been in my Top 5 of that year, and frankly if you really go back, it's still strange how the film was oddly snubbed at Oscar time, only getting three nominations, and I was convinced it was gonna get the Best Picture nomination that ended up going to "Finding Neverland". Don Cheadle's performance, is surprisingly still his only Oscar nomination, and I still thought it was the best of the year. He plays Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager at the only 4-star hotel in Rwanda, back in '94, right at the time of the notorious genocide that killed a million people in literally, months. Paul was a Hutu, although  his wife Tatiana (Oscar-nominee Sophie Okonedo) is Tutsi, and head off to a UN refugee camp, while Paul, begins using his skills as a hotel manager to hide refugees in the hotel. At the time. What are the Hutu and Tutsi, they're competing tribes in the very small country, and once the Hutu took power, they slowly began the abomination. Machetes from the thousands are shown being shipped in from China in one memorable scene. In another, through a series of intense phone calls and letters, Paul purposefully tries to strike the correct emotional cord to help get out the 800+ refugees he's hiding, by convinces foreign nations and families to send help and money to fight back, and also to help the rest escape. The movie the film is most-often compared to is "Schindler's List", it's not at that level, but based on a true story, the way Paul continually maneuvers through the systems, political and managerial is quite inventive, and was how he managed to keep the refugees alive before there was total genocide. There's some strong performances as well from people like Nick Nolte, Tilda Swinton and Joaquin Phoenix in supporting roles. In hindsight, some of the flaws of the movie are more apparent. The cinematic nature of the narrative, staying a little too true to the three-act structure and the dialogue at times, especially the ones that scream "Symbolic line" don't exactly hold up, although in the moment, they still come off as right, but perhaps director Terry George, could've taken a more neorealist approach to the material, and possibly have come off with a better film, but this still remains the Northern Ireland-born director's best work, despite some previously good films like "In the Name of the Father" and "The Boxer". It also hits all the emotional notes it's trying to correctly, so, for being as well-made and well-acted, for what it is; it helps it remain powerful, and it still holds up very well. Still one of the best documents about the Rwandan genocide in a theatrical film as well. A lot of people died and a lot more people did nothing about it either, until it was too late, and this was the one story about the guy who did all that he could.


Strangely, this is the first time one of the decades Best Picture Oscar winners has appeared on any of  these lists. That said though, I think there were two directors American directors who I think you can firmly say were the premiere filmmakers of the decade, in terms of both consistent amount of quality and a consistent amount of quality. One of them was Steven Soderbergh, who won the 2000 Directing Oscar, and the other, somewhat more surprisingly is Clint Eastwood. He was in his 70s when he earned his 2nd directing Oscar for "Million Dollar Baby". Based off of a short story from former boxing trainer Jerry Boyd, written under the alias F.X. Toole, Eastwood, seemed to make the film suddenly, and on whim, purposefully leaving in obviously errs and inconsistencies in the Paul Haggis script (which was memorable for not having any colored pages in it, meaning nothing in the script ever changed at any point of production, something that's unbelievably rare), like the voice over and P.O.V. of Scrap (Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman), who narrates the film. Eastwood never cared about making a film perfectly, as he instead, would rather focus on the emotional cords of a film. This film, about a rugged old boxing trainer, Frankie Dunn (Oscar-nominee Eastwood) who's become too conservative in his training methods over the years, missing numerous opportunities to train/manage a champion. He's not inspired by the young untrained power-punching girl Maggie (Oscar-winner Hilary Swank) who's hanging around his gym, insisting on Frankie teaching her to fight. These three lost souls, eventually end up together, as Maggie's natural gift and Frankie's training earns her fame and even fortune, despite all three coming to terms with their own baggage, past and present. The film is pure classical filmmaking. This movie could've been made in the '40s, and fit in perfectly on a double-bill with "Mildred Pierce" perhaps. Boxing is the motif, but the story is about the three people, and the journeys they all go through, and how they effect each other, and the decisions they end up making or asking, and insisting upon of each other. Even supporting characters at the edges of the screen, have interesting backstories, and play more crucial roles then we think. The biggest choice, at the end, 'caused controversy and debate at the time, it still does, although curiously, I never thought that was the intention of the film. I always interpreted it, as simply, a part of the actions between these three specific characters, and what they would do, and how they'd react to them, and despite the fact that film, could've used an extra draft, that's the part that still holds true. Swank, won her second Best Actress Oscar, in a particularly weak year, and once again, we're reminded of how great a physical and transformative actress she can be, having trained for months as a boxer just for the role. It's definitely one of Eastwood's masterpieces, as both a director, actor, producer, he even did a memorably beautiful score for the film. All his best films, have emotional complicated relationships between complex characters at their core, and it takes some good actors to make those parts stand out. "Million Dollar baby", might be a little too simple, but it's still pretty powerful, and that's really a tougher trick that it looks, especially with this film, that really could've gone wrong 100 different ways; this was really a force of will to get this made by Eastwood, and a masterful directing achievement. And the fact that's he's only become more ambitious over the years as a director; this might be the film that separates Eastwood actor with Eastwood as a director, but also Eastwood, as the artist.


If you've ever doubted Colin Farrell's acting range; I'd bet money that you probably haven't seen the least-known film on this list, the wonderful "A Home at the End of the World". It's somewhat curious actually that the movie didn't seem to connect with most people at the time or since really. The movie was written by Michael Cunningham, and based on his novel, and this came out shortly after his more well-known book "The Hours" was adapted to an Oscar-winning feature, and while that's a good movie, I actually prefer this transcendent and beautiful film, about three lifelong friends who form a makeshift family. That's a very simple description of what's going on though, and this movie could've really gone horribly wrong without Farrell hitting the right notes as Bobby. Bobby's seen more than his fair share of tragedy in his life. He saw he brother die after a disastrous accident, and watched over his father fall to illness as a teenager. With his mother long passed, he moves in with his friend Jonathan's (Dallas Roberts, as an adult) family. Jonathan is a shy kid, often picked on and teased. Bobby, befriends Jonathan because, he needs a friend, and he has a strange, inate way of feeling exactly what it is that everyone around him needs, and is very persuasive. When they get caught with pot, by Bobby's mother, Alice, (Sissy Spacek) Bobby convinces her to join in, and get enchanted with the experience as Laura Nyro's "It's Gonna Take a Miracle", opening up her housewife perspective, and inevitably, freeing her up. Even after Jonathan leaves for New York, Bobby stays with the family  'til his mid-twenties, and works as a baker, when he moves to New York where a more flamboyant Jonathan's living with an older adventurous roommate Clare (Robin Wright), who becomes entranced with Bobby, and eventually decides to sleep with him, a tougher conquest than normal for her, since Bobby is a shy virgin. It's hard to describe why this movie is so great without really showing Bobby, and Farrell's performance. Horrible life experiences happen to him, but he's forever going out of his way, to be, whatever that person particularly needs him to be. It's almost an angelic performance, and a character, that, 99% of most actors, would've gotten completely the wrong notes. He's not gay, straight, or seemingly anything in particular, and he only seems to be able to feel the needs of others. If we didn't know his backstory, he might not have been a believable character. Instead, not only does he some believable, he is the heart of the movie. Jonathan's in love with him, but since Bobby's not really anybody's he starts sleeping around. He's not really Clare's boyfriend, but she wants him too, she even has a child with him eventually, after they all move up to Woodstock to live together, as a three-person family unit. This was the debut feature for director Michael Mayer; he's mostly directed and produced television since, but he created a heartbreaking and touching film about a character who, not only puts his own emotions aside, it's sometimes hard to tell whether he has any, other than the need to make sure everyone else is happy. When he makes a final choice, he makes it based on, who needs him to be around more. Taking place from the '60 to the '80s, the movie chronicles three decades of Americana life through these eccentric but loveable characters, who have tough decisions to make as life and love unfolds for all of them. It's a must-watch, 'cause there isn't a movie quick like it that's as good as it is, and trust me, you'll understand exactly why the movie is so difficult to describe if you've seen it.


From one movie that's like no other film emotionally ever made, to a movie that's unlike any other cinematically ever made. From the cruel twisted mind of Lars von Trier, "The Five Obstructions" is the filmmaking equivalent to reality TV. I added this film already to the Canon of Film, link below:

and there are the long-rumored remakes of the film in some sort of development, the latest one being that Von Trier would be challenging Martin Scorsese to "The Five Obstructions" challenge. (My initial though would've been to have Werner Herzog do it but that might be too easy.) The film documents Von Trier challenging his hero and friend, director Jorgen Leth to recreate his famous short film "The Perfect Human", five different times, each time, under strict new guidelines and conditions. It's hard to make one movie, and usually when it's done, it's such an undertaking that the last thing a filmmaker would want to do is remake it, much less, five more times. It's intriguing, challenging, sadistic in many ways, and utterly fascinating. A called it a demonic science experiment, yet it also reveals the ways in which the artist creates and is inspired to do so, even under the most treacherous of circumstances, as we see how a filmmaker can reexamine and reanalyze his work in ways that he haven't seen before. . I could hardly believe it when Von Trier, out of nowhere tells Jorgen to make it a cartoon after everything that's happened so far. Until there's another one, if there's another one, there's no real equivalent to this film, even among documentaries about filmmaking, they're usually just behind-the-scenes stuff, here's a way to turn filmmaking into this socioanthropological study, and Von Trier, of all people, pulling the strings of his hero, no less, and being the ultimate puppet master. It's a unique experience, one that, I hope we do get to see recreated again, from other directors, to even get a more elaborate perspective on the art of filmmaking, and the way the mind of an artist works and struggles to creates.


I had a few queries and complaints about my 20003 list, one of the ones that was observed more than once was that I didn't have "Kill Bill Vol. 1" on that list. Well, it was certainly a great film, worthy of such a list, but 2003 was a great year for film, and therefore, it didn't make my list. The next year, "Kill Bill: Volume 2" came out, was a better movie than Volume 1, and sure enough, it shows up here in my Top Ten of '04. This Quentin Tarantino film, is not a sequel, but one of the first examples of a film, being broken into two parts for release, so this was essentially just, the second half of the story more than anything else; it was originally supposed to be apart of a long 3+ hour epic, and is his great revenge crime story, a la, a martial arts film. Separated into ten chapters, like a book, free from linear three-act structure, "Kill Bill" follows The Bride (Uma Thurman) as she seeks revenge on Bill (David Carradine) and his cohorts who tried to kill her, after she got pregnant and decided to escape the hitman life. We see the wedding events, pre-the wedding massacre, shot in black and white, and the first time we see the notorious Bill Driver, her former boss, and lover. Both films, were Quentin Tarantino's first features after a six-year hiatus after making "Jackie Brown", and "...Vol. 2", is arguably his greatest directing work, channeling everybody from Sergio Leone to Kurosawa to Brian De Palma, during a really well-done two-shot, with a great fight scene between the Bride and her arch rival  Elle (Daryl Hannah). The "Kill Bill" movies are probably the most entertaining and fun of Tarantino's career, and that's saying something, consider how fun his movies usually are. This film eye candy for the ultimate cinephile. Great Tarantino dialogue, the best actions scenes, not as much blood and violence as the first one, but more tension and more pure filmmaking. It's over-the-top and ridiculous, but utterly fascinating as well. It's pure Tarantinian pulp. Every character and performance is memorable and eccentric, and every shot, is filled with ideas. This is Tarantino pop art, and it's enjoyable on every viewing, with the first part, without the first part. Just watching a couple scenes here and there, between while waiting for something else to get on, even the '70s style credits, just light up the screen, and just give you that great feeling, that you know you're in for a lot of fun.


I actually have a few good Howard Hughes stories, not only did a few members of my family work for the Hughes Corporations from time to time, one of them arrested him. Yes, my grandfather's brother was Andy Baruffi, and he at one of point, was the head of the Las Vegas bureau of the IRS, and he arrested Hughes for tax evasion. He, loved "The Aviator", and said that, DiCaprio really nailed his performance. Now, the Martin Scorsese film, doesn't document his Vegas years that made him legendary here, like my favorite story of him buying the Desert Inn, so he wouldn't have to get kicked out of his hotel room, but we do get a great biopic, that starts from his days, taking his father's drillbit money to Hollywood to make "Hell's Angels", then, the most expensive movie ever made, taking three years, numerous months to shoot, and then reshoot entirely to record sound. It's there we see his interest in airplanes, and his quests to fly around the world, designing and building planes and buying TWA, competing with Juan Trippe at PanAm over the rights to fly the international skies. For a guy, known for his excessive OCD as well as his excessive fortune, he lived one of the greatest of young lives before seeming to retreat completely away from life entirely. He dated Harlow, Hepburn, Gardner, among other starlets, made movies, flew the world, became the richest man alive, and couldn't get out of a public bathroom until someone new came in, and he could sneak out without touching the doorknob. Scorsese loves stories with a rise and a fall of a great character, Hughes was certainly a character. There's been numerous good movies made about him, like Jonathan Demme's "Melvin and Howard" and Lasse Hallstrom's "The Hoax", but they were just stories about fringe characters in Hughes's life, very fringe in fact. I think there's about ten or twelve other films you can make on Hughes and still only scratch the surface of him. There's never a dull moment but even Scorsese outdoes himself in matching his exuberant life with an audacious spectacle of a film to give us a glance at both Hughes, the rich neurotic playboy who could build toys for himself, others or the U.S. government upon request, including the infamous Spruce Goose, which despite much ridicule, he did manage to get in the air, to the more reclusive and mad soul, tortured in his own mind and unable to escape or live in the outside world anymore. Scorsese uses every classic and new tool at his disposal to tell this story, and in many ways, he probably used more of his skillset than any other film of his previous and since. A sequence involving Jude Law, in a cameo as Errol Flynn, could be in a film book of shot analysis, right next to Eisenstein's "The Battleship Potemkin" Moscow steps sequence and Hitchcock's cropduster sequence in "North By Northwest", it was so elaborate, and brilliant, and in the same movie some amazing special effect sequences as a plane crash through numerous homes in Beverly Hills, to the great zoom-in shot of DiCaprio flying the Spruce Goose, sequences like that, he can then show us how to make a great sequence, at a dinner table, and involving a pea, probably a sequence that was incredibly more difficult than the special effects to pull off, and he absolutely mastered it. It's a great combination of classic Hollywood filmmaking, mastery of the modern CGI filmmaking, and of Scorsese's signature style. The sad thing is that, Scorsese's made so many good movie, that "The Aviator" might rank, 9th or 10th maybe on a list of Scorsese films, and legitimately so, but almost any other director, this would be their grand achievement.


Titled after a line from a poem by Alexander Pope, curiously, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" has become the most accessible and beloved of the film scripts from the great Charlie Kaufman. He won his Oscar for this film, along with director Michel Gondry and performance artist Pierre Bismuth, who worked on the idea of the film in it's early stages, but they both let Kaufman and Kaufman only, speak after winning the award. In 2002, he wrote two of the films that made my Top Ten of that year, including "Adaptation.", which I ranked number one. Yet somehow "Eternal Sunshine..." seems to transcend even those who weren't as inspired by his previous voyages into the inner workings of the mind like "Being John Malkovich" and his first collaboration with Gondry, "Human Nature", and have embraced this one, I think because it's not so much a philosophical or anthropological dissection as it is, as it deals with something, much more simple. Love. Losing love, heartbreak, the torturous one goes through after a breakup, and how that kind of symbolic pain can't hurt more than any physical one. Joel (Jim Carrey) is figuring that out, as he's unable to get over Clementine (Oscar-nominee Kate Winslet), his now-ex-girlfriend, who he then finds out, has erased her from her memory through a process developed by Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), where he is able to break into the mind of a patient and find all the memories he has associated with someone, and inevitably, he erases them. Joel is currently going through the process of losing these memories, we find out soon enough, of Clementine as a matter of revenge of sorts, but as he's having the procedure which involves Mierzwiak's underlings Patrick, Stan and Mary (Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst) breaking into Joel's house at night, inserting a strange helmet on him which connects through a laptop, and essentially deletes his memories. He, however, is fighting back against the process while it's happening. Hiding those memories in other memory banks, even going back into those supposedly erased memories, until they have to bring in Mierzwiak to finish the job, and have other secrets and revelations get revealed. The movie is a film that challenges out appreciation of the love and pain in relationships, and how we perceive them. One painful moments seems to be able to erased numerous good ones in the moment, but is it possible that true love, or does the need to feel remain so strong that it can trump anything, including a couple erasing their own memories of each other? Kaufman seems to conceive of his movies through long transcendental games of "what if..." and makes his movies around the logic scenarios that build up in his mind, like what would happen when a man enters his own portal into his mind, what would he see? It's the coolest looking of his films, with the gorgeous cinematography from Ellen Curas makes the movie both cold and soft with the gorgeous blues she tints much of the film with. It's Gondry's best film as a director by far, but it's really Kaufman's work that's the centerpiece of the film as he manages to use numerous strange flashbacks and flash forwards and whatever the hell you'd call such scenes to as he dives deeper into the mind of Joel. It's a film that requires one or two  viewings to make sure you catch everything, but they're definitely worth it. Essentially, it's a love story at it's core, and that's why it's his most popular film, and it succeeds well at that, as some people might not be able to fully appreciate the disdains and tribulations of having to write a movie about orchids, everyone can appreciate the pains of love, and with "Eternal Sunshine..." it gives us a hopeful view that reveals that a spotless mind, might not be preferable to having loved and lost before.


While "Before Sunrise" had become a minor hit, and earned a cult following, there wasn't exactly what you'd call a popular groundswell for a sequel. Hypothetically, we would've been okay not knowing whether or not Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who received Oscar nominations along with Director Richard Linklater for Writing) were to have met on that day at that train, six months after that famous day and night they spent talking about....- well, just general pontificating on life and falling in love on that summer day in Vienna. So when they made a second (and then later, a third), it was a bit of a surprise, but it was also clearly a labor of love. I've written on the film already as a Canon of Film post, link is below:

It is a better film than "...Sunrise", and in many ways, it's a much more riskier film. Taking place nine years after their first meeting, in Paris this time, and  using lots of long takes, many of them tracking shots, that almost make it seem like real time as opposed to the magical dreamlike night before, that seemed to never end. It's a riskier more adult conversation, and requires some incredible acting. People think most of the scripts for these films have a lot of improvisation, they don't, and they require the great of acting, to accomplish, and with "...Sunset" in particular, probably the greatest directing job as it had to remain so tightly constructed. Yet, a lot goes on in the film, more than many people might realize at first. I wrote in that Canon entry that more happens in the final two words of "Before Sunset" than in most movies, and just isn't too many movies that can make that kind of claim; that's a kind of skill, that, frankly can't be matched.


I've yet to find anybody who didn't at least like this film. This was Director Brad Bird's second feature after "The Iron Giant", which was under-promoted from Warner Brothers, so much so that according to legend, they sent him flowers and an apology note after the film flopped and would later go on to be a cult classic. Moving to Pixar for his next project, he made a conscious choice that he was gonna tell the story he wanted to make, and he wanted to make a superhero film, and "The Incredibles" is a really fun one. (The Oscar-nominated screenplay from Bird, was the first time a Pixar project had only one credited screenwriter; a feat that's especially rare for animated features.)  I don't know if the idea of a family of superheroes is new, but I can't think of it done better. Bird took great care in creating the characters, matching the family unit to appropriately symbolic heroes and abilities. He also toys with the genres cliches, the rich villain with his own island, for instance, and maybe the best creation of the film, voiced by Bird himself, the costume designer to the superheroes, Edna E. Mode, who's short bob hair and glasses, evokes the great costume designer Edith Head. The sharp twist on the superhero genres, is that, after too many lawsuits against superhero who accidentally saved people who didn't want to be saved, like foiling many suicides, they have to go into hiding. This is just as Bob and Helen Parr, aka Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl (Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter) have gotten married, and now have three kids, who are developing their own super abilities. When Mr. Incredible finds possible secret work for his powers again, he hides it from his family, as begins doing some superhero work on the side, landing him into hot water, as he finds Syndrome (Jason Lee) a millionaire inventor who's made it his life's mission to begin finding and taking out the old superheroes, who are now hiding in regular menial jobs, or motherhood in Elastigirl's case. It's a fun premise, and it's a fun film overall. It wouldn't this high if it wasn't consistently entertaining, and this film ranks, really high among the very best of Pixar's work, and in a decade where animation really broke out and turned into an art form as legitimate and accepted as film the way live-action always has been, "The Incredibles" stands out as one of the very best, and Brad Bird, in particular, one of the very best storytellers of animation. Best writers too, this is an incredibly well-written screenplay as well.


If there's a flaw at all in "Sideways", I've yet to find it, and there aren't too many movies I've watched more from this decade than this one. Alexander Payne had already made some wonderful films like "Election" and "About Schmidt", but "Sideways", is another league completely. I've written on it before as well, the Canon of Film post is below:

I think it's one of the rare "perfect movies" where no shot or cut or angle was even wrong. It's introduced terms into the lexicon, like "Drink-and-dial", it singlehandedly increased the sales of pinot noirs, and more than that, it's one of the best comedies of the decade, and a script that is brilliantly subtle in the ways that things get revealed. That's the great twist of the movie, how even the smallest details add so much more to the film. To just recite the plot that two guys head up to California Wine Country for a week, and have a misadventures with a couple of waitresses they pick up, that's way too misleading, considering how much else is going on. Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) is a struggling novelist and an oenophile, who tries to take his best friend Jack (Oscar-nominee Thomas Haden Church) an out-of-work actor to wine country for his lack week, before his wedding, hoping that he'd soon appreciate the subtleties of wine like he does. He's still getting over his divorce, and his novel's on it's last rights in terms of publication, and Jack's idea of cheering him up is to finally get him laid during the holiday, whatever the cost. The two women they find are Maya (Oscar-nominee Virginia Madsen) a beautiful divorcee who's seen enough of the worst of men like Jack to give Miles a chance, and Stephanie (Sandra Oh), Maya's friend and a flirtatious wine pourer who puts her heart too much on her sleeve for others. The ways things play out for these four separately is one story, together, it's another, at the deepest levels, are the characters themselves, particularly Miles, whose life of quiet desperation has more emotional pitfalls than he can handle. "Sideways" works every time, and ages better on every viewing; the Oscar-winning script, I'd argue as one of the best adapted scripts of all-time, and it's the best film of 2004.

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