Greatest Films of the 2000s
Greatest Films of the 2000s

Greatest Films of the 2000s
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Academy Awards for 2004 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Bad Education (2004, Sp.) (aka La Mala Educación), 104 minutes, D: Pedro Almodóvar
Writer/director Pedro Almodovar's very explicit and personal film was a Hitchcockian noir-melodrama-thriller and murder mystery from Sony Pictures Classics that implied Catholic church child abuse and misconduct (implied pedophilia). Its flashbacked themes, in a story-within-a-story (or film-within-a-film) included lost youth, mistaken and shifting identities and gender transformation - everything was challenging to follow. The Spanish film with English subtitles was rated NC-17 for a scene of mutual masturbation among young teen boys, among others, as well as explicit gay sex scenes, the "Moon River" sequence, and an erotic pool scene. Its story spanned multiple years, as it told about the reuniting friendship in adulthood (in Madrid in 1980) between two males who had been sexually-abused as boarding school boys by a Catholic priest, the manipulative (and tormented) Father Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho) during the Franco era. The two main characters were Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez as adult, Raúl García Forneiro as boy), now a successful Spanish film director, and Ignacio Rodríguez (Gael García Bernal as adult, Ignacio Pérez as boy), now a bearded writer and actor looking for work. During their visit, Ignacio brought Enrique a semi-fictional short story - a semi-autobiographical film manuscript called "The Visit" about when they were in school in 1964 (during the Franco Era), and experienced instances of abuse at their boarding school. Ignacio was hoping to play a starring role in the proposed film. Upon reading the script set in 1977, it was revealed that Ignacio had grown up to become the karaoke, cross-dressing, heroin-addicted, drag-queen/transvestite character of Zahara (also Bernal), a pre-operative trans-sexual using the stage name Angel Andrade. For revenge, Ignacio/Zahara was working clubs with his pal Paca (Javier Cmara), and was engaged in blackmailing Father Manolo. In exchange for one million pesetas, Zahara/Ignacio promised to not publish the damning "The Visit" script. The blackmail money would be used for Zahara's sex reassignment surgery. There were flashbacks of the two boys who had been sexually-abused as boarding school students by the priest. They had gone to a movie theatre where they stimulated each other while watching 50's Spanish sex star Sarita Montiel (as Soledad) on screen in Esa Mujer (1969, Sp.). After hours at night, the two were also caught in the bathroom (in a toilet stall) by Father Manolo. When the priest threatened to expel Enrique, Ignacio offered to give himself to the pedophilic priest. Enrique was expelled anyway, in order for Father Manolo to lustfully continue to enjoy Ignacio all for himself. In the film's surprise revelation back in the year 1980, Enrique spoke to Ignacio's mother and learned that the real Ignacio had been dead for four years. Ignacio's imposter was his younger brother, Juan (also Bernal). Enrique decided to produce, direct, and adapt Ignacio's film script, bringing the past and present (and fact and fiction) to collide together. Juan would play Zahara/Ignacio as he wished. As the film was being made, Enrique fell in love with Juan/Angel. The script was also revised so that the blackmailed Father Manolo was murdered by Ignacio, who was raising funds for his trans-sexual surgery. During filming on the set, another double-identity was revealed: Senor Manuel Berenguer (Lluís Homar) -- actually Father Manolo with a new name/identity (and no longer a priest), described how he and Juan (in a relationship) had teamed up to murder the real Ignacio (the role of the adult pre-operative trans-sexual Ignacio, seen in flashback, was played by real-life trans-sexual Francisco "Fran" Boira). The two had conspired together to kill Ignacio by providing him with pure heroin for an overdose, because he was a harsh, unlikeable, drug-addicted individual who was blackmailing the priest about his molestation. After Ignacio's death, Berenguer then attempted to blackmail Juan for his part in the murder of Ignacio. In the coda to the film, the film's epilogue, Father Manolo (or Senor Berenguer) was killed in a hit-and-run car driven by Juan (in revenge for being blackmailed by Berenguer for his role in Ignacio's murder).

Before Sunset (2004), 80 minutes, D: Richard Linklater
Director Richard Linklater's so-called "Before Trilogy" was composed of three dialogue-rich, romantic dramas about a continuing love relationship set at nine year intervals: the original Before Sunrise (1995), this sequel, and the final film Before Midnight (2013). The young couple: American student Jesse Wallace (Ethan Hawke) and French student Celine (Julie Delpy) had initially met on a train bound for Paris in the first film in 1994, and spent a single mid-June night in the city of Venice, Italy. After ending their time together, they departed and lost contact, but now had a rendezvous together during an afternoon in Paris. On the last stop of a book tour in Europe, Jesse had authored a best-selling book titled This Time (about their memorable single night's encounter in Venice). Celine happened to be at his bookstore's signing where the two became reacquainted with non-stop conversations about their inmost personal feelings and thoughts. They strolled through Paris and shared coffee together and various means of transport (boat and hired limo), as they talked about the changes that had occurred in their lives. Celine was now an environmental advocate with a photojournalist boyfriend, while Jesse was married with a son named Hank. Both expressed a sense of dissatisfaction with their present lives. They lamented that their plans to reunite in Venice six months after their first encounter didn't come to pass, although Jesse admitted he had returned, while Celine had a family emergency (her grandmother's death). As their love was rekindled, they decided to end their time together with tea at Celine's apartment, with only a short while before Jesse's flight left for NY. They listened to a CD recording of Nina Simone singing Just in Time. Recalling a Nina Simone concert that she had attended, Celine performed a dance-impression of the singer as she stopped in the middle of a song and came to the edge of the stage, to seductively impersonate the singer. She then warned Jesse: "Baby, you are gonna miss that plane," but Jesse only ambiguously answered: "I know." He held his left hand up and briefly twirled his wedding ring with his left thumb. Was he signifying that he would miss his flight and remain longer? The screen faded to black before the closing credits.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004), 120 minutes, D: Paul Greengrass
Robert Ludlum's three Jason Bourne novels (1980, 1986, and 1990) formed the basis for the franchise-series of five Jason Bourne action-thriller films, beginning with The Bourne Identity (2002), followed by this film - director Paul Greengrass' high-action, suspenseful and convoluted sequel, then The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), and Jason Bourne (2016). In the continuing story set two years later, amnesiac CIA agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) was living with his girlfriend Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente) off-the-grid in Goa, India, and trying to piece together his past. He was haunted by troubling flashbacks and memories (of an assassination hit job in Berlin he had been sent to commit involving Russian politician Vladimir Neski). Meanwhile, the CIA believed that Bourne had been involved in a more recent deadly bombing in Berlin that left two CIA agents dead, although Bourne had been framed with a planted fingerprint. A Russian agent-assassin named Kirill (Karl Urban), working for Russian oil tycoon Gretkov (Karel Roden), tracked Bourne in Goa and during a chase mistakenly killed Marie with sniper fire. Undetected, the surviving Bourne began a globe-trotting trip by first traveling to Italy - he was forced to re-enter the "grid" to find out the plot against him, to silence him about his past work as an assassin in a top-secret Treadstone project. Regarding the Berlin bombing, CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) was led to suspect Bourne, a CIA operative. The inquiry led to CIA Chief Director Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), who kept it concealed that in the past, he had led the now-defunct program (in which Bourne participated). Both Landy and Abbott plotted to capture Bourne in Berlin. Meanwhile, Bourne tracked down various other Treadstone associates, including Jarda (Marton Csokas) in Munich, Germany before entering Berlin (and evading pursuit). Ex-Treadstone operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) became a crucial informant. After Nicky was questioned by Landy and Abbott in Berlin, Bourne (who had spied on Landy in her hotel room) kidnapped Nicky, his former liaison, and learned from her that Abbott was the true head of Treadstone, not deceased Alexander Conklin. In Berlin, Bourne also began to recall more about his previous assassination mission to kill Neski in Berlin. He then confronted Abbott face-to-face, who admitted his complicity: (1) to order Bourne to murder Neski, (2) to frame Bourne for the bombing, and (3) to arrange for Kirill to kill Bourne in Goa. Bourne refused to kill Abbott, but shortly later, Abbott committed suicide in front of Landy, who knew all about his corrupt involvement. Her suspicions were confirmed when she received an envelope from Bourne of Abbott's conversations. In the film's conclusion, Bourne traveled to Moscow to speak to Neski's daughter Irena (Oksana Akinshina). He first engaged in a high-speed car chase against Kirill, who had again been tasked by Gretkov to kill him. Bourne was wounded by a gunshot, and Kirill was seriously injured after a major crash. Gretkov was arrested before Bourne spoke to Irena and apologized for killing her parents in Berlin. In the last minute of the film, Bourne, who seemed vindicated, called Landy in NYC, when she thanked him for the tape that incriminated Abbott, and then revealed Bourne's original name to him: David Webb, with birthdate (4-15-71).

Closer (2004), 101 minutes, D: Mike Nichols

Dawn of the Dead (2004), 101 minutes, D: Zack Snyder
A big-budget, major studio remake (or "reimagining") of George A. Romero's 1978 film (the second in the trilogy), with the same title, about a zombie apocalypse (minus the bikers). It was the highest-grossing zombie film at the time, with $59 million (domestic). With fast-running predatory zombies and an action heroine. After her neighbor Vivian (Hannah Lochner) and her husband Luis (Louis Ferreira) were turned into murderous zombies, Milwaukee-area nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) took refuge in a shopping mall after driving through an anarchic new world. She met up with several other survivors to withstand the siege of zombies. They included: police Sgt. Kenneth (Ving Rhames), resourceful TV electronics salesman Michael (Jake Weber), street-smart Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and his pregnant wife Luda (Inna Korobkina), three stupid mall security guards: redneck C.J. (Michael Kelly), Bart (Michael Barry) and Terry (Kevin Zegers), and other survivors who made it to the mall. The group joined together to fight off the threatening zombies. A bite from a zombie caused a deadly infection. In the conclusion, they sought to escape from the mall to a marina, by boarding two fortified buses. The only ones to survive on a departing boat were Ana, Kenneth, Terry, and Nicole (Lindy Booth). Although Michael had made it with the group to the marina, he knew his time was limited due to a bite on his arm - and so he remained behind and committed suicide.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 123 minutes, D: Roland Emmerich

Downfall (2004, Germ.) (aka Der Untergang), 150 minutes, D: Oliver Hirschbiegel
This realistic and historical war film featured the first serious portrayal of a German-speaking Fuehrer Hitler since Nazism was censored in post-war Germany. It depicted the last chaotic days within Hitler's (Bruno Ganz) underground Nazi bunker as the Allied troops advanced on Berlin in mid-1945. The story was told from the perspective of Adolf Hitler's 22 year-old personal secretary Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara). The claustrophobic, tension-filled last days showed the Fuhrer descending and disintegrating into madness and losing touch with reality as he moved fictional military divisions around on a map, frequently burst into anger, and planned his own suicide. He was unable to believe his forces were depleted and didn't attack as he had ordered. His inner circle, including Joseph and Magda Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes and Corinna Harfouch) in one harrowing scene, first poisoned their six children before committing suicide, to avoid facing the Allies after Germany's defeat.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), 108 minutes, D: Michel Gondry

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), 122 minutes, D: Michael Moore

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), 141 minutes, D: Alfonso Cuarón
See Harry Potter series.

Hellboy (2004), 122 minutes, D: Guillermo del Toro

Hotel Rwanda (2004), 121 minutes, D: Terry George

Howl's Moving Castle (2004, Jp.), 119 minutes, D: Hayao Miyazaki

The Incredibles (2004), 121 minutes, D: Brad Bird

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), 137 minutes, D: Quentin Tarantino

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), 118 minutes, D: Wes Anderson

Maria Full of Grace (2004, US/Colombia), 101 minutes, D: Joshua Marston

Million Dollar Baby (2004), 137 minutes, D: Clint Eastwood
A dozen years after their collaboration on Unforgiven (1992), Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood again teamed up for this tragic, melodramatic, Best Picture-winning film about boxing. As was often the case, Freeman (who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar) narrated the film with his smooth voice ("Boxing is about respect. Gettin' it for yourself, and takin' it away from the other guy"). He took the straight-forward role of elderly and battered Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, the faithful best friend, supportive confidante and long-time assistant to cranky veteran boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood). He was an ex-boxer trained by Frankie who had brought guilt to his trainer when in his last bout, he suffered a severe blinding injury. Now, he was there for Frankie, who took on the thankless, reluctant task of training a determined Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a 31 year-old, inexperienced underdog amateur.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004), 86 minutes, D: Jared Hess

The Passion of the Christ (2004), 127 minutes, D: Mel Gibson
Director Mel Gibson's controversial, violent, and blood-soaked version of the last few hours of the life of Jesus Christ (Jim Caviezel).

The Polar Express (2004), 100 minutes, D: Robert Zemeckis

Saw (2004), 100 minutes, D. James Wan

Shaun of the Dead (2004, UK), 99 minutes, D: Edgar Wright
An amusing zombie parody and situational comedy with a pun for a title, about suburban zombie survival. A witty, non-stop horror comedy spoof (dubbed a "rom-zom-com"). With many clever references to former zombie films. Electronic goods sales store clerk - hapless, direction-less loser, almost 30-something Shaun (Simon Pegg), often accompanied his unemployed, vulgar, slacker TV addicted drinking buddy-roommate Ed (Nick Frost) to the Winchester, a pub in North London. Shaun's ambitious and smart girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) was tired of the two friends when they went out, and dumped Shaun when he broke a restaurant date with her for their anniversary. After Shaun and Ed spent a night of heavy drinking together, they awoke with hangovers on a Sunday morning to a zombie apocalypse outbreak. They were attacked in their garden by two flesh-hungry zombies. They learned from a news report that the only way to kill a lumbering zombie was "by removing the head or destroying the brain." They set out to rescue Shaun's mother Barbara (Penelope Wilton), and then Liz (to win her heart over) and her two roommates, David (Dylan Moran) and Dianne or "Di" (Lucy Davis). They realized that they had to pretend to be undead in order to survive, and they eventually took sanctuary and refuge in their favorite pub. Barbara, David and Dianne were the first ones to die and be reborn as zombies. Ed was also bitten just before the British Army rescued Shaun and Liz (and Shaun's friend Yvonne (Jessica Hynes)). Six months later, daily life had been restored, while a few zombies were left-over for cheap labor (as service industry slaves) and entertainment (as game-show contestants). Zombified Ed was kept tethered in Shaun's shed, while he played video games.

Shrek 2 (2004), 99 minutes, D: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
See Shrek series.

Sideways (2004), 126 minutes, D: Alexander Payne
Grumpy middle school English teacher and wine aficionado Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) became love-struck after a poetic speech about wine from restaurant waitress Maya (Virginia Madsen), another wine-lover. It was an analogy of herself: "...I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity..."

Spider-Man 2 (2004), 124 minutes, D: Sam Raimi
See Spider-Man series.

Super Size Me (2004), 96 minutes, D: Morgan Spurlock

Troy (2004), 165 minutes, D: Wolfgang Petersen

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