With 2015 upon us, we figured it was a good time to look back on the movies the millennium has brought us. And so we’ve dug into the archives and are re-running our Best of the 2000s pieces, from way back in 2009 when the Playlist was a little Blogspot site held together with tape and string. Each list runs down the top 10 films of each year (it’s possible that, half-a-decade on, we’d put them in a different order and even change some of the movies, but we wanted to preserve the original pieces untouched as far as possible). Check out 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 if you missed them, and today we continue with 2004. The original piece follows below, and thanks to staffers past and present who contributed.
Man, if compiling this list was any indication, 2004 was a very peculiar year and one of the weaker ones of the decade. For some years, we were unfortunately cutting tons of pictures from the top 10. For 2004, we struggled and struggled to find ten films we felt completely passionate about. Sure, there were lots of decent pictures (see our ample honorable mention section), but 2004 overall feels a bit more slight than every other year in the decade.
And note, people love to rag on Nicole Kidman, but she can do some excellent work. She’s in two pictures in our top five. Meanwhile in the film world in general, it was still sequels driving the box-office (“Spider-Man 2,” “Shrek 2” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban“). Clint Eastwood‘s 2003 film, “Million Dollar Baby” would take the Best Picture Oscar and in what was more of a statement move more than anything, Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11” would take the top prize at Cannes.
Yes, “Anchorman.” With 9/11 still residing deep in the American psyche, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, galled by the callous and exploitative nature of the media, created one of the most searing indictments of broadcast news since “Network.” Half-satire and half-political screed, “Anchorman” set its sights on the most protected of American institutions: freedom of the press. Will Ferrell, in a haughty mustache and ironic blue suit, gave the performance of a lifetime as journalistic hero Ron Burgundy, a powerful reporter from the city named after a whale’s vagina, who is tempted by desire and constantly at odds with his own raw masculine hunger. The centerpiece of the film is a bitter street fight between rival network anchors complete with tridents, men on fire and desperadoes on horses. The sequence is the most scathing critique of bourgeois consumerist desires since Jean-Luc Godard‘s “Week-End.” Provocative, controversial yet imbued with deep understanding of the human condition, “Anchorman” is one of the bravest films of the decade. When in Rome.
9. “Time Of The Wolf”
Michael Haneke‘s tense apocalyptic drama opens with a scene we can’t actually see. A family enters a home and we hear screaming, followed by a gunshot, and even further violence. While Haneke’s decision to not show the disturbance increases its own queasy, pornographic efficiency as far as troubling the audience, it also helps ground the film in a certain level of universality. It’s not the last such occurrence, as our orphaned characters make it through a desolate French countryside, shell-shocked by what we learn is an unspecified disaster that has left them without electricity or hope. Haneke’s genre trappings are clearly second place to the emotional and often familiar violence humans are capable of when society has been driven to its most primitive urges. This is clearly the movie “The Road” was trying to be.
8. “The Dreamers”
An extremely polarizing NC-17 film upon its release, Bernardo Bertolucci’s wantonly naive — perhaps revisionist — paean to his ’60s counter-culture heyday is a valentine to the thrilling rush of New Wave cinema and an impetuous kind of sonic youth. It can be a little heavy-handed if you’re not a devout quixotic cineaste (but can you really hate on references to “Mouchette” and “Bande à part“?). But drunk on idealism, it throbs with erotic voltage and is fraught with romantic spontaneity — and it’s a film that is done wonders by repeat viewings and is deeply in need of a second glance. Featuring excellent performances by its three leads (especially a deliciously wicked and sultry Eva Green; the boys are Michael Pitt and Louis Garrel) the trio play disaffected youths insulated in a palatial Paris apartment, experimenting with sexuality, exploring abstract notions, philosophy and challenging social mores while the world outside is pregnant with unrest and discordant anomie. Its rich guilelessness is in essence its strength (the title says its all), as the film voluptuously (and profanely) lurches forward like an ardent molotov cocktail to the chest.