Only a few days left, so time to tackle the best of the 00s, Film, TV, and Music, three in each category should be sufficient.
2004 was a pretty "meh" year for pictures (with a few notable exceptions). I can't really hate any of the crappy pictures enough to mention them dishonorably (not even The Day After Tomorrow, despite its obvious stupidities, has some charms, too), and the list of honorable mentions will be short, yet the top pictures are some of the best pictures the 00s have to offer, so it was a year of rare excellence coupled with mindnumbing mediocrity.
Comedies dominate the honorable mentions, with the ever rewatchable Anchorman and Harold and Kumar topping the, they aren't great but you really ought to own the DVDs of this picture if only so you can pop them in for a quick guaranteed laugh, list. Mean Girls just misses the top three, it's really a brilliantly written, wonderfully acted, solidly directed slice of American teengirl life. It's so sad to see what's happened to Lindsay Lohan since, but at least the other girls (and Tina Fey) have done well for themselves. Shaun of the Dead is another film that pains me to not name one of the top three, but when I see the three films I've picked, I can't justify taking any of them off, and elevating this in its place. Still, it's a near perfect comedy, and in large part responsible for the current zombie renaissance we are currently experiencing. Team America: World Police is another film that just misses, yet remains my all time favorite filthy puppet film and political satire. A special honorable mention goes to Downfall, both being an interestingly done serious drama revolving around Hitler's last day's in the bunker, and more importantly for inspiring a runaway, and funny the first few times, but after the fiftieth variation got tired, internet parodies (the original XBox Live banhammer edition, here).
Now, the three most essential films of 2004 (not in order of merit)
The current best film company's (PIXAR), best film, delivers on all fronts. Story, character, and visuals combine to create a near perfect film. The message is surprisingly pro-libertarian, too, so there's no way I can't not love this incredible bit of entertainment. One of the most heartfelt paeans to the importance of family that has been committed to film (or assembled from terabytes of zeroes and ones).
Kill Bill Vol 2
More essential than the first chapter, while that had all the action, this had all the character development, and the final sequence is both heartbreaking, and an ode to the power of motherhood. The first volume's action sequences are fun to rewatch, but the story is kind of stagnant and is mere set up for what happens throughout this half of the two pictures. Not many actresses could be convincing in both the action scenes and the emotional scenes, yet Uma Thurman delivers a muscular, nuanced, and multi-layered performance that offers careful shading where most artists would have painted with bolder and broader strokes. Deserving a place amongst best films of the decade, if only for Thurman's performance and Tarantino's direction in pulling that out of her. Essentially, it's one long ass picture, though, so consider this placing Kill Bill Vol1&2, as a piece, on the list of top achievements in cinema for the 00s.
Kung Fu Hustle
Another Stephen Chow film makes the top three of a given year's films. This is a remarkable action picture, it's a hokey-old fashioned romance, and it's a pretty terrific Busby Berkeley style musical all wrapped up into one glittering package. All the various kinds of choreography (dance, fight, slapstick) are top notch, and it's an endlessly inventive film visually. It strikes a balance between comedy and drama (very light drama), action and character, fantasy and reality, that's very kung fu like. It's the perfect reconciliation of opposites, and kicks all sorts of ass, you really can't ask any more out of a picture than what this work delivers.
That's it for today, I'll finish up 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 tomorrow, and I'll hold off on 2009 until after Christmas and I've had a chance to see a few of the big holiday season pictures (Invictus, Nine, Holmes).