Ah… 2004. A simpler time. It was before Transformers was a franchise, and before we decided to reboot the Spider-Man franchise. This was a time when many were saying “Channing who?” and “Jonah who?”. This was also the year that Clint Eastwood’s boxing drama Million Dollar Baby won the Academy Award for Best Picture. But was it?
It was nominated against The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, and Sideways. I remember 2004 very well, because it was also the year of a zillion Best Actor potentials who got sidelined. Now that you look back at the nominees, I think we can all virtually agree that either The Aviator or Ray or both wouldn’t make a Top 5 list anymore, and would be lucky to make a Top 10 list. Sideways and Finding Neverland will both have detractors, but also still have fans. So the question is… what else stood the test of time?
2004 was also the year Michael Mann dropped the Collateral bomb on us. It missed out on Oscar chances after being written off as a summer action film, though Jamie Foxx managed a supporting actor nomination. Another film that has grown in popularity over the years is Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Originally not really a huge box office hit, fans have continued to support the film over the years. It currently sits on the IMDB Top 250 list at #82.
Another IMDB hit has been Downfall, the German entry that is more well known in the internet community for inspiring a Hitler meme. Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle has also earned a Top 250 slot, and also is fondly remembered still to this day.
Personally, I’d lobby for Hotel Rwanda, a movie that holds up still today, and was overlooked for a Best Picture nomination. It also sits on the IMDB Top 250. And, before midnight there was Before Sunset.
I’d argue that Pixar’s The Incredibles has stood the test of time, gaining more and more fans over the years. Many feel it is one of Pixars strongest efforts, and it remains a film unsullied by a sequel. The Bourne Supremacy was an excellent followup, and started the one-two punch of Paul Greengrass taking the reigns of the Bourne franchise. Mean Girls still has fans today, that even celebrate Aaron Samuels Day. Miracle has done well for itself over the years, as has Friday Night Lights. In a different world, Dawn Of The Dead might have been considered. Closer is still used in film schools as an example of excellent filmmaking. The Life Aquatic holds up, even as Wes Anderson grows in popularity. I’d also lobby for The Motorcycle Diaries, but not for Best Picture. Shaun Of The Dead, De-Lovely, I Heart Huckabees, Kill Bill Vol 2, The Notebook, Kinsey, and The Door In The Floor round off my list.
2004 wasn’t all roses and candycanes. The Day After Tomorrow doesn’t hold up. We spent 120M on Van Helsing. Anyone remember Scooby Doo 2? The Stepford Wives? The Chronicles of Riddick? The Ladykillers?
Oh God. How about Catwoman? Or how about the fact that everytime someone mentions Napoleon Dynamite, you gag. You know you do.
As far as big-budget movies go, though, 2004 wasn’t all that bad. Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 were both great followups. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban might be the strongest in the series. I Robot is definitely one of Will Smith’s better epics. The Polar Express has turned into a classic. People still remember Anchorman and Dodgeball as being funny. Hellboy was fun. Sadly, no one remembers how the first Saw made everyone feel, and Garden State has not stood the test of time.
Still memorable performances?
Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (She deservedly won).
James Garner and Gena Rowlands in The Notebook (sadly, neither was nominated)
Jamie Foxx in Ray (he won)
Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (She was nominated, he wasn’t)
Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law, and Julia Roberts in Closer (Owen and Portman were nominated)
Don Cheadle and Sophie Okenedo in Hotel Rwanda (Both nominated)
Kevin Kline in De-Lovely.
Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, and Peter Sarsgaard in Kinsey. (Only Linney was nominated)
Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger in The Door In The Floor.
Christian Bale in The Machinist.
Alan Alda in The Aviator. I literally forgot he was nominated. Did you know The Aviator won 5 Oscars? More than any other film?
Shark Tale for Best Animated Feature.
Taylor Hackford for Directing Ray. Not nominated? Michel Gondry.
So, was Million Dollar Baby really the Best Picture? What would you vote for? Personally, my Top 5 list would need to include Hotel Rwanda and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. I’m still a fan of Finding Neverland, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen Sideways, but I’d definitely drop The Aviator (which I literally can’t sit through a second time). I might keep Million Dollar Baby in the Top 5, but I feel like Hotel Rwanda was a stronger film.
So my vote would be Hotel Rwanda, which wasn’t even nominated.