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2005 Shanghai Diaries Movie Club

oscar.jpgSideways stands tall (and no minority winners for the fourth year in a row)

OK. I’ll get this out of the way up front: There are no Chinese members of the Shanghai Diaries Movie Club. And only one member actually lives in China. The SDMC was formerly known as the Orange Street Oscars and it was based in lily-white Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. We have moved our operations to Shanghai because labor is cheap, movies are cheaper and the Chinese appear to be on a cinematic hot streak (especially when compared to the Amish, who, frankly, have been a big disappointment since showing so much promise in Witness).

Released just in time to be dramatically overshadowed by the real Oscars, the Shanghai Diaries Movie Club is the year in film as seen through the eyes of five guys in Pennsylvania, one guy in Shanghai and another guy lost somewhere in New Jersey. We give you our Top-20 Films of 2004 and a glimpse of what the Oscars would look like if we were in charge. Scroll down and see rough biographical sketches and individual top-20 lists from each voter. (One movie club member only managed a top-12 list this year. Forgive him — he’s from Scranton.)

The SDMC is looking for new members — especially ones based in China. So, please leave your comments and your own top-whatever lists as comments to this post. We’d love to hear from you. Maybe we’ll invite you back next year. We know you are dying to learn the secret club handshake … and meet the man known to millions of women worldwide simply as Big Daddy.


Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


  1. Sideways
  2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  3. Million Dollar Baby
  4. Garden State
  5. Finding Neverland
  6. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  7. The Incredibles
  8. Maria Full of Grace
  9. The Motorcycle Diaries
  10. Spider-Man 2
  11. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  12. Closer
  13. House of Flying Daggers
  14. Napoleon Dynamite
  15. Before Sunset
  16. A Very Long Engagement
  17. Hotel Rwanda
  18. Friday Night Lights
  19. Dig!
  20. The Aviator

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Finding Neverland
Garden State
Million Dollar Baby

Zach Braff — Garden State
Clint Eastwood — Million Dollar Baby
Marc Forster — Finding Neverland
Michel Gondry — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Alexander Payne — Sideways

Kevin Bacon — The Woodsman
Christian Bale — The Machinist
Don Cheadle — Hotel Rwanda
Jamie Foxx — Ray
Paul Giamatti — Sideways

Laura Linney — Kinsey/P.S.
Catalina Sandino Moreno — Maria Full of Grace
Uma Thurman — Kill Bill Vol. 2
Hilary Swank — Million Dollar Baby
Kate Winslet — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/Finding Neverland

Thomas Haden Church — Sideways
Rodrigo De la Serna — The Motorcycle Diaries
Jamie Foxx — Collateral
Clive Owen — Closer
Peter Sarsgaard — Garden State/Kinsey

Cate Blanchett — The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou/The Aviator
Bryce Dallas Howard — The Village/Book of Love
Virginia Madsen — Sideways
Sandra Oh — Sideways
Natalie Portman — Closer/Garden State

Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach — The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Brad Bird — The Incredibles
Zack Braff — Garden State
Charlie Kaufman — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Quentin Tarantino — Kill Bill Vol. 2

Steven Fechter — The Woodsman
Paul Haggis — Million Dollar Baby
David Magee — Finding Neverland
Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor — Sideways
Jose Rivera — The Motorcycle Diaries

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan



Alexander Payne — Sideways

Paul Giamatti — Sideways

Kate Winslet — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/Finding Neverland

Peter Sarsgaard — Kinsey/Garden State

Natalie Portman — Closer/Garden State

Charlie Kaufman — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor — Sideways

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan




  1. Sideways
  2. Million Dollar Baby
  3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  4. Garden State
  5. Dig!
  6. Finding Neverland
  7. The Incredibles
  8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  9. Napoleon Dynamite
  10. Motorcycle Diaries
  11. House of Flying Daggers
  12. A Very Long Engagement
  13. Friday Night Lights
  14. Vera Drake
  15. Kinsey
  16. The Aviator
  17. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  18. Ray
  19. The Woodsman
  20. Shaun of the Dead

2004 in exactly 24 words: Almost every horror film this year was rated PG-13 and a film about Jesus made I Spit On Your Grave look like Ghost Dad.

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


BIRTHPLACE: Jackson Heights, New York
DAY JOB: Web Developer
Height: According to high school basketball program, 5-foot-9. In reality, a shade over 5-foot-4.

  1. Sideways
  2. Million Dollar Baby
  3. Hotel Rwanda
  4. House of Flying Daggers
  5. Spider-Man 2
  6. Garden State
  7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  8. The Incredibles
  9. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  10. Friday Night Lights
  11. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
  12. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  13. Napoleon Dynamite
  14. The Woodsman
  15. Shaun of the Dead
  16. Maria Full of Grace
  17. Hero
  18. Mean Creek
  19. Touching the Void
  20. Motorcycle Diaries

2004 in exactly 24 words: The year will be remembered for stunning performances by Paul Giamatti in Sideways, Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda and the red ball in The Woodsman.

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


AKA: Big Daddy
RESIDES: Abington, Pennsylvania
BIRTHPLACE: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
DAY JOB: Drugstore Cowboy
Affiliations: Outspoken fruits-and-vegetable rights activist. Does not consume fruits and vegetables out of respect for their lives.

  1. Sideways
  2. Million Dollar Baby
  3. Before Sunset
  4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  5. Hero
  6. Garden State
  7. Finding Neverland
  8. Hotel Rwanda
  9. Closer
  10. Fahrenheit 9/11
  11. The Indredibles
  12. Maria Full of Grace
  13. The Return
  14. House of Flying Daggers
  15. A Very Long Engagement
  16. Motorcycle Diaries
  17. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  18. The Woodsman
  19. Vera Drake
  20. Shaun of the Dead

2004 in exactly 24 words: It’s been a good year when films from John Sayles, David Mamet and Pedro Almodovar don’t compare to puppets cursing and having dirty sex.

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


Resides: Havertown, Pennsylvania
Birthplace: Allentown, Pennsylvania
Day job: Public Relations Director
Almost famous: Name once appeared in Rap Masters magazine as the winner of a Kwame: The Boy Genius record.

  1. Sideways
  2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  3. The Aviator
  4. Finding Neverland
  5. Motorcyle Diaries
  6. Maria Full of Grace
  7. Garden State
  8. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  9. Closer
  10. Million Dollar Baby
  11. Fahrenheit 9/11
  12. The Incredibles
  13. Super Size Me
  14. Spider-Man 2
  15. Kinsey
  16. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  17. Before Sunset
  18. House of Flying Daggers
  19. Napoleon Dynamite
  20. The Machinist

2004 in exactly 24 words: In this election year, the country went Sideways, but I just wish Fahrenheit worked. I’d like to erase my memory of Nov. 2. Gosh!

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


AKA: Ski-Dog
Resides: Riverton, New Jersey
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Day job: Journalist
Concussions suffered: 6

  1. Sideways
  2. Motorcycle Diaries
  3. Million Dollar Baby
  4. Garden State
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  6. Finding Neverland
  7. Closer
  8. Maria Full of Grace
  9. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  10. Spartan
  11. Before Sunset
  12. Friday Night Lights
  13. The Assassination of Richard Nixon
  14. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  15. Intermission
  16. A Very Long Engagement
  17. The Bourne Supremacy
  18. Intimate Strangers
  19. Fahrenheit 9/11
  20. Man on Fire

2004 in exactly 24 words: It’s good to see Big Macs and fries get the same treatment as the President. Spanish movies get recognized, and even the sequels didn’t suck.

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


AKA: Sharky
Resides: Scranton, Pennsylvania
Birthplace: Scranton, Pennsylvania
Day job: Freelance Writer (fancy-pants talk for “unemployed”)
Only hobby: Quizzo

  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  2. Spider-Man 2
  3. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  4. Sideways
  5. Garden State
  6. The Passion of the Christ
  7. Badassssss!
  8. Napoleon Dynamite
  9. Million Dollar Baby
  10. Dig!
  11. Control Room
  12. Miracle

2004 in exactly 24 words: Disintegration of unbiased documentaries. Continued Jerry Bruckheimer success. Tom Hanks is a scary cartoon. Mel Gibson hates Jews. Oh, 2004 — good times, good times.

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


Resides: Shanghai, China
Birthplace: Danville, Pennsylvania
Day job: Expatriate
Hair product: Gatsby Natural Styling Aquawhip

  1. Finding Neverland
  2. Hotel Rwanda
  3. Bad Education
  4. The Incredibles
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  6. The Door in the Floor
  7. Maria Full of Grace
  8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  9. A Very Long Engagement
  10. Sideways
  11. Team America: World Police
  12. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  13. Spider-Man 2
  14. The Bourne Supremacy
  15. We Don’t Live Here Anymore
  16. Super Size Me
  17. Kinsey
  18. The Aviator
  19. The Woodsman
  20. Mr. 3000

2004 in exactly 24 words: Million Dollar Baby was bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan


Shanghai Diaries Top 25 Albums Of 2004
2004 Orange Street Oscars
2003 Orange Street Oscars
2002 Orange Street Oscars
2001 Orange Street Oscars
Rotten Tomatoes
Internet Movie Database
Roger Ebert
Slate’s Movie Club

Overall List | Nominees | Winners | Voter Lists | Links
Adam | Ron | Big Daddy | Grant | Levinsky | Sharky | Dan

02.27.2005, 5:47 PM · Movies


  1. OK. If it were totally up to me …

    PICTURE: Finding Neverland
    DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    ACTOR: Gael Garcia Bernal — Bad Education
    ACTRESS: Kate Winslet — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/Finding Neverland
    SUPPORTING ACTOR: Peter Sarsgaard — Kinsey/Garden State
    SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett — The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou/The Aviator

    Hopefully, other SDMC members will respond in kind. And you readers, too.

  2. Best Actor: Johnny Depp - Neverland
    Best Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman - Closer
    Supporting Actor - Clive Owen - Closer


  3. Dan,

    I need you to explain the appeal of Bad Education to me. The Toronto crew all saw it there and none of us liked it even a little bit. Even Grant, who notoriously loves films with hot man-on-man action, didn’t like it. I thought it was a mess and it didn’t hold my interested at all.

    I will give Grant props for submitting a real picture of himself.

    Here’s how I think it will go tonight…
    Picture: Million Dollar Baby
    Director: Scorsese
    Actor: Foxx
    Actress: Swank
    Sup. Actor: Freedman
    Sup. Actress: Blanchett

  4. I have $10 on laura linney at 35-1 as my oscar surprise. I think they definately give Marty his gold and they could have just awarded Foxx his statue last week at the Grammy’s.

  5. Granted Paul Giamatti got robbed out of oscar nom, but who’s with me when I say the Academy dropped the ball with no nomination for Colm Meany for best supporting actor for Intermission.

    Am i the only one who liked that flick?

    ps. by far the best work by an actor who used to be on Star Trek.

    pss. Bad Education was the worst of the spanish films, ie. Motorcycle, Sea Inside, Maria Full of Grace, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  6. Adam,

    Bad Education was a work of art, beautifully shot and acted (Gael Garcia Bernal could be my favorite actor working today). The characters, the story and the way the story was told pulled me in. The movie was never uninteresting. But maybe I’m just a sucker for hot man-on-man action. (By the way, can you remember a year with more full-frontal nudity?)

    I am perplexed by the worldwide acclaim being showered upon Million Dollar Baby. It is manipulative, cliche-ridden mainsteam fare that panders to the audience’s basest emotions. [SPOILER ALERT: Do not read further if you plan on watching Million Dollar Baby] I guess all you need to do to win an Oscar these days is break a likable main character’s neck midway through the film. A drastic, forced change of pace like that will turn any film into a tear-jerker. It begs the audience to cry. And it renders virtually anything that happened prior to the accident meaningless.

    But that wasn’t my only problem with Million Dollar Baby. I have a long list of them. Here are some off the top of my head:

    * The supporting cast was very poorly developed, an endless stream of one-dimensional cliches. Swank’s family was one big stereotype, a family of cartoon characters. And the dumb kid at the gym was one of the most useless characters I have seen on film in a long while. An Oscar-caliber film needs to be strong top to bottom. This didn’t even come close.

    * The crowd shots during the fight scenes felt overly staged and didn’t ring true, with fans punching the air and doing other overly dramatic things fight fans often do … in the movies. I felt like I was watching Over The Top.

    * Are Irish people that easy to win over? Put an old Celtic saying on the robe of an American fighter and all of a sudden she’s the country’s most popular fighter, with fans chanting her name and singing along to her every move?

    * Are referees at women’s boxing matches really no better than the clueless wonders of the World Wrestling Federation? Didn’t Roy Jones Jr. lose a match because he hit a fighter while he was down?

    * Don’t you have to check in at a hospital when you want to visit a patient? Aren’t nurses on the floor notified immediately when a patient flatlines? Don’t most hospitals have surveillance cameras, at least in the hallways? Eastwood’s character never should have gotten away.

    But the movie made people cry. So I guess none of this stuff matters.


  7. Dan, you’ll never convince me that Bad Education was good and that Garden State was bad. Good arguments about Million Dollar Baby, though.

    Anyway, here are the winners if I was in charge:

    Best pic: Sideways (it’s held my top spot since I saw it in Toronto in September, but nothing has knocked it off)
    Best director: Martin Scorcese (deserved)
    Best actor: Don Cheadle (I was with Jamie Foxx all the way, but I saw Hotel Rwanda this weekend - unfortunately too late for my rankings - and was blown away)
    Best actress: Kate Winslett (Eternal Sunshine made me realize why Big has been obsessed with Ms. Winslett all these years)
    Best supp. actor: Peter Saarsgard (seems to make his movies better)
    Best supp. actress: Natalie Portman (and if you’re reading this, Natalie, feel free to shoot me an e-mail)

  8. And me too….

  9. But seriously, thanks for the listings. Eternal Sunshine was my fav whacked out movie of the year. It was an interesting story made all the moreso by the way it was presented (although somewhat similar to what Tarantino did with Pulp Fiction) That’s been my choice.

    And I didn’t see an independent that’s coming on strong now in DVD - Napoleon Dynamite. What a movie that grows on you, not unlike mold. Any comments from the Orange St./SDMC crowd? And I wonder how it’s played over in China - I don’t suppose the humor is …. appreciated, quite as much in Shanghai, eh Dan?

  10. Grant,

    I never said Garden State was a “bad” film. It just wasn’t good enough to make my top 20. Had we extended the lists to 30 films, it would have been on my list. There were many things I liked about Garden State. Unfortunately the movie fell apart in the melodramatic final third. Braff tried to get deep on us but ended up sounding like a 14-year-old. At moments when his character was supposedly waxing philosophic, I found myself chuckling instead of tearing up. And the ending was one huge cliche. It wrapped up too nicely and felt almost as though a test audience had rejected the original ending and the studio decided to tack on a crowd pleaser.

    But the soundtrack was good.

    Now if you want to talk about a “bad” movie, let’s talk about Closer. That stinker had only one redeeming quality — the aforementioned Ms. Portman.


    P.S. Doug, I have yet to see Napoleon Dynamite.

  11. Napoleon Dynamite is one of those films that you get more milage out of the more you see it. I’ve been quoting that film regularly since it came out on DVD.

  12. Dan:

    Dealing with similar subjects, I think that Closer blew We Don’t Live Here Anymore away. The performances of Clive Owen and Natalie Portman alone made it interesting and worthy of being in my top 10. You mentioned melodrama in Garden State (true), but that’s all that I got from We Don’t Live. And overacting, unfortunately, even though the principles in the movie are all good actors.

    I saw Napolean Dynamite in the theater with about eight other people, and four of them walked out after about 30 minutes. I just bought the DVD. Dan, you should check it out.

  13. I agree with Grant on We Don’t Live Here. It could have been a movie of the week. I was really bored watching it. Haven’t seen Closer yet, so I can’t compare.

  14. Dan,
    Does the dvd guy at Malone’s have Dynamite? The best 10 rmb you might spend. Crazy, stupid funny movie. The grapefruit scene with Uncle Rico is too funny.
    Of course, flying home with a stack of 30 amazing dvd’s might get you stopped at customs. Or maybe I’m the only one who’s has it happen. I was completely flabberghasted to find out that they were not real!! Travelling partner had 25 of his own and they made it back to Ohio. Just lucky, I guess.

  15. G,

    Rock the polka-dots.

  16. Grant,

    Your comparison of Closer and We Don’t Live Here Anymore is a good one — but I think that it is wrong. We Don’t Live Here Anymore felt more real to me, more mature. Closer, on the other hand, involved unlikable characters I could have cared less about muddling their way through a very contrived plot. The characters of Closer don’t act the way real people do — and the situations the script placed them in were absurd.

    That being said, I agree that We Don’t Live Here Anymore was far from the perfect film. So were most movies that I saw in 2004. In my opinion, 2004 was a disappointing movie year. Much of what is on my list this year would have had a tough time making my list in 2003.

    Anyone disagree?


  17. Doug,

    A few comments to your comments:

    * I rarely go to Malone’s.

    * No one should pay 10 RMB for movies in Shanghai. I usually pay 7. Sometimes I’ll splurge and get a DVD-9 — the ones with all the features — for 10 at my local shop.

    * You got stopped at customs? What did they do? Did they take your DVDs? If so, when and at what airport? I have never heard of that happening before. In 2003, I transported approximately 300 DVDs into NYC’s JFK airport and they didn’t even check my bag.

    * “I was completely flabberghasted to find out that they were not real!!” This is sarcasm, right? In China, it is best to assume that EVERYTHING you buy — especially DVDs — is fake. Even your eggs.


  18. Everyone,

    This is a “better late than never” submission to the club from Wayne, the reviewer for local English-language mag that’s Shanghai. It’s nice to get some new blood in here, and Wayne mixes things up a bit by including five films — Notre Musique, Springtime in a Small Town, Lost Boys of Sudan, The Five Obstructions and The Twilight Samurai — that don’t appear on any other lists in the club.

    And, Wayne becomes just the second club member (I was the first) to have enjoyed Bad Education. That display of good taste alone, I believe, is enough to warrant Wayne’s permanent inclusion in the Shanghai Diaries Movie Club.

    So, without further ado, here is Wayne’s stuff. Please note that he failed to put his Top 20 in any sort of order. But, based on his award selections, we can assume that he had Sideways at No. 1.



    Resides: Shanghai, China
    Birthplace: California
    Day Job: Teacher/Writer
    Former Professions: Chess Teacher, Drag Queen Waitress (teaching chess is better)

    TOP 20 OF 2004 (in no particular order):

    • The Motorcycle Diaries
    • Bad Education
    • Sideways
    • The Return
    • Maria Full of Grace
    • Notre Musique
    • Million Dollar Baby
    • The Twilight Samurai
    • Before Sunset
    • Finding Neverland
    • Hotel Rwanda
    • Kill Bill Vol. 2
    • The Incredibles
    • Closer
    • Baaaaaddddaasssssssssssss!
    • Fahrenheit 9/11
    • Springtime in a Small Town
    • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    • The Five Obstructions
    • Lost Boys of Sudan

    2004 in exactly 24 words: Was a good year for film, bad year for politics, pathetic that Bush won, Hollywood produced less crap, don’t know what else to say.


    Picture: Sideways
    Director: Pedro Almodovar
    Actor: Gael Garcia Bernal — The Motorcycle Diaries
    Actress: Catalina Sandino Moreno — Maria Full of Grace
    Supporting Actor: Clive Owen — Closer
    Supporting Actress: Hilary Swank — Million Dollar Baby
    Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Adapted Screenplay: Sideways

  19. I didn’t see enough movies in 2004 for a top 20. One movie - or should I say film? - which I saw in 2004 was released more than twenty years ago, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. After every scene, I kept wondering why they don’t make movies - oops, films - like they used to.

  20. Dan, let’s face it. You only liked We Don’t Live Here Anymore because of your fascination with the fact that you look like Peter Krause. And he played a writer in the movie, to boot. There was no way you were not liking this movie.

    E, thanks for the Kwame shout-out. He’s the man we all know and love. I actually just downloaded some Kwame stuff from iTunes because everything I had was on tape … and vinyl.

    Wayne, thanks for the submissions, and welcome to the club.

  21. Wait, that’s not dan with laura Dern and naomi Watts? Now i hate that film. Love your work in 6 feet under dan?

  22. Let me take this opportunity to personally apologize to the rest of the Orange Street/Shanghi Diaries Club for my piss-poor performance this year. As most of you know, I was unemployed for most of this year, and movies became the luxury that got cut.

    Also, it’s not that I only saw 12 movies — it’s just that those were the only ones I saw that I thought deserved to be on the list. The Village blew my ass, and a couple others I hoped would be good sucked rocks. Although in my rankings I did forget to rank three movies I saw that were worthy of the list in Intermission, Saved and Collateral. My bad.

    However, I am making a solemn vow for the 2005 list — I will be more of a presense. I have recently found employment, in a town with an independent movie theater, no less.

  23. Dan,

    I think best picture of 2004 goes to that mug shot of yours here. 2004 was tough year - Oscars was a flatliner. Would’ve been nice to see Martin Scorsese win one for best director. Aviator was a pretty damn good movie-although not his best when compared to Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas…at least give the guy the recognition he deserves for being one of the great American directors-even greater than Clint Eastwood. No doubt. And you can put a million dollars on that baby.

    I have to also say that I liked 2046 very much from Wong Kar Wai-even better than most movies listed here. It’s not just because I am in Hong Kong right now and riding the Chungking Express.
    But WKW has got to be one of the best directors
    working right now.And how about Mr. Tony Leung-WKW regular. He is definitely my favorite actor right now and you can put a million dollars on that baby too.

  24. Guys,

    I would never sleep with Laura Dern. Now, Naomi Watts on the other hand …


  25. Curtis,

    2046 — which I own, but have yet to watch (I was waiting first to see WKW’s In the Mood for Love … which I just found on DVD) — was not eligible for 2004’s list because it has yet to be released in the US.


  26. Just watched Vera Drake. Had I seen it before the deadline, it would have definitely made my list. Perhaps not the top 10, but very close. I notice that only Adam and Big included the movie on their lists. Is this because the rest of the group wasn’t able to see it?

    I thought the acting throughout — top to bottom — was astounding. And Imelda Staunton was most impressive and certainly Oscar-worthy as the title character.

    For me, though, the movie seemed to end rather abruptly. Perhaps it was meant to be a powerful closing, one that makes you ponder things as you leave the theater. The ending didn’t leave me outraged. I’m no pro-lifer, but I thought Drake got off relatively easy. To me, the movie felt unfinished. Thoughts?

  27. didn’t see vera drake, obviously.

    i would like to comment on million dollar baby. The more and more I think about it, the more it pisses me off. I walked out of the theater thinking it was pretty good. I think this was the naked emperor theory though. now I know that clint eastwood is buck naked. why, why, why, would you take someone on a journey for 90 minutes, only to totally pull the rug out from the audience for no specific reason whatsoever? to answer moral questions on euthenasia? not a good enough reason.

    and morgan freeman getting the oscar over jamie foxx is pure robbery. jamie foxx was better in collateral than he was in ray.

  28. You guys are all so great! the headshots made me laugh out loud!

  29. I’d like to put in a good word for “Closer”. I think to call the acting “unreal”, or the plot “contrived”, is rather missing the point. To me it was deliberately done in the manner of a Greek tragedy, and I think this was made explicit at the point that felt like the end of the second act, when Jude Law and Julia Roberts found themselves in a theatre auditorium just as the audience were coming out, and at the point near the end, where the Jude Law character said he was going to the bathroom to “take out his eyes”. The characters may not have been particularly likeable, but I thought their flaws were rather frighteningly real.

    But then, if you’re talking about contrived, what about Napoleon Dynamite? That was just downright sneery.


  30. Ooops. I wrote “theatre auditorium” just now. I meant “theatre lobby”.


  31. Some Retortin’-

    Big and I saw Vera Drake together. We held hands. I think Big cried.

    Dan, using your arguement for We Don’t Live Here.. vs. Closer, who did you find likeable in Bad Education? You didn’t think that plot was contrived? That movie blows - no pun intended.

    Since Peter Krause has bulked up in recent years, I don’t think he looks like Washburn any more. I haven’t seen Dan in a while, but unless he’s tipping the scales at 240 lbs., I don’t see the resemblance. There is a guy, and I’ll look this up later, that was on a Skinamax series that looks EXACTLY like Dan.

    I dislike “Nate” on Six Feet Under so much, I refuse to see any Peter Krause films.

    Wayne’s list looks pretty good. I think he made up three of those films. He also needs to explain Baaaadddddaaaaasssss! to me. That I did see. Me no likey.

  32. Tim,

    Regarding Closer, is the “Greek tragedy” comparison simply your own opinion? Or have the makers of the film acknowledged this at some point? I had never seen anything about it before, but I admittedly have not read much about Closer.

    It sounds interesting … but it still doesn’t make me like the movie.


  33. Adam,

    I found the characters in Bad Education not necessarily likable, but interesting. They held my attention throughout. But I don’t think you can use the same parameters to judge a film like Bad Education — surrealist in a way — and Closer, which portends to take place in the here and now.

    Regarding Baaaaaddddassssss! — which is the most frustrating title of the year … so many spellings, impossible to search — I didn’t like it or hate it. Felt like a film school project. Or a made for TV movie. As did Ray.

    And thanks a lot for blowing the lid off of my Skinamax career. My mom won’t talk to me now.


  34. Some secondary lists for 2004 …

    Also enjoyed:

    Being Julia
    Ocean’s Twelve
    Shaun of the Dead
    Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself

    The bottom three:

    The Big Bounce
    I Heart Huckabees
    Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement (Shut up … I was on a plane)


    Before Sunset
    Garden State
    House of Flying Daggers
    Million Dollar Baby

    Not the worst movie ever made:

    The Brown Bunny

    Own, but have yet to watch:

    The Assassination of Richard Nixon
    The Five Obstructions

  35. Dan,
    I haven’t read anything about “Closer” either, but it just feels like an adapted play, especially because of the way the themes are handled. I mean, the Jude Law character’s obviously got a raging Oedipus complex. His relationships are a constant quest to recreate his mother’s love. By dabbling on the internet, he installs the Clive Owen character as an oppressive father figure and a rival in love. And then there’s the obvious reference to Oedipus when he says he’s going to “take out my eyes”. And then, right at the end, he sees Alice’s name (a fantasy name) on a stone in the park he associates with his dead mother. So it’s a tragedy, with an inevitably tragic end, about a man with a mother-fixation, who’s unable to grow to maturity and whose attempts at relationships will inevitably fail.
    It’s brilliant because it’s so the opposite of Hollywood - no growing, no resolution, no easy answers - and because you see it every day. It’s probably my movie of the year, but then I haven’t seen most of the movies on your list.


  36. How come nobody has said much about team america: world police. This has to be one the most creative, intensly funny, yet smart movies of the year. And House of Flying Daggers had to be one the worst movies of the year. I was literally laughing in the theatre watching this piece of shit. Yes it was beutiful, but really, have you looked at your crap lately, not very attractive is it. America, fuck yeah, coming to save the motha-fucking day now!!! Watch it if you have not already.

  37. Almost cracked my top 10, Jonathan.

    Hottest sex scene of the year.

  38. Since I have kids and do not frequent the movies that often, I have little to no input about the cinema, however, I do have a theater question.

    Can someone please tell me why Levinski is on the cover of the winter 2005 alumni magazine standing in knee high water with no shirt on and wearing a pair of angel wings?

  39. You caught me E.
    But what i really want to do is direct.

  40. Why isn’t Harold and Kumar go to White Castle on anyone’s list? It is almost as funny as Dumb and Dumber and more clever than Road Trip. Definitely on my Top 10 of the year.

  41. caught wilbur wants to kill himself on the ‘dance the other night. liked it a lot, would have been in my top 10.

  42. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best pictures of 2004:
    The Story of the Weeping Camel
    Finding Neverland
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    Eternal Sunshine
    We Don’t Live Here Anymore
    Friday Night Lights
    Before Sunset

    Honorable mentions:
    The Incredibles
    Garden State
    Shaun of the Dead
    Maria Full of Grace

    All hail the vastly overrated (but still decent):
    Kill Bills
    Million $ Baby
    Spider Man 2

    The suckees:
    Ocean’s Twelve
    The Life Aquatic
    Mr. 3000
    Bad Santa
    Starsky and Hutch

  43. I should add that I still have to see Closer, Vera Drake, Hotel Rwanda, the Motorcycle Diaries, the Woodsmen, Kinsey and A Very Long Engagement, all of which appear on multiple lists here.

  44. Ding,

    I saw Harold and Kumar … and thought parts were mildly amusing. The characters were likable, though. But when you say something is “more clever than Road Trip” that doesn’t exactly send shivers down my spine. I mean, I think your comment was just about as clever as Road Trip.


    Can someone get me a scan of this magazine cover? I have no idea what you are talking about.


    Thanks for your list … and your Safety Tips.

  45. Granted H&K has close to zero cleverness, and almost so did my comment. As an Asian, I was intrigued at the premise of a comedy starring two Asian-American actors. I enjoyed the satirical way the characters handled the ethnically loaded barbs thrown at them. If you compare H&K with other over-the-top and no-brainer comedies it was slightly more amusing with its extensive reference to the Asian stereotype, which is doubtedly part of American life yet is not receiving its due attention from Hollywood and the mainstream media.

  46. *undoubtedly

    Btw, I would vote for Sideways as the best of 2005 as well.

  47. Anyone see Goodbye Dragon Inn? Dan, maybe there was some opportunity over there in the theaters. I imagine there is an audience for this, but who, besides the critic lemmings lining up behind it? Granted, I’d rather watch something like this than American Pie 4, but that’s faint praise.

  48. For those of you lovers of Sideways and the darker side of humanity, you might want to drop the movie Happiness in your Netlix queue. I personally thought Solonz’s follow-up, Storytelling, was a piece of crap but Happiness, like Sideways, shows the shitty things that people do to each other without judging them.

  49. Ding,

    I was just kidding. And comments don’t need to be clever.

    I agree, it was refreshing in Harold and Kumar to have main characters who weren’t idiots for a change. Even better that they were Asian Americans.


  50. Bueller…? Where is everyone. I am looking forward to some lively movie discussions.

    Finally saw the Motorcycle Diaries. Good movie. Not great. Despite being hetero, Bernal is beautiful. I’ve always thought that. What a face.

    As for the ending, what jackass thought it was a good idea to ham up that swimming across the river scene? Until then, the movie had kept the tone very classy and intellectually-driven. And then we get the Meatballs ending. I don’t get it.

    Ah, and Dan, right click on a PC is ctrl-click on a Mac…but maybe you knew that :-]

  51. Yeah Dave, not too lively anymore is it? I think everyone must be preparing for their fantasy baseball drafts.

    I haven’t seen many of the movies you have mentioned recently, this explaining my silence. (I am prepared for my fantasy draft.)

  52. Just wondering if i was the only person in the United States to actually pay money to go see “Dear Frankie” ? For those living near Philly, it played at the Ritz 5 (aka my second apartment) for all of two weeks. Went in not expecting much but loved it. It’s about single mom fleeing abusing x-husband , meets stranger who she pays to pretend to be dad and turns out he’s perfect. I know, cliche city. But making the kid deaf was brilliant and the actor playing the youth was brilliant, and Emily Mortimer is pretty nice to look at and i love her accent. Hell, even Gerald Butler (aka, Joel Schumacher’s Phantom in the screen version of Phantom of the Opera, liked him better in Timeline. Both movies were awful.) was even ok, and the soundtrack had a great Damian Rice song. Plus there was no cliche ending that i was expecting. Anyway, for what it’s worth, I recommend it when it hits DVD, likely next week. Buying time until next weekend when Danny Boyle’s “Millions” arrives in wide distribution. Anyone see it in NY or at some film festival?

    Lastly, I saw the Star Wars III trailer the other day. I hate to jinx it— but it looks like Lucas might have finally gotten it right this time. Then again, the trailer includes little dialog, which anyone who saw the first two prequels knows is excrutiantly painful. But i like the talk of a PG13 rating. Could it be possible that Adam did as promised and kidnapped Lucas and made him watch the Lord of the Rings movies?

    Happy easter.

  53. Thanks for the recommendation Ski. I think “Dear Frankie” will be coming here (San Diego) soon. I will try to catch it.

    I finally saw Hotel Rwanda last night. WOW. I can only imagine that those who did not have it on their year-end list did not see it. It’s gratifying to see Don Cheadle grow out of the wiseguy character-actor mold (a la Boogie nights and Traffic) into something bigger, and important. It’s also gratifying to see a known Hollywood entity taking risks with subject matter. It would be nice to see more actors, and studios, take on projects that are not only watchable but socially responsible. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath for that.

  54. Ski-dog, thanks for the Dear Frankie recommendation. Are you going to see anything at the Philadelphia Film Fest?

    Just saw the director’s cut of Donnie Darko. I had never seen it before. I have some ideas regarding what it’s about (and a lot of questions). Anyone care to give their two cents? I’m interested to see others’ analyses of that one.

  55. This is my first post on the movie page, but Dan knows, because of my girlfriend, I now see a lot more movies than I used to — from none to some. Saw Schultze Get the Blues last weekend and liked it. Has anyone else seen it, and what did you think?


Shanghai Diaries is a website about Shanghai, China ... and lots of other stuff. Voted Best Mainland China Blog in the 2004 Asia Blog Awards.

Editor: Dan Washburn

Related: Shanghaiist and Mudan Boutique

Dan is a freelance writer living in Shanghai. More about Dan.

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10.08.2005 (127 new)
Fujian Power!
Visit an old colonial island in Xiamen and huge earthen roundhouses in rural Fujian. Scenes from my National Day 2005 holiday.

10.08.2005 (41 new)
Go on the set for my very first infomercial! I play the role of “Dr. James,” inventor of a product called “Dolly.”

10.08.2005 (57 new)
Gaelic Football
Get some sweaty culture at the Asian Gaelic Games. Gaelic football comes to Shanghai!

10.08.2005 (14 new)
Xingfu 13
Jam with Xingfu 13 at the Shanghaiist.com launch party.

10.08.2005 (29 new)
Shanghai Sex Expo
Take a stroll through the Second Annual China International Adult Toys and Reproductive Health Exhibition, also known as the Adult Expo or the Adult-Care Expo.

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