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20 Insider Top Ten Lists: "Eternal Sunshine," "Sideways" and "Tarnation" Dominate

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire December 30, 2004 at 2:0AM

20 Insider Top Ten Lists: "Eternal Sunshine," "Sideways" and "Tarnation" Dominate
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20 Insider Top Ten Lists: "Eternal Sunshine," "Sideways" and "Tarnation" Dominate

by Matthew Curtis, Matt Dentler, Helen Gramates, Paul Federbush, Merideth Finn, Peter Goldwyn, Marie Therese Guirgis, Tom Hall, Daniel Katz, Amy King, David Kwok, Dylan Leiner, Jared Moshe, Dana O'Keefe, Rajendra Roy, Kirsten Schaffer, Basil Tsiokos, Jack Turner, Ryan Werner, David Wilson




Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." David Lee/Focus Features.


Many cinephile friends who work in film typically take a few moments at the end of the year to create a Top 10 list. For the second year, we decided to ask a few of them to share those lists in indieWIRE (and we invite you to post yours at the end of this article). For 2004, indieWIRE surveyed a few of the people we got to know, hung out with, or otherwise encountered at film festivals or in New York over the past year, with an emphasis on film festival programmers and acquisitions folks.

Three films clearly dominate the top ten lists published today: Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," Alexander Payne's "Sideways," and Jonathan Caouette's "Tarnation." Each was listed on a majority of the 20 lists published below.

Participants were asked to email us a list of ten films (ranked or unranked) including movies released theatrically in 2004. Other than minor style editing, we are running exactly what each participant sent us.

indieWIRE readers are invited to post a Top Ten list for 2004 at the end of this article. Please include your name, and a small sentence bio if you wish, along with your Top Ten list.


Matthew Curtis - Director of Programming, Enzian Theater and the Florida Film Festival

"Dogville"

"Intermission"

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"Kill Bill Volume 2"

"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring"

"Dig!"

"The Motorcycle Diaries"

"The Incredibles"

"Sideways"

"House of Flying Daggers"

Matt Dentler - SXSW Film Festival Producer

1. "Tarnation"

2. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

3. "House of Flying Daggers"

4. "The Aviator"

5. "Napoleon Dynamite"

6. "Dogville"

7. "Collateral"

8. "Before Sunset"

9. "Sideways"

10. "Far Side of the Moon"

Helen Gramates - Director of Programming, Chicago International Film Festival

New motherhood has prevented me from seeing many of the recent fall/winter releases that seem worthwhile, but here's what stood out pre-baby. (in alphabetical order)

"Before Sunset"

"Crimson Gold"

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"I ♥ Huckabees"

"Kill Bill Vol. 2"

"Goodbye Dragon Inn"

"Red Lights"

"Sideways"

"Since Otar Left"

"A Talking Picture"

Paul Federbush - Senior Vice President, Production & Acquisitions, Warner Independent Pictures

I haven't seen everything yet - but of what I have seen... (and in no particular order)

"Before Sunset"

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"Collateral"

"We Don't Live Here Anymore"

"A Very Long Engagement"

"Sideways"

"Tarnation"

"Napoleon Dynamite"

"The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"

"Mean Girls"




Paul Giamatti (left) and Thomas Haden Church in "Sideways." Photo credit: Merie W. Wallace, Fox Searchlight.



Merideth Finn - Director of Acquisitions and Production, New Line Cinema/Fine Line Features

This was difficult. There are many strong titles this year. I labored over this list and had to leave some favorites off. This list is alphabetical.


"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - Incredibly moving. I think I started crying within the first five minutes of the film and did not stop until the credits.


"Fahrenheit 9/11" - Infuriating, wickedly timely and passionate.


"I ♥ Huckabees" - Hysterical. Hugely thoughtful and fun.


"Kill Bill Volume 2" - Uma Thurman is breathtaking. It just rocked and rocked and rocked this movie.


"Maria Full of Grace" - Patient, lovingly straight-up, great filmmaking.


"Napoleon Dynamite" - I could watch this movie 100 times. It gives me hope for comedy in general.


"The Sea Inside" - Elegant and painstaking. I love this film.


"Sideways" - Gloriously funny and sad and all American in the best possible ways.


"Tarnation" - There is so much love in this film - It almost hurts to watch it.


"Vera Drake" - Leigh is unrelenting with details. This movie is so precise and Imelda is perfect.

Peter Goldwyn - Samuel Goldwyn Films

"3-Iron"

"Kinsey"

"The Incredibles"

"The Woodsman"

"The Motorcycle Diaries"

"Temporada De Patos"

"Maria Full of Grace"

"Good Bye Lenin!"

"Ray"

"Sideways"

"Super Size Me"

"Control Room"

Marie Therese Guirgis - Head of Acquisitions, Wellspring

Here are my lists. The first list is the "official" top ten - the movies that made the biggest impact on me. But there are many more that I thought were excellent so I have a second list. Combined they're really a top twenty. All of these are selected only from movies theatrically released this year. Neither list is in order of rank because I can't figure out how to compare "Tarnation" to "Before Sunset," for example -- enormously different films that I love passionately. Though I do think the best movie of the year is "The Aviator."

TOP TEN

"Tarnation"

"Crimson Gold"

"Dogville"

"Million Dollar Baby"

"Tom Dowd and the Language of Music"

"Moolaade"

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"Before Sunset"

"Since Otar Left"

"The Aviator"

NEXT TEN

"Sideways"

"Kinsey"

"Dolls"

"The Mother"

"Control Room"

"Last Life in the Universe"

"In the Realms of the Unreal"

"Red Lights"

"Ramones: End of the Century"

"Goodbye Dragon Inn"

Tom Hall - Director of Programming, The Sarasota Film Festival; Programmer, The Nantucket Film Festival

Top Ten Films of 2004

1. "Sideways" - Alexander Payne's "Sideways" is the movie of the year. The film is more than just a humane road film, it is a simple revolt against big Hollywood and a welcome reminder that the best thing a story can do is to show us the truth about who we are and who we might aspire to become. If only more of us were looking.



JonathanCaouette (right) with his mom Renee LeBlanc in a scene from "Tarnation." Image provided by Wellspring Media.


2. "Tarnation" - There are very few films that still have the power to revolutionize my thinking about film, but Jonathan Caouette's "Tarnation" did just that. An experimental diary of a boy and his family walking the line between tragedy and reconciliation, "Tarnation" changed the way I relate to films. Its personal integrity and intensity made for the best documentary of the year.

3. "Before Sunset" - Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset" is the stuff of real life and real feeling, and the dramatic tension between the lovers (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) is made up of small moments of incredible intimacy and romance. The best romance in years, "Sunset proves" that romance is hidden in the spaces between people, and in a perfectly romantic impression of Nina Simone.

4. "Dogville" - I like Lars von Trier's work in general, so consider me an apologist, but "Dogville" is a film that I believe will stand the test of time. With the recent spate of laws banning gay marriage and a punitive electorate mobilizing to restrict the rights of their fellow citizens, von Trier's story of small town punishment and the vengeance it sows rings truer by the day.

5. "Undertow" - David Gordon Green can create a mood like no other director working today and "Undertow," with its gauntlet of junkyards, dilapidated houses filled with broken families, and rusty alleyways, is the most atmospheric film of the year. Great characters, amazing performances-what more could you ask for?

6. "Fahrenheit 9/11" - No film garnered more attention than "Fahrenheit 9/11," and despite the energy it infused into the electorate, the film's true legacy may be the infusion of political action and documentary filmmaking into the multiplexes of the nation. 2004 was a great year for documentaries, and no doc was bigger or more important than this one.

7. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - Charlie Kaufman, to whom we paid tribute at the Nantucket Film Festival this year, is the rarest of talents -- a screenwriter who has his own following and who consistently delivers compelling work. "Eternal Sunshine" is my favorite film of a Kaufman script and any movie that makes me want to remember heartbreaks past has to make the list.

8. "Primer" - Shane Carruth's "Primer" is a stylistic marvel. Any film that gets better on repeated viewings is deserving of note. The visual intelligence behind this movie is extraordinary, and I think "Primer" is one of the most beautiful films of the year.

9. "Spartan" - Once again, criminally overlooked. As politically charged as any of the myriad of documentaries that crowded the campaign year, I imagine the story of how this film got totally buried in the marketplace is probably as interesting as David Mamet's excellent script.

10. "Enduring Love" - Criminally overlooked, Roger Michell's adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel is a creepy stalker film that truly delivers the chills, with one of the most banal (and therefore really shocking) acts of violence I have seen.


Daniel Katz - VP Acquisitions, THINKFilm

I have included only films that have been released theatrically in the US in 2004 that I have seen. I would like to include the Fuller film but I have not seen it, and I would like to include "Kings and Queen" but it has not been released yet. (in no particular order):

"Before Sunset"

"Sideways"

"Collateral"

"The Five Obstructions"

"Million Dollar Baby"

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"Primer"

"Tarnation"

"Reconstruction"

Amy King - Marketing & Operations Mgr., SILVERDOCS

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"Silver City"

"Bright Leaves"

"Anchorman"

"Story of a Weeping Camel"

"Sideways"

"We Don't Live Here Anymore"

"Finding Neverland"

"Control Room"

"Born Into Brothels"

David Kwok - Senior Programmer, Tribeca Film Festival

"The Aviator" - Grand.

"Freeze Frame" - Stylish.

"Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" - Battles#@ts!

"Infernal Affairs" - Intiricate.

"Last Life in the Universe" - Beautiful.

"Million Dollar Baby" - Sad.

"The Sea Inside" - Sadder.

"Shaun of the Dead" - Sexy.

"Sideways" - Tasty.

"Tarnation" - Original.

Dylan Leiner - SVP Acquisitions and Productions, Sony Pictures Classics

"Bad Education"

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"The Incredibles"

"Million Dollar Baby"

"Garden State"

"House of Flying Daggers"

"Sideways"

"Vera Drake"

"Spartan"

"Fahrenheit 9/11"

Jared Moshe - The Film Sales Company

"Sideways"

"Tarnation"

"Before Sunset"

"The Incredibles"

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"Kill Bill Vol. 2"

"Million Dollar Baby"

"Bad Education"

"Shaun of the Dead"

"Stander"

Dana O'Keefe - Cinetic Media

"The Aviator"

"Birth"

"The Brown Bunny"

"Dogville"

"Fahrenheit 9/11"

"The Five Obstructions"

"Histoire(s) du Cinema"

"Napoleon Dynamite"

"Tarnation"

"You Got Served"

If directing films is the last bastion of despotism in the modern world, as it has been said, all of the above are superb examples of what tyranny can accomplish in the service of creative expression.

Rajendra Roy - Director of Programming, Hamptons International Film Festival and Competition; Selection Committee, Berlin Film Festival

(Random Order)

"Hotel Rwanda"

"Kinsey"

"Good Bye, Lenin"

"The Incredibles"

"Fahrenheit 9/11"

"Maria Full of Grace"

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

"Since Otar Left"

"Spiderman 2"

"Open Water" (duh)

Kirsten Schaffer - Director of Programming, Outfest

1. "Tarnation"

2. "Brother to Brother"

3. "Maria Full of Grace"

4. "Winter, Spring, Fall, Winter and...Spring"

5. "The Saddest Music in the World"

6. "Good Bye, Lenin!"

7. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

8. "Kinsey"

9. "Woodsman"

10. "Saved!"

Basil Tsiokos - Director, NewFest: The New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Film Festival

2004 US theatrical release only is hard...anyway, alphabetically:

"Bad Education"

"Garden State"

"In the Realms of the Unreal"

"The Incredibles"

"Los Angeles Plays Itself"

"The Motorcycle Diaries"

"Primer"

"Saved!"

"Sideways"

"Tarnation"

Jack Turner - VP Acquisitions & Production, United Artists

OK 13.... as some are from the festival circuit.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - Michel Gondry

"Old Boy" - Chan-Wook Park - the hallway fight scene with the hammer is legendary!

"The Life Acquatic with Steve Zissou" - Wes Anderson

"Napoleon Dynamite" - Jared Hess - "Pedro offers you his protection"

"Shaun of the Dead" - Edgar Wright

"The Control Room" - Jehane Noujaim

"The Battle of Algiers" (re-release) - Gillo Pontecorvo

"Maria Full of Grace" - Josh Marston

"Innocence" - Lucie Hadzihalilovic

"Sideways" - Alexander Payne

"Nobody Knows" - Hirohazu Kore-Eda

"Aaltra" - Benoit Delepine

"My Summer of Love" - Paul Pavlikovsky

"The Incredibles" - Brad Bird

Ryan Werner - Head of Theatrical Distribution, Wellspring

TOP 10

"Sideways" (Alexander Payne)

"Tarnation" (Jonathan Caouette)

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (Michel Gondry)

"Before Sunset" (Richard Linklater)

"Million Dollar Baby" (Clint Eastwood)

"Kill Bill Volume 2" (Quentin Tarantino)

"Dogville" (Lars Von Trier)

"Goodbye Dragon Inn" (Tsai Ming-liang)

"Vera Drake" (Mike Leigh)

"Since Otar Left" (Julie Bertuccelli)

NEXT TEN

"Notre Musique" (Jean Luc Godard)

"Fahrenheit 9/11" (Michael Moore)

"Moolaade" (Ousmane Sembené)

"Control Room" (Jehane Noujami)

"In the Realms of the Unreal" (Jessica Yu)

"Bad Education" (Pedro Almodovar)

"House of Flying Daggers" (Zhang Yimou)

"Red Lights" (Cedric Kahn)

"Days of Being Wild" (Wong Kar Wai)

"The Aviator" (Martin Scorsese)

Maybe not great films but ones I will enjoy watching over and over: "Mean Girls" (Mark Waters), "Napoleon Dynamite" (Jared Hess)

Best Re-Issue - "The Big Red One" (Sam Fuller)

Worst Film:†"Van Helsing" (I don't think there was a director)


David Wilson - True/False Film Festival

My top 8 of 2004

"Tarnation" - The apotheosis of 90's style personal docs, made ten years later. What makes it so much better than the rest of the genre? A sense of humor and a truly fucked-up life.

"Control Room" - The standard-bearer for the next generation of verite.

"Touching the Void" - Here's me "Ah! He's going to fall! Ah! Ah! It's too intense!" And that was just, like, the first 15 minutes.

"Bad Education" - Oh, did you hear? Almodovar's a fucking genius. Who knew?

"Sideways" - The only movie of 2004 that I saw completely cold - no reviews, no hype, no discussion. As such, it was the most pleasurable viewing experience of the year for me.

"The Brown Bunny" - Ok, I'm not expecting to convince anyone of this, but any writer/director that can script a crucial conversation to take place DURING A BLOWJOB, and then make it work, gets a vote from me. Even if he is a conservative asshole.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - I walked in five minutes late and I think it made the movie five times better. Best use of visual effects all year and maybe my favorite love story of all time.

"Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" - My friend Doug said this was the best movie of the year. Good enough for me.

[Feel free to post a Top Ten list below and please include your name as well a small sentence bio or title, if you wish.]