Sakeriver Movie Awards for 2004

In mere hours, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be handing out film's highest honors. But you don't have to wait that long to find out my favorites from the year. Without further ado, I give you the Sakeriver Movie Awards for 2004!

Best Drama: The Door in the Floor

This was a great year for film, and it was really hard for me to pick just one favorite. I eventually settled on The Door in the Floor because out of the two movies I saw this year with which I couldn't find any flaw, it produced a stronger response in me. It's a smaller, less well-known film than the runners-up, but it's got everything you could ask for: flawless, understated, moving performances bearing out an amazing script.

Runners-up: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Closer, Finding Neverland, Ray, Garden State, Friday Night Lights, Sideways

Best Comedy: The Incredibles

Interestingly enough, for the second year running I picked a smaller film for my Best Drama and a blockbuster for my Best Comedy. I've said it before, but I need to say it again (no matter how cheesy it sounds): The Incredibles is an incredible film. Not only is it a technically amazing film--the animation is superb--but it also had a great script and really wonderful voice acting. The result was a movie that was hilarious and touching in all the right ways.

Runners-up: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 50 First Dates, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, I Heart Huckabees

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx (Ray)

This category was the only easy decision for me. There were a lot of great performances this year, but there's just no question that this was Jamie Foxx's year. It wasn't just that he completely immersed himself in the role, making me forget that I was even seeing Jamie Foxx and not Ray Charles himself. It's that he made me feel Charles' life, all the joy and pain and wonderful, wonderful music. Foxx's Ray Charles isn't just my favorite of the year; in my opinion, it's one of the greatest performances I've ever seen.

Runners-up: Jeff Bridges (The Door in the Floor), Clive Owen (Closer), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland), Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

Best Actress: Julia Roberts (Closer)

On the other hand, this category was the most difficult for me to make up my mind on. I finally settled on Julia Roberts because, while I think that Hilary Swank may have given a technically better performance, I'm so conflicted about Million Dollar Baby that I just can't bring myself to call hers my favorite performance of the year. Meanwhile, Julia Roberts was able for the first time to really get my attention and respect as an actress. As I walked out of the theater after Closer I found myself genuinely impressed by her acting in that film. It may just have been that the script was the first one I've seen that gave her a chance to flex her acting muscles, but if that's the case then I hope she continues to get such roles in the future.

Runners-up: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Natalie Portman (Closer), Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village)

Best Supporting Actor: Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State)

I just watched Garden State again last night, and I was amazed that I had completely forgotten about Peter Sarsgaard's performance. He managed an incredibly natural performance that balanced the huge dichotomy of a character who is both a deadbeat lowlife and a good friend. It was really his performance that really made the film's sense of a young adult's homecoming ring true.

Runners-up: Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland), Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), Ian Holm (The Day After Tomorrow), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby)

Best Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman (Garden State)

It was a good year for Natalie Portman. With Closer she proved that she can handle more adult roles. But as good a job as she did with that performance, where she really shined was in Garden State. It was a more similar character to the other ingenue roles that she's played, so perhaps it wasn't as much of a stretch, but she really brought the character of Sam to life. I am still amazed that the woman who did such a great job with such a wide range of emotion portraying the mercurial love interest in Garden State was the same actress who fell so flat in the Star Wars prequels.

Runners-up: Kim Basinger (The Door in the Floor), Virginia Madsen (Sideways)


I find it extremely irritating when I go see a comedy only to find out that every single one of the funny parts was in the preview. I know that the advertisers are trying to get people in the door, but I feel so gypped when I spend my money for no extra funny. So if you're looking for cute parts, Hitch will do just fine, but if you want funny, the preview will suffice. As for the rest of the film, well, it doesn't break any new ground, but it's entertaining enough. I found myself wishing for a slightly different climax, but all the same it was a decent example of a romantic comedy with, perhaps, slightly more guy appeal. (Slightly.)

Viewed: 2/11/2005 | Released: 2/10/2005 | Score: C

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold

By Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez is one of the most amazing prose writers ever, though, having won the Nobel Prize he hardly needs me to say so. 100 Years of Solitude became one of my all-time favorite books as soon as I read it. This book is a much smaller, simpler story, but every bit as rich in language and color. In terms of plot, surprisingly little happens--though in so few pages there isn't room for much--but it's not really that kind of story. Rather, it's an examination of the culture of a small town in Colombia, and in that way it works very well. García Márquez paints such a clear picture of the town that by the end of the book we feel almost as though we lived there ourselves.

Started: 2/15/2005 | Finished: 2/28/2005

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By Jeffrey Eugenides

It seems like there has been a lot of popular interest in the Greek-American experience in the wake of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It's an interesting phenomenon. Whether that has anything to do with the popularity and high acclaim won by Middlesex I couldn't say. I can say that I enjoyed it, though. The first word that comes to mind when I try to think of how to describe Middlesex is "epic." It's not a bad choice, really, as the book is spans three generations of the Stephanides family. The fact that the narrator and main character is named for the Greek muse of epic poetry is also a nice touch. On the one hand the book is an explanation of the family history that produced Calliope Stephanides. Beneath that, though it's also a look at the history of America as experienced by an immigrant family. The scope of the story could have been pretty overwhelming, but the narration provides a sense of intimacy that manages to hold it together. On the other hand, that very closeness also creates a curious sense of distance from the other characters. My one complaint is that I wish the author would have chosen a tense and stuck with it; the constant switching from present tense to past and back again was very jarring.

Started: 1/11/2005 | Finished: 2/8/2005

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Million Dollar Baby

It's now been almost two weeks since I actually saw this film. I've been pretty busy lately, sure, but really I just didn't feel like reviewing it. Many of you may have already formed your own opinions about it; it's been out for a while, and even if you haven't seen it, all of the controversy might have left an impression. For my own part, I'm ambivalent. On the one hand, from a technical standpoint, it's a brilliant film. The acting, directing, and score were all very well done, nearly perfect. (All three of the stars I gave it are solely on the merit of these technical points.) But on the other hand, the actual story is so tragic that it's over the top. And now that I've had several important plot holes pointed out to me, the writing seems even clumsier. I don't feel the same outrage that many people do, but I am still bothered by how the film ends. I don't know if I'll ever completely make up my mind. So, to end with a corny one-liner, I guess you could say that Million Dollar Baby was a split decision.

Viewed: 1/29/2005 | Released: 12/14/2004 | Score: B

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