The year 2004 was an amazing year for cinema. We got many important movies; to name a few, we got Anchorman (which was a revival to the SNL movies); The Incredibles (important for both animated movies and the Superhero genre); Million Dollar Baby (one of the best boxing movies of all time); Prisoner of Azkaban (the best Harry Potter movie); The Notebook (one of the most believable romances); Shaun of the Dead (one of the greatest Horror Comedies… ever); Bourne Identity (one of the best Action movies); And The Life Aquatic by Wes Anderson which is considered to be one of this best films.
But, in my opinion, the 3 best movies from 2004 were Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mean Girls, and Saw. Oh, and just a disclaimer, the word “Cuss” is used to replace words that are not so ASD friendly. The reason I chose this was because in We Anderson’s Film “Fantastic Mr Fox”, Cuss is used to replace all swears.
Part 1: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out on 19th of March, 2004. Eternal Sunshine was directed by Michel Gondry, a very visionary director who enjoys making movies that mess with your mind. The movie begins with a cold opening, ranting on Valentines Day, being forgetful, office jobs, and Sand (it’s overrated, it’s just Tiny Rocks). We see our main character, Joel Barish (played by Jim Carrey) purposely miss his train to work to head to Montauk.
At the time it seems like a split second decision but we later find out the reason. He’s on the beach and discovers that he hadn’t written in his journal in over 2 years. On the beach he also sees Clementine Kruczynski (played by Kate Winslet). They don't really get to know each other till they are on the train. Clementine asks a few questions and it seems like this is their introduction to each other, but there are somethings off. Clem tells us and Joel about her hair colour (something I have written about later). Joel and Clem get off the train and Joel offers Clem a ride. She obliges and they head to her apartment where they have a few drinks.
After a quick title sequence we are back to the day before Valentines Day. Joel is telling some of his and Clems mutual friends about an experience he just had. Joel says that he was going to Barnes and Noble (where Clem works) and it seems that Clem has entirely forgotten him. Joel gets shown a card from Lacuna, Inc. saying that Clem erased all her memories of him. This is common in the world of Eternal Sunshine, it would be the equivalent of plastic surgery. Shortly after Joel decides to get the procedure done to himself.
The rest of the movie takes place inside of Joel’s Mind. We get to experience the memories of him and Clementine seemingly backwards (similar to Memento or Pulp Fiction) and we see the fall of their relationship before we see the start. Around half way through the movie, when Joel has already realized he can change what happens in the memories, he changes his mind about the procedure and realizes that he doesn’t want to lose the memories of him and Clementine. He tries everything he can to stop the procedure, attempting to wake himself up and hide his mental projection of Clem in other memories, but ultimately it doesn’t work and, in the memory where he first meets Clem, his mental projection of her tells him to go to Montauk.
We go back to the present when he meets Clem for the second time, both of their memories erased, and we see a conclusion to the B plot. The B plot in Eternal Sunshine is of 3 doctors (Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood) and their waiting room assistant (Kirsten Dunst) who work at Lacuna, Inc. During most of the story, we are lead to believe that Ruffalo’s character, Stan, and Dunst’s character, Mary, are in a serious relationship (or at least at the beginning of one), but we later find out that Mary has a thing for Tom Wilkinson’s character, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak. In fact. they have had multiple flings, but Mary doesn’t remember any of this due to her getting the memory wiping procedure after each time.
After finding this out, she decides to find her record and, in doing so, she releases all of the records to everyone who was ever a patient at Lacuna, Inc., including Joel and Clem.
The ending of the movie leaves the viewer at a loss for words. On the one hand it is quite satisfying seeing Joel and Clem getting back together, but. on the other hand, we know Clem’s personality, we know that time and time again she will get the procedure and time and time again she and Joel will fall for each other, seen in the line “Do I know you?” at the beginning of the film. The very last scene is them running on a beach, both looking a lot older, meaning that they have kept erasing their memories and starting a new relationship over and over again.
Whenever I watch Eternal Sunshine, I get a feeling that is the mix of pure Joy, A Nostalgia kick, and an Existential Crisis.
The movie is an overall happy movie, with a lot of hilarious scenes poking fun at the faulty way we remember the past. Some of my favorite scenes would have to be any of the scenes from when Joel was a kid and the scene from when Joel was a teenager (you will never forget this one!).
Watching the movie, I also feel a kick of Nostalgia. The Kick is both pleasant and heartbreaking (like the ending of The Fountain). This feeling reminds me a lot of when I was growing up (4-7 years old) and the way that things were so much simpler back then than they are today. The feeling of the Cold Opening and the shot of the corner of the house with a garden path on a rainy day just make me feel nostalgic for the past. Even the name “Joel Barish” reminds me of the early days of my childhood, watching Huckleberry Hound, PBS, Scooby Doo, and Peep in the Big Wide World.
But I also feel an overwhelming sense of grief. Grief not in the way I felt towards the end of Green Mile or the beginning of Up, but grief in the loss of innocence or the loss of happiness. I feel grief for all the memories I’ve forgotten or all the people I will never be able to see again. I feel grief for a simpler time in my life when I didn’t have to worry about Due Dates and Death. It was a time when things made sense. Even the H*cking score makes me want to cry in a pillow with Blanket Bear for all of eternity!
I really enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind for these emotions, and the excellent filmmaking made the viewer feel immersed in the experience that is this film.
Something I noticed on my second viewing of the film was the significance of Clem’s hair colour. When Joel first meets Clem, her hair is green, known as “Green Revolution”. The Reason it’s called this is a “Revolution” signifies the end of something bad (maybe her previous relationship, it’s not important) and the start of something New (her relationship with Joel). Green also signifies Spring or a re-birth/start of something new. During most of the memories, Clem had Red hair, known as “Red Menace.” The Red in this sense signifies the Summer but more importantly Love. This is when Clem and Joel are having the most “intimate” part of their relationship. Clem then changes her hair to an Orangish Yellow color, possibly a mix of “Yellow Fever” and “Agent Orange,” which signifies the Autumn of the relationship, when the love starts to die. Clementine’s last hair colour is deep blue. This signifies the Winter or end of their original relationship when everything is dead. But, in her hair, there are patches of “Green Revolution” signifying, that much like the seasons, her and Joel’s love is an ever-changing cycle.
I love all the performances is in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I feel that both Winslet and Carry deliver excellent performances which show their maturity from the Silly Comedies and Melodramatic Rom-Coms. All of the supporting cast (Dunst, Ruffalo, Wood, Wilkinson, Cross, and Adams) were amazing and even some of the extras performances stood out (all the child actors were great)!
As I’ve said before, I felt that the writing and direction were great. Some of my favorite scenes would be the memories set in Joel’s mind: The Ice scene(s), The Cold Open, and the End. I would give it a 10/10.
“It’s incredibly haunting and sad”, Dr. Annilice Hayes, current Middle School Guidance Counselor at ASD says, “but I don't remember much, almost as if my memory’s been erased”
Dr. Hayes says that the film was extremely influential in Jim Carrey’s career. Sure, he had The Truman Show and even The Cable Guy which were challenging roles, but this was the first film to actually portray him as a serious actor.
Mr. Franks had a similar experience with not being able to remember the movie. “I remember watching it in High School or college”
We both agreed that it’s almost a genre blend. On the one hand, there are a lot of Romantic and Comedic elements. There are some Sci-Fi elements and some Dramatic elements. We both kind of considered it to be its own genre, an “Idea Film”.
“My Roommate in College was really into films” Franks says “and I remember thinking at the time how it was amazing how the film was able to get away with so much without being Cussy”
Movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are “Idea Films”. What I mean is the main character in the film is the Idea. In Eternal Sunshine that would be the memory wiping and its effects on people. Some other big idea movies would be Inception and A Nightmare on Elm Street (exploring dreams), The Fountain (a story that takes place over 1,000 years), Memento (Memory loss), Dog Star Man (basically abstract art), Trainspotting (Humans Relationship to Drugs), The Truman Show, Nothing, Hard Candy, Waking Life, The Butterfly Effect, In my Skin, Adam’s Apple, The Lake House, and almost all of David Lynch’s movie. Although not entirely, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey could also fit in this category and so could Fargo with its mockumentary style of filming. Spielberg and Tarantino have also dabbled in it for aspects of their movies and Hitchcock has made many movies about irrational fears! Heck, even Saw could be considered up for this, using Violence as if it were a colour of paint!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in no way is the first of its kind, but it is considered to be one of the best!
Part 2: Mean Girls
Mean Girls was directed by Tina Fey and came out the 19th of April, 2004. The movie is loosely based off of the 2002 self-help book Queen Bees and Wannabes. The movie takes place in your stereotypical High School in early 2000’s Evanston, Illinois. The movie follows Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), a sixteen year old 10th grader, who has been Homeschooled in Africa (doesn’t say where) for her entire childhood. When she goes to “real school” for the first time she meets Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damien (Daniel Franzese), 2 social outcasts. They tell her the in’s and out’s of the school. She also meets Plastics, “The Popular Kids, they go by many names like Queen Bees, Pops, Commercials”. Regina George (Rachel McAdams) is the leader of the Plastics, the other members being Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried) and Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert).
The movies has a Semi-MacGuffin Plot device that, in a way, encapsulates what it means to be “popular”. It’s known simply as the “Burn Book”. This is basically a book of rumours about students and teachers that have the power of ruining peoples lives. Some of the rumours are true (like the Coach and a Student having a relationship) but most are not.
Eventually, the “Plastics” convince our lead to hang out with them, and Damien and Janis hop onto this opportunity to ruin the dictator esque society where the Plastics, in a way, rein supreme.
The rest of the movie plays out almost as a bunch of comedy sketches (the majority of the cast were SNL legends so it made sense) with iconic lines such as “You Go Glenn Coco”, “Stop Trying to make Fetch Happen”, “She doesn’t even go here”, “Danny Devito, I love your work”, “On wednesdays we wear pink”, and “I want my Pink Shirt Back”; and even more iconic scenes such as the “Jingle Bell Rock” sequence and “Kevin G’s Rap”.
Unlike Saw or even Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to an extent, I never really grew up with knowledge of this movie, and i grew up on Rom Coms (and Horror Movies). In Fiji, my post before here, me and a bunch of my friends were trying to decide what our group costume should be. Eventually we settled on having a Mean Girls theme costume. At the time I had never heard about the movie, let alone seen it so my friend, Jade, allowed me to borrow it. It immediately became my favourite movie. At this time I hadn’t watched many of the movies I would consider to be the best, but this movie still stands up. I would give it a 9/10.
Dr. Hayes’s favourite film is Mean Girls, so you bet your bottom dollar she had a lot to say: “I’ve seen it somewhere between 100 and 500 times”
Hayes said that she first watched the film in High School but distinctly remembered watching it in college. “I knew the film by heart so if I had a paper to work on or just some homework I would just put it on in the background”.
Mrs. Hayes has seen the film so many times that she even remembers the adds that would play before the film on the VHS copy of the film. The most distinct was one that went “Secret Central -- Haven't you heard”.
“I had a guy friend who also loved Mean Girls, and eventually another Mean Girls Fan joined us and we had a little nerdy Mean Girls Club” Hayes says, “It was embarrassing but fun”.
“The Franks and I are all the same age” Hayes says, so it may be interesting to see Mr. Franks point of view of the movie.
“It’s a great Movie, a Cult Classic” Mr Franks says “I was a late bloomer to Mean Girls, I was more into Anchorman when the film came out, but I watched it a few years ago and I think Mean Girls might be slightly better”
Mean Girls is often considered to be one of the “greatest Rom Coms” but, if I’m being honest, Mean Girls isn’t really a Rom Com. Sure it has Romantic and Comedic elements, but so do movies like Titanic or Legally Blonde, but no one would really call the Rom Coms.
Mean Girls is a very influential film because, at the time, teen movies were mostly vacant. The days of John Hughes were over, and American Pie was a thing but it didn’t appeal to as many people as it should have. Mean Girls came along and was a breath of fresh air since Male oriented Teen Comedies were big. This was a Teen Comedy more oriented to Women/feminine men and is considered to be the best of its genre.
Part 3: Saw
Saw is what most people would describe as “Torture Cuss”. Saw has a strange story, that gets more convoluted with each sequel, but this is the original movie’s plot!
The main game starts out in a bathroom, (extremely disgusting with human feces on the walls). There are 3 people in the bathroom, Adam Faulkner, a photographer, (played by Leigh Whannell), Lawrence Gordon, a Doctor, (played by Cary Elwes), and a corpse. It looks as if the corpse had died due to some injury to the head (because there is a revolver next to him) as there is blood surrounding the corpse and part of his scalp is missing.
Both men are chained to pipes in the room, and there seems to be no key. Between them, in the corpses hand, is a tape recorder. Both men find tapes in there pockets and Adam goes to retrieve the recorder. Adam’s tapes urges him to escape the bathroom and Lawrences tape urges him to kill Adam by 6 o'clock. If he doesn’t kill Adam, his wife and daughter will be killed. Adam finds 2 hacksaws inside the tank of the toilet. They try desperately to saw through the metal chains bounding them to the bathroom but they soon discover that it wasn’t meant for hacking through metal. It was made for hacking through flesh and bone. Lawrence eventually identifies the capture as the Jigsaw killer. He also identifies the corpse on the ground as John Kramer, a patient of his.
We see 2 quick traps, The Razor Wire Room and the Explosive Jelly.
We cut to a flashback in another trap, this time with a girl named Amanda, a heroin addict. This brings us the most iconic scene of the movie with Billy the Puppet (a ventriloquist dummy the “Jigsaw Killer” uses to mask his identity). The dummy blurts out the most Iconic line “Hello Amanda, I want to play a game”. Amanda’s trap is the “Reverse Bear Trap” that, like it’s name, will clamp in backwards if you are unable to get it off. The only way to escape this trap is to get a key. Where is the key? The intestine of Amanda’s Heroin dealer. If she takes out the key, he will ide and she will be forced into a Cold Turkey treatment. If she doesn’t she dies. She eventually escapes and Jigsaw congratulates her.
We cut back to the bathroom where Lawrence now has found a box with some cigarettes, a one way phone, and a lighter. We find out that the corpse on the ground was poisoned and the blood has poison in it. He wants to escape, so he can save his family from the capture in a Pig mask (known as Zep) but also doesn’t want to have to kill an innocent man in the process. The clock strikes 6 and adams not dead. Lawrence attempts to get them both out alive by presenting to Poison Adam, but Adam is a terrible actor. Lawrence gets a call from his wife and luckley she and his daughter are able to escape. They are chased into a sewer by a man in a pig mask and his wife shoots him. Only hearing the gun shots, Lawrence saws off his own foot and manages to escape the chain.
Lawrence grabs the gun and shoots it, the bullet flying everywhere. Zep, in the pig mask, comes in and tries to kill adam. Since Adam is almost undamaged, he is able to over take him and smashes his head in with the Toilet tank lid.
The “Corpse” rises to reveal that he wasn’t dead and John Kramer is alive. John turns out to be the Jigsaw killer, the mastermind behind all these traps and slams the door yelling “Game over”.
Saw had a meesley 1.2 million dollars and was able to make 103.7 million dollars!
I absolutely love Horror movies, especially slashers, so when I discovered Saw, I was ecstatic to see the movie that was often considered to be one of the greatest Horror movies of all time.I consider Saw to be one of my Top 100 favourite movies of all time. Some of my favourite scenes would definitely be the 2 short traps and the ending.
One thing that makes Saw, so unique is its use of philosophy and christian morals. In the old testament of the bible, where a profit speaking on behalf of The Lord says something along the lines of “The Only way to relieve a sin is to be punished”. James Wan, the director of Saw, took this idea and ran with it. In Saw, the people being punished are people with questionable life choices and/or have done wrong to John Kramer.
Growing up for me, Saw was kind of a legend growing up. I was aware of its existence even when I was a young child and thus it felt like a milestone to eventually swatch this “horrific movie”.
Saw came out in 2004, and was most likely heavily influenced by the reports of the Bush Administration torturing people to receive data about 9/11. Saw in no way is trying to mock the pain these people; but since people were so shocked after these reports it was a way to deal with the shock.
“It’s One of my favourite films from the subgenre, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen” says Middle School Guidance Counselor, Dr. Annilice Hayes.
Dr. Hayes said that she and her boyfriend (now husband) would watch marathons of the Saw films, back to back to back.
“The most iconic line would definitely have to be the scene with the puppet” whom Hayes says reminds her of people who have extreme plastic surgery “says ‘Do you wanna play a game’”
Dr. Hayes says the Saw was not only influential by Horror standards, but also influential to film in general as it shows how creative you can be with a dirt cheap budget.
“It’s more far fetched than your typical slasher” she says, “there's this guy with this agenda of teaching others a lesson by putting people into scenarios”. “It’s very real whereas with a movie such as Friday the 13th, you don’t feel for anyone and you watch for a good time whereas Saw is difficult to watch which subsequently makes it more entertaining”.
Mr. Franks, well known US History teacher, had this to say: “I’ve seen the first 4 multiple times whereas the sequels tend to blend together”. “It’s a cutting edge film which isn’t as common in Horror”.
Mr. Franks and I had a in depth conversation of how Saw might have been partly inspired because, at the time the Reports of Torture that was done to the people who had information about 9/11 had come out. Waterboarding, Guantanamo Bay, these things planted themselves into your sikey and “It was horrifying to see them on screen”.
“I think that Saw is respectful of death” Franks says “unlike, say, your typical Slasher. Sure Death is present, but it's not just this man coming to stab you like your Texas Chain Saws or Friday the 13th, Saw has substance”.
If you are a fan of Horror, you know the significance of Psycho to Slashers. Psycho was the first film that has a lot of aspects that would later be introduced to the Slasher sub genre. These include a psychopathic, ruthless killer who kills his/her victims with a blunt weapon (i.e. knife, machete, chainsaw, finger glove, etc.) and lot’s of gore and sexuality. The first true blue Slasher would be Halloween (even though Texas Chain Saw Massacre came before, it still had a lot of work). Halloween introduced the teen sex and a masked killer. And even though Friday the 13th started off as a rip off, it eventually got it’s own identity.
SE7EN is the Psycho to Saw, the predecessor. A lot of tropes that would later be found in the Torture Cuss subgenre of Horror originated with Saw. This includes, but is not limited to, Graphic Violence in creative ways (i.e. Forcing someone to eat to death or The Reverse Bear Trap), Christian Morals (Seven Deadly Sins or The only way to pay for a sin is pain), and a mysterious killer (John Doe or John Kraymer) who isn’t released till the final third of the movie. So if SE7EN is Psycho, Saw would be Halloween because, like Halloween, it cemented all of the tropes that that would be found in all of the Slasher/Torture Cuss movies from that point on. And if Saw is Halloween, the Hostage would be Friday the 13th because, even though it started as a bit of a rip off, it eventually got it’s own Identity and is now just as iconic.
2004 was a great year for films. Not only did we get the amazing mind boggling film of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Not only did we get the amazing Comedies such as Mean Girls and Anchorman, Not only did we get the Horror Renaissance with Saw and The Wes Anderson Masterpiece, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, we got all of these masterpieces in many more. Because of this, 2004 was one of the greatest years of cinema!
I have always loved movies (especially horror). I'd say I'm a bigger movie nerd than most people, I don't just love film, I live film. At the age of 8/9ish I really appreciated film. When I was 9 I was even Steven Spielberg for Halloween. If you couldn't tell by my header my favourite directors are Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, James Wan, Quintin Tarantino, George Lucas, Tim Burton, M. Night Shyamalan, Frank Darabont and Wes Craven.