It wasn’t an easy task, especially in a year that may rank as one of the worst ever for cinema.  Ironically, 2004 was also the year that brought us the movie that will probably be remembered as the best film ever made.  But strangely enough, the ocean of bad films made it that much easier to spot the true pearls.  As always, however, there were a few which needed close inspection before being declared as fakes.

Best Date Movie for the Young Folks: “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton.”  A sweet romantic comedy with great acting by Topher Grace, which reminds us that sometimes, true love is right under our noses – even in West Virginia.

Best Date Movie for the Old Folks: “Shall We Dance.”  Think the romance is gone after 20-something years of marriage?  Think again.  Richard Gere in a tux as your husband doesn’t hurt, though.

Best Mumbo-Jumbo Disguised as Intellectual Stimuli: “I Heart Huckabees.”  There is no you.  There is no me.  We’re all connected, you see.  Everything is the same, even if it’s different, and do you mind if I hug this tree?  No plot, no acting, no dialogue, no sets.  Expect this one to clean up at the Oscars.

Best Sports Movie: “Friday Night Lights.”  In Texas, football is everything, and so is winning.  A realistic portrayal of the power of hope and dashed dreams on those who have little else to live for.  Runner Up: “Miracle.”  Great fun if you remember the U.S. hockey team’s victory over Russia at the 1980 Olympics – and great fun even if you don’t.

Best Gay Agenda Movie: “Connie & Carla.”  Oh, you.  Just because we wear wigs, makeup and pantyhose doesn’t mean we’re any different from the rest of the world, okay?  And just because we’re miserable and alienated from our family, friends and society doesn’t mean that being gay or transvestite – whatever flips your skirt, honey – is wrong.  If only you’d accept us, we’d be just fine.

Best Hollywood Agenda Movie:  Well, they all are, but when it comes to the really big issues, “Million Dollar Baby” wins hands down.  Nine years ago, Hollywood tried to show us how heinous the death penalty was with “Dead Man Walking,” but instead demonstrated that sometimes, death brings life.  Now, Hollywood goes for a different theme: euthanasia.  Runner-Up: “The Sea Inside.”  Same issue, different story.  It’s a banner year for assisted suicide.

Best Feminist Agenda Movie:  “The Stepford Wives.”  Oh, you plasticized, perfectionist, pitiful stay-at-home mothers!  You could have ruled the corporate world, but you gave it all up. And for what?  Babies, baking and boredom.  If only it was a decent movie, someone might actually be convinced.

Best Mix of Modern Technology with Cinematic Inspiration: “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”  Step back in time, to Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn’s world, while enjoying cutting-edge technology, great acting and beautiful cinematography.  An engaging ride, for young and old alike – and a worthy Oscar contender for Best Film.

Best Deconstruction of Postmodern Culture: “Shrek II.”  Brilliant characters and inspired animation team up with a witty send-up of our brand-conscious, status-hungry, OJ-watching culture.  All they had to do was leave out the cross-dressing jokes and it would have been perfect for kids and adults.

Best Pornographic Movie Disguised as Art:  “Closer.”  Cybersex that reads like an unthinkably filthy magazine, strippers that bare almost everything, nasty, cruel dialogue and a hopelessly nihilistic message.  The critics can’t stop raving.  Be sure to bring your earplugs, Prozac and dark glasses.

Best Insight into the Male Psyche:   “Spiderman II.”  Spidy unmasks and shows us every man’s dream – to be a hero to someone.  Good conquers evil in a dazzling display of excellence.  A definite Best Film contender for Oscar.

Best Guy/Hero Movie:   “Ladder 49.”  An homage to firefighters, their wives and kids, and the incredible sacrifices they make to keep us safe.  Good acting and a great message that should help us remember others, like the armed forces, who do the same.

Best Wake-Up Call Movie:  “Hotel Rwanda.”  A shocking but inspiring story about one man’s courage and heroism during the horrifying genocides of Rwanda, which were largely ignored by the U.S. media.  Why Hollywood tells us that we should intervene during this slaughter and not Iraq’s is a mystery, but this is a film to see.  A sure-fire nomination for Best Actor for Don Cheadle.

Best Adult Movie Disguised as “Family Friendly:”  “Jersey Girl.”  He’s addicted to pornography, she masturbates twice a day, and Grandpa cusses a blue streak.  Just your average New Jersey family man who finally finds true love.  Runner-Up: “Shark Tale.”  What?  You mean you don’t let your kids watch uninspired movies about mafia revenge killings that push the gay agenda?  Whassa matta witch you?

Best Adult Movie That Really is Family-Friendly:  “Finding Neverland.”  The story of J.M. Barrie, creator of “Peter Pan,” shows us one man’s story and reminds us about the incredible power of imagination.  Great acting by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, and a worthy contender for multiple Oscar categories.

Best Christian in a Movie that Isn’t: “Saved!”  It’s an ugly thing to watch a gal who became rich and wealthy by billing herself as a Christian turn the big guns on Christian schools, youth groups, worship, prayer and everything that might inspire a teen to be faithful while upholding a gay agenda.  Oh, Mandy.  The root of bitterness will defile many.

Best Christian in a Movie that Is:   “Paper Clips.”  In a tiny town located in the rural South, where diversity isn’t even an option, a group of Christians study the Holocaust and learn what happens when hate goes unchecked – and what it means to forgive and be forgiven.

Best Non-Christian in a Movie that Is: “The Incredibles.”  Life and marriage aren’t always easy, but we can and will overcome – even without superhero powers.  Pixar triumphs again with another witty, animated, moral story for kids and adults.  A welcome rarity.

Best Distortion of a Christian Holiday: “Polar Express.” Santa Claus, savior of mankind, worthy of all worship and praise.  Forget about the poor, self-sacrifice and doing unto others.  All you need to do is believe and your problems will be solved.  And, oh yes, it doesn’t matter what train you’re on, just as long as you get aboard. 

Best Portrayal of a Christ Figure: “Man on Fire.”  In the midst of a shockingly violent, evil world, a broken but determined savior makes the ultimate sacrifice.  Not for the faint of heart, but it drives home the point.  Denzel, once again at his best, with a Best Actor-contender performance.

Best Foreign Film:  “The Chorus.”  Even if you hate subtitles, this one is worth the effort.  A lovely story about the power of music to conquer even the most difficult of circumstances, in the tradition of “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and “Dead Poet’s Society.”

Best Documentary:  “Farenhype 911: Unraveling the Truth About ‘Farenheit 911’ and Michael Moore.”  The definitive rebuttal – complete with all those who were in it (even Democrats), telling us how fictitious Moore’s film truly is.  Includes frank discussion about Moore stealing footage, taking statements out of context and making up the 38 major lies (he even faked newspaper articles) that form the film’s foundation.  Try watching both films, back to back, as an education in how easily truth can be distorted and swallowed by the masses.  If your child’s school shows Moore’s film (as many are doing), insist they show this as a rejoinder.  Runner-Up: “America’s Heart & Soul.”  Beautiful scenery and portrayals of people all across America, doing what they love while showing us who we are.

Best Large-Scale Production by a Big-Time Director Who Has Never Won an Oscar and Who Probably Will, Especially Since It’s Been Such a Bad Year:  “The Aviator.”  Of all the iconic biopics this year, this one rewrites history the least and Martin Scorsese is getting lots of buzz.  Leonardo DiCaprio looks laughably young for the role, but the film is still impressive.  In a year of very bad films – including one that sent Hollywood and the media into fits of rage– this is probably the most likely winner.

Best Large-Scale Production That Should Win the Oscar for Best Film (after “The Passion of the Christ”):  “Phantom of the Opera.”  The world’s most successful musical ever, finally available on film.  Wonderful acting, singing, music, costumes and sets in a film that somehow manages to improve upon the near-perfect theatrical masterpiece.

Best Film of the Year that Should Win an Oscar But Definitely Won’t: “The Passion of the Christ.”  It was gruesome, but that’s exactly the way it happened (if not worse).  A brilliant, inspired and hauntingly beautiful portrayal that left audiences weeping in repentance and Hollywood shaking with fear.  Probably the best movie ever made.  Let’s hope they at least give Jim Caviezel his due with a Best Actor nomination. Light in the midst of our darkness, all free for the asking.  Anyone care to accept?


The Worst of the Worst

Worst Date Movie:  “50 First Dates.”  Adam Sander showed us that he is capable of something other than pure trash in his more recent “Spanglish” – but this ain’t that film.

Worst Action Movie:  “Flight of the Phoenix.”  Rappers and acting do not mix.  A dud for the talented Dennis Quaid, who fares far better with the upcoming “In Good Company.”

Worst Christmas Movie:  “Surviving Christmas.”  Ben Affleck should fire his agent.

Worst Cinderella Movie:  Too many to count.

Worst Movie About a President’s Daughter: Too many to count.  Nah, on second thought, Mandy Moore’s “Chasing Liberty” – because she skinny dips and sleeps around, then acts confused when Christians says she’s no longer a role model for her ‘tween audience.

Worst Sequel:  “The Whole Ten Yards.”  Silly story, bad dialogue, terrible acting, and lots of sex and language.  Welcome to the new PG-13.  Runner-Up:  “Bridge Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason.”  Sex, sex and more sex.  Far less inspired than the first one – and hope you like the f-word.

Worst CGI Effects: “Troy.”  Not nearly as bad a film as it could have been, with good acting by Peter O’Toole, Brad Pitt and Eric Bana, but still a huge disappointment.  And the fakest-looking sets, boats and ships I’ve ever seen.

Worst Movie of the Year?:  “Alexander.”  Angelina Jolie’s Russian accent meets Colin Farrell’s Flock-of-Seagulls hairdo in a roll-your-eyes production.  Do not pass go and return to history class, Mr. Stone.  Again.

*Please note that no Ben Stiller films were taken into consideration for this award.