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HEROES, VILLAINS AND FOOLS WERE BIGGER THAN LIFE IN 2004.

Byline: Glenn Whipp Film Critic

You had to go to the movies in 2004 - that is, if you were a true believer, be it in the Messiah or Michael Moore. (And no, contrary to whatever Moore believes, the two are separate, distinct entities).

When it came to Mel Gibson's blood-drenched, ultraviolent ``The Passion of the Christ'' or Moore's pseudo-documentary ``Fahrenheit 9/11'' (won't get fooled again, indeed), scores of people bought tickets not just to see the movie, but to send a message - to Hollywood elitists, to White House white-washers, yes, but probably not to Moore or Gibson, who skillfully used canny marketing to sell their ``personal'' visions to the unbelieving masses.

Actually, there were some movies you simply had to see this year, but the best of them had more to do with genuine artistic passion than tacky commercial campaigns. And while gems like ``Million Dollar Baby'' and ``Sideways'' may not change the world or save you a warm seat in heaven, they did produce small, seismic shifts in the way we look at this temporal world.

More of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) things from the past 12 months:

INDELIBLE IMAGES

--Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church speeding away from a very angry naked man in ``Sideways.''

--Spider-Man taking the elevator down a high-rise in ``Spider-Man 2.''

--The bamboo forest battle in ``House of Flying Daggers'' (where it's not easy being green, or at least being surrounded by it).

--Uma Thurman's bride being buried alive in ``Kill Bill - Vol. 2.''

--Barrel-chested Greg Noll hurtling down the (then) biggest wave ever surfed in Stacy Peralta's fantastic documentary ``Riding Giants.''

--Leo DiCaprio's Howard Hughes taking the shingles off Beverly Hills homes during a horrific crash-landing in ``The Aviator.''

FAVORITE COUPLES

Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen in ``Sideways''; Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank in ``Million Dollar Baby''; Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in ``Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind''; Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in ``Before Sunset''; James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich in ``Metallica: Some Kind of Monster.''

DOUBLED OUR PLEASURE

Jamie Foxx in ``Collateral'' and ``Ray''; Laura Linney in ``P.S.'' and ``Kinsey''; Gael Garcia Bernal in ``The Motorcycle Diaries'' and ``Bad Education''; Don Cheadle in ``Hotel Rwanda'' and ``The Assassination of Richard Nixon''; Clint Eastwood, directing himself in ``Million Dollar Baby.''

POISON PAIRINGS

Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones in ``The Terminal''; Alien and Predator in ``Alien vs. Predator''; Jared Leto and Colin Farrell in ``Alexander''; Tea Leoni and Adam Sandler in ``Spanglish.''

WORST CASTING CHOICES

Old Kevin Spacey as young Bobby Darin in ``Beyond the Sea''; Ben Affleck as a sympathetic human being in ``Surviving Christmas''; Marlon and Shawn Wayans as sisters in ``White Chicks''; Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as sisters in ``New York Minute''; Angelina Jolie as Colin Farrell's mother with the strange accent in ``Alexander.''

BEST LINES

--``That guy just keeps singin' / Can't somebody shut him up / I don't know for the life of me / Where he comes up with this stuff?'' - Neil Young, slyly referring to himself through Ben Keith's Grandpa in the delightfully homemade ``Greendale''

--``All right guys, I'm not gonna lie to you. This is gonna get kinda weird. Two dragons.'' - penitentiary inmate Will Ferrell, setting the price for cooperation in ``Starksy & Hutch''

--Joel: ``Is there any risk of brain damage?''

Howard: ``Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage, but on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you'll miss.'' - Jim Carrey and Tom Wilkinson, going over the details of erasing one's memories in ``Eternal Sunshine''

--``I am Puss-in-Boots! (Cough. Hack. Cough.) Hairball.'' - the feline hero voiced by Antonio Banderas in ``Shrek 2''

--``I see you're drinking 1-percent milk. Is that because you think you're fat? Because you're not. You could probably be drinking whole milk.''- Jon Heder, demonstrating his sweet pickup techniques in ``Napoleon Dynamite''

--``What an impressive crowd: the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.'' - President George W. Bush in ``Fahrenheit 9/11''

``If you can dodge wrenches, you can dodge balls.'' - Rip Torn's Patches O'Houlihan, teaching the sport of ``violence, exclusion and degradation'' in ``Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story''

Celine: ``Baby, you're gonna miss that plane.''

Jesse: ``I know.'' (Laughs) - Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in the final moments of ``Before Sunset,'' one of the great endings in film history

``Guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs. What are the odds?'' - newspaperman J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) in ``Spider-Man 2''

``Max, I do this for a living!'' - Tom Cruise's sociopath hit man, playing cat-and-mouse with Jamie Foxx in ``Collateral''

--Cricket: ``Jesus is never mad at us if we live with him in our hearts.''

Tommy: ``I hate to break it to you, but he is. He most definitely is.'' - Sydney Zarp and Mark Wahlberg, making a little polite dinner table conversation in ``I (Heart) Huckabees''

--``Supermodels. Hah! Nothing 'super' about them - spoiled, stupid little stick figures with poofy lips who think only about themselves. Feh! I used to design for GODS!'' - fashion designer Edna Mode, lamenting the downward trajectory of her career in ``The Incredibles''

Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672

glenn.whipp(at)dailynews.com

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Don Cheadle stars in ``Hotel Rwanda.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 26, 2004
Words:867
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