DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
PRODUCER: Anne Walker-McBay
IN SHORT: The follow-up to Linklater’s 1995 “Before Sunrise,” pic catches up with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) nine years after their talky Viennese all-nighter. Told nearly in real time, the two renew their conversation, wandering the streets and discussing life’s heartbreaks, joys, eccentricities and what their sudden reunion portends. Hawke and Delpy collaborated with Linklater on the script, and the film’s power partly derives from the unmistakable whiff of autobiography in both actors’ performances.
WHERE SHOT: Paris
DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Independent Pictures
B.O.: $5.8 million (U.S.)
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry
PRODUCERS: Steve Golin, Anthony Bregman
IN SHORT: From the agreeably mazelike mind of writer Charlie Kaufman comes this alternatingly melancholy and silly love story about a man (Jim Carrey) who discovers that his girlfriend (Kate Winslet) has erased all memory of him. Gondry charts the movie’s romantic and mental upheavals with ingenuity and stark attention to character. Critics applauded not only the inventive storytelling but the nuanced against-type perfs from Carrey and Winslet.
WHERE SHOT: New York and New Jersey
AWARDS: Audience Award, Deauville Film Festival; Youth Jury Award, Flanders Film Festival
DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features
B.O.: $34 million (U.S.)
I HEART HUCKABEES
DIRECTOR: David O. Russell
PRODUCERS: Russell, Gregory Goodman, Scott Rudin
IN SHORT: A philosophical comedy with a healthy sense of the absurd and even a surprising poignancy, this knockabout farce follows an environmental activist (Jason Schwartzman) as he seeks answers to life’s questions from a pair of existential detectives (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman). Writer-director Russell’s zany situations and circular conversations confounded many, but thrilled discerning moviegoers. Among the standout performances is Mark Wahlberg as a firefighter obsessed with the country’s dependence on petroleum.
WHERE SHOT: Los Angeles
DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight
B.O.: $12 million (U.S.)*
DIRECTOR: Alexander Payne
PRODUCER: Michael London
IN SHORT: Already praised as one of the outstanding American films of 2004, Payne’s seriocomic road trip puts two near-middle-age buddies on a wine-soaked journey of friendship and romance, while dealing with the sheer bitterness over the hand life has dealt. Indie fave Paul Giamatti is broodingly perfect as a wine connoisseur trying to show his soon-to-be-married actor friend (Thomas Haden Church) a good time before the impending nuptials. Standout turns from Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen as the women they become close to — and eventually disappoint — help make this tale of male-pattern badness and dashed ambition a funny yet sobering human comedy.
WHERE SHOT: Santa Ynez and Solvang, Calif.
DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight
B.O.: $10 million (U.S.)*
DIRECTOR-PRODUCER: Shane Carruth
IN SHORT: Micro-budget filmmaking proved to be alive and well with this sci-fi puzzler about four amateur scientists who build a box in their garage that seems to be a crude time machine. Carruth wrote, directed, edited, scored and stars in the film, and reportedly made it for $7,000. It has won over techie film buffs with its inscrutable science dialogue and charmingly nonglitzy approach to hardware, while exciting others with its brain-bending storytelling.
WHERE SHOT: Addison, Dallas and Richardson, Texas
AWARDS: Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival
B.O.: $358,000 (U.S.)