Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 2004

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
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2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

The Year 2004
Year
Event and Significance
2004
Michael Moore's controversial, election-year Fahrenheit 9/11 won the top prize, Palme D'Or, at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2004, making it the first US documentary to win the award. It was the first nonfiction film to take the festival's top award since The Silent World (1956, Fr.), co-directed by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle. It also broke the record for highest opening-weekend earnings in the US for a documentary, and established a significant precedent for a political documentary by being the first ever documentary to cross the $100 million mark in the US (eventually earning $119 million). Disney's refusal to let Miramax release it actually contributed to the film's great success. Moore's film set box-office records as the highest-grossing non-concert, non-IMAX documentary film of all time. However, the film's diatribe against President Bush wasn't able to prevent his re-election in 2004.
2004
PG-rated Shrek 2 (2004) topped G-rated Finding Nemo (2003) in two ways: it was the biggest opening ever for an animated film (at $108 million in July, 2004), and in a little over three weeks became the highest-grossing animated film of all-time, with its domestic total of $441 million. Shrek 2 was the # 1 highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2004, surpassing the # 2 film Spider-Man 2 (2004) at $373.5 million. Shrek (2001) and its lucrative 2004 sequel helped DreamWorks' animation division to be successfully spun off as its own unit.
2004
The record for a film's opening weekend in 2004 belonged to Shrek 2 (2004) that earned $108 million during its opening weekend (in May, 2004). Close behind were Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) grossing $94 million during its opening weekend (in June, 2004), Spider-Man 2 (2004), which grossed almost $88 million during its opening weekend (in June-July, 2004), Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004) (opening weekend in February 2004 at $84 million), and Pixar's The Incredibles which drew a $70.5 million gross in its opening weekend (in November, 2004).
2004
Hollywood proved that it was more willing to fund sequels, remakes, comic-book and super-hero related films, and recycled TV shows this year instead of smaller-scaled, more intimate dramas that were among the industry's Best Picture nominees. According to box-office attendance figures compared to the last 20 years, the group of Best Picture nominees this year had an extremely low turn-out for viewing - demonstrating the never-ending dichotomy of cinematic art vs. industry profits.
2004
Writer/director Ken Jacobs, a Beat Generation avant-garde experimental film-maker, finally premiered his reworked and reshaped 402-minute "found footage" epic film Star Spangled to Death (2004), which began production in 1957, at the New York Film Festival (in late 2003).
2004
Clint Eastwood became the oldest winner to date in the Best Director Oscar category, at the age of 74 (and 272 days), for Million Dollar Baby (2004), which had seven nominations. Three of the nominations went to director/producer/star Eastwood, resulting in four wins including Best Picture, Best Director (Eastwood), Best Actress (Hilary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). This was Eastwood's third directorial nomination and second Best Director win.
2004
Mel Gibson's highly-controversial, blood-soaked and brutal The Passion of the Christ (2004), a reinterpretation of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, was extremely profitable (a $370-million-grossing (domestic) phenomenon), due to its unique support by many faithful Christian believers, and the many audiences who wanted to see the accurately-portrayed vision of the final hours with its visceral horrors of flagellation, torture and crucifixion. It set a number of records: (1) the highest-grossing independent film of all time, (2) a record number of pre-ticket sales, more than any other film in history, (3) the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, (4) the highest-grossing (domestic) foreign-language film and/or subtitled film in history, and (5) the highest-grossing (worldwide and domestic) religious (Christian) film of all time. Due to intense criticism over its excessively graphic scenes, Gibson released a second unrated, edited version called The Passion Recut in 2005 - with six fewer minutes and toned-down scenes of the grisly acts of torture.
2004
In 1994, a Harvard School of Public Health study showed that violence occurred just as frequently in PG, PG-13, and R-rated films. When this study was repeated in 2004, a decade later, it illustrated the existence of "ratings-creep", meaning that more risqué and violent scenes were being allowed in films rated G, PG, PG-13 and R than in the past. It was documented that current films had more sex, violence and profanity than similarly-rated films did a decade ago. Over the 11-year period, sex and violence in PG-rated films increased, as did sex, violence and profanity in PG-13-rated films, and sex and profanity in R-rated films. For example, PG-rated The Santa Clause (1994) had less sex and nudity, violence, gore and profanity than the G-rated The Santa Clause 2 (2002). And R-rated A Time to Kill (1996) had less sex and violence than the PG-13 rated The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). An additional finding was that more violence appeared in animated G-rated movies than in non-animated G-rated movies.
2004
Able Edwards (2004) was the first publicly-released feature film shot entirely without physical sets against a green screen. It was produced with entirely computer-generated sets wholly-created using CGI. Real actors were then shot against the green screens. Another 2004 film produced in similar fashion at the same time was the big-budget Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) with very photo-realistic, all-CGI backgrounds and live actors. Human actors were completely filmed in front of a green/blue screen with no background sets at all. Everything except the main characters was computer-generated. Other 'digital backlot' films included Immortel (Ad Vitam) (2004) and Sin City (2005).
2004
Pixar's character-oriented, super-hero fantasy adventure animation The Incredibles (2004) was a technologically-advanced feature film, their sixth one, and this year's winner of Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. It was the first computer-generated animation to successfully show believable human figures or characters, instead of the traditional animal, toy, and creature characters of previous animations. It was also the first Pixar computer-animated feature film to receive a PG-rating in the US.
2004
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 (2004) equaled the $200 million mark (for production costs) set by Titanic (1997).
2004
The American Film Institute (AFI) released the seventh list in its continuing series, 100 Years...100 Songs, to recognize the top 100 songs in cinematic history. The top song was Judy Garland's rendition of "Over the Rainbow" in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
2004
The innovative documentary film Voices of Iraq (2004) was made by distributing 150 inexpensive, lightweight, digital video-cameras to the people throughout Iraq - the film's subjects and participants. Over 400 hours of film footage was edited down to less than 80 minutes, and although presumably unbiased, it presented a fairly positive view of the US.
2004
At the Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards for 2004 films (held in 2005), actor Ben Stiller was nominated for 'Worst Actor' for a record five titles in one year - for Along Came Polly (2004), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), Envy (2004) and Starsky & Hutch (2004). He lost his bid to George W. Bush for his appearance in the Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004). In the same year, Halle Berry received the 'Worst Actress' Razzie for Catwoman (2004), the winner of four Razzies (also 'Worst Director,' 'Worst Picture,' and 'Worst Screenplay'). When Berry accepted her 'Worst Actress' Razzie trophy in person, she held her Monster's Ball (2001) Oscar in her other hand as she thanked Warner Bros. for putting her in such an awful film.
2004
At age 96, actress Fay Wray died, best known for portraying the first archetypal scream queen or horror-film heroine - a blonde damsel-in-distress named Ann Darrow, in the classic film King Kong (1933), that saved RKO from bankruptcy. She began her career during the silent era (in 1923) and appeared in hundreds of films, most notably in horror films including Doctor X (1932) and The Vampire Bat (1933) - her last feature Dragstrip Riot (1958).
2004
Ronald Reagan, the former 40th President of the US (1981-1989), the oldest man ever elected President, and former Hollywood film and TV actor, known for such films as Knute Rockne, All American (1940), Kings Row (1942) and Bedtime for Bonzo (1951), died on June 5, 2004 at the age of 93, due to complications from Alzheimer's disease.


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