Artists of the Year

12 Rods, Jon Stewart, Howard Stern, Quentin Tarantino, Garrison Keillor, MF Doom, Lawrence Lessig, Randi Rhodes...

"Does He Love You?" is another cogently messy, five-minute melodrama in which Lewis nails the emotional brew of envy and contempt for the domestic choices of her longtime friend. Set to string music redolent of doilies and minuets, it concludes as a searing love triangle, a surprising twist that throws everything before it into greater relief. And "I Never" is another gem about toppling for love against the odds of better judgment, a song that could have been the perfect vehicle for anyone from Aretha Franklin to Patsy Cline to Faith Hill, although Lewis sings with blue-eyed soul akin to Dusty Springfield.

In 2004, Jenny Lewis and her bandmates made indie pop that rightfully recognized that irony has become a trifling banality. She wasn't afraid to gaze into her navel for the keys to her heart, knowing that the devil of her perverse nature is in the details. The angels, too.

Britt Robson is a senior editor at City Pages.


by Mark Peranson

It takes an artist to make a masterpiece, and sometimes it takes an artist to make sure that you and I can see it. I've been to Buenos Aires in each of the past four years to support the efforts of magazine editor-turned-film programmer Quintín, who, with his partner Flavia de la Fuente, ran the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (BAFICI) until a month ago. Part of my interest in the BAFICI has been due to its films: Ever since the economic collapse of Argentina, the power of that nation's independent cinema has been undeniable. Another reason is Quintín himself, an activist critic who believes that film still has the potential not only to lift the spirit, but to change hearts and minds. Irascible and avuncular, Quintín always speaks frankly--even if his viewpoints are not entirely consistent with one another. His curatorial vision is as unique as it is provocative. The only problem is that, whether you're in the United States, Canada, or Argentina, honesty eventually catches up to you (unless you're in power, in which case dishonesty gets you rewarded).

So it behooves me to express my outrage over the fact that Flavia and Quintín (who contributes to my magazine Cinema Scope) have been dubiously sacked from one of the world's great cinephile events, supposedly because of their involvement in another festival in Mar del Plata. I was not at all shocked by the news, as I had heard numerous stories about the incompatibility of Quintín and the city government, which funds the BAFICI. In Argentina, the firing has made headlines--a clear sign that cinephilia is alive and well somewhere in the world. The reaction in the international film community has been equally bold: A petition in protest of the move will appear in the January issue of Cahiers du cinéma, signed by numerous filmmakers, critics, and programmers.

The impact of the BAFICI on Buenos Aires and the film festival world has been significant, stemming from the fact that Quintín has seen himself as an activist first and a programmer second. The BAFICI has offered an unparalleled contemporary survey of alternative world cinema--a radical and refreshing thing at a time when the vast majority of programmers are obsessed with packing audiences into theaters for premieres of work that's guaranteed to play in mainstream movie theaters within months or weeks or days. Quintín has always cut through the bullshit that comes with the most expensive of artistic mediums. The lesson that he and his recent firing provide to us is one of which he would approve: that cinema is political and always will be.

Mark Peranson is the Toronto-based editor of Cinema Scope.


Kevin Smith
by Michael Wilson

Maybe it was because one more E! story about "Bennifer" would've resulted in armed revolution. Maybe it was because Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez had parted ways by the time it was released. Or maybe we just weren't ready for a Kevin Smith movie sans Jay and Silent Bob. Whatever the case, Jersey Girl failed at the box office in March--yet Smith remains my choice for the most influential artist of 2004.

After seeing Smith's debut movie Clerks in 1994, I knew I could be a filmmaker. It was the film that put within reach the career I had only dreamed about. Though my own first flick would be a documentary, I couldn't resist paying homage in it to the guy who made me believe it was possible. (Fans of Smith's Mallrats will know the moment when they see it.)

My generation needed a voice (the baby boomers had Dylan), and Smith was the foul mouth we had been searching for. Through his unique observations about everything from Star Wars to blow jobs, from the nature of God to the difficulty of deep and powerful relationships--including those between father and child--Smith has been my guide to growing up. He has synthesized what's on the minds of Generation X and delivered it in hilarious fashion.

But in 2004, Kevin Smith influenced me for reasons that have little to do with filmmaking. Though Jersey Girl was a bomb, I connected with it in a profound way. As the father of a young girl, and as someone who, at times over the past year, found myself placing my career above more important things, I took from the saccharine, John Hughes-style ending of Smith's film the bit of hope that I needed. As Affleck's Oliver Trinke says after having a similar realization about his disordered priorities, "I'm gonna be the best daddy in the world."

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