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Top 10 Movies of 2004  

January 2005

10.     Spider-Man 2    

One of the most essential, memorable super hero movies of all time. And it's due in large part to a story that never strays far from humanity. Here, super villain Doctor Octopus is as sympathetic as Peter Parker is himself. And that effectively turns the situations and ensuing action sequences into a compelling, compassionate, and complex web of wondrous delight.

9.     Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban    

Much more mature and sophisticated, "Azkaban" is the finest film in the series. And it's also one of the finest films of the year. The reason? Direction - both from newcomer Alfonso Cuaron, who experiments with delightful detail; and from author J.K. Rowling, who comes out on all four cylinders, with a remarkably wicked story of adolescence, vulnerability, and adventure.

8.     Closer    

A cold, harsh look at relationships gone sour, from the chance encounters to the initial attractions and ultimately the bitter betrayals. This is a gripping, thought provoking piece, with four great performances by Law, Roberts, Owen, and Portman. And Patrick Marber's dialogue is "the best" in class.

7.     Ray    

Features the most outstanding male performance of the year in Jamie Foxx, who embodies the spirit of Charles' heart and soul. And with an expertly crafted musical narrative by Taylor Hackford, the film stands out as a vibrant, compassionate, and honest reflection of the Ray we never knew.

6.     Collateral    

From a direction standpoint, this is the best film of the year. It's moody, it's gritty, and it's sensational. Michael Mann uses groundbreaking cinematography and terrific dialogue to elevate a generic story into a real time thriller. And his sense of pacing, balancing heart pulsing action with heart felt drama, is perfection. Add to that two understated performances by Foxx and Cruise and you have one of the year's underrated gems.

5.     Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind    

Charlie Kaufman is a delusional genius. And his latest work, about relationships and the meaning of memories, is a masterpiece. Ironically, it's one of those films that gets even better the more you think about it - what brilliance. Featuring another outstanding serious role for Jim Carrey, accompanied by a touching performance from Kate Winslet, this is one of the most original love stories you'll ever see.

4.     The Incredibles    

The most sophisticated animated motion picture ever made. It's great looking, has great characters, and great action and humor in between. Additionally, it has a story that deals with modern family issues and individuals who are relatable, despite the appearance of super powers. And most importantly, it's incredibly fun!

3.     Finding Neverland    

Adapted from the brilliant Allan Knee stage play, "Neverland" features another award worthy performance from Johnny Depp. And it's as inspirational and magical as anything you will see. Additionally, it features yet another great supporting performance from Kate Winslet! Although more conventional than "Eternal Sunshine," it is highly creative in the way it flirts between fiction and non-fiction. And in the end, you'll find it a tearful and joyous tribute to the man and the boy who refused to grow up.

2.     Hotel Rwanda    

The most powerful, significant picture of the year. And regretfully, few will bother to see it. Were it not for Jamie Foxx's role of a lifetime, Don Cheadle would sweep the best actor awards. Depicting the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, Cheadle is phenomenal in the leading role - the epitomy of grace under horrific pressure. And with the support of outstanding newcomer, Sophie Okonedo, this film achieves a frightening realism unmatched by any other in 2004.

1.     Million Dollar Baby    

Not just the finest film of 2004. It's one of the finest character dramas ever made. And it has less to do with boxing than you might think. Depicting the relationship between three complex characters, the film deeply explores issues of family, friendship, and responsibility. It's Clint Eastwood's finest film, one that benefits from a remarkable adaptation from Paul Haggis, a careful use of light and shadow, and three out-of-this-world performances.

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