Let the Countdown Begin

December 21, 2004
A thought by James Berardinelli

In the past, I always wrote an end-of-the-year commentary called "Rewinding XXXX - The Year in Movies." This year, the more appropriate place for those thoughts is here. Rather than lumping everything together into one mega-long ReelThought on December 31, I have decided to pace myself over a 10-day span. (Everything will probably be edited together into a cohesive "Rewinding 2004" commentary, but that won't be until New Year's Day.) So, taking a page from how I unveiled my Top 100 list, I'll count-down the 2004 Top Ten, revealing one new title a day for the next ten days. Along the way, I'll also throw in a few other retrospective thoughts.

#10: [TIE] The Incredibles and The Polar Express: Two very different animated films that have one major characteristic in common - the material in each is actually more adult-oriented than child-focused. With its mid-life crisis theme, The Incredibles confronts the issue of the human need to live a meaningful life. The Polar Express is a pleasant fairy tale that relies on a powerful sense of nostalgia for its impact. Both films also have strong appeal for younger viewers, making them perfect family features. The Incredibles mixes comedy and adventure; The Polar Express contains as much action, less comedy, and comes wrapped in the gauzy veil of a fable. Although both films are the result of digital animation techniques, their looks are different. The Incredibles has a cartoonish appearance that is perfectly matched to the story and characters. In The Polar Express, the characters look "almost real" (a stylistic choice that has caused some viewers a sense of discomfort), although the settings are fantastical and imaginative. Usually, I try to avoid ties in the Top 10 (it's a cheap way to stuff in an additional movie), but I adore both of these movies, and couldn't bring myself to include one and leave the other off. So, despite my avowed dislike of all things animated, I have ranked two such films amongst the best of 2004.