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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

The Agony and Ecstasy of Top Tens

I was having some interesting back-and-forth on Facebook with some colleagues about Top Tens, so decided the subject was worthy of a brief blog post. My mailbox was flooded this morning with a slew of Top Tens from all over the place. I’m always impressed and a little intimidated by folks who can get it together enough to see every single film worthy of contention AND get a top ten list together that early. Myself, I’m aiming for next week, and expect to meet my self-imposed deadline.

So I’ve been busy making my Top Ten list and checking it twice … three times … four times. This has been a good year for movies, overall, but pretty much any year there’s a bit of agonizing when it comes down to making the final, FINAL list. Who makes the cut? Who just gets edged out? Who’s not in the running at all?

Since I don’t live in LA or NY, where the early screenings fairy is most bountiful, there are still a couple films I need to catch (that’s the downside of working in this biz while living in Seattle, but there are so many good things about living here that I can deal). We just got True Grit last night here. Tonight I have to choose between I Love You Phillip Morris and How Do You Know. And I still have a few screeners that are serious contenders to get through. So I expect my own list will be done next week, and then I have my critics’ groups to get year-end voting done with.

But as I was looking over the Top Ten lists that flooded my mailbox this morning in the mad, crazy rush to be first, first, FIRST! with the top tens, a few things struck me. The first is that The King’s Speech, which everyone seems to be assuming is an Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture, is not showing up on a lot of critics Top Ten lists at all. Not that Top Tens are a reliable indicator of Oscar — totally different groups — but still. Don’t you find it odd that this supposed Oscar front-runner didn’t impress enough critics to make their Top Tens? I do.

Another thing I noticed is how many critics are putting The Social Network in the top three on their lists, to which I can only say, “Really?” Look, I heart David Fincher a lot. He’s a fab director. But for me, The Social Network was meh-to-good, not great. It’s not Zodiac, not Fight Club or Se7en. Are there some excellent directorial choices in there? Yes. Great performances? Sure, sure (though I would still argue that Andrew Garfield is more deserving of consideration for Never Let Me Go, in spite of how rapidly that film became unfashionable). Anyhow.

I, like most of the folks I know who are expected to come up with a Top Ten at the end of each year, really agonize over the final cut. I keep a running list starting in January of films that might be in the running, and sometime after Thanksgiving start filtering the likely contenders from the maybes. I put a lot of thought into it, and pretty much everyone I know does the same. Your Top Ten says a lot about your taste in film, and — criminy! — who wants their colleagues to read their list and think they’re an idiot?

Also, I always struggle over whether to include great films that didn’t have US distrib this year. What if they had distrib, but only in Europe? Does that count? How about a film that micro-released with one weekend on one screen in NYC? Should I include fest films that haven’t secured distrib here at all yet? But then what if they do get distrib next year … would I have to include that film twice?

I’ll have my Top Ten list done by early next week, maybe even over the weekend if I really get it together. In the meantime, there’s some good movies coming your way the last couple weeks of the month. You can check out the running list of Top Tens from a slew of critics right here. Maybe perusing those lists will give you some ideas for films you want to catch or at least add to your Netflix cue.

One Response to “The Agony and Ecstasy of Top Tens”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    Actually, from year to year, the critics top ten compilations by MCN are very similar to the Oscar noms.

    Maybe critics like to think their profession has more refined tastes than Oscar voters, but, they vote pretty much alike.

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima