I can't decide whether year end lists are a blessing, or a curse.
On the one hand, the lists generate discussion and dialogue around movies, music, cultural events, sports plays, tweets, or whatever. This is (almost) always a good thing.
In the case of films and music, it allows the critical establishment draw attention to works deserving of notice—often elevating a sleeper hit into "must-see" status. Among this year's nominees for critical-end-of-year-list-darling category are MacGruber, Let Me In, I am Love and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. (Interestingly, SPvW is experiencing backlash for receiving too much love by some.)
On the other, lists provide critics another chance to bitch and complain, to wax superior, and to make readers feel stupid for not having recognized the genius of their selection of overlooked masterpieces. (Reverse Shot, whose column begins, "Any critic who could, with a straight face, populate a ten-best list either primarily or exclusively with American films released in one of the worst years in recent memory for homegrown filmmaking at all levels either wasn’t watching enough movies or watching movies well enough" is guilty of this.
Read this list at your own peril.
What follows is a list of some of the favorite lists I've read these past few days as 2010 wanes.
And, for the sake of symmetry, they may not all be "Top 10s." Nor will there be 10 of them.
The Playlist: 27 Of The Most Underrated & Underappreciated Films Of 2010
I admire any list that Includes the Rush documentary and Harmonie Korine's Trash Humpers, alongside DeNiro's Stone and George Clooney's The American. I also like a list that goes to 27. This is year-end critical advocacy at its best.
Another Trash Humpers advocate, my favorite part of this list is the writer's obvious passion for movies...and his sign off: "Go see something good!" The bonus list of favorite categories (with runner's up) make this a fun read: Josh Brunsting of DVD Snaprshot's Year In Review: Best Films, Performances, And More Of 2010
IFC.com's Matt Singer, praises some of the year's box office flops with the impenetrable logic that those films that took risks paid the price by not spoon-feeding audiences pablum in the column: There's No Shame In Being One of the Lowest Grossing Wide Releases of 2010 .
Problem is, the list includes MacGruber, a film which Singer (and others) believe is destined for future cult status, a la Office Space. Singer is nonplussed by the film's "total inability to connect with moviegoers in a year with so few truly funny comedies." Were the film funny, this would not be a problem. The one-note joke may work in 1-minute snippets, but the membrane-thin premise was ill-suited for the big-screen...apparently hasn't fared so well on the small screen either. (Perhaps, in 1-minute snippets MacGruber would have had a chance to become on of the 10 best viral videos of 2010.)
The fact that MacGruber didn't crack 2010's Most Pirated Films of the Year casts doubt on the cult readiness of MacGruber. Compare this to the ascension of a film like Kick-Ass over formidable titles like Inception, Iron Man 2, Shutter Island, and Clash of the Titans, all the way to #2 (!), and you've got a real cult hit in the making.
1 Avatar — 16,580,000 downloads
2 Kick-Ass — 11,400,000 downloads
3 Inception - 9,720,000 downloads
4 Shutter Island — 9,490,000 downloads
5 Iron Man 2 — 8,810,000 downloads
6 Clash of the Titans — 8,040,000 downloads
7 Green Zone — 7,730,000 downloads
8 Sherlock Holmes — 7,160,000 downloads
9 The Hurt Locker — 6,850,000 downloads
10 Salt — 6,700,000 downloads
There's a story here about Video on Demand, called VOD Tells a Different Story...but becuase it is locked behind "Variety's" pay wall, we'll never know exactly what that story is. However, we'll quote from Cinematical's coverage of the "Variety" story here:
Variety notes that 'The Blind Side,' which earned only about 1/3 of what 'Avatar' did in domestic box office, ended up the #1 title on Comcast's "top-performing" list, with 'Couples Retreat,' 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon,' 'Hot Tub Time Machine' and 'The Hurt Locker' rounding out the top five. In their statement, Comcast pushes the party line: "Movies available the same day as DVD release are consistently among the top-performing content On Demand," and Variety agrees, pointing out that 'Avatar' was the only on demand title not available day-and-date with the DVD. Yet there's also some indication that audiences favor video on demand services to catch up with titles that they missed in theaters.
IndieWIRE's collective list allows a lot of contributors, columnists, and other smarty-pants (described as "a much smaller grouping of indieWIRE editors, contributors, freelancers as well as a smattering of industry friends") to pick their favorites—which led to another victory for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan as the title that dominated their individual top 10 lists, and also shone the light on the Chinese documentary Lixan Fan's Last Train Home.
Former IndieWIRE Editor-in-Chief Eugene Hernandez, who is now the director of digital strategy at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, who contibruted to the above list also made a list of The 20 Must-See Films of 2010. I like how he augments the Ten best, with Ten films that mattered to him, and a sidebar of films worthy of discussion. This is a list from someone who loves movies, likes discourse, and understands that quality, passion, subjective taste and cultural relevance are all things that inform the formation of these lists. This is how to give an arbitrary exercise substance.
Also, Eugene made a key point about how films will qualify for lists like this in the future as the means of distributionevolves:
"Note: This list was chosen from the long roster of films released theatrically for one-week in New York City. Choosing a top ten based on such criteria is a long tradition that will likely have to change some time. In fact, in 2011 it may finally be time to abandon the theatrical hurdle that defines distribution. More and more films reach substantial audiences via film festivals and digital platforms, stirring a dialogue and finding followers via alternative means. At the vey least, it would probably make sense to keep an annual list of films available commercially (in theaters, online or via various forms of VOD) to use as a foundation for creating “Best Of” lists in the future."
Decatur-based Paste Magazine may have shed its print edition with an eye toward the future with a more lively Web (and template-based) presence never met a list it didn't like. The site is a smorgasbord of countdown lists (80 Best Workout Songs; 100+ Best Twitter Users to Follow, 20 Best TV Shows, etc.). So for the end of this year, in movies, thee focus is on The 25 Best Movie Performances of 2010 which allows multiple kudos to go to stand-out performances in favorites like Black Swan, True Grit, Kids are Alright, and The Social Network.
When Scott Weinberg (Editor of Moviefone & Cinematical, Film Critic for FEARnet ) Tweeted the following question: "Need another cool year-end list? Try @flickchart's! They use statistics 'n' shit! http://bit.ly/eFpjPH," I couldn't resist. The list, 70,000 Flickcharters Pick Their Top 20 of 2010, which was compiled by user votes, plain and simple. They write, "Remember, if you watched and ranked these movies on your Flickchart, you helped to create this list! If not, be sure to rank your favorites of 2010 to influence the list for the future! Without further adieu, here are your Top 20 of 2010..." I'll cut to the chase and go to the top:
#1 — Inception
currently ranked #6 of all-time
ranked 52131 times
wins 85% of matchups
752 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
92 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time
Also notable—no MacGruber, but instead we find Get Him to the Greek and Book of Eli in the top 20 instead, as well as cult fave Kick-Ass at #6.
More MacGruber love can be found in Cinematical's The Top 10 "Guilty Pleasure" Movies of 2010, with an 'esplanatoion, "Guilty pleasures. Some say there's no such thing. I believe they're out there, though, those junk-food flicks ripe for enjoyment almost in spite of themselves; in fact, here's ten of the year's most shameless entertainments for your consideration, thematically paired."
Moviefone's entree into the year-end list the 10 Best Family Movies of 2010 (And 6 Worst), threw some love in predictable directions Toy Story 3, Tangled, How to train Your Dragon, and some heat at the much maligned Yogi Bear, Furry Vengeance, and The Last Airbender.
Film Programmer and blogger Tom Hall's Back Row Manifesto is a must visit site for filmmakers and cineastes alike. Offering insight into the film festival world, as well as solid, reasoned opinions about the current state of cinema culture, Tom's blog delivers well-written, interesting, and insightful entrees. His approach to the year-end list (still in the making) is focusing on his "Top Ten Cinematic Experiences of 2010."
Like Eugene, Tom is looking for ways to expand the dialogue and discourse around film: "In the past...I have listed my favorite cinematic experiences of the year. I want to get back to that; as the way in which I get to watch movies and talk about them continues to diversify, as the idea of cinematic experience expands to multiple devices, formats, cities, communities, I think this list is here to stay.
Below, an excerpt from #8, "Otherwise Unavailable" Tom's rumination on the wanting state of foreign film distribution in the U.S., and the heroic task for archivists and art house programmers doing their best to holding the line:
As much as the well intentioned film archivists among us strive to preserve our cinematic history, I can’t help but feeling that we’re already losing access to international cinema in an age when it should be easier than ever to see these movies. Yes, yes, I could just buy a region free DVD player and be thankful that the English have much better taste than most Americans and shut up, but all it does is make me more thankful for the art houses of NYC, who are doing the hard work of keeping small, foreign films alive in a world where instant access to everything sometimes means that the important things get forgotten. Save the art house, expand access to well-transferred foreign films on DVD; if we don’t preserve modern cinema, who will?
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