This is the time of year when critics far and wide start to list their favorite movies. Sometimes you see an unheralded gem slide into a spot. Other times, you are shocked in disbelief (Time magazine … this means you and your inclusion of “Fast Five”). But there are some universal truths that everyone needs to know and sharing them with you will be cathartic so thank you for this therapy session. You are permitted to envision me laying on a couch in your office. I am fully clothed … the whole time.
(1) Critics are temperamental little bitches who love to be glorified
How do I know this? I am one, though try my best to separate myself from the pretentiousness as much as possible (example: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” has a very strong shot of making my top 10). You need to understand that most critics are emotionally flawed in some way as you look at their choices. Is “Hugo” a good movie? Despite some minor flaws, Martin Scorsese absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination and perhaps a win. But what will propel “Hugo” far up in the lists is that it’s a movie for people passionate about movies. It’s not often someone makes a 2-hour epic about the importance of film preservation, so this film will give added meaning to the lives of people who live only through critiquing others’ movies. And critics LOVE that!
(2) The “best” movie is not usually the “most enjoyable”
Hands down, “The Muppets” is going to be my pick for most enjoyable film of the year. It is unbridled fun and, in the words of my mother, “pure joy on screen.” It has laughs, singing, dancing, some witty lines and smart cameos (some bad cameos (Serena Gomez, I’m looking at you)) and is an epic mixture of nostalgia and the rebirth of the Muppets. Yet I have a hard time picking it as my number one because is it really a masterpiece? An advancement in film? No, but … life’s a happy song! And I’m a man, not a muppet! Instead, expect to see a lot of “The Artist”, which has potential to be very enjoyable — or it might just be a way-too-artsy black and white silent film from France about the film industry (see #1, above, for why this matters a lot).
(3) Movies released before September don’t exist.
The best film lists can’t possibly avoid nine months. Well, they do. Off the top of my head, I can only think of three films released before September that won Best Picture in the last two decades: “The Silence of the Lambs”, “Gladiator”, and “The Hurt Locker.” “Hurt Locker” benefitted from a DVD push and some residual “Avatar”‘s been-here-before-but-it’s-oh-so-pretty malaise, while “Gladiator” and “The Silence of the Lambs” were box office smashes. Hopefully, the Oscars don’t again avoid brilliant performances from months past (Paul Giammati in “Win Win” is better than George Clooney in either “The Ides of March” or “The Descendants” or, frankly, Paul Giamatti in “The Ides of March” though all four performances are worthy), but they tend to. So, those of you looking to see those masterful January releases “Season of the Witch”, “From Prada to Nada” or “The Green Hornet” at the Oscars … sorry. There is an exception, of course …
(4) The Oscars are starting to sell out
The Golden Globes are about as reputable as a Congressman saying “I did not have sex with that woman, man, small woodland creature….” Want an example? “Burlesque” was nominated for Best Picture. Here’s an interesting anecdote:
“The whole reason the Globes exist as the boozy, star-filled public spectacle we TiVo today is because, back in 1958, Old Blue Eyes, along with fellow Ratpackers Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin, got tired of that whole boring part where they announce the winners. Sufficiently soused, the three jumped on stage with cigarettes and high-balls in hand, and hi-jacked/hosted the then modest awards show.” (via VF)
So, okay, the Golden Globes are the drunken uncle of awards and, like that drunken uncle, can be absolutely hilarious — but not the Oscars! Well, yes, the Oscars. Back when “The Dark Knight” was denied a well-deserved Best Picture nomination, fans were angry and people stopped watching. So, instead of deciding to expand the nominees to an unset number of worthy films each year, they expanded the field to ten films a year. That brought the hideously boring “A Serious Man” and the tear jerker I loved so shut up but it’s not a best picture nominee “The Blind Side”. And, for 2011, it will bring “The Help”, also helpful because the list of Oscar winners is really just a few shades darker than a KKK rally. (I held back on my even less PC my first analogy here…)
and (5): Critics who have not seen all likely winners shouldn’t post lists, but they do
Many critics feel that the list of their top 10 movies deserves attention. It often does not. There’s a reason why you won’t see my top 10 list in the next few weeks and not just because I’m on this hiatus. It’s because there are at least 15 films I haven’t seen yet that have made lists. My list is woefully incomplete. However, this doesn’t stop critics with deadlines (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “War Horse”, and “The Iron Lady” were shown to critics a week after some big lists started to get published), so keep an eye out if the list includes movies that have all been released.
Remember these five simple things as you look at the lists and, oh, one more thing: Mahna Mahna.