Monday, October 15, 2007

Top Tens: How To? What to Expect?

* Reader Request ~ Thoughts on the creation of "year in review" lists...

Over the weekend I saw Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton and was quite impressed: soulful, troubling, gripping --even thrilling in a mature way. A film about adults for adults! (God, I love the Fall / God, I hate Hollywood release patterns that don't give that love any competition) It got me to thinking about the impending critical top ten lists. They start in late November/early December beginning with the long lead magazine journalists or junket blurb whores who want their list out there for quotation right away. Which movies will rise up as consensus favorites this year? Which, though greeted warmly on release, will be surprise no shows? (your guesswork in the comments please)

Of the movies I don't share consensus opinion on I've already prepared myself to witness a terrific showing from Knocked Up (zeitgeist movies always do well in year-end tallies) but I don't mind terribly much. It's not a bad movie. The bad movies I do fear in terms of year end hoopla are 300 and Waitress. The first will be boosted by its visual spectacle (no argument that it's eye-popping) and rationalized by crowd pleaser status and the second? I'll probably make too many enemies if I hammer away at that. I'll just say that I've never in my life seen such inept filmmaking rewarded with nearly unanimous thumbs up and real love, too. Weird.

My screening of Michael Clayton on Saturday got me excited for working on my own top ten list and my year end "Film Bitch" Awards. So I thought I'd address reader questions about that process.

I've got 15 favorites at the moment...

Read the rest of this article @ the film experience

(for list lovers only)
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* Reader Request Topics are chosen by kind patrons who donate to keep the site and blog alive. I apologize for the delays in getting these articles out but I've drafted a strict schedule and there'll be a new one at least once a week, now. Upcoming topics include All That Jazz, Network, Maurice, ABBA the movie, A Touch of Evil and more...

47 comments:

c.p. iñor said...

Quoting you: "The unfortunate side effect of all this reviewing and grading is that I find myself doing it during a movie. If a scene isn't working I'm suddenly deducting points or if it's really intense, beautiful and soaring I'm shouting inside my head"go for the A! go for the A!!!"

Wow! I tought I was the only one!!!

Kurtis11 said...

"Away From Her" will absolutely make my Top Ten this year. I just watched it again. It's the most beautiful film I've seen in 2007. I'd LOVE to see Polley get a director nom. I'm with you on Zodiac, Once, Michael Clayton, and Planet Terror, and I'm imagining "No Country..." will be one of my faves. "Knocked Up" is definitely in there as well - I laughed my a** off. Right now, I'm thinking "Black Snake Moan" as well. It was so unique. Craig Brewer is an exciting director.

adam k. said...

Yeah, I totally do that thing at movies too now. And I really hate it.

I felt similarly about Avenue Montaigne, Nathaniel. I didn't dislike it per se, but it just... did nothing for me. At all. I'd stop short of the C- though and just give it a C. Cause again, it wasn't BAD... per se.

Although frankly, I don't understand your reaction to Waitress. Yes, it had its problems, sure, but... a D-? Really? Why? I remember it really bothering me for a little while until somewhere in the middle it started to grab me and I actually ended up liking it a moderate amount. And this was before I'd even worked as a waiter. Anyway, yeah, I'd never thought of anything as low as a D-. Please elaborate.

And I sure do hope there'll be an "A" film this year. Two years in a row without one? Yikes. Crossing my fingers for Atonement and There Will Be Blood.

adam k. said...

re: Waitress again, I'd imagine the critical reception would've been less warm if the director hadn't died... but still... a D-? Geez, you are so harsh.

Anonymous said...

D- for Waitress? That's just cold-blooded. Oh well, I thought it was lovely.

Anonymous said...

Alas, Michael Clayton has had a hit-and-run release in the UK - if you didn't catch it within a week, you had trouble finding it. And I didn't do either.

Anyhoo, a fascinating read of your thought process, and one which - at this stage - I'll have to employ myself, as I have no runaway favourites yet.

kurtis11 - I finally saw Away From Her recently, and I was sorta disappointed with it. Maybe I'll give it another go sometime, but I found its admirable restraint ultimately rather cold. I hope Gordon Pinsent gets some award citations though.

My picks so far would be headed up by Hallam Foe, Planet Terror, select sections of Paris Je T'Aime, Zodiac, This Is England, Superbad and... um... Waitress!!

Rob

Kamikaze Camel said...

I'm always thinking during movies about what I think critically. I even come up with witty one-liners, which I ultimately forget when I go to actually write something.

I fully expect Noise, Ratatouille and Inland Empire to make my top 10 but...

Ryan said...

For my personal list, KNOCKED UP, ZODIAC and ONCE are currently at the top.

Its funny, "genuine" comedy usually isn’t my preferred genre and I thought 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN was just okay, but damn… I fucking loved KNOCKED UP! It’s been a while since I’ve laughed that hard during a film. I also loved the performances- especially Heigl.

But in general, I have a feeling that KNOCKED UP, ONCE, MICHAEL CLAYTON, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and I’M NOT THERE will be very popular on upcoming lists.

Here’s another thought: Who will emerge the “Critical Darling” of 2007?

Nick Davis said...

I hated every artificial and unfelt moment of Waitress (which, from where I was sitting, was almost every moment) and the cringe-inducing sets and lighting and the utter banality of the stereotypes (which, unfortunately, encompassed almost every character) and the bizarre arbitrariness of the pies, and the refusal to really engage with why she's willing to have this baby OR why she all of a sudden decides that she loves it. I can't think of anything good about the movie. And it isn't genre snobbery: I'm all about the chick flicks, and I love it when something warm and unpretentious and unostentatious wins an audience. But Waitress just felt like it never knew what it was doing, except when it was copying exceptionally lame TV shows. It was like an especially poorly-shot spinoff of Judging Amy, except with pies, and Jeremy Sisto.

I am so glad that someone else can't stand this movie. MWAH!

But I was okay with 300. The visuals and the coldness of the whole thing worked well enough for me for a passing grade: even the Spartans were coarse and unlikable, as written and as filmed, and I liked that it was a war story with no easy options for identification, despite all the inanities re: the Persians, the hunchback, etc. I'll be surprised if it's on any Top 10 lists, though, whereas Waitress seems bound for several of them. (And if an Actress or Original Screenplay nod happens for that movie I will lose. my. shit. in some way that I can't even foresee. A whole new way of losing my shit.)

Nick Davis said...

And I meant to add: Zodiac, Red Road, and Away from Her are the spring releases I'm most eager to revisit before the end of the year.

I think the movie that most people I know hated that I liked the best this year was La vie en rose. I'm really curious to see how that fares at year's end on all the big lists.

Anonymous said...

if you love away from her, please don't miss the mourning forest which is mesmerizing!

Ryan said...

Oh, that’s right Adam, "BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN” and "A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE" were the last two films to snag that coveted "A" from Nathaniel.

But I guess it makes sense- 2006/2007 have not been great years for cinema (big understatement)!

Jimmy said...

"Away from Her" is now available on on-demand. I thought Julie Christie & Gordon Pinsent were terrific. I've since read a bit about it - I guess there is a major factual problem w it, first being is that family members would never ever ever be told to stay away for 30 days. Despite that - I hope Julie Christie wins. I was slightly disappointed in the movie, but really liked seeing her again.

Anonymous said...

Just to tell you something: Anjelina Jolie won the prize for Best Actress in "A Mighty Heart" at Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Her performance was considered "the outstanding of the year". An important detail: the festival is just in 2008 and we already have the winner: Jolie.
I think it is a good begining for TOP TEN of the year.

Tim said...

"The unfortunate side effect of all this reviewing and grading is that I find myself doing it during a movie. If a scene isn't working I'm suddenly deducting points or if it's really intense, beautiful and soaring I'm shouting inside my head "go for the A! go for the A!!!"

YES. Now get out of my brain.

Meanwhile, I am surprised that somebody exists who loves Bug more than I do, but there you have it.

Let be me another voice singing the praises of Away from Her.

Sam said...

I'll chime in that I thought Waitress was a sweet, earnest bit of fluff that made for a pleasant Sunday afternoon. That being said, I had to nod in agreement with most of what Nick Davis said, especially the absurd sets. The diner was apparently out in the woods somewhere and what was up with the bus stop? Why exactly did a bus stop there? Everytime there was a bus stop scene I was completely distracted by the awkward set. Also, were we really supposed to believe Keri Russell was a small town diner waitress who ate pies all the time? Marisa Jaret Winokur with an accent would have been more accurate. Maybe Patrika Darbo. Or Conchatta Farrell a few years ago.
There are no size zeros in the rural south. I grew up there and know what I'm talking about.

And another thing, I'm so tired of movies set in the south with wildly uneven accents, none of which are accurate.

Wow, maybe I didn't like it so much after all.

amir_uk said...

I wasn't expecting to enjoy Knocked Up as much as I did (didn't take to 40 Year Old Virgin at all) - but there was something so tender, even melancholic about it that touched me. I prefer my tragedies to the comedies, and there was something really tragic underlining this rather funny movie.

I don't do grades (too much like school, people) but stars instead - and it places at the top end of the 3-star bracket. Would that be a C+ in your system, Nathaniel? 'Cause high-end *** sounds much better than C+ for some reason...

Also Angelina Jolie blew me away in A Mighty Heart - and will probably end up in my Best Actress list for the year. The film itself was very fine too. Glad she has a prize for it.

Anonymous said...

since coming here to nat's site sometimes i cannot enjoy films as i am too busy watching the perfs to think would they make my top 5.

Anonymous said...

like capote i kept thinking whats all the fuss about keener and then when i re watched a 3rd time i saw everything but the first time i was looking for a "oscar scene".

amir_uk said...

For what it's worth, best so far this year for me: Atonement; Control; Far North; 2 Days in Paris; 4 Months; Zodiac; Golden Door; Away From Her; A Mighty Heart; Dans Paris.

Althoguh Far North and 4 Months probably won't actually be getting release dates until 2008 so will be ineligible come the end of year listmaking.

Anonymous said...

Wow, some major Waitress hatred!

Personally, I lapped up every minute of it, and really the Bus Stop wasn't an issue for me (as much as I'm wanting to say "woah, you wa-a-a-ay overthought THAT one!", I'm the first person to internally scream when someone doesn't close a front door behind them in a movie, so I'm a total hypocrite!)...

Nick, sometimes you articulate my inner thoughts, but sometimes -as in this instance - we're poles apart. (Just as things should be in the world of filmic debate!)

Elsewhere, I coldly admired La Vie en Rose whilst utterly hating the needlessly offputting timeframe confusions... but I am ALL about Marion Cotillard for Best Actress. (With Keri Russell currently placing second - snigger!)

Rob

steve said...

A

I’m Not There
Into the Wild

A-

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
The Assassination of Jesse James
Jindabyne
Knocked Up
Once
Ratatouille

B+

Black Snake Moan
Bug
Eastern Promises
Lust, Caution
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Persepolis

steve said...

whoops, need some context there, I think... that's my current top 15

Jose said...

I used to do stars before, to me 3 stars movies are B- or B, 3 and a half are B+, and 4 stars could be either A- or A.

etslee said...

I will agree with a lack of "A" movies recently, the last one for me being The Lives of Others. I liked Waitress when I first saw it, but now I don't have strong feelings either way. Same with Away From Her. Still waiting patiently for your thoughts on Lust, Caution and Lars. There's a great interview with Ang Lee on David Poland's website.

J.D. said...

Let's see, if I were to make a Top Ten now, it'd probably be (give or take):

1. The Lives of Others
2. Away from Her
3. Black Book
4. Breaking & Entering
5. Hot Fuzz
6. Bridge to Terabithia
7. Zodiac
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
9. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Films for Theaters
10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

#8 and #9 are weird choices, ain't they?

steve said...

re: stars vs. letter grades

I think letter grades allow for a little more nuance, since there's more options than in the 4 or 5 star method. Then, even if you go the half-star route, letter grades are still more recognizable so that people looking at them have a better idea what you're talking about. Like, "This movie got a B-" carries more meaning than "This movie got 3 out 5 stars".

16 Year Old Blogger said...

Re: The whole letter grade and stars thing...I prefer the grade, but 3 and a half stars looks much better on paper than a B-...And also it get's confusing when people start using 5 stars. Letter grades just flat out state what the movie earns and everyone knows what grades are good and bad...

NATHANIEL R said...

still the problem with grades is complicated because people have such strange notions about what equals good and bad.

I can't count the amount of times people have asked me why i hated a movie I gave a B-

i'm like "huh?" that's still a thumbs up for me. That means I liked it but it's got nagging flaws or is problematic in some way i can't really get around

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to see people still remember Zodiac - was afraid due to the early release it would be forgotten come list time of year - it is one of my favs for the year - loved Jesse James too - and Away from her - was chilling - Chrisite gives such a believeable performance - made me think of - what if that happens to me when I get older? I love I'm Not There - yes it is cerebral - but what a ride - and what a thrill to see such an experimental film getting mainstream consideration -

steve said...

touche

Anonymous said...

Just curious as to why you never went to see Across The Universe? I am in the over forty who loved this movie group.
My 75 year old father cried several times during this film when I took him, and my twenty three year old son has seen it three times.
I know it is a tremendously polarizing film, and I guess that is one of the things I think recommends it.
Sure had people talking.
Anyway, ATU is in my top ten...warts and all.

NATHANIEL R said...

I might still see it. it's basically that I hated TITUS and I expect more of the same: visual eye popping imagery with no coherence as to what she's trying to do with the imagery beyond just making it cool and abundant. I don't get Taymor I guess. It just feels like style without substance

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