Monday, December 27, 2004

Groupthink and Top Tens

you know. Normally I wouldn't call someone to the table for this because it's rude and what have you but as I was researching my slowly growing online top ten list chart I keep referring to the far more extensive chart at and some lists really perplex me.

Take Susan Granger for instance. Her top ten list is:

The Aviator
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Finding Neverland
Hotel Rwanda
Million Dollar Baby
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Phantom of the Opera

Can it get any more generic? It's the exact same as the [b]BFCA[/b] list with ONE exception -the absence of Sideways and inclusion of The Motorcycle Diaries. Granger is a free thinker ! (hee) Sometimes I wonder if there are too many voices out there and if the collective "best of" thing is just too disturbing. I much prefer lists that show some semblance of sanity (obviously Eternal Sunshine belongs on every list) combined with the individual's own unique aesthetic sense. If you have no opinion of your own --what's the point? For the record my own personal top ten will have some of the usual suspects. But as always, I hope to maintain my own voice.

I'm not trying to knock Susan Granger or praise myself. I'm more thinking out loud about the problem of homogeny in these things. I know why this happens. I am affected by it myself. Would I have watched Sideways a second time were it not for the abundant "best of the year" kudos which made me revisit it and boosted it from "very good" in my book to "near great" It would probably have made my top ten list either way but its placement did rise. Critical consensus does affect people for good (Sideways) and ill (Million Dollar Baby for instance. Good film...but critical consensus has it as a masterpiece and it just ain't so).

I wonder how less generic things would be if we were all required to make our top ten lists on the same day of the year? How cool would it be to have a year when all major awards nominations take place on the very same day with none influencing the next? Where would the Oscars, for instance, go without the guidance from the guilds, the Globes, and critics?

If you look at the's current top ten list you'll find the following films appearing on the most top ten lists:

01 SIDEWAYS 102 lists with 30 #1 placements
02 ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND on 91 lists with 17 #1s
07 KILL BILL, VOL.2 48/1
08 KINSEY 40/2

Half of those are also on my top ten list. shrug


Anonymous said...


Don't worry, I don't think anyone will doubt your integrity as a movie fan based on this vent here, because I know most can relate to it. For instance, I will forever be baffled as to why such films as Finding Neverland and Ray are included on "best of the year" lists. Personally, when it comes to mainstream films, nothing will touch Spider-Man 2 in 2004. I rewatched it after you again elevated it to an A and, being an old comic book fan, I couldn't help but agree with you that it captures the spirite of the medium on which it is based better than any film in its genre. It's almost transcendent if it isn't already (does that make sense?).

Mainstream films like Finding Neverland and Ray are mainstream for a reason: they are generic and easily accessible in the WORST sense.

Oh, and I just wanted to let you know, a film I saw called The Twilight Samurai is coming out on DVD on the 28th. Though it's not the masterpiece Ebert claims it is, I asure you you will enjoy its lead performance. Apart from Paul Giamatti and Jim Carrey, I have yet to see a lead male performance that has truly moved me. The man, Hiroyuki Sanada, may be the best in his category. So I recommend it.

I have to go.

Forever a fan,

Engin Palabiyik said...

Yeah, some of the lists are so generic that it's almost frustrating to count them up. It's obvious that some critics fill their lists up with the most critically acclaimed films of the year just to not look bad. Sasha said it best in EdSez:

"Well, part of what's happening, if you shove aside the passion of the Sideways for a moment, is the typical critics "groupthink." That is, it's kind of an Emperor's New Clothes situation where no one wants to look stupid so they look over at what the "respectable" groups are saying and they follow suit. It happens every year - they glom onto one thing that seems like the "right" pic - be it Mulholland Drive or American Beauty. It would seem that there's a fair amount of personal identification as well - choosing a film says a lot about who you are - if you choose, say, a movie the critics thought was bad you yourself seem less intelligent. If you choose the critics film you are in the smart person's club."

Seriously, when you think of it, there are hundreds of films released each year. That 60% of the critics have "Sideways" or, for last year, "Lost in Translation" on their lists is thus somewhat mind-boggling.. yet understandable.

You have to give credit to Susan Granger though. She is one of the [only] 6 critics to list "The Phantom of the Opera", hee hee.

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