Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Consensus vs. Nathaniel

I know I've already dropped non too subtle hints about this throughout the year but I broke up with consensus this year. It was really clingy. I needed space. Last year consensus saw Brokeback and History of Violence topping the charts and they also topped me. So either I had an off year in 2006 or the rest of the world did. My vote is -- you guessed it -- the rest of the world.

Take a look at the MCN charts of top tens... here's their top 18 so far:
Army of Shadows, Babel, Borat, Casino Royale, Children of Men, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Flags of Our Fathers, Half Nelson, L’Enfant, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Children, Little Miss Sunshine, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Queen, United 93, Volver
The ones in bold are the only ones that match my top 18 and some of them just barely. (I chose the seemingly arbitrary number 18 because I still have several titles arguing about who gets placement at 19 and 20) I regret to inform that I did not see the three foreign films listed here apart from Volver. Usually, as you know, I am a big cheerleader o' the subtitles. I'm not sure what happened but in this one category I most certainly did have an off year.

As for Army of Shadows. I want to see it but I wouldn't put a 37 year-old movie on a current top ten list even if it were my favorite of the entire decade. I'd just adjust the top ten lists from older years. My rule on this is based on release patterns I've noticed in the past several years. It goes like this: you have a two year window to open in NYC... by about the two year mark obscure movies or foreign language films that haven't found a distributor rarely do and they end up on DVD. If you can't make it to a theater in the US's most cinema loving city in that 24 month span of time, you're not a current film. If we allow old movies seen for the first time to appear on everyone's lists and such I can only imagine where it leads: A solid but unsensational Clint Eastwood picture is discovered unreleased in some vault when I'm 98 and on my death bed I'll have to live with another round of misguided "Clint Eastwood is the greatest director who ever lived!" nonsense all over again. Argh! Just, no. An old film is an old film. Write about it --give it a bigger word count than your entire top ten combined, praise it to the skies, give it a "Movie Event of the Year" citation but a place on a current best of cinema list? It's not current.

All of this is a long and obnoxious way of saying that a difference of opinion is a good thing and groupthink a curse but when you can't quite drink the kool-aid you get lonely.

P.S. I apologize for my tardiness at delivering my actual top ten but I've got friends in town and people are more important than lists. Shocking but true.

Talk amongst yourselves: Where do you part from the critical consensus this year?


Michael Parsons said...

Well my top 10 is very strange. I have yet to see a large Majority of the films as over here in the UK, we get 'em all alot later.
From the top!
Little Miss Sunshine
United 93
Pan's Labyrinth
The Devil Wears Prada
An Inconvenient Truth
Happy Feet
The Queen

Very conservative when I look at it. the top 3 are the closest I got to a WOW this year. Oh 2001 was a great year for film.

Glenn Dunks said...

Pfft, I'd like to know where Snakes on a Plane is from all these lists!


But seriously, that would be in my Top 20 certainly. I can't help that I'm easily entertained.

On a more serious note, I diverge from popular critical thinking when it comes to The Departed, Babel, Flags of Our Fathers (!!!) and a little on Little Miss Sunshine. It was cute and all, but a road trip movie is still a road trip movie and they're all very similar aren't they?

I so hope The Devil Wears Prada gets some guild loving!

Nick M. said...

I've seen all but four of MCN's Top 20, and maybe only five or six would make my top 20.

Those would be Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Volver, L'Enfant, Half Nelson, Old Joy and perhaps The Queen.

Therefore, I believe that nearly every other film is overrated -- the worst offender being the completely innocuous Little Miss Sunshine.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is my own Top 10:

1. The Departed
2. The Fountain
3. Marie Antoinette
4. Children of Men
5. Little Miss Sunshine
6. Inland Empire
7. Shortbus
8. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
9. Volver
10. Little Children

So I guess there's some consensus choices and a few individual choices, which makes sense.

I have to say, for a while I was juggling The Fountain and Marie Antoinette as my Number 1, but a second viewing of those two and The Departed confirmed my current placement. As much as I love Raging Bull and (especially) Taxi Driver, they weren't as much FUN as this one.

I'm still convinced Aronofsky deserves best director, but now I'm wavering between Whitaker and DiCaprio for best actor-I was even more impressed the second time around-and Wahlberg remains my unchallenged favorite for best supporting actor.

And, while she wouldn't make my own ballot, I would hardly begrudge Vera Farmiga an Oscar nom. I thought she was just great.

I'm glad I saw this again, because now I finally have that special movie from 2006 that feels like magic (although 2 and 3 come damn close).

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Sorry for the long post. All that said, I'm excited to see how your list turns out.

Anonymous said...

Army of Shadows is easily one of the best films I saw all year, sure, but Jean-Pierre Melville hardly needs a boost. I hold with you on this. It's not getting anywhere near my top ten list.

And you diverge from critical opinion every year. I don't think this year is that different, Nathaniel. I bet your percentage of consensus with critics is only a smidgen lower than normal for 2006.

MCN's list is a pretty good one, I think, though critics are clearly missing out by not including the imaginative The Fountain on their lists.

Anonymous said...

1. United 93
2. Pan's Labyrinth
3. Children of Men
4. The Departed
5. Volver

And that's pushing it. Apart from the top two, there weren't films that earned my unqualified respect this year.

Not enough "goodness" to make up a Top Ten. Sorry.

Haven't seen "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," the twin Eastwoods, "Inland Empire" and "Old Joy."

Most overrated: "The Queen," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Devil Wears Prada,"Marie Antoinette."

Most overrated "hip" film: "The Fountain." I defy any of its admirers to look me in the eye and tell me that they'd love it quite so much had it been a "film by..." some poor unknown director.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous, re: The Fountain:

I would have!

Anonymous said...

I still don't think 2006 tops 2003 as the poorest cinematic year of the decade so far. It may even beat out 2000. It's just we were very spoilt last year, and especially in 2004, so it feels extra bad.

My top 10 of the year so far:

1. Babel
2. Volver
3. Little Children
4. Marie Antoinette
5. The Queen
6. The Departed
7. Breaking and Entering
8. The History Boys
9. Flags of Our Fathers
10. Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Gabrielle, Time to Leave, Shortbus, Scoop and Little Fish are sitting pretty just outside the top 10. Looking at it now though, I guess it is a pretty conventional list.

Haven't yet seen Dreamgirls, Fountain, Notes, Old Joy, Iwo Jima, The Goods German and Shepherd, Science of Sleep, Inland Empire or Painted Veil, so things will probably change a bit come real cinematic year's end over here (Feb 28).

adam k. said...

Wait, Glenn, are you saying road movies are automatically not great films?

Does that mean Thelma & Louise is NOT the greatest movie ever made? What? I disagree.

I happen to LOVE road trip movies.

Yaseen Ali said...

Two out of the eighteen would make my list (although I have yet to see Lazarescu.)

I part from critical consensus this year in that I dislike United 93, Little Miss Sunshine and Little Children.

Beau said...

My top ten as of now:

1. United 93
2. A Prairie Home Companion
3. Shortbus
4. The Fountain
5. Volver
6. The Departed
7. Brick
8. The Devil Wears Prada
9. Hard Candy
10. Little Children

This list is very unconventional, I'm aware. The top five are really the only ones I walked out of going 'What a terrific film.' Make that top 7, actually. Departed and Brick were both just as entertaining and well made. The latter three are where I have problems.
I found Borat overrated, An Inconvinient Truth to be too focused on Gore's life, The Queen too slight, Little Miss Sunshine too unbelievable, Marie Antoinette too visual (and yet, not visual enough), and Flags too... sorry, BAD.

The last three I have issues with. 'Devil Wears Prada' is a good film, a very, very enjoyable film which offered two of the best performances of the year, but I feel wrong putting it on here. It's by no means deep and one would think that there's a great deal more which could easily trounce this fluff. There wasn't, sadly. (Although, I need to rewatch 'The Proposition'. It may find its way on here after all.)

Hard Candy I loved. Ellen Page gave the best performance by an actress this year. I'm serious. Or, at the very least, ties with the great Helen Mirren. But she was just so vicious and powerful and mesmerizing in her embodiement of this tripped-up teen that I was just in shock at how capable this young actress was, of taking a role and shaking it (and us) to its very core. Patrick Wilson, as well, gave a very strong perf, and the dialogue I found to be quite acceptable. Many complained that the film was just overwhelmed by their manipulative nature and found it so difficult to sympathize with either one of them that the film sank as a result. I disagree. I felt that this was a masterstroke of filmmaking, something along the lines of what Hitchcock might've done in his day. You're brought into a world where there is nothing to latch on to; no good guy whose morals prosper even when faced with numerous temptations. Instead, we're asked to compromise our values, our ethics, so that we may begin to understand/comprehend how these two vicious creatures work and how they tick. It's fascinating.
My beef is with the ending. I'll say no more.

Little Children is the most frustrating movie of the year. The book it's based off of is brilliant to no end, a tragicomedy to rank with some of the finest work of the past decade. I came into the movie as being a major fan of the book, and that's why I was so angry when I exited the theater. I felt that Todd Field had done a major disservice to the book, which had nearly everything pitch-perfect, and felt that he needed to improve upon it. The second time I warmed to the film immensely, noting how pitch-perfect some of the acting was. Winslet, Connelly, Somerville, and Haley are brilliant. The others I have issues with... it's just a long list of beefs I have with the picture, which has moments so astoundingly perfect that, were these flaws to have been corrected, it would've been the best picture of the year. It's not. But it's still one of the most memorable and fascinating bits of cinema I've seen all season long.

I've yet to see Children of Men, Letters from Iwo Jima, Notes on a Scandal, Pan's Labyrinth, Gabrielle, Old Joy, Curse of the Golden Flower, and a myriad of others. I have a feeling two or three of them will definetely make an impact on this list, notably Children of Men.

Apoligies for this being so long.

Anonymous said...

I differ from critical response in that I totally loved Marie Antoinette and The Fountain, and I also completely loved Friends with Money, which has gotten pretty much no attention. I have to say Inland Empire is the one film I'm sure I'd love but haven't had the chance to see yet.

I do also differ in thinking that The Devil Wears Prada was easily the most overrated. Meryl Streep's confident performance aside, it's a well cast TV movie, and the love triangles and excess plotting was totally worthless to me. I'm actually shocked this even made for a bestselling novel.

Paxton Hernandez said...

My Top 10 for 2006 looks like this right now:

01. Love Me If You Dare
02. Hostel
03. Lady Vengeance
04. 3-Iron
05. C.R.A.Z.Y.
06. Así
07. Paradise Now
08. The Jacket
09. Marebito
10. The Departed

A kind of a unconventional list if you ask me, given the fact that most of these films were despised by a bunch of critics.

Another fact that stands out is that only 3 films are American. I tend to go 50/50 but I do agree with most of you guys that this wasn't a strong year for American filmmaking.

Nathe - my only piece of advise for you would be to catch as many foreign films as you can. New York stands as a privileged place for cinema lovers, so take advantage that the city probably has the highest Foreign Films / Released Films ratio in the whole wide world.

Anonymous said...

Is Love Me If You Dare a french film about two young people who essentially dare each other to do crazy shit? If so - I believe that was released in 2004.

Anonymous said...

I agree on The Devil Wears Prada, adam p. Wanted to love it, but didn't. That said, I thought it was pretty entertaining and Streep and Blunt (who would win Best Supporting Actress in a perfect world) deserve every accolade heading their way, and Hathaway continues to prove she's a solid actress with tons of potential. I didn't really get any of the praise for Tucci, who I thought was funny enough but mostly reminded me of a cattier Stanford Blatch. Would that they had cast Willie Garson instead!

Paxton Hernandez said...

The Devil Wears Prada suffers from an incredible bad ending. Really bad. Moralistic and lectury at worst. Hated it, but I did love la Streep, Anne, and Blunt. Amazing trio.

Arkaan- You're right. That is the film. But it wasn't released here until 2006! That's what I call "delayed release".

On a funny note, some dude described Love Me If You Dare as "the romantic comedy that Michael Haneke hasn't filmed". I'll take his word for that. There is certainly some crazy shit going on with Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet in that film!

Jason Adams said...

"On a funny note, some dude described Love Me If You Dare as 'the romantic comedy that Michael Haneke hasn't filmed'"

And with that, Love Me If You Dare shoots immediately to the top of my Netflix queue. I don't think there's been a sentence constructed in the English language that has ever given me a woody quicker.

Well, perhaps "Jake Gyllehnaal is laying naked in your bed right now." Yeah, that one would do it.


i do usually take advantage of the foreign films here --you'll notice that my top ten lists usually have a few subtitled entries.

I'm not sure what was going on with me this year that i mostly skipped.

Anonymous said...

RYAN's TOP 10:
(I was torn between "Departed" and "Little Children" but Scorsese's boys just slipped by! Although I must say, this has easily been the weakest year for "2000" cinema.)

1. The Departed
2. Little Children
3. United 93
4. Shortbus
5. Letters from Iwo Jima
6. The Queen
7. The Descent
8. Little Miss Sunshine
9. Casino Royale
10.The Fountain

Glenn Dunks said...

Well, wasn't The Death of Mr Lazarescu only given a tiny release back in April? And it seems most of the foreign titles are being released along with the glut in December.

Adam, I'm not saying all road movies aren't great, but it's not like Little Miss Sunshine is pushing the envelope like Thelma & Louise did. It's essentially National Lampoon's with a great cast and better writing. Family goes on road trip, gets into wacky scenarios, father eventually flips out.

Anonymous said...

Your rabid anti-Eastwood stance is beginning to become tiresome. It detracts from all your other good points and the general entertainment value of your site. Not that Flags of Our Fathers is all that good, but there's no reason to hate on the man in a year when he produces something as somber, layered, challenging, and anti-commercial as Letters from Iwo Jima. A great film, one of the best of the year, and certainly you can find worthier candidates to despise (the trashy, overrated "art films" Babel and Pan's Labyrinth to name just two).

Also anyone who considers themselves a critic should see L'Enfant and Lazarescu before making a credible list.

Gilidor said...

According to the MCN thing, I'm the only critic who listed in his Top Ten Bang Bang Orangutang (flick from the writer of Breaking the Waves that nobody else saw). Then I'm one of a precious few who named Clerks 2 (maybe not as funny as Borat, but more moving for sure), Bubble (Soderbergh's best film I think) and *gasp* Lady in the Water.

Paxton Hernandez said...

Naah... L'enfant and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu have to be two of the most overrated films of the year.
Very good films but I haven't seen the greatness and the masterwork everybody seems to have seen on them. Hell, Ed Gonzalez called L'enfant "nothing short of a miracle". Now, give me a break.

On a side note (and an interesting one) the great Ellen Page in Hard Candy has broke Mirren's perfect score with the critic's groups. Austin just annointed her Best Actress of the Year. Damn, that feels good.

Paxton Hernandez said...

Just for the record. I agree 100% on jacob's appreciation on Babel and Pan's Laberynth. Talk about overrated!

Glenn Dunks said...

Wow. If anyone was gonna break Mirren's run I did not pick Ellen Page. Way to go! (i say as if she's here)

Beau said...

(On E. Page getting the Best Actress)
Hell Yeah.

Anonymous said...


Just a heads up! This is the first offical Austin Film Critics Awards- although they did gave out awards for 2005 films, it was AFTER the Oscar winners were annonced!!!!!!

That may explain why they picked Trash oh, sorry, "Crash" as Best Picture and Best Director. There are basically to the Dallas Fort-Worth Film Critics what the New York Online Film Critics are to the holy New York Film Critics Circle. In other words, wannabees.

Glenn Dunks said...

Pfft, I don't care. Seems strange to dismiss a group with an individual opinion, but whatever.