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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

The Agony and Ecstasy of Top Tens

I was having some interesting back-and-forth on Facebook with some colleagues about Top Tens, so decided the subject was worthy of a brief blog post. My mailbox was flooded this morning with a slew of Top Tens from all over the place. I’m always impressed and a little intimidated by folks who can get it together enough to see every single film worthy of contention AND get a top ten list together that early. Myself, I’m aiming for next week, and expect to meet my self-imposed deadline.

So I’ve been busy making my Top Ten list and checking it twice … three times … four times. This has been a good year for movies, overall, but pretty much any year there’s a bit of agonizing when it comes down to making the final, FINAL list. Who makes the cut? Who just gets edged out? Who’s not in the running at all?

Since I don’t live in LA or NY, where the early screenings fairy is most bountiful, there are still a couple films I need to catch (that’s the downside of working in this biz while living in Seattle, but there are so many good things about living here that I can deal). We just got True Grit last night here. Tonight I have to choose between I Love You Phillip Morris and How Do You Know. And I still have a few screeners that are serious contenders to get through. So I expect my own list will be done next week, and then I have my critics’ groups to get year-end voting done with.

But as I was looking over the Top Ten lists that flooded my mailbox this morning in the mad, crazy rush to be first, first, FIRST! with the top tens, a few things struck me. The first is that The King’s Speech, which everyone seems to be assuming is an Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture, is not showing up on a lot of critics Top Ten lists at all. Not that Top Tens are a reliable indicator of Oscar — totally different groups — but still. Don’t you find it odd that this supposed Oscar front-runner didn’t impress enough critics to make their Top Tens? I do.

Another thing I noticed is how many critics are putting The Social Network in the top three on their lists, to which I can only say, “Really?” Look, I heart David Fincher a lot. He’s a fab director. But for me, The Social Network was meh-to-good, not great. It’s not Zodiac, not Fight Club or Se7en. Are there some excellent directorial choices in there? Yes. Great performances? Sure, sure (though I would still argue that Andrew Garfield is more deserving of consideration for Never Let Me Go, in spite of how rapidly that film became unfashionable). Anyhow.

I, like most of the folks I know who are expected to come up with a Top Ten at the end of each year, really agonize over the final cut. I keep a running list starting in January of films that might be in the running, and sometime after Thanksgiving start filtering the likely contenders from the maybes. I put a lot of thought into it, and pretty much everyone I know does the same. Your Top Ten says a lot about your taste in film, and — criminy! — who wants their colleagues to read their list and think they’re an idiot?

Also, I always struggle over whether to include great films that didn’t have US distrib this year. What if they had distrib, but only in Europe? Does that count? How about a film that micro-released with one weekend on one screen in NYC? Should I include fest films that haven’t secured distrib here at all yet? But then what if they do get distrib next year … would I have to include that film twice?

I’ll have my Top Ten list done by early next week, maybe even over the weekend if I really get it together. In the meantime, there’s some good movies coming your way the last couple weeks of the month. You can check out the running list of Top Tens from a slew of critics right here. Maybe perusing those lists will give you some ideas for films you want to catch or at least add to your Netflix cue.

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One Response to “The Agony and Ecstasy of Top Tens”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    Actually, from year to year, the critics top ten compilations by MCN are very similar to the Oscar noms.

    Maybe critics like to think their profession has more refined tastes than Oscar voters, but, they vote pretty much alike.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon