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It's the most wonderful time of the year... 'Top Ten List' time

by Nathaniel R

I've been gleefully reading top ten lists for as long as I've loved movies. The first I waited for impatiently was in the Detroit Free Press in the 1980s and decades later I still love the impulse to live best movies, no matter how many people occassionally play contrarian to dismiss them as irrelevant and reductive. Top ten lists are definitely the latter but they're hardly the former, since what people value tells us so much about them and the idiosyncracies of individual top ten lists as well as occassional consensus across them are are especially beautiful if you love the magic that happens between any artform and its audience.

That said they'll make you crazy as often as they delight you. After the jump three early top ten lists worth discussing...

The infamous film director's annual top ten for Artforum magazine is one of the most eccentric highlights of December each year. It's the only list that I can safely guarantee each and every time will have at least two movies I've never heard of on it. As you may have guess that's hard to do given how movie-centric my life is. His write-ups are always a joy so I've excerpted two of the ten below but you can read the whole thing here

American Animals

10. Permanent Green Light (Dennis Cooper & Zac Farley)
9. Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 (John Ridley) 
8. Sollers Point (Matthew Porterfield)
7. Custody (Xavier LeGrand)

Divorce, jealousy, misogyny, and physical abuse, topped off with psychological damage to children: This feel-bad movie of the year is so beautifully acted that it made me feel happy, happy, happy!

6. The Green Fog (Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson)
5. Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada) 
4. Mom & Dad (Brian Taylor)
3. Nico, 1988 (Susanna Nicchiarelli)
2. American Animals (Bart Layton)
1. Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont) 

An insanely radical heavy-metal grade-school religious pageant that is sung in French from beginning to end. The actors themselves seem like they might burst out laughing, but this is no joke. It’s the best movie of the year. You’ll hate it.

A wonderful wonderful critic who always has a way with words. But the actual message of those words sometimes has me shaking my head. I mean Bohemian Rhapsody in a list of 10 best? I feel ill even though her defense is relatably written. Two excerpts below and you can read the whole article here.

10. Paddington 2
09. Bohemian Rhapsody

It took forever for the thing to get made. Its director was fired during filming. (He had previously also been accused of sexual assault, which he denied.) Then the bad reviews poured in, focusing on the movie’s wooden dialogue and paint-by-­numbers storytelling. But Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek as Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, has a luxuriant, potent energy that movies of “higher quality” rarely pull off. It may be a bit of a mess, but it’s a glorious one, a polychrome anthem about what it means to live for love and sex, rock ’n’ roll and beauty—the very opposite of sticking to an agenda.

08. If Beale Street Could Talk
07. A Star is Born
06. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
05. The Favourite
04. Eighth Grade
03. First Reformed
02. Won't You Be My Neighbor
01. Roma 

This is a deeply personal film for Cuarón, but its embrace is universal: in telling his own story, he gets us thinking about the latticework of people who made each of us what we are. Roma is an ode to the power of memory, as intimate as a whisper and as vital as the roar of the sea.


He's a favorite primarily because he's totally idiosyncratic and also great at twitter. I rarely agree with his rankings (I think we'll only share two top ten entries) but whether or not you agree with a critic can be one of the least interesting things about following them. Plus he makes such wonderful videos that we are compelled to share them every year. 

THE 25 BEST FILMS OF 2018: A VIDEO COUNTDOWN from david ehrlich on Vimeo.



The nuttiest juxtaposition in that delicious video ranking above is #8 and #7, If Beale Street Could Talk and Mission: Impossible - Fallout; the former couldn't be any more languorous in its pacing (its virtually art film parodic in this regard, which is one of the reasons I can't get into it) and the latter couldn't be any more try-hard aggressive about its kineticism (which is one of the reasons I don't love it quite as much as other critics since I think the comparatively effortless Ghost Protocol is more exciting).

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Reader Comments (19)

I like Stephanie Zacharech but yeah, sometimes her taste baffles me - never more so than the time she wrote a piece for Salon about how & why Sandra Bullock totally deserved her Oscar nod for her performance in The Blind Side - ugh.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I feel ill, too, about the Bohemian Rhapsody nonsense. Homophobic undercurrents (I'm being generous) will never be cute.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDavid S.

God bless John Waters and David Ehrlich for their idiosyncratic tastes. I'm sure Stephanie Zacharech is a wonderful critic but that top 10 looks like the top 10 of someone who crams in only the Oscar nominated films AFTER the nominations, sees nothing else all year, and calls it their top 10.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvangelina

Have about 10 more to see before I can put a list together. Damn the current standard of so many films getting seen by top critics/industry before everyone else.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTr

Let's face it, Stephanie Zacharech is basic.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStan M.

I look forward to David Ehrlich's video every year - thank you so much for introducing them to me! I agree his choices are all over the map, but the talent and artistry of his montages are stellar.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

Totally agree with your M:I opinion. Ghost Protocol >> Fall Out and Rogue Nation.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIván

I like Stephanie but her No 1 last year was The Post. Oh dear.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I'm so happy that Waters has included Nico, 1988. Trine Dyrholm is fantastic in it. She should have nominated for the European Film Award.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

JJ's MI is still the best.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTr

Trine Dyrholm is good in everything. Looking forward to seeing this one.

Ehrlich's video is the highlight of each awards season. Plus, ever since Cinema Paradiso, I adore movie montages any way you splice them....

Paddington 2 is his number 2? Love it!

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Christmas came early for me since it's the first time in years I have not seen any of John Waters Top 10 of the year. 8 can watched at home (digital rental or streaming), 1 is in theaters, and 1 is not available in the US yet at all.

December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Is Stephanie a member of the BFCA, or just a role model?

December 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHmm

feel regret I did not know this before I read your article thank

December 4, 2018 | Unregistered Commentertik tok video

Gotta give it to John Waters for singling out films that exist in the peripheries. In my ideal world, most of the films he mentioned here should be seen by many as they offer alternative takes of ugly lives, dirtied relationships, aversion for the clear-cut and the spelled-out, and storylines that alternately confound, confuse, enlighten, alienate, beguile and engage the filmgoer with a patience for unattractive and nonlinear ways of framing a cinematic story.

I have seen only half in his list but kudos for spotlighting Permanent Green Light, Sollers Point, The Green Fog, American Animals and the totally and sublimely bonkers Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc. There are elements of Jodorowsky, Dvortsevoy and Reygadas in the proceedings too -- quite a heady mix but it comes together if one surrenders to the film language created/invented by Dumont here.

And Green Fog from Harvard professor Guy Maddin is spellbinding and thoughtful and can jar in equal measures. A film about films about San Francisco. For Sollers Point, I am right away in the landscape of Ballast, Wendy & Lucy by way of Frozen River. Americana that is rarely seen.

December 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

Well done Stephanie!

December 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Kelly

I didn't like Bohemian Rhapsody that much, but I love that Zacharech picked it. I appreciate when film critics go out on a limb for critically unpopular films that they love. I generally enjoy that a lot more than the zillionth article where someone is trying to argue that a beloved film is really a piece of crap.

December 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

Damn, David's mini film montage is brillant!

December 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

I've always enjoyed Stephanie Zacharech's reviews, and I applaud off beat choices. Good for her, and she does have Roma as her number 1, with Paddington 2 as 10. I might disagree with the rankings but those choices are an intriguing and entertaining lot.

David Erhlich can be a pretentious ass sometimes, but he does have Paddington 2 up high in his list, and his videos are fun to watch.
Critics should challenge and above all not be bland.

December 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

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