Top 10 season is upon us

Posted by · 5:32 pm · December 6th, 2011

The crowded carousel of critics’ awards and industry precursors makes up just one half of the year-end accolades: I find it just as interesting to monitor the flood of individual critics’ (and others’) Top 10 lists, where films far outside the Oscar race can pop up with refreshing frequency. One-man lists have for more capacity to surprise, delight and sometimes infuriate than middle-skewing collectives.

Today, for example, I’ve enjoyed wallowing in the full results of Sight & Sound’s critics’ poll, the overall Top 10 of which I posted last week. It was a fine list, but the individual top-five lists of the 101 critics surveyed inevitably paint a far broader picture of the year in film. My own contribution is here: as if to illustrate what a generous cinematic year it’s been, not one of my five choices made the magazine’s final list. (Incidentally, my top five is already out of date, having been submitted in early November; expect some shifting when I post my formal Top 10 later this month.)

Meanwhile, far loftier voices than mine have weighed in over the last few days — none more esteemed than the wily French critics of Cahiers du Cinema, whose annual Top 10 can generally be relied upon to baffle even the most perverse of taste-makers. This year’s list is no exception. I can’t say I’ve met a single critic who’s crazy about Nanni Moretti’s aggressively middle-of-the-road Vatican comedy “We Have a Pope,” which was met with a collective shrug at Cannes in May (my review here), yet there it is in the #1 position. Perhaps the English-speaking crowd missed something.

The Cahiers list always singles out at least one Hollywood popcorner, so it’s no surprise to see “Super 8” in the Top 10 (tied with “House of Tolerance” and “Meek’s Cutoff,” no less), though given their usual Spielberg crush, one might have expected “The Adventures of Tintin” to make the cut instead.

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw goes the whole hog with performance, direction and screenplay selections as well, though his Top 10 films are slightly more conservative than his picks in those categories: like many of his peers, he’s fully on board the train for “The Artist,” which is both his top film and directorial achievement of the year. His runner-up, meanwhile, is a topical choice: Team “Margaret” has another member here.

Finally, it’s unlikely most critics will come up with a list quite as diverse or eccentric as the Top 10 of off-the-wall filmmaker John Waters. If it seems to follow form that he’d love Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In” (his #1 pick) and Gregg Araki’s “Kaboom” — sleeker and hornier versions, respectively, of freaky material Waters could plausibly have taken on in his outrageous prime — his enthusiasm for the ;ast two Palme d’Or winners isn’t quite as obvious.

You also have to love a list that contains three documentaries: one of them the Oscar-shortlisted environmentalist study “If a Tree Falls,” and one of them, well, the Justin Bieber concert movie. Compared to that, the juxtaposition of “Incendies” and “Paul” in Armond White’s top five for Sight & Sound looks positively pedestrian.

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.

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