One of the great disadvantages of plying an amateur film critic trade is that the bevy of opportunities to see the best cinematic offerings of any given year–the major film festivals, the pile-up of fourth quarter press screenings designed to dazzle just in time for various associations’ awards–are denied me, a situation further compounded by living in the hinterlands, well away from the qualifying runs of films in the big cities. So when the critical community is rising up to breathlessly proclaim a movie year to be especially good, the sentiment can seem a little off to me. Sure, I might think, it’ll be a a great year for movies if this last rush of titles lives up to the hype.
A lot of them lived up to the hype.
And it wasn’t just those last-page-of-the-calendar films that provided such pleasures. Those films from earlier in the year that cropped up on all the cooler ten best lists have proved to be just as revelatory. As I type this, the last three films I’ve seen have all been fantastic, and all of them have a home in the top ten I’m about to start tracking through, one by one. Oscar nomination announcement day serves as the impetus for me to offer this metaphorical throat-clearing before beginning the process in earnest on Monday, and the awards themselves serve a my target for completion. If the Academy can want until March to get around to naming their best movie of the year, then so can I.
And it was a good year, although not necessarily in terms of the quantity of films I want to offer year-end raves about. I feel no heartbreak over the titles I omit, no pangs of regret over what lands at eleven or twelve on my list. What is different, however, is how strongly I feel about those films that I put at the top. In particular, I’ve been rearranging my top three for days, hoping that some combination with conjure up certainty within me, just by the look of it. The three films I loved the most this year all provide such distinctive rushes of elation and gratitude when I think of them that I’m tempted to call it a three-way at the top and be done with it. But that’s not the way I play this game. I think I’ve settled on my final list now, but I still may tweak it as I go. That’s a rule bend that falls within acceptable territory. Like you, I guess, I’m not exactly sure then what number one will be. We’ll start the process of finding out together on Monday. I am positive about number ten. I swear.