The Tens: Best Of Film 2016

jackie-natalie-portman-white-house-tv-camerasAnother year, another awards season.

But this was no ordinary year.

Where to begin, when we speak of 2016? Most years, I just pick my favorite films, and that’s it. But this year, it felt important to really think about these choices, and what they expressed about my feelings this year. That’s not to say I picked a bunch of films I didn’t like as much just because they were “important.” Not at all. But I also know that when I look back at what cinema offered in 2016 many years from now — provided we’re still all in one piece by then — I do want it to reflect the turmoil, the despair, and the utter, unspeakable horrors inflicted upon so many of us over the course of the last year.

So, uhh, no. La La Land will not be my pick for Movie of the Year.

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The Tens: Best Of Film 2002

julianne-moore-bathing-suit-far-from-heavenHere it is, straight from the mouth of a film student.

(Sort of.)

I made this Top 10 list relatively early in awards season, before I’d seen a number of films that factored into the race that year — including The Hours, 8 Mile, Secretary, Frida, Talk To Her, and The Pianist, some of which came away with major wins (Best Actress and Best Actor included).

Reconsidering this list in 2015, I wouldn’t change a whole lot. There are a couple films I like better now than I did back then — like Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, which didn’t quite do it for me the first time around. Others, like Talk To Her, Secretary, and 8 Mile, I know I did like quite a bit when I saw them, but now it’s been so long that I’d need to see them again to know if they’d find their way onto my list.

And, full disclosure: I did make one change to this list from back in 2002, adding a film I saw shortly after making this list that has since become one of my favorites of the year. It seemed a shame to leave it off, considering that it was one of my favorites both back then and still now.

Which film did I add, and which one got kicked off to make room for it? I’ll never tell…

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The Tens: Best Of Film 2003

cold-mountain-nicole-kidman(A Then & Now perspective.)

The further back I go in time, the less secure I am in my Top Ten choices. That’s largely because I haven’t seen all these movies again since, and I have no idea how, say, House Of Sand And Fog measures up to The Last Samurai.

On the other hand, there are a few of these films I know very well, which always makes me feel they belong higher on the list. On some level, isn’t the movie I’ve watched the most times probably my favorite?

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The Tens: Best Of Film 2004

natalie-portman-thong-bra-ass-strip-club-clive-owen-closer(A “Then & Now” perspective.)

Like my 2005 list, this Top Ten comes at you twenty strong, because that’s how I wrote it back in the day on my LiveJournal. And like last time, I’ll be adding my commentary about how the movies have held up 11 years later, because tastes change. Some of these movies have aged well in my mind, and others? Not so much.

I don’t think of 2004 as a particularly strong cinematic year in the abstract, mostly because the movies that dominated the Oscars fell, in my mind, in “good, but not great” territory. (They’re in my Top 20 here, but mostly not in the Top Ten.) A Clint Eastwood movie cleaned up in Best Picture, Best Director, and two of the acting categories, and three biopics of varying quality also made stronger showings than they probably deserved. (Those would be the biopics of Ray Charles, Howard Hughes, and J.M. Barrie.) Even the year’s critical darling, Sideways — which did manage to come away with several nominations, including Best Picture — felt too uneven for me to wholeheartedly embrace, despite some lovely moments. (More on that later.)

However, now that I’m looking at 2004 again, I realize how many incredibly strong films came out that year, several of which I’d count amongst my favorites. They just weren’t incredibly well-represented at the Oscars.

So here it is. Let’s revisit 2004.

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The Tens: Best Of Film 2007

My Top 10 for the year 2007 comes to you from the midst of the WGA Writer’s Strike of 2007-2008, when there was some doubt about whether or not a typical Oscar telecast would even be possible without those striking scribes.

That would have been quite a shame, since 2007 is one of the very best (if not the best) cinematic years of the new millennium thus far. In almost any other year that decade, my #3 choice would probably have been my #1 choice.

Of course, the Oscars did happen, with major wins for Marion Cotillard, Diablo Cody, and the Coen Brothers, amongst others. But it’s interesting, and a little depressing, to imagine an alternate reality where we never saw a bunch of very deserving actors and filmmakers take home the gold for a job well done.

(A briefer version of this Top Ten list was first published in my “Confessions of a Dangerous Film Student” column in INsite Boston in early 2008.)

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