Believe it or not, there are five critics whose year-end Top 10 lists are even more mystifying, patience-testing and all-around terrible than those five awarded here yesterday. And the Listys go to...
Like his Top 10 Top 10 classmate Michael Wilmington before him, Tapley's taste for esoterica is less egregious than his inability to keep his meals down. Take for starters this blurb-spray spattering The Incredible Hulk with a monolithic, almost steroidal grandeur:
Louis Leterrier’s re-boot of the mean, green machine was one of the biggest, most exhausting (in all the good ways) film-going experiences of the year. But despite consciously pushing the action peddle to the metal in this effort, and therefore breeding suspicion that the filmmakers might overdo it, each set piece is more dazzling than the last. The film holds the second turtledove of a young studio’s seizure of what promises to be one of the greatest cinematic roll outs the comic subgenre has seen.
"Second turtledove"? Are there three French hens forthcoming? Tapley is even less convincing about his list's number-one film, Slumdog Millionaire, which he acknowledges likely wouldn't have "secured this brand of classification" in a year as competitive as 2007. Or: If it weren't for lists, we'd have no way of knowing that There Will Be Blood is better than Slumdog. Or The Incredible Hulk for that matter. Well! We're glad that's cleared up.
While we're damning with faint praise, it's probably unfair of us to include MTV News video editor DeShano's year-end list; he's not a critic, but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when some egg-nog addled Web overlord blasted his Top 10 solicitation to the entire staff instead of just the folks in Movies. But whether we attribute what followed to drunkenness or democracy, it's a spectacular example of why this tradition should be entrusted to more civilians in 2009. Never mind the trenchant accolades for Milk ("It’s interesting to see how a movie made about the late ’70s is still so relevant and poignant today") and Changeling ("Reminded me a little of Frailty, but that’s a good thing") — it's the MTV team spirit for No. 4 Twilight that puts DeShano over the top:
I remember a movie back in 1989 that got fans really excited. Long lines of people dressed like the characters. Everyone was excited about its particular genre again. That was Tim Burton’s Batman. What a glorious day that was. This movie is that for the younger, female generation. What’s better is that it isn’t necessarily some sappy love story. There’s action and vampires and, yeah, a love interest, but there are also subplots and interwoven texture, which are rare to the vampire genre. I actually liked this film a lot and love that it became a big hit, despite all odds. Good job, Twilight folks. I look forward to the sequel.
So do we, if only to get this guy back on the listmaking beat. Only 11 months to go.
Sragow's generally unqualified endorsement of the awful American Teen tests our tolerance for list contrarianism, but he steps even more forcefully on the fine line distinguishing unorthodoxy from a sideshow of look-at-me-I-liked-What Just Happened stunt criticism. It's the second-worst instinct of the Top 10er (we'll get to the worst), crystallized here with Flash of Genius commendations like, "[N]o actor had a better 2008 than Greg Kinnear, who was a deft light comedian in Ghost Town and delivered an inspired characterization of a wary obsessive here."
We could agree and demand that Mickey Rourke, Frank Langella and Philip Seymour Hoffman apologize for any shadows their towering, even more warily obsessive characterizations threw over Kinnear. Or we could just issue the conviction that critical crimes like these deserve, sentence Sragow to a year of Superlatives Anonymous meetings and check back in '09.
Addict counseling isn't enough for Schwarzbaum, a bona fide Top 10 brutalizer who never experienced a year she couldn't blow to hell with her Molotov cocktail of hive-mind elitism alit with white-hot hype. When she's not condescending to readers with eye-rolling Dark Knight fangirlishness...
Watched again with the passage of time and the changing, too, of the American political landscape, Christopher Nolan's triumph of comic-book relevance, starring Christian Bale as a superhero uneasy with his calling in a city anesthetized to matter-of-fact evil, takes on new and even more poignant shadings of relevance.
Years from now — yea, unto eternity — all who love movies will rank WALL-E among the medium's most profound, subtle, sophisticated, and gorgeously inventive specimens, ever. Never before have robots, Twinkies, a cockroach, and a lone, tenacious plant seedling intertwined so elegantly to tell a story of endurance, optimism, love at first sight, courtship, ecological destruction, postapocalyptic redemption, and... well, eternity.
So — you're big on eternity, Lisa? Then here's a tip: There are not 72 virgins waiting for you in the critical-terrorist afterlife. Cease fire, for God's sake.
Friedman earned his second Listy championship with an unusual flair of imagination: Compiling the Worst 10 Films of 2008. Inspired! But however he decides to send the year off, his signature style of misspellings ("Just because Manola [sic] Dargis put [Synecdoche, New York] on her best of the year list, I had to make sure that sin-eck-doh-key was put in its proper place. ... Keener says she speaks Kaufman’s language. Well, they still need a translater. [sic]"), wild inaccuracies ("[Steven Soderbergh's] landmark 1989 film, sex lies and videotape literally created the indie film world") and vendetta-airing against Scientologists and the legacy-tarnishers of Soul Men withers against the genius that is eviscerating Valkyrie — which Friedman hadn't even seen:
But the reviews so far bear out my original assessment from the first trailer: Tom Cruise plays Jerry Maguire trying to kill Hitler in this ruined account of the 1944 attempt on the Fuhrer’s life. [...] I’ve joked about a tag line for the ad: “You had me at achtung.” But it seems on target. Cruise seemed to understand his predicament by taking a cameo in Tropic Thunder. But all that good will may be wiped out by this peculiar, misguided endeavor.
Slow. Clap. For Mr. Friedman, whose continued bar-lowering is no doubt appreciated by this year's runners-up. May all their examples reflect the symptoms of our deadly list-plague, and may their recovery — and yours — be swift in 2009. In the meantime, does anyone want to deliver an acceptance speech?