Thursday, December 30, 2010

Making The Definitive List

Ah, the end of another year of cinema. The time when many of us cozy up to the fireplace, grab a hot cup o' jo, and begin the arduous task of compiling our favorites of the year. We scouring forums, previous reviews, viewing lists, other people's tops, and try to decide what best works for us. Like a chess master we manipulate the names along our text editor strategically analyzing the best positioning. Does this belong above that? Should I move this up two places and over to the right? In all honesty, any proper best of list requires work.

Yet, there are so many things that must be taken into account we can at times forget that there's more to the list than just movies! For example timing: When should I post my list? Pre-New Years, Around the Oscars, or whenever the hell I please? So, as per my usual custom, I've come up with a handy guide to help you make your analysis of the films of 2010 as good as it can possibly be.

Main Considerations:

Acceptance - That's right ladies and gentlemen, the first step in any great list is acceptance. You must accept that no matter how hard you tried you weren't able to see every 'great' movie of the year. As well, you must be willing to accept that your opinion will change over time. Your number one movie now may struggle to make your top ten a few years from now. Opinions change as we change, all you can do is the best with what you know when you make the list.

Rules of the Year - You might not think of this from the get-go but I notice a lot of inconsistencies with blogs and professional websites in how they determine the 'year' of a film. You need to decide before you start what qualifies for the year of a movie. The three main times are the year it was first shown to festivals, the year it was released in its home country, and the year it was released in your country. Now IMDB bases it off the first two, but most bloggers and critics, I read, utilize the third. It's not the most important, but knowing which one you're going to use helps keep your lists fluent and without overlap in the coming years.

Pick your Style - This may seem a bit obvious, but you would be surprised. The very first thing you should do is determine what kind of list you're making. Despite what many may argue, most of us (at least subconsciously) differentiate 'Best' and 'Favorite.' For example, you may have given The A-Team the same score as King's Speech and True Grit (*cough cough* Mad), but do you consider it to be a film of equal value? These decisions must be thought through in great detail if you wish for your list to be understood and well received.

Explain Thyself! - Whether you link to your previous reviews or insert a couple of comments, be sure you can back up why you put films where you put them. If your torn on two films put them in a tie and just explain your love for each of them (but please, if you're going to do a tie it doesn't mean you get to 'add' more films to your list - two movies = two movies!!! - sorry, pet peeve). Also, describe what you love (or hate) about them. Saying how you feel about them will bring people in to your world and explain why you did the things you did - giving credence to your list.

Be Yourself - Please, please, please don't include a film on your list JUST because it's on other people's list. If you don't want it there, damn them all. It's your list, do what you want with it. Lots of bloggers will try and bend their opinion to squeeze in a film or two in the 10 spot just because other people like it. However, by doing that you're invalidating your own opinion. Stick to what you know and love. As long as you do that, no matter what criticism comes your way, you're just fine.

To be honest, the rest of the decisions you need to make are arbitrary, just go with what you feel is right and let the rest flow.

So, what are the top things you consider when making a list? Do you feel I left out something vital/crucial?

11 better thoughts:

Fletch said...

Haha - nice dig at Hatter. That was just uncalled for! ;)

Still trying to get past Acceptance. Say it ain't so!

The year thing is a good point. I find it simpler to just go by what IMDb says and treat them as gospel.

amy said...

For rules of the year, I go by IMDb... so whatever IMDb lists in (year), I'll use, so I try to watch as many (year) films I can.

And okay... acceptance. Must accept I'm not going to be able to watch 127 Hours, Confessions, True Grit, etc xD

Anonymous said...

Good suggestions Uni. I usually go with 'Favorite' for a lot of my list because it's really a matter of personal taste. Especially on things like posters or trailers I just put together, what you think is good might be crap to others. But for movies though, I think I can say Best and Worst and distinguish my affinity for it with the actual quality for that film.

thevoid99 said...

For me with year-end films list. I often go by when the film was released internationally or via festival premiere.

There's still some films from 2010 I'm waiting to see like True Grit, Somewhere, The Way Back, Blue Valentine, and Another Year. Then I go for the films that I didn't get to see in the theater that I've heard so much about. I usually tend to finish these lists by the spring of the new year.

I kind of consider myself a perfectionist when it comes to these things.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent checklist!
Any best or worst list boils down to one thing - that person's opinion.
I intend to do a best & worst post sometime in the next week, and believe me, public opinion will not sway my opinion. (And I might go with disappointing rather than worst. That list will still shock a few people though.)

Univarn said...

@Fletch I'm doing it for his own good.

@amy Some people do, but most professionals I find seem to use USA release date. For example: Hurt Locker was shown in festivals in 2008 so IMDB lists it as a 2008 movie, but it's commonly associated with 2009 - theatrical release date.

@flixchatter I think that's the best approach. Sometimes you gotta weigh enjoyment against importance

@thevoid99 I understand that point of view and I think there's some merits too it. The real advantage you'd have with going in spring is that there aren't an incessant number of those posts rolling around (therefore limited overkill).

@AlexJ I know lots of people go with disappointing but I try to avoid that as best I can. Something about disappointing I find neglects the movies that I really found downright awful.

Lyz said...

I usually go back to my reviews of the film and see how my opinion of them has changed. Some get better, others get worse, and some stay the same. The ones that get better I see are higher up in my top ten that tose that stay the same. A film that can grow on you is what I call a top film.

Ryan McNeil said...

Totally stand by my 3.5/4 review of THE A-TEAM (See Fletch - I do to like the fun stuff), but it won't be factoring into my year-end list. Hell, if I wanted to, I could make a top ten list of 3.5 movies as I've given out that score almost twenty times!

Cannot agree more with "acceptance". At some point you have to just 'draw a line', otherwise you won't hand over these lists until May. In a small way, it was one of the most interesting part of my Decade series last year...hindsight, and the added time to see more titles. Ultimately though, there was only a bit of movement.

As for what qualifies, I try to balance what played my market with what qualified for awards. Take A SINGLE MAN for instance. I saw it in 2010 when it opened in Toronto in mid-January...but it was a 2009 release and eligible for 2009 awards, so it's out.

In some ways it sucks because certain films just linger in the ether (THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES), but whatchagonna do.

As for the rankings, for me it's easy - I go with the best. There might be films I found a lot of fun (EASY A & SCOTT PILGRIM for instance), but the ones that will stick with me over time...the ones I keep coming back to and ultimately describe as "great films" are the ones I would vote for if I were handed an Oscar ballot for Best Picture.

Castor said...

Nice handy post since I will work on my top 10 (or Top 20 coz we give more to our readers than all of you people ahah ;) ) Now, I haven't been able to work on anything this past week with the draft consuming so much of my time but look for it sometime next week!

Univarn said...

@Lyz I agree with that 100%. Lots of movies I've seen I love in the moment, but over time they either rub me the wrong way or I notice something that I didn't catch the first time.

@Mad It's OK, we understand. Just be good to those kind people in the white Hearst that are coming by later. I know it may look like a straight jacket, but it's not *cough*

@Castor I'm holding off on my top 10 a little bit this year and plan to do some buildup posts instead.

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