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Top Ten Greatest of Ever and All-Time

By Chris Colcord

Fort Wayne Reader

2013-12-19


There was a moment after I watched Joss Whedon's charming Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing when I actually embarrassed myself by saying, out loud, in my apartment, for all to hear: "That's the Best Movie of the Year!"

Now, there was absolutely nobody around, mind you, no audience to hear my grand pronouncement, yet there I was, doing the year-end thing, trying to sum up what I had just watched and shoehorn it into some sort of hypothetical context. I couldn't just watch and appreciate the movie for its own sake, I had to make sure I knew where it ranked sequentially in my mind's catalog, just in case somebody was going to break into my apartment and demand a Top Ten Movie list from me at gunpoint.

There are so many ridiculous aspects to this that it's kind of hard to know where to begin, but I should probably mention, from the top, the most absurd: I've only seen 4 movies all year. Yep. Four. Me calling Much Ado the "Best Movie of the Year" is not exactly the most credible proclamation that one might hear. If I was given a blurb in one of those hyperactive movie ads you see in newspapers instead of "Best Movie of the Year!--Chris Colcord" the more accurate quote would be "The Only Movie I've Seen This Year!--Chris Colcord."

That I don't see many movies anymore doesn't really kill me, by the way though I used to be a relatively enthusiastic and loyal cinema devotee, I'm at the age where I feel okay if I don't keep up with every art-house sensation or mad genius director. I've become increasingly selective about movies now and I don't even feel comfortable letting movies be time-killers for me, the way I used to; I can no longer play a video in the background and half-heartedly pay attention to it while I'm doing something housebound. Feels too wasteful to me now.

But back on point here, what is it about this obsession with Top 10 lists, anyway? What's this hypnotic compulsion to cram every single work of art into some tidy year-end guide? We're deep in Top 10 season now, as virtually every publication or website compiles their "best of" and "worst of" for the year, and it's a depressing sight to behold. Whenever I see a Top 10 movie list for 2013, I get a feeling of existentialistic dread; I think, there were over 300 movies released to American theaters last year. If the critic has any integrity at all, it means he will have had to see a majority of them, which means screenings of Grown-Ups 2 and Man of Steel and three separate Tyler Perry movies. Which sounds like a death sentence to me, or a gulag, or some sort of perverse, diabolical curse that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

It's even more depressing when it comes to music, especially when you find a website that lists the "hundred" best albums of the year. There were a hundred good albums released last year?!? Sometimes you'll discover a site with one lone critic listing the "100 Greatest" for the year and you can't help but think, Jesus, dude--you simply have got to get out of the house a little more. If he distills his list to a hundred it means he probably had to listen to a couple hundred more, and you have to wonder when he had time to eat or drink or hell, breathe? It takes a lot of time to digest a well-thought out album, and there simply isn't enough hours in the day for all that.

And look, I get how important and all-encompassing music can be, I've had long stretches where listening to an endless loop of Replacements or Roxy Music songs was more essential to me than anything, but come on there's a difference between loving music and letting it wash over you and being an obsessive completist who has to stay on top of every little obscure punk/shoegaze combo coming out of Saskatchewan and Thailand.

And I'm not sure just how helpful Top 10 lists are to the uninitiated in the first place; it's sort of astonishing to me how so many lists favor the exact same movies and albums, year after year. I think there's no question that American film critics (and music critics, to a lesser extent) are pack animals of the lowest order who only favor what's sort of been "approved" by a handful of the most influential critics. There's scarcely a contrary voice to be found. This point was driven home this summer by the critical reaction to two movies (that I happened to see, surprisingly: 2 of the 4), World War Z and Pacific Rim. The party line on World War Z for critics was in place even before the film hit theaters, for the buzz was bad: troubled shoot, massively over budget, shot alternate ending, scored poorly in previews, etc. Not surprisingly, when the film opened, though a few critics liked it, most thought it was incoherent, clunky, a huge mess. Which is just completely wrong. World War Z is a terrifically unnerving movie with a couple of spectacular action set pieces (the "ant attack" on the Wall in Jerusalem, the plane siege). It's like the critics refused to actually look at what was on the screen and were instead relying on the critical narrative that had already been formed.

Similarly, the big, dumb, humorless Pacific Rim was given a free pass from virtually every major critic, though it's as clunky and brain-dead as any Transformers movie. The general consensus that director Guillermo del Toro is a "visionary" and that he was "having fun with the genre" meant that the film was almost completely bulletproof to any criticism; critics seem to wink at the junky noise and terrible lines because this is a fun bit of slumming from a "genius" director. Yet if Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich tried to pass off the same product, they would have been crucified for it.

But anyway, enough of all that, you want The LIST. So here it is, my definitive, iron-clad, Top 4 list of the single greatest movies released to American audiences in the year of our Lord, 2013:

4) "Pacific Rim." Remember, I've only seen 4 movies. Hated it. 3) "The East." Cool, timely eco-conspiracy thriller. And man, is Patricia Clarkson in everything? 2) "World War Z." Brad Pitt looks cool even when chopping off the hand of a soldier. 1) "Much Ado About Nothing." Black and white, modern dress Shakespeare with good actors. I was shocked how nice it was to hear Shakespeare in a film, without having to watch the actors shout and enunciate and spit everywhere while they shake the rafters. Five stars.

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