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The Reeler Blog

Today in Top 10s: Armond Goes to War

I wouldn't have imagined (nor necessarily fancied) myself a philosophical ally of Armond White on virtually any front, but I am over the moon about his contribution to dismantling the corrupt culture of Top 10 lists. Here he is (via The House Next Door) introducing his "Better-Than" List at the New York Press:

Don't be fooled by the "10 Best Films" lists from critics who never even saw the year's most interesting films. They're merely corroborating the promotional campaigns of the most highly publicized movies and failing to seek out the best. This year more than ever, it's necessary to separate genuine achievement from pure hype, thus my alternative: "The Better-Than List."

Though it seems to relish backhanding the cool kids as much as praising the smart ones, White's list is indeed a must-read corrective to his colleagues' orgiastic year-end back-patting. And as I've been so vocally critical of his work in the past, I'm here to assign credit where credit is due (as if he cares): Armond, I've never been prouder.

Still, I can't wait to see where Armond Dangerous takes this one.

Posted at January 4, 2007 1:10 PM

Comments (5)

They're merely corroborating the promotional campaigns of the most highly publicized movies and failing to seek out the best.

That's right Armond. You couldn't walk ten feet in New York City or watch five minutes of television without being bombarded by the multi-million dollar ad campaign for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.

I fail to see how the mere inclusion of garbage like The Promise or Nacho Libre equates to being a corrective.

For fuck's sake Stu, the man says that "those who saw it [World Trade Center] were healed". If that isn't qualifying material for the #1 spot on your top ten of top tens, then I don't know what is. It far exceeds the hyperbole of a Lumenick or Travers.

Who needs a camera phone photo of your butt when you've got a pic of good ol' A.W....

Yeah, this list is ridiculous, and I typically like White's overdone attempt to be the outsider critic. I agree with the intention, but some of his alternative picks are pretty mediocre if not terrible. The whole thing ultimately reeks of the same deseperation that seems to fuel most top tens.

Guys, guys, guys... Relax. It's a joke. Mostly.

I agree with you about World Trade Center, but taking issue with Armond's taste is a lost cause. It's important, however, not to confuse being contrarian with being disingenuous; I think the Better-Than List is a great idea on the basis of critic/distributor give/take that absolutely exists. I mean, everything about Top 10s and critics' awards is about how the critical tribes get together and determine the 15 or 20 stock titles that won't compromise their moral authority. There are five categories:

--The Well-Promoted Studio Films It's OK to Like (Letters From Iwo Jima, The Departed, Borat, United 93)

--The Under-Promoted Studio Films We Need to Like (Children of Men, Little Children)

--The Well-Promoted, Upstart Indies That Don't Make us Feel Beholden to Studio Films (These are key: Half Nelson, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen, A Prairie Home Companion, Pan's Labyrinth)

--The Under-Promoted Indies and Foreign Films That Don't Make Us Feel Beholden to Well-Promoted, Upstart Indies (Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Army of Shadows, Inland Empire)

--Wild Card/Pissing Contest Tiebreaker (Volver, L'Enfant, Babel)

And I like a lot of these titles. Still, because it yields the potential to compensate for complacent critics, I also like the Better-Than List -- in principal. If only Armond weren't so complacent being, you know, Armond.

How could you have not included SWAP by Sam Moffie?

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