Last month The L's senior film writers, myself included, unveiled their year-end Top 10 lists; now, in an attempt to define, beyond our (sometimes profoundly) individual tastes, the sensibility of the L's film section—which, despite the somewhat chance-filled way in which our roster of critics has been assembled, seems now to exist—we present our second annual poll of our regular contributors.
There are far too many year-in-review film polls, but The L's poll is, at least, one of the last to finish voting. Final ballots for the Village Voice/LA Weekly poll were due on Thursday, December 9th, as were Film Comment's; indiewire's deadline was the 17th and ours was the Monday subsequent. I submit that this makes our poll more rather than less valuable: voters have more time to see stuff. This is valuable not so much for the sake of the late December awards-bait titles everyone is so eager to fit in under the wire—Paramount had a special screening of True Gritin the first week of December just for Village Voice Media voters—than for catch-up. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, screeners of, to name just two, Daddy Longlegs (#15) and Our Beloved Month of August (#9) changed hands multiple times; ample opportunity to look backwards at the preceding eleven months, at least as much as forward to the next four weeks, seems a necessity for even the most devoted practitioner of this increasingly part-time profession. The aforementioned Our Beloved Month of August placed in our Top 10 despite playing for just a single week at Anthology Film Archives.
More esoteric results are also probably a function of a smaller voting pool: though there's considerable overlap with the VVM and indiewire bodies, our dozen-and-a-half voters—who have regular bylines at the L in common with one another, and sometimes not much else—managed, like the voters at Slant's and Reverse Shot's similarly internal polls, to avoid marching lockstep with 2010's critical consensus. (At #25 on our list is an undistributed film that screened in NYC just enough times to receive two first-place votes from L contributors. Another, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaucescu, just missed getting written up.)
Our results speak to a rather variable year for film culture: big-name and breakthrough foreign films, released this year after gaining strong advance word on the 2009 festival circuit, make as strong a showing as 2008's festival hits did in the L's first annual film poll in 2009, while fewer English-language auteurs produced career-quality works. Indie hits were more sparse than divisive, and glib recapumentaries of hot-button political topics get more ink in their release week than when film history is written (our nonfiction-film picks better represent the genre's virtues, in this year featuring new work from and a major retrospective on Frederick Wiseman ). It was a better year for blockbusters than our top 25 indicates—our hive mind didn't seem to settle on any single one to champion, though The Town, Unstoppable and Inception all had their backers, and Predators is awesome.
On to the results. Films of any year which had their premiere NYC theatrical run were eligible, as were films which had their NYC premiere and were undistributed as of the voting deadline. Capsules authored by the voter indicated. Mark Asch