Is it weird that I love 10 Best lists? Maybe not, because when critics are forced into a 10 Best list they actually tell you what they like, no bullshit, no weasel words. In my limited experience it feels like a crushing burden when you are being forced by your editor to do it, but then people actually read your list, unlike that “endless” 500-word article.
The New Yorker has a rather expansive round-up of lists online. I particularly like Judith Thurman’s memorable fashion statements of 2009 (no Gaga, yes Queen Elizabeth); that Paul Goldberger gives top honors to the High Line; and realized Nancy Franklin may be my new favorite critic at the magazine, even if I don’t like much on TV.
I also agree with a rather impassioned first commenter about Anthony Lane’s list (and I love, love Anthony Lane and could have recommended his book for Design Observer’s list, now receiving strangely paranoid comments):
Mr. Lane, I want you to do something. I hope you will take what follows very seriously, coming as it does from a longtime reader and enthusiastic Anthony Lane fan. I’ve been wanting this for about five years now, and I want it more than ever for you this holiday season: Please take a sabbatical. At least a year. Don’t watch films at all for the first six months. Then you can slowly wean yourself back on to cinema (but gingerly, with nothing made before 1970, or nothing in color). Because you are terribly, terribly burned out. I can’t believe some of the stuff they’ve made you review. It’s cruelty, in a way, to take someone with your finely honed literary and cinematic sensibilities and force him to write mocking reviews of summer blockbusters. Yes, they’re funny; yes, we all know you can do it by now. But if the NYer won’t let you use your superpowers for good rather than evil (for example, allowing you to review some small-release but intensely worthy film which, but for your critical attention, would pass unnoticed)…then you need a break.
I have always wondered if there should be a time limit for critics. It must be hard to have the level of emotion required, week after week, to try to pull your field of critique up by its bootstraps. 10 Best lists, at best, should be a breather before a whole new year of outrages.