Next Tuesday Paul Markoff and I will tape our annual Academy Awards preview and Best and Worst Films of 2008 episodes of Now Playing. Our first show, taped in March 1997, was an hour-long special debating the Oscar nominees and predicting the winners. At the end we tacked on our own Top Ten lists for 1996.
Neither of us were seeing movies at the rate at what has become the norm with the show in production. It goes without saying that the movies I chose to see and pay for in my pre-critic days went through a filtering process more than the practically limitless abundance made available to me as a critic.
Naturally, that first pre-critic Top Ten list probably looked much different than it would have if I'd been reviewing films. For '96 I picked BIG NIGHT as the best film of the year. Would I still keep it in that lofty spot? I don't know--I think I've only seen it once--but I suspect I probably wouldn't. It takes time to develop critical faculties, and the person on the verge of reviewing films and engaging in the practice in those early years isn't the same person I am now.
As Now Playing nears the start of its 13th production year, it is interesting to look back at those films I've chosen to laud as the year's best with a critic's authority. I think it's a pretty respectable list--of course I would--and I don't regret any of these picks even if I wouldn't be averse to a tweak here or there.
If I were to replace any, the likeliest candidate is 2000 topper TRAFFIC, although what would assume its spot--off the top of my head, ALMOST FAMOUS, DANCER IN THE DARK, GEORGE WASHINGTON, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, and WONDER BOYS would challenge--is hard to say.
My Top Ten lists prior to 2003 are not on this website. I'm not sure if I even have all of them still. Nevertheless, I thought it might be fun to share what movies I selected each year. Perhaps there's a pattern to discern, perhaps there isn't. Anyway, enjoy.
1997: The Ice Storm
1998: The Truman Show
1999: Being John Malkovich
2001: Mulholland Dr.
2002: Punch-Drunk Love
2005: Kings & Queen (Rois et reine)
2006: The Prestige
2007: There Will Be Blood