Monday, December 20, 2004

Roger Ebert's Best and Worst of 2004

It seems like every year critics reveal their best and worst lists earlier than the year before. Since all things Oscar drive everything movie-related after Thanksgiving, the award program's move to a February date appears to have pushed up list publishing. (It's certainly affected when the critics groups, including the Central Ohio Film Critics Association, decide their annual winners.)

Roger Ebert's picks for the year's best and worst films are now out there for all to see. If you've followed his writing, none of the films making his Top 10 will come as a surprise.
1. Million Dollar Baby
2. Kill Bill Vol. 2
3. Vera Drake
4. Spider-Man 2
5. Moolaadé
6. The Aviator
7. Baadassss!
8. Sideways
9. Hotel Rwanda
10. Undertow

My Top 10 will likely include KILL BILL VOL. 2 and THE AVIATOR. SPIDER-MAN 2 currently resides there but may get bumped in favor of a film I've yet to see. (Of Ebert's favorites, I haven't seen MILLION DOLLAR BABY, MOOLAADE, HOTEL RWANDA, or UNDERTOW, none of which I'll see before December 31 when my COFCA ballot is due. I expect to see MILLION DOLLAR BABY and HOTEL RWANDA before I make my "final" Top 10 for NOW PLAYING.)

Where Ebert and I part ways, though, is in regard to his worsts of the year:
1. (tie) Troy
1. (tie) Alexander
2. Christmas With the Kranks
3. The Girl Next Door
4. Dogville
5. New York Minute
6. The Grudge
7. White Chicks
8. Resident Evil: Apocalypse
9. The Whole Ten Yards
10. The Village

I gave positive reviews to five of these eleven films (TROY, DOGVILLE, THE GRUDGE, RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE, and THE VILLAGE. (I'll freely admit that giving a pass to RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE is the most suspect according to the critical mass. As for THE VILLAGE, I'm still amazed that my position on the film is contrarian.) Two are in my Top 10--DOGVILLE and THE VILLAGE--with the von Trier film the current claimant for the top spot.

What I don't understand is how TROY, ALEXANDER, and DOGVILLE, films which received two star reviews from Ebert, ended up on his worst list. Ebert gave one star to the following films, yet none earned a spot among the worst:
Anatomy of Hell
A Cinderella Story
A Dirty Shame
Raise Your Voice
Team America: World Police

To be sure, quantifying film quality according to stars, grades, or any other scale is fluid rather than concrete. Maybe in retrospect Wolfgang Petersen, Oliver Stone, and Lars von Trier's films seem worse to him than those listed above, or perhaps it's a matter of artistic aspiration. These one star films consist mostly of studio hack work. TROY, ALEXANDER, and DOGVILLE shoot for greatness, so they fall harder when, in Ebert's estimation, they don't succeed.

1 comment:

  1. Of the movies you list as his one star's that didn't make the worst list, Catwoman is a result of Halle Berry complaining about her role in X-Men, Raise Your Voice is just trying to make money off of Hillary Duff's name, Sleepover is not really a film as much as a hour and half of distracting kids and preteens, and Team America is pretty well on it's own.

    If you look at the movies Ebert lists, they were all well marketed and sold with big names, relatively the same way he has made the top ten list. To put Million Dollar Baby with it's Academy Awards and big name credits against Team America would only be making a statement that movies like Team America don't belong, rather than actually comparing. Ebert has even admitted before, when someone asks you if a movie is good, they're asking if it's good compared to a similiar movie. They're not asking if Hellboy is good compared to Hotel Rwanda.