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January 01 2006

"The Village Voice" Movie Poll Results. Serenity doesn't come out so good.

It ties for sixth for best First Film, which is respectable. But then ties for 101st for Film overall. Chiwetel ties for 159th for Supporting Performance. No directing, writing or lead performance nods.

I think 6th sounds pretty damn good! And, aren't there like thousands of films that come out in a year, including foreign films? So, it may not be the top 10, but I think 101st is also respectable out of all the films made. Thanks for the New Year's morning link! :-)
We are talking about the Village Voice, they tend to be a wee bit pretentious. If it aint art house it aint nothing. So to get any mention at all is pretty darn good.
Well, the pullquote I seem to have stored form the Voice's own review of the movie is "clever and rousing" so it's not like they didn't actually give it a decent review when it came out.
Serenity barely featured in a lot of US critics' end of year polls so I'd say this one was a result.
Most of the critics who vote in this poll don't work for the Village Voice so it doesn't make sense to criticize the VV for this poll. Cronenberg's latest film A History Of Violence was voted number 1 in this poll and that's hardly an arthouse film.

[ edited by Yefa on 2006-01-01 23:34 ]

[ edited by Yefa on 2006-01-01 23:36 ]
The majority of the films on that list, I've never even heard of.
My captain got beat out by a man getting eaten by a bear, huh? Well doesn't that just beat all. . . In the end, I've seen enough year-end Serenity buzz that I'm happy. Oh yes, I'm happy. And now that I've seen the director's commentary, I'm even happier.

OK, but seriously, now I've taken a moment to look at the list (excuse the edit, but a girl's got to rant). . . WOLF CREEK?!?! WAR OF THE WORLDS?!?!? LAND OF THE DEAD?!?!? Look, I like popcorn-stuffer-thought-free film as much as the rest of America but I like my brain too. Perhaps if there had been more Reavers-eating-people-with-extra-gore it would have been ranked higher. Judging, of course, from the Land of the Dead ranking.

[ edited by GrrrAargh on 2006-01-02 00:35 ]
Here's my random sob story over this article:

I babysit the children of one of the critics whose top ten list is now available over at the Village Voice. He normally has very good taste in movies, if not slightly pretentious (but that might be due to the fact that the nearest theatre is the art house, ten minute away)

I remember when our BDM came out I had naturally sung it praises. I had tried to sway his opinion, friends. And that's as close to the critics and the source as anyone can get. (I went as far as almost begging him to give it a good write up.... no luck.)

Whatever. I'm pissed the captain was beaten by Tim Treadwell
6th best isn't half bad, although if I was to be honest, I bet Serenity would fall low (if at all) in my top 10 list of the year. Movies like Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Walk the Line, Munich and King Kong (I know it's all recent and thus those are the first to my mind) would score higher overall as best films of the year. So I'm not suprised it didn't score high on critics top 10 lists. Still a great film, but that it's not in the top 100 is kind of absurd.
I haven't seen many movies this year. I finally saw A History of Violence this weekend after having been waiting eagerly since I saw the panel at ComicCon. I didn't really like it that much. It wouldn't go on my top Cronenberg movies list (he didn't write it and it shows). That's the critics' film of the year?
Ledfeather wrote:

>>We are talking about the Village Voice, they tend to be a wee bit pretentious. If it aint art house it aint nothing. So to get any mention at all is pretty darn good.<<

There also was some pretty darn good writing in those overviews. On the whole though, this is what happens often when reviewers are asked to name their top ten (or their favorite) movie of the year. They don't name something that made them feel good, but they name something that makes them look good. I get to name my top and flop movie every year in one of the dailies I write for, and we all talk about what we will name before, so that we don't accidentally all name the same film and bore the readers. I thought we ended up with a nifty compilation. Those Village Voice overviews, though -- brilliant, yup, but how true they are, we can only guess.
Sadly, I do think that, in the present context, "A History of Violence" qualifies as an arthouse film. (Lowish budget, obvious subtext, a hint of weirdness, and a story. That's puts in you the same category as Eric Rohmer these days.)

The prejudice against genre material, especially of the action-packed variety, lingers (though highly dissipated these days), but I think it's also important to remember the sort of cumulative impact of studio marketing, award buzz, etc as it tends to have a sort of logic of its own and jogs the memories of the listmakers. Also, "Serenity" was mostly reviewed by the second, third, or fourth string critics, however positively, that means that an awful lot of critics (maybe most of the best known ones) haven't even seen it all.

And there is always an aspect of group think going on, in every human endeavor. Not seeing it on other people's list makes it less likely to appear on lists -- classic Catch 22. And "Serenity" doesn't even benefit from the tendency of some Kaelesque critics to laud movies other critics and audience members hate or dismiss. Too many good reviews for that!

Frankly, I'd be grateful they even remembered to include it! What I'm hoping for is that, in future years, people will wonder how "Serenity" merited only modest attention.
Bobster, have you taken a look at the review list on mrqe.com ? Seems to me that several of the "biggies" saw it and reviewed it favorably. Here in Germany, it got _big_ and overwhelmingly positive exposure in the FAZ, which has the country's most renowned culture section.

There's something true in what you say about list-compiling being a group thing. Like I said, many won't post what they thought was good, or what made them feel good, but what will make them look good. Fact of life.

Just like the fact that the flood of good reviews didn't help. I probably don't need to tell you how frustrating this is for someone who wrote one of them (and made "serenity" her top film of 2005) ...
Good Lord, are they kidding with this list? Most of these films will not even be blips on the radar for future generations. There were a lot of great films out this year, especially genre films, which the VV overlooked to favor films that I doubt pulled in $500,000 domestic. Not that the box office is necessarily an indicator of quality, but...

But dammit, it really sort of IS!!! (And I know how insane I have to be to make this argument given Serenity's performance, thank you.) Overlook the success of Flight Plan for a minute, and tell me that when we look back in twenty years, our top ten for this year won't include Batman Begins, Good Night and Good Luck, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the film that will own this entire year, King Kong. All were relative box office successes given their budgets, and all will be loved by the moviegoing public worldwide years after any film with a French title on that list.

Also, and call me conservative, but I can't quite trust a film poll where a reviewer defended his (thankfully lone) selection of the fairly banal Skeleton Key by citing the post-Katrina "sting" of the subject matter as "the revenge you wish the people of New Orleans could take on Bush."
BAFfler wrote:

>>Good Lord, are they kidding with this list? Most of these films will not even be blips on the radar for future generations.<<

I finally looked at the list itself (not just the quote collections, which _are_ interesting), and yes, well, no, I'm sure they aren't kidding, but it's not a list I could take seriously, either. It smacks of someone who's been to a lot of festivals last year and is determined to make the reader pay for all the homework he (or she) did. Fatih Akin? "Head on"? Very telling. Akin's "Kurz und Schmerzlos" (Short Sharp Shock) is one of my favorite German films ever. "Head on"? Not even a shadow of it, but, there was this nice juicy scandal at the Berlin film fest that made it stick in everyone's memory because it turned out that its leading actress, Sibel Kekilli, had been a porn actress before she starred in this film. The film itself is a mess, but, hey, if you were there when all those big headlines appeared ...

It's a terribly geeky list (in the not-so-nice sense of the word).
Bschnell -- For a while there I practically lived on (admittedly U.S.-centric) Rotten Tomatoes, with occasional side trips to MRQE.

I won't speak for Europe and I've never bothered to actually count, but while most of the major U.S. publications did, in fact, review "Serenity", I'm fairly sure that at least, maybe, half the time it was not the senior critic who saw it. I more sure that a lot of U.S. critics haven't seen it. Here in Southern California, a public radio station has an hourlong movie critic's roundtable ("Film Talk with Larry Mantle" I think is the official title") with several notable local critics -- including one who's very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about genre films (Asian film geek Andy Klein). As far as I can determine, it was never mentioned once.

Another interesting example, while The New Yorker, which is arguably America's most presitigious single magazine, featured a positive capsule review (their capsules are in very small print at the beginning of the magazine and most people don't read them unless they're looking specifically for something BTW ), as far as I can determine it was never featured in their main review page. I can't even imagine their best known critic, the literate but highly genre-clueless Anthony Lane, being dragged in to see "Serenity."

In many respects, the U.S. is more snobbish about genres than Europe. It was, actually, you guys in Europe who taught us that our genres actually merited some serious consideration -- but not all of us have really learned and the snobbery lingers.

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