A Protest about the List Business

As pointed out by Elena Gorfinkel in a provocative recent polemic, the end-of-the-year movie lists that so many of us promulgate and live by are actually the handmaidens — or maybe we should say the whores — of consumerist capitalism. It’s possible that we’re always too eager to follow their bidding rather than our own (or, more precisely, to make their bidding our own).

One of the most obvious injustices of institutional dictates in this process is to demand “best” lists from many of us, perhaps even all of us, before any of us can properly comply in an educated manner. In my case, the following worthy contenders (among others) were all seen by me after I had to turn in a list of the best films of the year (in roughly descending order of presumed merit):

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An Elephant Sitting Still

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The Last Black Man in San Francisco

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Dark Waters

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Marriage Story

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I hasten to add that this is still near the end of November. I’m expecting to receive and access even more Academy screeners and Vimeo links to consider over the days to come.

Last year, the same thing happened. I only caught up with my favorite film of 2018 —    Patrick Wang’s A Bread Factory, ignored by most of the official gatekeepers — long after all the lists had been due.

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So the winners in these bogus sweepstakes may well turn out to be the films with the largest ad budgets and/or the most powerful or efficient publicists. Just what the wealthiest merchants are counting on. Campion’s The Piano, the highly dubious winner of the just-concluded BBC poll of the best films directed by women, had Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax to hawk its wares; Sweetie mainly just had Campion and us. And let’s not forget that our culture still tacitly approves of and even endorses Harvey Weinstein’s gutter capitalism as long as he keeps his hands (or other body parts) off his female employees. [11/29/19]

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