If I didn’t have a life to live with diverse interests, I’d rush out to see every “buzzed about” film coming out of film festivals. Years of disappointment and 35 years of industry expertise has taught me to ignore the chatter. My favorite film of 2018, THE DEATH OF STALIN, happened to be one of those buzzers (Armando Iannucci and Steve Buscemi were why I saw it). By year end awards hoopla, the film wasn’t mentioned once (neither was Charlize Theron’s acting in TULLY which had the same “buzz”). The “tastemakers” are like babies with their new shiny toys, PR flacks know how to distract them with their lollipops.
Too many film critics lack a deep knowledge of cinema, including many who majored in Cinema Studies. I was shocked when a major indie film exec told me they only watch films that get high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. What happened to when you weighed knowledgeable film criticism against quote whores? On RT, Idiot Boy has 1,600+ “reviews”. He supposedly went to NYU Tisch and can’t give you a single Nouvelle Vague directors’ name. (His parents should get their $50K/year tuition refunded.) Don’t get me started about film critics who refuse to see films made before they were born, foreign films, documentaries or films by older directors who may have been off-track for a while (see Rob Reiner who gave us two under-rated films in the last couple of years, LBJ and SHOCK & AWE).
Gender or race does not a film critic make, it’s the amount of time you have spent in darkened movie houses and museums (laptops don’t count) watching the diverse amount of cinema created over the last 120+ years from around the world. If one has never seen a film by the great Bengali director Mrinal Sen (he just died yesterday at 95) you cannot claim your status as an informed critic. I’d recommend Sen’s GENESIS from 1986 (which I licensed to a regional Canadian broadcaster 25 years ago) as a start.
Top 10 Films Of 2018
The Death Of Stalin [UK/Canada/France/Belgium]
The Insult [US/France/Belgium/Lebanon/Cyprus]
3000 Nights [Palestine/France/Jordan/Lebanon/Qatar/UAE]
Shock & Awe
Dark Money [Documentary]
On The Basis Of Sex
Science Fair [Documentary]
The Catcher Was A Spy
The Guilty [Denmark]
Best Actor – Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Best Actress – Charlize Theron (Tully)
Best Supporting Actor – Steve Buscemi (The Death Of Stalin)
Best Supporting Actress – Belcim Bilgin (Backstabbing For Beginners)
Best Director – Armando Iannucci (The Death Of Stalin)
Best Screenplay – Armando Iannucci, David Schneider & Ian Martin (The Death Of Stalin)
Best Cinematography – Seamus McGarvey (Bad Times At The El Royale)