Top 10 Films of 2011

This list is so out of date that this should be in sepia tone.


Look, you and I both know that there’s no legitimate reason to writing a post like this in late June. I missed anything resembling timeliness months ago. But the way I figure it, why get lost in a sea of year end lists at the actual year end when you can do it when the next year is half over? Plus, writing this list late then using the intro paragraph to explain its lateness is practically a Critically Speaking tradition now.

I probably didn’t see enough movies to make an observation about the year in film as a whole, but if I’m not going to let something like the calendar stop me from posting, why should a lack of experience? By and large, when it came to the biggest promoted films, be they blockbusters or Oscar contenders, it wasn’t that impressive a year. Critics I read and trust have come out and said 2011 was one of their favorite years for film, but their lists supporting it are full of films that you’d be lucky to catch at all unless you live in a major metropolitan city. So I’ll trust them that the farther you looked this year, the more gems there were to unearth. Which would be awesome if I had more time to watch movies. But I don’t, so I was largely underwhelmed by the offerings of 2011, which is probably the biggest reason why I had little motivation for posting this in a timely fashion. But even with that lack of motivation, I have to say, I stand by every choice on this list. Maybe only one of them is what I’d truly describe as “great”, but all of them were well worth my time. And yours.
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Top 10 TV Shows of 2011

Surveilling the 2011 TV landscape


While my top albums of the year list diverged from critical consensus due to a mixture of life-related ignorance and trend-related indifference, this list will look like a lot of the others you’ve seen elsewhere. It’d be nice to make a statement and be more original, but best is best. When it comes to TV, consensus tends to emerge because even critics have to limit their viewing, as it requires more of your time to watch a tv series than watching a movie or listening to an album. So the critics do some sampling, champion their favourites, and I listen.

And even though I’m selective when it comes to my TV-watching, it’s still the medium that dominates most of my time. There’s so much good TV out there that even I can’t keep up, so for 2012, I’m trying to reduce my consumption to only greatness. If a TV show can’t meet the standards of the series you see here (or fails to continue to meet previous standards), then it’s gotta go. After all, I gotta make room for other great shows (some of which might even be missing here, although probably not). So if you’d like to be more selective with your viewing, consider this a guide of what should stay in your line-up.
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Top 10 Albums of 2011

Remember when we owned things?


2011 was an odd year for me and music. Looking around year-end lists by other publications made me worry about how out of step I’ve become. Yes, some of the albums you’ll see on this list have popped up on other lists, but not as often as in year’s past. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve become more original and iconoclast, but honestly, it seems like the way to make this list was to be an artist I already liked releasing an album of similar quality to that which I’ve liked in the past (although it could just be that what was buzz-worthy this year was genres I don’t really care for). While I stand by my choices here, it’s possible that in the future, I may end up thinking of 2011 as the year my tastes calcified and I just gave up. But until then, at least I’ll have these albums to sustain me.
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Top 10 Movies of 2010

The only way this list will be helpful at this point.

The only way this list will be helpful at this point.

Yes, this list is incredibly late. So late that there’s really no need to post it at all. Even if I allow myself to believe that there are people interested in my opinion on these things, I’d have to assume any such interest died months ago. Especially since I basically ranked my top movies months ago in my Oscar post. So why do it?

Well, I’ve done a year end movie list every year since I started blogging, so it feels incomplete to not have one. The Oscar one doesn’t necessarily fit the bill, given that I hadn’t even seen all ten films nominated at that point, plus my top ten includes at least a couple films that weren’t nominated for best picture (alright, literally, only a couple. What can I say? They did a good job this year. Plus, I didn’t see all that many movies). Mostly, this list is here not for now, but for years from now when I want to know what I liked in 2010 (so I have when I start another best of the decade list that I’ll never properly complete). Plus, I don’t really update this thing much anymore, so why not feed it with some new content, no matter how outdated?
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Top 20 TV Shows of 2010

This would make my TV watching so much easier.


I had big plans for my year end TV post to finally dive into podcasting to discuss my list with my TV viewing-and-life partner. I did a good amount of prep so we wouldn’t stumble around the whole time, gave my wife the hard sell to convince her to humour me (a pattern in our relationship), and set aside a night to record (cutting into valuable TV watching time). We talked for about 2.5 hours, going over the greatness of the year in TV, each of the top 20, and a little bit about different shows that missed the list. Sure, that’s a long podcast, but with editing and splitting, I think it would’ve been a fun two-parter. It was all pretty cool… until I realized that I completely screwed up the recording (largely due to the high potentiality that I forgot to hit the “record” button before we started).

We thought about redoing it, making it shorter in the process, but never got around to it. Now we’re over two months past the end of the year, which is a little late to be talking about the previous year of a continuous medium like television. Not only are we past the point of relevance for such a list, the past two months for fresh content makes it pretty difficult (how do you talk about a show in terms of 2010 if it’s continued to run new episodes since then?).

But… I already made the list. And the internet isn’t going to break if one more list is added to it, even one that’s a little late to be relevant. After all, I didn’t spend my time watching all or at least a majority of 41 different shows to not tell people what I think of them. So even though it’s entirely unlike me to do so, I’ll be posting them without comment, since I’ve already spent 2.5 hours sharing my thoughts with my number one reader on these, in addition to thoughts I already typed in last year’s Andy TV Awards and thoughts I’ll share in this year’s awards. But I’d love to discuss any show here if you’re interested, so leave a comment and we can chat.

And now, the list.
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Critically Speaking Picks the 83rd Academy Awards – Part One

When will I be named a member of the Academy already?


In years past, one of my favourite posts to make was the Andy Awards, where I chose not only who I thought should win awards in the various movie categories, but also who should have been nominated in the first place. After all, why pick from a flawed list put together by Academy members influenced by various politics and what not? Plus, if you’re interested in reading my opinions, then you’d probably want me choosing from my own opinions, not from someone else’s.

But, now I have a son and a lot less time to watch movies. Gone are the days where I could compile unique choices of nominees from the dozens of qualifying films I’ve watched. Last year, I did a quick selection of winners tacked on to a year end list. This year, I’m giving in and picking from the Academy’s list of nominees; largely because I haven’t seen many movies from 2010 other than the ones that were nominated. Of the films to score major nominations, the one I haven’t seen yet but wish I had is 127 Hours. I’d be interested in seeing Rabbit Hole if I thought I was capable of handling it, but as a father of a young son, I don’t think I could. I almost watched Animal Kingdom the other night but didn’t, while I’m comfortable skipping Biutiful (Iñárritu films leave me cold).

To clarify: this is a post of who I think should win each award, not who I think will win. Oscar predictions are all over the net, and basically are no fun unless you’re in a pool. It’s become an annoying side business that distracts from the real discussion of what is worthy when all anyone wants to talk about is the various campaigns and tea leaf readings trying to predict the hive mind of members of the Academy. Also, I’m only going to be picking categories where I seen enough of the nominees to have at least a partial basis for an opinion (which probably puts me ahead of many members of the Academy).
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Top 10 Albums of 2010

This is a list by Critically Speaking.

For the past three years, I’ve done a Top 20 Albums list. I could’ve easily done the same with this year, as there were double that many albums I was into this year. But as I was compiling the contenders for the list, I realized that there were only 15 I felt strongly about. If I took more time, I’m sure I’d feel that way about at least five more (especially ones released later in the year). But taking more time is something I really need to do less of on this blog (as followers of my top films of the decade list will attest. Only 12 more to go!). So a top ten with five honourable mentions made the most sense, but don’t take that as an indictment of the quality of music in 2010, which was generally high.
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Top 20 Albums of 2009

He likes their eclectic sounds. Either that, or he prefers jewel cases to digi-packs for chewing on.


Some people look at the calendar and think “doing a year end list over a third of the way through the following year is beyond indulgent”. I’m actually one of those people, but if I cared about being indulgent, I wouldn’t exactly be posting my thoughts about my favourite things to an ambivalent audience of dozens, now would I? This list, like all the lists I’ve been doing since January, was delayed due to personal reasons like being busy with work and my newborn son (pictured – already a developing music snob). With this particular list, there was also the practical reason that I spent most of 2009 listening to the best albums of the decade. So I needed these past few months to really experience and embrace the music of 2009 – and once I did, I must say, it was a pretty good year for music. So good that I couldn’t let it go unlisted (of course, my own compulsions probably wouldn’t allow it to go unlisted even if it were an average year for music).
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Bonus Lists: Best TV Shows of 2009

I will spend all of 2010 writing about the past year or decade
If my top ten movies of 2009 list was late, then what does that make these lists? I’ll try not to think about it, especially since I still have another year end list to go. But, since I’ve spent the past two months writing about the best TV of the decade, I’m not particularly in the mood to spend the next two writing about the best TV of the year. But since my need to list all things chronological is near pathological, I’m still going to post a list. Two, in fact.

Traditionally, I write a top ten list of the best shows of the year, be they drama, comedy, reality, talk show, whatever. But lately, there’s been so many great shows on TV, that limiting it ten was too difficult. My compromise? Two top 10 lists, one for comedy, one for drama, just with less writing than usual. Another new twist for this year: in the past, I ranked shows based on full seasons – only considering shows that had aired a season finale within the year, even if that means taking episodes from the previous year into consideration. It made sense at the time, but had the unfortunate side effect of making much of my Andy TV Awards redundant. Also, it prevented me from talking about new shows. And in 2009, there was a lot of great new shows. So these lists are more traditional, January through December 2009 viewpoints of television (which, admittedly, is a little more difficult since some of these shows have been running episodes for two and a half months since the qualifications for this list end).

But enough of all that. I’ve already written more than I have time for. On with the lists!
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Top 10 Movies of 2009


You might say it’s a little late to be doing a year end movie list, but hey, if Hollywood can’t get around to honouring their so-called best until March 7, why should I? While I’ve been busy listing the decade (something I still need to finish doing), the truth is that I didn’t think I’d bother doing a movie list this year. With the birth of my son in June, I just simply haven’t had the time to watch very many this year. To wit, when I posted last year’s list, I had seen 63 films with a North American release date of 2008 from which I made my list. This year, I’ve seen 30, 11 of which I actually saw in 2008 during my trip to the Toronto International Film Festival. Which is why I’m spending Oscar weekend writing a top ten list instead of the Sixth Annual Andy Movie Awards (another blogging tradition that is on indefinite hiatus).

So take this list with a grain of salt. If a movie doesn’t appear on it that you thought might, there’s a good chance I didn’t see it (unless it’s a certain “highest grossing film of all-time”, which I did see… and chose not to rank). Still, I’ve been making year end movie lists since I started blogging, so why let a little thing like “having an informed opinion” stop me now?
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The Fifth Annual Andy Movie Awards – Part One

Notice the subtle changes? No... well I did it anyway.
It’s time once again for one of my signature posts: the fifth (and probably final) Andy Movie Awards, where I select not only who I think should win the awards being handed out this Sunday, but also who should’ve been nominated with those winners. There’s a lot of posts around this time of year where writers predict who they think will win Oscars, and some about they think should win. But unless you’re the only person in the world who agrees completely with the Academy’s nominees, it’s a false choice. What if your winner wasn’t nominated? What if you’re forced to choose the only worthy nominee in a group of junk?

Instead, I write a super-long post that basically amounts to a series of specified year-end lists, not only for the big awards that people care about, but also the other awards that most people don’t. The only Academy Award categories for feature length films that the Andy Awards don’t cover are Best Achievement in Editing (because I don’t know enough about the process to pass judgement, as with most viewers, I only notice editing when it’s bad), the two sound categories (as it’s not something I notice while watching movies), and Best Original Song (because it’s a stupid award. Instead, I’ve substituted it for my own award).

To make my decisions, I’ve seen 66 films that had a North American release date in 2008. The Academy nominated a total of 36 feature length films, of which I’ve seen 27 (75%). When you take out the ten films nominated in the foreign language and documentary categories (only four of which were released outside of LA/NY… I caught three of those), I’ve seen 24 out of 26 (92%), with the exceptions being Defiance (nominated for Original Score) and Australia (nominated for Costume Design). Thus, whenever my nominations divulge from the Academy (other than in those four categories), it’s because I disagree, not because I don’t know. Which brings me to why this very well may be my last post of this nature: I can’t imagine myself finding the time in the upcoming years to watch this many movies again.

So read on for part one of the end of an era…
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Top 10 Movies of 2008


As I did with my albums of the year list, I have to begin this list lamenting the fact that the 2008 year in film was not as good as the 2007 year in film. It was a down year for art in general, as pretty much any critic you read will tell you. Part of the reason for the negativity is the fact that the usual year end glut of awards baiting prestige films were largely disappointing, often ranging from merely solid to outright bad. And since that’s the steady diet critics (and myself) are fed around the time they write year end lists (albeit theirs come out at the actual end of the year, whereas mine waits until February, but I have to pay to see my movies), so it’s not surprising that the same enthusiasm wasn’t there, especially when the year before featured instant classics like No Country for Old Men, Zodiac, and There Will Be Blood.

Instead, the greatness in 2008 came not from the types of movies Hollywood likes to get dressed up for to dole out awards, but from the films fans line up for to buy overpriced concessions to see on opening day, or movies released early in the year when people weren’t paying attention. So this list is still filled with movies I enjoyed quite a bit, and recommend to everyone. As of this writing, I’ve seen 63 films released in North America in 2008, which includes some foreign language films that were released in their native countries in previous years, but doesn’t include some TIFF films I saw that haven’t yet been released (some of which would definitely contend for this list and will probably pop up next year… unless it is phenomenal). Of those 63, these were the best…
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Top 5 Worst Movies of 2008

statlerwaldorf
Because I make an effort to avoid bad movies, my year-end worst lists are always my least complete. I read reviews, early buzz, and have little affinity for genres that tend to produce crappy movies, so for me to see a bad film, it had to have something going for it. The result is a list of movies that many of you may have enjoyed, some may even be making year end best of lists. This doesn’t necessarily make you wrong and me right (although, I totally am), but rather shows that I don’t merely listen to critical consensus or popular thought, and also shows that sometimes I’m wrong about what I think will be a good movie when it comes time for me to pick out an evening’s entertainment.
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