Saturday, January 7, 2017

Ten Best Films' 2016 Mini-Poll

1. Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015)
59 points (LB, MA, RS)
2. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
58 points (MA, ML, MS)
3. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo, 2015)
51 points (LB, MA, RS)
4. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2015)
48 points (LB, MA, RS)
5. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)
27 points (ML, MH, MS)
6. Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari, 2015)
41 points (LB, MA, RS)
7. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
35 points (AZ, MS)
8. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
34 points (AZ, MS)
8. Sunset Song (Terence Davies, 2015)
34 points (LB, RS)
10. O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)
32 points (MS, RS)

11. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015)
29 points (MA, RS)
12. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
27 points (LB, MH)
13. Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen)
25 points (MH, MS)
14. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)
24 points (MA, ML)

Eight years ago, in what has become an annual rite on this site, the first official Mini-Poll was conducted among ten present and former graduate film students in New York and New Haven, with the majority of that group coming from the NYU Masters in Cinema Studies class of 2005. This was not, in fact, the first time that the group shared their picks with each other; one year before, the alumni + shared their choices on Tativille and various other blogs, with three of the Masters group preferring Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon, and three more opting for Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as the year's best film. This contentious split helped to inspire the first Mini-Poll one year later. 

For the inaugural 2008 census. there was nothing but agreement, however, with Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale appearing on eight of the ten lists. A mere two years later, David Fincher's The Social Network was cited by nine of eleven besting A Christmas Tale's eighty percent share. Nine would also be the number reached by Terrence Malick's A Tree of Life, though with a twelfth participant in an all-time high for the latter metric. 2011 really was the high point for the Mini Poll, with A Tree of Life also managing the most points (on our not terribly sophisticated weighted scale) in Mini-Poll history. There was both consensus and passion backing Malick's then most recent.

Fast-forward five years, and though Malick has made a very warranted return appearance with Knight of Cups, as the top American vote-getter no less!, the Mini-Poll has basically reverted to its Tativille/Termite Art prehistory, in terms both of a more modest level of participation, and also a lack of anything approaching consensus. No film reached 50% this year, though that has much to do with the differing windows for festival and commercial releases as it does taste. After all, charter participant Mike Lyon cited top vote-getter Cemetery of Splendour on his ballot last year, while second place finisher Toni Erdmann is only now rolling out across the U.S., and won't reach some places until well into the new year. Perhaps the latter might have been a Social Network-scale juggernaut had it been screened to more voters by the end of 2016?

So here we are, seven brave souls and their choices for the best films of 2016. Yet, somehow, the results, as always, are as good as our much bigger survey competitors. For starters there are the seven English-language films that would make an extremely respectable best picture group: Knight of Cups, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Sunset Song, O.J.: Made in America, Arrival, and Hail, Caesar!.The Mini-Poll participants also came together and honored three films from East Asia in our top five, number one Cemetery of Splendour again, as well as two titles from South Korea, Right Now, Wrong Then, and the biggest surprise to me (though I was a fan), The Handmaiden. Finally, there are our four selections from Europe, and all by outstanding female directors, Toni ErdmannChevalier, No Home Movie, and Things to Come. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Contributors: Alberto Zambenedetti (AZ), Lisa K. Broad (LB), Michael J. Anderson (MA), Matt Hauske (MH), Mike Lyon (ML), Matt Singer (MS), and R. Emmet Sweeney (RS).

Postscript: Of those distinguished emeriti whose globe-trotting ways did not allow them to participate this year, I would be remiss were I note to share P.L. Kerpius's rather unconventional choices and Jeremi Szaniawski's more negative than positive assessment of 2016. For Pam the best films of the year were: 1) Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi), 2) Moonlight (Barry Jenkins), 3) Fire at Sea, 4) Fire at Sea, 5) Fire at Sea, 6) Fire at Sea, 7) Fire at Sea, 8) Fire at Sea, 9) Fire at Sea, and 10) Fire at Sea. Sorry, Pam, I'm not counting Fire at Sea nine times, but I would point out that she joins Alberto Zambenedetti in selecting the film as the year's best--so that is something. (Alberto had different ideas for 3-10.)

As for Jeremi, the obvious choice for the year's best was Albert Serra's The Death of Louis XIV, which I concur was a very worthy choice (as is Fire at Sea for that matter). Jeremi also commends the re-released anime feature, Belladonna of Sadness, and Fever Room, which as Jeremi points out, is perhaps more "expanded cinema" than anything else. As for the year's most overrated, the choices were more robust for Mr. Szaniawski: 1) Neon Demon (Windig Refn) 2) Elle (Verhoeven) 3) Zootopia (whoever at Disney did that) 4) Finding Dory (whoever at Pixar did that) 5) Carol (Haynes). As a fan of the film, personally, the dislike for Elle among this year's participants and emeriti--let alone its complete lack of support on this year's poll--is the biggest surprise of all.  

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