The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Musings over my end-of-the-year-list frustration

with 52 comments

Let’s face it: the essence of film geekery is list making.

It was the first thing I noticed as I ventured into the world of cinephily this summer, joining the Filmspotting forum community and opening this café.

I soon found out that  true film fans make lists. A lot of lists. Top 5, top 10, top 100, even top 1 000 (but that guy is just insane). We appoint winners and make verdicts left and write: the best, the worst, the craziest, the cutest, the funniest, the coolest. Just about anything can be organized and ranked into a neat list.

I think there is something very reassuring in this. As long as we can put the world into a 1-10 order, we have reasons to keep believing that our existence is comprehensible as well as controllable. If there is chaos and uncertainty luring in the darkness, we can defy it and expel it with a neat bullet list.

And admit it: nothing can strengthen your usually weak ego like the aura of knowledge and authority that a well thought out ranking order provides. We’re refuse to embrace whatever movie we accidentally stumble upon without asking questions. We know how to distinguish good from bad. We’re opinionated. We know what we’re talking about. Or at least we pretend we do.

As a newbie in the film fandom I realized that I had to try to get into this if I’d ever become an accepted member in the fellowship.  After some struggling (remember, I’m the kind of person who usually can’t decide between cake or pie since I like both) managed to make something that resembled to a top 100 list. It was as if I’d gone through a passage ritual, passing a test, buying myself an entrance ticket to a new world. Now I wasn’t just an ordinary theatre visitor. I was organized. I was opinionated. If not quite yet a cineast, I could at least deserve the title Film Nerd. (No, don’t ask me to link the list. I’m still too embarrassed and discontent about it. Maybe next year.)

A time of frustration
That was a long introduction, but I wanted to make it clear how important lists are to people like me and most other film bloggers. They’re fun, they take a lot of work to make, they’re interesting to read and discuss. It’s essential. And that’s also why this time of the year is so utterly annoying and frustrating for people like me. People who live in far distant, low prioritized countries..

You see, one of the things I love most about blogging about films is that it gives me an excuse to talk to and get to know people from all over the world. I argue as much with people on the other side of the Atlantic as I’m comparing my impressions of my latest movie encounter with a Swedish blogger who lives in the neighbor city. The blogosphere recognizes no boundaries, especially if you like me have taken the decision to participate in the global discussion.

But one time a year we’re brutally reminded of that the globalization hasn’t reached the world of movies yet. A handful of movies – basically the ones that are most likely to become victims of global illegal downloading epidemics – get a synchronized global launch. Movies such as Harry Potter or the Twilight saga. But the smaller a movie is, the longer can I expect to wait for it to come up here. If it ever will come up, that will say. Quite a few of the movie discoveries I’ve made this year have been of ones that never even were shown in a theatre, titles such as Animal Kingdom an Moon.

Towards the end of this year, when all the list frenzy starts and the Oscar speculations kick off, this has become increasingly painful. Highly appreciated movies such as The Artist and Hugo won’t have their premier until late in March.

So what is a Swedish blogger to do?

Should I adjust my list to imitate the launch schedule in US, just to make it equivalent to other top lists? In that case I would have to wait making up a top 2011 list until late April at the earliest. It would feel a bit dishonest. After all it would be 2012 movies to me. And besides, who cares about the “2011 movies” at that point? That discussion is done and over with, ages ago. People have moved on and are busy ranking the movies of 2012. I’m hopelessly late to the party.

The other option is to rank all the movies that were released in 2011 in Sweden, regardless of when they came up in the rest of the world. In that case I would match late releases such as MMMM, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive and The Skin I Live In against Never Let Me Go, The King’s Speech, True Grit, Winter’s Bone and Black Swan. But 50/50 will not be taken into consideration since I haven’t had the chance to see it yet. How much sense will such a list make to anyone outside of Sweden?

A cop out solution
It’s an unsolvable dilemma, a brick wall raised between bloggers from different nations and regardless of what I’ll eventually decide for, it will leave me with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction.

I want to make my 2011 list when everyone else is making it. I want my 2011 list to be true and to reflect the movies I watched in 2011. Not the movies I watched in 2012. And I want to make a ranking that easily can be compared to other people’s ranking lists and spark a good discussion.

Frankly I haven’t yet made up my mind yet. I might cop out of it, stop pretending that order is possible.

Or instead of making a top list, I could hand out some awards, not necessarily always of the serious kind. My fellow Swede Emil at A Swede Talks movies made an inspiring example. Perhaps I could do something similar?

In any case: that will have to wait until next week. After all, the year hasn’t finished yet and it boggles my mind how everyone can be so quick to toss out the awards and lists, in some cases weeks before the end of the year. And even if it’s late now, we still have a few precious hours to go. I could squeeze in one last movie before the clock strikes and perhaps THAT very movie will turn out to be the best one of all. You never know.

But now it’s now time to close this final blog entry of 2011. I will end it with an image from a great New Year scene, one of my favorites.

Thank you everyone who has popped by during 2011 to listen to my ramblings and talk about movies over a drink! You’ve made this place to exactly the cozy, friendly little place I dreamed of.

Happy New Year!

Written by Jessica

December 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

52 Responses

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  1. Thanks! You put to words a very important dilemma. But first, why a picture of Angel in the beginning of your post? Best TV-series ever? Nah?

    Last year, I choose to wait for the later releases and finally released my best-of-2010 on May the 8th. I know that’s boring. I saw people that ranked the films they saw for the first time during 2010, and that was very uninteresting to me. I want to summarise the calendar year of releases. Sometimes it is still hard to decide which year a film belongs to. For example, I will treat “Meek’s cutoff” as a 2011 film.

    Very hard problem. But I think I’ll stick to my strategy, and release the list for 2011 late spring… I do already have at least ten top-list worthy movies, including 50/50, mostly thanks to Stockholms Film Festival held in November.

    Topp 100 list? I have started to think about it, but I have not started to write it down yet…

    Henke

    December 30, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    • Hehe… I just wanted to illustrate my frustration and general list wrath… When Angel gets angry he will transform you know. Just like me. Besides I’m actually a Buffy fan. 🙂 But feel free to suggest some other image! I listen to whatever suggestion my guests come up with for blog improvement…

      That’s really one reason why I should have attended the film festival. It would have made it easier to come up with a proper 2011 list earlier.

      Jessica

      December 30, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      • Buffy, Angel… I am first and foremost a Firefly fan! Hehe.

        Henke

        December 30, 2011 at 6:47 pm

        • Hm, how about Willow, around the end of season 6? Now that’s some nice anger for you…

          Syrien

          December 30, 2011 at 10:27 pm

            • That’s the one 🙂 (Even if the start of season six can be a little painful, I always loved the “Life is the big bad” tagline they had for it. And the musical episode. And the good girl getting angry).

              Syrien

              December 31, 2011 at 9:33 am

              • OT: I’m such a Buffyophile! My season ranking of the entire series 2,5,6,7,1,3,4

                Joel Burman

                January 2, 2012 at 11:19 pm

                • I can’t honestly keep track of all the seasons, what happens when. But I agree on that some of the later storylines really are better. I figure we also got more invested in the characters overtime. And Spike |> Angel as love interest!!!

                  Jessica

                  January 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

  2. I posted my best of 2010, but it vanished…

    Top-10 of 2010:
    10. Remember me
    9. Love and other drugs
    8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
    7. Toy Story 3
    6. The social network
    5. Inception
    4. Kick-Ass
    3. Black swan
    2. Winter’s bone
    1. Never let me go

    Henke

    December 30, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    • I think it got caught in the spam filter. Sorry!
      Oh we share a lot of favorites! So much goodness on that list! Some of them might end up on my top 2011 list though. If that’s the way I’ll go. 🙂

      Jessica

      December 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    • Toy Story 3 on 7th place? And Where’s Blue Valentine those were my number 1 and 2 from 2010.

      Joel Burman

      January 2, 2012 at 11:20 pm

      • When I’m pondering my my 2011 list, if I decide to publish one, Blue Valentine is actually on it. It opened in Sweden in 2011.

        Jessica

        January 3, 2012 at 9:50 am

        • Well I sort after iniatial release just because thats how it will be accounted for in the future but then again I don’t write up these lists in a hurry just to get them out as so many do. =)

          Joel Burman

          January 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

  3. I totally get you. When I was in India, we would usually not even know about a movie for the longest of times. Many of the Oscar nominated movies used to release in India after Oscar Ceremony. Its pretty Sad.

    And about top 100 lists, I have been working on my top 100 list for almost 4-5 months now. And one of the reasons I haven’t published it is I used to think it is very amateurish. But hey, how will my list be professional, if I am not yet?? I still am an amateur so will my list be. And I have realised that if I don’t publish it now, I probably will not do it. Ever. So, I am just gonna suck it up and publish it pretty soon in January. After all, we are not here to judge each other. We are here to encourage each other.

    SDG

    December 30, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    • Yay! That’s the way to go! I hope I’ll follow your example one day.

      Jessica

      December 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm

  4. Yeah, unless you live in a major US city, it always feels like being on the outside looking in, yet the people who drive film discussion live in those major US cities. Tinker Tailor finally opens a week from today where I am, The Artist in three weeks. Who knows when I’ll get to watch something like Shame; not until a DVD release. I always have trouble posting a list right at the end of the year because it feels terribly incomplete. Normally I can feel more sure of myself by the end of February.

    Bondo

    December 30, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    • But there must be so many bloggers who don’t live in major cities in US! I suppose other bloggers just ignore the fact that they have to leave out a lot of movies since they haven’t watched them. Or they’re patient and just wait a couple of more months.

      It’s a good reminder though that even within the US releases come at very different points. I keep forgetting that, assuming that everyone gets access to everything, which is not the case.

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 12:24 am

  5. You’re right! Where would film bloggers be without their lists.
    I like the New Year’s image you ended your post on Jessica. WHMS is one of my favourites too and I’ll probably find myself watching it again at some stage tomorrow night.
    Happy New Year.

    Paul S

    December 30, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    • Yay! I haven’t seen it for many years but I came to think of it as I was browsing the webs for a screenshot from a movie that was New Year related. And now I feel the urge to see it again too. I might have it recorded somewhere… need to check that out.

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 12:25 am

  6. I am fortunate enough to live in a place where most of the major releases are readily watchable, for example Shame has been out here for three weeks now and all the films that Bondo mentioned opened on Christmas weekend. And that’s not even including what is in Philadelphia. Still, most of what I am interested in I know I won’t have a chance to see until two or three months (even more perhaps) in 2012.

    As a result, I have many of the same frustrations about list making. I think I’ve mostly just settled on films that I see by the middle of January. Grandfather in what carried over from 2010 with dual eligibility for the master list and just look at my abridged list for performance lists I make. Not a great solution, but we all have to do what works.

    Lists are a way of recognizing great films, I think. The year they were released, for my anyway, isn’t incredibly important. I still always feel disappointed that I didn’t see more when I make these lists, but as long as I am keeping myself contained to a calender year I can feel a bit more satisfied at my efforts, even if that means I am a year or so behind the New York and LAs of the world.

    Rich T

    December 30, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    • I think you have a wise approach. In the end, while it’s fun to discuss and compare lists, we’re mostly doing them for ourselves and perhaps it doesn’t matter all that much what rules we put up, as long as we’re consistent.

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 12:27 am

  7. I do my list over the films i watched for the first time during 2011. I did so for 2010. Thats the best way for me because there i s always a couple of movies one misses of a number of reasons.

    filmitch

    December 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm

  8. Great post. I’m going through many of the same thoughts, feelings and difficulties right now with lists.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    December 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    • Thanks! I can imagine it’s a bit tricker to you than to many others since you’re much into smaller indie movies that may not get a huge distribution at once….

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 12:31 am

  9. Jessica, I’m definitely with you on the difficulties of making a year-end list. I’d suggest just making a list of your favorites of the year, even if the releases don’t always match what’s coming out in other areas.

    I really like making lists, but I struggled this year because a busy schedule has kept me from seeing a lot of the big ones like The Artist, Midnight in Paris, Hugo, and others yet. I decided to just give it my best shot of where I am at this point with the year. I think that’s all anyone can do. Even pros who’ve seen over 100 movies this year have probably missed something.

    Happy New Year!

    Dan Heaton

    December 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    • Thanks for the support Dan! Maybe I’m overthinking it. As long as you’re transparent, telling what you haven’t seen of highly acclaimed movies, I suppose you’re fine, regardless of when you decide to release the list.

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 12:49 am

  10. Always the dilemma as a Swede, isn’t it? Truth is that even if everything was released here the same time as in other parts of the world, I still wouldn’t be seeing everything in time. I still feel like I have so much catching up to do when it comes to older films (my movie interest didn’t really awaken until a few years ago). I don’t need to see all the new stuff right away. It can wait. Why do I have to see Scorsese’s Hugo now when I haven’t even seen his Raging Bull or Goodfellas yet?

    True, we miss out on fun year-end discussions to an extent. Still, the more top 10 lists that pop up this time of the year, the less I feel like I’d have much to add to it. It’s mostly the same 30-ish films you see repeated and rearranged in various orders from everyone. The longer removed you are from a year, the more hidden gems you discover, rather than heading straight for the films everyone is talking about so you can take part in the debates.

    So I’m fine with saving my Top 10 of 2011 for later in 2012, when I’ve seen more stuff.

    Thank you for all the great blog posts this year, Jessica! I’ll be coming around the Café in 2012 still. I like this place.

    Have a great New Year’s Eve, and a happy new year!

    Emil

    December 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    • I hear you.
      I’m pretty much in the same position as you Emil, catching up a lot. I did have a film interest as I was younger, but for many years, when I had young kids or other hobbies that took all my available time, I barely watched anything at all. My film knowledge is full of sad gaps which I’m grying to overbuild.

      I think you’re top 10 lists of years of the 2000s have been very enjoyable reads and I hope to do something along that lines some day.

      Thank you for all the kind words and thank you for being one of the regulars to come here for drinks and chatter. I really appreciate it!

      And of course:

      Gott Nytt År! (that is Happy New Year for the English speaking crowd)

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 12:55 am

  11. Argh, you’re teasing me with that last picture. I know that I’ve seen that movie! *Cheats* Ah, when harry met sally…

    I took a look at the 44 movies I’ve seen from 2011 and there’s a grand total of zero movies that i gave a perfect 10/10 ratings. But I’ve seen a few 10/10 movies from 2010 this year: Black Swan, Flipped, Shutter Island and the Ghost Writer. Maybe I’ll see some great 2011 movies in 2012 🙂

    Carra

    December 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    • I think I have a handfull of 5/5 ratings for this year, but 30 or so 4/5 ratings. Either it has been a very good film year. Or I’m just quite easy to please…

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 12:58 am

  12. Interested to see your list! I’ve put mine up today and like you say, they are very hard to make especially knowing there are lots I still have not been able to see yet.

    Nostra

    December 30, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    • Well done making a list! I had a glance at it and I have seen quite a few on the list. I miss out some though, like Attack the block, which is a pity. But like you I adored The Skin I live in as well as Melancholia. Hanna was a lovely little movie. I doubt it will make it into the top 10 considering the competition. But it’s definitely one of the most memorable movies of the year.

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 1:03 am

  13. Wow, you sure are dedicated — I could never get my head wrapped around a top 100-list. And my top 10 changes almost daily, depending on sooo many factors 😉 Still, it’s a frustration I’ve discovered that I can live with, like the fact that I’m totally out of the loop with the movies that were up for grabs for the 2011 Academy Awards. I will get to them eventually, there’s just so many other movies I want to watch first.

    A Very Happy New Movie Year to you too (and what a lovely picture…)

    Sofia

    December 30, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    • In dead it’s a lovely picture! 🙂
      It’s a little annoying that I haven’t been able to watch movies like The Artist and Hugo, which certainly will come up in the Award discussions. But I suppose that is one of the reasons why those awards don’t engage me super much.

      Gott nytt filmår to you too!

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 1:06 am

  14. I still have not released a Best of Films 2010 thing because I’m not finished and there’s still films I need to see which is why it will take a lot longer than I’ve anticipated. Plus, it’s likely that my 2011 won’t be done either. I just choose to release an “unofficial” list because my lists often change and there is always some surprise in the end.

    Steven Flores

    December 31, 2011 at 12:39 am

    • That’s how a serious list maker rolls!
      Honestly, I’m not surprised to hear that coming from you and I really admire your seriousness about this.
      The idea to release an “unoffical” list is of course an alternative that I also should consider.

      Jessica

      December 31, 2011 at 1:07 am

  15. I think it is clear that making a “best of this year” list at the end of the year poses way too many problems. Although I live in a cinephile friendly city in the U.S., I still don’t have the time and finances to go out to the theatre every week to make my “best of” list worthwhile to anyone or satisfying to me. I usually catch films on DVD, and I am often catching up to the films I want to see a couple years after they are released.

    I think your idea of awards to be great. Perhaps I’ll do something similar. Or I’ll post my top ten films of 1973.

    Steve Kimes

    December 31, 2011 at 7:04 am

    • It definitely poses a lot of problems and still most bloggers out there seem to manage to put one together. I’m glad I’m not the only one getting a headache from it.

      There are a few though who make award lists. And to be honest I think they’re often more fun reads than traditional 1-10 lists.

      Jessica

      January 1, 2012 at 11:15 am

  16. Wonderful article my friend.

    I understand your pain as a fellow european. I get so upset at late release dates.

    I have been lucky enough to go to quite a few festivals this year, but I have been forced (bullied even by my staff) not to include films not released yet here…. Even though I really wanted SHAME at number 2.

    I worry that these films that I love now will be outclassed or forgotten about by yhe end of 2012 (if we are still living then)

    Ah well it is a hard life hey?

    #firstworldproblems

    Scott Lawlor

    December 31, 2011 at 11:09 am

    • It’s so hard, isn’t it? *sniff*

      But yeah you can’t help worrying a bit about your early-year-favorites. They clearly risk to end up in a nomansland. By the end of the year they’re not top on mind anymore.

      Jessica

      January 1, 2012 at 11:17 am

  17. I feel your pain. There’s no way I’ll make a best of 2011 list until I’ve seen more of the films released this year. Have enjoyed visiting the cafe a great deal, please keep up the good work! Happy New Year!

    Pete

    December 31, 2011 at 11:53 am

  18. Very insightful and topical blog post Jessica. Fact is we can all complain about being able to see all the movies we would have liked to see before making our top list. I was just complaining on another blog about how I have been unable to see foreign movies such as Elite Squad: The Elite Within, A Separation, Le Havre etc… before making my top 10 of 2011. At the end of the day, we can’t watch every movie that are made so it’s a given that each list has this limitation. I wouldn’t worry about it 😉

    Castor

    January 2, 2012 at 2:44 am

    • Thanks Castor! I guess all those lists are subjects for change. Perhaps we should just regard them as sparks of inspiration for further discussion, not taking them too seriously.

      Jessica

      January 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm

  19. Happy new Year, I have the same problem as you – so many films don’t release until spring, it’s depressing…

    Mette M. K. (@Limette9)

    January 2, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    • Perhaps I should just be as glad since they get too may anyway. I had a first look tonight at something that I guess could be like my top list of the year. And it included 35 movies that are all awesome, 4/5 or above. And the ones left ot of THAT list are still good.

      It was an amazing film year.

      Jessica

      January 2, 2012 at 11:11 pm

  20. I don’t think its obligatory/necessery for a blogger to list everything. I do from time to time but to be honest those collections of titles are more like recommendations on my taste.

    Joel Burman

    January 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    • Yes, I’m working on one myself after all and I’ll probably end up publishing. If nothing else it gives a snapshot of what kind of movies I like, and that in turn perhaps can spark some good recommendations from others with similar likes and dislikes.

      Jessica

      January 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

      • I look forward in reading it hopefully with Blue Valentine on top. For me it would have been the best of 2011 also.

        Joel Burman

        January 3, 2012 at 10:01 am

        • I’m afraid it’s not on top, but rather in the 11-20 or even 21-35 bracket. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad. It was really, really good. It’s just that the competition is absolutely crazy. It was an amazing film year as far as I’m concerned.

          My current number one is… no wait. I’ll keep that a secret for a little while longer. 🙂

          Jessica

          January 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

  21. […] I made a list after all. I’ve talked about my frustrations regarding list making, but watching everyone else’s top 10 lists, I was caught by the bug […]


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