The American Film Institute’s two juries, who vote on the top ten American films and television shows for the year, boast an unusual mix of industry players, including some Academy members, critics and academics. It’s been fun when I have served on that jury to traverse the different ways of looking at things. It’s far from homogenous and arguments pro and con can get tendentious.
This movie list is likely close to the list of films that the Guilds, Golden Globes and Oscars will be working with, with the exception of such British entries as “The Theory of Everything” and “Mr. Turner,” which weren’t eligible. Presumably, The Weinstein Co. managed to convince the powers that be that indie-financed “The Imitation Game” had enough American elements, including the financier, producers and screenwriter.
Among studio films boasting scale and scope, two war films, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” and Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” made the cut, along with Disney musical “Into the Woods,” and blockbuster “Interstellar.” Fox commercial hits “Gone Girl” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” lacked the necessary gravitas, apparently, along with late-breaking “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and Warner Bros.’ latest Peter Jackson “Hobbit” installment.
Among the smaller films, IFC’s critics’ fave “Boyhood” made the cut, along with SPC’s “Whiplash” and “Foxcatcher,” which needed a boost, Paramount indie pickup “Selma,” and Open Road’s LA noir “Nightcrawler.” Fox Searchlight’s “Birdman” made the list but “Wild” and critics’ fave “The Grand Budapest Hotel” did not. Two films directed by women are on this list and may well make it to best Picture contention as well.
Top Eleven Films, in alphabetical order (TIE)
Votes like this can be influential, especially this year, when the mainstream of the Academy couldn’t be farther away from many of the critics’ groups and there is real diversity in the range of what is being considered. Right now, many industry watchers are disappointed by much of what they are seeing. So the game now is about getting Academy voters to pick things out of their deepening screener piles.
Of the Top Ten TV shows, “Homeland” and “The Good Wife” are notable omissions, while newcomers Netflix and Amazon scored with “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent,” respectively.
Top Ten TV Shows, in alphabetical order