It should go without saying, but frequently does not, that Top 10 lists, like the individual judgements that comprise them, are personal statements. Top 10s, especially those presented without overall explanation, lend themselves to an air of authority, but you can never escape that the common thread linking those movies is the person who responded to them. As Robert Warshow famously wrote, “A man goes to the movies. The critic must be honest enough to admit he is that man.”
The New York Times’ A.O. Scott owned up to as much when he named “Boyhood” the best movie of 2014; it might have been his favorite any other year, but coming in the year his oldest son graduated high school and prepared to leave home for college, it struck a chord he was helpless to escape. “My critical impulse seemed to collapse,” he wrote, “along with my ability to find the boundary between art and life.”
Drew McWeeny’s Top 10 for 2014 is also a reflection on the end of his marriage, which not only colored his choices but made him wonder if his fondness for 2013 movies like “Her” and “Before Midnight” should have been a warning that his relationship was crumbling.
There was no conscious decision on my part to pick those two films to satisfy an agenda or make some point about my life. Far from it. It’s only now, looking back on 2014, that I realize how clearly issues of love and commitment and human connection were on my mind in a big way. I may not have known for sure that I was about to have my marriage collapse, but I was definitely already grappling with some big feelings, and those two films managed to hit me [with] sledgehammers because that’s where my head was.
Myself, I don’t know how a recently divorced person even makes it through “Force Majeure,” in which an unexpected strain exposes the fissures in a hitherto happy-seeming marriage. (Should I be worried it’s on my list?) Props to McWeeny for soldiering on, and for engaging the ways even a list of movies titles can, and must, be personal.