In picking their favorite 2016 films, the three N.Y. Times critics — Manohla Dargis, A.O. Scott and Stephen Holden — have not strenuously argued with the notion that critics live in their own cloistered realms, processing movies in rarified terms, knowledgable and sophisticated but breathing special foo-foo oxygen.
I agree with some of their choices — Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash, Paul Verhoeven‘s Elle, Ezra Edelman‘s O.J.: Made in America, Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson, Andrea Arnold‘s American Honey. I am respectfully side-stepping discussions of Moonlight except to say that it’s a good film. No mentions of Robert Eggers‘ The Witch or Gavin Hood‘s Eye in the Sky, and yet Holden included Todd Solondz‘s groan-inducing Wiener-Dog among his honorable mentions. Wiener-Dog — the scourge of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival!
The Times trio appears to have been influenced by one important consideration, which is to avoid saluting or even mentioning the top-ranked faves of the Gold Derby-ites and Gurus of Goldies. Holden included the masterful Manchester by the Sea on his top-ten roster but not Scott or Dargis. THR columnist Scott Feinberg called the trio’s refusal to include La La Land and Hell or High Water among their top-tens “unfathomable.” Dargis at least mentioned La La Land among her “other loves,” although she says that she did so “mainly for its finale.” The trio didn’t offer even limited love for Denzel Washington‘s Fences; ditto Martin Scorsese‘s Silence.