Three days ago (4.6.23) the Hollywood Reporter ran one of those “taking stock and honing it all down” laundry-list articles that happen every so often. It’s called “Hollywood Reporter Critics Pick the 50 Best Films of the 21st Century.”

Co-authored by the highly esteemed Jon Frosch, David Rooney, Sheri Linden, Lovia Gyarkye, Leslie Felperin and Jordan Mintzer, the piece highlights several brilliant, important, well-chosen films, but for the most part it’s a DEI checklist roster…the same kind of diverse balancing act assessment that N.Y. Times critics A.O. Scott and and Manohla Dargis began to be associated with starting about five years ago….gay, Black, women, Asian + steer clear of any white male influence whenever possible…gay, Black, women, Asian + steer clear of any white male influence whenever possible…wash, rinse, repeat.

The key question must always be, “If you discount the DEI aspect, how good are these films on their own bare-bones merit?”

Most of these critics understand this is a fair way to winnow and select, but they’re fearful of not doing the DEI dance because doing so could be interpreted as exclusionary, elitist, racist or old-schoolish. In the old days (i.e., before 2017) such lists were sometimes driven by attempts to reckon with the best-of-the-best based on purely cinematic, dramatic, daring or transcendent, soul-drilling terms. Now it’s all about identity politics and Twitter and terror…about being afraid to say what they really think because this might get them into trouble or cause some kind of ruckus. They know this deep down but will never admit it.

Here’s what they chose (HE agreement in boldface)…HE enthusiastically approves of 12 THR picks:

Bottom 25: Weekend (fine), Black Panther (gimme a break!), Time (difficult incarceration story), Bright Star (Jane Campion, John Keats, Fanny Brawne), Pariah (Dee Rees, Brooklyn lesbian saga), Bridesmaids (culturally important but not really good enough to make a serious “creme de la creme” list), Things to Come (Mia Hansen Love, Isabelle Huppert), Grizzly Man (great Herzog), Never Rarely Sometimes Always (weak tea abortion saga), Pan’s Labyrinth (top-tier GDT), Summer of Soul (found-footage POC concert doc…stirring as far as it goes), I Am Not Your Negro (gripping James Baldwin doc), Children of Men (brilliant, classic), Wendy and Lucy (good but basically a sop to the Reichart cult), Lover’s Rock (not the best of the five Small Axe films — the best is Mangrove), The Favourite (good Yorgos Lanthimos costumer but calm down), The Social Network (brilliant), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (blistering lesbian romance, emotional wipe-out), The Return (I’m more enamored of Zvyagintsev‘s Leviathan), Manchester by the Sea (grand slam), Marie Antoinette (please!), The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romanian classic), A Serious Man (magnificent defeatism, peak Coen Bros.), At Berkeley (Wiseman tribute doc), Y Tu Mamá También (classic Cuaron but “unbearably poignant”?). HE approval tally: 6.

Top 25: Call Me By Your Name (Guadagnino’s landmark romance), Timbuktu (Islamic nutters), 35 Shots of Rum (calm down), Before Sunset (not the best of Linklater’s relationship trilogy — that would be Before Midnight), Parasite (good but overrated — collapses when drunk con artists let the maid in and thereby ruin their whole con), Far From Heaven (commendable but overpraised Sirk tribute), Drive My Car (too long, too many cigarettes, exhausting, runs out of gas), Shoplifters (under-energized, over-praised), Talk to Her (magnificent Almodovar), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (fine), The Power of the Dog (no way in hell does this punishing slog of a film belong on this list), Wall-E (okay), Burning (corrosive and hard-hitting, but overlong and sluggish), Moonlight (way overpraised due to weak third act + too-muscular Trevante Rhodes, but Barry Jenkins‘ depiction of a world-class handjob on a beach will be long remembered), Boyhood (exceptional stunt film), Get Out (racially stamped Ira Levin zombie spooker…possibly the most overpraised film of the 21st Century), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (brilliant), In the Mood for Love (understated, appropriately respected romance, considerably aided by Chris Doyle‘s cinematography), Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee‘s timeless classic about letting love slip away), Spirited Away (fine), Mulholland Drive (take away the spookiness and perversity and what’s left?), Zodiac (drop-dead brilliant investigation of an endlessly fascinating cold case), The Gleaners and I (never saw it), Inside Llewyn Davis (another serving of world-class downerism from the Coens) and Yi Yi (ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen it). HE approval tally: 6.

Here are some of HE’s recent best: King Richard, Nomadland, Roman Polanski‘s J’Accuse (An Officer and a Spy), Kent JonesDiane, Craig Zahler‘s Dragged Across Concrete, A.J. Eaton and Cameron Crowe‘s David Crosby: Remember My Name, Robert EggersThe Lighthouse, J.C. Chandor‘s Triple Frontier, Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, Paul Schrader‘s First Reformed, Ari Aster‘s Hereditary, Stefano Sollima‘s Sicario — Day of the Soldado, Andrej Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless, Matt Tyrnauer‘s Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (13).

HE’s best of 2017: Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me My Your Name, Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk, Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird, Ruben Ostlund‘s The Square, Darren Aronofsky‘s mother!, David Lowery‘s A Ghost Story. (6)

Best of 2016: Manchester By The Sea, A Bigger Splash, The Witch, Eye in the Sky, The Confirmation, The Invitation. (6)

Best of 2015: Spotlight, The Revenant; Mad Max: Fury Road; Beasts of No Nation; Love & Mercy, Son of Saul; Brooklyn; Carol, Everest, Ant-Man; The Big Short. (10)

Best of 2014: Birdman, Citizen Four, Leviathan, Gone Girl, Boyhood, Locke, Wild Tales. (7)

Best of 2013: The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Dallas Buyers Club, Before Midnight, The Past, Frances Ha (8).

Best of 2012: Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Barbara, The Grey, Moonrise Kingdom (7).

Best of 2011 (ditto): A Separation, Moneyball, Drive, Contagion, X-Men: First Class, Attack the Block (6).

Best of 2010: The Social Network, The Fighter, Black Swan, Inside Job, Let Me In, A Prophet, Animal Kingdom, Rabbit Hole, The Tillman Story, Winter’s Bone (10).

42 Best of the First Decade (’00 to ’09): Zodiac, Memento, Traffic, Amores perros, United 93, Children of Men, Adaptation, City of God, The Pianist, The Lives of Others, Sexy Beast, Avatar, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, Almost Famous (the “Untitled” DVD director’s cut), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Collateral, Dancer in the Dark, A Serious Man, Girlfight, The Departed, Babel, Ghost World, In the Bedroom, Talk to Her, Bloody Sunday, No Country For Old Men, The Quiet American, Whale Rider, Road to Perdition, Open Range, Touching the Void, Maria Full of Grace, Up In The Air, The Hurt Locker, Million Dollar Baby, The Motorcycle Diaries, An Education, Man on Wire, Revolutionary Road, Che and Volver. (42)

Total HE approval tally (’00 to ’22): 115.