“The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus?” Margaret Thatcher
In a year with so many good films, narrowing it down to just nine or ten seems impossible. For me it started all the way in May at Cannes, where we all sat in the Grand Lumiere awash in the thick silence of wrapped attention, the only sounds were the wind and the sea. It was a unique meditation on the metaphysical, something you never see in movies anymore. I waited in the rain for two hours just to sit up and on the side to catch the first screening of Inside Llewyn Davis. Alexander Payne, Bruce Dern and June Squibb brought Nebraska to Cannes — such a splendid portrait of the America the corporations forgot. Then, to be there in Telluride when 12 Years a Slave was first screened. Nobody knows anything and that first screening could have gone terribly wrong. But it moved everyone — some were moved to tears, others couldn’t bear it, some were moved by the sheer artistry of it. It would take a while for the whispering that it wasn’t a movie voters would like to seep through the collective. Back then, this was just the thrill of seeing something new, before the awards race got its greasy fingers on it.
I’d already heard the buzz out of Venice that Gravity was exceptional. Out there on the outskirts of Telluride, bundled up to stay out of the rain in the brand new Werner Herzog theater — what an experience to see Gravity and walk out feeling like you’d just climbed Everest. It would be a while before the whispers about this or that about accuracy, this or that about Sandra Bullock, would seep through. Lucky me, I got to see it before all of that happened, back when it was still a wonder.
And even now, watching The Wolf of Wall Street on a tiny screen at the Landmark with many bloggers and critics in attendance and walking out of it dazzled, dumbfounded and enthralled. Not ten minutes later the chatter in the party afterwards was whether “they” would like it, Academy members who apparently have traded their artistic courage in for a visit from Dr. Feelgood. “They” were going to be a problem for The Wolf of Wall Street and forever for great films everywhere. But were they the problem or were we? We’re so worried about whether it’s going to rain we can’t stop and enjoy the sunshine.
Now that we’re at the point where some last minute entries that bypassed the festival circuit are making a strong showing here in the 11th hour — American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, we’re now coming close to our Best Picture consensus, the films most people can agree upon as being the best of the year. All of these contenders have their reasons for being here – they touch on a personal narrative many can relate to, they achieve such a high level of excellence overall they can’t be ignored, or they dare to go places none of us ever could and perhaps they drag us kicking and screaming along the way.