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What’s your favourite film of the year?

Two critical favourites seem to have emerged this year

A still from ‘American Honey’ .
A still from ‘American Honey’ .

It’s that time of the year when critics release their best-of lists and cinephiles compose overwrought tweets telling them exactly what they would have done had their opinions mattered. In a few months, the Academy will award the best English-language film, but for those who set their sights a little higher and wider, these year-end lists are the best chance to rank and honour the best films from across the world.

Or are they? Of all the top 10 lists of IndieWire, Cahiers du Cinéma, New York Times and Sight & Sound, only one, film critic Manohla Dargis, has a film from Asia (Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden). There’s a smattering of films from Latin America; Aquarius, Neruda, Embrace Of The Serpent, Neon Bull, Julieta. Africa, as always, is unrepresented, as is most of central Europe. A glance at the lists would suggest that the top critics today are increasingly conscious about matters of colour, but true diversity is some way off. Their Euro-US bent may be a result of the realities of global distribution (Asian/African/Latin American films might not be getting releases), but bear in mind that film canons have traditionally displayed a Western bias.

Two critical favourites seem to have emerged this year. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight tops both the Indiewire individual critic lists, two of the New York Times lists, and is in second place at Sight & Sound. And Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann is the best film for the idiosyncratic Cahiers du Cinéma and for Sight & Sound, thus treating everyone to the rare sight of British and French critics agreeing with each other. Andre Arnold’s American Honey appears on several lists, as does Paul Verhoeven’s Elle.

Before telling these critics that they’ve clearly messed up their selections, bear in mind that some of the “omissions" may simply be because the films haven’t released theatrically (I, Daniel Blake is yet to open in the US; the same goes for Jackie in the UK). It might also help to keep an open mind. A year-end list devoid of surprise and provocation is, to my mind, a missed opportunity.

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