Of the many reasons to mourn the Village Voice’s abrupt shuttering in 2018, its annual film poll, which the paper had conducted since 1999, isn’t the most urgent. (The paper’s local reporting on New York City had more impact, and its Pazz & Jop poll—which a skeleton crew of staffers is continuing this year—was a longer-running cultural survey.) However, the film poll was a fun and useful snapshot of the year in cinema from a healthy roster of film critics, and it’s one feature that a grieving fan desperately trying to duck family members over the holidays could theoretically replicate. Using the roster of critics from last year’s poll, and the Voice’s stated tabulation rules, I created an approximation of what the 2018 results might have looked like for Best Film. It’s almost certainly not “accurate”—for one thing, I heard from or found published Top 10 lists for only 85 of the 112 folks who participated last time—but it should at least be in the ballpark. If it isn’t, there’s no one left to complain!
Given Roma’s dominance of awards season—it won Best Picture from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, both of which contribute a lot of voters here—I had little doubt that it would prove victorious. Instead, First Reformed, Paul Schrader’s Academy-ratio drama about a deeply troubled Protestant minister squeaked out an upset, besting Roma by 3 votes and a mere 7 points. The top five is rounded out by movies set in 18th-century colonial South America (Zama), contemporary South Korea (Burning), and a Hooters-style family restaurant called Double Whammies (Support the Girls). Every one is a must-see.
The Top 15 (total points/total votes):
1. First Reformed (258/37)
2. Roma (251/34)
3. Burning (200/34)
4. Support the Girls (143/25)
5. Zama (130/23)
6. If Beale Street Could Talk (122/21)
7. Leave No Trace (119/26)
8. Cold War (112/19)
9. The Favourite (109/19)
10. Paddington 2 (109/15)
11. The Rider (108/20)
12. Shoplifters (105/20)
13. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (101/21)
14. You Were Never Really Here (98/16)
15. The Other Side of the Wind (90/13)
For me, though, the real fun in an exercise like this lies not in briefly perusing the winners (which tend to be the same films getting plenty of attention elsewhere) but in voraciously browsing through the outliers. Here’s the complete list of every film that received a vote—all 169 of ’em. (Or, as Lincoln would have phrased it, five score and nice.) Click the title of one that you loved and see who agreed with you, then click that critic’s name to see what else they championed. Heading down that rabbit hole can lead to fascinating discoveries, movies you’d never even heard of before. And individual lists can make statements that wind up getting lost in tabulation. One critic chose 10 films directed (or co-directed, in one case) by women, which might reflect an honest opinion of last year’s best work or might be a pointed retort to an industry that remains male-dominated. Or it could be both! Either way, the truly interesting aspects of a poll lie in the details. Happy spelunking.