Top Ten lists: Why do readers like them? Why do critics bother with them?
There's an intriguing post up at Slashfilm in which David Chen wonders — and asks readers to explain — why people read critics' Top Ten lists. Jumping off from a couple of notable internet-based incidents in which critics have found torch-carrying mobs at their doors — including David Edelstein's remarkable experience as the first high-profile critic to pan The Dark Knight and Salon's Stephanie Zacharek being attacked by commenters for her unusual choices for the best movies of the year — Chen wonders what draws people to Top Ten lists in the first place.
He's been getting some interesting responses: people admitting they just read lists to have their own opinions validated, people saying they hope to hear about movies they haven't seen yet, and people who still want to keep arguing about why they hate Stephanie Zacharek and don't think it's possible for anyone to have valid reasons for not enjoying The Dark Knight.
There's something very down-the-rabbit-hole about asking commenters to comment on the comment culture, but it's interesting to ask, not so much why people read Top Ten lists, but why they read criticism at all. Zacharek's list of honorable mentions, in particular, certainly struck me as ridiculous (High School Musical 3? You Don't Mess With The Zohan?), but in fairness to her, these are movies she gave good reviews when they were released. There is suspicion in the Slashfilm comments that her list intentionally includes terrible movies because controversy drives readership, but if that's the case, then it's a conspiracy beyond the year-end list.
For the record, one of the reasons I really enjoy Slashfilm, on the whole, is that the writers do such a good job of walking the line between enthusiasm and criticism — they get all "WOO-HOO!" excited about trailers and on-set photos and so forth, but they also know a lot about movies and put a lot of thought into what they write. It makes that site really the ideal place to conduct a discussion with fans about why they read critics. Definitely a blog worth adding to your daily reads if you like to follow movie news.