Year in Film: The 2010 Voice Film Critics’ Poll


And the winner of the 11th annual Village Voice Film Critics’ Poll is . . . The Ghost Writer, Black Swan, Greenberg, Bluebeard, Mother, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Enter the Void.

Just kidding. There’s only one movie of the moment: The Social Network.

Listed on 52 of 85 ballots cast (the largest percentage of any poll-topping movie since Todd Haynes’s Far From Heaven won in 2002), David Fincher’s Birth of a Cyber Nation, directed from Aaron Sorkin’s script, took the Voice poll, just as it captured critics’ awards in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. Old media acknowledges new. The last time a newly anointed Time “Person of the Year” like Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg got the simultaneous Hollywood treatment was back in 1943 (Joe Stalin, Mission to Moscow).

Truly, 2010 was the year of the globalistic rogue—runner-up to the Zuckerberg story was Carlos, Olivier Assayas’s five-and-a-half-hour saga of the most notorious international terrorist of the 1970s, while Exit Through the Gift Shop by art-world mystery-man prankster Banksy handily won both Best Documentary (or “documentary”) and Best First Film. Jesse Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg defeated Édgar Ramírez’s Carlos for Best Actor (although in the real world, both their Google numbers combined—plus Banksy’s—are but a ridiculous fraction of the 131 million citations for global rogue Julian Assange, whose biopic is surely TK).

The poll’s top three movies all but swept the table. Sorkin overwhelmingly won for Best Screenplay; Assayas edged Fincher for Best Director. Meanwhile, third-place Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik’s indie backwoods thriller, collected a pair of awards: Feisty teenager Jennifer Lawrence pirouetted past Black Swan’s Natalie Portman for Best Actress and John Hawkes out-blustered The Fighter’s Christian Bale for Best Supporting Actor, although in the battle for Best Supporting (lowlife) Actress, Bone’s Dale Dickey lost to Animal Kingdom’s Jacki Weaver. The rest of the top 10 are a decidedly mixed bag: Roman Polanski’s absurdist political thriller The Ghost Writer finished fourth, followed by a couple of surprise foreign films, Maren Ade’s acerbic relationship comedy Everyone Else and Giorgos Lanthimos’s allegorical family drama Dogtooth. Darren Aronofsky’s madcap Black Swan came in seventh, just ahead of Alain Resnais’s even madder Wild Grass and Bong Joon-ho’s Hitchcockian murder mystery Mother, all followed by the year’s top grossing movie Toy Story 3.

The poll has a few anomalies. Three critics named movies as the year’s best that figured on no one else’s ballots: Nicholas Winding Refn’s viking fest Valhalla Rising, the documentary The Tillman Story, and Rodrigo García’s adoption drama Mother and Child. But these are proudly declared individual statements. Movies are more generally a collective art and social phenomenon. As box-office receipts measure popularity, polls manifest consensus. What’s really fascinating is intensity of feeling. Each poll has a hidden story, revealing those movies that are not only liked but really liked or even passionately lurved. Carlos may have appeared on significantly fewer ballots than The Social Network, but it garnered more first-place votes and had a higher average score. To quantify this sort of intensity, we’ve derived a primitive algorithm (factoring a movie’s average score with the percentage of voters listing it first or second) known as the Passiondex™.

Application of the Passiondex™ to movies listed by at least three critics yields a somewhat different crop of winners headed by the bleak, violent Red Riding Trilogy (#26). Substantially trailing that critical cult winner are Manoel de Oliveira’s blandly eccentric Strange Case of Angelica (#29); Carlos; Lee Chang-dong’s epic crime drama Secret Sunshine (#16); Todd Solondz’s dark comedy Life During Wartime (#34); Jessica Hausner’s deadpan religious satire Lourdes (#24); Miguel Gomes’s not-quite music doc Our Beloved Month of August (#20); Toy Story 3; and Dogtooth. (That Lourdes, Dogtooth, and Life During Wartime all received votes as the year’s worst film enhances their cult status.) Tied with Dogtooth, and just ahead of Greenberg (#18) on the pash list—The Social Network.

For the 2010 film poll results, go to