My colleagues have already posted some about the vicissitudes of "awards season," but let me add my voice to the chorus and say a few words about my growing disenchantment with the whole year-end list-making process.

I used to love lists. Even before I was paid to do it, I made lists. Favorite movies, favorite albums, year-by-year, best-of-all-time, etc. And I read every list I could, looking for movies I hadn't seen and music I hadn't heard. I still get a handful of music suggestions every year by perusing the lists that start hitting magazine racks in late November. The whole list-making enterprise is meant to encapsulate personal taste, sum up the year, and work towards the formation of the canon, all at once. It's also supposed to be fun.

Lately though, I've kind of had it with lists, for a few reasons:

1. You, the reader.

Lists are supposed to spark debate, and I look forward every year to your comments about what we left off. But less enjoyable are the more cutting accusations about our intentions. Not that we can't handle the criticism—heck, we're happy anyone's reading at all—but the complaints tend to be repetive and contadictory. We're too predictable. We're too obscure. We don't listen to enough (hip-hop, dance music, avant-garde, jazz, worldbeat, folk, blues, metal, women). We only like what other critics like. And so on.

A lot of those complaints are fair, and I'll cop to our limitations. Our staff is all roughly the same age, with the same social background, and though we have our resident specialists in rap and electronica, most of us prefer hooky indie-rock and semi-subversive pop, with varying interests in classic rock and roots music. When it comes to our music lists, there's more variety than our nitpickers admit. (8 top ten lists, 80 potential slots, and we named 61 different albums.) But it's true that there's a lot of overlap, with some of the albums that appear on multiple A.V. Club lists also appearing on lists in other publications. You could argue that we're all trying to be "correct" in our choices, but speaking for myself (and I believe for my colleagues), I pick the records that I listened to over and over again all year long, and a lot of those are the same records that every other critic listened to over and over again all year long. What can I say? If this whole exercise is about picking the best records of the year, maybe the records we name over and over are actually pretty good.

As for the best-of movies list—coming next issue—there are fewer qualified choices, so the overlap is likely to be more pronounced. Maybe in future years, we should create a master list with the top 10 movies we generally agree on, followed by individual lists that reveal our more idiosyncratic choices. But it's still unlikely you're going to find much that hasn't been written about excessively here and elsewhere. That's the nature of the movie list … something I'll get to more later on, in point three.

2. There are too many goddamn lists.

When I was growing up, I could look forward to a couple of year-end film and music lists, from local newspaper critics and the few national outlets that covered the arts extensively. And I could look forward to maybe one other big list a year: Rolling Stone's "Top 100 Albums Of The Last 25 years," or the like. Now, not only has the number of magazines and websites devoted to entertainment expanded exponentially, but those magazines and websites now put out a new list issue nearly every quarter, which means hardly a week goes by that Entertainment Weekly isn't promising to reveal "The 50 Best Sports Movies On DVD," or Q isn't touting "The 1001 Greatest Songs Of All Time." The overkill has robbed the listing process of a lot of its novelty, which may explain why readers yawn or grumble when we reveal our lists.

3. Existential crisis.

Why am I here? What is my purpose? And how should I rank my life experiences?

Lately, I'm not so sure I understand the point of all these lists I make. The music list isn't so bad. Like I said up above, I just think of the 10 or so albums that I haven't been able to stop playing, and that's the list. If you don't like it, so be it. All I can do is reassure you that I meant well.

With movies though, the whole process is becoming increasingly corrupted. As Nathan wrote a couple of days ago, there's the whole problem of screening compression. I spend the first two weeks of December scrambling to press screenings and watching DVD screeners of some of the year's most anticipated movies, so I don't accidentally miss the best of '05. I don't want my list to be "incomplete." But what the hell would make my list incomplete? You readers don't know what I have and haven't seen, so if my list doesn't include The New World or Munich—which it doesn't, by the way—you don't know if it's because I didn't think they were good enough, or because I just didn't see them. (For the record, I didn't see them.)

Sometimes I think my best-of-film list is more interesting in October, when not-quite-good-enough movies like Sky High and Red Eye fill out the bottom half. By the time I've caught up with Brokeback Mountain and Grizzly Man, and acknowledged that, yes, these are two of the best movies of the year, my list has started to look more like everyone else's.

Is that wrong? Is the goal of making a best-of-film list to create a consensus, to bring attention to lesser-known titles, or just to reflect my personal taste? Because it's possible to go too far in the opposite direction, and fill a list with titles almost nobody knows (like Nobody Knows). I know that I can sometimes over-hype a movie just because I think I'm going to be one of the only critics to put it on my list, and I want to make its case. Right now I'm debating removing Grizzly Man from my Top 10 (where it's currently ranked fairly high) and replacing it with Mysterious Skin, just because I know Grizzly Man is going to be on a lot of other lists. If I were cold-ranking the two, I'd probably put Grizzly Man higher, if only because I can imagine myself watching it again (whereas Mysterious Skin was kind of hard to take). But am I betraying the whole list-making process if I make a list that's untrue to my actual opinions—even just a smidge?

(Embarassing personal admission: When I was writing for my college paper, I once put Teenage Fanclub's album Bandwagonesque atop my year-end music list, even though I hadn't heard it yet. I loved A Catholic Education so much, and Spin's advance review of Bandwagonesque was so positive that I knew I was going to love it too, and I didn't want my published year-end list to be inaccurate. Was that crazy?)

One last note, to make a long post even longer: This critical navel-gazing has expanded beyond the listing process. Patrick Goldstein recently wrote a pot/kettle column about Oscar prognostication, and how it's turned the movie news blogosphere into a kind of rotisserie league, where people size up the awards prospects of varying movies with little regard for what they really think about the movies themselves. (Goldstein used the example of seeing The New World, loving it, and then immediately worrying about whether it could get a Best Picture nomination.) Awards freak David Poland fired off an angry reply, but then just this week, when the Golden Globe nominations were announced, he complained that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's choices were weird and confusing, making it harder for him to predict the Oscars. Not much about whether he thinks the HFPA's choices were right … only whining that that they're too offbeat.

When I read stuff like that, I want to opt out of the list-making game for good.

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