Top 10 lists finally reach critical mass

HOLLYWOOD — Can crix pick pics?

Reviewers are flaunting their year-end top 10 as movie ads tout that theirs is the critics’ fave. Which raises the question: What actually was the best-reviewed film of the year?

The answer: It depends on how you tabulate and who you’re asking.

According to Variety‘s Crix Picks, the top five are “Finding Nemo,” “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the Ring,” “Lost in Translation,” “Mystic River” and “Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World” (see chart).

Variety is clearly the Bible of showbiz. It’s the final word. That’s why you’re reading it. But it’s not the only word when it comes to critics.

For example, newspaper ads for “Mystic River” proudly proclaim the film is on “over 125 top 10 lists.”

That sounds pretty impressive until you turn the pages to ads for “American Splendor” (“Over 200 critics agree: One of the year’s 10 best”) and “Lost in Translation” (“Over 220 critics nationwide rave ‘one of the best pictures of the year!'”)

Apparently it’s a question of how many critics deserve credibility. They range from the household names (Roger Ebert, Joel Siegel, etc.) and reps from reputable papers, down to critics from Web sites that few have heard of.

Movie City News tallies up 134 top 10 lists; another site, geninn.net, tallies top 10 lists from an astonishing 504 critics.

While it’s terrifying to think that there are 504 individuals in the world who are eager to show off their favorites, the results are remarkably similar to Movie City News.

Both have the identical top five. In order: “Translation,” “Rings,” “Mystic,” “American Splendor” and “Finding Nemo.”

Numbers six through 10 feature the same titles, though the two Web sites vary the order slightly: “In America,” “Capturing the Friedmans,” “Master & Commander,” “21 Grams” and “Kill Bill, Vol. 1.”

While the consistency between the Web sites and Variety‘s tally is an eye-opener, it’s also surprising how mainstream the choices are.

And then, of course, there are the year-end critics awards. The New York Film Critics have a reputation for trying to be esoteric. Indeed, few can dispute their choices for screenplay and cinematography — “The Secret Lives of Dentists” and “Elephant”/”Gerry” — because few people saw these films.

But in general, critics — at least the 504 critics that don’t belong to the Gotham organization — seemed to agree with audiences, who favored such mainstream pics as “Cold Mountain,” “Seabiscuit,” “School of Rock” and “Big Fish.”

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