It’s true, the Boston Phoenix has never won an Oscar. But our fictional equivalent, the Back Bay Mainline, did help Joan Micklin Silver win an Otto Dibelius award at the Berlin International Film Festival. (Take that, Oscar.) Silver’s 1977 comedy/drama Between the Lines (starring John Heard and Jeff Goldblum) concerns the operations of a Boston alternative weekly, modeled after the Phoenix and its former competitor, the Real Paper.
Still questioning our cinema cred? Well, when it comes to film criticism, the Phoenix (originally called Boston After Dark) has one of the richest histories of any American publication. In our 41 years, we’ve been privileged to publish works by some of the best critics in the country. (A privilege we still enjoy today.) Many of those whose bylines we’ve featured have gone on to prominent positions as critics for the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, the St. Louis PostDispatch, Salon, Entertainment Weekly, and New York magazine, among others.
With the Oscars coming up, we figured this group would have as intelligent and relevant opinions as any to weigh in on contemporary film. Thus the formation of the first annual Boston Phoenix–Alumni Film Critics’ Poll.
It’s hard to remember everyone who has written about film in the paper’s four-plus decades, let alone track them down. Some we simply could not find. Others were no longer reviewing movies full-time and ruled themselves ineligible. At least one declined participation for philosophical reasons, believing critics should not play the poll game. Another is now a Hollywood player and didn’t think it kosher — or politic — to pass judgment on his colleagues’ fare. But we did manage to round up 30 past and present contributors for what we feel is a pulsing survey of the films of 2007. Move over, Oscar: Otto is in town.
Participants were asked to rank their top 10 films of the year, and their top five performances in five other categories: best director, actor, actress, supporting actor, and supporting actress. For best picture, we awarded 10 points for a number-one selection, nine points for a number-two selection, and so on. For the remaining categories, five points were given for a first-place selection, four points for a second-place selection . . . you get the idea.
Once all 30 ballots were tallied, we dropped nominees’ high and low scores in each category and tabulated the rest. (Nominees that received less than three votes in any given category are not listed in the final count.) In all, 142 films received at least one vote in any category, including, most surprisingly, one tally for Norbit.
But the cream definitely rose to the top. What follows is a list of the top vote-getters and their point totals, as well as the number of ballots on which each nominee appeared.