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Dec 08 2014

Best American Films & Television This Year?

Does production money really equal nationality?The American Film Institute does many wonderful things in the world including the highly enjoyableAFI film festivalin Los Angeles each year (freefor movie-lovers!and not many things are) but each year I feel the side-eye urge when they announce their top Ten American films and TV programs.

They use a shifting jury each year but I always wonder how they choose those jury members because the lists often betray an obvious desire to be "relevant"when it comes to TV usually including a defining popular hit even if the quality is shit (Look,I think "trash"has a place in "best of"lists but it needs to begoodtrash andHow to Get Away with Murderis,frankly,bad trash.Poorly written,unevenly acted.Etcetera.I watched it and wrote about it,so I know) whereas with movies they seem quite beholden to Oscar buzz each year,often opting for films that don't fit their criteria as a result (The Imitation Gameis a movie about Engand,starring British actors and directed by a Norwegian) or which haven't opened;this year's top ten list,which includes 11 films so AFI is even worse at math than I am,is 36% movies that haven't opened yet.


  • American Sniper
  • Birdman (Or,the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • Nightcrawler
  • Selma
  • Unbroken
  • Whiplash

Aside fromNightcrawleryou could have lifted that list from virtually any 15 wide Oscar Best Picture prediction chart (like uh my own) and simply extracted theotherBritish film (Theory of Everything),the film that opened the longest ago because "old"things are gross (Grand Budapest Hotel),Gone Girl(even though the AFI usually does try and throw one zeitgeist blockbuster into the list so its absence is surprisingand at the very wrong time when we're trying to get people to notice Carrie Coon!) and there it is,no thought processes required beyond Oscar-watching expertise!

Here is my favorite tweet about the list from A24 Films which missed...

And my own because,you know,i WOULD waste the question this way...


  • The Americans
  • Fargo
  • Game of Thrones
  • How to Get Away With Murder
  • Jane the Virgin -keep hearing this is great.guess I should watch
  • The Knick
  • Mad Men -here's to consistent pleasure even if the half season is a cheat
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Silicon Valley
  • Transparent -brilliant.addictive

this is what i'll be remembered for ???*shudder*

WHERE ISBOB'S BURGERS!?!?!?My heart just pooped its pants.

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Reader Comments (25)

Nat: I really hope Selma doesn't get nominated,not because it's not good (I'm fairly sure it's very good),but more to send a message to Paramount over submitting films for Best Picture.See,they just had the massive brass to seriously push Transformers: Age of Extinction and Men,Women and Children for BEST PICTURE.Bravo guys.You just made me wish your studio winds up with no Oscar nominees this year in spite of creating quality and prestigious,work that,to the mainstream,deserves those nominations.

December 8,2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Nat,I'm glad you've jumped onto the Bob's Burgers train but last year's season and this current season pale in comparison to the pure and simple genius of the first three seasons.

December 8,2014 | Unregistered CommenterJS

I feel the inclusion of HTGAWM totally discredits the "expertise"and ability of the jury to judge quality.The exclusions (House of Cards,Good Wife,Masters of Sex etc.,etc.) far out weight that mess of a program.Even Scandal,if you have to give Shondaland a nom,would be a better choice.And I agree about the films.Not much imagination there.

And where is Justified?One of the best and most consistent shows being aired and almost never gets any love.

December 8,2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

YES to Jane the Virgin.It's Gilmore Girls + Pushing Daisies + Ugly Betty.

December 8,2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

The Eastwood tweet made me laugh.His last few movies were *exactly* of a quality you would expect from a senile reactionary who talks smack to a chair.I know voters are supposed to try to be objective but come on,it's now like they're praising him for just being old and ornery and politically contrarian.Is that a new Hollywood minority group that requires affirmative action?

December 8,2014 | Unregistered CommenterOwen Walter

Despite the inclusion ofHow to Get Away With Murder,that TV list is pretty solid.There's only one show I've never seen (same one as Nat),and the rest of the list,even if some of my favorites (The Good Wife,Archer,Justifiedetc.) are missing,is very good to outstanding.

December 8,2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Nathaniel,if you start watching anything in the TV top ten it should be The Americans,immediately!Best show currently on TV.Each episode Keri Russell gives a performance that's the stuff an actressexual's dreams are made of

December 8,2014 | Unregistered Commenterjc ramirez

Am I foolish for totally wanting to seeAmerican Snipernow?If you make something every year almost,you're bound to connect every ten years or so (and I did thinkMystic RiverandLetters from Iwo Jimawere quite good).Or are the awards bodies just being stupid?

December 8,2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

Jane the Virgin is AMAZING.Unbelievable high-wire act that consistently nails everything it is going for.The tone is somewhat reminiscent of Season 1 Glee (i.e.,back when that show was actually good) in its trickiness to pull off - right at the intersection of belly laughs and swooning romance and off-kilter quirk - but Jane is far better at hitting that sweet spot than that other show ever was.Plus,not one,not two,but THREE great actressy performances!

Also,The Americans is incredible and Keri Russell is EVERYTHING in it.The lack of awardage for that show is a crime,I tell you.A CRIME.

December 8,2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Jane the Virgin is AMAZING.Unbelievable high-wire act that consistently nails everything it is going for.The tone is somewhat reminiscent of Season 1 Glee (i.e.,back when that show was actually good) in its trickiness to pull off - right at the intersection of belly laughs and swooning romance and off-kilter quirk - but Jane is far better at hitting that sweet spot than that other show ever was.Plus,not one,not two,but THREE great actressy performances!

Also,The Americans is incredible and Keri Russell is EVERYTHING in it.The lack of awardage for that show is a crime,I tell you.A CRIME.

December 8,2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

re: Eastwood

Oscar has put his foot down in recent years (Grand Torino,Invictus,J.Edgar) but American Sniper is WB's only real Best Picture contender and i mean,if they can get Blind Sided nominated...

December 8,2014 | Unregistered CommenterRick

Those are some weird TV nods!But The Americans,Mad Men & Orange is the New Black clearly at the top of that list (quality wise).Fargo and Jane the Virgin are worthy new shows too.

December 9,2014 | Unregistered Commenteranonny

Jane the Virginis the best TV surprise of the entire year.The first trailer looked bizarre,but it's actually a wonderful,sympathetic character story with great humour.It will give Nathaniel a whole new slate of actresses to love and be disappointed when Hollywood has no idea what to do with them because they're female minorities.

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

Nat - I am totally with you on the Clint Eastwood bias,the AFI and the Oscars are on auto- genuflect when it comes to Eastwood films.亚博主页American Sniper makes me cringe just to hear the synopsis.
As for their TV list,I agree with others hear that excluding The Good Wife is ridiculous.And the inclusion of Mad Men when it's a mere shadow of it's former self is pitiful.I don't know about Jane the Virgin but I think Veep deserves some love.But some of the AFI lists drive me a little crazy - you could do a whole podcast on this topic.(hint)

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

It really sucks that Gone Girl didn't make it.I'm still hopeful for Oscar though.Let's get that campaign going,Fox!

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I have to champion The Americans as well!It's second season was amazing and hands down the best show of past year.Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are both beyond words AMAZING!

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

Do you resent HTGAWM being the vehicle that puts Viola Davis over the threshold to super stardom?Television like the stage is kinder to non-Hollywood types.The public is now rooting for Viola.There were those of us who were there every ceremony she was nominated hoping her name would be called.But we weren't as large as we are now that she's on network television.

December 9,2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

the exclusion of The Good Wife enrages me!

December 9,2014 | Unregistered Commenterfadhil

Where is The Good Wife?

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Not only have 36% of these not opened yet,period - 6 of them haven't opened here in the middle of the country.Way to reward the year-end release crush (instead of,say,Grand Budapest and Gone Girl,2 films that belonged here,and would have even kept them mainstream).Normally I'm an Oscar completist,but if these are the nominees,I'll be sitting a couple out this year - I just won't with Eastwood movies anymore,and I have no interest in Unbroken (prison camp after prison camp?Yeah,no).

Terrible film list!

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

/3rtful - i dont resent HTGAWM for making Viola more famous.She deserves it.I resent it for being bad when she deserves to be in things as good as she is.People can say all they want that television is kinder to people of color (and it often is) but I don't think it's particularly kind to one of the great actresses to put her in a terrible show and possibly coarsen her gift (we'll see...but I don't think she's worthy of the pile of statues she's going to win.even she couldn't make coherent sense of the character as written).

I think the best actors in the world often do their best work when they're acting opposite equally brilliant people.when you hopelesss outmatch a genius with mediocre actors raves are like that knee test at the doctor.they just happen because how can they not.I'd much rather see Viola throw down with actors who wouldn't just give her the scene.I'd love to see her in something Birdman where every actor wants the scene and they're all raising each other's game.

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Yay for Jane the Virgin and all those who love it as much as me!And yay for OITNB,The Americans,and Transparent.The Good Wife had a good start this season,but last few episodes are boring.When are they going to give the lovely and talented Christine Baranski more to do?But it should have made this list!

And Nathaniel--re about Bob's Burgers,I saw a drawing in my kid's Spanish notebook,and had to laugh--a very nice rendering of Tina!It's a great show.

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Viola Davis is a Shakespearean actor.I would love to see her in parts where the dialogue was paramount to the success of the production.Though there is a visible upswing in non-white female directors making names for themselves.I'm not sure any of them are doing the kind of work you and I are suggesting.I also believe that Inarritu would cast Davis in a lead role if given permission to.

December 9,2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Any list without The Comeback is worthless to me.And I need to know that I'm being heard.Am I being heard?

December 9,2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr.Goodbar

Mr.Goodbar - A+ LOL.What other show does such a tricky high wire act and pulls off everything it's going for?Every reaction and glance means the world on that show and I can't thank HBO enough for reviving it.It should've been included in the above list.

Whatever at the film citations,let's talk about the tv lineup!

Jane The Virgin is so interesting (ALMODOVARIAN GYNOTOPIA ALERT) but I'm kinda dreading how long they can sustain that tricky tone.Spinning that many plates in the air...it's not for amateurs.

How to Get Away With Murder is nothing more than trash tv.But somehow worse than every other Shonda Rhimes show.

The Knick is really good and promising but I dunno about best of the year.The technical aspects of that show are amazing tho.

Mad Men is always gonna be amazing but I was less in love with this past (half) season.

Silicon Valley,I don't get.I don't think it's particularly great or funny but it did have some well written episodes and the cast is pretty spirited,save for the lead.This Best-Of acclaim boggles me here as it did at the Emmys.Like,really?

Transparent,I still need to see.

Game of Thrones and OITNB are golden,as far as I'm concerned.

December 10,2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

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