Our crack team of movie critics–led by the capable, insightful Mr. Scott Tobias–is rightfully revered for its comprehensive coverage of film. They know everything about every movie, and they occasionally have conversations about film that sound like gibberish to my untrained ears. But those untrained ears (and eyes) love movies, too, and as a journeyman filmgoer (neither neophyte nor expert), I occasionally disagree (as I'm sure some readers do) with the seasoned opinions. Henceforth, as a companion to The A.V. Club's lengthy, reasoned Best-Of Film list (and general coverage), I offer these knee-jerk, uninformed, completely valid takes on this year's movies, conveniently divided into real-world-usable categories.

The Best
The Departed: Okay, I'm with The A.V. Club and the rest of the world on this one–it's bloody and great. Grade: A.
Pan's Labyrinth: Again, with my peeps here. The trailer made me laugh–not in a good way–but the movie, which pairs a gory fairytale with the Spanish Civil War, is stunning. Grade: A.
49 Up: Roger Ebert's review of Garfield: A Tail Of Two Kitties (written as Garfield–that is not a joke) makes everything he likes suspect, but he's right that Michael Apted's documentary series is inimitably great. Grade: A. Strangers With Candy: Nathan noted the "absence of a strong narrative drive." I was too busy giggling to notice. Grade: A-.
Borat: Like the Oscars, The A.V. Clubbies dis comedies. Was any film more purely enjoyable or even groundbreaking than Borat? Grade: A.
Babel: Here's where I fall far from the consensus. Overrated? Babel is a tense, terrific filmgoing experience. B-minus, Scott? No, it's not as good as Amores Perros, the first teaming of this writer and director, but almost nothing is. Grade: A.
Little Miss Sunshine: Another one that those immersed in film seem to group-hate on. Sure, it's convenient, but maybe it's not shooting for The Squid And The Whale. Grade: B+.
Stranger Than Fiction: Charlie Kaufman lite, to be sure, but also a way to trick people who'd normally hate Charlie Kaufman into seeing a charming movie full of mostly great performances. Grade: B+.


The Next Best The Devil And Daniel Johnston: Not sure if this documentary about the mentally challenged Austin singer-songwriter is Top-10 material, but it's certainly fascinating and worth seeing. Grade: B.
The Last King Of Scotland: Yeah, it's a great performance and a compelling movie, though there's probably a better movie in here somewhere, one that focuses a little more strictly on history. Grade: B.
Half Nelson: Gripping and worth seeing, but no Top-10 classic. Grade: B.
Inside Man: The year's only solid band robbery movie (that I saw). Grade: B+.
Brick: The whole noir language thing is simultaneously distracting and fascinating. They should offer a modern-language alternate audio track on the DVD so people can decide if the film itself is actually any good. I suspect it is. Grade: B.
Bubble: Proof that when Steven Soderbergh follows his muse, amazing things can happen. Grade: B.
Shut Up And Sing: Who gives a fuck about the Dixie Chicks? Oh, I guess I do. Grade: B+.


Take These Or Leave These A Prairie Home Companion: You're rooting for it. You really are. Grade: C+.
For Your Consideration: It's tough to dismiss any Christopher Guest movie after just one viewing, but this one doesn't seem to demand the extra looks. Grade: C+.
The Good German: Proof that when Steven Soderbergh follows his muse, halfway decent things can happen. Grade: B-.
Superman Returns: And stays 40 minutes too long. Grade: C+.
The Illusionist: If you know exactly what's going to happen 45 minutes in, the next hour gets a little dull. Grade: C+.
Surprisingly Unbad Mission Impossible III: Quite possibly the best of the three, which I know isn't saying much… Grade: B.
Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny: Five years too late and not uproarious enough to make up for that fact, but still good for some giggles. Grade: B-.
Clerks II: Shockingly, almost unbelievably, not bad. Maybe that's just low expectations talking. Grade: B-.
Watch QVC Instead Nacho Libre: I love stupid movies, and I didn't laugh once. Grade: F.
Miami Vice: Crushingly disappointing. The last thing Michael Mann's movie version of his classic TV show should be is boring. And yet… Grade: D.
Talladega Nights: Did this one catch me on a bad day, or was it just stupid? Grade: C-.
Special Letter Grades Are Needed For These Vexers The Fountain: Totally beautiful or total nonsense? Beautiful nonsense? Remember that crappy Robin Williams movie where he ends up in a painting or something? It's better than that. Grade: ABCDEF.
Tideland: Terry Gilliam is still a mad genius, but he could use some trimming and some tonal cues, so the six people that saw this movie could enjoy it without squirming the whole time. Grade: T–tensely twisted.
Idiocracy: Funny? Sort of? Ridiculously on the nose? Too smart or too dumb for its own good? Grade: H–for huh?
Edmond: William H. Macy wanders around in David Mamet's weird world, and it's tough to tell if he's comfortable. A different writer and star and this would've been a weird B-movie. Maybe it still is. Greatest line of dialogue this year, though: "Get on my body." Grade: L–for loopy.
United 93: It's tough to reconcile the excellent filmmaking with the story itself, which makes United 93 difficult to enjoy (obviously). It'd be interesting to see a fictional event shot the same way. Grade: T–tough to watch.


I'm Excited To See: Children Of Men, Casino Royale, The Prestige, The Science Of Sleep, Old Joy, Jonestown: The Life And Death Of People's Temple

I Will Not See, Unless On A Plane Or Sick In Bed With No Remote:: The Pursuit Of Happyness (too goopy), Dreamgirls (too dreamy), Lady In The Water (too M. Nighty), The Holiday (do I need a reason?)

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