Your favorite entertainment publications have recently fallen victim to a sweeping epidemic of “Best-of-the-Decade-itis.” This seemingly harmless disease deludes the carrier into believing that he or she hears the voices of the thousands of films released over the last 10 years, all begging to be organized into sequential order. “Rank us!” they cry. “Rank us, Richard Brody of The New Yorker! Only you have the power to properly analyze every one of our benefits and flaws. Only you can provide the definitive answer to which of us will thrive in memory and which of us will languish in cinematic purgatory.”

The worst part of this disease is that it’s contagious. Once one newspaper, blog or random guy in his parent’s basement starts doing it, everyone suddenly realizes how much they, too, need a list of their very own. A list to be coddled, cared for, protected against the harsh winds of all those other disagreeable critics who totally got their own lists wrong. A list that will be remembered by the adoring public forever, or at least until the next list comes out later this afternoon.

The Michigan Daily may very well have one of these lists within a month, too. That’s still up in the air. I don’t know what having our own list will get us, exactly. All of your adoring affection? Or maybe Roger Ebert will be so impressed with our pointed film criticism that he’ll invite us to be his escorts at Cannes. Seems unlikely.

I’ve surprised myself with my own bitterness at all these 2000s-end lists. Normally I love lists, like my esteemed colleague, fellow columnist and sworn enemy Josh Bayer. All you have to do is prime me and I’ll rattle off my favorite Spielberg movies, documentaries and ragtag-sports-team-wins-the-championship films, just like that. But it’s something about the mass conglomeration of all these lists, all at once, being positioned as life-affirming proclamations of humanity’s belief in the power of film that disturbs me just a tad.

Not one “best of the decade” list is more superb than any other, though a select few are more inane than the rest. Entertainment Weekly, still my favorite magazine despite their unquenchable “Twilight” obsession, recently came out with their list of the decade’s top 100 … things. As in, they took movies, TV shows, books, fictional characters and music videos from the past 10 years and lumped them all together into a giant stew of hierarchical madness. Finally we can determine with absolutely certainty that, not only was “The Lord of the Rings” this decade’s crown cinematic achievement, it was also exactly six slots better than Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video. That’s not a list; that’s pop-culture heroin, a giddy sensory overload that grants a temporary high and a long-lasting pain.

But even the “serious” lists are problem-starters. Even as they exert their own individual opinions, the critics who make them are naturally eager to prove that they, too, loved universally acclaimed films like “Children of Men” and “WALL-E.” So when you read enough of these and see the same movies over and over, slightly reordered, your awareness of the decade in film is actually shrinking, not expanding. You’re gradually, subconsciously honing in your sights on the repeat customers, which were most likely the films you’ve already seen, thus making them easier to debate among friends and enemies. Look, I know “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was awesome. I don’t need The Onion’s A.V. Club asserting it was the most awesome among all the awesomes for me to know this.

And say you’re angry about their 15th favorite film, “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” not being rated higher. Why, just head on over to Michael Phillips of “At the Movies,” who rated it fifth on his own authoritative list that’s so important it has to be unveiled week-by-week. Problem solved. Now, instead of debating the merits of the film, you’re more than welcome to debate the merits of the lists. These are all critical sources that I greatly admire, by the way. The list-making spirit just boils my blood.

I will point out that there is a difference here between the year-end best-ofs and the decade stuff. I firmly believe in the importance of year-end celebrations because they’re deliriously in-the-moment. The movies are still fresh in our minds and we’re just bursting with the desire to share them with the world. And no worries, because any truly great films we leave out will find a way back to us eventually.

But the decade list undermines this system by saying that now that we’ve had time to “reflect on the past years” (i.e. dismiss the 2009 releases as too recent while unfairly legendizing the 2000 releases), we can finally name, once and for all, the only films worth remembering. And in the process of nitpicking the truly excellent from the merely very good, we’re forgetting why we love movies so much in the first place: the sheer thrill of discovery that comes from watching something unfamiliar.

So here’s my Best Film of the Decade: Any movie you haven’t seen yet.

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