As the end of yet another movie cycle draws to a close and all our attentions are focused on which flicks are "Oscar-worthy," we get an article from Time Magazine's Richard Corliss that ponders the question: What are film critics thinking? The piece, entitled (flatteringly enough) "Do Film Critics Know Anything?", wonders if there's an actual point to all this year-end glad-handing in which all the film critics and award-giving bodies fall all over each other to tell you how this arthouse film (that made $156,349) is better than this Lithuanian documentary about the wicker industry.

Here's a good section: "You will be forgiven if, like my friends at TIME, you are scratching your head and feigning interest, hoping I'll get quickly to the sexy stuff, like best non-fiction feature (the Iraq docs No End in Sight and Body of War and Michael Moore's Sicko) and distinguished achievement in production design (Jack Fisk, There Will Be Blood, L.A.) . Gee, you're wondering, did The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the French story of a man totally immobilized by a stroke, beat out the German spy drama The Lives of Others? (Three out of five critics groups say yes.) If you're getting restless, movie lovers, too bad. You'll be hearing the same obscure names at the Golden Globes and on Oscar night." (Full article here.)

After reading through the article twice (and with all due respect to Mr. Corliss, an accomplished film critic if ever there was one), my response is this: Must everything be whittled down to the lowest common denominator? Have even the words "best" and "finest" been annexed by the committee that decides which DVDs get the biggest Walmart shelf? Obviously, "film critic" is a pretty excellent job, all things considered. But let the professional movie-watchers have their brief moment to spout off, praise some obscurities, and make their lists. If we're asked to muddle through eleven months of remakes, sequels, video game flicks, comic book movies, mindless action explosions, crotch-centric teen comedies ... why wouldn't you want a month in which OTHER movies earn the spotlight?

So if Sally Secretary has never heard of Persepolis or No Country for Old Men or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and the critics' year-end group-stroke for quality filmmaking actually turns her on to something more challenging than, say, Hairspray -- then what's the problem? Corliss closes his piece thusly: "...critics fighting over which hardly seen movie they want to call the best of the year." Hmph. Perhaps Mr. Corliss would like the Academy to institute something called Oscars 2, and everyone can vote in on how Night at the Museum is so much better than Meet the Fockers. (I call copyright on that idea!) I have no idea how "hardly seen" my favorite film of the year will be; it doesn't come out for a few weeks. Unfortunately for my reputation as a useful film critic, the film happens to be in Spanish. Darn.

So to offer just one lowly film critic's response to the query posed in the article's title: Yeah, film critics know a lot. Like how if Hollywood concentrated on making better movies, you'd see a lot more "popular" fare on a lot more nomination lists.