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When critics say ‘the best,’ they really mean ‘my favorite’ — right?

George Harrison’s “Long, Long, Long” may be a critic’s favorite song on the White Album, but is it the best? Photo: Associated Press

So Look, Mick: I love that you think George Harrison‘s “Long, Long, Long” is the best song on the Beatles’ White Album, because it is one of my very favorites on that album and seems overlooked. But why must critics proclaim something is “the best” when most people know perfectly well that it’s the critic’s favorite, and that “the best” is a vain declaration?

Matt Humphreys, Walnut Creek

So Look, Matt: That’s a good point. If I’m talking about pop music, it’s true, “the best” is just a pushy way of saying “my favorite.” But that’s because I know nothing about pop music besides what I like. However, if I’m talking about movies, I really do mean “the best.” It doesn’t mean I’m right, but it does mean that I have lots of reasons that go beyond “Eh, I liked it.”

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in “The Artist,” a best picture winner that has few haters. Photo: Warner Bros. 2011

Hello Mick: The other day you said that in 2009 the academy changed the way it picked best picture. Could you elaborate?

Alan Schroeder, Alameda

Hello Alan: There used to be five nominees, and whoever got the most votes won. That meant that it was theoretically possible for a movie to win with as little as 21 percent of the vote. This gave a huge advantage to big movies with enormous casts and scores of people working in the technical categories. If everyone affiliated with such a big movie voted for it, it would be halfway to a best picture

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