04 January 2008

Lust and Caution; or the Anxieties of a New Year

I’ll be the first to admit I’m overzealous when it comes to making an end-of-the-year list. As awful as it sounds, I usually hate going to the movie theatres. The seats are uncomfortable, the people are rude, I have to sit through commercials beforehand, I hate when people eat during movies, and I’ve become accustomed to seeing films in the comfort of my own home and on my own time schedule. With that said, I never get to see all the films I want to see before the year comes to a close and yet still feel the need to post a list of the best and worst of each year around or before the ball drops in Times Square. In reality, this doesn’t do me or the films justice, as I can never examine their lasting effects on me, particularly when the best of each year usually comes near its end. The music list got me thinking. 2007 began with a lot of new, excellent albums from established musicians (Interpol, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, and what not), and I had already convinced myself that I was going to be fully prepared to make a music list this year, a first for me. By the time December rolled around, I’d discovered maybe two new artists who released music this year and the albums of all the artists mentioned above (except PJ Harvey) had long been out of rotation on my iPod. Studios are always afraid that their early-year releases will get forgotten come award season, and it’s a legitimate fear, because how many films are released in a year that you’re going to remember nine months later? When you see as many as I do, not a whole lot are going to make the cut.

With 2008 now in full-swing, I’m not as concerned about my 2007 list or even the impending 2008 list (I’m pretty sure Rambo will top it though, I’m telling you now), but instead, I’m realizing now that this whole fucking nameless decade is going to end in two short years. I don’t know where the time went, nor do I care wasting more of it by pondering that question, but with 2010 on the horizon, how am I going to decide what were the best films of the decade? What films will best exemplify this subjective division of time? I can say with absolute certainty that none of the films that have thus far won the Best Picture Academy Award will, but will the choices be easy to make? Certainly, one can have their personal favorites of any given decade. Matthew Bright’s Freeway could have come out during any given decade and I’m sure that it would rank as a top ten favorite of whatever timeframe you put it. But, the best? It’s not.

I want films that have memorably shaken me, to the point in which their power only grows upon reflection. For that I can only think of a few films. Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl will certainly fall high on the list; of that I can assure you. Lars von Trier’s Dogville has a good shot, and so does Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher. I’ve come to an unofficial declaration that the only films that even need to be remembered are the ones that, at simultaneous moments, angered one viewer that was sitting right next to someone who was absolutely enthralled (I’m not referring to the one smart person who accidentally stumbled onto a screening of Delta Farce). Was this the case with Fellini’s La Dolce vita or Bergman’s Persona, two films that I would easily rank among the best of the 60s? Does it matter if they did? I don’t think it does. I would probably throw Antonioni’s L’Eclisse on that list from one of the most lucrative periods of cinema, and I know that pissed people off… but that alone doesn’t justify its placement. If I were to throw out title names now for a proposed list, you could add Mutual Appreciation, Morvern Callar, and Talk to Her to the others.

I think I’m just expressing my love-hate relationship with cinema right now. I exhausted myself with end-of-the-year hoopla, only to have worn out my excitement for film in general (this occurs every couple of months or so)… or maybe it’s even my love-hate relationship with list making. As strongly as I felt about my top 3 (No Country for Old Men, Grindhouse and Black Book), I’m having second (and third and fourth) thoughts about There Will Be Blood, which placed 9 on the final version. Could it actually be the best film of 2007, only to make the eventual best of the decade list over the films I chose above it in this given year? It’s probably the most audience-dividing, afterthought-demanding film I saw all year. And, I’m still torn, because I’d still rather see Carice van Houten topless and getting shit poured on her or Rose McGowan killing zombies with her machine-gun leg. And, yes, even Javier Bardem bringing destiny in the form of grisly death to scattered Texas individuals.

One other thing that keeps bothering me is my reasons for keeping up this blog. I look back at a lot of what I’ve said, and on some of it, I’ve changed my mind, and in other instances, outright disagreed with my own damned self. As for the film reviewing, what am I really providing in structured, glorified plot synopsis and fleeting critique? I’m also not even sure that anyone reads that crap.

I think 2008 will bring about a reassessment of priority and, most importantly, what my purpose is in the examination of cinema. Or even what I’m looking for. Or even what any of it means to me. So for all this mumbling, I wish you a happy, inflective, introspective new year.


Ed Howard said...

"I want films that have memorably shaken me, to the point in which their power only grows upon reflection ... I’ve come to an unofficial declaration that the only films that even need to be remembered are the ones that, at simultaneous moments, angered one viewer that was sitting right next to someone who was absolutely enthralled."

This is a great summation of what's best in cinema, in my opinion. This describes the films that provoke thought and emotional reaction because they take risks and go to interesting places. It's probably no coincidence, then, that we both love The Piano Teacher and Dogville so much. Incidentally, I think through various posts here, you've singlehandedly convinced me that I need to see Black Book, despite having very little interest in Verhoeven prior to this.

Joe said...

Indulge yourself with Verhoeven. He's tops.

It's no coincidence, no. Yet all of the films that I mentioned that have left their mark on me in the past decade have been films that certain friends of mine have vehemently hated, particularly Fat Girl. All the better in the long run, I suppose, as a reminder that films can still charge such intense emotions.

Anonymous said...

RE: your best albums of 2007

i like that you included montag. i'm pretty sure that will be on my top 10 as well (i'm wrapping it up now)