18 May 2008

Anxieties of an Almost Mid-Year; or I'm Still Dancing Barefoot

Cannes is pissing me off this year. Or more specifically, the media’s handling of it. We’re only four days in, and I’m already sick of reading articles about it. Over at MovieCityNews, they’ve shared my irritation at the British and American media questioning the inclusion of films like Kung-fu Panda and the new Indiana Jones at the festival, completely negligent of the fact that big Hollywood films always premiere at Cannes, regardless of quality (see Star Wars Episode III), and that neither of those films are actually screening for any awards. My stomach can also do without the incessant usage of homophones Cannes and “can.”

Secondly, it’s my own personal woes which are causing conflict within me. Once upon a time, I dreamed of becoming a professional film critic, spending my days in a glorious metropolis watching film after film and creatively and affectively deconstructing them… for a living. As of lately, it turns out those feelings were just pipe dreams, considering the state of both international cinema and paid criticism. I’m not sure the position of a paid film critic even exists any more, with so many respectable writers getting laid off and the demand for banal “bring the whole family” newspaper critics being in higher demand than anyone with discerning taste in cinema. There’s one “critic” that works for my city’s newspaper whose reviews are so wretched and ill-informed that I often consider crumbling the paper up after reading. His job basically entails being a glorified summarizer, who adds in his own clueless “grade” at the end. Grading films pisses me off too, but I don’t feel like talking about that.

In addition to the growing extinction of the professional film critic, I’ve found that I’m not good at churning out bullshit about everything I see. Initially, when I started this blog, I had hopes of writing about every film I saw, but, whether this be a result of the films themselves or my own inability, I can’t. For the magazine I occasionally write for, I find myself at a loss for words after viewing middle-of-the-road films and even some that are actually good. So, family-friendly newspaper critic doesn’t look like it’s written in the stars for me. Or maybe it’s just exhaustion from my 70-plus page undergraduate thesis I just finished? Likely it’s not, but I can hope.

Back to Cannes, I also have had a strong disinterest in reading about films that I won’t even have an opportunity to see for about a year, if at all. Studios are cutting down their “arthouse” departments, and others are going under. This isn’t a result of a lack of fine international filmmaking, but the fact that no one wants to see them. Instead, why not go see the new Chronicles of Narnia film? While I find some poetic justice in the failure of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games English-language remake (it actually made less money than his French-language Caché at the domestic box-office), it still was probably one of the nails in the coffin for its distributor, Warner Independent. IFC Films still seems to be standing tall despite having no real money-makers in the past year or so, but their acquisition of Cannes entries doesn’t lead to much excitement when it takes them over a year to bring Paranoid Park, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Last Mistress or Mister Lonely to American screens. Hell, even a number of In Competition films, like Andrei Zvyagintsev’s The Banishment (which isn’t as bad as you heard it was), Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest, Ulrich Seidl’s Import/Export and Béla Tarr’s The Man from London, starring Tilda Swinton, still don’t have US distribution. And yet, who’s to blame? You can’t wag your finger at the specialty studios because none of the films I mentioned will likely make any money, and with a fear of closure in the air, why would they risk their jobs?

I suppose much of this anxiety is being brought about by my own existential crisis. I’m three credit hours away from receiving my overdue undergraduate degree in film studies and French, and I don’t know where to go from here. Film is my obsession, and yet, it seems to be such a fanciful one. I’ve lost all desire in the production aspect as various situations have jaded me to the point that I’d rather not step foot on any film set again. So I write… It’s the only productive thing I can think to do with my “obsession,” particularly due to the singularity and solidarity of it. And yet, how many others do the exact same thing? Plenty. Some are better, some not. Can blogs actually serve as a stepping stone for something bigger, or will they just remain the outlet for general hobbies? I’d rather not ask Diablo Cody. So I just wonder if it’s time to put to rest all of this nonsense (is it nonsense?). Where do you go from there, I wonder still.

Excuse the rambling. It seems to be the only escape from the perils of ennui.

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