Like Marcel Proust and his madeleine cookie, I often find myself winding down a crazy stairwell of thought sparked from one brief flash of a memory. But before I track one of my recent brainswrirls, I wanted to post my teeny tiny review of the film that initiated the trail. I rarely put anything resembling film reviews on my blog even though I can hardly breathe without spouting an opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of at least eight films. I think putting my praise or criticism into writing on something even as casual as my blog, just seems too inviting to being held accountable for my opinions. Though I've always been a critic of sorts, I've never wanted to be in a position where what I write could have an effect on someone's career. I've spent too long working in theaters where one bad review would mean not only the actors playing to half-filled houses, but all the rest of us losing weeks of work when the show closed early, whether or not the play was bad. So, even though I know neither I nor my blog have enough influence to alter box office sales based on a bad review, it's still pretty ingrained in me to keep a civil tongue when it comes to specific critiques of some things in the public sphere.
BUT! For some reason, Facebook has made it easy for me to write quick little movie blurbs, and I've found that very helpful. I want to be able to better integrate how I talk about things with how I express myself in writing. After all, when it all comes down to it, I just want to get paid to watch movies and theater, then write creatively about them. So why not practice it a bit? And I guess that's the difference. My interest in writing about entertainment and performing art isn't to tell people to go or not go see something, but rather, to engage the ideas expressed and look at the art in a larger cultural context. That said, I didn't exactly do that with my little review of Paul Thomas Anderson's new film "There Will Be Blood" based on Upton Sinclair's "Oil!", but I wanted to stick it on here anyway, so here it is:
"Hard to know what to make of this impressively intense but (purposefully?) disorienting film: if you've seen the trailer- you've basically seen the movie- just extend it to 3 hours. This isn't necessarily a critique- the trailer shows in one minute all the chaos, avarice, blood lust and frenetic personalities that populate this hitchcockianly claustrophobic film about Money and competition. But though there should be some obvious contemporary correlation with this turn of the century tale of Oil and Blood, the character portraits are so heavily drawn that it's hard to find themes or people to identify with. The artistry is bold and bracing, (as is Day-Lewis) but overall, this might be one of those films that takes a few viewings over a few years to ripen into understandable and enjoyable film-making. A definite departure from Anderson's previous emotionally wrought films about broken people in a dysfunctional world. Hard to find the heart in this one. Maybe it's just too Upton Sinclair..."
So there's that. But the small and random thing I actually wanted to post about was a weird revelation I had during the movie. The first minutes of the film show Daniel Day Lewis mining, or at least digging, for quartz of something. It's a stressful scene where any moment, you're expecting wood beams to crack or dynamite to cause a cave in. That had me musing briefly on the horrible reality of a miner's life and how I recently found out that a large chunk of my ancestors were Pennsylvania coal miners which made me think of Johnny Cash's live Folsom prison rendition of "Dark as a Dungeon", which then suddenly brought the taste of skittles and pretzels to mind and triggered the memory of working in my strange little cubicle in NY's East Village at the Worldwide Orphans Foundation where I would enter donor information all day while listening to Johnny Cash with my headphones and eating skittles and sourdough pretzels that I would buy at the Astor Place K-Mart. So I'm now faced with the strange reality that Johnny Cash songs taste like skittles, and I might not have cognated that without the help of P.T. Anderson.
I've been visiting my parents- which means I got to watch TV this week; more specifically, Cable. And for all my high ideals and pretentiousness, there's still few things better than a WEEK-long "America's Next Top Model" marathon on VH1. Glory, glory, hallelujah.
But my favorite TV moments this week, were actually commercials. The first was a Fixodent ad. I'm not sure why, but it made me really happy to see that Dentures have joined the ranks of products using sex to sell their wares. The commercial showed a white-haired couple making out in a taxi, with a voice-over saying "One of them is wearing dentures..." I figure, if our culture is going to continue to exploit sex and sensuality, at least use it for something good, like helping women and men over sixty-five feel desirable. I support that. I find it a lot more respectful than the comment that so often accompanies the sighting of an elderly couple kissing: "Oh, how cute." I don't want to be prattled over like a toddler when I'm 70. I'd rather be making out in a taxi. Well done, Fixodent.
My second favorite moment is something I just saw, while sitting on the floor of Gate A4 at the Phoenix airport. I heard, emanating from the TV above, the triumphantly cloying sound of "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I Love Ya! Tomorrow". My eyes rose to the sound of my heart song, and what did I see, but an ad for the new "American Gladiators"! So not only is "American Gladiators" coming back to TV, but they have enough self-deprecating, ironic genius, to play the theme song from "Annie" alongside images of body builders falling off shiny jousting podiums. It made me want to stand up and salute the nearest flag. I knew American TV was good for something! Oh Cable TV, I will miss you!!!
I’m a list lover, I’m not embarrassed. Last year (2006) I kept a list of every film I saw for the first time or revisited on purpose. This year (2007) I wrote down every single movie I watched, no matter how embarrassing or bad it was (either the movie or the fact that I watched it). This afforded me the opportunity to see what my most watched movies of the year were. So below, is a crazy long list that no one will read (It’s written in order, and by month, just for curiosities’ sake, and two ** denote film seen in theatre as opposed to DVD). If you do read it, I invite you to post a comment on how many of the same movies we saw this year. First, some stats.
Total movies watched in 2007: 182
Average movies per week: 3.5
Most watched films of 2007: Magnolia & I Heart Huckabees, 3 times each.
Some runners up for most watched films: About Schmidt, Gross Pointe Blank, The Frisco Kid, Marie Antoinette, Persuasion, The Royal Tenenbaums, Sideways, Serenity, Rebel Without A Cause, Whalerider
Movie(s) seen both in movie theatre and on DVD: Pan’s Labyrinth
Movie(s) seen most in the theatre: The Darjeeling Limited, twice
My Favorite Film Experiences of 2007: A quick explanation of my decision process: I don’t vote on what I thought were the best films necessarily, but what, of the films I saw in the theatre for the first time, were the best film experiences. That could include what films spurred the best conversation, or what movie stayed with me the longest, or what was most thrilling or surprising, etc. It’s about being in the theatre and feeling changed by the experience. So this list may not be my critical best (maybe I should do that list too) but is the list of my favorite overall experience. It’s tough- and needless to say, can’t include movies I saw on DVD, or amazing movies that came out in the theatre that I haven’t seen yet. And big change this year, I’m doing a top 5, instead of the overly confining Top 3. So here they are, in alphabetical, and thus, no particular order.
The Darjeeling Limited I Am Legend Lars And The Real Girl Pan’s Labyrinth Sweeney Todd
Honorable mentions: 3:10 To Yuma Harry Potter: Order Of The Phoenix No Country For Old Men Paris Je T’aime
January National Treasure Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom Sideways Rocketman Remains Of The Day Sliding Doors Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Down Periscope Inventing The Abbots Bullets Over Broadway Return Of The Jedi Persuasion Gross Pointe Blank Galaxy Quest Persuasion I Heart Huckabees About Schmidt I Heart Huckabees The Pink Panther Serenity Magnolia Nanny McPhee Ringers: Lord Of The Fans I Heart Huckabees About Schmidt Whalerider The Affair Of The Necklace February The Island Three Kings Before Sunrise Before Sunset Nashville Rabbit Proof Fence Rudy Broken Flowers Pieces Of April The Village Anne Of Green Gables Marie Antoinette March Lethal Weapon The Story Of The Weeping Camel Me & You & Everyone We Know The Cat’s Meow Junebug **Amazing Grace Babel Brother Sun, Sister Moon A Shot In The Dark **Pan’s Labyrinth Little Miss Sunshine Gross Pointe Blank For Your Consideration Magnolia April The Virgin Queen Eddie Izzard: Dressed To Kill Hero **The 300 The Last Kiss Undercover Brother Under The Greenwood Tree Kinky Boots Best In Show Kung Fu Hustle Life As A House May A Fish Called Wanda Rebel Without A Cause Blazing Saddles Anchorman My Sassy Girl **Hot Fuzz Sideways Rebel Without A Cause Little Children Starship Troopers South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut **Shrek 3 Serenity **Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End Waiting For Guffman June Robin Hood, Men In Tights Best In Show **Paris Je T'aime Marie Antoinette **The Wind That Shakes The Barley The Science Of Sleep **Ocean’s 13 The Village Lolita Kill Boll Vol. 1 Kill Bill Vol. 2 American Splendor Spy Game The Royal Tenenbaums Life Of Brian **Knocked Up Jerry Maguire **Evening Raiders Of The Lost Ark July Lost In Translation Reign Of Fire The Ladykillers Good Will Hunting LOTR: Fellowship Of The Ring LOTR: The Two Towers A Mighty Wind **Ratatouille Band Of Brothers LOTR: Return Of The King **Harry Potter: Order Of The Phoenix Pan’s Labyrinth Witness **Sunshine The Frisco Kid Great Expectations August **The Simpsons Movie The Life Aquatic Friends With Money War Games **The Bourne Ultimatum Rushmore The Prestige Never Cry Wolf The Big Lebowski The Frisco Kid **Superbad The Rock Luther September Amadeus Austin Powers Billy Madison Whalerider **3:10 To Yuma Flirting With Disaster Napoleon Dynamite Dogma Baseketball Georgia Rule Cold Comfort Farm October Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus The Full Monty **The Darjeeling Limited Magnolia The Prince Of Egypt Sin City Jane Eyre The Royal Tenenbaums **Across The Universe Saved November Groundhog Day **The Darjeeling Limited Moonstruck Run, Lola, Run State And Main Raising Arizona Harry Potter: Prisoner Of Azkaban A Christmas Story Edward Scissorhands The Holiday Volver Rashoman Big Night Shampoo Like Water For Chocolate **Lars And The Real Girl **No Country For Old Men December Children Of Men **The Golden Compass The Station Agent Harold And Maude Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid Bottle Rocket **Margot At The Wedding Stardust Once **Sweeney Todd Dave Chapelle’s Block Party **Juno A Christmas Story The Great Escape It’s A Wonderful Life Casino Royale **I Am Legend Ice Age
Movies Seen Onscreen: 26
Biggest Wastes Of Money: Shrek 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, The Simpsons Movie, Amazing Grace, Superbad