One of the many things I'm grateful to my parents for is a love of and appreciation for movies, which they instilled in me early on. Now I know everyone loves movies, so it's not like some big secret club they invited me to, but, still, what I'm grateful for is that they had good taste, and made sure that I saw not just the obvious popular crap, which, for reasons all its own, I *also* enjoy. I can slum as well as anyone, most of the time, and have a great time doing it. (However, I'm still trying to muster up the energy and conviction to go see Avatar, only because so many people have said, "the effects are amazing but the story is shit" to make me feel that I'm going to a tech demo rather than a movie. And ya know, I kinda *like* good stories with my movies. But, yes yes, I will go. I know it is my Nerd Duty to so, so you don't need to berate me about it.)
My first movie memory (and I'm talking about movie theaters here, as my childhood took place in the Caveman Era before VCRs) is going to Yellow Submarine with my mom--and that's a pretty cool first movie! I don't know (and I kinda doubt) it's the first movie I ever went to, but it's the first one I remember. I would have been about 6 years old at the time. And while I obviously missed a good, what, 3/4 of the references, the crazy pop art and (of course) the soundtrack stayed with me. Years later, when the movie appeared on TV--I was watching on the portable black-and-white set in my room--I sat in bed with my audio tape recorder and taped the whole movie onto a couple cassettes, and then replayed it endlessly. My second movie memory is Patton, believe it or not, also with my mom, for which I must have been about 9 years old. All I can remember about that one is my mom telling my brother and I that one did not clap and cheer when the lights went down like we did in kids movies, and then the big opening scene with George C. Scott in front of American flag using really bad words. I was probably too young for that one.
Most of my best memories as an adolescent (and, okay, there's not much to compete with as far as good memories of that time go) are my dad turning me on to a lot of his faves: The Marx Brothers, Woody Allen (this is pre-sex scandal, and also back when he was funny), the great Ernie Kovacs, and more. Recall, again, that this was pre-VCR, pre rentals, pre NetFlix, pretty much pre-fuckin'-everything: You either went to the movies at the theater, or you waited for stuff to show up on TV, where, unless it was on PBS, it was butchered with commercials. So, ya know, the whole universe of movies was NOT available at your fingertips, like now. Netflix Watch Instantly still blows me away. I mean, you all can stop reading this blog right this second, and within less than a minute can be watching any one of a number of Akira Kurosawa's classic movies. In MY day, once I was old enough to drive, I'd have to watch the repertory movie theater calendars--like the Nuart in Los Angeles--like a hawk, circling the movies I needed to see and planning my evenings in advance to make sure I didn't miss them. Because if you missed The Seven Samurai once, you might not have another chance for a year. And that's a movie that you simply cannot miss. My best memory of watching stuff with my dad came a little later--right about the time I started college--when PBS showed, over a series of nights, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's incredible 15.5-hour Berlin Alexanderplatz, a gargantuan, depressing, hilarious, monster of a movie that totally opened up my mind to movies outside the American mainstream.
Anyhoo, the point of all this, beyond babbly nostalgia, is to report that my kid and I decided, while over in Spain this holiday, that 2010 was going to be our Year of Film. (We thought about calling it Year of Movies, at first, but realized that it sounded more appropriately pretentious as "film.") The decision was made after about the third time that I asked her if she'd seen such-and-such movie, and she declared that she hadn't. I can't remember what the movie in question was--it might have been Casablanca, or possibly The Big Lebowski--but in any case we realized that, despite a pretty damn good start, she had too many holes in her movie education still. And with the clock (gulp) ticking until she herself will be off to college (OH MY GOD), I realized I had to ramp up my brainwashing here.
She *has* been off to a fine start. (And I really should lump in music and books with this, too. The day she came in and told me how awesome the Velvet Underground were was one of those great parental triumphs for me--I think I was doing the Rocky theme in my head for like three days following.) She's got a healthy intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness, as well as a budding English (or film!) major's appreciation for subtext and directorial intent (and manipulation). At almost-16, she can sit in pretty much any movie and I know she's going to probably get as much out of it, if not more so, as any adult. Which means that the entire world of movies is now open to us.
So I think I've decided that I will chronicle, or at least list, the Year of Film in this space. I'm going to include both movies at the theater and movies we watch at home. It's not all gonna be the hifalutin' stuff. You'll see. And also, because I'm anal this way, I'm going to include movies that I watch just on my own, or with my wife. Just as kind of a small sub-project on this site. I may just start a separate sidebar list on the site here, so I don't clutter up the posts. Or maybe I'll include them in blog entries with mini-review/writeups. I dunno. Whaddya guys think?
But to start, here's how the year has begun:
1/2 The Dark Knight. Saw it in Spain w/friends--them for the first time, us for the second. Liked it even more this time around.
1/4 The Informant! - on plane back to the U.S., and I liked it so much I went out and bought the book the very next day. Soderbergh took maybe too goofy of a tone with it, I think, but Matt Damon was great, and Scott Bakula was a freakin' revelation. His facial expressions alone nearly stole the movie.
1/4 State of Play Ugh. I wanted to like this. And with Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, and a subdued Ben Affleck all trying hard, you'd think it'd be good. And it was, for about 2 hours or so. But the movie utterly collapses in the last 15 minutes, with a twist so ludicrous it basically destroys the rest of the movie. The more you think about it, the less it makes sense.
1/5 Oldboy - Netflix Watch Instantly - hyperviolent 2003 South Korean movie that I saw cuz I noticed it was on a bunch of "Best of the Decade" lists. I think I was still too jetlagged to appreciate it all, but the story (guy is imprisoned for 15 years without knowing why or by whom, gets out and seeks revenge) is fantastic, and the one set piece I remember--an extended, long, one-take fight scene that keeps scrolling horizontally like a sidescroller game--was freakin' amazing. Need to watch this again when more awake.
1/6 Pickpocket Netflix Watch Instantly - 1959 Robert Bresson movie is probably too dated for some, but very cool in that it is a clear, obvious influence on Scorcese's Taxi Driver, and some neat choreography of the crimes themselves.
1/7 The Marriage of Maria Braun - Netflix Watch Instantly - 1979 Fassbinder film starts with a poster of Hitler getting blown up, and then tells the tale of a German woman whose husband doesn't come home from WW2 and has to pick up her life from there. Unpredictable, crazy and decadent as always with Fassbinder. Also, completely "adult"--by which I mean that adults actually act like adults. You watch a movie like this (and so many made in the 1970s, even in the US) and you realize just how many movies now have such an infantile emotional range and tone for the adults they portray, and how easily we've come to accept it.
And if all that sounds too pretentious, let me assure you that the movie I enjoyed the most in the past couple weeks, which didn't make this list only cuz I saw it at the end of '09, was The Hangover. Nothing like a few good dick jokes to trump art house ennui!