Hooray, it’s the two year anniversary of my movie journal. I have now covered 807 films in 531 journal posts. Contemplation time!

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Some Things Change:

– I discovered keyword tagging! All the posts now have clickable keywords, and if you click on the title of a post, it will use these keywords to calculate which posts/movies are the most similar. Therefore I now know that The Fury is similar to The Savages and Sukiyaki Western Django is similar to Zazie dans le metro. I never could’ve drawn those connections on my own.

– I have three sometime-readers (up from last year’s one). That’s three more than I ever intended to have, but I’m still gonna leave the sucker online and searchable instead of taking it private, because I like the idea that if someone’s googling something obscure like Red Garters or Gran Casino or that episode of a cop show that Joe Dante directed, there’ll be something written online about it, even if it’s something snarky and uninformative and poorly written.

– People whose articles I quote can also find me on google and make me feel bad for having attacked their writing style, so I’m going with the first-initial last-name approach in my credits these days to avoid further embarrassment. I’m not obscuring the names of directors however, so I’m sure the filmmakers of yesterday’s experimental shorts entry will find and rebuke me soon enough.

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…And Some Stay The Same:

– I’m still way behind on all my viewing goals, but that’s because my viewing goals are still unachievable. I guess they’re technically achievable if I were to stop watching new releases and anything arbitrary, methodically viewing only films on my current must-see list. But that’d take all the fun out of everything, wouldn’t it?

– My writing hasn’t gotten any better, any more rigorous, any funnier. I haven’t improved at analyzing films or even analyzing my own reactions to films. As a “movie memory”, I am doing a fine job, blandly marking my reactions to every single movie I watch (except for Mystery Science Theater movies, which do not count). Since I never really intended to be a Famous Film Critic or a brilliant writer, I guess that’ll do fine.

– Still haven’t learned any French. Didn’t I mean to begin learning French two years ago?

– I am currently working through my thoughts on the “Finding Forrester effect”, especially after having just wasted my time on some Atlanta Film Festival screenings. Can’t eliminate risk entirely and only watch critically-proven films, but there must’ve been some way I could’ve known to avoid Fugitive Pieces.

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My most enjoyable posts from the past year:

There’s little record in the posts themselves of my week-long mailing-list argument over Charlie Wilson’s War vs. Twilight’s Last Gleaming, but it made a deep impression on me. I enjoyed watching The Story of Marie and Julien, writing about it, then reading some articles and having my whole perspective on the film change. My illustrated interpretation of Glory to the Filmmaker! was fun to assemble. Three
different
shorts programs were a blast to do, but time-consuming to get all the screenshots. Histoire(s) du cinema was a baffling adventure. Recently I had fun writing about Southland Tales than watching it. Also pleased with posts about Werckmeister Harmonies, Dog’s Dialogue and, since they are so exciting to watch and learn more about, the latest string of movies by Marker and Resnais.

Movie-wise, I’ve too many goals lately. Original quests to see every movie by Samuel Fuller (still got 1 or 2 left) along with as many films as possible from the IMDB list (206/250) and Rosenbaum list (about 340/1000) got a bunch more quests added to them:

Fritz Lang films (just two left)
Joe Dante (watched six this year, bought The Burbs and got some TV episode he did)
Stuart Gordon (a spur of the moment thing for shocktober, just two left, not counting his new one)
Jacques Rivette (saw seven great films, and got some more all lined up)
Luis Bunuel (just three this year, plus a half-hearted screening of Land Without Bread)
Alain Resnais (watched or re-watched eight of his earliest films and the recent Coeurs)
Chris Marker (watched/loved his first six films this year, up to the rocky 60’s-70’s period where everything’s either super-rare or untranslated on video)
Films from 1977 (watched maybe three features and a bunch of shorts)
The Criterion Collection (about 205/450)
“They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?” top 1000 list (about 460/1000)
NOTE: they updated the list in December so now I’m closer to 450.

For 2008 I’ve got a new movie quest, one which will help all the above-listed movie quests as a side-effect… to watch movies I already have… as many as possible!

The “just two left” films by Fritz Lang mentioned above? Got ’em. Same for Stuart Gordon. Probably around 40 Criterion movies, everything available by Marker and Resnais and Rivette, and tons of titles on the Rosenbaum list. But more importantly, I find myself buying treasured DVDs (how much longer can I hold off on Kino’s second avant-garde collecton and Criterion’s Days of Heaven?) and filing them carefully on the shelf unwatched amongst all the other unwatched discs, then going off to rent Saw III. It’d make more sense to save this particular quest for some time when Videodrome has burned down or Katy has gotten a job and moved us both to Nebraska, but it seems like a good thing to start now.

That said, there are still plenty of 2006-07 films that I’d love to see on video, or when they finally roll out to Atlanta theaters, such as:
Syndromes and a Century
– Guy Maddin’s Brand Upon the Brain and My Winnipeg
Belle toujours
– Whatever Miike has been up to
Don’t Touch the Axe
Klimt, in its original cut
My Blueberry Nights
The Man From London
Paranoid Park
Go-Go Tales
There Will Be Blood
– and the Coens’ missing short from Chacun son cinéma

JR Jones:
“And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown much less tolerant of movies that waste my time, a development I call the Finding Forrester effect. By most accounts Gus Van Sant’s 2000 drama about a reclusive literary icon is a listless hack job; I’ve never been able to watch it myself because it was the last movie my father saw before he took ill, went into the hospital, and died. When I’m sitting in a press preview I sometimes think, “If I had only a few days left, would I want to spend two hours watching this?” That may seem like an absurdly high bar for a filmmaker to clear, but whoever said a filmmaker is entitled to two hours of your life? Anyone who wants those two hours has a responsibility to make the movie meaningful in some way.”

Adrian Martin, 2005: “The role of the film critic is to write well, or speak well. A critic is someone who I think should try to tell a story about the film that they’re reviewing. And the story can be the story of their response to it, the story of their coming to understand that film, coming to a position on it.”

Julie Rigg, 2005: “I see the film critic’s role as to provide a response to a film and a context for it. I think context is really important.”

Anthony Lane: “The primary task of the critic, and no one has surpassed Miss Kael in this regard, is the recreation of texture, filing a sensory report of the kind of experience they will have if they decide to buy a ticket.”

Adrian Martin, 2005: “I think that one very particular thing that a film critic can do — it’s part of the task of writing — is description. But a very particular kind of description. I don’t mean plot description. I think far too many film reviews have far too much plot synopsis in them. Which is boring. I mean, who wants to read five paragraphs of plot synopsis? If I want to see the plot I’ll go see the film. I want the motor of that plot, I want something about the hook of that plot to get me interested. But, beyond that, I want something that is more a quality of what I think of as a sort of sensuous description of the film, of the rhythm of the film, the color of the film, of the mood itself, of the changing moods of the film. Something that gives you a feeling, a really experiential feeling of the film that you try to translate into your own language.”

Yay, I’ve been keeping this journal for one year!

I guess when I first started, I just wanted to write something, anything, to get into the habit of writing about movies, so April entries like The Palm Beach Story and Inside Man aren’t very helpful. Started getting better soon after with L’Age d’or and Moolaade, but I still write up a lot of short entries that I don’t think will be very useful in the long run.

Still, I believe this thing is serving its purpose. Making me think again about a movie a few hours to weeks after watching it is probably helpful to long-term memory, even if I’m not writing anything amazing. And if there’s something I was unclear on while watching a video, I can pick it up when going through the movie later to get screenshots. I don’t watch movies with the journal in mind, trying to think what to say about it before it’s even over, so it’s not distracting in a bad way, but I do sometimes try to remember lines or scenes so I can get a good quote or screenshot later. That can only be helpful – I want to be able to remember what I’ve watched. I mean, what’s the use of seeing every Fritz Lang movie if two years later I can only remember a third of ’em? Might as well have just watched a third of the Fritz Lang movies and not wasted my time on the others. And for the most part, I’ve stopped watching movies that I can’t pay attention to… playing “They Live By Night” on the TV while I’m facing away from it, missing most of the picture, just so I can say I’ve “seen” a Nick Ray movie. No point in that. So half the reason for this journal was to improve my memory of what I’ve watched, and hopefully it’s mission accomplished on that goal.

If the other half was to improve my writing by making myself practice writing (about movies) every day, that mission’s nowhere near accomplished. I’m not proud of any of these entries as writing samples… wouldn’t be able to argue my case as a film critic. I might’ve forced myself to give the proper amount of time and energy to the movies, but I’m not giving much time/energy to the writing itself, just tossing out thoughts as fast as they come when I get a free minute in the day, not forcing myself to really analyze the film or arrange my thoughts into something coherent or interesting. Haven’t been recommending anybody read this journal because I know if I wasn’t the one writing it, I wouldn’t want to read it either.

On the other hand, I’ve got 250 entries here. If I consider myself more of a cinephile than a writer on cinema, then it only makes sense that I’m devoting more time to watching the films than to reviewing them. I mean, this guy devotes tons of time and care to his entries, but he only has 65 entries in two and a half years. I’d rather stick with my method. 250 entries for some 340 movies. So on my running list of all the movies I’ve seen, I have notes on about 10% of them. Not bad!

Have I learned anything? How to very slightly hack style sheets in WordPress, I guess. Not really. Haven’t changed my perceptions on film or writing or anything.

At the start of 2006 I made myself a list of 100 titles I simply had to see that year. Took it chronologically, for the most part, and only made it 30-some titles in (through the 1950’s). Didn’t think of it as something that needed to be accomplished anyway, just as a guideline. Well this year I’ve made it definitely impossible with a list of 250+ titles for myself (including all the available Resnais, Marker & Rivette titles). Nice to set goals, anyway… I referred to the list only yesterday when deciding to rent these two Iraq documentaries.

I guess the biggest attitude change lately came while making my lists of favorite films from 2006 this January. I read other people’s lists and came across so many movies that I’d sort of meant to see in ’06 but had decided against, thinking they probably wouldn’t be great (rather than seeing anything that looks good, hoping it WOULD be great). Don’t know where that attitude came from, but it led me to miss what are belatedly some of my favorite movies of last year, seen this year on video. So I’m trying (and so far succeeding) to get out to the theaters more these days, attempting to stay current and live in-the-now instead of solely catching up on stuff from the 30’s and 50’s.

Changes to the journal: added the category listings on the right-hand side to collect writings on the same director or series, changed the layout a little to accomodate 600-pixel-wide images instead of limiting to 500.

Standout entries so far: none, really. I mean, Out 1 was long and exhaustive and some entries had nice screenshots and occasionally I’d play a commentary track and copy some bits from there, and I enjoyed watching the Phantasm series again and bitching about The Leopard, but I’m not ready to start a best-of-the-journal collection here.

Goals:
– stay current with new releases
– keep a notepad near the TV to write down cool quotes or ideas during the film
– see about 6-8 more Bunuel movies, make my way through Resnais and Marker.
– try harder to come up with something meaningful to say here
– read more books (Deleuze, other theory stuff)
– learn a little French
– keep writin’
– watch more movies!