Saturday, December 05, 2009

Top 100 of 2000-2009: Intro

I don't remember the New Year, 1980. I was not yet three. Vague memories of Legos and whatnot. Nothing whatsoever linked to the New Year, new decade.

1990, late night watching television. Very, very distinct memory nursing a warm glass of Mountain Dew. Everyone else asleep. Room stuffy. This was at my old house in Ledyard, Connecticut. This was the part of my life where, perhaps not unwillingly, I programmed my physiology to be most "awake" between 9pm and 1am. The 32-year-old me hates the 12-year-old me for that, but what can you do.

2000, I was on watch at the hangar/office at VAQ-132 (the Scorpions!) on US Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. I went out for a smoke - I no longer smoke - and inadvertently interrupted a couple sneaking a New Years'/new decade/new millennium smooch. Dear Navy: fraternization happens. Deal with it.

2010, unless there's a catastrophe, I'll be sharing the New Year with the woman that I love. We just observed our four year "relationship anniversary." Fastforward to the next decade marker, her son will be old enough to vote.

Anyway. I've been a cinephile since around 1992, 1993, when I had a crush on the girl at the video store. Let's call her Jessica G. Prettiest girl in New London County. (The girl with whom I presently share a mortgage was the prettiest girl in Hartford County, but I wouldn't meet her for nearly another ten years.) At the same time, I also had an unfulfilled hunger for movies that led me around the aisles of Act One Video (long gone by now), and if I had to guess, I'd say my subconscious was screaming: "What the fuck are you looking for?" Hormones, a hunger for new movie sensations, caffeine, Doritos, etc. Somehow I discovered - or remembered - a video section at the Groton Library. They had... old movies. Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, The Third Man, and what I'm almost certain was my first foreign-language film, Fellini's 8 1/2.

The sky opened up.

Almost twenty years and four thousand films - lightweight compared to some of you, I know - later, I'm getting ready to watch the second episode of the second season of Mad Men. My sensibility, well, I won't bore you by writing out my whole personality here, nor will I have time to go on & on (lucky you!) when I kickstart my "essential films" project, but I've come to believe a few things:

1) Movie love is transient. Second looks, third looks, etc = playing with fire. Fourth looks = sometimes the awesomeness hits you like a ton of bricks. This I learned when I revisited L'Atalante a few years ago (Museum of Modern Art, I think) and I couldn't stop crying. (Pansy.)

2) Trust your instincts, but know they can sometimes be wrong.

3) Have faith when others around you say something's great and you "aren't feelin' it." You can't make yourself feel the love, there's no Kool-Aid to drink, but take my advice, put those movies on the top shelf. Take them down every ten years. Life is short, but you get a reasonable amount of acreage.

4) Take all the pleasure you can get, wherever you can get it. The most underestimated groups of films are "clearly bad films" and "gargantuan Hollywood superproductions." Partly they made their own bed, those directors and producers, and trudging through these groups can be really punishing, but we often look last for art in these places, or avoid them altogether.

5) Sometimes, it takes just the right moment of reflection to make me see films differently. Sometimes, I'm blind to ... gifts. I'm glad there are other eyes.

6) If I'm drawn to anything, it's probably the absurd, the insane, underwritten by creative energy and conviction (or what looks like it). I like complex things but I don't always appreciate them when they're in front of me.

Since the Mikio Naruse retro of 2005, I have had no choice but to miss a lot of movies in Manhattan. It's a simple matter of life interrupting movie love: I don't have the time. As a result, I've seen almost everything since then on DVD, battered VHS tapes, Blu-ray, and Netflix Instant. I've missed a lot, so my 2005-2009 lists are thinner and weaker than my 1992-2004 lists.

Beginning with the next entry, I'll count off my favorite films of the decade, limiting myself to 100. I'll say a few words if the spirit moves me. Otherwise, I won't.

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