Screening Room Articles
I'm sure a lot of you view Chistmas as a moviegoing day. I've never quite gotten the hang of the idea myself, though I did get bamboozled into going to see Vanilla Sky in 2001, even though I'd aleady seen it once. That was also my first actual encounter with the idea of trooping off to a movie on Dec. 25, so imagine my astonishment when I found myself parked behind the theater in a section I thought only existed for romantic trysts and dealings of dubious legality. (Indeed, that does seem to be its function 364 days out of the year.) Assuming, however, that this is your cup of lapsang souchong, I'll offer a few glimpses at what's out there.
This is far and away the hardest thing I've ever had to write. The very idea that Ken Russell could be dead is unthinkable to me. This isn't just the passing of one of the -- not always fully appreciated -- true giants of cinema. This is the passing of a friend of nearly 30 years -- a man I unreservedly loved. The very fact that I am -- for the very first time -- writing something that he will not be reading is strange and saddening in itself. And that makes this even harder, making various regrets snowball into something almost paralyzing.
As it happens Halloween falls on a Monday this year and while that's a pretty crummy day for Halloween to permit itself the luxury of occuring for most people, it actually works out rather nicely for me. You see, to the degree that I have a day off -- and let's face it, this is generally a seven-day-a-week gig -- Monday is that day. At least, I'm not writing reviews and I don't have to go anywhere, so I can spend this Halloween in the company of my favorite horror movies. Sometimes I've been known to take the coward's way out and just turn on TCM on Halloween, but I'm not that keen on their line-up this year, so I've come up with with nine choices of my own (that seems the largest number I might realistically get watched). And being that horror is one of my favorite genres, all this meant was a trip over to the shelves.
I know there are those who actually believe that 2011 has been a good year for movies. I can't agree with that -- nor it seems can most people. But there's always the chance that I've been forgetting something. With that in mind, I went over all the new films I've seen that impressed me enough to get the full five stars. This came up to five titles: The Illusionist, 13 Assassins, Incendies, Midnight in Paris and Point Blank. It's a point of debate as to whether The Illusionist can technically be counted as 2011, since it opened in limited release in 2010 -- and since I saw it in 2010. Incendies, on the other hand, counts, since it only opened enough to qualify for Oscar consideration in 2010. So I'll discount The Illusionist, but keep Incendies as a possible "Best of" contender.
I have a friend who I sometimes think exists mostly to prove -- even though he's a few years my junior -- that there are more curmudgeonly folks in the world than I. (Unfortunately, he hasn't a name that rhymes with anything like "cranky.") The other day he was celebrating the existence of a highly dubious article on the tanking of summer blockbusters this year (at least five of the films cited were not big-budget flops, just common garden flops). I took issue with this on the basis of factual wobbliness and the fact that a lot of the summer crap is what helps to keep the good stuff viable. The whole thing then escalated into the assertion that it wouldn't matter to him if they never made another movie, which, of course, served to escalate the argument even more.
There it is, sitting there like a visible conscience. It's a box. It contains a lot of packing and another box. It's all on the nice armchair that only gets used by cats -- who, I might add, are not pleased with its presence -- and the occasional intrepid visitor who doesn't mind getting up covered in cat hair. Inside the innermost box lies -- or so I am told -- a 100 percent region-free Blu-ray player. I'm assured it will play any region DVD and any letter code Blu-ray disc. State of the art technology at my fingertips and all that. It's of the "so simple it operates itself" variety -- no tricky settings, just pop those babies in and go. What it is not, however, is "so simple it sets itself up." Therein lies the reason it's resting on the chair.
Yeah, I know, it's really a good while till Halloween, but I want to get an early start on at least one aspect of it this year. I'm sure most of you reading this know that I'm involved with the Thursday Horror Picture Show. In point of fact, the programming of it and just about everything else about it is in the hands -- and warped minds -- of Justin Souther and myself. It's very much like the Asheville Film Society, but on Thursdays and with horror movies. It's also in the hands of the people who come to the movies. Now, nothing says horror pictures like Halloween, so I'd like this Halloween season to be something special.
Last week sometime I was approached to be part of a group of critics submitting -- for Lubitsch knows what reason -- their picks for the 100 greatest or favorite films of all time. Somewhat against my better judgment, I said yes. I probably would not have said yes if that "or favorite" phrase had not been attached. Anyone who believes him or herself actually qualified to categorically name the 100 greatest movies ever made is frankly deluded -- for a variety of reasons.
I have an unusually heavy viewing/reviewing load this week (and I really do not remember making a deal with Justin that involved me seeing The Smurfs, but he says I did, so I must have), so this is going to be on the short side. It's also going to be on the self-serving side, which is to say I'm looking for input on something.
Ah, that venerable movie critic phrase -- "Not for everyone." It has weathered the years and is still trotted out with no little frequency. I've used it myself more than once or twice. Taken at face value, it's really at least a little idiotic, since it suggests the existence of movies that are for everyone -- and let's face it, your chance of finding even one such movie is slightly less likely than coming across a Carolina Parakeet. Of course, no one using the phrase actually means to suggest the existence of any such thing.
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