OK, so it’s December and that means it’s the fast-track to Christmas (or whatever you choose in terms of the holiday season. When I was a kid – having had no luck connecting to religion even at an early age – this meant trees, lights, presents, food and the annual run of Christmas movies on TV. Now, my childhood was It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) was a requirement, but there was a deep suspicion that not observing the ritual of watching Miracle on 34th Street (1947) at least once could cause Christmas not to happen at all. You could also anticipate the Alastair Sim A Christmas Carol (1951) and maybe Bob Hope in The Lemon Drop Kid and a double dose of Bing with Holiday Inn (1942) and White Christmas (1954). It was restful and pleasant. Even bum films like White Christmas (come on, this is not a good movie) had that old friend patina.
These days the onset of the festive season means one thing – movies. Movies I haven’t seen and movies I need to see again. They come to me in various ways – mostly these days in the form of screeners, which are less expensive than setting up theatrical screenings. (In fact, this year the only films being brought in for critics’ screenings locally are Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air.) Without getting into the seriously esoteric, I’ve received 22 titles so far with more showing up every day. Rumor has it that District 9, Coraline, A Serious Man, Taking Woodstock and 9 have been received by other critics, but they’ve not landed on my porch yet.
The trick to all this is that the SEFCA (South East Film Critics’ Association) voting is next weekend. That means that somewhere between now and then there are at least seven films I really ought to see and another half a dozen I’d like to look at a second time. Plus, there’s a good chance that more are on their way.And, of course, all of this has to be sandwiched in with the usual run of reviews of movies that aren’t likely to get any kind of vote – well, any kind of positive vote – this season or this lifetime. In the case of Transylmania – which I slogged my way through last night – I might consider voting for a proposal that a moratorium be placed on all film production until we can be assured that nothing like this ever happens again.
Some of the second-look titles don’t require serious consideration. Seeing The Proposal once was certainly sufficient for one lifetime. While I liked Star Trek a lot more than I’d ever expected, I know it’s not getting a vote from me in any capacity. I might give a nod to Paul Schneider for his supporting role in Bright Star, but I don’t need to see the film again in order to make that decision – and I really have no desire to see the movie again. I pretty completely hated Humpday the first time I saw it. A second look would do neither it, nor me any favors.
On the other hand, I was glad I did take the time to give Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince another viewing. I’d forgotten how good it was – and am inclined to think it’s actually better than I originally thought. I don’t think seeing (500) Days of Summer a second time secured it a berth in my year’s pantheon, but it got it nearer – and may cause me to create a new category in the year-end best list. I tried Where the Wild Things Are again. It’s not happening, but I didn’t mind having the opportunity of giving it a shot. The Blind Side would, I’m quite sure, only lessen on a second look. It’s just that kind of movie. A few are, of course, just pure pleasure. Seeing Up again wasn’t work, and surely no one is likely to think I had the least objection to seeing Fantastic Mr. Fox again. Actually, it presents a problem of a different kind in that I don’t want to take it out of the DVD player.
A couple titles – The Damned United and Invictus – are serving double duty, since they’re in need of regular reviews. The same will hold true this coming week of Precious, which I do want to see a second time even if I didn’t like it as much as I’m apparently supposed to on my first viewing.
The SEFCA vote, however, is only part of the picture for me. Voting next weekend very probably precludes taking a few titles into consideration. I like to think that Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is going to find its way to my mailbox in time, but I’m not holding my breath. Ritchie just isn’t considered an award-bait filmmaker. (Then again, someone decided that Anne Fletcher’s The Proposal merited a screener.) I don’t expect to see The Road by then either, but I might see it before the year ends. With this sort of thing in mind, it’s worth noting that my Ten Best list will differ from my SEFCA one – nor does SEFCA allow for a Ten Worst list. In short, the journey isn’t over after the vote.
Plus, this is an unusual year in that it’s the end of the decade – and that calls for special treatment. After much discussion on the topic of just what to do in honor of the event, Justin Souther and I opted to undertake something that at least verges on – and possibly crosses over into – insanity. Yes, we’re going to try to run down our 100 Best of the decade. Granted, I could take the easy way out on this where my list is concerned and simply combine Ten Best lists for 2001-2009 (there wasn’t one in 2000), but some of those lists don’t entirely hold up for me. There are clear omissions on them – at least from this vantage point – and there are, yes, titles on those lists that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Not only that, but there wouldn’t be much challenge or much fun in simply combining nine years of lists.
I should note that, no, we’re not planning on a 100 Worst list for the decade. That would, I think, be just too depressing. More than that, it’s a recent and painful enough memory that re-watching Pootie Tang (2001) conjures up. It’s a memory that advises against going back to bad movies for another look. If you really disliked a movie one time – and had no trouble understanding why – chances are you’ll only be opening an old wound. There’s also the old bit of wisdom that, I believe, dates back to ancient Greece – the one that says, “Life is too short to watch a Michael Bay movie twice.” I think Aristotle said that. The man was ahead of his time.
However, we may offer some ammendments. In discussing this undertaking, we’ve made a few pleasant discoveries. One of these came when I asked Justin if he could come up with a Ten Best list of horror movies for the decade. Much to our combined surprise, we found we could name more than ten. Chances are we’ll do something with that. And there are a few other notions that may find their way into our round up of the decade. I’ll say no more about that for the moment, since it’s still in flux – and anyway, you’ll find out soon enough. The one thing I’m fairly certain of in all this is that by the time SEFCA, the Ten Best, the Ten Worst, the 100 Best and whatever else is behind us, our eyes will bear an alarming resemblance to those of the fellow to the right of this paragraph.