Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2 Years of 'High on Celluloid'!

It's kind of hard to think that I've only been working on this site for two years, but at a point it seems like time becomes a less solid thing. I map things out by experience, and I am still very dissatisfied with my work in my entire first year. It was mostly based on these minimalist and isolationist ramblings of somebody who hadn't lived, and therefore didn't have an opinion. I think that the film that really begged me to be more individual and self-assured in my dissent from the popular opinion was "Black Swan", which was oddly absorbed by the popular opinion. Society's sensual obsession with it seemed to minimalize the accomplishment.

If you brought it up to any average person who liked it, they'll say that Natalie Portman's performance is the film. Those who disliked it will narrow it down to being an average thriller. Both miss the point of the film entirely, and I kept reaching these emotional roadblocks in others' responses, and I simply balked at it. It suddenly became so apparent how flawed the public opinion is, which was further compounded by "The King's Speech" winning Best Picture at this year's Oscar race. I thought of the film's true merits, which were few, and it got me to scrutinize the other players in the race, and finding I wasn't as taken with "Toy Story 3", "The Social Network", or "True Grit" as I thought.

I owe some of that sudden change to my film professors, who've done an absolutely brilliant job of broadening my horizon, if feeding my ego a tad too much inadvertently. I owe a great deal more to "Black Swan", as those central themes of railing against your owners in defense of what you believe just ignited inside me. Realize that I gave 17 A-range reviews last year, and only four so far this year, two of which in the past two weeks. I raised my standards to what they should be, rather than settling for less. If I operated this year the way I did in 2010, I think I'd have lost more readers than I'd have gained. The readers I have now are at least more specific.

In May, I started to broaden my horizons, but only vaguely. I set out to see more "classic" films of the past, but gave that effort up pretty quickly. I did have a somewhat lax attention span, and while I was still trying to keep up with the blog, I was also trying to broaden my horizons for the distant future. As strongly as I believe that I'll be writing here for the next several years (8 to be most specific), I also have other plans. I do want to be a filmmaker, and I want to be the best filmmaker I can be. It's one of my reasons for doing this. To observe, critique, and avoid making the same mistakes as other filmmakers have.

At the start of July, I really got started in broadening my filmic horizons. Three specific discoveries paid off wonderfully on me. "Hunger", the debut feature of "Shame" director Steve McQueen, hit me like a bolt from the blue, affecting me aesthetically and emotionally. While some may see it as a subtle and quiet feature, it's really a thrilling action-war film on a more direct battlefield. Subtlety does nothing to distract from the scope or scale of a film, as evidenced by my impression of "Meek's Cutoff". The landmark "boring" film of the year hit me as the most thematically epic that I've seen thus far this year.

Then came my introduction to Claire Denis, who has almost instantly become one of my favorite directors, and I've only seen two of her films. "White Material" took me a few times through to really drink it in, but once I had I was able to really appreciate it for all the emotion and tragedy of it. Somehow, I was just as taken with "35 Shots of Rum", which is a tad more overt in its storytelling, but no less foreboding, tragic, and beautiful. Both films have me waiting impatiently for Denis' next film, so I can have the true theatrical Denis experience.

Despite all these touches of beauty, the only film I've discovered this past year that's really touched my core and innermost self is Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank". Katie Jarvis' Mia is weirdly enough the character of the film that I most empathize with and relate to, perhaps more than any other screen character I've ever come across. I mean that to the respects of both her virtues and weaknesses. I find so much respect for her refusal at a society that has somewhat lost its humanity, and I feel for her feeling lost as such. That being said, she's immature. She doesn't have everything figured out. She can be off-putting in how unsympathetic a character she is. It's all those factors that I relate dramatically to myself.

While "Fish Tank" touched me in such a deep and significant way, that's not to say it was the great discovery of my year. That deserves to be distributed amongst two titles. The first is Michel Gondry's towering success, as well as Charlie Kaufman's, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". I remember seeing the film once before this summer, but somehow it didn't take. Maybe it was just because of how inexperienced I was as a human being at the time. However, I was finally able to bathe in the beauty, humor, tragedy, irony, and deep heartache of the film. It's a film that so vitally deals with irreversible matters of the heart, and that first 17 minute segment is one I always feel tempted to revisit before watching the end of the film. It might have been a brilliant move just to play that entire sequence again towards the end, and I'd oddly have still loved the film if I had to watch the same sequence again.

And then I came across "Dancer in the Dark", which is one of the most revolutionary films I have ever come across, and I'd expect nothing else from Lars von Trier. Before his spiral of depression, he seemed to have a different sensibility. Still dark and unconventional, but also severely moving. Bjork's performance has one wishing she made a career of this, but thankful that she hasn't. Otherwise it might take away from this experience. It gives off the idea that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and I couldn't stop watching it for the few days I had it. Call it an addiction that's still coursing through my veins. That strong opening overture is an immediately arresting fusion of Lars Von Trier's darker sensibilities and the musical genre. Throughout the entire film, it works like brilliance.

Of course, I've also had some other experiences in the past few weeks, including my full immersion in Lynne Ramsay before seeing "We Need to Talk About Kevin", which should be up shortly. In general, I'm happy with the direction this site has taken. It's not as busy here as it has been in the past. Just into college, I was ambitious, but untrained and unrealistic. Now, I know the readers I have are readers I'm truly happy to have. As for where to go from here, I'm honestly not sure. I haven't a clue where I'm going to go from here, or from day to day. I'll take what's given to me, but I don't expect too much insane acclaim from this site. It's a release emotionally, and mentally, that I relish and don't feel comfortable breaking until I've become tired of it. I'm far from that point, and I hope people will still indulge me for at least 8 more years.

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