Movie-a-Day: November 2007

mist.jpg

An unexpected benefit of charting my movie-watching habits through this series of posts is the perspective it sheds on my work rhythms — the ebb and flow of teaching, grading, doing research, and attending daily to dozens of other details of the academic profession — and their impact on what I choose to watch. November was crazy-busy — not just with school but a trip back to Indiana for Thanksgiving with my and my wife’s families, followed by our first wedding anniversary. Looking back, I’m surprised that I got to see anything at all. But no: somehow I managed to squeeze in nineteen films in thirty days, or roughly (my compulsive calculator checking reveals) .63 movies per day. Reviewing the list, though, what jumps out at me is how many recent and new releases I gravitated toward: eleven of the nineteen or (more calculator-tapping) 58% of the titles are from 2006 and 2007.

So what does this mean? Maybe older films are simply more taxing; good as my favorites were — the 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame, Powell and Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going!, Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon — they demanded more in the watching than did the blissful, frictionless experience of newer pleasures like The Host, No Country for Old Men, and Meet the Robinsons. When I started this regimen last summer, I was able to sit through very old, very long movies in alert immersion — taking notes, no less. Most of November’s selections I watched flat on my back, relaxing into the TV screen or the laptop balanced on my chest, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I fell asleep once or twice during movies that really demand more respectful attention: I Walked With A Zombie, The Italian Job.

Ah well. I’ve learned to stop apologizing for watching what I watch, the way I watch it. (It’s pretty much a requirement if you commit to doing media studies.) If it surprises me now to learn that I saw The Ex — recorded in brainspace only by a fugue-patch of static — I’ll just remind myself that wasted time is usually good for the soul. But I will admit that the coming summer is starting to look very good to me: a long lush season of quiet during which I can finally get back to a real movie-a-day plan, digging into film history and moving outside my comfort zones.

As usual, I’ve placed stars next to the films that made an unusually strong impact on me. In one case, perhaps, more stars are deserved: Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist was the most wrenching horror film I’ve seen since The Descent, and in its way a thing of remarkable beauty.

Movie-A-Day: November 2007

Notes On A Scandal (Richard Eyre, 2006)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle, 1939)
Spider-Man 3 (Sam Raimi, 2007)
Allegro Non Troppo (Bruno Bozzetto, 1976)
Harlan County USA (Barbara Kopple, 1976)
The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 1969)
I Know Where I’m Going! (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1945)*
The Host (Joon-ho Bong, 2006)*
No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2007)*
Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Félix Enríquez Alcalá & Wayne Rose, 2007)
La noire de … [Black Girl] (Ousmane Sembene, 1965)
I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
Sherrybaby (Laurie Collyer, 2006)*
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
The Ex (Jesse Peretz, 2006)
Meet the Robinsons (Stephen J. Anderson, 2007)
Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich, 1973)*
Hairspray (Adam Shankman, 2007)
The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2007)*

5 thoughts on “Movie-a-Day: November 2007

  1. Dunno if I’d call No Country for Old Men “blissful and frictionless” 😉 but I totally get your point, and it echoes my own experience of watching my way through the AFI Top 100 many years back. There’s something about how people and plots talk and move that requires more attention when it’s from a different time or place.

    Is La Noire de… any good? I only know Ousmane Sembene’s novel Gods Bits of Wood, which is riveting, but I somehow never got around to checking into his films.

  2. Yeah, I hesitated a bit before including Country in the blissful and frictionless category, but went ahead anyway … you’ve got to admit, it’s a well-oiled machine of a movie, and even if the point of the ingenious clockworks was to generate suspense and unease, there’s pleasure in that!

    You say it very well: there is “something about how people and plots talk and move that requires more attention when it’s from a different time or place.” It’s a kind of low-level translation that goes on constantly, I suspect, as we adjust to audiovisual aesthetics, story tropes, performance codes etc. that differ from our own — not so different that they require subtitling, but just off somehow. I like to think about how the “transparent” codes in which we currently swim will inevitably grow translucent (if not opaque) to future audiences.

    La Noire de is pretty great, IMO. It’s a staple of Swarthmore’s introductory film curriculum, so I show it every fall, and it invariably gets students talking. What’s interesting to me is how direct and blunt (and tragic) the story is, yet how many codes — that word again — of mainstream filmmaking it thwarts. It reminds me that different doesn’t have to mean obscure.

  3. This is not entirely on topic, but have you been following the “My Year of Flops” feature on the ‘Onion AV Club’, by Nathan Rabin? It’s often the funniest thing on the site, not only because of what Rabin writes, but because of the comments from regular readers. But what’s most interesting to me is the way the feature developed into a sort of mini-community, and the way the interaction between the critic and his fans, and the fans with each other, shaped the development of the feature.

  4. So glad to hear your response to Darabont’s take on The Mist. I was fairly close to stunned when I first saw it (which makes me sad that so many people avoided it), and the more I think about it, the more daring a film I think it is. Most interestingly, I think it makes a perfectly inverted companion piece to The Shawshank Redemption–both films center of the utter importance of hope, with Shawshank showing the powerful rewards of maintaining it while The Mist shows the destruction that follows its loss.

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