Monday, April 16, 2012

My Movie Year Blog-A-Thon

In the 31-year of my on-going existence, I could probably say that I have now seen more than thousands of films in my lifetime. Probably nearly a thousand in the last decade as I became obsessed with films during that period. In the first 20 years, I had seen mostly films that were in theaters or on TV but not a lot of art or foreign films. In my mid-teens, I discovered the films of Quentin Tarantino and Gregg Araki as well as other indies at the time. Yet, I was still someone who was more into the mainstream films at the time where I didn’t see a lot of good movie. When I was 14, I was coming out of the family films that were out like the Disney movies and some of the teen stuff as I ended up having to take my younger sister to see those fuckin’ Brady Bunch movies.

It wasn’t like I was going to the movies all the time as I only saw a few every year. Once I went into my 20s, things definitely got a bit stranger as the movies I really liked at the time were Almost Famous, The Virgin Suicides, and Being John Malkovich. The last two were like WTF moments for me because I had never seen anything like it at the time. Still, I wasn’t seeing great movies as I think the worst movie I saw coming into my 20s was Tomcats. Does anyone remember that film?

It was around the early 2000s were I really got an understanding about the power of film. While I would have mixed opinions about being in my 20s as I was more into music and writing about music at the time. The period of 2002 to 2004 was a huge transitional year for me personally. I started to understand the difference between a really good movie and a really bad one. Since this meme is called My Movie Year. It would be around those three years where I came of age through cinema. Everything else after 2004 was me watching so many different films and learning as I’m now a film buff that also wants to become a filmmaker.

Would I pick 2002? Well, that is a possibility since it was the year where I actually went to see an art house theater that wasn’t near my home for the first time. I had always known about the Tara Theater in Cheshire that was nearby Atlanta and it was a 20-minute drive from my home. Gas was cheap as were tickets. The film I saw was 24 Hour Party People late in the summer of the year as I was really into the music of Joy Division. It was different. It was really new and I just got into it as it’s one of my favorite films ever. That was also the year I saw Pearl Harbor on TV and I didn’t like it. Yet, that dislike would turn to complete and unadulterated hatred as I noticed a lot of historical inaccuracies, bad dialogue, awful visual effects, the feeling of sickness from all of that hyper-active edits, and the bad acting. That piece of shit would become my all-time pick for the worst film ever made.

Then there’s 2004 where I started to become obsessed with films. Before that year, I had only seen a handful of films in theaters every year. In 2004 alone, I had seen nearly 30 that year. I volunteered at the Atlanta Film Festival that year at the Midtown Art’s Center which was a whole lot of fun. I got to see a few films, meet a couple of filmmakers, and just hang out with people who loved movies. I went to more art house movies that year than to my local theater that year. I saw my first NC-17 movie that year in The Dreamers. I also saw The Brown Bunny in a theater. Thought it was OK until I learned that Vincent Gallo’s cock in that film was fake. I also went to a lot of free preview screenings that year for films like The Motorcycle Diaries, Criminal, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It was the first time I went to see an old movie being screened in a theater in La Dolce Vita and I had never seen that film before.

That would’ve been a great pick but in the end. The film year for me will always be 2003. Why? Well, it was through the movies that I was watching that year and the new obsessions I would have. Particularly towards actresses and such. Prior to that year, I was into hot babes like Shannon Elizabeth and Jessica Alba. Then I saw a little movie called Secretary and fell in love with this very unique creature named Maggie Gyllenhaal. I would then try and find every film she’s in as I saw Donnie Darko for the very first time and got introduced to her brother and got re-introduced in another young actress in Jena Malone whom I had previously seen in Stepmom.

It was the year I began to watch IFC (when it didn’t have commercials) a lot at the time and saw a different bunch of movies where I saw Breaking the Waves for the very first time. I was in tears watching that film and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked in all of that grainy film stock. It was not like anything I had ever seen before. I think it was on a letterbox format at the time which I hadn’t seen on TV very much either. It was a very strange year for me because my education in film was very limited. Quite often with a lot of things, I’m always late in the game into some kind of movement or a film that had been talked about some years ago. Still, I would able to catch up and realize what’s going on. In that year, my obsession with Maggie Gyllenhaal at the time introduced me to movies I would have never watched years ago.

That turned out to be a unique summer as I started to avoid what was out in the multiplexes that year and realized there’s something else out there. That’s where I decided to see American Splendor at the Tara Theater to a full crowd. It was truly unlike anything I had experienced watching films that year and the film ended with applause was also something I hadn’t experienced either. It was also on that same night I saw the trailer for what would become my all-time favorite film in Lost in Translation.

I could talk a lot about the impact of that screening for that film on September 21, 2003 but I’m going to save it for next year when I do my 10th Anniversary project on that film which I ended up seeing three times in the span of a few months. It would turn out to be an incredible year as a I saw a few more films. I saw a couple of more films with Maggie Gyllenhaal that year. Casa de Los Babys by John Sayles at a theater near Little Five Points on Ponce de Leon and Mona Lisa Smile at my local multiplex, that movie sucked. I also attended my first, and hopefully last, test screening for a film called Love, Actually on September. That was a truly awkward experience as I don’t think anyone should go to test screening. It’s really one of the worst things that I can recall though I thought movie was OK and kind of liked it a bit more when it was on TV despite a few flaws I had with it. I also watched Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Cold Mountain, the latter on New Year’s Eve.

Still, it was Lost in Translation that became the highlight for me that year as my obsession with Maggie Gyllenhaal then shifted towards Scarlett Johansson as I started to watch some of the other movies she had done. On my 23 birthday that December, I went to a very special screening of Girl with a Pearl Earring at the High Museum of Arts which was truly a magical moment.

Even though I would say 2004 was a better year in terms of the numerous great films that came out that year. 2003 was truly my movie year. Just because it changed my outlook into everything that year and finally led me to the decision on what I wanted to do. I want to write about films and I want to make films. It was truly the great year in movies as here is a list of five films that I think do define that year at its best, that isn’t Lost in Translation:

Gus Van Sant's second part of the Death Trilogy is truly one of the most haunting films about life in high school.  Particularly as he tries to re-create Columbine without all of the conventional dramatic tropes as the cast is filled with mostly unknowns while providing different perspectives into what might've happened.

Another film from a well-received trilogy, Chan Wook-park's menacing yet nihilistic drama about a man seeking revenge for his disappearance is both beautiful and disturbing.  Featuring some amazing scenes including a long sequence where Dae-Su fights a bunch of men with a hammer.  It is a film that is both visceral and evocative.

American Splendor

The story about the life of Harvey Pekar is a divine mix of real-life and fiction told in an unconventional fashion as Paul Giamatti plays the famed comic writer while the real man pops in every once in a while.  It is one of the most definitive comic-book based films ever made that is witty and entertaining.

Guy Maddin's surreal yet visually-entrancing film about a contest to find the saddest music in the world set in the early 20th Century.  Featuring dazzling images shot in grainy black-and-white, Maddin creates a film where old film styles become new again as it features an extraordinary cast led by Isabella Rosellini.

Jonathan Caouette's haunting yet unforgettable documentary about his own life is truly one of the best autobiographical portraits on film.  Disturbing, troubling, and unsettling yet also fascinating and engrossing.  It is a film that really re-defines the documentary while going very deep into one man's life.

You can read the rest of that list which is still a work in progress. For more on this My Movie Year blog-a-thon, check out the listings on this link.

© thevoid99 2012


Anonymous said...

I won't do this blogathon. It felt like an overwhelming task to come to a decision. But I loved your post (the best one I've seen in this blogathon) and of course I support your choice. As you know we share the same love for Lost in Translation.

asrap virtuoso said...

I think its no shame haven't seen any "art movies" when you are younger. In fact even now, there's no harm in enjoying mainstream films. But it seems some movie-buffs always massacre anyone who picks these type of films as their favourites. I say chill people, even Quentin Tarantino regularly picks mainstream films as his favourites. For example see this clips of his 20 favourite film from the year 1992-2009: . There's plenty mainstream there. Or google his list of favourite films for 2009, 2010, 2011. Some are even what many consider bad movies.

s. said...

Great post! I love "Lost in Translation" and "Girl with a Pearl Earring' is a lovely movie, in some ways I even prefer Johansson's work in the latter.

Unknown said...

I've seen this blogathon all over the place lately but yours was the only one I actually stopped to read.

Fascinating stuff, because it was right around the same time that I also became seriously obsessed with film. Just change all the places and swap out a few of the titles and our stories could be the same.

impassionedcinema said...

Glad to see someone else have Lost in Translation on top of their favorite films list! I saw that movie twice in the same day when it was released.

I almost had American Splender on my list, but I liked a few other films a little bit more.

Come by and check out my list of the same year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking part. I also love Lost in Translation despite its detractors. Oldboy is my favourite film of the past decade.

thevoid99 said...

@Velvet-I took a more personal approach for this post. It was because 2003 was a big deal for me as I was coming of age at that time.

@asrap virtuso-There's mainstream films I enjoyed. It was just that when I was growing up, I found myself really disconnected with what was out at the time. I'll check your list out soon.

@Sati-Girl with a Pearl Earring is still my favorite performance by Scarlett Johannson though I felt she should've gotten nominated for an Oscar for either film instead of Diane Keaton.

@Bonjour-Wow, I guess you and I should be film brothers or something.

@impassioned-I will definitely check your list out. I'm glad someone has love for LIT.

@Andy of fandango groovers-Oldboy is a great choice. Definitely one of my favorite films ever.

Cherokee said...

Loved the build-up to your favourite movie year, was great to read, and a set of wonderful picks (though I am not a fan of Oldboy so much, but I do commend it and understand why people love it like they do).

thevoid99 said...

@Cherokee-Thank you. I just wanted to add a personal element to the blog-a-thon.