Monday, October 12, 2015

2010 Project Top 10 and Reflections

project index (here).

Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
La belle endormie (Catherine Breillat)
O Estranho Caso de Angélica (Manoel de Oliveira)
The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone)
Film socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard)
The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski)
Haishan Chuanqi (Jia Zhangke)
Hereafter (Clint Eastwood)
The Nine Muses (John Akomfrah)
Resident Evil: Afterlife (Paul W.S. Anderson)

This was supposed to be a reflection, but all I got is this confessional.

My first intention was to reflect on the cinema of 2010; to sketch out some observations and maybe even determine if it was a good year. I lost interest in that pretty quickly. Think piece ruminations on a year tend to be facile. A year is a year is a year. 2010 saw the release of at least thirty incredible films by my count. As far as observing patterns go, 2010 felt like a cinematic reset button. A dreamlike quality runs through my selections, making the year itself feel like a rekindling of flickering silent images and the playfulness of discarded studio fabrication. Artifice in the name poetry and a big fuck you to gritty realism. My kind of stuff.

My second intention was to remark on the process of this project, which started as a humble means of catching up on the major films of the new decade. I saw some great stuff. But all I've got to say about this project is that not only is a year in film an arbitrary parameter that breaks down almost constantly, there are always too many films to be seen. I wanted to cross boundaries and transcend film culture's fixation on the feature-length narrative, but all I managed to do was reify it. I didn't watch nearly enough experimental films or porn, and what I did watch didn't move me in the same way as the ten features above did. Here's an observation: maybe 2010 was a bad year for porn.

My biggest realization is that my criticism of most critic's top tens is misguided and stupid. I've always sneered at what I saw as the conservative homogeneity in so many year-end lists. Surely there is more diversity out there than the same rotation of fifteen over-represented films. There have always been those alternative critics that I idolize, the counter-cultural voices that are more dedicated to making idiosyncratic and personal lists rather than the consensus-driven concerns with what will stand the test of time. But what I found was that I should go easy on those hard working folks. There are simply too many films. I really don't know why I got so upset about all that. I've only ever been to one film festival twice and I can't imagine trying to see most films let alone having to report back on them all. Besides, a conservative and homogeneous top ten can still be deeply personal. I learned that when I realized how good The Social Network actually was. I was more afraid of being associated with the idea of a Fincher devotee than being honest with myself.

Anyway, here's what I really want to talk about and this might be navel-gazing but I like the challenge of making it more general beyond myself.

I find the formation of a top ten list to be excruciating and violent. However, every time I try and remove myself from the practice I fall right back into it. I'm trying to stop using the star ratings on Letterboxd, but even that's proving difficult. I am absolutely a product of the algorithm, the aggregate, the discipline of logging and ranking and listing. But at the same time I've become a victim of an obsessive revisionism. I can never seem to land on an order for ten films, which is why my list is alphabetical.

I guess because I see so many people produce these lists all the time that it must come easy, but that is a big assumption to make. I'd like to lean back on a polemic, like Mark Peranson in every editor's note of Cinema Scope, but the fact is I cannot complete the simplest task of listing ten favorite films in the order that I admire them. Part of this problem stems from issues that I'm dealing with for the first time: I've begun seeing a mental health specialist who thinks my inability to complete projects and not judge my own thoughts is an undiagnosed case of ADD that has caused depression. But we're not there yet and the reason I mention this in a film blog is because I desire to sort out my thoughts and positions on the method and theory of list making, of ranking, of the evaluation of films.

Anyway, the reason I lay this all out there is that the main thing I've taken from this 2010 Year in Film Project is a realization that rankings and lists are not my style. I desire to transform my feelings on the matter into a more focused method, maybe even a polemic. I'm hesitant to openly reject them, as we all must dance with them sooner or later (plus they are actually very handy when you find a person whose tastes matter to you). Also, we all get tired of that guy constantly swearing off facebook or smartphones or anything even vaguely contemporary. We get it, you're different. But with this project I'm finding that the alternative is difficult and time consuming: if we don't use stars or rankings then we have to write out our thoughts and feelings for everything. I want to do this, but that's a lot of work and I'm not convinced it's always worth it. I'm not really sure what is at stake here except maybe a political rejection of the enlightenment obsession with data and classification in favor of a more poetic? spiritual? humanistic? approach to cinema. We'll see how that works out.

anyway, here's ten more favorites from 2010:

Ang Ninanais (John Torres)
Coming Attractions (Peter Tscherkassky)
The Fighter (David O Russell)
The Owls (Cheryl Dunye)
Predators (Nimród Antal)
The Social Network (David Fincher)
Somewhere (Sophia Coppola)
Step Up 3D (Jon M Chu)
Unstoppable (Tony Scott)
The Ward (John Carpenter)

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