Monday, May 15, 2017

2000: procedural notes

I haven't used this space in a while so I'll be posting some procedural notes on a small project of mine. I'm going through the films of the 2000s year by year. I'm working to be select and concise. Here are my starting notes for the year 2000.

To See:

Dead or Alive 2: Birds (Takashi Miike)
Seance (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
The Captive (Chantal Akerman)
Bamboozled (Spike Lee)
Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood)

To Revisit*:

Yi Yi (Edward Yang)
Platform (Jia Zhangke)
Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai)
The Day I Became a Woman (Marzieh Makhmmalbaf)
Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan)

*With the exception of Unbreakable, I found each of these films to be a masterpiece but its been a decade since I've seen some of them. While certain images and sensations are as vivid as ever, I cannot fully recall what these films are.

Current favorites (excluding films To Revisit):

1. The Long Holiday (Johan van der Keuken)
2. The Gleaners and I (Agnes Varda)
3. Mission to Mars (Brian DePalma)
4. As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (Jonas Mekas)
5. Bring It On (Peyton Reed)
6. Best in Show (Christopher Guest)
7. Chicken Run (Peter Lord, Nick Park)
8. Scream 3 (Wes Craven)
9. The Yards (James Gray)
10. Esther Kahn (Arnaud Desplechin)

Personal Notes (a little navel-gazey):

I guess this all started on the 9th of May when I watched Mission to Mars for the first time since college. There is no better representation of my changing tastes and attitudes than my reaction to this film. Mission to Mars was our Troll 2 or The Room back in the salad days of film school. An embarrassingly terrible film that was maudlin, on-the-nose, and expository ("I'm sorry your wife died Gary Sinise"). A decade later and the film almost moved me to tears. It is now for me a rare Hollywood film that takes a sincere look at loss and trauma. It is a sensitive melodrama played out in an atomic age b-picture. I can't praise it enough. Truly one of the great films of the new century. I also watched Robert Altman's Dr. T and the Women and wrote a Letterboxd entry here.

The year 2000 was that year for me (and everyone has that year) when I could more independently select what films I saw. And so I saw everything that was available to me in the theater. Looking back on the U.S. films of that year I recall seeing most of them in their initial run in the megaplex. With the exception of Disney's Dinosaur, I saw all the top-grossing films of that year. Mission: Impossible II was the epitome of the bloated spy action film and the Metallica tie-in song was on constant rotation on MTV. Gladiator we all thought was a class act, its soundtrack and dorm-room poster lingered in the culture for much longer than it should. Cast Away I found to be novelistic, in whatever my high school freshman mind thought that meant. What Women Want was that charming rom-com that even a chauvinist such as myself could enjoy (no-doubt the impetus behind casting Gibson). How the Grinch Stole Christmas was an assault; a brutalization of its source and the audience who paid to see it. Jim Carrey would only trick me into the theater a few more times after this. Meet the Parents was that comedy that everyone was quoting but that I didn't get because Scary Movie was more my bag. The Perfect Storm was another over-long Wolfgang Petersen procedural. I wasn't an auteurist yet, but I knew who to steer clear of. X-Men was the culmination of years wishing for a comic book movie; of Saturdays spent watching the X-Men animated series gripping my action figures of Magneto and Colossus. Who knew our desires had opened a Pandora's Box of endless shitty movies? And What Lies Beneath was the one we went to with girls and thrilled over the post-Sixth Sense craze for twist endings, even if our memory of them evaporated on the way home from the theater.

Most of my favorites from this year would be VHS rentals from the Video Barn down the road. While this list is tainted by time and the faults of memory, I find it to be a pretty accurate representation of what high school Andrew would say were his favorite films of 2000 during the fledgling years of his cinephilia in the early 2000s:

1. X-Men (Bryan Singer)
2. Snatch (Guy Ritchie)
3. Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan)
4. Best in Show (Christopher Guest)
5. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
6. Me, Myself & Irene (Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly)
7. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky)
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
9. Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige)
10. Quills (Philip Kaufman)

There is one last group of films I want to mention: those discovered in film school. The first half of the 2000s were my high school years (2000-2004) and the second half were undergrad (2004-2008). Here is where I was exposed to global cinema (and Asian cinema in particular) for the first time. Some of this was in my classes: In the Mood For Love was already canonical and screened frequently. Every student wanted to write their papers on it. As was Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World. But most of my discoveries were from my friend Joe, who sold me my first region free DVD player and introduced me to the world of torrenting. I began buying DVDs from the U.K. This is how I first saw Platform and Bela Tarr's Werkmeister Harmonies, two films that dramatically changed my perspectives on what was possible with cinema. Other global discoveries for me were Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor and Mysterious Object at Noon. Seeing these films on DVD corresponded with seeing other works by these filmmakers in theaters in Chicago: A Man from London, You, the Living and My Winnipeg. I began to violently disown what I saw as the naive tastes of my country-bumpkin movie-going.

But it's funny how things change. A recent viewing of Werkmeister Harmonies left me cold. I couldn't get into its forced sense of cosmic wonder. This film will always be important to me, but to be frank I find it pretty dry and boring today.


In two weeks time I'll post an update. I might throw up some capsule thoughts on the films I watch before then.

Any recommendation are always greatly appreciated!

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