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After reading Armond White’s wonderful essay (“What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Movies”) and the first chapter of “The Art of Fiction” — John Gardner’s classic writing book — I’ve started anew with the movies.

About a month ago, I was surfing Netflix, and I read the contents of a small box in the corner of the recommendations page: according to my ratings, I’ve seen over 1600 movies. I don’t think it’s a high number of movies for someone to see in 20 years of their life, but 1600 movies do add up to a lot of hours (about 3200, or about four and a half months). The number sounded ridiculous to me, and as I paged through my ratings, I saw that I had rated movies that I hadn’t seen since my first year of high school (and even before that). I’m only 20, yes, but even though I’m not much older than a high-school senior, a lot of growth takes place during high school and college. I view movies much much differently than I did even as a college freshman. I remember being bored by Bergman in high school, and now I can’t imagine film without his touch. And I’ve been exerpiencing similar growth in the past semester.

I work at a video store, and since I get free rentals, I tend to rent movies on a whim, grabbing whatever happens to move me at the time. Lately, though, I’ve been getting movies that my mom hasn’t been able to see in the theater, movies that I’ve already seen from my stint as the film critic of the college newspaper.

I picked movies that I remember liking and had on my year-end favorites list — “Juno,” “Eastern Promises,” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “The King of Kong,” “The Savages” — movies that I had such enthusiasm for when I originally saw them. Each of these films, which I awarded four stars out of a possible four, are now ranked as three-star movies in my list of ratings. Sure, when taken at face value, these movies may come off as “powerful,” or “effective,” “deep,” or some other term I may have used when I originally reviewed it.

These changes in taste don’t stop at movies that I originally enjoyed. I didn’t care for “The Darjeeling Limited” the first time around, but now I find it to be fantastic. “I’m Not There” and “No Country for Old Men” are now at the top of my top-ten list for the year, but both movies weren’t close to being on my list last year. (In fact, at the end of December, I called Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan biopic “overrated”). It’s good because I’ve now found more movies to appreciate.

It sucks a bit, though, because I no longer know what I think about movies that I’ve already seen! I mean, if I can’t even trust the ratings I gave movies that I saw a few months ago, what about movies I saw back in high school?

That’s why I decided to go for a deep cleansing: I cleared all my ratings from Netflix… well, almost. I left the ratings for movies that I’ve seen recently — like the ones I’ve rewatched from 2007 — or movies that I’m sure to not change my mind about — classics like “The Conversation” or “Citizen Kane” and not-so-good movies like “Brazil” or “The Last King of Scotland.” About a month later, I’m at 150 ratings total.

Playing catch-up isn’t going to be easy, but I think it will be fun. I’m going to watch movies that I know for a fact I’ve already seen, but I’m looking at them through new eyes. I’d probably still give “In A Lonely Place” four stars, but I’m sure I’ll appreciate it even more on a second watch. Supposed “best of the year”-type movies are going to get negative ratings. And I’m sure I’ll enjoy movies that someone else has hated — as is usually the case with one of the critics I always see at screenings.

What’s different now is that I’m willing to give a movie a bad review even if it’s a movie that I enjoyed on the surface. I was moved by “The Great Debaters” and felt inspired, but at it’s core, the film is just as manipulative as anything from Paul Haggis. In the end, it’s nothing more than another underdog movie.

Ditto for “The Visitor,” a film from the director of “The Station Agent” — a movie that I really enjoyed when it first came out, which I’ve discovered doesn’t mean anything — that amounts to Richard Jenkins, a talented and understated actor, standing on a soapbox to preach about immigration. Can I see why others would enjoy it? Yes, and maybe I would have loved it a few years ago, but anyone who looks at the mechanics of “The Visitor” will find the movie to be an empty enterprise.

I don’t plan on writing reviews of 2007 movies that I’m re-watching, but expect my thoughts — and possibly, reviews — on occasional new releases. I hope to post again soon, and I don’t mean in a month and a half.

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One Comment

  1. I love this idea of cinema viewing rebirth. I hope to read your writings in the near future and have visited frequently … but thought you may have abandoned your work. Much like a new born babe, may you take in a fresh new breath of cinema sensation.


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