At the end of 2012, I made a lot of movie-related New Year’s resolutions for 2013. Adding them all up, my goal comes out to 109 (mostly) specific films to watch this year. It’s quickly approaching the halfway point. What kind of progress has been made this month?
Watch Martin Scorsese’s Documentaries
In May, I wiped out Scorsese’s segment of The Blues, leaving me with three more Scorsese documentaries to see. The three remaining are A Letter to Elia (2010), which is unfortunately about Elia Kazan and not Lee Elia, owner of one of baseball’s best rants ever; Public Speaking, a 2010 HBO documentary about Fran Lebowitz; and the biggie, A Personal Journey through American Movies with Martin Scorsese. As for Scorsese’s Blues segment, it fell a little flat if only because it was so heavily musical. The music- much of it in Africa- was fascinating to look at but became redundant to me at some point. I’m sure more devoted music fans would appreciate it more.
AFI’s 100 Years of Musicals
This category has ground (grinded?) to a halt.
Watch every film on the BFI Greatest Films Ballots for Edgar Wright, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Coppola, Gaspar Noé, and Lukas Moodysson
There was only one in this category, but it was a doozy- Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan (1946), or Paisà if you’re Italian, from Scorsese’s list. Of the major international film movements- French New Wave, Czech New Wave, German Expressionism, Poetic Realism- the one that I struggled the most with on first impression was Italian neo-realism. That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate it. It’s simply that it didn’t resonate with me in the same way the others did. That’s slowly changing thanks to movies just like Paisan. It practically screams “important cinema” because of the way it was made (using non-professional actors, in local Italian cities rather than a film studio); the context in which it was made (after World War II, when Italy was destroyed and trying to repair their international reputation); and the message that it conveyed (not all Italians were fascists or collaborators, and the war made everyone suffer- not just soldiers). Using a vignette style, Rossellini really captured the totality of his message and gave it an impressive realism- a NEO-realism, one might call it (rimshot). I’ve checked off Coppola and Edgar Wright from this list, and now only need to do one more Scorsese film- The Leopard– before I’m halfway done with this resolution. Then it’s on to wrapping up Tarantino, Noé, and Moodysson.
Finish the AFI Top 100
There are only three movies left here… and yet, I didn’t watch any of them in May. My hunch is that I’ll finish it all up by the end of June.
At Least Three films Each from Pédro Almodovar, Yasujiru Ozu, Satyajit Ray, and Busby Berkeley
I tackled the second in Ray’s “Apu Trilogy,” Aparajito (1956), leaving me one film shy of completing my tasks for both Ray and Almodovar. Berkeley is long finished. Watching Ray’s treasured trilogy has been a real eye-opener. They’re seriously impressive achievements in world cinema, and I’d put them up against almost any other international film as some of the best ever made.
As for Ozu, I haven’t started there yet… but it’s coming soon. I can’t promise June but certainly by July, the ball should be rolling.
… and At Least Ten Non-Satyajit Ray Films from India
The second of my ten non-Ray films was Salaam Bombay (1988), an impressive and gritty tale of a 10-year old living on the streets of Bombay, enmeshed in a world of prostitution, drugs, and other various crimes. It was quite a departure from my first non-Ray film, Sholay (1975). Almost immediately after writing this, I’ll be watching Madhumati (1958), which seems to deal heavily with Indian spiritualism and reincarnation.
Ten Classic or Non-New Release Films in the Theater
No progress was made here, but the St. Louis Classic French Film Festival takes place in just a few weeks. That festival alone is likely to push me to at least five or six on the year. I’m currently at two. On the radar: A Man and a Woman (1966), Max and the Junkmen (1971), a whole evening of French Avant-Garde silent shorts (you have no idea how excited I am for this), Yoyo (1965), Godard’s The Little Soldier (1960), Le Pont du Nord (1982), and The Earrings of Madame de… (1953). Also included are two that I’ve already seen but may revisit- Léon Morin, Priest (1961) and The Story of Adele H. (1975).
The AV Club 50 Best Films of the 90s
Two more of these were checked off the list. The first was Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993), a well-made film, albeit one in which the characters bugged me to no end. The most notable part of the film for me was David Thewlis’ excellent performance. The second was Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), a film that could only have been made by Robert Altman, or at least made in that way. Short Cuts was impressive in the way that it weaved together so many unique stories, often humorously in a very human way. My only gripe- 3+ hours was a bit indulgent. I guess it HAD to be done that way because there was so much going on. Given Altman’s influence on P.T. Anderson, it was also hard not to see parallels between Short Cuts‘ earthquake and Magnolia’s frogstorm.
At Least Five Ray Harryhausen Films
While I only need two more to complete this task, no progress was made in this category this month.
My grand total at the end of the month is 49 of the 109 required, or 44.9% complete. And the year is 41.67% complete, so I’m ahead of pace… but just barely.