What seems to be the trouble, Captain?
OK … you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So I won’t bore you with uninteresting biographical details, and instead give you my pitch:
Flaming Reactionary meets Geeky Cinephile.
Roger Ailes and Roger Ebert — in one body.
Imagine Lily Tomlin wanting to yak about Fellini’s camera movements, the Lubitsch touch, and the Dardenne Brothers’ focus puller, while Steve Martin talks about Hugo Black’s dissent in Griswold as the greatest judicial opinion of the 20th century, withdrawing from the United Nations and all international conventions, and the effect of reading Allen Bloom in college. (And if you perfectly understood every reference in that last sentence, plus the opening title, a marriage proposal may be in order.)
Anyway, what I found in about 15 years of cinephilia is that I may be the only person in the universe who’s both a political conservative and an obsessive film geek. Hopefully, I’m not — otherwise traffic here will be extremely low. I hope to have three types of content here.
First of all, my own reactions to the films I see or re-see. Second, my reactions to the reviews and criticism that I read. And lastly, some purely political commentary (hopefully with some film-related peg, but we’ll have to see how that works out). I also hope to learn some HTML in the coming months and build a Web site of which this Blog will be one feature and also have links, personal top 10 lists, some longer essays, my published film criticism (yes, I have some), etc.
But just as Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has shown that any honest man can perform the Washington-pundit function to the limits of his knowledge and intellectual power, I believe the same thing about the film-critic function. Which isn’t to say, of course, that I believe all opinions are equal (not at all, as will become obvious soon) — simply that the knowledgeable amateur can be just as valuable as the professional.
Every year, I typically see about 80-90 new commercially-released; if you toss in repeat viewings, home video, revival screenings, film festivals and so on, I would estimate that I see a film about 180-200 times a year (don’t be impressed; I know people who can double that). My tastes would strike most people as fairly “arty,” though I don’t think so. I think there is more depth of feeling and intellect, more craftsmanship, more substance, more artistry in some “low” works than some “high” froufrou, and more joy and fun in some slowmoving foreign films than Hollywoof product. My critical idol (obviously) is Pauline Kael, and my favorite films from each of the years in the past decade or so are as follows:
2002 TIME OUT (Laurent Cantet, France)
2001 MEMENTO (Christopher Nolan, USA)
2000 DANCER IN THE DARK (Lars Von Trier, Denmark)
1999 THE END OF THE AFFAIR (Neil Jordan, Britain)
1998 THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO (Whit Stillman, USA)
1997 BOOGIE NIGHTS (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)
1996 HAMLET (Kenneth Branagh, Britain)
1995 BABE (Chris Noonan, Australia)
1994 BLUE / WHITE / RED trilogy (Krzysztof Kieslowski, France / Poland / Switzerland)
1993 MENACE II SOCIETY (The Hughes Brothers, USA)
1992 GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (James Foley, USA)
1991 BAXTER (Jerome Boivin, France)
1990 THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER (Peter Greenaway, Britain)
The last of these choices will no doubt point out that at least one rightwing film geek, though he is a practicing Roman Catholic, has nothing in common tastewise with Michael Medved (a whole sequence of Hollywood vs. America is devoted to Greenaway’s film) or some of my ideological compatriots (and they *are* my compatriots) who simply have a revulsion for extreme subject matter and want a G-rated cinema. If your idea of film criticism is a Christianity compatability index, or a count of how many nude scenes or swear words are in a film, I’m not your guy. I don’t mind X-rated cinema at all — I just want good and moral X-rated films– and yes, there *are* such films — as the U.S. Catholic bishops recognize with their A-IV rating.
And away we go.
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