The Year in (Greencine) Movies
I can only vaguely remember what books I read this year, but I have an easy way to recall what movies I've seen. A lot of them I rented from Greencine and as I noted before, I've been keeping records of which movies I get, how long I keep them and how long it takes for them to get to and from me. I started doing this in order to assess whether the service was actually worth what I was paying for it, or so I told myself. In truth I'm just a compulsive data collector.
So, over the last year I averaged 6.58 discs per month. I did better in the second half of the year than the first, averaging 7.33 per month from July to December against only 5.83 January to June. I didn't start collecting delivery-time data until a few months into the year, but for the period of study the average time from Greencine to my mailbox was 3.62 days, while the average return time was 3.27 days. I think the slight difference can be accounted for by a mailing pattern: we watch movies over the weekend and put them in the mail Monday, they arrive on Thursday and new discs are sent which would arrive on Sunday if mail were delivered. I have total "time out" data for all discs of the year and the mean time between when a disc was sent to us and when it was received by Greencine was 13.45 days. That includes a high of 42 days (Wit, which we held on to until we were emotionally ready to watch) and a low of 5. The five day movie was Bottle Rocket, which sat at the top of my cue for months before we finally got it.
It's depressing as hell to find someone whose summary of the year in films turns first to calculations such as this.
So, what did I see? A lot of bad stuff, actually. My queue is always crowded with horror films, relatively new straight to video filler and older movies made available through the exhaustive efforts of genre-specialty outfits like Synapse, Blue Underground, Anchor Bay, Elite, Image, etc. Although I enjoy a lot of this stuff, there's still a healthy portion of dull, slapdash stuff you have to sit through to enjoy the good stuff. I did get to see a few Christopher Lee movies I'd not seen before, like The Bloody Judge (1969), The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). I also saw a very nice looking copy of Blood and Black Lace (1964), probably the best of the vintage horror I saw this year. I think Spasmo (1974) was the worst - no, it was Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (1973). Of the newer horror, I would definitely put Ginger Snaps 2 - Unleashed (2004) as the best and Dracula 3000 (2004) as the worst. In fact, Dracula 3000 is the most pitiful movie I've seen in some time.
I caught up with a few prominent releases of 2003, like American Splendor, Under the Tuscan Sun, Le Divorce, Willard, Pirates of the Caribbean, Love Actually, Finding Nemo, The Shape of Things, Shattered Glass, Capturing the Friedmans, Peter Pan, Big Fish and Bend it Like Beckham. I'd seen Demonlover before (I saw the unedited version that was shown at Cannes early in 2003 at Lincoln Center) but rented it to see what the edited version was like and so that my wife could see it. I think it was my favorite film of 2003 and would probably name it my favorite of 2004 if it were in the pool. Other than that, American Splendor was quite good and several of the preceding were enjoyable. A few disappointments: The Shape of Things, Big Fish and especially Capturing the Friedmans. I'm starting to get a bit disturbed at the enthusiasm "independent" movie audiences are showing for non-fiction films that flatter their audiences' sense of difference from middle or lower class non-urbanites, a pattern that began as far as I could tell with Paradise Lost years ago. These true crime docudramas aren't entirely alike, but both blatantly cater to the indie-hipster crowd that tend to champion films in this market. They also succeed in large part by making a real story conform to the dramatic structure of fictional whodunits without any sense of self-awareness.
I was anxious to catch up with Shattered Glass, since I was a subscriber to the New Republic during Stephen Glass' tenure and remember reading several of the articles that he fabricates in the course of the movie. Actually, I recall his piece about the young Republican hotel room orgy that is detailed early in the film, because I didn't believe it at the time. I hate to come off sounding wiser-than-whoever, but between that, his piece about the Church of George H. W. Bush (a cover story!) and his bit about investment firms with shrines to Alan Greenspan, I became convinced that TNR was printing satire, sort of Spy magazine style, without overtly saying so. It never occurred to me that these things were supposed to be accepted as true. I also remember the hacker story that ended up bringing him down, which was actually one of the more plausible concoctions he produced during this time.
The movie benefits from good performances by Hayden Christensen (really) and especially Peter Sarsgaard. Still, I was disappointed at the lack of relevance, the missed opportunities to say something about the implications of Glass's success as a fabulist. Maybe I'm more interested in institutional, or at least political/social, content than the average bloke, but a movie that covers this material and has nothing to say about the string of high-profile ethical problems within media is a waste.
I think I'll devote another post to bashing the handful of films I saw in 2004. Meanwhile, watch the fur fly at Salon's Movie Club, this year featuring the Paulettes!