Friday, February 10, 2012

Don't make me go back!

Tomorrow night, my wife and I are taking advantage of having unpaid babysitters (my dad and his wife) and going out for dinner and a movie.

The movie we'd see was -- I thought -- already decided.

I remembered my wife and I seeing a trailer for Chronicle, and having a discussion about how it looked cool. So I thought it would be easy enough just to plant that seed in her head and run with it.

But when the topic came up a couple days ago, my wife flatly told me "Just so you know, I'm not that interested in Chronicle." At the time we were in the middle of other things, so no alternate choice was suggested. In my own mind, I shifted gears to thinking about the other options (The Woman in Black, The Innkeepers) that might catch her fancy instead.

So I broached the topic again when we were out for dinner last night, of what movie she might want to see instead.

"Albert Nobbs?" she suggested.

Uh oh.

I'm not the kind of monster who forces someone to see Chronicle if they don't want to. But can't I at least get a 2012 movie in its place?

See, if you know me, you know that I'm done (for awhile) with 2011 movies. The way my movie calendar breaks down is basically like this: I watch movies from the current/previous year from August to January, with a smaller percentage of other films from other years on DVD. February to July is when I really concentrate on the films from other years, and theatrical releases from the brand new year.

For some reason, to me, paying theater prices for Albert Nobbs in the middle of February seems like a waste, because it's not in the pursuit of any specific "goal."

When I go to a movie in the theater, I want it to "count" toward whatever movie list I'm currently assembling. My 2011 movie rankings closed over two weeks ago (see here for that list). My 2012 list is just in its infancy, containing only Joe Carnahan's The Grey. The Grey is lonely out there and needs a friend.

Albert Nobbs? Albert Nobbs is living in the past.

The thing is, this system only makes sense to me, or other movie fanatics like me. My wife is a movie fan -- I mean, she wants to see Albert Nobbs in the first place -- but she's not a fanatic. She doesn't make lists and she doesn't get why there are rules and why those rules must be followed. She doesn't get why Albert Nobbs, having missed the deadline to be ranked with other 2011 movies, now must eventually be seen on video if it's ever to be seen at all.

But that's a pretty hard stance to rationally justify. It basically made it almost impossible for me to see Albert Nobbs in the theater, because it didn't even open "wide" (in limited release) until January 27th -- three days after my deadline for ranking 2011 films.

Nobbs is an interesting case because I actually did toy with seeing it in time for my deadline, when it played a one-week run at one theater in L.A. between Christmas and New Year's. On the final night of that one-week run, it was either that or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and I decided to get tattooed instead. If I'd really been shrewd about it, I would have seen Nobbs and saved Tattoo for the following week. But I was feeling stressed about all the movies I "needed" to see before my deadline, and I didn't feel I ultimately "needed" to see Albert Nobbs at all.

Now I'm contemplating watching it tomorrow night, when all it will really do is give me a greater appreciation of whether two of its actors deserve Oscars.

For most film fans, that would be enough of a goal. And for me it probably should be. But for me, the exciting thing about the Oscars is really the day of the nominations, because that's also the day I release my rankings to the world. I like to think I've been conscious enough of the buzz to see as many of the performances likely to be nominated as I can before the nominations are announced. See, the idea is to rank these movies in a vacuum, without being influenced by the fact that they may have been nominated for Oscars. That's informally why I chose that date, long ago, as the date to finish ranking movies from the previous year.

But does that mean I must arbitrarily no longer see any more 2011 performances after that date? Most people would say I was crazy. Most people would use the nominations as a jumping off point, to tell them what movies they still needed to see before Oscar night. The build toward Oscar night would be the exciting period of their movie-watching existence, not the build toward the morning Oscar nominations are announced.

The real point may just be this: If you are interested in seeing a movie on the big screen for whatever reason, you should, regardless of whether or not it "counts" for anything in your "arbitrary" (the word my wife used) system. And my wife's reasons for wanting to see Albert Nobbs are good ones: 1) She knows the producer of Albert Nobbs; 2) She points out that we like the films of Rodrigo Garcia; 3) She wants to support independent film.

Well damn. She's got me there.

So maybe I should put my aspirations toward building my 2012 list on hold. I've got all year to do it, and in reality, the movies that are playing in theaters now will all be available to watch on video by the summer. I don't need to see them in the theater any more than I need to stop seeing 2011 movies after my ranking deadline. And the ones I want to see in the theater now, either because I think the visuals will be cool or because I just need current movies to talk about at parties, will be ones I'll prioritize seeing on my own, anyway. In fact, maybe I'll go out and see Chronicle on Monday night after my dad and his wife leave town.

Maybe this Albert Nobbs viewing could be good for my soul, could shake me out of my comfort zone. Not to mention earning some points with my wife by validating her suggestion.

I'm only 38 years old. I'm too young to be set in my ways, right?


Mike Lippert said...

I used to understand why the rules had to be the way they are but now I'm starting to not get it.

Maybe I'm growing up a bit but let me paint you a picture. Canada's version of HBO is TMN (until HBO Canada came along that is). TMN comes with an ondemand service which is where I watch my movies because I can't be bothered with the hassle of renting and, at least at this time, TMN still has a better selection than Netflix Canada.

So, beginning of every month, I go on the TMN website, and make a list of the titles coming to ondemand, which order them come on and which order I have to watch them in before they expire and I need to wait another month or 2 for them to come back.

This has, needless to say, consumed my life. I need to see all of the new releases so I can have an opinion and whatever. Last night I had a realization. I was watching Casino Jack, which is good, but, to be fair, should have been a made for HBO movie, and I realized that, watching this movie is not changing my life in any way. All it's doing is allowing me the knowledge to say that Casino Jack would have played better as made-for-TV drama.

On the weekend I broke from the list and watched The Royal Tenanbaums and was staggered by how, for so many years, I've been giving Wes Anderson the benefit of the doubt without ever liking his movies but how much of a masterpiece this movie is. I could write a whole essay on it's visual style alone.

A couple weeks before that I broke from the list again and watched Mulholland Drive. Holy crap I knew I liked it, but what a masterpiece. I could write an essay on how it's one of the definitive LA movies and a brilliant explotation of film style in order to unearth the hollowness of the movie industry.

Last night I stopped Casino Jack at about the 45 minute mark so that I could pluck Enter the Dragon off my shelf (I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, I was home alone and stoned) and holy crap, say what you will about kung fu, but now I get why Bruce Lee was such a huge star and connected with people where other matrial artists didn't.

So now I'm thinking: why am I burdening myself with lists so I can watch forgettable current movies when I'm doing so to miss older, better movies. Movies that I could write passionate criticism about. Movies that also inspire the cultural critic in me as well. Movies that force me to explore myself.

Does this mean I don't want to see current movies? Nope, but it just means if I don't see Casino Jack this year it'll still be around next year and if I just so happen to see it good for me, and if not, not the end of the world because I'm using that time to the utmost.

I'm not a paid critic, I should be focusing on the stuff that inspires me most as a writer and ties most into my specific film interests. That's my new outlook anyway.

PS - I read Albert Nobbs and it's not that good ;)

Travis McClain said...

For the longest time, if I didn't see a movie the night it opened, I was statistically unlikely to ever see it. I can't tell you how many movies came out from 1996-circa 2003 that I wanted to see, but still haven't. It wasn't even anything conscious on my part, like your devised schedule. It was just that I thought of it as trying to keep up with new content and I'd rather see something new than something everyone else saw last week.

On that level, then, I certainly appreciate your quirks. However, years of playing catch-up on movies I missed has made me wince at how many movies I could have enjoyed in their natural environment but didn't. One nice thing for me is that a local theater has a biweekly midnight movies series that has screened a handful of the ones I've always wanted to catch on the big screen but didn't; of course, I've missed several of those one-off showings, too, so it's not a perfect system. Stupid Crohn's.

My advice: Just go see Albert Nobbs. If it sucks, you can always use it to negotiate getting your way later. You pick your battles. This one doesn't seem worth it to me.

Vancetastic said...

I saw it. It was fine. Even pretty good, I'd say, though I liked Janet McTeer's performance more than that of Glenn Close.

Mike, that's a very wise kind of maturation. I secret look forward to the February-July period of the year, so I can really watch whatever I want. In fact, my wife is going out of town this week, and I have the good TV all to myself on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. I'm going to do a double feature each night: One movie I've seen, one movie I haven't seen. And I don't even know yet which movies these will be. I couldn't be more excited.

However, I don't think I can break my enslavement to new releases just yet. Fortunately, that's now a problem I can put off dealing with until the summer. ;-)

Travis, yeah, a person can get hung up on the idea of needing to see movies in the theater. I'm really interested in studying the effect it has on our appreciation of a movie if we see it at home for the first time vs. in the theater for the first time. However, it's difficult to put the necessary scientific controls in place -- I mean, you can't see the same movie for the first time twice, can you?

Good advice on points with the wife. I don't specifically feel like I earned points -- there was no explicit thank you for having gone with her suggestion (or even any surprise when I came home from work and announced the start times for Albert Nobbs, even though our last word on the topic was that we were exploring the possibilities of 2012 releases). However, earning points is not about being patted on the head -- sometimes the process is cumulative and generally invisible.