Tuesday, November 26, 2013

That's three I won't be ranking this year

I haven't been worrying myself too much about Australia's new release latency. You know, that delay, sometimes lasting as long as three to five months, for some movies to open here. Until now, it hasn't had much practical impact on me, except forcing me to practice something I hate: being patient.

Until -- sob -- now.

Yesterday I discovered the third high-profile autumn release that I won't be seeing before my list closes on January 16th, with many, many more to come. If I'd been poking around more on the late-December release scheduled in the U.S., I'd probably already be aware of a number of other titles that will be denied me.

I was going to see Enough Said -- whose November 14th release date was delayed a modest two months from the U.S. -- when I saw an advertisement for Alexander Payne's new film Nebraska.

Then the release date:

February 20, 2014.


February 20th is more than a month after I close my rankings for 2013, which will be on January 16th this year. That's the morning the Oscar nominations are announced, which is my traditional deadline for finalizing the previous year's rankings.

Other victims of me being in Australia: 12 Years a Slave, which releases on something like January 30th, and Spike Jonze's new movie Her, which doesn't even get its U.S. wide release until mid-January. If I were in L.A., though, I would have been able to find Her open for a week for awards considerations, I'm sure of it.

This is significant, as Spike Jonze's most recent two films -- Where the Wild Things Are and Adaptation -- were my #2 of 2009 and my #1 of 2002. Let's just say I like the guy.

I knew there would be plenty of changes to accept by moving to Australia, many of which would relate to movies. But now that it's coming to brass tacks, I'm finding it very hard to accept that my 2013 film rankings won't be a thorough representation of the films released in the United States in 2013. And it won't get better in 2014, unless industry conditions suddenly take a major turn that causes the collapse of this three-month delay. Not anytime soon, I'm betting.

At least my whole holiday prestige picture season isn't going to be killed. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and August, Osage County are three counterexamples of films that will be released here within a week of their American release.

They'll be competing with Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies, which was released in the U.S. on August 23rd. Here? December 26th.

Australia ... it's a mixed bag. One I'm committed to at least until sometime in 2015. 

The challenge, then, is just to not worry about it. If I want to change my list so that it incorporates films released where I am in 2014, I can rank Nebraska or 12 Years a Slave or Her next year. Can't I? Can't I?

I can. Do I want to? No. May I someday want to? Maybe.

I want to do apples to apples comparisons with other friends and critics ranking this same year, and I'm not likely to want to give that up very soon. Maybe if I read some Australian critics I'd feel differently, but so far, I don't.

I still remember, at the end of 1995, talking with a friend's girlfriend about her favorite films of the previous year. She listed Pulp Fiction as her favorite film of that year, because she'd seen it in 1995 after its October 1994 release. I vowed never to subject myself to such imprecise and arbitrary criteria for making year-end lists.

Even the Australians got Pulp Fiction by November 24th of '94. So I guess there's some hope looking forward that more of the movies I want to see will be The Secret Life of Walter Mitty than Nebraska.

For now, though, I mourn Nebraska and its brethren ... who will just increase in number the deeper we get into the end of this year.

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