Saturday, July 30, 2016

Crossing over into the second half

I returned a bunch of movies to the library today, and didn't take out any new ones to replace them. That's something I almost never do.

Ostensibly, it was because I'll be occupied with the Melbourne International Film Festival for the next two weeks. But really, it's more significant than that. It means we are crossing over into the second half of my viewing year.

I realized recently that my viewing year can be broken into two halves, one of which is just ending and one of which is just about to begin. And since the halves don't correspond directly to the calendar anyway, I think I'll start with the second half first.

The second half of my viewing year covers the months from August to January. During these six months, I focus mostly on films that were released in 2016, in order to build toward the year-end list that I post in mid-January.

The months from February to July, then, are for rewatches and catching up with movies from other years.

It's seemed to me a good way to balance out the duties of a good cinephile -- a cinephile who wants to stay current, anyway.

And it's not absolute, of course. I've definitely watched movies from 2016 between February and July (44 of them, to be exact) and I'll definitely watch movies from other years between August and January (for starters, I've still got my No Audio Audient series to do). But it's clear where the priorities lie in each half of the year.

And as much as I love rewatching movies and watching movies from other years, the half that's starting right now is definitely my favorite. Compiling my year-end list gives me such great pleasure that I always welcome when the viewing for that goal becomes really intensive.

In truth, though, I guess I'm always ready for when the other half comes, regardless of which half it is. Once I'm done with that year's movies in mid-January, it feels like sweet relief to be able to just pick whatever old movie tickles my fancy at that exact moment.

In the last few years, MIFF has assumed a symbolic value in delineating the two halves. It starts on the last Thursday of July and runs for 18 days, so its actual positioning is at the halfway point of my viewing year. However, as it's also a first look at a bunch of movies that could be awards contenders this year, it fulfills that unofficial role of kicking off the countdown to the year-end list. And if history is any indication, chances are good I'll see something at MIFF that rates very highly with me on that list. Last year, one of the four MIFF movies I saw made my top 25 -- in 2014, it was two of five.

So as I head off to see my first MIFF movie this afternoon, Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman, I also cross over into that giddy time where each new viewing could be my favorite of the year, and everything assumes what seems to be a meaningful spot somewhere on the list.

And when you're in this half of the viewing year, you don't need no movies from the library.

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