Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Introduction to the Blog

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."--Jean Cocteau

Starting a blog has the potential to seem narcissistic, or at least a waste of time. What could I say that is actually worth reading that a dozen other bloggers and professional writers don't already say ten times better than I can? The truth is, maybe nothing. But, hey, no one else has to read it. This blog is mostly for my own benefit, a place where I can practice writing and clear thinking, and if I'm lucky, share thoughts and ideas with others.

My inspiration for starting this blog, and the hope that it might be successful, comes largely from these two blog posts by Roger Ebert: The Golden Age of Movie Critics and The Blogs of My Blog. Ebert is, of course, a legend of film criticism, having been at it for over 40 years, and with his bestselling books and long-running TV show, At the Movies, probably the most recognizable movie critic in the world. Since his recent, debilitating battle with cancer, he has spent more and more time online, turning his site into one of the genuine must-read blogs of the web. I generally don't agree with his political views, but I find all his thoughts on film and pop culture fascinating, and he is definitely one of my heroes. In these two posts, Ebert gives an example of how democratic and supportive the blogosphere can be, singling out dozens of other blogs written by his readers and giving shout-outs to all the movie blogs that he reads. If all these people can start their own little websites just because they want to, and somehow end up attracting readers and generating real thought and conversation, why can't I?

So this blog will mostly be about movies, because that's what I want to write about at the moment. I love film as both entertainment and an art form, the greatest synthesis of technology, skill, and creative vision yet produced by modern man. If the mood strikes me, though, I may write something about books, comics, religion, or even politics. I'm making it up as I go along, so posts may seem kind of random, at least at first. I hope you enjoy.

In the interest of giving my qualifications, though--as well as providing myself with a record to see where I started from--I have provided below a rough list of the films I've seen and the films I haven't. This obviously isn't an attempt to name every movie I've ever seen, but rather a checklist for what I've seen in the Film Canon, arranged in an auteurist manner by country and director. Looking over this list, I feel I'm fairly well-(seen? read? watched?) in terms of breadth--at least considering my age and how long I've been at this--but my experience is pretty limited when it comes to depth. There are a multitude of movies I have yet to see--indeed, an endless number--and dozens of artists I have yet to experience. This limits me in what I may understand in terms of cinematic history and style, but it's also kind of wonderful. There is so much more to explore.

What I Have Seen and Have Yet to See

American Cinema: I am most lacking in the Silent Era and the 1930s. I’ve seen lots of Westerns, a fair number of noirs, plenty of Disney and other animated movies. I’m missing most ‘30s and ‘40s musicals, and I’ve seen few classic screwball comedies. I also haven’t seen any ‘30s gangster movies, though I’ve seen plenty from the ‘70s on.
In terms of directors: I have seen every released Orson Welles film, 15 by John Ford, 13 by Scorsese, 8 by Kubrick, 19 by Spielberg, 5 by Capra, 3 by Wilder, 3 by Woody Allen, 1 by Robert Altman, 4 by Chaplin, 3 by Keaton, 5 by Francis Ford Coppola, 4 by Howard Hawks, 4 by John Huston, 3 by Elia Kazan, 10 by Eastwood, 7 by John Carpenter, 1 by Charles Laughton, 2 by Lubitsch, 2 by Sidney Lumet, 4 by Anthony Mann, 2 by Sam Peckinpah, 1 by William Wyler, 2 by George Cukor, 1 by David Lynch, 2 by Terrence Malick, 2 by Nicholas Ray, 2 by Brian De Palma, 4 by Budd Boetticher, 1 by Preston Sturges, and 1 full-length Griffith (plus several shorts). I have not seen any films by Douglas Sirk, Raoul Walsh, von Sternberg, von Stroheim, Vidor, Bogdanovich, Cassavetes, Borzage, Hal Ashby, Leo McCarey, the Marx Brothers, Sam Fuller, George Romero, Jim Jarmusch, Charles Burnett, or Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
I have seen all of Quentin Tarantino's filmography, all but 1 Paul Thomas Anderson, all but 2 Coen Brothers, all of Wes Anderson, 4 Michael Mann, and 4-5 Spike Lee.
I’ve seen about 75 of the AFI’s 100 Greatest Films from 1998 and 13 of the new additions on the 2007 list. I’ve seen about 151 of the 300 Greatest English language films from Tim Dirks’

British Cinema: I have seen: 3 David Lean, 10 Michael Powell (usu. w/ Pressburger), 2 British Hitchcock but about 11 made in America as well, a couple Ealing comedies, a couple Monty Python movies, Reed’s The Third Man, and quite a few others here and there (Withnail & I, Trainspotting, etc.). And several James Bond and all the Harry Potters, of course. I have not seen any films by Ken Loach, Nicholas Roeg, Laurence Olivier, Lindsay Anderson, Terence Davies, Mike Leigh, or any of the "angry young men" films of the '50s and '60s.

French Cinema: I have seen a couple films by Jean Vigo, 2 by Jean Renoir, 3 by Godard, 1 by Cocteau, 1 by Robert Bresson, 1 by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I have not seen any films by Truffaut or Clouzot or Tati or Melville or Carné or Malle or any other Nouvelle Vague directors.

Japanese Cinema: I have seen all of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies and maybe 8 other anime films. I have also seen 3 movies by Kurasawa, Battle Royale, not sure what else. I have not seen any movies by Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kobayashi, Takeshi Kitano, etc.

Italian Cinema: I have seen all of Sergio Leone (at least from Fistful of Dollars on), Fellini’s 8 1/2, Antonioni’s L’Avventura, Benigini’s Life is Beautiful, Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers, Corbucci’s The Great Silence, and that’s about it. I have not seen anything by Bertolucci, De Sica, Rossellini, Visconti, or Pasolini.

China/Hong Kong/Taiwan: I have seen everything by Wong Kar-Wai, most of the good John Woo, lots (12?) of Jackie Chan movies, 2 by Zhang Yimou, 2 by Edward Yang, 1 by Ringo Lam, a couple Jet Li movies, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. No Bruce Lee, no Hou Hsiao-Hsien, no Tsai Ming-Liang, no Chen Kaige, no Jia Zhangke, no Tsui Hark, no Stephen Chow.

Russian Cinema: I have seen Battleship Potemkin and that’s it. So 1 Eisenstein, and no Vertov, Dovshenko, Pudovkin, or Tarkovsky.

German Cinema: I have seen a smattering of German Expressionist films (including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) and little else. So 2 films by F.W. Murnau, 1 by Fritz Lang, 1 by Robert Wiene, and a few by Werner Herzog. No G.W. Pabst, no Wim Wenders, no Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Miscellaneous: I have seen 2 films by Bergman, 2 by Polanski, 1 by Andrzej Wajda. I have not seen any Luis Bunuel, Carl Dreyer, Kryzstof Kieslowski, Robert Flaherty, Satyajit Ray, Max Ophuls, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Peter Greenaway, Abbas Kiarostami, Pedro Almodovar, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, or Michael Haneke.

Overall, I have seen around 14 feature-length silent films. I have also watched various silent shorts, including some Edison Kinetoscope and Lumiere Brothers ones, The Great Train Robbery, A Trip to the Moon, The Musketeers of Pig Alley, The Girl and Her Trust, The Kid Auto Races at Venice and others by Chaplin, etc.

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