reappearance

Not back, not really.  I haven’t really missed Memories of the Future in my time since I gave it up, though occasionally I do puzzle over its ultimate fate.  The thing is, I have kept up with my writing, and now I have an unwieldy backlog of capsule reviews accumulated over the last year that are increasingly difficult to access in a Word document (and I dearly need them, given my lamentably awful ability to retain details or even impressions over an extended period of time).  That and the slight shock I received recently when I took a look at my blog stats and realized I’m still receiving nearly as many hits per day as I was when I was posting original content (and I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to feel about that, actually).

So anyway, I’ve decided for the time being I’m going to start posting my little capsule reviews, mostly for myself, but also for whoever it is that’s out there still reading (because the stats show that the Review Index is still being accessed on a regular basis)—hello, whoever you are!  My approach to writing these has grown increasingly inward and memory-oriented—more often than not I regard them as attempts to capture my particular memories of a film than as any particular attempt at analysis—so if they’re a bit incomprehensible or meaningless outside of myself, well, I apologize, but often that is rather the point.

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an announcement of my retirement.

Well, not quite as drastic as that, so let me explain. If I can—not that much of this makes much sense even to me.

(Note: The following was written as a “prologue” for my “best of 2007” wrap-up that remains half-written, in that half-formed place where I’m not sure if it’ll ever be resurrected to see the light of day.)

***

No matter how I’ve tried to approach it, 2007 remains problematic for me. First, an admission of embarrassing facts: 2007 was the year I saw the least amount of new releases since high school, and if I had not attended TIFF this last year, I would have seen just a mere dozen or so of 2007’s offerings. But most disheartening for me was the realization that I read (or completed, more accurately) less books during the course of the year than I probably ever have. As a result, 2007 seems to stand as an alarmingly stagnant year, at least weighed solely in intellectual terms. During college, intellectual growth became my major (perhaps my only) yardstick for measuring personal growth, and holding to that standard, 2007, to be quite blunt, ranks as a dismal one.

Thankfully, one of the personal breakthroughs of 2007 was the realization that there are other means of measuring the self out there, and what’s more they are probably more accurate in their eventual assessments. Because even if day-to-day living seemed resolutely immomentous, 2007 actually stands as a year of tremendous personal growth—a rather stunning realization I made during my annual New Years Day recap that I sit down and write every year in my journal. Just taking just an hour or so to take stock of where I was, I was rather floored to realize where I started 2007 and how much progress had been made as I entered 2008.

Now as nice as this all is, why does this matter, especially as a prelude to unveiling my own contribution to that narcissistic but somehow very necessary tradition among film buffs in presenting their favorite films of the preceding year? On some levels its an attempt at an apology for the really stunning gaps in my film viewing this year, but I also offer it up a bit blindly because there’s something about it that I haven’t grasped fully but sure feels important. I’m likely overstating things, but at this moment I feel that without a firm grasp of knowing myself, any kind of intellectual enterprise is more or less like playing at making little towers out of playing cards—interesting, even occasionally admirable in its results, but much too flimsy and insubstantial to be much of anything at all. An example, because it’s been on my mind a lot lately: I’ve always been more than a bit embarrassed of my honors thesis, which in my most honest moments I admit I’ve considered an unqualified failure from the very moment I turned in the first draft for committee review. I never was really grasped why I felt this way, but I think I do now, and the reason surprises me—I wasn’t comfortable digging into any kind of genuine and honest analysis and dialogue with the topic that I selected. To not stray too far into tangential explanations I’ll just say even if it was completely unwitting, at its core the entire paper was an act of intellectual dishonesty, and as such, I doomed it to failure the moment I started it. And now, suddenly, the rest of my writing feels suspect.

Gah. All of that just to say that another of my great personal discoveries of 2007 was a growing sense that approaching films—and reading, and anything else—from a point of personal honesty and awareness of self is absolutely essential if there is any hope of grasping any kind of intellectual truth. Which segues into another of 2007’s revelations—that of coming to grips and ultimately making peace with what is increasingly beginning to feel like alienation from not only film culture at large (whatever that exactly encompasses), but most particularly from the cinematic-minded blogosphere that I was just beginning to feel part of. For the first time since I started taking cinema seriously, I’ve never felt so disconnected from what’s new and what is being hailed as important by those I consider “in the know;” looking at Film Comment’s critics poll, just looking at the top tier it’s rather staggering the films I haven’t seen: There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Zodiac, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Eastern Promises, The Lives of Others, Black Book, Michael Clayton, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and the list goes on and on… of course, it’s one thing that I just haven’t seen said films yet—the fact time and financial resources were in short supply can’t be avoided—but what does it mean that quite frankly I just don’t really want to see any of the above listed? Of course, this isn’t unprecedented—I refused to bow to the pressure to see The Departed, as I can’t be less interested in Scorese’s film—but this year it just feels so, so widespread, so, overwhelming.

Inevitably, I feel left out, which is one reason why in the second half of 2007 output of this blog dropped dramatically, with only the occasional capsule review to give others some kind of indication of a vital sign (yes, I’m still here!). And I think I’m okay with that now, even as I continue to wrestle with the implications. I used to be very concerned—almost obsessively—with having something important or vital or interesting to say, which is probably why this blog was never as vibrant as I wanted it to be, even when I was at my most committed. I’ve let go of any aspirations of greatness and furthermore discarded once and for all the mantle of precociousness I cherished for years and years in my internet interactions. I no longer really possess the desire to say something important because I realize thet I’m not at a point where such expectations are even realistic. Instead, for the first time, I’m really allowing myself to merely be exposed to the things that interest me, and see where that eventually takes me. I feel like I need to see more films, read more books, listen to more music, experience more art, and simply live more before I dare even think I have a chance of coming up with something genuinely insightful. One of my resolutions for 2008: to undue my habit of watching a film or reading a book or whatever through a filter of “now what interesting thing am I going to say about this when I write my review?” I see now that such a mindset is severely limiting, and might even be robbing me of quite a bit of enjoyment I might not even realize I’m missing. Happily, I’m already seeing results—in the first months of 2008 I have read more books than I have during any period since graduating, and furthermore, it was on more wide-ranging subjects than I’ve ever let myself indulge in before. It’s been fun, it’s been terribly interesting, and for now, I’m going to stick with that.

I don’t even know what I’m getting to at this point, and I find myself already fighting thoughts of “what did I end up saying? Is it good? Is it insightful?” This is what it is, I guess. And I’ll end this thing here, and you know, actually get to the films themselves, which is why I undertook this thing in the first place.

***

And now, I guess an epilogue to my prologue, written from the perspective a month after the above was written. Just last night I had a long conversation with my best friend with whom I shared much of what is written here, and as always, her insight and empathy hit the bullseye. She emphasized that it is impossible to expect ever reaching a place of “knowing enough,” and as a result it should never serve as a deterrent for writing (because in reality it’s merely an excuse, a flimsy cop-out). So I think the problem lies in my burning desire of saying something meaningful, an exhausting ambition that I currently don’t have the time or energy to keep wrestling with. As a result I’m still not sure of the fate of Memories of the Future, but for now I have decided for now to turn my writing inward, that is, to focus more on my personal journal until I’m ready to start focusing outward again. This also comes as I’ve stepped away from internet use in general as I’ve thrown myself into redeveloping my intense love of books, literature and cinema, and also a new appreciation of music I have never reached before.

And that, in effect, is my “retirement”—though in actuality it’s more of an open-ended sabbatical. For a while at least the only thing that can really be expected from me is repostings of the capsule reviews I will continue to write for the IMDb Classic Film message board (simply means to save them for future reference). Maybe there will be more, I really don’t know at this point. I just wanted to let you all know the reason for my absence—and rest assure, I’ll continue to read you all in hopes of rejoining your ranks once again sometime in the future.

-jesse

SDFF Call for Entries

So one of the main reasons for lack of activity in these parts lately is that I took on the position of Assistant Programming Director for the 2008 San Diego Film Festival(!!!).

September 25th – 28th, 2008

Early Deadline – May 1st

Final Deadline – June 1st

Call for Entries for the 7th annual San Diego Film Festival

Held in the Gaslamp Quarter—San Diego’s premier entertainment district—San Diego Film Festival (SDFF) is a competitive four-day fest that offers attendees a 360 festival experience. Whether it’s a relaxing day of film and a night of parties, or catching a workshop and hitting a conference to learn from the pros, no single day is like another at SDFF. The Festival features more than 100 American and international feature, documentary, short films and music videos; intimate filmmaker and celebrity gatherings; industry panels and the American Screenwriters Association’s annual conference; in addition to four nights of San Diego’s most glamorous parties. San Diego Film Festival has earned more than 12 awards, including Best Beach Fest, Best Party Fest, Best Regional Film Fest and a coveted spot as one of the country’s Top 10 Film Festival Vacations. Produced by the non profit 501(C) 3 San Diego Film Foundation, SDFF celebrates its seventh anniversary Sept. 25 – 28, 2008.

Interested in submitting? Go here!

screen poetry, poetic criticism

Not my own words but it’s something at long last. In my rush of IMDb nostalgia I mentioned this review, and celinejulie subsequently asked for it… and here it is.

India Song, Marguerite Duras, 1975

Revision. Luminous, meditative, melancholy, and deeply uneasy. Duras’ prose is pure poetry, recited over images which gracefully and doubtfully evoke glimpses of the long-past events recounted, lost in a haze of heat and melancholy and existential boredom which detach these characters from themselves even in the present, and their image-ghosts from that uncertain present experience, and Venice from Calcutta and the beggar woman’s incomprehensible cry from the beggar-woman’s past. I wrote down some of what was said, following the pauses, and the lines I write it in look like its natural element. The film merges with its reverberations in one’s mind, I think – and it cries (or I did), but not necessarily only for itself. Only Duras ever made films like Duras – it is hypnotic, it is personal, it is also exotic and consicious of the fact (Savanakhet, Savanakhet), but India and Indochina, which Duras really knew, are still a country of the mind, with their sonorous names, their oppressive slow-moving heat, their corrosive plagues. YES oh YES.

-Alison Smith

just a little something for the “personal misc.” category…

Considering how quickly things are erased over at IMDb, I thought I’d keep it here as well… it’s basically a brief history of my cinematic education via the IMDb Classic Film Board. Someday I’ll go back and expand it beyond just the CFB…

And where to start? Oh yeah—my name is spinninginvertigo and I’m quickly coming up to my eighth(!) year as an active CFB participant (though regrettably I’m not around nearly as much as I used to be). But I came to IMDb and soon after the CFB as a classic film as a 15 year old classic film neophyte—and as I’ve said before, my ensuing eight years as a cinema lover first developed and blossomed as a direct result of my participation here. Too many to name, but I’ll try—clore, Addison, bkamberger (the respondent to my very first post), lee, markclark, Chris, alice-34 and on a clandestine book board that popped up, saraarts—took an active participation in fostering a love of classic cinema not only through their much-admired by me knowledge and writing skills, but through actually taking the time to answering questions and kindly tolerating my simplistic, youthful observations…

The posters that cropped up soon after I joined would be the ones that would eventually broaden my horizons beyond the Dream Factory into the whole world beyond it—chief among them jiankevin/alsolike and ali, both with whom I’ve had the pleasure of expanding onboard friendship into something more tangible in “real life.” It’s funny—though I don’t think I participated, I consider that epic Third Man battle that introduced alsolikelife and zetes to the CFB as a pivotal moment for me, as for the first time I experienced firsthand two vivid, opposing voices deconstructing a beloved film through their analysis, with both refusing (as I recall) to bow to what I considered its status as a cinematic “sacred cow.” It really opened my eyes as to the importance of developing a unique perspective and cinematic sensibility, with the ability to question everything which has stuck with me to this day. Interactions with other posters met at this time—like Teresa and sprockets—have gone on to blossom into what I consider genuine friendships, even if my film taste no longer so closely aligns with one (Grace Kelly is just no longer my thing!) and the other has gone sadly MIA.

But it was really those fabled games/excercises of old like the CiNobles and most particularly the “Fixing the Oscars” cycle that not only forced me to expand my knowledge (I was watching a film a night there for a while just so I felt like I could put up what I considered a respectable Fixing ballot!) but put me in contact with a number of posters whose opinions I still pay rapt attention to (Antonius, Johnny, Dehlia, others I’m surely forgetting). Also at this time Addison also helped inspire a particular interest on my part in the art of film soundtracks.

I guess meeting Derek/CFK would be about next on the timeline, and for all of his witty insight and film knowledge he certainly played a more pivotal role “off board” at a time when I needed it most, as did the (now departed, though I’m constantly doing my best to bring him back) Caleb-CT. Most recently a friendship with vivalarsx has quickly proved to be immensely rewarding (and I’m sure I’m not the only who can say thank god he finally found his “voice!”).

Oh, and apart from the impartation of film knowledge, I should say—and she’ll probably laugh—that ali has influenced my writing style (something which extends far beyond the confines of this board) more than any other wordsmith in any medium I’ve yet come across (and as the holder of a degree in literature, I think that’s saying something). Though she is quick to dismiss them, her impressionistic (some would probably say impenetrable ) insights on the WCDYSLW? thread have wielded a surprising—even to me—influence, and a few brief, evocative sentances on India Song is probably the most constantly revisited piece of film criticism I’ve ever come across.

Okay, before I finally finish this off, I’ll say that aside from Caleb my most missed poster is Prof Critic. I keep hoping he’ll pop up one day. And even if she still pops her head in every once in a while, I wish Angel was around more often.

Yikes, that wasn’t very short, was it? Well, hopefully I managed to keep it from getting that sappy…

Oh wait, I really didn’t. Oh well.

i lied.

Well, technically I didn’t—I’ve actually been writing more in the last weeks than I probably have during any period in the last year or two, and as a result am on the cusp of unveiling a new project…

In other news, there’s a great new video of Owen up. And he got a haircut!

Update…

Yes, yes, I’m still here! Though just barely, I admit. Since Memories of the Future is entering its third weeks without a new posting I figure an update is in order.

My “disappearance” can be attributed to a number of factors: packing up my best friend and (now former) roommate and sending her off to San Francisco State to start her graduate studies career, then moving out of our apartment and making sure it was ready for the walk-through, figuring out my job situation (long story short: they’re giving me the month of September off), family issues, coordinating my upcoming trip to Toronto and the just the ugly, unavoidable fact I just haven’t been terribly inspired lately, at least as far as writing, film and books go.

I’ve actually been pouring a lot of energy into music lately—I’ve caught 60’s Yé-yé/ Euro-pop fever again and have been subsequently scanning blogs, MySpace tribute pages and the outer reaches of iTunes for new tracks. I’ve managed to get my hands on some rather sublime stuff (or I think so anyway) from everyone from the usual suspects such as Françoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan and France Gall on down to new-to-me obscurities as Les Flechéttes, Annie Phillipe, Les Roche Martin, Les Poppys, The Orchids and more.

I do have two new reviews up at DVD Verdict: a slightly extended version of my thoughts on Funny Ha Ha and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s rather unfortunate La Belle Captive.

I’m off to Toronto for my first TIFF, and I couldn’t be more excited. The press pass for DVDV fell through at the last minute and by the dust caused by all the confusion cleared I bought a pass too late to take advantage of the Advance Order system, which is disappointing. But I spent some time on the phone with the box office today and got some tips on my best options at this point and spent most of the afternoon mapping out various possibilities. Luckily most of the films I want to see anyway aren’t the ones as likely to fill up as quickly, and so I’m hoping for the best, and whatever happens I’m just excited to be going (it’ll be my first time to our northerly neighbor), meeting up with a bunch of people and spending some time with my boyfriend.

This last weekend I drove up to Los Angeles to meet up with my good friend Kevin from Shooting Down Pictures as well as IMDb Classics Board legend Addison de Witt, who I met for the first time. I had a great time.

Anyway, that’s more or less right now.

-jesse

a slight waver in confidence

A recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education contained this quote from Paul Valéry. Just what I wanted to read now that I’m beginning to look into my school options in earnest…

“Let us confess, the real object of education is the diploma. I never hesitate to declare that the diploma is the deadly enemy of culture. As diplomas have become more important in our lives (and their importance has done nothing but grow as a result of economic conditions), the less has education had any real effect… the aim of education no longer being the development of the mind but the acquisition of the diploma, the required minimum becomes the goal of study.”

To be fair, these are many of my own opinions (except more eloquently expressed, of course), but it still gave me pause…

Update…

Sorry for the lack of updates the last two weeks or so–several things are in progress but I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to finish any of the up… but just a few things:

-Who’s attending TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) this year? I bought my plane ticket and now I’m just waiting to hear about whether or not I’ll get a press badge or have to buy a pass. But I really want to take advantage of this opportunity to meet up with people… so let me know!

-My review of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Cannes-approved Climates went up a few days ago at DVD Verdict.

-I’ve been told that I can no longer use the computers at work to access my blog. Blegh.

And because I love me some Amants réguliers:

Check back soon.

-jesse