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The Year In Film

I must be getting curmudgeonly. What with the extreme advertising in the trades heralding the onset of award season, I find myself scratching my head, trying to remember what the hell did I go see this year? Hardly the most pressing issue of the day, but words fail me on the overwhelming tragedies playing out on our TV screens. I have tried to write about them, but can’t seem to do them any justice.

So back to the trite: what if they gave an awards show and gave out no awards? How ‘bout just holding the Raspberries this year? I loooooooove movies, I love movies about making movies, I love working on movies, I love reading about them. But this year seemed more like MOTWs hogging the big screen. You know, the kind of movie you would sit through if it was on TV on a rainy day when you didn’t have a book or project handy? Or the inspiring tragedy film that, however well made, seems rather eclipsed of late through no fault of its own.

What did I bestir myself to see? Well, there’s Fahrenheit 9/11, of course. And the wonderful House of Flying Daggers. Not to mention the “Un” series, among other documentaries, including Outfoxed and the hysterical Yes Men whose most recent escapade graced the headlines a few weeks back. Casting my mind further back, there was Shaolin Soccer, as I have become quite the Stephen Chow fan. And, of course, the Matrix finale, which was just this side of greatness. I’m certain I missed a few good ones, as inevitably happens, like last year’s exquisite Peter Pan.

But the movies I did see and love this year were by and large playing on IFC’s Samurai Saturdays, particularly the touching Zatoichi series (so incompletely echoed by Takeshi this year) and superb Three Outlaw Samurai. Being a Mifune fan since age 12, it has been wonderful to see his work again with more adult eyes. Elegant photography, beautifully staged fights, cynical and bittersweet stories and understated, sensitive acting. Settings that seemed more real thanks to the array of character actors who no longer exist in modern cinema except as mere background dioramas. So I find myself going back in time to root out past gems, inhaling the past to invigorate the future.

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