Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Movie Year Blogathon

My Movie Year Blogathon

Of the century and change that folks have been making movies, what was the best year?  Andy, at Fandango Groover’s, asked us to pick a year and back our choice with five movies that made it the best year of movies.  I wrestled with my choice:  my first thought was something from my childhood, because those movies that I loved as a child helped to form my love for the movies I watch as an adult.  So I gave it some thought and came up with 1985 – Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Clue, The Goonies, and Weird Science.  It took me a while to come up with these five titles, and because of the impact they each had on me when I was a kid.  With the exception of Back to the Future, I still watch them regularly.

But that wasn’t quite right.  My 1985 choices didn’t really reflect me NOW, and my movie year was going to have some of me in them.  So I went back to the drawing board.  Last summer, I asked other bloggers to come up with a list of seven films:  one film representing each of the world’s continents.  A score or so of people came up with some great lists, and I’ve added a lot of those movies to my Netflix queue.  That blogathon represented me in a very personal way, my love of the world outside the borders of my own country, for seeing things in ways that would be very strange indeed to the people I live among now.  

And I thought of 2006.  When I participated (albeit late) in Fandango Groover’s A Life in Movies Blogathon last year, 2006 had been a rough year for me to choose a favorite.  My toss up choices were The Queen and The Last King of Scotland.  What do they have in common?  There’s some (flippant) discussion of royalty and they both take place in other countries.  I went ransacking old posts on my old blog, and even went to Wikipedia to look at the movies made in 2006.  I saw a pattern:  it was one of those rare years where the American mainstream went global, and there was a surplus of movies taking place in places outside of the US of A, and many of those places were very, very far removed from the comfort of civilization.  I had so many options, I chose to discard some very good choices:  Babel, Children of Men, V ForVendetta, and even Casino Royale; all showed a wider view of the world than Americans are generally used to seeing. I did some hemming and hawing and came up with my list:

Apocalypto – I have a hard time crowing about Mel Gibson anymore.  2006 is the year he began his slide into insanity, but it’s also the year he made what I think is his boldest movie ever.  A story of a dead culture told in a language spoken only a very small number of people speak.  Pretty ballsy considering how few American-born people actually speak a second language, and unlike Passion of the Christ, this wasn’t a story most of us knew at least something about.  
Pan’s Labyrinth – Beautiful and strange, this movie is an amazing paean to strong storytelling in a classical tradition (and using movie magic to help shore up that oral tradition).  Six years later, and I’m still waiting for someone else to come along and tell another fairy tale that appeals to grown-ups more than it does to children. 

Blood Diamond –I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Africa, and I’ve had a fascination with the Dark Continent and its people since I was very early into my teens.  For someone, like me, interested in how different people could look at the same challenges and come up with a wide array of answers, Africa provides a number of choices.  This movie also highlights a particular interest of mine, the social and political conflicts that have been raging through the smaller West African countries for generations.  I have to admit, this also took Leo DiCaprio off my “do not watch” list and brought Djimon Hounsou to my attention.  DiCaprio’s Afrikaner accent was very good, even if think the math and history surrounding his character were a bit off.

The Last King of Scotland –This made my 2006 favorite for A Life in Movies, and reminded me that Forrest Whitaker is one HELL of an actor.  I think, even as much as Hotel Rwanda the year before, this would have served to remind Americans that there are many things going on in the world that we don’t know anything about.  Most of us didn’t know anything about the horrors Idi Amin brought to Uganda, and back then, few would have cared. 

The Queen –God I love this movie and Helen Mirren.  Given the American response to Diana Spencer’s death, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to figure out why the Crown reacted the way it did.  Mirren’s quiet reserve was perfect, at least from what I remember of the aftermath of Diana’s death, and the movie served to bring Ms. Mirren to my attention, something I’ve never had reason to regret until The Debt, but I seem to have been in the minority there.