Monday, July 18, 2011

CANON OF FILM & THE ORIGIN OF THE LIST

As I mentioned before, I have a list of every movie I've ever seen. Right now it's up to over 2,950 feature films (FEATURES. That doesn't count short films, which many of which are also on that list), and I'm planning on printing the entire list, or at least a link to it, on this blog when I reach 3,000 feature films. If for no other reason other than to prove I actually have it, (Or prove that I'm actually that pathetic, whichever you prefer) and also because, I've been working on it for years, and I'll be damned if I know what else to do with it.

This origins of this list started innocently enough, as I was simply trying to make a short list of films to recommend to a friend of mine. I was at CCSN (Community College of Southern Nevada) and had not yet decided to become a film major, but was leaning in that direction. Anyway, I made a short list of what were at the time recent films that were highly intellectual, conceptual, good,...- basically a lot of artistic crap people that snobby critics like myself love. "Magnolia," "Mulholland Drive," "Lost in Translation," etc. etc. Anyway, this was under an assumption that my friend had seen basically most every movie that people needed to see. Classics like "Casablanca," and "Gone with the Wind," and "Sunset Boulevard," or even modern-day classics like "The Breakfast Club," and "Goodfellas." Alas, my friend hadn't. So, in my list-obsessed Aquarius way, I decided to make another list for her. As you can imagine from here, this got out of control, and eventually, I didn't finish until I had written down every movie that I can remember seeing. Well, naturally it became ridiculous to give her this kind of a list, but frankly, I like the idea and decided to keep it up. I mean, here is basically a documentation of my life, through the movies I've seen. I have measured out my life in movies, and frankly I can't think of too many better way to measure out my life. (Except maybe sexual partners and experiences, but that wouldn't nearly be as interesting, and frankly, a very short list.)

However, I still needed to explain to my friend, why, you know, it was important for everybody to have seen "Citizen Kane," and other such seminal works of cinema. Especially when you're not talking to a film person, this is more complicated than it sounds, so I started writing down the reasons, in brief, short passages, thinking one day, I'd just hand them over to my friend, and whenever something came up that I had written on, she'd know to watch 'cause I told her. Again, this was a ridiculous idea, that frankly never manifested, and thankfully so. But, there's nothing particularly wrong with this either. Collecting and writing on films is what many people do anyway. So, whenever I was in writing funk, or felt particularly inspired, I found a great movie to write a page or two about. I'll admit, this idea is borrowed heavily from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" collection, which can be found on rogerebert.com. I called this, the Canon of Film, and a symbolic way to emphasize the absolute essential films one must see, the same way literature has an essential cannon of books that everybody must at least once, read. We all know which ones they are, many of them we were forced to read in school. I started this list with two rules, (later three) as to determine what films should be in this list and they are:

1. I've had to have watch the film on at least three separate occasions.
2. In order for inclusion in the Cannon, it must be at least 10 years past the film's original release date.
3. Certain documentaries can be excluded from the 10 year rule based on immediacy of content and greatness of film.

These rules started as a good strict guideline as to what should qualify for the Cannon of Film. Eventually though, the only rule that actually got followed was rule #4:

4. I made the rules, I can change and/or break them at anytime.

So that was stupid and useless. Anyway, what started as another project to get my friend to watch more movies, became, another obsessive side project, and now I've written, over 250 of these Cannon of Film entries. Don't think for a second that I'm going to use this blog as a cruel way to dispose of these entries, I'm not. Frankly, I don't have the time, desire or the energy to suddenly explode 250+ pre-written papers essentially onto the world, when most of the time, I'd rather talk about something that's happening right now, or at least that something, that I care about right now.  And honestly, some of them are terribly written. I know, I wrote them, and especially some of the earlier ones, they're not my best work, they were written out of obligation instead of passion, and that's not fair to anybody who might actually read them. If you're going to read my work, I hope you can read the best of my work. I already put my heart and soul out there when it comes to my own screenplays, and I've had it stomped on more than once, but that's fiction and storytelling, and I wouldn't get any better at it if I don't show all of my work like that, scars, soars, warts, tears, and all other metaphoric body deformities included. That's me getting stomped on, but getting stomped on for my own creation. There's little point in getting stomped on because I wrote a shitty article about how good "Casablanca," is half a decade ago. And I shouldn't be the only one writing these anyway. What makes me the judge and jury of all things great and essential in film? Because, I made a list? That's bullshit. Film is a collaborative art; it's a group of people coming together to make a piece of art. I shouldn't be the only one who writes these. Yes, occasionally, when I deem it, for some reason appropriate, I will post on this blog an entry in this "Cannon of Film," that I created, and it will be for all to see, but I shouldn't and won't be the only one. I'll be asking around to friends and others if they want to contribute to this blog their own entries into this Cannon, and I'd be very happy if they do. They should do it for the same reason I write them, 'cause I wanted to. It may have originally started as something else, but the reason I keep writing them is because I wanted to. Plain and simple. My next blog will be one of these Cannon entries, for the Jacques Tati film "Playtime". Why, well, I just saw/wrote on "The Illusionist," which was based on an unfilmed Tati script, and I think it's reasonably relevant to post something on an actual Tati film, and "Playtime," happens to be a great film, worthy of such a Canon. I'm not gonna stop writing Cannon of Film entries, I'll write them when I feel so inspired, and I'll  post those when I do, the same way I'll occasionally post an older one, and hopefully some of you will have opinions and thoughts on it. Some might agree, some might disagree, others might seek out a film I discuss that they haven't seen before, some might be ecstatic that I introduced them to such an amazing piece of work, others could despise the hell out of me for making them waste there time and money on a giant piece of crap. I'll be happy with any reaction to them frankly. Either way, my work is being read. That's basically what all writers are hoping for.
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