50 Movies of Summer

As of this moment, I have completed watching Vicky Christina Barcelona, bringing the number of movies I have watched for the first time this summer to fifty. Granted, prolific film critics easily view two hundred films a year–I am no less impressed with my accomplishment. I set out to expose myself to films which I normally would not pick up from the video store, watch with a friend, or see in theaters. I viewed a mere two films in a theater; the majority came from Netflix. Were I destined to become a filmmaker, I would certainly list my education as NFI: Netflix Film Institute.

Sure, Quentin Tarentino may have been a “film geek filmmaker,” in stark contrast to the film school crowd headed by Spielberg and Lucas, but the “small world of cinema” that Netflix creates allows for a new kind of filmmaker: one with unprecedented access to a vast quantity and range of films.

My tastes have evolved during this summers’ viewings. Early this summer, I became obsessed with the notion of plainness in filmmaking. I was initially drawn to minimalism since its definition seemed similar to my new-found taste for plainness. I sought after some directors known specifically for minimalism: Bresson, Ozu, and Kaurismaki. Even now, I am unconvinced that minimalism is something I like, or even what exactly it entails. I felt certain Kaurismaki films employed minimalism too visibly, ironically defeating what I interpret to be the point of minimalism. While I am unconvinced the interpretation and application of minimalism has been purely good, I do enjoy many films often labeled as minimalist. I believe that filmmakers should do only that which immediately portrays action to the audience. ┬áIdentifying disciplined filmmaking is more important to me than great acting, great dialogue, or a great plot.

The number of Woody Allen films I viewed this summer is no coincidence: I have found such consistency in his work that I am always anxious to see another of his films. Conversely, the common themes and plot points in his films can become monotonous when viewed often in a short period of time. I find his humor top-notch, and his portrayal of romantic relationships interesting, if but pessimistic.

Elitism is prevalent among critics both amateur and professional. I feel that having seen and/or enjoyed “the right films” is of no value. On the other hand, seeing many films and a wide a range of films is invaluable. When dealing with a film that falls into a category of no particular interest to me, instead of reviewing the film poorly and pointing out its “flaws,” I will rather abstain from reviewing it. All films are not created with the same audience in mind, so critically treating all films as such is pointless. For example: Pixar can masterfully create all the animated features it wants; I will not be interested, and I will not condemn them.

Many critics condemn certain blockbuster action movies for not being “smart,” implying “smartness” is the single or most vital requirement for a movie. However, the medium of film can deliver many other virtues to its audience. Critics who are not seeking a particular virtue should not condemn a film for focusing on that virtue. Nor should critics seeking a certain virtue condemn a film for not delivering that virtue.

Film is as broad a medium as literature. In fact, a film may have more in common with a novel than with any other film. As such, genres of film can accurately be considered separate media of art altogether. This consideration should allow a film critic to, say, not enjoy the critically acclaimed Star Wars films without offending fans of those films, just as a music critic’s apathy toward a Degas painting shouldn’t offend a passionate fan of Impressionist painting.

The important requirement for art criticism is honesty. If a critic shares no tastes with you, ignore his or her recommendations, but do not label his or her opinions as “incorrect.” The only useless critic is a dishonest one–one who deliberately adheres to a group of critics, or automatically disagrees with another.

A list of the films I have viewed this summer follows:

Bottle Rocket
Sweet Smell of Success
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Cassandra’s Dream
Deconstructing Harry
Stranger Than Paradise
The Royal Tenenbaums
House of Games
The Spanish Prisoner
Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
Frozen River
Annie Hall
Shadows In Paradise
The Match Factory Girl
The Decalogue Ep. 1
The Nines
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Through a Glass Darkly
The Hangover
The Decalogue Ep. 2
Mighty Aphrodite
Lights In The Dusk
Winter Light
Open Water
Hannah and Her Sisters
My Dinner With Andre
Melinda and Melinda
The End of Summer
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Fog of War
The Girlfriend Experience
The Cable Guy
I Love You Man
Husbands and Wives
The Brothers Bloom
The Squid and the Whale
The Darjeeling Limited
The Seventh Seal
Vicky Christina Barcelona

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