Mr. Pickle’s last post on bar construction got me thinking about film spectatorship and how we collect media. For most of us, going to the theater is hardly the predominate form of movie watching. Movies are more often a homebound, domestic activity; in the 1980s there was even a genre of film criticism devoted to random TV viewings of classic movies. (See, Geoffrey Hartman on North by Northwest). 3D films like “Avatar” are designed to heighten the public spectacle and bring back the communal aspects of film-going, but the other major developments in film technology (digital film, digital distribution, iPod videos) are all designed to further miniaturize the viewing experience, putting more movies in your home or pocket. DVD collecting never actually made much sense as an activity; with very few exceptions, these were mass produced, easily acquired. But in an era of increased on-demand, Netflix streaming, Surfthechannel, and puppet show re-enactments (Ok, I made that up; but just imagine trying to recreate “Being John Malkovich!” Would you need to cast people as the marionettes? What layers of meaning and textuality!), it makes even less sense than it did before.

And yet, there is a strong limiting factor in acquiring media: time. The standard completist model of watching everything by a given director, or every movie on the AFI top-100 list, or every movie ever nominated for best picture and best director (who would do such a thing? oh wait…) is a commitment that most of us can’t make. Watching movies conflicts with other parts of domestic life and causes domestic conflicts. Shall I write thank you notes, or focus on the nuances of Renoir? Improve my meatloaf recipe, or discover the hidden aesthetic of Michael Bay? Better: McG. We need a system for generating viewing lists. Think “Man and Fish,” Mr. Pickle tells us.

So let’s say that you want to catch up on the work of a given director. You need a way to catch only the fish. Last week the Brattle did a one day program on Robert Altman. They aired two movies unavailable on DVD (“Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”; “Brewster McCloud”), one cult classic (“The Long Goodbye”), and one widely recognized masterpiece (“The Player”). Coming from different time periods, it’s a pretty fair sampling of Altman’s work. Is it missing his magnum opus? Yes, but that makes it all the more interesting. This is a workable template for a director digest–minus the films not on DVD, of course.

Let’s try this with another director. Read the rest of this entry »

I am currently in the middle of a very confusing relationship.

The love and affection I receive from this person is constant and without fail. No matter how gloomy the weather or mood, no matter how shitty the day, this person is always able to offer me love. This person’s love is a beacon, pulsing in regular intervals throughout the night. This love calls out to drifting ships and low flying planes, to the city’s quick steppers and stragglers alike. This love is timed to the heart beat.

“I Love You! I Love You! Allelujah!”

The tall, skinny man shuffle-strides down Broadway, right hand raised, poised, holding a Book. His eyes face forward, unyielding. In many ways, this man embodies the opposite of How One Should Be in New York.

My small three bedroom apartment is off of Broadway, and I chance into this man, this erstwhile lover, with frequency. And when I do, I am struck by the most conflicted feelings imaginable.

At first, I am delighted by this selfless man, walking day in day out, proffering the love of his heart to each and every one of us, to complete strangers. What could he expect to receive in kind from us? Agape, altruism, pure love.

Immediately following a bite from this love bug, my heart makes a whiplash turn. The unceasing love call pounds into my ears like a drum. I want to shake him to make him stop! I want to do something nasty and demand love in return. He doesn’t know me! What sort of love is unqualified? What sort of love is untainted by circumstance? How can that be love at all? Who is he serving when he says he loves me?

Am I jealous that his love is not personal? Am I jealous that I have to share him with everyone else on Broadway?

I don’t think so.

I am angry at the Love Man. Love is not an idea; it’s not even an emotion. Love is a balm, a cool kiss on abraded skin. Love is whispered right into your ear; it tickles the cochlea and stirrup. Love is an arrow piercing your chest.

Love does not shout down the walls of your heart. Love is not one-size-fits-all.

One day, I want to stop this man in the street and ask him who I am, ask him what I need, ask him how I must be loved.