Sunday, March 11, 2018

Tweaking the watchlist

I keep a running list of horror films I'm interested in. Some are already in circulation; others are coming out soonish. I recently realized that intriguing but ostensibly feel-bad titles like "A Dark Song" and "The Devil's Candy" (both on Netflix) might not be what I'm actually into these days.

I think I went through a phase with horror similar to my trajectory with indie and foreign films: At first, if a film was dark thematically, and maybe even hard to watch at times, it struck me as unquestionably deep. How could it not be? Human suffering, man -- that shit is deep. And since I was doing plenty of suffering, due to a lively combination of anxiety, depression, and disordered eating, I found a lot to relate to in movies like Catherine Breillat's devastating "Fat Girl" (2001), whose shocking ending is one of the few vivid memories I have of it.

These days, life is generally much sunnier for me, despite the chronic sleep deprivation that comes with being the parent of a toddler and working two part-time jobs. My wife is a big fan of genre film and TV, be it science fiction, fantasy, or relatively light horror ("Cabin in the Woods," yes, but probably not "We Are What We Are" or "We Are Still Here"). Much of what we watch together is "genre" in one way or another, though we also share a love of quirky and/or dark comedy ("You're the Worst," "Big Mouth," etc.).

In any case, I'm trying to modify my genre watchlist to reflect what I actually want to see. I just started watching "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," intrigued by a local filmmaker acquaintance's praise for it and my appreciation of Martin McDonagh's previous work (chiefly "Six Shooter" and "In Bruges"), and though it isn't genre, it's quirky dark comedy, and it's an award winner -- serious cinema, if you will.

I think something that's been missing in my life, along with time to write for this blog and Spokane Faith & Values, is ambitious, "prestige" film. Before my son's birth in June of 2016, I squeezed in a few last Oscar winners, knowing my days of watching what I wanted when I wanted were numbered. Most notably, I watched and loved "Spotlight," "The Big Short," and "Room."

I remember how wonderful it felt to watch these thoughtful, complex movies, which, despite the difficult themes they highlight, I experienced as life-giving and inspiring. Because that's what outstanding, memorable films have always done for me: They've helped me keep believing in the human race rather than cynically focusing on our worst qualities and retreating into misanthropy.

In my view, a species that can artfully and poignantly reflect on its own weaknesses is one that may still have hope of becoming better over time. Especially in the era of Trump, perhaps humanity's most prominent and least inspiring example, I think I need more high-minded, well-crafted film -- whether it's "genre" or not.

No comments: