Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Year?

It's been a year?

Not only a year, but at least one movie a day everyday for a whole year. Of course if you've been reading with any regularity you know that we've done on average 8 movies a week every week for that year (we missed one day, kind of, because the second day of the two-part Gone With The Wind post, however since there have been so many other films I'm not going to get crazy about it.

The first post started as follows:

A Bare Starting Place: By Way of an Introduction and Mission Statement
If you've found this then you've stumbled upon the first post and place holder (until I fix the place up) for a new film blog.

Yea, I know we don't need another film blog but then again someone has to point out all of the great, or at least good, films that are getting lost and pushed by the way side. Lets face it there are simply too many movies out there and unless its a major release most films are doomed to be lost and forgotten, in other words unseen. Here in the US, the situation is even worse for any film from another part of the world since the number of people watching foreign films is small, and the number of people who are watching anything out of the mainstream is even smaller (dare I say it's probably almost nonexistent?).

What I'm going to try and do here is review films that are worth searching out. Some will be readily available, from say Amazon or another on line retailer, some will have to be tracked down via other means, say Yes Asia or a trip to your local Chinatown or a nostalgia show. Many are going to be films that are so off the beaten track, that even IMDB doesn't record as existing. Two examples are Tree in the Desert and Ghost Town. Tree in the Desert is a really good Chinese film about people planting trees in the desert in the hopes of reclaiming the land. I found it on VCD but can find no other reference to it anywhere. The other is a film called Ghost Town which played the New York Film Festival last year and concerns the inhabitants of an abandoned village in China. The last time I looked neither film appeared to be on IMDB.

And it was off and running from that point as I reviewed the animated NBoldocturna, the Japanese horror film Sweet Home and the aforementioned Ghost Town in rapid succession. (An actual review of Tree in the Desert would have to wait until our six month anniversary).

The next day we began our real-time reviews of film festivals with a visit to the Film Comment Selects series at Lincoln Center to see the Revenge films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who directed our second film Sweet Home. Its a real tell it like it is piece that I kind of cringe about, I call out the programmers and get proved right and wrong. I was right in that the films were written up kind of blindly (what they were is not how they were described) but I was wrong in that Gavin Smith had seen them years before and programmed on a memory of them being good. While I cringe at being so ballsy, I still think I was right to question the descriptions of the films since over the past year I've been going to Lincoln Center a great deal and I find that in almost every series at least one film's description contains some elements of fantasy.

From there we were off and running for a year of ups and down and sideways.

We've been ahead of the curve on any number of films with out championing films like I Love You Phillip Morris, The Korean film Mother, Michael Caine's incredible performance in Harry Brown, the critically acclaimed Last Train Home, and even the soon to be martial arts classic IP Man before most people were aware they even existed. There have been others as well; one just need to browse the side bar month by month to realize how many good films there are out there.

We've had a few missteps. I don't think my MST3K posts during this past Thanksgiving week were very good. (Ken's were fine, but mine were not). There are also a few other clunkers out there, but considering how many reviews we've done I think we've done alright.(For those who care this is the 596th post)

I've also been remiss in writing up some of the titles that have been suggested. Yes, we've done a few- - this weekend's choices are suggested titles -- but there are more on the list that we haven't gotten to. Partly it's the nature of how I put the blog together (it's done as to what strikes my fancy at the moment I'm doing it) and partly other reasons. The other reasons range from not finding a copy of the film suggested to it's too long to get through (Bela Tarr's seven hour Satantango is still sitting on my shelf waiting for a block of time.) to technical problems (for a while my regionless machine was down; and my used copy of Fists in the Pocket crapped out 40 minutes in.). I'm hoping to right the wrong and as always remind you to email us or leave a comment somewhere with films you'd like to see.

I know we haven't been the most technologically advanced blog, but there is a Twitter account and we're in the process of getting a page up on Facebook. We'll be posting details and then links in the sidebar.

The look of the blog is still low key. The point is not be flashy, rather we'd rather let you concentrate on the films themselves rather than the flash of this blog. Still I said six months ago that we'd entertain ideas for a possible change in look once we hit the year mark, so as soon as we get a minute, all of us here at Unseen will be talking it over.

That is of course assuming we get a minute to do so. The year of 2011 is not even two full months old and we've already been hip deep at the film festivals. Weather kept us from the New York Jewish Film Festival, but we've been at all of the Korean Cultural Service screenings, most of The Japan Societies Sabu retrospective, The Town Hall Film Club, The Brooklyn Academy of Music's Kids Fest, we're in the middle of this years Film Comment Selects at Lincoln Center (as this posts that's physically where we are) plus we have a steady stream of other festivals, beginning with four solid weekends at the New York International Children's Film Festival which over laps the Lincoln Ceneter French Cinema series, a Takashi Miike restrospective and a Yakuza series. I have no idea when we're going to have time to write up everything we are seeing.

I've got things kind of mapped out into mid-September with lots of blanks to fill in things we find along the way. We will be giving you a movie a day, everyday for at least the foreseeable future ... it just may not be the movie we saw last night.

As another year of this blog begins, we wanted to share what we have planned.

We're trying to get some round table discussions going which will be me and Reg and whoever else wants to join us talking about a film or group of films.

In April, we're going to see if two big projects we've been planning come together. The first is a look at the film work of the artist Moebius. Eden will be taking on the herculean task of looking at most of the films he's worked on. The series is scheduled to run weekends in April and early May (with the exception of Easter) and based upon the discussions I've had with Eden this may be one of the best things we've done at Unseen. (The project may crossover somewhat with Eden's blog Comicsgirl.)

The other project is a series of posts that will examine the creative nature of film and art through a cycle of documentaries which will take over the Wednesday "matinee" slot for a number of weeks well into the summer. We're going to start with some films on a few comic creators and then move on to painters, filmmakers and writers. In connection with that, we hope to be running what will be some interviews with the filmmakers and the subjects of their films. (I know some of this was promised several months ago but we've only recently been able to put some of this together.)

There's more planned, but I don't want to say too much since the way this past year went I'm not sure what we plan will actually happen. Besides sometimes it's best to be surprised.

As I come to the end of this anniversary puff piece I wanted to close out by saying a couple of things.

First off, if you ever get the bright idea that you want to do a blog like this one, check yourself into a mental hospital. The idea of posting a review a day every day will kill you. It's one thing to just post reviews of everything you see, but to actually try and find good films, cover the local film festivals and other related things will make you crazy. I have no idea what I was thinking when I decided to start this. Sure it's been fun, but it also means this blog has eaten most of my free time. Thank god I have no personal life to speak of since if I did I wouldn't be able to do this.

Next I want to thank my fellow writers here at Unseen Films, Eden, John, Randi, Reg, Bully, Ken, who signed on early and have been turning out sterling work from the get go. I'd also like to thank Robert aka Frank Grimes, Dave aka Mondocurry, who recently came aboard and have been helping with the film festivals. Without their help in taking up the slack Unseen Films would never have made it this far. I especially want to thank Ken who has become my partner in crime with editing most of my posts, getting us on Twitter, Facebook and most importantly being a sounding board about my ideas, no matter how stupid. I don't think I could have made it this far without him egging me on.

Actually to be fair every one of my fellow writers have been great at egging not only me but everyone else who writes for the blog. I know it was Eden's grand statement "go for it, what's the worst that can happen?" that was single-handedly responsible for our getting recognized as a member of the press. I think we've all been egging each other on with an often too wild abandon. I suspect we've been doing it simply to see what we madness we can come up with that will amuse ourselves. I know that's why I frequently bait Bully and I know that's why Ken is constantly pushing me to do more and do better. We all want to see what we are all capable of simply because it's going to result in something that we want to read or see. That fact that you get to see the craziness is merely a a result of our wanting to share.

Lastly, I want to thank you all for stopping by and reading what we're posting. I know some of you have been here since the start and I want to thank you for being here all along. Others of you are just coming aboard and I want to welcome you as well.

If it wasn't for you all reading I wouldn't be doing this. When I started this I decided that I would do this for a few months and see what happened. I then changed my mind and decided to do this for a year and see what happened. If after a year I was bored or if I was just shouting into the dark I was going to hang it up and move on.

It's been a year and we're still here and I'm working on the posts for the next six months. As I said you've been reading what we post in increasing numbers which is very gratifying. None of us get paid for what we do so the fact that you're reading means a great deal to us.

Thank you.

And now ... it's time to begin out second year ... so sit back, relax and see what we have in store for you...

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