After a week filled with cramming and catch-up, I finally finished the first of my own lists. Best of the year. Best of the decade. My deadline was set by indieWIRE, and I’m a person who tends to do better with deadlines set by others. So … I got it done.
It’s a fascinating exercise every year, and it all takes much more explanation (I prefer that word to “defense”) than is appropriate on the indieWIRE ballot. As mine is processed and goes live on their site, I’ll post more detailed explanations here. (No, really, I will.)
But more importantly, after months of claiming a return to this space, I plan to actually follow-through now. As I’ve described before, I keep creating these walls for myself, and I’m determined to leave them behind as we enter the T(e)ens, but why wait until then. Now is the time for reflection, in no small part, so that as we move forward into the next year and decade, we can leave a lot of the reflection behind. Not that I would ever claim it’s a good idea to forget the past, but some of us can, on occasion, get too stuck within it.
I found that happening to me quite a lot this year, and it kept blocking me from all the projections I would make to the future. For some reason, I not only work best when my responsibilities are to others as opposed to myself, but I also seem to need benchmarks. Jan. 1 at 3 am west coast time will mark the exact instant I quit smoking 15 years ago. The 3 am was somewhat arbitrary (it’s when my pack ran-out), but New Year’s Day was timed with the first of California’s anti-smoking laws. And New Year’s is easy to remember. Big, tall, column-like, unforgettable benchmark.
So my first real post back couldn’t be just another review or opinion piece. It had to be something broad in scope; mammoth in size; a launching pad of one form or another. As ridiculous as that may seem, for months, I’ve intended to write something that would almost be an abstract of what may (or may not) actually be to come. But as is often the case, the larger the wall I build, the more I sometimes put off climbing over it.
In no small measure, I blame Twitter. When I started Out of Focus nearly six years ago, it was a repository for all the jumble of opinion and information exhausting my grey matter. At times I would get too busy with work (especially when I would be knee-deep in Tribeca), but other times, I would dash off a quick thought via Twitter, plan to delve into more detail later, but then put it off. Much as people communicate directly with others across Twitter in a way that they would likely never simply yell across a crowded room to transmit the same information, my natural inclination to detail (and, sure, verbosity), was somehow mollified by Twitter.
So now there’s a backlog, and I want to clear it out. I obviously still can’t simply start writing without this bookend, but I found new inspiration in all this reflection, and what pops-up next will come as it always has … just hopefully, more regularly. When I started the online incarnation of Out of Focus (as opposed to my column at UCLA in 1991-92 from which I stole the name), it was in part to distract from a job in which I found no enjoyment. The situation is different, but in some ways, even in a much different environment, I’m again looking for such a productive distraction.
So what better way to refocus than to time it with the end of a year, end of a decade and revealing of indieWIRE’s critics polls? Exactly. That’s what I was thinking, and here we are. I hope you stick around and visit now and then, even if you don’t ever call or write.
And so, with that in mind … Next up: Why (for one of the few times ever) I agree with A. O. Scott that Where the Wild Things Are is a significant achievement and the best film of 2009. And after that, we’ll delve into why I also agree (which happens more frequently now as long as a guy named Gallo is not involved) with Filmbrain that Synecdoche, New York is the best film of the decade.