And so December straggles towards its close, bringing with it profound seasonal depression, augmented by the opportunity to see one’s loved ones slightly grayer, slower, more defeated, the shadow of the reaper’s fingers laying across the ostensibly festive affair, etc.
And there are also the year-end Best lists! Who’ll be King of the Hill this year? Will it be Meek’s Cutoff, a dour Western full of wide open spaces in which the viewer can lay back and admire their own refinement by fact of their staving off catatonic boredom? Or perhaps The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the first installment of the wildly popular series of atrociously written mystery-novels-for-people-who-don’t-like-genre fiction, books whose popularity is entirely accountable to the highbrow patina lent by Scandinavian exoticism and sectarian vilification of the dastardly right-wing (Like The Da Vinci Code, the Stieg Larsson phenomenon touches the “cultural”—foreign destinations, Masterpieces—without demanding that the reader to enter into a meaningful dialogue with it.) Or maybe that irrepressible, irascible Uncle Boonmee, whose misty, wafer-weight spirituality is custom made to appeal to wishy-washy Neutral Milk Hotel fans, will walk away with it all?*
As the same cautious flattening of consensus which has rendered various album-of-the-year roundups interchangeable begins to effect year-end film polls**, The Classical would like to try something a little different: The Best of The Quad, 2011.
Now, for those out-of-towners, here is The Quad, in the self-descriptive words of its website:
“Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York, it’s an area inhabited by passionate moviegoers eager to see the best in independent, foreign and documentary films.”
It is unclear who the “passionate moviegoers” described are, though one suspects this is a by-word for “moviegoers who live in the neighborhood and can’t be bothered to stray more than a few blocks from their stoop.” Or “friends of the director”—to those on the weekly reviewing beat, the “Quad movie” is something of a genre-unto-itself, as the theater is often used as a pay-to-play clearing house for movies with no-where else to go, looking for a purely symbolic theatrical release.
Per the name, it boasts four screens. At present, one of them is showing a certifiably good movie: Jeff Nichols’s Take Shelter, which should already be on everyone’s Year End list. What’s on those other screens? Why, funny you should ask: Red Hook Black, Seducing Charlie Barker, and I Melt With You, of course.
Are these movies actually, as I write, being projected onto screens in The Quad? I am tempted to say that one could sneak into these theaters and find them dark, abandoned, cobweb-strewn; I have long suspected that many movies that enjoy far wider releases are in fact elaborate practical jokes, existing as descriptive blurbs and poster-art but not as actual product. And yet here is someone called “Brian Miller” in my home-masthead, The Village Voice, on Seducing Charlie Barker. Elsewhere, Nick Schager notes the “unintentionally hilarious awfulness” of Red Hook Black while, also in the issue of 7 December, Aaron Hillis plugs in 200 words on the “insincere and superficially nihilistic” I Melt with You.
As a critic, I have tried to live by Francois Truffaut’s maxim “All films are created equal,” to exercise inasmuch is possible the same degree of attention, of aesthetic and emotional receptivity, whether dealing with the most self-serious prestige item or the lowest, most scurrilous bogeyman movie… even if PR flacks and the powers-that-be who dictate the dispensation of column space reinforce received opinions about importance. There is one exception to this democratic approach, however: All films at The Quad are awful. Is this by planning, or is there some alchemical quality in the theater’s atmosphere? Is it built on an ancient Mohawk burial ground? Would Take Shelter even be the same movie at The Quad?
And now, The Final Four:
4. Romantics Anonymous (One of those painfully innocuous French farces that are theoretically counter-programming to the surfeit of gross-out gags in American comedy, but which actually make you want to run screaming for the nearest diarrhea joke.)
3. Dog Sweat (“particularly timely and also courageous” are particularly limiting and also pandering adjectives to use when talking about dramatic art.)
2. 5 Star Day (I want to punch Cam Gigandet in the face, but he looks to be in really great shape so I’ll settle for this instead.)
1. A Novel Romance (I didn’t actually see this, but the press release e-mail that I received with the subject line “A Novel Romance starring Steve Guttenberg- PLEASE REVIEW!” made me laugh aloud for an unnervingly long time.)
Well, there you have it folks. Now all that’s left is to anticipateWindfall, all about fucking wind turbines, coming to the Quad in 2012! See you there!
*- The author has not watched any of the films mentioned.
**- Source: Assumption.