' ' Cinema Romantico: My Favorite Moviegoing Experience of 2014

Thursday, January 01, 2015

My Favorite Moviegoing Experience of 2014

America. 4th of July Eve. All an avid movie-watcher wants is a movie at his favorite theater – in this case, the River East – to get lost in. “Begin Again” is showing. Of course, the buzz on “Begin Again” is points far south of stellar. But hey, it’s the dude that made “Once.” It stars Keira. And you can buy a Ranger IPA at the River East! So screw it! Let’s go! Let’s see what happens!

I've become a lot happier since I stopped trying to be an art-oriented snob. I've become a lot happier since I started openly admitting that, yes, I like “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry as much as I like “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller and “Handshake Drugs” by Wilco and “I Was A Lover” by TV on the Radio, and, well, what are you gonna do about it? That doesn't mean I don't still see myself as a theoretical film critic. I do. I can critique. I can tear down. I can be honest. But that honesty swings both ways, see, and if I see a movie that isn't quite perfect far, far away from perfect but the spirit still moves then the spirit still moves me. And on 4th of July Eve 2014, the spirit moved me.

In an edition this past year of the ongoing Criticwire Question over at Indiewire, various film critics waxed philosophically about the late great Roger Ebert and his influence on them. And Eric Kohn (of Indiewire itself) said something that I agreed with even though he wrote it as a criticism and I viewed it as a compliment. “At worst,” he wrote, “sometimes it seemed like Ebert was smitten with a movie simply because its spiritual dimension was pure.” At worst? AT WORST??? How about, best? At best, sometimes it seemed like Ebert was smitten with a movie simply because its spiritual dimension was pure?

“Your intellect,” begins perhaps Ebert's most famous standalone quote, “may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” Such words could easily be misconstrued to suggest a lack of intellect or an inability or unwillingness to engage intellectually, but then what Bartlett Quotation in a vacuum can’t be misconstrued? Rather as a film unfolds it prompts an emotional response which a critic then needs to unpack utilizing intellectualism and objectivity. And in unpacking my emotional response to “Begin Again” I can intellectually and objectively say that in spite of its innumerable flaws (a great many of which I listed in my review) my heart soared on the wings of the angelicism of pop music.

“Land Ho!” was a magnificent New Wave canticle. “Two Days, One Night” was a plaintive Cœur de pirate re-imagining a dust bowl ballad. “Coherence” was like the time I stumbled into a little bar years ago and saw this band I’d never heard of that turned out to be The Avett Brothers opening for someone else. “Ida” was a Gregorian chant sung by Neko Case. I liked all those movies better than I liked “Begin Again.” It wasn't even close. If I made a Top 20, “Begin Again” still wouldn't crack it. And so what?

A disposable pop song doesn't have to be disposable. It can still stand for something even if that something isn't any more than the in-the-moment righteousness of the pop song itself. And “Begin Again” was like stumbling on a piece of Katy Perry bubblegum in your car on a summer road trip. And I rolled down the windows and guiltlessly sang along and when it was over, it was over, and all that really remained with me was in-the-moment righteousness of the song itself and that was enough. It was the best time I had watching a movie in 2014.


Dan said...

Right on. Begin Again isn't on par with Once (which I love), but I still felt the emotional connection to it. I was thrilled after watching it and just enjoyed the emotional ride. You can pick it apart, but that's tiring. I just loved the experience in seeing it.

Derek Armstrong said...

I had a hell of a time watching Begin Again -- and I watched it on a plane. (Perhaps because of those lowered expectations you referenced.) I *do* make a top 20 (I make a top ~130, in fact, which you will see on January 15th) and for the moment, Begin Again is in it.