The Movie Club

Till We Meet Again, in Some Screening Room in the Dark
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 9 2010 5:59 PM

The Movie Club

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Dear All,

Dana Stevens Dana Stevens

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

We could keep this going all year if we were to take things on a movie-by-movie basis. (In re Inglourious Basterds, Wesley is right: The ending sucks enough to throw into shadow much of the incandescence that preceded it. In re Antichrist, Stephanie is wrong; for once, the von Trier-is-a-sick-misogynist line of thinking holds up just fine.) But the bedrock truth of Movie Club is that, to quote Billie Holiday, "Right or wrong don't matter/ When you're with me, sweet." And that's not just some bland, ecumenical way of shrugging off our differences. This huge, rich, buzzing conversation—one that, inevitably, is about more than just movies—is something that energizes me and stays with me all year. I've been watching DVDs like a madman all week, trying to keep pace with you all, and I've still come out of it with a sizable list of to-be-seens: 35 Shots of Rum, Lake Tahoe, The International, and Synecdoche, New York. (That last one I've seen, but I regarded it as a noble folly until Roger named it his No. 1 film of the decade. Now I plan to gird my loins and see it again.)

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I keep coming back to Stephanie's story about the critic Robin Wood dictating a list of his all-time favorite movies on his deathbed and the blogger Jeffrey Wells writing up a snarky response to his choices afterward: Apparently the dying man should have chosen not Rio Bravo but High Noon. Wells sounds like a perfect asshole (with, as Roger points out, questionable taste in Westerns), and God knows none of us wants some jerky gossip blogger mocking our last words from beyond the grave. But what I would like is something like what we've got going on here: a postmortem Movie Club, an online Festschrift. When I kick it, everyone please get together and discuss my deathbed list (which I should really get to compiling—you never know). Not in order to pick the list apart and feel clever about it but in order to keep the conversation going. When you fire off a post asserting that I'm an idiot for having loved 2012, say it with the infinite love that, inexplicably, Chiwetel Ejiofor's character in that movie holds for the novel written by John Cusack's.

There was a moment in this year's It Might Get Loud, an at times pedestrian but intermittently inspired documentary about the electric guitar, when Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page put on a Django Reinhardt LP for the filmmaker in his home study, a small room with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with vinyl albums. For close to a full minute of screen time, we got to watch Page just listen to a song—grooving, dancing a little, pointing at the turntable with a delighted chortle when he wanted to indicate some particular detail of Reinhardt's artistry. Page's genuine and complete joy in that moment—a guy who's done little else but play legendarily great guitar for 50-plus years, thrilling to the sound of someone he considered a real guitar player—was a huge inspiration to me. It's a lifelong task for an artist, and for us critics as well, to stay open to the possibility of being moved.

So long, then. I'll be seeing you in all the old, familiar places: in your reviews, on your blogs, on podcasts and Twitter—maybe even, if we're lucky, in some screening room in the dark.

Love,
Dana

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