Not Coming to a Theater Near You Two-Thousand Eleven In Review

February Twenty-Eighth Two-Thousand Eleven

by Michael Nordine At around this time last year, Not Coming to a Theater Near You hosted a feature called Blind Spots. The intention was for contributors to see a “classic” of one variety or another – The Godfather, Blade Runner, and Pulp Fiction all made appearances – and write about the film itself as well as the experience of catching up on something that seemingly everybody else has already seen. I’ve since watched 500-plus films (many of them fitting the above description) and still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. To be a cinephile, critic, or simply a casual moviegoer is a fluid, ongoing process that neither ends nor peaks. Though it becomes increasingly rare as time passes, the act of discovering a a truly special movie is a revitalizing experience that makes all the bad ones more than worth it. Here, then, are just a few of the films I watched in 2011 that moved, humbled, or otherwise affected me:

I rarely cry during movies – not Make Way for Tomorrow, not Philadelphia, and certainly not the first fifteen minutes of Up – and when I do I don’t admit it. But The Elephant Man? Let’s just say I’m glad I watched it alone. David Lynch’s most successful film in terms of the extent to which box office receipts and awards consideration matched critical reception, it also stands as perhaps his best. The ping-ponging between linearity and abstraction (always leaning toward the latter even when grounded in the former) Lynch has exhibited throughout his career is here melded seamlessly; the aesthetic is unmistakably his own even as he transposes it onto a relatively “normal” milieu. There’s a naked innocence to Joseph Merrick that cuts through the black-and-white haze of his surroundings, and it’s there that the film shows its heart.

But all of this, for me, takes a backseat to how heartbreakingly forlorn it is. And I think there’s an important distinction to be made between “sad” and “depressing” in this case: The Elephant Man doesn’t offer a dim view of the world that aims to lessen one’s faith in humanity a la calculated, manipulative tearjerkers. It’s just sad in the truest sense of the word. Nothing comes to mind which achieves the same level of devastation; consider this my choice for Saddest Movie of All Time.

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