Top 10 lists are a universally reviled form of critical expression for a reason: they force the thoughtful fluidity and artfulness of criticism into the confines of ascending order. It’s an exercise as banal as arranging a class of elementary school students by height. Countless stratagems exist that allow list-makers to ease the blow of their pointless task, though the successful approach for me has always been simple irony. See my inclusion of Tron: Legacy in last year’s top 10 list, or 2012 the year before that: two really bad movies meant to serve as a middle-finger to the very existence of year-end top 10 lists.
This year, I approached the list differently. I still don’t think of it as a serious critical process. I think of it as an impression. These are the first films I remembered when I thought about the experiences I had in movie theaters this year. Any picture I couldn’t remember on my own wouldn’t deserve a place below. In fact, I’m glad to have forgotten about the films I saw in 2011 that I can’t remember. They were the high school acquaintances of my movie-going experience. Their only suitable future purpose can be to serve as obscure punchlines. (more…)
(Might be a few–you know–spoilers here.)
After watching the finale of Mad Men‘s third season on Sunday night, I feel embarrassed. How could I have honestly thought that Don Draper would leave 1963 crying over his dissolved marriage or whining in his office at Sterling Coo?
Someone at Roger Sterling’s daughter’s wedding said that we, America, recovered from FDR’s death by dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No one, it was his implication, looked back. Don Draper once said there was no American history. There’s no history of Americans, you could say–as individuals we have no personal histories, nothing but where we are and where we’re going. North American Aviation. The Moon. The War in Vietnam. (Eventually, bell-bottoms.) Besides, you never saw yourself where you where anyway.
Sunday night, everyone expected tragedy–we expected a rerun of JFK getting shot, another one of our idols to come crashing down. He didn’t. Draper spent most of this season genuinely bored–sleepwalking through an affair, so bored at work he was convinced he could do everyone else’s job. By now, you know the story–it was like a great men on a mission movie, but, you know, on Madison Avenue. Don regained his sense of purpose. It’s a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning, he could have only found after the lack engendered by JFK’s assassination. A moment of pervasive emptiness–what did we do?–we did something. America hates a vacuum. Last night Draper filled his vacuum with a torrid sense of urgency that will propel him–where else–into the future.