For me, 2008 was a “looking backward” year in terms of film. Since none of my favorite directors or studios was releasing anything, and since I don’t often take chances on “unknowns” in the theater, I spent a good deal of time perusing the library’s collections, and looking backward. Following are my annotated staff picks:
The only relatively “new” film to make my Staff Picks list in 2008 was the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. In my childhood, I celebrated more than one birthday party in a shopping mall arcade, and was, in my own way, a video game junkie. I never much liked Donkey Kong, but watching a documentary about a guy who challenges the reigning Donkey Kong champion to defend his long-held title was a reminder of just how mild my case of arcade addiction was.
Next on my list, in reverse order, was Hula Girls, a 2006 film dramatizing the story of the “re-purposing” of an about-to-be-shuttered coal mining village in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan as a Hawaiianesque hot spring resort. (Compare Iwaki’s average annual temperature of 55.6 F with Honolulu at 77.2 to imagine the challenges of emulating Hawaii in cooler climes.) The idea of opening a tropical beach resort on top of a coal mine doesn’t receive the unanimous approval of certain of the mining families who have risked life and limb in dark tunnels of rock for decades, but some of the coal miners’ daughters sign onto the dream and learn how to hula. If you still think I’m making this up, click here to read the company history of Spa Resort Hawaiians.
Next was the 2004 PBS reality show Colonial House which features eager volunteers re-enacting five months of American colonial life from 1628, lived by people born with 20th and 21st century ideals and upbringings but equipped with tools, skills, and a rule book explaining the etiquette and standards of the 17th century. Brilliant, thought-provoking, and highly recommended.
Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru is about the choices we make about what really matters to us when we choose to face our mortality. Kurosawa invites us to take a step back to look at the structures and systems which we consciously and unconsciously allow to structure and give meaning to our lives.
My final choice takes me back more than two decades to about fifth grade when I became, for about two years, addicted to Charlie Chaplin’s funniest films. I even dressed up as Charlie Chaplin for Halloween, and won awards, and had a portrait of Joey as Charlie in my bedroom for most of my school years. Now, more than 20 years later, I watched my first Chaplin film since about fifth grade. Monsieur Verdoux showed me a different, deeper, darker side of Chaplin, and made me wonder what else I might find as I look backward, from time to time.
2009 is a year more of looking forward, but my thoughts in that vein will need to wait until next time…
Posted under Movies