Before We Take Off...

When I woke up this morning at 4 a.m., after ignoring the usual rowdy and largely misplaced New Year’s celebrating of my neighbors the night before, I had the first half-dozen hours of the day mapped out already. Thanks to my steady adherence to my film-watching mission of the last six months – The 46x60 or So Project – I found myself due for early hour meetings with a blustery Rod Steiger carrying his version of Napoleon toward his fate, Alan Arkin essaying the role of the most caring but devastatingly lonely deaf-mute in film history, and a venomous transsexual with Rex Reed’s mind inside Raquel Welch’s body, bent on not only sadistically trashing thousands of years of male-female archetypes, but taking modern Hollywood out with him/her as well.

I didn’t plan on watching Waterloo (1970), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968) or the infamous flop Myra Breckinridge (also 1970) this morning. It just happened that they were the next ones on my Netflix queue, and so… here we are. I have now seen a Sergei Bondarchuk epic without having seen War and Peace. It has now been revealed to me that there might have been a point in time where Sondra Locke might have shown some acting ability. And I am now filled with delight in discovering that, yes, while Myra Breckinridge is every bit as shitty as every single critic in the world has already relayed to us (mainly for the Mae West scenes and the old film clips), I still rather dug just how fucked up the whole thing was and rather enjoyed that it pushes the buttons that it does. And that is not a reference to the strap-on sodomy scene… but take it how you will. (Or exactly how you want it, you bad boy.)

This has been the overall fun of following the list I created through the last half of 2009: never knowing what I am going to get into or where I am going. Some nights it is a pile of documentaries on civil rights and door-to-door salesmen; on other nights, underdeveloped dramas or mistimed comedies; another night, true cinematic masterpieces of which I have largely missed out. Most nights, I am hit with a mixture of various elements and genres, and so mind has to bounce from one to the next without a pause. As a result, more than ever, I have learned to take my usual pre-film maxim of “clearing my mind, checking any attitude at the door, and erasing all preconceptions going in” to another sharper and faster level.

Since September 30, when I began keeping a regular journal on the films I am watching throughout this experiment (which I should have done from the start, I now recognize belatedly), I have watched 220 films over 94 days, including today. This means I am averaging just over 2.34 films a day, though I doubt that I can keep this pace up now that the holiday season has passed, and as I get deeper and deeper into upcoming work-related projects that will consume some of my outside time. So, how have I kept this pace up? Easy. I often watch a film, or most of a film, before I go to work in the morning, and then it is a simple matter of finding 1-1/2 to 2 hours in the evening to watch another one. How much is Jen involved in this madness? Hardly at all, it turns out… our schedules are so remarkably different, that I still have a massive amount of time on my hands. It is never a problem to find the time to watch another film, or even two or three extra films, in the evening if I feel like it. I also tend to save longer, more epic films for the weekend when I can really sprawl out with them, and watch the shorter films within the work week.

Most people watch a tremendous amount of TV or videos (or spend hours on video games) without ever realizing just how much time they are using. Making it a routine means not noticing this. It becomes habit. I just happen to maximize the amount of time that I can watch films, and I use spare moments when I find them. I just don’t hesitate. I see a moment, I grab it the chance to zip through 15 minutes of a film in the way most guys grab any spare opportunity to knock one out on the side.

Granted, this time will decrease now that I plan to begin writing full-time again, but by focusing so hard over the last 94 days, I have gained a wonderful jump-start on this project. I only have one available film left for 1964, and two each left to see for 1965 and 1966. 1967 is down to 12 films left to see, while 1968, after today, is down to 25, after starting at 58 films to watch total (89 overall, 31 not on DVD). Already, I have taken care of the bulk of films in the 1960s on my list, and I have barely started.

I have also barely started to write about the Project, detailing the climb to the top of my Tower of Film. I have already seen so many films about which I was previously unlearned or unaware, and I have been very surprised at my reactions to some of them, and shocked to learn how overhyped some others have been over the years. This is the way of opinion, and the way of film discovery. If you are truly honest with yourself and the way you approach your emotions, then everything should be used as a chance of discovery and knowledge. There are equal amounts of marvels and horrors in every corner, but do you have the guts to seek them out and reveal them?

Combined with the revelation I made not long ago that, in many ways, I was practically a poser when it came to film fandom, this is what drives me. I now feel it is my mission to see all of these films. Earlier this week, I revealed to Jen the lamentable fact that I had to watch The Cannonball Run II that evening because it was on my list. She replied, “You don’t have to watch it. You choose to watch it.” My reply? “No, I have to watch it. It’s on THE LIST.” And then she closes with “Uh huh…” in disbelief. We have run through this dialogue many times over the past couple of months, but I am starting to believe that my helplessness in the shadow of The 46x60 or So Project has finally broken through to her.

Yesterday, I revealed to her the even more lamentable fact that I had to watch Look Who’s Talking Too that evening, thanks to a pair of Golden Raspberry nominations for Gilbert Gottfried's acting and Roseanne Barr’s voice, which landed the film onto the Project list. This time she replied, “Ooooohhhhh…” Not even a sardonic “…poor you…” attached to it. I believe that she truly felt my pain. Not enough to bear the burden with me, but there was some empathy on her part. And then I did indeed watch it, and felt like drilling a hole through my temple every step of the way. But I had to do it.

It is the way of things at the beginning of this "happy" new year. And certain films I encounter along the way will make it seem not so "happy." But, I have no choice. It is now the way of things…



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