When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand
The Best Work of 2009

I don’t do Top Ten lists.

I think they’re ridiculous.  As a frequent film festival juror, I’ve seen films that never got a commercial release (or sometimes even a festival screening timeslot) that were much better than anything distributed during the year.  A similar scenario:  about a decade ago, J. Hoberman listed Lawrence Brose’s DE PROFUNDIS as the best film of the year.  I agree it was brilliant, yet in Chicago (where I was living at the time) the film had only one screening in a classroom at the School of the Art Institute, where less than 30 people were in attendance, and none of them were critics or reviewers.  So when a top ten list is generated, it usually encompasses films that had a wide commercial release, and were sufficiently marketed so that they appeared on the cultural radar.  These qualifiers become so hyper-situational that the result is total nonsense.  When you add to this the usual journo-crit rhetoric of the author promoting himself as an unbiased tastemaker, the credibility just goes out the window.

I will however take the time to praise the work that impressed me the most in 2009 (thanks to a birthday gift from my other half), the book Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life by Sam Staggs.

First, Staggs is one of the best writers around, period.  His voice on the page is witty, lucid, refreshing and surgically insightful.  And we movie lovers are fortunate that he pours his talents into research of the disciplines and psychological crossroads of Filmmaking.

Born to Be Hurt takes us deep into the psyches of the creatives and the exigencies of the creation involved in this landmark film.  It’s neither a dry chronology nor a piecemeal chain of trivia, but a social study of the production of the film, from the backlot fire at Universal that necessitated shooting at other studios, to the always-precarious career status of its main actors.  All written in absorbing and engaging prose.

I can’t recommend it enough!

Doug / PoMo Joan

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