So, a little while ago (checks calendar, shakes head in shame) Okay, so, two years ago I accepted Tyler’s invitation to take part in a project that would allow me to blog about the analytical and personal nuance of each film that made up my Top Ten Favorite Films. The distinction, if you remember, between what I was classifying as my Top Ten Favorites and not Top Ten Best was that the former was almost entirely informed by personal, emotionally, and chronologically subjectivity – what some would call “intangible factors” – whereas the latter was and is completely beyond my knowledge and exposure to even contemplate attempting. Titles on this list would not necessarily contain those to which the AFI or AMPAS would hand out awards, but would contain titles that I return to again and again no matter where I am in my life geographically or emotionally.
Thus, in November 2014 I began my list with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a film widely considered a classic of its genre, albeit a genre that is largely still looked down upon in traditional critical circles. What followed was a partially completed list distributed sporadically across 11 months that took an indefinite hiatus after my seventh favorite film, John Carpenter’s The Thing. Where was the rest of the list? Why the delay? What happened?
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them. – T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding
You can trace every wrinkle on her face. She speaks carefully, measuring each word. Every now and then, she strokes the necklace around her throat. Surrounded by nothing but the studio’s pitch blackness, she seems suspended timelessly in time and space. She looks ahead with now sightless eyes, her vision fixed on something we cannot see. Her words hang in the still air, unpunctuated by narration, music or sound effects. She is 105 years old. She is Brunhilde Pomsel, former stenographer for Dr. Joseph Goebbels.
The Soloist is one of those movies that should have been Oscar-level big, yet somehow never cleared the bar with critics or fans. In the spirit of Rain Man, you had one big-name actor doing a single-note virtuoso savant impression (Jamie Foxx), while another big-name actor took the more nuanced role of the protagonist who grows and changes through his encounter with the savant (Robert Downey, Jr.). Plus, this too-good-to-be-true story of a homeless, schizophrenic Juilliard drop-out and the journalist who discovered him had the benefit of actually being true, albeit a little fictionalized. But Joe Wright’s jerky direction, coupled with a sometimes cryptic script that went out of its way to avoid hitting sentimental beats, left this would-be Oscar bait hanging without so much as a nomination. Yet, despite its flaws, it’s a movie that’s stuck with me ever since I first saw it.