Modern Mondays

Cinebeats was recently mentioned (along with fellow bloggers Forward to Yesterday and Self-Styled Siren) in a piece by Danny Leigh for The UK Gaurdian titled The View: Why we love being stuck in the past.

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Top: Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch; 1984)
Middle: Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes; 1998)
Bottom: Felicia’s Journey (Atom Egoyan; 1999)

In Leigh’s extremely thoughtful and well-written piece he discusses how the DVD age has made it much easier for film enthusiasts to loose themselves in the many forgotten pleasures of the past and in turn, forsake modern cinema. As much as I’m deeply flattered to have Cinebeats mentioned in Leigh’s piece, the ideas that he explores in his article are somewhat problematic for someone like myself who isn’t afraid or ashamed to call herself a “cinephile.”


While it’s true that I only make it in to theaters two or three times a year to see a new film, this is mostly due to the high cost of ticket prices and the expense of going out to see a film these days. I have eclectic tastes and a lot of popular modern films hold no appeal for me, but an average night out at the movies with my guy will cost us about $20 and for that same price we were able to rent 15 films at Netflix last month. When it comes to my rental selections, I will almost always choose to watch an older film over a newer one mainly because a lot of previously hard to see films are being released for the first time in the US on DVD and I’m a firm believer that you need to understand the past in order to truly appreciate the future. Exploring the rich and endless history of cinema over the years has informed my perspective and helped shape my appreciation for the modern films I see. But it’s also made me extremely critical of many modern filmmakers who rely much too heavily on the past work of previous directors and seem to have trouble developing their own voice and individual style.

Contrary to what many people may assume, I’m not all that fond of modern films that borrow their lots from previous generations. It should also be pretty clear by now that I prefer the experimental, daring and avant-garde over the middlebrow, predictable and safe. I get the greatest enjoyment from the work of directors who push the boundaries of film and explore uncharted or unexpected territories. For example, I don’t understand why so many modern musicals seem stuck in the past and are unable to leave the early ’80s. With that in mind, I’d cherish the opportunity to watch Dancer in the Dark and Velvet Goldmine again any day of the week over Chicago and Mama Mia.

Simply put, my affection for ’60s and ’70s era cinema does not overshadow the enjoyment I get from many modern films. Two working directors who I appreciate a lot currently have movies playing in theaters. I’ve admired Jim Jarmusch’s work ever since I first saw Stranger Than Paradise in the mid ’80s so I’m really looking forward to seeing his latest film Limits of Control. If I compiled a list of my favorite films from the ’90s Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter and Felicia’s Journey would probably be on it so I’m extremely curious about Egoyan’s current film Adoration. And even though I don’t write about modern films at Cinebeats, you could find me happily sharing Twitter messages about new films recently shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival that I was looking forward to seeing such as Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void and Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.

With all this in mind, I’ve decided to start posting a new regular (or at least as often as I remember to) feature here at Cinebeats that I’m going to simply call Modern Mondays.

Every Monday I’ll try to find some free time to share my thoughts or just post a few images from one of my favorite post 1979 films. With 2010 on the near horizon I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my favorite films made in the the last decade and sadly, many of them have not received the critical attention or respect that I think they’re deserving of. At a time when attention spans and perspectives appear to be shrinking, it seems more important than ever to draw attention to the work of living artists and craftsmen who are using cinema in innovative ways. Hopefully I’ll be able to shine a light on some of my favorite modern films with Modern Mondays.

13 thoughts on “Modern Mondays

  1. Brian says:

    Looking forward to following this feature week to week! Your passions and knowledge from the period through 1979 should make for interesting perspectives on films made since then.

  2. AR says:

    Looking forward to the feature!
    I’m pretty sure you and I have discussed newer cinema, and while I think my attitude is a bit more forgiving than yours, I do think that those who watch a lot of movies (especially older movies) tend to be more discerning. This became very apparent to me last year when I rewatched Dances With Wolves and realized that most of its tone and gravitas was borrowed from Ford.

  3. Greg says:

    How great that you were mentioned in that piece Kimberly. Kudos to you, again. Your piece here neatly sums up my own feelings almost completely. And not to drudge up a bad past experience, but I agree with you on modern musicals like Dancer in the Dark. The more I thought about all the criticisms toward its story levied by myself and others in our discussion the less I cared and the more interested I became in the performances and the music. I’ve probably watched “I’ve Seen it All” thirty times now on my DVD of it and so many other moments and visuals in that film have stayed with me while things like Chicago and Mamma Mia have absolutely no staying power with me.

    I do like more modern movies than I let on as well but I just don’t find much time to discuss them on Cinema Styles. Part of it is because I see them long after everyone else has so a new review feels pointless. For instance, I still haven’t seen last years Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire despite high marks from so many, including you and Rick.

  4. Kimberly Lindbergs says:

    Brian – Thanks so much for being so supportive about the idea! I only wish I could turn this blog into a full-time job so I could spend all my free time writing about film. I have a horrible habit of announcing things here and then forgetting to follow up because I get distracted or just don’t find the time to follow through so I move onto other things.

    AR – Thanks a lot! I think one of my main beefs with a lot of the modern film criticism I read is that it really lacks perspective and seems extremely circular or reactive instead of informed. In turn I react even MORE negatively to the work of particular directors than I would have if I had approached the film without all that critical baggage. I usually try and minimize the amount of criticism I read about films I’d like to see until after I see them, but that’s not always the case. I know we’ve discussed Wes Anderson before for example and he’s a filmmaker whose work has been really growing on me in recent years, but it was definitely our chats that encouraged me to approach his films with more forgiving eyes. I try and never set my opinions in stone when it comes to film since there have been a few occasions where I see something and instantly dislike it only to return to it again and be very moved by it, but it’s not easy to keep such an open mind all the time.

    Greg – Thanks! It’s actually the second time that Cinebeats has been mentioned in The Gaurdian so someone there must enjoy my blog. Sorry if I brought up a bad memory, but it was fresh on my mind and I have a beef with modern musical right now that do absolutely nothing to move the genre forward (I’m looking at YOU High School Musical!). I think “I’ve Seen it All” is one of most magnificent moments in Dancer in the Dark and just a major accomplishment in modern filmmaking. I highly recommend the soundtrack but I tend to skip all the songs not sung by/with Bjork when I listen to it.

    With so many other bloggers writing about new films it can be a little disconcerting to join in the loud chorus of voices. I often wonder if I have anything new to say? I know with Slumdog for example that I was just shocked by a lot of the stuff I read that was written by critics who had clearly never seen a Bollywood film and didn’t understand how Slumdog’s narrative, structure, etc. was based on countless other Bollywood films that had come before it. And of course there’s this horrible urge by reactionary critics to come up with new catchphrases in an effort to draw attention to themselves and “poverty porn” became the new “torture porn.” Since I’ve been fond of Boyle’s films since first seeing Shallow Grave back in the early/mid ’90s I had the urge to write something positive which led to my pre-Oscar rant this year. Anyway, I’m rambling but hopefully “Modern Mondays” will introduce people to a few films they might have overlooked in the past.

  5. Peter Nellhaus says:

    When I was a film student in NYC, I mostly immersed myself in older films and foreign films. With DVDs I can do that again. I don’t mind newer filmmakers quoting from older films as long it’s not a re-hash of Psycho. It was interesting that you mention Velvet Goldmine because it does rework a scene from Citizen Kane in an unexpected way, and in a sense the film is a rock version of Orson Welles’ film.

    Of newer films, if you haven’t seen it, check out Chadni Chowk to China, Bollywood meets Chinese martial arts, co-produced by Warner Brothers!

    I did see all of the Oscar Best Picture nominees, and yes, Slumdog Millionaire was the best of that bunch. As for the critical assessment, it’s sad that too many “professional film critics” remain uninformed about cinema outside of the multiplex or Blockbuster.

  6. Kimberly Lindbergs says:

    Peter – I was lucky to grow up in a pre-cable TV household so I’ve been exposed to a large variety of older and classic films since I was a kid and my own interests grew from there. As much I envy the internet/DVD generation, it seems to have placed a much larger focus on whats “new” and “hot.” Besides cable channels like TCM (which I didn’t have access to until a few years ago) you really can’t find many pre-80s films playing on TV these days.

    Velvet Goldmine definitely borrows ideas from Citizen Kane, but Haynes is such a unique filmmaker that I think it works beautifully. By injecting his film with his own personal ideas about queer identity, etc. Haynes was able to bring something new and fresh to the table. Of course it would be nearly impossible to make a film without some of your influences making themselves known, but between all the remakes, “reimaginings” and straight out theft that seems to be going on right now in Hollywood, it often seems like directors are just regurgitating the last film they watched. So many working directors don’t seem to have anything original to offer that hasn’t been done better before.

    I haven’t seen Chadni Chowk to China, but it sounds interesting.

    While I’m bothered by the countless nameless critics who seem stuck in the multiplexes, I’m also not all that fond of the circular and insular criticism that often goes on in respected film journals. One Julien Duvivier (or Frank Tashlin or Shōhei Imamura, etc.) film festival in NY for example will suddenly yield a hundred Duvivier experts. I think it’s great to see Duviver’s career getting a much needed new assessment, but I wish more critics were willing and able to develop their own interests and own voices without being so concerned about receiving the stamp of approval from their peers.

  7. Bob says:

    Hey Kimberly — How cool to be mentioned in the same breath with you and the Siren…so why didn’t Leigh link to us? If it hadn’t been for your piece, I never would have known about it. (Putting “”forward to yesterday” in Google alerts is asking for trouble. It’s a more commonly used phrase than you’d ever think!) Anyhow, he gave me quite a shout-out some time ago over a piece I did on David Mamet’s political switcheroo (if that’s what it was) before the last election.

    Anyhow, nice piece and I look forward to “Modern Mondays” for pre-forgive you if they do not arrive every Monday. I’ve made one or two broken blog non-promises myself.

    Re: my pet film genre, I like “Chicago” (though not so much how it was edited), but I see your point and definitely feel that both “Dancer in the Dark” and “Velvet Goldmine” are more interesting and emotionally powerful films — though “Chicago” is coming from the cold Fosse-esque place. (I’m dreading watching “Mamma Mia” — looks pretty godawful, at least on a purely visual level).

    But, then again, I tend to approach films mostly from the narrative/theatrical traditional I’m the guy whose blog slogan is “Reactionary Aesthetics and Liberal Politics,” so it’s funny that we agree as often as we do.

    Perhaps you’ve written about, but the film that seems missing to me here is “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” which is probably my favorite musical of recent years. Another intriguing one that’s much more obscure but really fun (as long as the musical numbers are happening, anyway) is “Colma: the Musical” — what absolutely floored me was that they figured out a way to make a zero-budget musical, using only real locations, so often the touch of death for musicals. It was a fascinating matter of taking a different attitude to musical numbers than you usually see.

  8. Kimberly Lindbergs says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Bob. I was happy to be in such good company.

    It’s fascinating to me how musicals seem stuck in the early ’80s. Especially when you consider how popular music has changed, transformed and divided into so many genres. This year’s Oscar show was prime example of what I’m talking about. I just didn’t understand the appeal of it all. It failed on every level for me, but critics seemed to love this years Oscar show so what do I know?

    Musicals hold a special place in my heart but I’m disappointed with the way the genre has developed.

    I have seen Hedgwig and recently a bit of Colma, which I caught on TV. I enjoyed elements of both films and Hedwig had a lot of appeal for me. I’m glad you mentioned them though. Hedwig and Velvet Goldmine would make a great double feature!

  9. Steve Langton says:

    Good to read The Guardian has recognised your work. Nice one.
    Know exactly where you are coming from re cinema trips. My wife and I go to the movies about half a dozen times per year, as it’s so damn expensive when you put bus fares into the mix. We’re lucky to be well served by an excellent DVD rental company, and try to rent a mix of new and retrospective fare. I fully agree the past enables us to better appreciate modern movies and also to witness how much is simply a riff on olders and betters. Back in the day, I used to be a reg at the cinema and remember the buzz I got from seeing the likes of Diva, Blood Simple, Blue Velvet and Santa Sangre for the first time on the big screen.
    Two evenings ago, we viewed Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave on DVD. I’d say it’s still his best work to date (much as I enjoyed Slumdog), and it took me back to its opening theatrical run when I caught the film on 4 occasions.
    I think I’d have loved to have been a reg movie-goer in the 60s and 70s when the likes of Hammer, Performance and The Wicker Man were part of some great double bills with an abundance of theatres within easy reach.
    I guess we’re lucky to have DVD and excellent blogs like your own to keep the flame burning.
    Look forward to “Modern Mondays”.

  10. Bob Westal says:

    They actually do that “Hedwig”/”Goldmine” double bill from time to time at the New Beverly here in SoCal land. I’m not sure, but it’s possible I actually saw both films the first time that way.

  11. Kimberly Lindbergs says:

    Steve – Thanks a lot! It is amazing how much it costs to see a film these days and of course $20 for 2 people doesn’t include the extra costs of buying drinks and some snacks or paying for gas and parking. In the ’90s local movie theaters and revival houses had something called $2 Tuesdays which we took full advantage of. But it’s really hard to lure me into a theater these days. And it’s nice to see some goods words about Shallow Grave which is one of my favorite Boyle films (along with Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Sunshine). slum Dog is not in the same ranks as those films imo but it’s still one of the better Oscar winning films of the last 10 years. Of course, depending on your views that might not be saying a whole hell of a lot.

    Bob – It makes sense that some smart theater like the New Beverly would show those two films as a double feature. I caught Velvet Goldmine during it’s initial release and loved it, but I’m still surprised by the negative critical attention it received.

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