Sunday, January 02, 2011


Members of the Japanese girl-pop group AKB48, featured on this year's NHK New Year's Eve Variety Special, wish you a Happy and Prosperous 2011!

I used to hate the New Year’s holiday. Growing up, it always seemed like Christmas’s sloppy seconds, an extension of relaxation time, sure, but also a time to ruminate upon the fact that the big one was really over, a time for the disappointment of everyday life (which was never as much fun as anticipating Christmas) to start seeping back in. And it all built up to a midnight celebration that seemed more obligatory than filled with genuine feeling or excitement or hope. At least my own family’s New Year’s Eve “parties” always did—How thrilling could the ringing in of the new year really have been if the signature image I have of those momentous occasions is a plastic platter filled with mixed nuts and unevenly sliced squares of sweaty cheddar cheese? But eventually, to paraphrase Coach B.A. Strothers (G.D. Spradlin) dressing down his one of his star players, a deflated Phil Elliot (Nick Nolte) in North Dallas Forty, it became time to put away childish ways of noting the passage of a previous year and the arrival of another. (Strothers was quoting the Koran, I believe.)

When I moved to Los Angeles I spent most of my 30s playing the “I’m Required to Go Out on New Year’s Eve and Have Fun” game, which resulted in probably about one or two hours of actual fun over the course of seven or eight years of midnight partying. (Most of the time was spent twisting in the wind and whiling away the moments before the big ball dropped in the company of my soon-to-be-wife and her then-boyfriend, third-wheel style.) But since we’ve been married we’ve spent every New Year’s Eve enjoying the holiday in the Japanese manner, and I’ve never looked back at a December 31st with regret since. We don’t even stay till midnight at my wife’s parents’ house anymore. The Japanese New Year's Eve variety show we watch every year to commemorate the occasion is rebroadcast from a transmission that runs live at 6:00 am, so the local NHK affiliate here can schedule the program at an earlier hour. What used to begin at 8:30 or 9:00 and end somewhere around 2:00 a.m. now starts at 6:00 and ends tidily at 10:30 p.m. By then we’ve already raised our glasses over a lovely sushi dinner and can pack our tired, pajama-clad kids into the car for a pre-midnight ride home. And honestly, as a 50-year-old man with a generous portion of everyday worry, there’s no place I’d rather be at 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve than tucked into my bed with my wife, two squirmy preteen hot potatoes tucked between us, watching Dick Clark, conqueror of old age and now, apparently, debilitating medical trauma, carry on in his bid for pop culture immortality. Doesn’t look like the ball drops anymore, but chanting a string of descending numbers gets the idea across just fine nonetheless.

But there’s something about getting older and thinking back on those loved who have been lost that has made me look upon the end of the year as a time not for obligatory celebration, but for genuine reflection and appreciation. And so, if quoting myself isn’t entirely too gauche, let me do it just this once:

"When I was a young boy a very wise school teacher once told me to never keep all my thanksgiving bottled up for the official holiday but to spread it throughout the whole year. I certainly remembered that instruction (I was a second or a third-grader, I believe), but I sometimes wonder if I do very well at honoring it and living it out. If so, then good grades all around. But if not, then I can only ask for the indulgence and forgiveness of everyone around me who deserves better. Let this week be the reckoning and the restitution."

In that spirit, all my thanks, best wishes, and everything good I can generate from my heart and my brain toward a happier, more productive and more surprising 2011 to everyone who has touched my life in a positive way in 2010. Those cherished folks include (off the top of my bald head):

Bruce Lundy, Patty Cozzalio, Nonie Cozzalio, Emma Cozzalio, Yoneo and Kimiko Yokoe, Reggie and Neoma Cozzalio, Don Mancini, Danny Getzoff, Michael Torgan, Farran Smith Nehme, Peet Gelderblom, Charles Taylor, Stephanie Zacharek, David Edelstein, Phil Blankenship, Julia Marchese, Melissa Ashbaugh, Ali Arikan, Ariel Schudson, Brian Conboy, Paul Reilly, Scott Schoenberg, Scott Hewitt, Katie Warrener, Sarah Countryman, Liz DeKam, Kimberly Braasch, Sean Newcombe, Doug Cotton, Cathie Horlick, Richard Harland Smith, Paul Gaita, Jeff Allard, Nicholas McCarthy, Greg Ferrara, Bill Ryan, Lucas McNelly, Bob Westal, Keith Uhlich, Ed Gonzalez, Matt Zoller Seitz, David Leslie Johnson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jennifer Tilly, Vanwall Green, Peg Aloi, David Cairns, Dottie Soghomonian, Teresa Peplow, Martisa Mapp, Brian Saur, Aaron Aradillas, Michael Miller, Lyn Lasneski, Paul Brunick, Jim Emerson, Paul Matwychuk, Katherine Wilson, Simon Abrams, Sheila O’Malley, Jason Bellamy, Ed Howard, Anne Thompson, Anne Richardson, Tom Sutpen, John McElwee, Deirdre Games, Becky Levine, Bill Cadbury, Chris Stangl, Paul Herndon, Dan Jardine, Haruka Sometani, Janet Leehman, Jeff McMahon, Jeff Thurman, Jennifer and Jeff Owen, Jennifer Tini, Kelly Reichardt, Jim Hassinger Jon Lanthier, Nick Schager, Mike Werb, Michelle Brien, Patrick Robbins, Paul Clark, Peter Avellino, Peter Podgursky, Philip Concannon, Rob Humanick, Sal Gomez, Scooter Burbank and the Shotgun Break, Shannon Fanourakis, Shawnee Smith, Sue Swingle Elder and Terrea Bryson… (deep inhale)

And of course, to everyone who reads this little project of mine, now well into its sixth year of diverting your attention (and mine) from the more pressing matters of the day my best wishes as well. Your patience during this rather slow period on the blog is very much appreciated and will soon be rewarded with a treasure trove of reading designed to amuse you during that precious bathroom alone-time. And there is actually is plenty to look forward to, a 2011 countdown to ecstasy if you will (and if your standards are similar to mine) on tap for the coming month:

• Old friend Lucas McNelly is an independent filmmaker who is not afraid to keep himself on the cutting edge of creative storytelling and creative ways of financing those projects. He’s about to embark on an ambitious, year-long undertaking called A Year Without Rent, what I like to think of as a Travels with Charley for the age of truly independent, D.I.Y. filmmaking, and he’ll be along here to talk about the origins of the project and the adventure which lies just ahead.

• And speaking of D.I.Y., next week, after many years of envious enjoyment reading the Slate Movie Club and its stellar roster of film critics ruminating on the past year in film, I decided it was time we did our own version. So I contacted four of the smartest people I know and asked them if they’d be interested in trading observations on the movies and movie trends of 2010 over the span of a week, and they said yes! So starting next Monday, January 10, you can join Jason Bellamy, Jim Emerson, Don Mancini, Sheila O’Malley and myself as we hash it out in the SLIFR Movie Club. Slate’s doing theirs that week too, and that’s the one thing we probably won’t talk about!

• Then there’s my annual long-winded, hopefully not so long-delayed as last year’s, roundup of The Year in Film, in which my picks of the year are unveiled and surrounded by a circus of meaningless observations and hot air regarding the good things and bad things I saw happening at the movies during the last 12 months. I’ll try not to give away too many surprises during the Movie Club, but I did do a bit of a turnaround on a movie I saw last summer, and it won’t surprise many, I’m sure, to find out that Black Swan is likely to appear only during the Razzie portion of my program. I’ve still got a few titles to catch up on, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that I might have everything ready for you to read sometime before the end of the month, unless my stint on jury duty on January 24 somehow monkeys with my writing schedule. Stay tuned.

• Finally, Edgar Wright returns to the New Beverly Cinema in January with a two-week cell block riot of movie programming called The Wright Stuff II. Wright’s original series in 2008 was the inspiration for other filmmakers and actors like Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich, Patton Oswalt, Rian Johnson and Diablo Cody to come up with their own mini film festivals, so it should be a real rush to see what Wright has in mind for an encore. Schedules permitting, I’m hoping to have a chance to sit down for a chat with him about the festival, in which we’ll talk about his career, his influences, the reception of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (which many found more wonderful than I did) and, of course, the smashing lineup of movies and special guests he’s got lined up. Look for my interview with Edgar Wright right here sometime around January 14.

Hopefully that’s not all, but just looking at it written out here it feels like a month’s worth of goodies to me! Here’s to a great month to start out 2011 at SLIFR and to the endurance of my typing fingertips to bring it all to you!



le0pard13 said...

The best to you and yours in the New Year, Dennis. Thanks.

Paul Matwychuk said...

Have a wonderful 2011, Dennis. Reading your blog is one of the things that made 2010 worthwhile for me. I often feel a palpable ache that I live so far away from Los Angeles and the New Beverly Cinema, and so am unable to partake of what seems like a warm, wonderful and welcoming bunch of movie-lovers who have made that theatre their headquarters.

Can't wait to read your thoughts (and those of your Movie Clubmates) on the year in film!

Philip Concannon said...

Happy New Year, Dennis. Reading this blog has been a consistent pleasure during 2010 and I'm looking forward to everything you've got planned for this year. In particular, I can't wait for the Movie Club; what a smart collection of contributors you've got lined up for that.

Mr. Peel aka Peter Avellino said...

Now that's some good company to be in! Many thanks for the kind shout out, Dennis, and a Very Happy New Year to you as well.