Monday, June 27, 2011

Where Are These 2010 Films?

I've seen nearly a hundred films from 2010 now, and I have that preliminary top ten list in draft, but it's still going to be a couple of months before some crucial titles from the 2010 awards season hit Region 1 North American DVD, and I can get my hands on them. These include Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix winner "Of Gods and Men," Palm D'Or winner "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," and Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner "In A Better World," all being released in July. A few oddball titles like "Barney's Version," "The Tempest," and "Jackboots on Whitehall" are also scheduled for DVD releases over the next few months.

Almost every film released in the United States in 2010 (that I have any interest in) should be on DVD by September. However, there are enough missing and delayed titles that I'm facing the frustrating reality that there are some I just won't be able to watch in any reasonable amount of time, and will have to leave out of the final tally. I'm a completist, remember, which is why it takes me so long to compile my Top Ten lists to begin with. A lot of this has to do with figuring out what counts as a 2010 film. Last year, after a lot of back and forth, I settled on pegging a film's release date to its date of release in its home country. So film festival screenings wouldn't count, and films stuck in distribution limbo like "Tucker & Dale vs Evil," which is finally going to reach theaters this fall, get a reprieve.

However, I've become acutely aware that there are a lot of interesting foreign films, like Abdellatif Kechiche's "Venus Noire" and Catherine Breillat's "The Sleeping Beauty," both released last year in France, that didn't get domestic distribution and aren't going to reach US DVD shelves any time soon. Unless they pop up on Netflix's Instant Watch in the near future, I'll have to leave them out. And I really should have seen the blockbuster Chinese earthquake film "Aftershock" by now, which did get a very small US release back in October, but there's no domestic DVD release plans that I can find. I can hunt down a Region 2 Asian DVD though - not hard if you're in the vicinity of a decent Chinatown.

Anime films present a bigger headache. There are at least three anime titles from 2010 that I'd love to see, including the latest Studio Ghibli film, "The Borrower Arriety." All of them are being prepped for US theatrical releases, but not until 2012 at the earliest because of the time required to create English dubs. That means subtitled versions won't hit Region 1 DVD until months after that. "The Borrower Arriety" is already available on Japanese DVD with English subtitles, but the price is about double that of a domestic DVD, not counting shipping costs. I hope to find cheaper versions dubbed in Mandarin soon, which is how I saw my earliest Ghibli films anyway. I may be a completist, but I'm also working on a budget here.

I could count 2010 films based on US release dates, I suppose, which would avoid the problem. But then we still have the case of "Tiny Furniture," an extremely well received independent film directed by Lena Dunham, that had a limited release back in November. It was so well received, in fact, it's being released on DVD by the prestigious Criterion Collection. The problem is that Criterion, due to their higher standards and unconventional release patterns, probably won't be putting the film on shelves until sometime in 2012. I really don't want to compile my Top Ten list without seeing it, but I don't want to wait until 2012 for Criterion either. But there's no other way to view "Tiny Furniture," no regular DVD release, no digital version available purchase, and no sign of it on Hulu or Netflix.

I know, I know. This is all my own fault, trying to impose some kind of logical order on a film distribution system that defies all attempts at logic. But it's these few remaining stragglers that are the ones that are in the most danger of being overlooked and unappreciated. And honestly, I kind of like putting out a really, really late Top Ten list when all the titles are actually accessible to anyone reading it, which you can't say of the ones compiled way back in November and December. What I'm probably going to end up doing is just picking an arbitrary cut-off date and pick my Top Ten from the films I've managed to see so far. Maybe it'll be October again, but I might push it back a month or two if an impending release for "Tiny Furniture" or "Sleeping Beauty" does pop up on the radar during that time.

While I'm waiting, I guess I should get going on 2011. So much to watch, so little time.

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