Thursday, July 28, 2011

Art House in the Middle of the Street #0: The End's Not Near, It's Here

The end is here. The Earth is one continuous, blighted landscape. Fossil fuels are as distant a memory as the great prehistoric beasts from which they originated. The wastes are ruled by marauding psychopathic biker gangs. Either that or a somewhat minor culture blog is calling it quits. I can't quite remember.

Ending a feature mid-stream as I'm doing with Art House is a somewhat disappointing resolution. Then again, I really only proposed the thing so I could have an excuse to watch a Janus movie every week. And because I still own the box, I could ostensibly keep doing that. Chances are, though, that I probably won't.

Why not? With a few purely enjoyable exceptions (Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast), the movies contained in "Essential Art House" aren't what you'd qualify as "easy watches." They can be agonizingly slow (Ozu's Floating Weeds) or terrifyingly sere (Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain).

Mostly, I'm tempted by the easy stuff. I'll rewatch the same episodes of Parks and Recreation or The Wire, or spend time in the tidy and safely rebellious world of Veronica Mars before I jump into any kind of difficult art. This reflects both my casual intellectual cowardice (a minor fault, all things considered) and the fact that I rarely have two hours to set aside to watch, you know, a movie. So many of the entries in "50 Years of Janus Films" will probably sit unwatched for much longer than they would have if this feature were continuing.

This is akin to most Americans' view of classic literature. Sure, I could pick up Joyce's "Portrait of an Artist" and read it for funzies1. But most likely, those classics I never read in schoolwill remain unread. Sad, but true.

I for one viewed Charge Shot!!! as an opportunity to revive obligatory3  arts consumption in my own life. Watch, read, think about those things that I wouldn't otherwise but that were also "good for me."4

But there comes a time in all our lives when we have to start doing things not because we're forced but because we actually want to do them. If there's something keeping me from watching a classic art film each week, perhaps I should consider watching them, you know, not every week. I don't wanna eat Brussels sprouts with every meal.

Needed a second picture. Chose this one.
I can't speak to each writer's individual motivation for wanting to bring Charge Shot!!! to an end, but I think we're all at the point where we no longer need to erect artificial walls for ourselves to vault over. I do enjoy writing about film and television, but I've realize I want to actually write film and television. So I put my time into making that a reality. One of CS' erstwhile editors is in Iraq right now, because it's his dream to work for a newspaper's international bureau.

I think that's at least partially why we do things in groups: to motivate one another to do what we wouldn't do on our own. Books clubs, cross country teams, charitable organizations: with more people around, it's harder to slack off.

In the end, though, you won't stay in those groups if you don't really want to be there. And if you really do want to be there, the nature of the group doesn't matter much (as far as your own personal achievement is concerned, a least). To put it another way: we all do what we want to do, no matter who it's with. Sounds a tad fatalistic, I know, but that's not my intention: I'm exhorting personal initiative, if anything. Nobody's going to make you do something you don't want.

In other words, the end of Charge Shot!!! is indeed goodbye for now. But as bittersweet as this moment is, I know I view it more than anything as a righteous kick in the ass: "No more excuses, buddy boy. You gotta figure this shit out for yourself."

See you soon, Charge Shooters; in this life or the next.

Next Week - Life

- Photo courtesy of DisputeAbout

1 I tried, by the way, and failed.
2 To give you an idea of my high school English department's crapitude: they swapped out Catcher in the Rye for Barbara  Kingsolver's The Bean Trees and had us read Lance Armstrong's biography for summer reading.
3 Obligatory insofar as "You have to do it, or Andrew will yell at you."
I won't refer to hard art as "medicine," since that implies that you're "sick" if you don't consume it.