Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 (and Earlier) in Review: An Introductory Overview

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J.—This week, to celebrate the coming New Year's Eve and Day on Thursday and Friday, I'll be taking stock of 2009 personally, cinematically and otherwise here at My Life, at 24 Frames Per Second. Expect lists galore: favorite films of the year, and possibly of the decade; favorite discoveries, artistic and personal, of the year; and the like. And on New Year's Day, I'll try to look ahead to 2010—most likely, on what I hope to achieve in my life in the coming year.

To kick off this retrospective week, then, a brief reflection on the year in my life that was.

Truth is, I'm already waiting for 2010 to come, because 2009, when I consider it broadly, felt, at best, more like a year of transition than great leaps forward. I'm still working basically the same job now that I was at the beginning of the year, even if the location has changed (I started the year working in lower Manhattan, at the World Financial Center; now I'm in midtown Manhattan, at the News Corp. building). As far as my film writing goes, I'm still doing it as a side hobby, i.e. not getting paid for doing it full-time. And, of course, I am still living at home with my family, making long commutes to New York both for and outside of work.

However, even though many things have essentially stayed the same from January to December, I like to think I have made some progress this year in paving the way for possible changes in the year ahead. I finally made my first writerly contributions to The Wall Street Journal online this year while toiling away at my day job at the international news desk; I hope my work is catching the attentions of the right people in my field. Regarding people in the field, I finally got around to meeting some of the New York-based critics and cinephiles I had, until this year, only known via their online and/or print reviews. (The fact that some of these esteemed writers, upon meeting me for the first time, received me almost as if I was a minor celebrity surprised and delighted me even more.) And as for my living situation: well, I don't know if the fact that my parents—my mother, mostly—are trying to lay the groundwork for my future living situation by buying a house in Perth Amboy, N.J., of all places, is a sign of progress considering the fact that I don't plan to actually live in Perth Amboy. (This is probably one of those things I'm being pushed into—because, you know, my parents know better what I want and need than I do.) But it's something, I suppose. (I think their thinking  is that, by taking advantage of the low housing prices now, I can earn enough rental income from this Perth Amboy house in order to be able to afford to buy a house somewhere in or close to New York years down the road.)

And, even amidst the overwhelming feeling of stasis in my life—odd, considering that the world around me this year, what with the nation's economic, political and global-affairs troubles, sometimes felt on the verge of near-apocalyptic collapse—there were still considerable pleasures worth remembering and savoring this year.

Chief among them was my first-ever visit to Hong Kong in October, in which I spent five mostly glorious days not only taking in its intoxicating multicultural big-city atmosphere, but also simply enjoying the freedom of being on my own—a feeling I don't experience all that much living at home as I do. (I didn't feel that sense of freedom in the three days I spent in Japan after my Hong Kong venture, mostly because my parents, aunt and I were locked into a rather lame tour package; I'm already looking forward to returning to Japan to visit on my own.)

The other highlight of the year I can recall off the top of my head right now: seeing and hearing legendary French film director Alain Resnais at a New York Film Festival press conference in late September after a screening of his latest film, Wild Grass—a day that included not only Resnais, Mathieu Amalric and André Dussolier sitting on the same stage as Resnais, but also a screening of Corneliu Porumboiu's great Police, Adjective and, later on, a meeting with the towering film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. I was seeing stars in my eyes after that day! Now, if only I had been able to get New York Film Festival press accreditation... (Wild Grass, by the way, is set to be released in spring of 2010; it's worth checking out, although my feelings on it, even after two viewings, remain deeply mixed.)

And, even through the highlights and the lowlights—and there were some fairly extreme lowlights this year, mostly on the familial and professional fronts—there were always the revelations and beauties of great art to fill my soul. I may be an agnostic when it comes to religious convictions, but I am most certainly a a true believer in the religion that is Art—and 2009 gave me no reason to cast off that faith.

Oh yeah, and of course good friends. Because, as Clarence says at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, "No man is a failure who has friends." (Capra-)Corny, perhaps, but I'd like to believe it to be true.

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