By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall January 3, 2011 at 8:03AM
Note: For a complete list of my favorite films of 2010, please visit my wholly deficient list over at criticWIRE.
Obligatory Repetitive Introduction
In the past, in lieu of ranking movies and being held hostage by the dissonance between the film release calendar and my own experience of the ebb and flow of filmgoing, I have listed my favorite cinematic experiences of the year. I want to get back to that; as the way in which I get to watch movies and talk about them continues to diversify, as the idea of cinematic experience expands to multiple devices, formats, cities, communities, I think this list is here to stay. The age of the theatrical release calendar is dead for me; we’re living in a new time, where the movies can be found in every area of life, from online conversations to your home entertainment system, the back of a car seat to a projection screen at a restaurant, your phone to a portable tablet. So, I am going back to my old model, probably for good; over the next ten days, I’ll be posting my Top 10 Cinematic Experiences of 2010. Not necessarily films (although sometimes), these are the experiences that defined my year in film culture. Subjectivity alert!
1. Queer and Patti Smith at Sarasota
Our Queer Program (designed by Rachel Dengiz, Olive Productions)
Is it self serving to make the number one cinematic experience of my year an event that I worked on? I hope not; working on the Sarasota Film Festival is what defines my career, it is the most meaningful contribution I make to cinema (take that for what it is worth) and I spend countless hours working and fretting over the details of the event. And, even more than all of that, this year was incredibly special; I was privileged to work with Steve Buscemi, Oren Moverman, Wren Arthur and the team at Olive Productions to present a staged reading of Queer, Moverman’s adaptation of the early novels of William S. Burroughs. The cast? Buscemi directed and performed as Burroughs, Stanley Tucci read stage directions and played a couple of small roles, Ben Foster played Allerton, the object of Burrough’s desire, Lisa Joyce was Burrough’s wife Joan, and John Ventimiglia performed as various denizens of the expat bar scene in Mexico. The location? A small, 130 seat black box theater on the edge of downtown Sarasota. Before the reading began? Patti Smith walked on stage to say a few words of remembrance for Burroughs, and her honest, heartfelt tribute to the writer set the stage for a great evening.
Queer at Sarasota: (L to R): Stanley Tucci, Lisa Joyce, Steve Buscemi, Ben Foster, John Ventimiglia (photo by Mollie Grady)
It was an event I was extremely proud to have helped organize and it was a flawless reading; the crowd was riveted by the story and performances and everyone seemed to really enjoy the experience. How could they not? It’s not every day you get to see that group of people on stage together, debuting a new work. And yet, in the grand scheme of the festival world, it didn’t really make any waves, which might be for the best; Sarasota continues to fly a little bit under the radar which is at once frustrating for me and probably for the best. The festival continues to be very special to me, and the intimacy we can achieve is only possible by keeping things, well, special. The up-close and personal experience of Queer was bested the following night when Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye serenaded the attendees at our festival’s President’s Dinner by strolling table to table and singing Beneath The Southern Cross. Everyone was awestruck, a feeling that carried over to the Late Night Party, where Patti and Lenny played a 70 minute acoustic set in a very small room, with a less than desirable sound system, and blew the crowd away.
Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye at The Sarasota Film Festival (photo by Mollie Grady)
Sarasota remains the cinematic love of my life. The program is a pure collaboration between Holly Herrick and me and that relationship remains, my family aside, one of the most important in my life. I love my job, I love my colleagues, I love the work, I am proud of the results. It never gets old. My relationships and passions are what makes it all worth doing. I’m honored to be able to work on what I love; it is a luxury I never take for granted. Onward to 2011.
You Shoulda' Been There: Patti Smith at The Sarasota Film Festival
#10 Twitter! Argh!
#9 Jury Duty
#8 Otherwise Unavailable
#7 The Social Network at NYFF
#6 The Home Consumer, Finally
#5 And Everything Is Going Fine... At Slamdance
#4. Post Mortem at The New York Film Festival
#3. Greenberg at Burns Court
#2. Blue Valentine at Sundance