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October 23, 2008

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Mike Leigh

If you were to take every film director in the world and do a calculation something like this…

artistic merit + accessibility
general public awareness

…I think Mike Leigh would end up with the highest score, and it would be something stratospheric, like nine hundred quadrillion. (The unit, of course, is snarkpoints.)

Here’s the new Onion A.V. Club interview. I haven’t seen Happy Go Lucky yet but I have seen Secrets and Lies, Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake, and more, and they’re all sublime. Super-serious and sophisticated, but totally fun and watchable too.

Here’s a taste of Leigh:

AVC: Happy-Go-Lucky also suggests that happiness is as much a matter of perspective as it is things going your way. It’s likely that someone else who haves Poppy’s life would pretty miserable with it.

ML: I don’t agree with that. It’s an unhealthy habit to say that life is what you make of it and if you want to be happy, then you can be happy. That’s just rubbish, basically. Life is about luck and it’s about circumstances and socioeconomic conditions and all the rest of it, but you know you can also make choices and it’s about spirit and generosity and all the other things, too. This film is about somebody who is open and has a capacity not to be judgmental and to empathize and to love.

Leigh gives off the same vibe I always get from Philip Pullman — somehow both large-spirited and tough, verging on ornery. I really like the combo.

Posted October 23, 2008 at 10:04 | Comments (7) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


Secrets and Lies is an amazing movie, but I think I have only seen it twice. Leigh's movies are watchable, but they're not endlessly rewatchable. So it's harder for him to break into that David Lean, Martin Scorsese, P.T. Anderson zone of high-awareness, high-consumption art.

Wow, that's interesting -- are there a lot of movies you HAVE seen more than twice? I think I've probably got like four that are on the 4+ viewings list, but that's only b/c they were childhood faves, so they get the bonus of the early years.

For a movie you really like (this is for everybody, not just Tim) what's the average number of viewings? Mine is... probably... like 1.1.

1.1 sounds about right for me as well. I don't often reread books either. Do you have a list of highly reread books, Tim?

Not counting little kids' books? I don't think the number would get nearly as high. But...

The Lord of the Rings, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Crystal Shard, Fab Five, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Complete Guide to Superheroes, Alaska, and a dozen or so Calvin and Hobbes books top the list from my childhood.

As a grown-up, I've mostly reread books when I've taught them, so Sophocles and Aeschylus are pretty high up there [I've taught them both twice]. Ulysses and Portrait, lots and lots of Nietzsche. I think I've read Pound's Cantos five times now, his ABC of Reading more than that. T.S. Eliot, lots. Shakespeare, especially Hamlet, Lear, and the Henriad. I've read Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and Heidegger's Being and Time four times each, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism too. Lunch Poems and Spring and All. The Sun Also Rises. But yeah, I don't think I've read a book more than a half dozen times since I was a kid.

I'm a re-watcher/re-reader, not of Tim's caliber, but of a similar ilk. My average viewings for a movie I really like is 7. (And my list overlaps with Tim's quite a bit. He lacks my fascination with the prep-school bildungsroman, though) That's dropping a couple massively-overwatched outliers from my teen years like _A Few Good Men_ and _The Holy Grail_.

The movies I watch and like I watch again. As a rule, when faced with a choice between two movies, one of which I remember fondly and the other I don't know---I choose the oldy.

I tend to think of movies or books as a kind of company, and I prefer a few close friends, on the whole.

Books are a bigger time investment, and its harder to read a book while doing laundry or pretending to work, so I re-read less often. But keeping _Antigone_ in the mix, I'm around 1.25.

Just wanted to weigh in for rereading/rewatching in snippets. Most of the DVDs I've bothered to own or books I've bothered to buy in hardback are things I expect to refer back to and read/watch small portions of periodically. If I want to reread a whole book or rewatch a whole movie it's easier to library or rent (or wait for it to show at the rep theater), unless I'm going to do it 50 times like Tim :).

Robin, I like your metric. The quality most important in a movie is neither artistic merit nor accessibility but a ready supply of both. Rather than separating a movie into those two qualities, another way to think about it is that a movie should have "stuff you get the first time you watch it", "stuff you get the next few times", "stuff you get after watching it for years and living", etc.

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