If box-office receipts are anything to go by, we are living in the post-theatrical world. One can watch the vast majority of the year’s films, notable or not, online and perfectly legally. The question of where film conversation should exist is a pertinent one for those who are preoccupied with the ongoing existence of the medium. But it is rarely a happy one. Physical spaces are often institutionalised and dominated by cliques. The myth of a friendly cinema will be laughed at by film-going heretics who see through the grift of the post-film Q&A. The cinephile turns then, to online, where one can share undeveloped thoughts alongside copyrighted images, and feel like the film is a part of the self, a personality trait. In this way Twitter’s dominance as a pithy melting pot was rattled when Elon Musk purchased the site. At least the shady Saudi firm that he bought it from had been quiet.
Musk has sold himself as a visionary, but we suspect he doesn’t care for cinema. Images soar at us, like dreams they say. Senses stimulated. Film criticism, in its efforts to make sense of what the writer has witnessed, is often an act of hope. But on the timeline, that hope is often drained by ignorance or hatred. It can be reduced to a list.
I was going to write this introduction anyway, and then the list dropped. Following Sight & Sound magazine’s once-a-decade poll of the greatest, the onslaught of whether Jeanne Dielmann is woke, contrarian, or erasing history gave way to something even more numbing: the ballots. A top ten list is a cry for recognition. A data cache of a person’s momentary thoughts on the day they wrote it. It was interesting to see the humble top ten list swallowed into ‘S&S list but for Westerns/Albums/Books’. One must hand it to Britain’s leading film magazine, they’ve got the brand on lock. The most interesting thing about lists, as we all know, is what they leave off. But the notional effort to combat exclusion leads to an overabundance. Brevity is king, but it runs the risk of usurpation by the glib. The low stakes of Twitter are fine when your timeline shares the dream – otherwise, you’re fried.
With our final 2022 volume, Cinema Year Zero turns those dreams into wishes for the future, in an effort to keep the dream alive, and to feel cosy through the holidays. Our contributors have each chosen an aspect of film and cinema culture that they would like to see change in the coming year. Some of these essays search for a nostalgic and utopic whole. Some point to incremental change. Others still ask for the world. Our 2022 poll is canon.
In this issue:
Nadira Begum points out the dearth of stars that can move mountains, and argues that the resurrection of the romantic-comedy from the streaming dustbin is the only way to save an actor’s face: beautiful, huge.