2018 in review: how do we leave the shimmer? - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

2018 in review: how do we leave the shimmer?

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Much of 2018 challenged how I consume art and whether criticism matters a lick of damn. It started because of Annihilation, a film that so thoroughly represented my depression that it felt all other experiences I could have in the theater would have to compare to Natalie Portman's face against the shimmer. That ended up being prophetic as other films came and went but I felt the same drag back toward the abyss that takes human shape in Annihilation's penultimate chapter. Enjoyment was sparse and, aside from the working class joy of Logan Lucky and the bizarre Proud Mary, I accepted no other film would measure up.

Then came the defining struggle of 2018 that challenged one of my positions in my Annihilation review - the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. It was a brutal affair over a monster's choice for a monster who gets to serve the rest of his life on the only branch of government that seems to be able to make any change anymore. The confirmation hearings sparked conversation and confrontation among those who doubt the testimonies of women while granting leeway to powerful men. What shocked me, and immediately rebuked my previously held experience that my mental health never needed to be explained to women, was how many white women rushed forward to Kavanaugh's defense. I found myself angry with women who did not understand, or more accurately did not care to understand, how victims of abuse and sexual assault are pressured into silence.

What good does it do if I can see something touching and painfully true about trauma in Annihilation but fail to communicate the same about my reality to people who doubt it? I touched on some of this helplessness during my conversation with Tevis Thompson about Night in the Woods. I foolishly thought that collaboration, as rich and rewarding as it turned out to be, would be the trigger to get me out of this depression and back toward being productive. In the words of Rob Thomas during his time with Matchbox 20, "It's me, and I can't get myself to go away." There is no one project or piece that is going to make everything snap together and, with barely a week to go in 2018, I identified my complacency in writing as one major source of depression. The work is the work and I have been lazy in the work.

So I must challenge the work and my perceptions of the work. That led me to a phenomenal criticism of Nanette, which I still rank among the greater experiences of 2018, that scaffolds artistic and political points so effectively that Yasmin Nair revitalized my faith in criticism. The same also led me to continue exploring why I loathed Black Panther, a film where the common reaction among white liberals was to pat themselves on the back for patronizingly helping a black superhero "arrive".  Better to read criticisms by Chris LeBron ("Why should I accept the idea of black American disposability from a man in a suit, whose name is synonymous with radical uplift but whose actions question the very notion that black lives matter?"), Kimberle Crenshaw ("Like remembering a drunken night thru a hangover haze, I kept wondering how I'd come to dance on the table for the CIA?"), and Armond White ("Rather than any account of that hopeful, aggrieved, inspiring, yet violent and always controversial social-activist group, we get the story of a monarchy.")

Before Black Panther was the considerably more interesting Proud Mary, and afterward Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time. Those two films barely made a dent compared to Black Panther's box office while all three have been largely abandoned in immediate cultural conversation. Maybe it's time to have those conversations about why white liberals congratulated themselves on buying tickets to Black Panther while ignoring the others when the CIA proudly coopts what feeble criticism Black Panther mustered, American imperialism gets reduced to a punchline, and the pastiest of pasty white boys gets to model a "Wakanda Forever" sweater. I need to direct my rage against this self-congratulatory commodification of urgent problems instead of self-destructing.

Easier written than done but this gives me a plan of how to escape the shimmer that began overtaking me early 2018. As I continue to work, here's a breakdown with links (when applicable) to the artistic experiences that shaped my year:

The Best



Zone of Indifference




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Posted by Andrew

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