A rear-view look at antique pop culture might seem redundant... "Ah, remember those wonderful memories we had not so long ago of the music, movies, books and theater of quite a bit longer ago?" But we and here I junk the Olympian editorial plural in favor of the confessional first-person singular I feel the encroachment of short-term memory less. For example, I can, without so much as a thought, rattle off the Best Picture Oscars from 1932 to the mid-70s; but ask me to spit out the winners of the last decade, and I stumble into blank embarrassment. So, as I said a few sentences ago (excuse me, I have to reread them), I want to celebrate the recent past because, for now, I can still remember some of it. Otherwise, I'll start to convince myself that That Old Feeling is not nostalgia but amnesia.
The past is preamble. It's award time, so let's do it! Whatever "it" is. (See previous paragraph.)
1. Best Movie Website: Subway Cinema
Paul Kazee, Brian Naas, Goran Topalovic and Grady Hendrix the Subway Cinema Collective are the fevered brains behind the annual Asian Films Are Go!!! series, which provides a Manhattan showcase for the ginchiest of Korean, Japanese, Thai and Hong Kong pop cinema. Last fall they unearthed a grotty grotto of HK horror movies. But the site is a treat even (especially) for those who can't get to New York, since the collective's program notes are often more illuminating than the films they tub-thump for. Note Hendrix's meditation-hallucination on the beatitudes of the serial-killer thriller "Red to Kill." Less entrepreneurs than informed fans, and less fans than fantasts, Subway will occasionally not bother to hook a program note to a program, instead cranking up 1950 words on "Holy Virgin vs the Evil Dead."
Honorable Mention: Internet Movie Database. Nothing obscure about this site: it claims 13 million visitors a month. I wonder if they mean 13 million visits. If so, I account for a couple hundred, checking in eight or ten times a day for bio data on an actor I've spotted in a film, or the next broadcast of an obscure film, or a list of actors born in Schenectady, the birthplace and date of tens of thousands of people with only a tangential connection to movies. (This is where I learned that Harvey Kurtzman, creator of MAD comic, died ten years ago next month. We will paid lengthier tribute then.) The data are not impeccably reliable, but neither are the primary sources; and the site is getting steadily more accurate. It's a long way from the days when students from Cardiff, Wales, thought up the IMDb.
2. Best DVD Set: Shaw Bros. Classics
Run Run Shaw, youngest of the film-biz brothers (like the Warners, there were four of them), ran the "largest privately owned studio in the world" in Hong Kong, the world's most bustling, congested colony. From the mid-50s to the early 70s, Shaw Bros. dominated Southeast Asian movies, producing hits in a dozen genres, manufacturing stars, building and operating theaters in Asia, Europe and North America. But for the entire video generation, Shaw films have been invisible; Run Run, still the businessman at 95, refused to sell of his library. He finally did, and last month the Shaw classics came out of their cave and onto DVDs. The films look gorgeous ... but, for now, you have to be in Hong Kong or the surrounding countries to get them. Region 1 release of these golden oldies may come as soon as May. Meanwhile, scan the story I wrote for TIME Asia on the first ten titles in this intoxicating series.
Honorable Mention: Criterion's "Children of Paradise." A lot of people used to think this French epic, written by Jacques Prevert and directed by Marcel Carne, was the greatest movie ever made. It is certain one of the most plangently romantic. It's best to be trapped in a theater for the 3hr. collision of idealism and cynicism; but even watching it on a TV screen, you'll be transported.