Theme of the Month: Reject All American
Star of the Month: Jack Nicholson
How exciting it is to have finished another year on Peterson Reviews. To my approximation, I watched
(and predominantly enjoyed) about 320 movies in 2017. It was a great year in cinema – Call Me By Your Name, I, Tonya, and mother! were among my favorites – and it was a great year in discoveries, too. I finally wallowed in the joys of the visually splendorous The Red Shoes (1948), the personal pains of Ordinary People (1980), the optical and thematic pleasures of The Love Witch (2016), the various intensities of Mean Streets (1973), and others.
The year itself was a generally fantastic one, too, at least personally and professionally. (I don’t dare talk about the increasing disillusionment to come about in the face of this politically and culturally tumultuous time in which we’re living here.) I completed my first full year as a journalism student; got my work published in a number of publications; started a podcast; founded a column in my school’s newspaper; and snagged an internship at a Seattle-area newspaper that I’ll be starting in just a few days. I also discovered that the friends I’ve made in the last year just might be the best I’ve ever had; that I’ve chosen a line of work which genuinely thrills me; that I picked the right college.
The little things counted, too. I became obsessed with a handful of podcasts that continuously motivate me to get through the day – the true crime-centric My Favorite Murder and the movie discussion-heavyweight The Canon were and are two highlights – and myriad musical artists that I still can’t get enough of. (I obsessed over The Rolling Stones, L7, Metallica, Wolf Alice, Haim, King Krule, and George Michael most often this year.)
I also found writers who steadily inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing: Amy Nicholson, Ira Madison III, Robert Christgau, Alex Frank, Meaghan Garvey, Lindsay Zoladz, and Anne Helen Petersen were just a few who consistently churned out entertainment-based must-reads to which I continue to return.
I suppose all these recollections sound something like the humblebrags old family members churn out in gratuitous letters to accompany their filtered Christmas cards. But I also figure that now’s the time to write all this down. Who knows how my mindset, along with my experiences, will change in the next five years? Keeping these memories and this present sense of excitement at least temporarily intact is something I’ll perhaps yearn for and ultimately romanticize as the years pass.
As I move toward a more realistic sort of adulthood, I can’t help but realize that most of what I’m feeling now will someday be revered as something of an ideal. I’m living in an undeniably comfortable version of real life where I’m getting a taste of my professional desires but am nonetheless safe from the looming-ahead pitfalls that come with trying to make it in the working world. Who knows where I’ll end up?
As for now, I’m just excited about the fact that this website has remained a consistency in my life for almost four years. Though thumbing through old things I’ve written is among the things that depress me the most in my life, it’s nonetheless interesting seeing how my writing has changed over the years. These pieces have, in many ways, reflected who I was at the time I wrote them. I hope that continues to be the case.
Cinematic discovery, after all, never gets old. I had a blast last month better acquainting myself with Meryl Streep’s filmography and with purported classics I’ve somehow missed out on. During December, though, I began noticing that my favorite movies have consistently been ones wherein characters find success – or at least temporary elation – as a result of breaking past the confines of the status quo. Stories in which individuals push the boundaries of societal standards and still manage to get ahead (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Disaster Artist), and stories wherein short-lived satisfaction arrives as a result of some corner cutting (Good Time, I, Tonya), were so appealing to me because they showcased characters at odds with the American dream and deciding that they were going to be in charge of their respective destinies.
As I grow older, movies that highlight individuals such as the ones found in these above mentioned features become increasingly fascinating because I find myself so often rattled by the pressures of expectation myself. Since I’m aware that I’m perhaps taking the “right” steps to get to where I want to eventually be in my life and career, I’ve become progressively intrigued by movie characters who do things their way. This idea of tossing aside expectations and formalities especially felt potent to me while I was recently listening to the Bikini Kill track “Reject All American,” in which frontwoman Kathleen Hanna calls mass acceptance overrated and decides that pushing against societal norms can sometimes be a great thing.
Thematically, the rejection of the all-American idyll is compelling. So when brainstorming an actor who’d be best suited to this particular theme of the month, it was instantaneously Jack Nicholson who came to mind. He’s an actor who has perhaps never fit the stereotype of the modern movie star: his looks are unconventional; the movies for which he’s best known are often challenging, subversive masterworks; and he hasn’t exactly followed an orthodox career path (consider that he hasn’t made a movie in seven years). I’ve always found him thrilling to behold, and I figure – especially with a rumored comeback in an American remake of Toni Erdmann coming soon – now’s the time to more comprehensively familiarize myself with his legacy.
I look forward to the next 31 days. And I look forward to the year to come, too: I’m eager to see how Peterson Reviews will be shaped by 2018. I hope you enjoy reading – and, hopefully watching – as much as I enjoy heading this site. It never gets old.