Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, the 24 year-old film obsessive who will begin co-hosting Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies (along with Associated Press film critic Christy Lemire) on 1.21, has compiled some kind of “Annual Critics Survey” preferred films of 2010 list, as posted by Indiewire. All I can say is that I hope Iggy knows how to charm the camera and that he and Lemire get some chemistry going.
At The Movies co-host Ignatiy (a.k.a. “Iggy”) Vishnevetsky.
I was amused from the start by the perversity of Ebert choosing a guy who’s arguably dweebier than Richard Brody to co-host a TV show aimed at American film lovers whose idea of stirring high-class cinema is The King’s Speech.
Vishnevetsky’s choices confirm my initial gut read on the guy, which is that (a) he’s quite headstrong and highly intelligent (anyone who puts Roman Polanski‘s The Ghost Writer at the top of the list has my allegiance), and (b) is averse to American-made films of any size (particularly those with pseudo-populist themes or stories about individual perseverance), and strongly prefers small-scale European flicks about complex social-political conflicts and/or glum family situations with an occasional Asian crime film thrown in.
In short, he’s one of those brilliant and impassioned cinefile types you see every year at the Cannes Film Festival with a crowd of six or seven at some side-street cafe, loudly and exuberantly proclaiming their preferences and revulsions and clearly determined to push their anti-mainstream, Euro-Turkish-Iranian choices as a way of gaining attention and favor with the international festival elitist crowd. Which is obviously one way to go and best of luck, etc., but I’d be astonished if Joe and Jane Popcorn take to the guy on Ebert’s show. And if I’m proved wrong, great. I’d much rather watch a young Russian eccentric than another Ben Lyons-type guy.
But I have to say that Vishnevetsky’s aversion to American-made stuff seems excessive in a best-of-2010 context. To not include even one or two of the year’s finest U.S. films — The Social Network, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, Blue Valentine, True Grit, Toy Story 3, Winter’s Bone — but include George Romero‘s Survival of the Dead is, for me, a little game called tweak. It takes me back to the days when Village Voice critic Stuart Byron would argue that Mark Lester‘s Truck Stop Women was far superior to Costa-Gavras‘s State of Siege. I’m reminded of a passage from The Film Snob’s Dictionary about “reverse film snobbery” and how the snob will sometimes flaunt “his populist, un-arty taste.”
And yet most of Vishnevetsky’s preferred 2010 films are arty and conventionally tasteful and thoughtfully downish and socially striking in a mostly Euro-centric way.
1. Roman Polanski‘s The Ghost Writer
3. Marco Bellocchio‘s Vincere
4. World on a Wire (the 37 year-old Rainer Werner Fassbinder film, right?)
5. Claire Denis‘ White Material
7. Johnny To‘s Vengeance
8. George A. Romero‘s Survival of the Dead
9. Jacques Rivette‘s Around a Small Mountain
10. Manoel de Oliveira‘s Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl.
Postscript: I’m presuming that you’re supposed pronounce Vishnevetsky’s first name as something like “Ig-nyah-tee.” Well, forget it. Nobody’s going to be able to begin to say that correctly (remember Hillary Clinton trying to pronounce Dmitry Medvedev?), so that’s why I’m calling him “Iggy.” I’m doing the guy a favor, trust me, because that’s something that Joe Schmoe can relate to.