Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's a Filmatelist?

phi·lat·e·list [fi-lat-l-ist]: one who collects stamps and other postal matter as a hobby or an investment

Since for as long as I can remember my passion has been movies, so it seemed quite natural to allow my interest in film to dovetail with my ongoing fascination with stamp collecting. For a while, this manifested itself in a broad, rather random variety of items I collected, but eventually, I found it easiest to narrow my emphasis to one specific area I enjoyed the most.

One Sheet: A 27"x41" poster, usually printed on paper stock and usually folded.
First Day Cover (FDC): An envelope with a new stamp and cancellation showing the date the stamp was issued.

Though I love movies, I've never really gotten into collecting memorabilia (though this had as much to do with the logistics and economics of maintaining such a collection as anything else). But I do have two vices: Original scores (on CD) and One Sheet film advertisements reproduced onto postcards. Whereas a single one sheet could put me back $20 or more (sometimes much, much more), a postcard would only cost me a buck. So I've managed to collect a few thousand of them over the years.

Independent of this, I started idly (even haphazardly) collecting movie stamps. Anything that related to movies or the film industry, domestic or international, was fair game. And this was fine for a while, but quickly became ungainly (more on that in a future post). So I decided to limit myself to FDCs. But while First Day Cover postmarks usually are found only on envelopes (usually with some pre-printed, mass-produced design element and called a cachet), I decided to utilize my postcard collection instead, creating a unique, and rather addictive, hybrid of the two pasttimes.

Probably the best way to illustrate this, however, is to simply show you. Here's a postcard I prepared and sent to the appropriate USPS postmaster last month, and just recently got back
  As you can see, the film is Fargo (Coen, 1996) and the stamps are 3 of the four Holiday stamps released October 25, 2007 (note the postmark). While sometimes I'll use a stamp that has a direct relationship to the movie I'm using, there are other times when I'll pick a postcard simply because of a thematic or visual relationship between the stamp and the film in question. This is a good example of the latter (though sticklers might argue that the poster is actually an example of cross-stitching, I'm not about to Knitpick the issue). The winter theme and the color schemes on both also complement each other, and it doesn't hurt that the movie itself is darkly humorous and the stamps, I think, reinforce the playfully ironic tone of the poster art itself.

Fargo is also notable because it has one of the best philatelic scenes committed to film (though we never see the actual stamp). In the final scene, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) and her husband Norm (John Carroll Lynch) are in bed. The film has previously referred to a painting he's been working on for submission somewhere, and that arc neatly closes here:

Norm: They announced it.
Marge: They announced it?
Norm: Yeah.
Marge: So?
Norm: Three-cent stamp.
Marge: Your mallard?
Norm: Yeah.
Marge: Oh, that's terrific.
Norm: It's just a three-cent.
Marge: It's terrific.
Norm: Hautman's blue-winged teal got the 29-cent. People don't much use the three-cent.
Marge: Oh, for Pete's…. Of course they do. Whenever they raise the postage, people need the little stamps.
Norm: Yeah?
Marge: When they're stuck with a bunch of the old ones.
Norm: Yeah. I guess.
Marge: That's terrific. I'm so proud of you, Norm.

It's a lovely little moment, and Marge's law enforcement officer acts as an interesting contrast to Tommy Lee Jones' sheriff in the Coens' recent film No Country for Old Men. While both are able and compassionate, serving as the moral centers of their respective stories, Marge is resiliently optimistic, even when facing the malignancy of some men's casual indifference to anything beyond self-interest. But Ed Bell is worn down by the world, by the pervasiveness of evil and the ubiquity of violence that he sees around him. His resignation (both vocational and spiritual) is a poignant one, for it's a worldview that doesn't come easily for him. But he knows enough about himself to appreciate his limits—that his capacity to confront the banality of cruelty has eroded over time, and the more he observes, the more he yearns for some kind of moral stability or reason that he can no longer find. It's an unusually bitter ending for the Coens, but to these eyes, a perfectly calibrated one.

To this end, a lot of credit goes to Roger Deakins, who perfectly captured the bleakness of both the Minnesota snowscapes and the Texas desert in the two films. He's up for a Cinematography Oscar this year, not only for the Coens' film, but also for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which would get my vote). The last film by the Coens to get an Oscar was, of course, Fargo (for their screenwriting and for McDormand as lead actress), and it appears that the brothers are likely to pick up another set this year, with another actor (supporting nominee Javier Bardem) in tow. 

So, in short, that's what this blog will be about--posting various fun, film-related FDCs that I've created myself, as well as provide some general ruminations on movies I see throughout the year. Thanks for reading, feel free to ask me any questions (about movies, stamps, or movie stamps), and talk to you soon.

The Filmatelist

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Hurried Welcome

Well, I definitely started this a bit later than I'd planned, but thought I should post a quick note in anticipation of tomorrow morning's Oscar announcements. What is a Filmatelist? I'll deal with that more in my next post, but the prefix is self-evident: part of this blog will be about random film musings, screening logs, and other observations. As an opener, here's my Top 10 list for 2007:

1. There Will Be Blood
2. Into the Wild
3. Into Great Silence
4. No Country for Old Men
5. The Savages
6. Gone, Baby Gone
7. Away from Her
8. Black Book
9. Paprika
10. Dan in Real Life

Honorable Mentions: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Deep Water, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Eastern Promises, The Host, The Lookout, Once, Superbad, This is England, Zodiac

And the worst: 300 (Dishonorable mentions: Atonement, Pirates 3)

So that's it for now, but I'll see you soon...