The Unloved started six years ago as a way to reclaim some of the ironclad consensus that ruled critical thinking, as a way of trying to separate the present of film criticism from the past, to show that there were people no longer content to just take the old assumptions at face value. "Ishtar"? It’s great and shouldn’t have ended Elaine May’s career and we’re now at the point where the general line on her is we did her a tragic disservice by not begging her to keep directing. That’s the beauty of living now. We all have a chance to change what we understand to be true about art. It’s freeing and beautiful and it’s been one of the most consistent joys of my job. Who says "Jupiter Ascending" or "Mortal Engines" has to be as bad as everyone said? Why can’t I just treat them like great works of art from a fascinating time? I’ve been allowed by the editors at this site to write about Rob Zombie the way I think about him, as one of the great American artists. I was allowed and encouraged to ignore consensus and go looking for beauty and value in whatever works I pleased. I was allowed to take over the Ebert twitter account and talk about Spielberg’s "Lincoln."
This, The Unloved, has been the most creatively fulfilling and rewarding project I’ve yet embarked upon. Which sort of makes up for the raft of truly horrible tragedies that seem unwilling to subside. The Unloved has been a repository for my emotional turmoil, as well as a place I get to go long on termite art and white elephant art alike. This video is no different, a sort of summation of the things I’ve been dealing with all year. I wanted to make a list of my favorite Unloved films of the decade (surely Anonymous remains the film I’m the most alone in my ardor, even if "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" remains my favorite and I’ll be watching it this holiday season) but that felt trite. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs because I survived. I wanted to cry and laugh and wail and gnash my teeth, because I survived. I am not happy about it, but I survived everything time has yet thrown at me.
The Unloved is not simply the series where I ask you to bear with me while I rhapsodize some forgotten would-be classic, some poetic misfire a lone critic needs re-thought. This is where I tell you what one voice among many endures. I am one person talking to you. I work in a bar four days a week and feel rather like Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg’s version of Abe Lincoln, not a great man, but someone that everyone needs to run petitions and arcane land ownership agreements by. People hear that I’m in movies (“My husband says you’re in sharks,” says Lorraine Gary’s Mrs. Chief Brody in "Jaws") and they want to know what I think of this or that, the big movies, the hefty ones. But all I want to tell them is to go take risks. Taking risks has brought me no little happiness—it’s put me face to face with ecstasy and monumental regret, but it’s how we feel alive. It’s the thing that brought me this close to true fulfillment, it flew me to Los Angeles to talk about my life’s work with Patton Oswalt, it’s invented the identity hiding beneath the bartender trying to pay rent. I am who I am because I love movies and take risks on them. Whatever life takes from me I will always take risks on art. The world could end tomorrow and I’ll be scared and upset, but I did the best I knew how to do. I made movies I wanted to see, and I defended the art I loved above all else.
Thank you, Brian, Nick, Matt, Chaz, the whole Ebert family, thank you. Thank you for giving me purpose and for giving me a space to be myself. For not reigning me in or making me feel unwanted, for making me aware of my value. Thank you Nell, Jana, Max, Matt, Ben, Vikram; thank you, Odie; thank you, Omer M. Mozaffar, the kindest man alive; thank you, Seongyong Cho, my brother; thank you Michael Mirasol, the angel on my shoulder; thank you Olivia, my sister. I love you all. Thank you to the people whose names I fear to type, thank you, thank you, you have all granted me my identity. I am here because all of you showed me how to be myself. I can only hope, reader, that I have helped you feel more at peace with who you are.
To watch more of Scout Tafoya's video essays from his series The Unloved, click here.