Monday, April 14, 2014

The best depiction of Jesus Christ onscreen is also, alas, one of the least-known (type its title into IMDb, and you'll wade through five higher-ranked results). Dennis Potter's feverish 1969 teleplay Son of Man depicts the most famous and celebrated figure in the history of the world as a dirty, half-mad prophet trembling in the wilderness and bellowing at his followers, with nary a miracle in sight (when Jesus performs an exorcism, the woman in his arms appears to die). Yet as depicted by a fully-committed Colin Blakely, this ferocious wild man is among the most charismatic and compelling Christs I've ever seen: fascinating in his forceful delivery and admirable in his consistency, responding to slaps, goads, and outright torture with a determination to practice what he preaches by "loving his neighbor." Given that these neighbors include the cunning high priest Caiaphas (Bernard Hepton) and the flagrantly cruel and condescending Pontius Pilate (Robert Hardy), this is no small order. This Jesus gets no relief, no reward - there is no happy ending, no Easter Sunday resurrection following the Good Friday execution. He moans those famous words, "Why have you forsaken me?", expires, and the lights dim while the camera pulls back.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's hard to place Martin Scorsese's mercurial The Wolf of Wall Street, a (mostly?) true tale of the corrupt, greedy, and eventually imprisoned financier Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). Hard to place in several ways - most obviously, the film's tone embraces straightforward rise-and-fall dramatics, social satire, and broad comedy, while the slipperiness of its moral outlook, both conventionally disapproving and hedonistically exuberant, has been elsewhere duly noted. More intriguingly, the film seems to float above history: while it begins identifiably in the late eighties (Jordan Belfort's first day as a licensed broker is even alleged to be Black Monday) and occasionally touches down on specific cultural phenomena (like Steve Madden's bobble-headed girl ad campaign) at no point does the film really riff on a zeitgeist. Technological and fashion changes are often present as details but aren't foregrounded as in Goodfellas; also unlike that film the soundtrack is an alternating mashup of hip-hop, rumba, and whatever Scorsese feels like playing in a particular moment, rather than a reflection of character and/or cultural development. Most of all, I can't really place the purpose of the movie. That's not necessarily a terrible thing: spry, termitic filmmaking is often more successful than the heavy-handed elephantine approach. Yet here this makes for an enjoyable but occasionally alienating and mystifying viewing experience. I liked The Wolf of Wall Street, particularly certain sequences worthy of Scorsese's legendary oeuvre, but I didn't love it. On first viewing, it seemed a film of many accomplishments but little depth.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March was definitely the month of music. I listened to forty-two albums, but also spent a lot of time listening to songs rather than whole albums (often favorite tracks on the albums I had just discovered). For the first time in over a year, I added to my collection: eight albums by month's end, including much recent hip-hop. Because this was the month of songs as much as albums, I'll list thirty tracks I recently added to a playlist of favorites:

Dark Fantasy (Kanye West) • All of the Lights (Kanye West/Rihanna/Kid Cudi) • Lost In the World (Kanye West/Bon Iver) • Runaway (Kanye West/Pusha T) • Monster (Kanye West/Jay-Z/Rick Ross/Nicki Minaj/Bon Iver) • Gorgeous (Kanye West/Kid Cuti/Raekwon) • Backseat Freestyle (Kendrick Lamar) • Sherane A.K.A. Master Splinter's Daughter (Kendrick Lamar) • Money Trees (Kendrick Lamar/Jay Rock) • Swimming Pools (Drank) (Kendrick Lamar) • Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe (Kendrick Lamar) • Poetic Justic (Kendrick Lamar/Drake) • DNA (Danny Brown) • Fields (Danny Brown) • Toss It Up (2Pac/Danny Boy/KC & JoJo) • To Live and Die in L.A. (2Pac/Val Young) • Krazy (2Pac/Bad Ass) • Brooklyn Zoo (Ol' Dirty Bastard) • Run (Air) • Walking on Air (King Crimson) • More Than Distance (Telex) - skip to 4:10Your Silent Face (New Order) • Right Where It Belongs (Nine Inch Nails) • Lake of Fire (Nirvana) • Falling (Julee Cruise) • Questions in a World of Blue (Julee Cruise) • Rockin' Back Inside My Heart (Julee Cruise) • The World Spins (Julee Cruise) • Mysteries of Love (Julee Cruise) • Just You (James Marshall, Sheryl Lee, Lara Flynn Boyle)

Here are covers, info, and favorite tracks for all the albums I listened to in the past month. You can also follow my listenings on Twitter, scan my last playlist or look at all previous round-ups on this blog.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A visual tribute to episode 14 of "Twin Peaks"
(there are definitely spoilers)

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Ah, the democracy of Hollywood Boulevard - 4 stars in a row: 
Humphrey Bogart, Johnny Cash, Tab Hunter, Auguste Lumiere"
(from a recent tweet)

I've made promises before, but usually by setting goals before determining methods. Now, I've finally reversed that process. So I can't say when it will occur, but I can tell you what to expect on Lost in the Movies over the next few years. First off, from now on I will be posting once a week, every Monday at 7am: sometimes book or music round-ups, sometimes visual tributes, but mostly good old-fashioned movie reviews, as I discuss many films featured in clips and images on this blog but not (as yet) in prose. I plan to cover the underseen Dennis Potter teleplay Son of Man during Holy Week, but otherwise my schedule is undetermined.

Meanwhile, beneath the surface, behind the scenes, I'll be drafting hundreds of entries in several series. No series will appear until the final entry has been written - at which point they will unfold in a regularly scheduled manner over many months. This work includes resuming the Neon Genesis Evangelion episode guide, and the "Favorites" countdown of my 100 favorite films list. I had planned to discuss those titles from memory but recently decided they need rewatching. Thus completion will take longer than expected - perhaps not until 2015 (especially since my list includes very long films like Satantango and Out 1, which I won't watch in a single sitting).

Further down the line I have other ideas: a "Collection" series which would thoroughly review every DVD or VHS tape I own - probably presented in 365 entries over an entire year; a year-by-year formal analysis of popular films and shifting mainstream film styles via numerous video essays; finally, my much-discussed canonical series in which I would examine about 150 films in multiple entries varying in both focus point and style (prose, video, and image analyzing form, content, production history, my own personal connection, etc). I've been proposing that one since 2009, so we'll see. At any rate none of these series would even begin to be posted until at least 2016 or 2017, probably longer.

I can confidently predict these eventual manifestations - if not forecast the dates of their appearance - because I've finally found a blogging system that works; indeed, I've discovered a schedule to not only manage my blog but all my extracurricular work. On Saturdays, I will spend a minimum of four hours blogging and a maximum of four hours engaged in other ongoing tasks (to wit: an hour on the King James Bible, an hour reading Time cover stories from past decades, an hour visiting other blogs, and an hour completing any unfinished business that doesn't have an immediate deadline). Sundays I get up early and write creatively (or at least, allow myself no distractions from writing) for eight hours. The rest of the week I am free to read, watch the occasional movie or TV episode (mostly the latter nowadays), go out, or relax. What I can't do is blog, or work on anything other than filmmaking. This not only liberates me from self-imposed pressures, it also makes me more productive in the time I do allot for ongoing activities.

The system is imperfect, of course: it doesn't yet make much room for video essays (which is where I really want my blog to go), plus whenever I initiate my "Collection" series I'll have to find more time for watching and writing, probably on certain weeknights. Overall, though, I've been using this schedule for a few months and it's by far the most effective approach I've found for multitasking. Most importantly, this approach clears the deck for screenwriting and eventually filmmaking, while keeping my blog alive as a potential platform for that work.

For now, expect something new every week. I hope you'll enjoy the results as much as I plan on enjoying the process.

Monday, March 10, 2014

I've always been obsessed with cataloging experiences, creating variations on a theme, and juxtaposing change and consistency against one another (as well as viewing characters changing against historical backdrops, and maturing from one age to another). As such, I can't help being endlessly fascinated by Forrest Gump. It is chock-full of repetitions, variations, catalogs: sometimes droll, sometimes somber, sometimes sentimental. Below I've included nine image-compilations as examples; if you want to see larger versions of these pictures, click on the image.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Here are covers, info, and favorite tracks for all the albums I listened to in the past month. You can also follow my listenings on Twitter, scan my last playlist or look at all previous round-ups on this blog.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

For one year, I kept track of everything viewed digitally by tweeting/blogging a screen-captured image accompanied by a caption. Here are all the movies I watched in the past year.

With #WatchlistScreenCaps now concluded, it makes sense to round up all the pages in one convenient post. During the past year, I updated my viewing diary with the latest entries appearing at the top. Meanwhile I maintained a chronologically-organized page and several category-pages (feature, documentary, animation, short, music video, miniseries, online videos, Criterion DVDs, and Grail themes). I didn't want to draw attention to these pages until the whole endeavor finished.

So now you can browse eye-catching images from 747 films, laid out from the earliest silent days to the present. While my viewing tended in certain directions, there's still enough breadth and diversity here to offer something for everyone. If you're more interested in specific categories, just skip the big page and visit the relevant subpage. I enjoyed organizing these (for the most part), and I hope you enjoy looking at them.

Finally, one of my initial ideas - which quickly fell by the wayside - was for people to guess films based on the picture I tweeted, hopefully spurring a discussion (which did occasionally emerge). It isn't too late to chime in on any of these movies. Ultimately, I hope an enticing image from something you haven't yet seen will encourage your own cinematic journeys.

Images from all 747 films I watched over twelve months - including music videos, complete series, and stand-alone YouTube clips - are included above. Large images are from features, smaller images from shorts. The journey begins with Lumiere and ends (or continues?) with Vimeo, interspersing black-and-white features with colorful cartoons, genre-based narratives with esoteric experiments, and political documentaries with family entertainment. To my eyes, this the most interesting way to review my year of viewing, but if you prefer a more specific approach...

Feature Films (Fiction)
When most people hear "movies" they immediately think fictional narrative features, shot with actors and running about 2 hours. Most of the titles here fit that bill (although there are some experimental films and animated features interspersed throughout). I included 215 films, spanning all continents and genres, from 1916 to 2013.

In 2013 I finally tackled cartoon compilation DVDs collected years ago, resulting in 268 screen-caps, spanning from 1908 to 2013. Most are from the golden age of studio cartoons (late 20s - mid 50s) but I've also included wild avant-garde twists and turns. Styles range from cel animation to stop-motion to CGI and features are interspersed with (mostly) shorts. This page features some of my favorite images.

Much as I favor nonfiction reading, I'm often more excited to watch a movie for informative purposes - to find out something new,  explore a new corner of the world, or revisit a favorite subject. I viewed 73 documentaries on many different topics. Shorts and features intermingle freely.

Live-Action Shorts
In 2013 I participated in a weekly poll, nominating short films for the ballot. Unsurprisingly, there were many shorts I had to check out for the first time, particularly from the late seventies to the present - most of these titles were part of that adventure. Images from 90 short films are divided into narrative, documentary, and experimental subcategories. See here for a list of personal favorites.

Music Videos
Often overlooked in cinematic overviews, music videos played a major role in influencing/reflecting film styles and often did a better job than features when it came to echoing (or shaping) the zeitgeist. I went on a video binge near the end of my viewing year, following some recent lists to watch numerous classics. Here are 113 music videos, including a few proto-videos from the pre-rock era.

I don't watch much TV. However, I decided to undertake an exploration of several classic miniseries last year, as well as rewatching a few documentary favorites and checking out one extended web series (and its shorter follow-up). (I also screen-capped a few stray TV episodes for my viewing marathons, but they aren't included here.) All told, I completed 14 series.

Online Videos
This category, seemingly the most trivial, actually had the most purpose behind it. While brainstorming a screenplay about a web-based filmmaker I explored all the viral video memes I'd seen or (mostly) missed since the mid-00s. While much of YouTube is fleeting and fragmentary, I believe the cinema's future will grow from these seeds. After all, in 1904 no one thought novelty one-reelers would lead anywhere...

Grail & Arthur Themes
That same screenplay idea involved the Grail legend too. All spring I researched Grail sources on both page and screen (see here for most of my literary explorations), ranging from operas to kids' cartoons, psychological dramas to televised documentaries. And these are just the 13 films explicitly related to Arthurian myths: subtle Grail themes undoubtedly popped up elsewhere on my watchlist as well.

Criterion Collection
Some of the sharpest, more arresting images I captured came from Criterion DVDs, so I have lined up all 44 selections by spine number. Nothing streamed or viewed in non-DVD formats has been included although I watched several Criterion titles on Hulu too.

Finally, if these images aren't enough, you can scroll through 500 leftovers - screen-caps I took but dropped in favor of others (often they're just as worthy). You can also skim the original posts, including extra pictures at the tops and bottoms of each. Thanks for following along or catching up - I hope it was worthwhile.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A 19th-century train pulls in to my phone - where will it go next?
viewed February 12, 2014
L'arrivee d'un train en gare de la Ciotat (1896), dir. Louis & Auguste Lumiere

And that's it for #WatchlistScreenCaps. Believe it or not, I rambled for three paragraphs about the limitations and advantages of this visual viewing diary approach before I caught myself. One of the impulses behind this yearlong endeavor (which began here) was to let images speak louder than words. So be it. I'll have more formal post in the near future, including links to pages that break down my viewing diary into various categories (feature, short, documentary, animation, etc.) which should offer easier/more useful perusal for the curious. But for now, if you're hungry for images you can explore the chaotic yet, I think, somewhat charming viewing diary page which simply records my year of watching (features, shorts, music videos, miniseries, even YouTube clips) in the order I watched them - from the bottom up. I was going to offer explanations (or excuses) for the focus - or lack thereof - in the year's viewing, but if you have any questions feel free to ask below.

And oh, I've heard a few people suggest they might like to take this approach as well. Please do (or share, if you already have, now or in the past - I'm sure I'm not the first). While I'm relieved to be done with the compulsive aspects, I'll miss that sense of a single frame crystallizing or, conversely, allusively suggesting the full filmic experience. Humor me.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Over the past year, I've selected, tweeted, and posted one image from every film I watched (including shorts, music videos, and YouTube clips, as long as they were self-contained). My choices were based on a number of factors: striking composition, personal connection, iconography, originality, sometimes whatever fit the particular caption I had in mind. As a result, hundreds of images were screen-capped without being chosen (aside from the headers and occasional bonus pics posted in round-ups). Many of these were just as interesting, representative, or beautiful as the screen-caps chosen - perhaps more so.

Over a year ago, when this blog was four and a half years old, I posted a massive line-up of images I'd uploaded to Blogger but never posted. There were 219 images featured; this time there are exactly 500 - more than double in less than a quarter of the time. That should indicate what a harvest my quest for screen-caps yielded, so that even the gleanings are rich.

The half-thousand images below are divided into two sections: films and music videos, and within that they are ordered alphabetically by film or song title, which makes for some interesting juxtapositions. Every title is linked to the relevant #WatchlistScreenCaps round-up so that you can see what image I did pick. I even included some TV series I screen-capped even though I usually didn't feature those in my round-ups (unless completed).

Finally, and as always, I hope images from films you haven't seen yet - or better yet, haven't even heard of - will encourage you to seek them out. Most, if not all, or worth the effort. And of course if you have any comments on these films, or questions about them, please leave a comment and we can discuss further. OK, that's it for the words, now for the images...