[Those who have not yet submitted their selection are still invited to do so; but from this point on, for sanity's sake, I have to keep it limited to those I originally contacted (i.e. the folks on my blogroll; if you're there but were not reached yet, consider yourself invited).]
I originally wrote a very long intro to this piece, but that's been discarded and I'll try to keep it succinct [not sure how well I succeeded now that all's said and done - ed]. This is a tribute to the past year of celebrating movies & a blow against the ephemeral nature of the exercise; in asking bloggers to select their own best work for the year (the full list follows after the jump) I'm hoping we can take another step beyond the purely chronological approach to blogging, in which our best work slips away once it slides down from its perch atop our site.
Before introducing my selections from my own work, I want to thank 3 people who hosted me under their own banners in 2009 - this was a year in which I expanded my reach beyond just The Dancing Image and they helped facilitate that process. First I must mention Sam Juliano, who has weekly linked to my Examiner essays, and whose website Wonders in the Dark has become a hot-spot for a certain corner of the blogosphere. The main hook is his colleague Allan Fish's original, extremely erudite decade countdowns, in which he celebrates what he considers to be the best of each ten-year period, with often surprising - but always well-informed and thought-provoking results. I have rounded up the complete list so far and of course one of his pieces, actually an introduction of sorts to the series, is linked below.
But once curious visitors arrive on the site, it's Sam - the site's founder - who keeps them there with his peerless generosity and enthusiasm and tireless administration of the site (helped by the technical facility of Tony D'Ambra, another longtime friend of this blog). He has fostered a community on Wonders in the Dark, a diverse band of commentators from all backgrounds and of all opinions, who share only a thrilled adoration of the cinema. It's no exaggeration to say that the best, most stimulating, most entertaining, most thought-provoking, and certainly the most freewheeling discussions I've ever had on the web - and perhaps off it as well - have occurred on Wonders in the Dark. Sam's best qualities are on full display in the piece I've chosen to highlight from him:
Next up I want to tip my hat to someone who goes way back with The Dancing Image: Tony Dayoub. He first emerged on these pages in August 2008, when I was deep in the throes of my initiation into the "Twin Peaks" universe. Tony's been a fan of the series for years, and his comments, brimming with little-known facts and personal experiences with the show, were a revelation. Since then, I've discovered he's a model blogger in many ways - participating in all the various activities which characterize the form (blog-a-thons, memes, list-making, capsule reviews, etc.) without ever succumbing to the amateurism that occasionally characterizes blog posts, mine included. If there's a future in this blogging thing, Tony is helping to light the way. This year he initiated and hosted a Brian De Palma blog-a-thon in tribute to the filmmaker's 69th birthday. He posted a particularly adventurous piece of my own, which eschewed writing altogether (and is highlighted below) - for that and for his praise of the piece I am eternally grateful. The series climaxed with Tony's own essay, a masterful yet never unwieldy piece which perfectly weaves together all his strengths: an unpretentiously personal engagement with the work, an appreciation for the nitty-gritty of a film's details without losing the big picture, and a remarkably astute understanding of context (probably his greatest asset) - historical, auteurist, cultural, you name it. The essay discusses Scarface, Carlito's Way, and Tony's own experiences with both as a Cuban-American kid growing up in Miami and later a die-hard film buff.
Finally, there's Ric Burke, a.k.a. Ibetolis, who made a home for me and many others for several months this year when he plowed his way through the first half of this decade with his series "Counting Down the Zeroes." Two of my pieces were posted on his site, both on underrated films which I probably would not have written about without his encouragement (I've selected one amongst my strongest pieces of the year). Though the project has been put on hold for the moment, I hope it will return; "Counting Down the Zeroes" served as a Who's Who of the blogosphere, with new writers showing up every day to tackle hits, obscurities, and even black sheep. Here is Ibetolis' intro to the series, after which he stepped back and put on his editorial hat for the duration:
Before moving on to the entree, lest you think this is entirely an exercise in modesty, let me point you to the work I'm proudest of from this past year. There are four here (more are highlighted at the bottom of the post); while there are other pieces I'm happy with, they aren't really well-rounded enough for me to put at the top. That said, these four (listed alphabetically) are quite diverse. The first - largely overlooked at the time, but probably my most worked-over piece, is a video (which should be watched with caution if there are sensitive eyes around, be warned); the second and fourth are rather long essays - though one is pretty tightly-wound and the other is more bombastic; and finally there's probably my most popular piece of the year, a mixture of pictures and prose, which initiated a widespread response. Hopefully, "Reading the Movies" sums up the spirit that brought us all here in the first place.
2. Lawrence of Arabia
3. Reading the Movies
4. Waiting for the 25th Hour
So that's that. Now, for the main attraction, a round-up of the years' best according to the authors themselves, with selections (usually words, sometimes pictures, in one case a video) from the work itself.
"Life and death mixed together in a ghoulish romp, with Boop encased in ice as a temple sacrifice. It all fits beautifully together to make SNOW WHITE one far-out pinnacle in pre-code cartoon surrealism. In those days the Harlem clubs were where one went to frolic without the peepers of the law on your ass, so miscegenation, reefer-toking, hops, homosexuality, the threat of violence was all in the air making excitement and giddiness de regeur... and the Fleischer brothers, two very hip Jewish cartoonists, captured that sense of danger the next day at their midtown animation studio."
-Erich Kuersten, Acidemic Film, "Acid Shorts #1: Betty Boop in SNOW WHITE (#33)"
"But keep watching the original “Abraham”. Louise Beavers turns the scene on its ear. The warmth and sincerity she exudes singing to her children is what makes Bing and Marjorie all the more silly. She has dignity, and this was Abraham Lincoln’s great gesture to his fellow Americans of every race, the idea that human beings were born with innate dignity, and nobody could take it away from them, even if they took away their freedom. People can only give up their dignity willingly, which is what Bing and Marjorie are doing in this scene."
-Jacqueline T. Lynch, Another Old Movie Blog, "Abraham"
"Cumulatively, the two films show more naked human flesh than a doctor is likely to see in his entire career. Irreversible flaunts it so routinely that it becomes unsurprising whereas Salò materializes the physical body, reducing the strategically placed figures to pawns on a chess board, forever inferior to the dominant Kings. On that note, Salò is almost, dare I say, recommendable for its formal rigor; nearly every composition is of intense mathematical symmetry. Similarly, if one can handle the arduousness of Irreversible, what emerges is a thought-provoking study of the nature of time, littered with unbelievably difficult set pieces."
-Carson Lund, Are the hills going to march off?, "Irreversible and Salo (2002/1975) Films by Gasper Noé and Pier Paolo Pasolini"
"Of these three ecosystems of the damned -- and I can express this sincere contempt unabashedly, having been raised in one -- the final is closest to the backdrop of 3 Women; two of the major characters in the film are employed in a geriatric therapy facility offering hot mineral baths and the like (a common offering in high desert vicinities that have the advantage of a sulphur spring natural resource). And at one point Shelly Duvall's "Millie" bitches about having moved her ex-roommate "all the way to Riverside". Judging from the terrain and the flickering fata morgana of despondency, I would place the affair in one of the glorified truck stops that populate the 15 freeway past Barstow. On family trips to Vegas my parents would typically lurch up the pearblossom path in an effort to take the city (and its eternal traffic) by surprise; while shielding my eyes from a dirt storm en route to a Texaco men's room I often recognized more of the Land of Enchantment in the Native totems and O'Keefe-like arid eroticism than the Golden State."
-Joseph "Jon" Lanthier, Aspiring Sellout, "My One Horse Town Libido is an Abandoned Miniature Golf Course"
"The tragedy of Cinema is that we are looking through a one-way mirror at a world that is unreachable, that is blind and alone.
I have never seen a film where the screen has felt so thin, the story so immediate and raw as it does in Fire Walk With Me. The screen, though, is still too thick to smash, too thick to allow us to intervene.
-Stephen, Checking on My Sausages, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), dir. David Lynch"
"The Outer Circle was in the nowhere zone between DC and Chevy Chase, MD where you're not quite sure what city or state you're in. There were diners, banks and gas stations nearby. That doesn't mean much now I suppose but NOT being in a multiplex by a mall or a Disney-fied Downtown gave it a very different feeling that is hard to describe now. There was a feeling you could be walking down the street and suddenly happen upon a cinema next to the Phillips 66 and say to yourself or your walking companion, "Hey, want to see a movie?""
-Greg Ferrara, Cinema Styles, "History and the Movies IV: There Are Places I Remember"
"One could easily mistake such words about the Welles' landmark film as damning, but Farber is really just saying, sure, it worked great in Kane, and the film was innovative, but the cult of Hollywood filmmakers that sprung up around the film has learned the wrong lessons from it. He goes on to lament the virtual extinction of the naturalistic film, wondering if Hollywood will ever "be able to go home again.""
-Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder, "Book Review: Farber on Film Part 1: "The Gimp" and Its Implications on Contemporary Cinema"
"I stalled as long as I could in the hopes that wisdom would reach down to me from the heavens like a funnel cloud, but after two trips to the theater and several weeks of pondering it’s time to face the facts: A Serious Man has me seriously befuddled. It’s a clever film, to be sure, effortlessly weaving together Schrödinger’s cat, the Book of Job and Jefferson Airplane as if they are natural companions. It’s an amusing film, too, though I’d stop short of calling it “audaciously funny” or “seriously funny,” as Owen Gleiberman and Peter Travers apparently did, according to the promotional postcard. It’s a remarkably well acted film, even though its biggest star is Richard Kind, a career “that guy.” It’s also beautiful to look at because, well, Roger Deakins shot it. And yet for all the ways I can think to praise this latest effort by Joel and Ethan Coen, I am overwhelmed with the sense that something is missing. And what’s missing, I think, is the sense of being overwhelmed."
-Jason Bellamy, The Cooler, "A Goy's Beef: A Serious Man"
"Midway through the movie, as the chords to "Jealous Lover" fill a Chinese restaurant, Fran recites the lyrics to The Ballad of The Other Woman. She sits in front of a married man...a married man she truly wants. But as he starts into his promises, she surprises him - and us - by rhyming off the married man's bible, chapter and verse. She's made this mistake before, more than once it would seem. Enough times to know what's coming, but not enough to step out of the way."
-The Mad Hatter, The Dark of the Matinee, "Back to Basics: THE APARTMENT"
"Will Hunting, in the Clinton '90s, first holds a job where he cleans floors at MIT—of all the places to clean—and then when he quits it, he can work construction. Bills aren't a problem. Rocky Balboa, on the other hand, aspires to a desk job (and its concomitant financial security) which he can't get, and must beg around for menial labor in the recession '70s. He gets a job hauling beef and promptly loses it for reasons of budget. Choices are made, in Rocky and Rocky II, on the basis of a dream, sure, but also in light of setting food on the table; the latter in the contemporary-liberal "working class" Hollywood fantasy is more likely to be excised from the picture, replaced with pap about realizing one's true potential, etc."
-ZC, Elusive Lucidity, "Yo, Rocky"
"I think everything Paul Thomas Anderson makes is worth watching and would say he's the closest thing we currently have to an American auteur that fits the mold of a Kubrick or an Altman or even a Scorsese (each of whom I single out because those also seem to be the styles he is drawing from on THERE WILL BE BLOOD, MAGNOLIA, and BOOGIE NIGHTS, respectively). To be compared favorably to those men is a sure sign that PTA is a damn good director. To be able to successfully tap into the style of each and yet still retain a sense of his own style shows that he a great director. Of those three aforementioned movie, MAGNOLIA is the only one that I think is brilliant and yet has too many moments that ring emotionally hollow for me to claim it as his masterpiece."
-Troy Olson, The Elusive Robert Denby, "Best of the 90s -- a near classic and a surprise"
"The other thing about reviewing film is measurement. A thumbs up, thumbs down approach might be too vague, but a meticulous numerical form could be too stratified. And what do you do when you like a movie but don’t think it was that excellently constructed. Or vice versa: you’re faced with a well made but emotionless and clinical piece. Which gets the higher grade? Which is the “better” film?"
-Andrew, Encore's World of Film & TV, "It's Hard Out There For a Blogger"
"The people are without a doubt the focus of the film, but the motels themselves are pretty interesting as well. They aren't the cockroach infested pits you might have in mind and actually look to be extremely clean, freshly painted and quite lovely. They have private garages and back entrances, but otherwise look like reasonably nice places to stay - that is as long as you don't need a suitcase stand and don't mind mirrors on all sides. If you're looking for a last minute room though, avoid trying to check in between noon and 2PM on a weekday. During this peak time many office workers in Miami, according to one of the guests, go to motels instead of restaurants. Apparently they are used to dealing with their hunger pangs."
-Bob Turnbull, Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind, "Love At The Twilight Motel"
"It turns out that my father actually was a war casualty, though it took 40 years for the asbestos (even then, a well-known carcinogen) he was exposed to on the repair ship to kill him. When Dad became a manager at his insurance company, he was charged with firing workers, a job that broke his heart, especially when the worker had a family to support. As an independent supplier of copy machines, he could not compete with big companies like Xerox, though truth to tell, my father was no businessman. When he tried to sell uniforms to the City of Chicago, he was bewildered that none of his bids ever won. Schmuck, a ward heeler would have said. Who the hell is Art Ferdinand? Who sent him? Even I knew that.
The fact of the matter is that my father was the kind of man about whom Arthur Miller wrote his great tragedies. From falling victim to the indifference of the Navy to the asbestos danger on his ship, which echoes the tragically avoidable deaths of Miller’s All My Sons, to being a man like Willy Loman, better suited to working with his hands than trying to get ahead in business, even as the mildest version of a corporate cutthroat, my father’s American Dream was a fitful one."
-Marilyn Ferdinand, Ferdy on Films, etc., "Death of a Salesman (1985)"
"My favourite song when I was six was Jackson’s “Beat It,” in alternation with The Boss’s “Born in the USA.” Such was the ubiquity of that era’s hits that it was indeed possible for kids who had neither experienced the diplomatic niceties of African-American street gangs or the dubious pleasures of being a disaffected Vietnam vet to shout along to those epic choruses without any trace of cognitive dissonance. It was a time of such ambitions and contradictions. The lingering shades of the Counterculture were reduced to jokes fit for Family Ties. Madonna could extol feminism by stripping, Jackson could happily shill for Pepsi, and both could make these look like triumphs for the subcultures that nurtured their ambitions. That epoch met its infamous Gotterdammerung when Jackson’s Black or White video gave way to a bunch of sweaty, grotty, substance-altered teenagers fresh dancing to Nirvana in what looked like a dreamscape high school auditorium where Freddy Kruger would turn up and begin butchery."
-Roderick Heath, Ferdy on Film, etc., "Cinema/Pop: The Art of 80s Music Video"
"3. Sam says the first line--"Never did eat your lunch, did you?" as we see a rapid insert shot of a sandwich on a table. In this fashion, Hitchcock immediately associates eating with sex and excretion (the bathroom). Marion has no need for lunch because she's satisfied her "ugly appetite" (to quote Norman's mother) another way. All of this and an upcoming shower scene make the normally innocent bathroom a chamber of existential dread. Much of the rest of the dialogue is exposition, but I like the way Sam says "Turn momma's picture to the wall?" as a way to characterize what fun they would have after an evening of respectable dining. Hitchcock loves to rely on photographs, paintings, stuffed birds, mirrors, and anything else on the walls to convey significant mise-en-scene. He even did that in his television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
-Filmdr, The Film Doctor, "'Turn Momma's Picture to the Wall': notes on the beginning of Hitchcock's Psycho"
"And always, following the character is an almost Gregorian soundtrack, reminiscent of the chant of the Elders in the Huddle sequence near the beginning of the film, and repeated in defiance of the dancing below again near the end. When Mumble is awoken from his dormant egg early on in the film, it’s by the tapping on the shell by baby Gloria. Later on in the film, it’s this same rhythmic tapping, on the glass of the aquarium exhibit, that startles him from his emotional death – and into a rebirth, in a sequence that returns Miller to what he’d found so fascinating about cinema in the first place, images without sound, “visual music” in the clearest sense."
-The Filmist, The Filmist, "Best of the 2000's - #3: George Miller's 'Happy Feet'"
"The dark night of forsaken city streets, vistas of blissful angst and unholy pilgrimage. I have been there and known their inhabitants: deadly dames, drunken losers, dangerous hoods, crooked cops, dreamers of broken dreams, and flawed heroes.
LA, Frisco, Chicago, and New York. I know these cinematic cities though I have never been. A resident knows his locale, but the city in its ectoplasmic center is not reached corporeally, only in the phantasmagoria of a thousand and one shards of shattered night. Luminescent environs of a cosmic b-movie. Wet asphalt, fog-laden piers, deserted streets, rusting hulks at anchor, the neon glimmer of purgatory dives, cigarettes and booze, dark tenements, the skid of car tires, and the wailing sirens of the dead. Staccato rhythms and aching horns, crowded pavements and desperate loneliness."
-Tony D'Ambra, Film Noir, "Noir Fiction" (nine posts & two pages' worth of Tony's impressionistic prose, a moody tribute to the films he otherwise celebrates in erudite capsules on his blog)
"Having recently watched Brazil, and as one is wont to do with an interesting film, I actually discussed it with friends, one of which went on to tell me that Michael Pallin's character was one of his favorite characters in film history.
-Squish, Film Squish, "Favorite Film Characters Meme" (Squish says the meme is still in effect if you want to participate; my own entry, from last spring is included near the bottom of this post)
"It was through the Cineaste debate that I came across these shocking statistics: "There are an estimated 113 million blogs out there, and 112 million seem to be about film". Now, it is great that there are so many opinions out there but there is also a lot to search through and it takes something really special for one blog to stand out amongst the rest. One of my favourite things to look at in other people's blogs is the blogs/websites they follow. It's like an endless chain leading you to more and more interesting information."
-filmgeek, Final Cut, "Film journalism in the digital age"
"This will be an interesting write-up, as so much of what I am attempting to communicate has to be experienced to be appreciated. And at times it might read like something of a love letter, which will be interesting for a lot of folks because I’m almost certain that some readers will completely abhor this film. I’ve been anxious to reach this year in the countdown so I could try to get down some thoughts on this movie, and also because I am eager to see if there are others that are as enamored by it as I am."
-Dave Hicks, Goodfellas Movie Blog, "2005: The New World (Terrence Malick)"
"What right-thinking Paramount star hopeful would agree in 1941 to don tights and a cape? Could Sterling Hayden, Jon Hall, or Robert Preston ever have lived that down? Paramount might spend millions and still end up with another Doctor Cyclops. Dave Fleischer told of quoting big numbers to animate Superman and Paramount unexpectedly agreeing, his look-back suggesting a giant brought to heel by independent Fleischers who could take this commission or leave it. Paramount doubtlessly bristled if such was the case. Where did this Florida shop get off telling New York what cartoons it would or would not make? Max Fleischer’s lavish operation was an iron lung with Paramount supplying the air. Unplug it and the patient dies. I’ve got the feeling Superman had lots to do with erosion quickening between them. It didn’t help that the Fleischers were themselves quarrelling (in fact, Max and Dave stopped speaking). For Paramount sharks, that was like blood on the water, but more of this anon."
John McElwee, Greenbriar Picture Shows, "The Fleischer/Paramount Supermans"
"Mr. Dink -- Jeff Garlin
Surprisingly, this was the very first face to pop in my mind when I saw the picture of Mr. Dink. Doug's eccentric neighbor was often one of the funnier characters on the show and anyone familiar with Garlin knows how hilarious he is. If you haven't watched "Curb Your Enthusiasm" before, now is the time. Garlin's really perfect for this role. He's got the build, the unique voice, and the humor. Maybe someone should just make a live-action Mr. Dink movie. Screenwriters, start typing."
-Elgringo, He Shot Cyrus, "Casting the Live-Action DOUG Movie"
"I’m still not sure what I qualify an “essential” film about women, I hope my list presents a huge cross-section of different kinds of women and experiences, but at the very least I’m looking for films that have at least one female protagonist, which rules out a lot of films that may have interesting or strong female supporting characters and roles unfortunately. I’m also not attempting to paint only a positive portrait of womanhood, I think many of these film reveal many imperfect, even downright cruel women… but that is part of a reality."
-Mrsemmapeel, House of Mirth and Movies, "The Unofficial Female Film Canon"
"I am never going to forget this film. Not for as long as I live. Not for as long as I hold onto the love of cinema that I have always struggled so hard to keep kindled—keep burning—through anything; through thick and thin; through the lack of interest in filmmaking circulating in the grade schools, middle schools and high schools that I passed through and graduated from; through the overwhelming political apathy that has stung the state of Missouri in which I reside. It has been a long time since a contemporary film has held up a mirror to my face and shown me the kind of thinker, viewer, and audience member that I am. I found such a film in Redacted. It was the Brian De Palma film that I had always waited for. It is still the fiery, passionate film that will haunt me, provoke me, and perhaps even influence me when my future career comes knocking."
-Adam Zanzie, Icebox Movies, "Redacted"
"Golda Meir of Munich There are those hulking figures who instantly read menace with their furrowed brows and bulging muscles. And then there are the grandmotherly types who will serve you tea and send you on a suicide mission. The latter scares me much more because you don't see them coming. I admire Golda's modesty, but know that beneath that simple dress she wears there's one hell of a bat and she knows how to use it."
Piper, Lazy Eye Theatre, "10 Characters I Love, Understand, Fear and Feel Sorry For"
"Even the name of the place - Nabua - is rich in exotic suggestion; already creating the image of a jungle at night (hot and wet from the fresh summer rain) before the film has even begun. The lightning storm that introduces the film - real or man-made - also sets a tone for the experiments to follow. Already we're seeing the contrast between the natural and the artificial - both the differences and the similarities - in two distinct presentations; like the two layers of projection from which the film is made - an artificial recording of a literal projection of light on a canvas, capturing another artificial recording against the backdrop of a jungle at night."
Linden Arden, Lights in the Dusk, "Phantoms of Nabua"
"Craig's newest, Eggs-in-a-Basket, opens with the pounding, adamantine rhythms of an egg-beater. In pop terms, this betrays the subtleties of scrambling (as well the profundities of Brian De Palma's Slash-'n'-Egg masterpiece) for the shallowness of Hollywood excitation.
How did Steven Spielberg miss out on such a project? Eggs-in-a-Basket condenses food groups that most breakfasts usually ignore. Problem is, Craig doesn’t establish credible plate atmosphere (just a stupidly stylized slo-mo gravy montage). Craig's kitchen resembles the 3-D, sci-fi HQ in "Déjà Vu" with coworkers joshing each other like beer commercial frat house boys: Cheap shorthand for working-class tolerance."
-Craig, The Man from Porlock, "Armond White Reviews My Breakfast"
"Modleski basically attempts to stand between the polar opposition of perspectives on Hitchcock’s view of women – that he was a misogynist (Mulvey) or that he was a proto-feminist (Wood.) She humorously undercuts Wood’s wish to “save” Hitchcock for feminism as auteurist romanticism, making it clear that her intention is to “save” feminism for film studies (or vice-versa.) She achieves this through the close study of Hitchcock’s position on women in seven films. Modleski terms Hitch “ambivalent” about women and – similarly to Truffaut above - suggests that his talent, and more importantly his value for a feminist “reader” of his films, comes from the clarity of his expression of his anxieties about women. "
Ben, Man Without a Star, "Reading the Movies: Some Books for Cinephiles!"
"There is one sequence in a spaceship where the characters dance to Van Halen's "Dance the Night Away", and the camera is as weightless as the characters. Even if you don't like the movie I defy you (seriously) to tell me that this sequence, at once romantic and bittersweet (romantic in that it shows how in love the Robbins character is with his wife, bittersweet in that it highlights the loss felt by the Sinise character), doesn't at least bring a smile to your face. The sequence that shows the Mars Rover exploring the Mars Terrain (one that recalls R2-D2's arrival on Tattoine from Star Wars), with Ennio Morricone's soothing, beautiful music on the soundtrack, uncannily recreates the surface of Mars in gorgeous widescreen. Brian De Palma has always been a film maker who operated within the Hollywood system, all the while subverting it within his films, and it speaks to what an idiosyncratic artist he is that he managed to bring his unique moral stamp to a large-scale Hollywood spectacle."
-Ryan Kelly, Medfly Quarantine, "Visions of Life: Mission to Mars"
"I've always thought there was something fascinating about Marilyn Chambers. For many she will remain just infamous, but for me she's eternally captivating. Her work in Rabid alone will always remain special to me. It's the kind of wonderfully naive and fresh performances that a more 'accomplished' actor could never even hope to give. The fact that it should have led to more 'legitimate' work for Chambers is unquestionable but honestly, no matter which path she chose to travel in her life, Marilyn Chambers was always legitimate."
-Jeremy Richey, Moon in the Gutter, "Cinema's Great Faces: Marilyn Chambers in David Cronenberg's Rabid"
"Tarr's seemingly endless takes, his extreme patience for letting a scene's natural rhythms play out — a static view held for an uncomfortably long time, a camera that creeps in a slow sideways pan to reveal the blank expanse lurking around the corner, the way that characters step out of a shot only to be picked up again, long minutes later, when the camera's slow glide finally catches up to them somewhere else — encourage a depth of focus and concentration on the material reality onscreen. This is not always true of Tarkovsky, who despite the superficial similarity in aesthetics was often reaching for something beyond the surface image, but it often is the case with Antonioni, who saw truth and beauty and depth, paradoxically, in surfaces and appearances."
-Ed Howard, Only the Cinema, "Damnation"
"The first David Lynch film I saw was Mulholland Drive in late 2001. I don’t know why it was playing where it was playing, or why I went to see it instead of something a little more usual, but it was the happiest accident I have ever been a part of."
"Whether through transcendental meditation or his constant diet of cigarettes and coffee, somehow Lynch has acquired an uncanny knack for visually and aurally divining the power and beauty of images and scenarios in a way that defies the reductive task of analysis or explication."
"David Lynch’s commercial work infuses a vulgar, materialist medium with an aesthetic and cultural significance that, at times, goes against the foundation of consumerist culture."
"If anything, I usually come up with a new theory every few viewings based on what I emphasized during the film (this time’s emphasis was circular shapes and characters being submerged into liquids)."
-James Hansen, Brandon Colvin, Chuck Williamson, Jason Shoaf, Out 1, "David Lynch week" (a page of all the posts that went up during their 7-day tribute to the director)
Contains some graphic images and language:
(accompanied by essay)
-Andreas, Pussy Goes Grrr, "An Alternative History of American Film"
"At the time, Gould was box office poison in Hollywood after his rumored troubles on the set of A Glimpse of Tiger where he argued with co-star Kim Darby, exchanged blows with director Anthony Harvey, and abused drugs as well as being unreliable and absent. Warner Bros. stopped the production early on and Gould claimed that he was blamed for its failure. The studio collected on an insurance policy that attested the actor was crazy. For The Long Goodbye, United Artists gave Gould the requisite physical before approving his contract and demanded a psychological exam to determine that the actor was mentally stable. "
-J.D., Radiator Heaven, "The Long Goodbye"
"And while listing to “Wishing Well” I thought of Edvard Munch and his primal shrieks, the interconnected nature of art and life and life as art, that blood-red sky hanging over “The Scream”, the model for Munch’s “Madonna” who was later shot dead through the head by a mad Russian lover, that innocent kiss on the back of the neck that inspired his “Vampire”, the mad women from Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, and well, that well that Rex Thomas Gail fell down in his dreams in my own novel The Thief Maker, and that botemless well that haunted my nightmares until Paul Thomas Anderson revealed to me what was at the bottom in There Will Be Blood. Well…what is at the bottom? A Scream? Oil? A Canvas? Ambition? Love? Despair? Art? Part of the beauty and mystery of life is figuring it out for yourself…"
-David H. Schleicher, The Schleicher Spin, "Well If You Must Scream"
"But I love the speech. It raises my pulse, and it makes me proud to love Chaplin. When the end of the film comes, Chaplin, as he did with the romance of The Gold Rush and City Lights, manages to convince me to turn off all the centers of my brain that deal with logic and the intricacies of filmmaking. When he takes that stage, confused to be Hynkel, he gives us a version of the world as it could be, and that bypasses my brain and speaks to my heart. Although I've read a tremendous amount of criticism against it, I've never read a proposal that moves me even a fraction of how Chaplin can."
-T.S., Screen Savour, "The Great Dictator (1940)"
"And one Saturday, sometime in 1990, if I’m not mistaken, engulfed by bills and not making nearly enough at my graveyard shift job to exist at a level that didn’t in one way or another embarrass me in front of friends and family, Patty and I had made plans to spend some time together. I knew that I didn’t have the means to take her out the way I knew I wanted to, and I wanted to mask from her the fact that I was as poor as house dust for as long as I could—God forbid she have all the facts and use them to decide one way or the other (probably the other) as to the wisdom of spending much more time with me. I’d already sold just about every CD, essential and nonessential, that I had, as well as every book that held any value for me or anyone else, so my meager resources were extra meager. There was, however, something on my shelf that might fetch enough pretty pennies to get us through the weekend, and I was committed enough to pursuing the relationship that, after only a minor session of hand-wringing, hemming and/or hawing, I swallowed hard and decided that, in order to get the money to take Patty out on the town that night, I would gather up my 12 years of John Willis’ Screen World volumes off the shelf and see if anyone in town was willing to pay me for them."
-Dennis Cozzalio, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, "PRINT, THE LEGEND: THE TRUE STORY OF MY LIFE WITH JOHN WILLIS' SCREEN WORLD"
"Repulsion fittingly begins with a zoom out of Carol’s eye and ends with a zoom into it, preparing us for the purely subjective tale that takes place between these two shots (and also paying homage to the surreal masterpiece Un Chien Andalou (1929) which, too, slit the human eye to look beyond its retina). The movie is entirely seen through Carol’s eyes and faithful reproduction of reality is flushed down the drain. Anything is possible within these two goal posts. None of the events that we witness might have happened in reality, but they sure do in Carol’s mind."
-Just Another Film Buff, The Seventh Art, "Flashback #69"
-Shanh, Six martinis and the seventh art, "Prisoner 13"
"Researching this piece, I noticed that, with the exception of Peranson's Joseph, all of the characters played by the critics are of vexatious, unpleasant, and/or just downright villanous bearing. I can't imagine why this is the case."
-Glenn Kenny, Some Came Running, "When Film Critics Act: A Selective Survey"
"The first Martin Scorsese film I ever saw was “Who That Knocking at My Door” back in September 1969 at the Carnegie Hall Cinema, a movie theater located beneath the famed Carnegie Hall. At the time, the theatre showed mostly art house, foreign, independent and classic films. I was home on leave from the Army, having just completed Basic Training and AIT, trying to avoid thinking about where I was going to be next month (Vietnam) by losing myself in as many movies as I could. And if you want to lose yourself in movies, New York City is the best place to be other than maybe Paris."
-John Greco, 24 Frames, "Mean Streets (1973) Martin Scorsese"
"This thrilling journey and tragic love story is easily one of 2009's best films. It is already getting compared to films like 2002's Cidade de Deus (City of God). It might not be on the same level of Cidade de Deus, but it is definitely a must-watch film for 2009. Many people in the mainstream audiences probably do not know that this gem of a film even exists, but anyone who stumbles across this film will probably be left breathless by the end as they witness truly raw and powerful film-making."
-Zach, Unfettered Tastes, "Sin Nombre"
"We are still seeing that which masses of people, from all walks of life, are seeing and we all have our own favourite images from the great films of cinema imprinted on the mind’s eye for the term of our natural lives. For myself, I can recall such screen memories as the look of recognition in front of the traffic lights from Anton Walbrook in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp as Deborah Kerr’s face is lit up for him; the look on the face of the dying King Kong; Chieko Higashiyama and Chishu Ryu staring out to sea in Tokyo Story; Orson Welles dripping evil in the shadows in The Third Man; the immortal fade out to Modern Times; Errol Flynn entering the great hall of Nottingham Castle with his deer in The Adventures of Robin Hood; Bill Murray’s inaudible farewell to Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation; Josephine Stuart staggering along the dirt track at the beginning of Lean’s Oliver Twist; Karloff’s monster with the little girl in Frankenstein; the smile that creeps across Shirley MacLaine’s face during Auld Lang Syne in The Apartment; Herbert Marshall ordering dinner in Trouble in Paradise; the mirror sequence in Duck Soup; Falconetti tied to the stake in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc; Malcolm McDowell doling out punishment to his droogs along the embankment at Thamesmead in A Clockwork Orange; Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson’s faces becoming one in Persona; Everett Sloane’s New Jersey ferry speech in Citizen Kane [...]"
-Allan Fish, Wonders in the Dark, "Introduction from my book 'The Untouchables'"
So there it is. But, of course, there's not all. As an addenda, let me first highlight a bit more of my own work. Particular favorites are asterisked - and I should mention that the Obama piece, written in the wake of my attendance at his inauguration, is worth reading for historical resonance if nothing else. Following these selections are the rest of the posts nominated by the bloggers above - I only chose one each for the final selection, but in some cases it was quite arbitrary so please do browse the links below. You may end up liking them even more than what I picked.
Here are some more pieces I can live with digging up again: **Antichrist • Apocalypse Now Redux • The Baader-Meinhof Complex • Capturing the Friedmans • **A Charlie Brown Christmas & It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown! • **Farewell, Updike • (500) Days of Summer • **Flight of the Red Balloon • For the Love of Movies • **For the Love of Movies: Interview with director and critic Gerald Peary • Funny Ha Ha • The Girlfriend Experience • Gone With the Wind • **The Great Movies • Greetings • Grizzly Man • Historias Extraordinarias • Jaws • **Just because you are a character, doesn't mean you have character... • The Lost Weekend • My Brother is an Only Child • **Obama: Premonitions of a new epoch • Le Petit Soldat • Pirate Radio • The Red Balloon • **Rocco & His Brothers • **Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired • To Kill a Mockingbird • 2001: A Space Odyssey • The Wild Bunch • **The Wind in the Willows • "The Wind in the Willows: 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' and 'Wayfarers, All'".
And here are my fellow bloggers' other self-nominations:
(Another Old Movie Blog) Ladies of Noir 1, 2, 3 • Picnic at Peyton Place 1, 2, 3
(Are the hills going to march off?) Still Walking • Eraserhead • There Will Be Blood • WR: Mysteries of the Organism.
(Aspiring Sellout) A Book Review of David Thomson's "Have You Seen...?" • An Atheist's Guide to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow • My One Horse Town Libido is an Abandoned Miniature Golf Course
(Checking on My Sausages) Revenge of the Sith • Public Enemies
(Cinema Styles) The Wanderers: James Edwards • And they had Jazzercise
(The Cooler) A Film of a Few Words: Hunger
(The Dark of the Matinee) Back in Time: Movie Period Meme
(Elusive Lucidity) The Lives of Others • Inglourious Basterds
(The Elusive Robert Denby) Night of the Hunter review • Top 10 movies of 2008 • Lolita
(Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind) Misunderstood Genius or Spectacular Failure? • The Yakuza Papers • L'Enfer D'Henri-Georges Clouzot
(Ferdy on Films, etc.) (Marilyn) Sea of Love • Cloverfield • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie • The Spirit of Ed Wood Blogathon: Babes in Arms • Count Dracula • The Bridge • Gabriel Over the White House • Lady Vengeance • Twenty-five Essential Documentaries of the 2000s (Roderick) Vampyros Lesbos (1970) • Martin (1977), Twilight (2008) • Branded to Kill (1967) • Hunger (2008) • Kaidan/Kwaidan (1964) • Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003), Vol. 2 (2004) • Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983) • Broken Blossoms (1919) • Ryan's Daughter (1970) • Bonjour Tristesse (1958) • Deep Red/Profondo Rosso (1975) • Eyes Wide Shut (1999) • The 400 Blows/Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959) • CQ (2001) • Twenty Five Essential Films of the 2000s
(The Film Doctor) Public Enemies • notes on Fantastic Mr. Fox • Land of the Lost
(The Filmist) Children of Men • There Will Be Blood • The Fall • Che: Part One/The Argentine • No Country for Old Men • The Hurt Locker • Oldboy • The Lord of the Rings • The Dark Knight
(Film Noir) The Lost Weekend (1945): “I can’t take quiet desperation” • Christ in Concrete (1949): Simply a masterpiece • Caged (1950): “the plot of our life sweats in the dark like a face” • I Wake Up Screaming (1941): Bizarre Transference • Le quai des brumes (Port of Shadows – France 1938): Poetic Realism
(Final Cut) my feature on Chinese cinema • financing the film industry • a profile of Kate Hudson • the future of indie movies • a profile of Will Smith
(Goodfellas Movie Blog) Angels With Dirty Faces • JFK • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
(Greenbriar Pictures Show) When the Passion Seems Yours Alone • Two Gun Square Deal Man • King Konv versus Godzilla • The Peter Pan War
(Icebox Movies) Saving Private Ryan (1998) • Quintet (1979) • Edvard Munch (1974) • Land of the Pharaohs (1955) • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
(Lazy Eye Theatre) Get Your Vulcan Kink On • Movie Confessions
(Lights in the Dusk) Tropical Malady • Alphaville • Seed
(The Man From Porlock) Geek Orthodox: Musings on the Unholy Trinity of Filmmakers, Their Critics and Their Fans • Why We Film (Inglourious Basterds) • Fight the Future (Avatar and Southland Tales) • Waxing on Nostalgia: The Karate Kid
(Medfly Quarantine) Tetro • Inglourious Basterds • Armond White controversy.
(Moon in the Gutter) Sam Peckinpah's Forgotten Masterpiece • Adventureland: Ballad of El Goodo
(Only the Cinema) Black Book • A Girl in Every Port • The Conversations: Michael Mann (with Jason Bellamy)
(Pussy Goes Grrr) Black Holes and Alien Bodies • My Favorite Movies: Sherlock, Jr. • Happy Holidays: A Visit to the Mall
(Radiator Heaven) Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid • The Game • So I Married an Axe Murderer • The Long Goodbye • The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
(The Schliecher Spin) The Best Screenplays of All Time • A Review of Toni Morrison's A Mercy
(Screen Savour) Vertigo (1958) • North by Northwest (1959) • Psycho (1960) • The Birth of a Nation (1915) • Metropolis (1927) • Sherlock Jr. (1924) • The General (1927)
(Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule) A Letter to Rian Johnson • Friday the 13th 2009: The Slash remains the Same • Print, the Legend: The True Story of My Life with John Willis' Screen World • Revisiting Sam Peckinpah's Convoy • The Anna May Wong Story • Duck Soup: Funniest Movie Ever? • On The Hangover, land of the Lost and Pelham Redux • Grindhouse Report • Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett • Stephanie Zacharek •
Joe Dante • Inglourious Basterds Part 1, 2, 3, 4
(The Seventh Art) The films of Artavazd Peleshian
(Six Martinis and the Seventh Art) El Prisionero 13 • Line and Shape • Pearls and Lace • the sixth in the Light Flare series
(24 Frames) THE STEEL HELMET • THE KILLING • The Tall T • FEMME FATALE - GLORIA GRAHAME
(Unfettered Tastes) Sugar Review
If you haven't had enough yet, in the past year I assembled directories for all my work on the The Dancing Image and also elsewhere. And finally, here's the round-up for 2008.
Thanks to all who have participated. Share your thoughts and responses below - comments are now moderated on this blog due to spam, and I am away from my computer for much of each day, but I will try to update the comment flow as frequently as possible. Thanks again - and enjoy!