I will keep the introduction short, and let the pieces speak for themselves. A month ago, I invited bloggers to submit their strongest work of the year. Here is what I received - images, videos, highlights from the text, and a link so that you can explore the piece in question yourself. Enjoy!
"In the muddy 90s this section of the film always seemed to be popping up late at night when I was reeling from the effects of some mind-bending substance (I think it came on after 'Psych-Out' on my VHS), and Fanucci's face looked on my blurry VHS like a grotesque theater clown; his last gasps a mix of profound awareness, surprise and seeming attempts to react in a macho, heroic manner are all undone by his rapid loss of blood and bodily functioning. He tries to snarl and chokes on it. Like this encounter with death, brilliantly conveyed by Moschin, the LSD state is one wherein one is suddenly confronted with mortality's terrifying limits, thrust outside the reach of the linear space-time guardrails; unable to give full expression to the intense sensory input one is experiencing in the dark auburn Gordon Willis lighting of the hallway that is the late night of our lives. We all have our Fanucci moment, whether the death of a loved on, a brutal break-up, a car accident, or taking a whole when you should have taken a half. The question is, what do we do with it? Do we cower, or do we stand up and dissolve into the ether like a man, a blood-soaked, pain-wracked but still standing man/woman?" - "LSD Godfather: Don Fanucci in the Vestibule", Erich Kuersten, Acidemic-Film
"Standing in an aquarium with his arms outstretched, the Creature from the Black Lagoon makes a cameo appearance in Robert Altman’s 3 Women, but his presence is anything but gratuitous. Like everything else in this poetically unified film, he is there to echo, reflect, or comment upon some other aspect of the movie. 3 Women is a movie filled with doubles and reflections. (The 3 women of the title double and reflect each other.) The half-human, half-reptile Creature is another version of the archetypal reptoid semi-humans that we see throughout the movie painted by artist Willie (Janice Rule) on walls and on the bottom of swimming pools. The enclosed tank in which the Creature stands is like the world of the film in microcosm, 3 clams or oysters (undoubtedly female) threatened by a predatory male — just as the 3 women of the title are threatened by “Edgar,” Willie’s hypermasculine, philandering husband. The tank is shot slightly from above to emphasize the tension between the water’s rippling surface on top and the murky world underneath, a visual motif repeated throughout the film, much of which is shot through rippling liquid. The colors in the frame – pale pinks and purples, yellow, and aquamarine – are the same colors that dominate the film as a whole. The fishtank anchors our viewpoint inside the apartment at the Purple Sage Motel that is shared by Millie (Shelley Duvall) and Pinky (Sissy Spacek), the film’s two main protagonists." - "Notes on a Slow Zoom: Robert Altman's 3 WOMEN", C. Jerry Kutner, Bright Lights After Dark
"...Cooke draws on his deepest roots as a gifted gospel singer, his stock in trade for years before he turned to popular music (in the process outraging a good many of his most devoted fans; the circumstances of his death didn't help any with that either). In many ways this song expresses a gravitas that Cooke himself missed, though his popular career nevertheless features some of the best and most influential black pop music to be found in its era or any other. Dressed up with a lush orchestration that makes it as big as Carnegie Hall and then some, the images of Cooke's words bristle with a kind of 19th-century cum ancient veracity that only serves to ground the song further."
- "100 Hit Songs", JPK, Can't Explain (or read all the reviews in one place at this PDF)
"The three films in question are, in different ways, about the commodification of people. They are about the image becoming untethered from its origin – the real. They are about a chosen profession (striptease vaudeville), a particular field (animated pornography) and a certain trend (video games becoming more ‘realistic’ and immersive) in which people give themselves to, or are lost within, an amoral web. We find that people are no less disposable or controllable than icons and avatars; exploiting, being exploited and allowing oneself to be exploited.
There is a sliding scale of agency for the human protagonists that moves from control to complicity, acquiescence and, finally, enslavement. Backstage politics and back-stabbing in Showgirls; power over pornography rights and over others in Demonlover; a struggle to keep one’s body and soul from the puppet hands of a grand game player/designer in Gamer. These are the battles that allow a climb or a fall." - "Humanity Through Excess", Stephen Gebbett-Russell, Checking on My Sausages
"The film comprises of a slew of unforgettable moments, right from the opening where Charu is whiling her time with her opera-glasses, and the one with Charu riding on her swing in complete abandon (perhaps an homage to Kurosawa’s Ikiru), to the terrific freeze-framed finale (reminiscent of Truffaut’s The 400 Blows). The scene where Amal slowly looks towards Charu, who’s standing at a distance, while Bhupati is mournfully speaking on trust, oblivious to Charu’s growing feelings for Amal – well, that was devastating! And Kishore Kumar’s rendition of the classic Tagore song Ami Chini Go Chini was cinema at its purest. The film boasts of great set designs, marvelous usage of light and shadows, and a lovely score (the latter by Ray himself).
p.s. This is my 500th movie review at Cinemascope, and what better way to reach this milestone than via a movie by my favourite filmmaker. So here's a hop, skip and jump from me!" - "Charulata (The Lonely Wife) ", Shubhajit, Cinemascope
"Jack Nicholson had resigned himself to the knowledge that he would never achieve financial security as an actor, much less become a star. His friendship with Bob Rafelson had given him the opportunity to continue in the film business from behind the scenes. So after Torn dropped out of Easy Rider over a dispute with Hopper, Nicholson's enlistment into the cast probably struck him as an afterthought. But the way he imbues Hanson — a character who, on paper, serves as more of a narrative device in his capacity as the film's conscience — with a distinct, comic personality, coupled with the exposure the popular movie afforded him, propelled Nicholson to stardom and his first Academy Award nomination. BBS had launched its first star, and things would never be the same again." - "American Movie(s)", Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder
"One of the funniest parts of the whole thing is when Nigel’s friend thinks that the stitch is coming to an end, after all those incredible and quite disgusting sounds, we see some hope in the face of both, a glimpse, that is finally shadowed under the face of circumstances, it really doesn’t end, and we cut to a close-up of Nigel’s face, one of the most haunting and at the same time hilarious expressions anyone has ever drawn. Do you see what I see here? This is pain at its best, it’s pure and pristine, and it was originated by a situation of love, in this case, homosexual (or a representation of it). Nigel and his friend are suffering because their contact and new relation is difficult to endure in a society like ours today: blood comes out and nasty things happen, they can’t express freely their feelings, and because of that they suffer. Do you also realize we are watching a representation of a sexual act?" - "'This is a pain of unreasonable proportions' - Don Hertzfeldt's 'Wisdom Teeth'", Jaime Grijalba, Exodus 8:2 & Wonders in the Dark
"5) As long as we don't consider the criminality of his getaway driving too closely, the Driver is a kind of knight, a lone figure of integrity in a landscape of morally compromised Los Angeles scum in the tradition of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in detective novels such as The Big Sleep (1939). At the beginning of The Big Sleep, Marlowe comes across "a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn't have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. While Marlowe's heroic sacrifices can appear ludicrous in such a scummy context, he persists anyway, semi-bemused by the absurdity of his position. In Drive, we can see the family resemblance to Marlowe when Driver risks everything to help Irene (Carey Mulligan). As the garage-owning boss Shannon (Bryan Cranston) says to Driver, "I know a lot of guys who mess around with married women, but you're the only one I know who robs a place to pay back the husband." - "Red noir: 8 notes on Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive starring Ryan Gosling", FilmDr., The Film Doctor
"EH: Anyway, I do agree that My Blueberry Nights is minor Wong, though as you suggest it's hard to pinpoint why, since so many of the typical elements of his films are there: the episodic narrative with loosely linked characters, the colorful aesthetic, the quirkiness, the thematic emphasis on heartbreak and redemption, what might be called an obsession with obsession. So what's missing? For me, at least, what's missing is largely intangible, and it's the sense of deeper emotional complexity that undergirds all of Wong's best films. Coming after the dense, evocative 2046—a film that can be read and felt in many ways and at many levels—My Blueberry Nights almost feels like Wong needed a break from that film's emotional overload, its convoluted web of allusions and ideas. My Blueberry Nights is a small film, often charming and even moving in places, but its scope isn't as sweeping, its ambition isn't as apparent, as in Wong's peak work.
JB: For me, the primary weakness of My Blueberry Nights is that it trades the ethereal for the literal. Thus, while it might look like a Wong picture, it doesn't feel like one. Compared to the other films we've discussed, My Blueberry Nights is a small picture, both in ambition and in impact, and yet it's weighed down by big, melodramatic gestures that more often than not feel empty and excessive. One of the things that makes Wong's other films so consistently compelling is that his characters are so difficult to figure out, even when they seemingly come right out and tell us what's on their minds or in their hearts. In those other Wong films, a character's emotions are usually best expressed through music cues, camera angles and the mise en scène. Facial gestures and emotional outbursts are to be distrusted: smiles mask pain and embarrassment; tears suggest sadness but without quite explaining why. In this film, it's different. Characters are more extroverted, sometimes to the extreme."
- "The Conversations: Wong Kar Wai", Ed Howard & Jason Bellamy, The House Next Door
"If I were to argue the Freudian line, I’d read Chernobog as a man who can see women, but cannot have them. They’re always changing and slipping away from him. So he is consumed in an agony of desire. Or perhaps a man who can have women at will, but receives no lasting pleasure or satisfaction, as in Shakespeare’s great Sonnet 129:
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
Yes, the frenzy in those last two lines fits the frenzy in Chernobog’s fiery pit. THAT’s what’s going on. So, after having invoked Milton, I’m now invoking Shakespeare, all in commentary on a Walt Disney cartoon. I do so because the quality of Tytla’s animation requires it. No more, no less." - "Disney Agonistes: Night on Bald Mountain", Bill Benzon, New Savanna
"There's Los Angeles as a city of cops, and Andersen's deconstruction of Dragnet as a fascist version of the precise, minimalist aesthetics of Ozu and Bresson is especially potent. And also very funny. Andersen has a sharp, biting sense of humor, and he mingles seemingly genuine admiration for Dragnet's robotic technical precision with contempt for its exaltation of an 'ideal' cop who tramples all over the pathetic, kooky, corrupt people he encounters in the course of his job. It's similarly hilarious when Andersen uses a shot of Charles Bronson literally exploding a bad guy as the punchline to a sequence in which Andersen laments the movie convention of staging chase scenes that leap from locale to locale with little regard for physical reality: 'silly geography makes silly movies,' the voiceover says, and with Bronson as evidence it's hard to argue." - "Los Angeles Plays Itself", Ed Howard, Only the Cinema
But, suddenly, the film stops and a white light shines out. Another bell. The woman is there again, but the the vivid, blue sky is the only thing behind her. And then, shockingly, the camera swings downward and Trypps #7 spins into the dizzying territory of Michael Snow’s La Region Centrale." - "On View: Ben Russell's 'Trypps #7 (Badlands)", James Hansen, Out 1 Film Journal
"An ad for Harold Lloyd's second talkie, Feet First, from the Perth, Western Australia Sunday Times, 08-March-1931. Feet First concluded with Harold climbing a tall building, as he had in Safety Last. I think the climb worked better in Safety Last because Harold's cries and the other noises made the scene in the talkie too realistic." - "Slapstick #5-16", Joe Thompson, The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion
"Granted, the numbers diverge aesthetically: 'Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?' has a rigid pink/black color scheme and is mostly in medium shot to show off Jane Russell’s dancing, while 'I Can Make You a Man' is much more stylistically haphazard, freely mixing colors and angles. But there’s one utterly damning similarity that sealed the connection for me, and that’s the strut. Both Russell and Curry strut and swagger in exactly the same manic, show-offy, ultra-confident way. They invite the viewer and other characters straight to their genitalia." - "Gentlemen Prefer Rocky", Andreas, Pussy Goes Grrr
"When I reminisce about my childhood, I don’t tend to remember specific scenes. No, what my mind conjures up are images, fragments, sounds, sensations, and emotions. Out of this noise arise scenes, moments, narratives informed by the stories and anecdotes that I remember and that I’ve been told that contextualize almost all. The genius of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is how it builds a story of a family out of such a collage of impressions, fragments of time, space, and sound. It leaves contextualizing to the audience, to gather clues from concrete details and allow them to slowly, inexorably, build up into a larger picture. The film carried me into its rhythms, its patterns, its moods, its swirling classical score and flowing montage, creating within me a deep sense of calm, a hushed reverence for the immensity and complexity of life. This is not merely cinema; this is a reverie, a trance, a meditation, a prayer." - "Life, the Universe, and Everything: THE TREE OF LIFE", The Voracious Filmgoer, The Voracious Filmgoer
"Image and music become linked in near perfect montage as we are introduced the mysterious Rei Ayanami. Like so many classic characters in movies and television, her presence is felt before she makes her entrance onscreen—the others speak of how long it took her to learn how to pilot an Eva, and then hear her weakened voice before she’s literally wheeled out onto the stage, bandaged and bloody in a hospital bed, with alien blue-hair and albino-pale skin, her entrance announced by soft notes limping across piano keys. Perhaps we recognize that striking eye from before, when Shinji briefly glimpsed the girl from afar right before the Angel first struck, a disappearing-act cameo as conspicuously inconspicuous as the subliminal cameos Brad Pitt makes in Fight Club before Tylder Durden officially makes his entrance.