If last year is to be believed (seems so long ago now), I began a change, as I mentioned in April. Previously, I did not have a chance to publish a year-end piece on those web articles (many of them on friends’ blogs) I read and admired. So, in hopes of rectifying that fact I split up the task throughout the annum to solve it. And now with the Rose Parade tomorrow, it’s time to wrap up 2012. So, this is the last entry in spotlighting those authors and their online pieces I most enjoyed in the fourth quarter of the soon-to-be completed calendar period. And hopefully, on a high note.
Time is short, so shall we finish this?
One of the most original and thoughtful blogathons I participated in the year occurred back at the start of October. Credit Ruth of Flixchattter with coming up with a great idea and following through on something small.
“The idea of this blog-a-thon is to…
Shine a spotlight on the ‘unsung heroes’ if you will, the overlooked performers who add so much richness & entertainment value to the film no matter how brief their appearance is, but yet they don’t get the credit they so deserve.”
Two bloggers I hadn’t known a year ago at this time, came on to my radar in 2012 in a big way. And both are from the U.K. Fancy that, and they singled out one of my all-time favorite films by Christopher Nolan when Mark Walker (of Marked Movies) guest-posted over at Tyson Carter’s Head in a Vice, too…
“Not only is the narrative manipulated but the most impressive thing about this, is how we participate in the main characters frame of mind. He is us, as we try to decipher an elaborate murder mystery, in reverse order. If your not carefully listening or observing, this will leave you miles behind. Rarely does a film demand such unconditional attention and still have you scratching your head.”
Aurora (aka @CitizenScreen on Twitter), another blogger I wasn’t aware of a year ago, did her usual thorough and illuminating best over at Once Upon a Screen… with another classic black and white film. Featuring two of the all-time best leads, Mae West and Cary Grant, Aurora helped cracked the code for her readers of today with yesteryear…
“I recently watched Lowell Sherman’s, She Done Him Wrong (1933) starring the incomparable Mae West. While watching, I couldn’t help but think of the film in regards to its connection to The Motion Picture Production Code ( also referred to as The Production Code, simply The Code or The Hays Code, after Hollywood’s chief censor at the time, Will H. Hays who was a former politician and first president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America.) I’d learned about the connection between Mae West’s film and The Code during a history of film course I took years back. So, here’s a rather laid-back look at – the film, The Code and the connection.”
Again, especially for the month of October, Mark Walker caught my eye and mind with a stellar and timely review of a John Carpenter film. Appreciated better now than when it was first released in 1987, the second leg of the filmmaker’s Apocalypse Trilogy remains one the director fans shouldn’t miss.
“This film creeps me out every time I see it and regardless of how I get my frights, I still get them. He sets in the panic amongst the characters at just the right time, cranking up his wonderful score and delivering a depth that is so often unappreciated in his work. He’s an intelligent filmmaker and, quite simply, this is one of his most frightening and affecting pieces.”
Cinema Viewfinder film reviewer/blogger Tony Dayoub is no stranger to this series. His thoughtful breakdown of the intertwined tales within the polarizing, but pensive, film was one of the best I read on the subject. It gave me pause and a re-appreciation of what I had seen.
“Cloud Atlas‘s chapters each build on their antecedent which perhaps led the filmmakers to mix it up and crosscut between them to minimize the unevenness. What it really does, unfortunately, is spread the unevenness around, something novelist Mitchell wisely avoided through the book’s peculiar nesting structure. (Each story is told to its midpoint, before the character in the next story interrupts to tell theirs, until the last one is told in its entirety. At the book’s midpoint, Mitchell descends back through the previous stories until they each reach their conclusion.) At its worst, Cloud Atlas is reminiscent of the elaborately interwoven stories found in a movie like 2004’s Crash, where intersecting points become more frequent and potent as the film builds to some sort of thematic crescendo. At best, Cloud Atlas is no different than many other cinematic portmanteaus, fitfully satisfying throughout with a few stirring segments that stand out significantly more than others.”
Speaking about dispersing anything, especially when one examines the extent ‘data’ is in our collective lives, one cannot overlook Stephen Marche’s keen essay on what this means for literature. His piece, published at the Los Angeles Review of Books, was an eye-opener.
“BIG DATA IS COMING for your books. It’s already come for everything else. All human endeavor has by now generated its own monadic mass of data, and through these vast accumulations of ciphers the robots now endlessly scour for significance much the way cockroaches scour for nutrition in the enormous bat dung piles hiding in Bornean caves. The recent Automate This, a smart book with a stupid title, offers a fascinatingly general look at the new algorithmic culture: 60 percent of trades on the stock market today take place with virtually no human oversight. Artificial intelligence has already changed health care and pop music, baseball, electoral politics, and several aspects of the law. And now, as an afterthought to an afterthought, the algorithms have arrived at literature, like an army which, having conquered Italy, turns its attention to San Marino.”
As usual, Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule finds things in movies (and movie-watching) that are fascinating to read or are at the very least thought-provoking. Agree with him or not, his piece covering The Sessions, Flight, Cloud Atlas, and Skyfall, certainly brought the reader a honed perspective you’ll likely not see elsewhere.
“One of the purest pleasures to be had watching movies is when your preconceived notions and prejudices get upturned unexpectedly. For years I’ve avoided Helen Hunt, having been well put-off by the smugness that’s crept into her work ever since she won the Oscar for As Good As It Gets.That was the first strike I held against The Sessions. The other was like I’ve tried my best to avoid the sort of maudlin, Sundance-style helping of misty-eyed humanity, of which The Sessions seemed to be a high-profile specimen.
As December, and the Blu-rays of summer superhero movies, landed, my friend Bryce Wilson offered up a look at what’s out there, actual comic book/graphic novel-wise, for those who can’t wait for Warner Bros. to reboot (yet again) a certain franchise involving a billionaire with a nocturnal mammal fixation.
““This Tuesday saw the release of The Dark Knight Rises, the definitive end of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. Now that Christopher Nolan is no longer dedicated to providing your Bat-Fix perhaps you want to turn to the comics to satisfy your Bat-Craving (OK I’ll stop now). But with 70 + years of stories about the character (with plenty of duds sprinkled in) and more personality changes then a schizophrenic that can be a risky proposition.”
As I already mentioned in a TMT, if it wasn’t for my film noir/western blogging colleague Colin of Riding the High Country triggering a remembrance via his stellar review of a truly under appreciated film, it all could have gone by the wayside.
“Elegiac is a word that has been used more than a few times to describe westerns that began to appear in the 1960s and particularly in the 1970s. While many movies tagged with this term do have a certain sorrowful quality to them, I can’t help feeling that it’s been overused at times. On the other hand, there are occasions where this description is highly appropriate, Monte Walsh (1970) being one of them.”
Author Joseph Maddrey always captivates me with his remembrances over at MOVIES MADE ME. Primarily since they involve films. In prep for Django Unchained, he related his youthful experiences with a trio of early Tarantino scripted movies that made for bloody good experiences (and reads).
“In 1993, my best friend Ben and I used to go to our local video store every Monday. They had a deal where you could rent seven movies for 50 cents each. Between the two of us, we rented 14 movies for the week. We weren’t watching movies. We were consuming them.
That’s how we discovered RESERVOIR DOGS. I think Ben watched it first, because I remember watching it alone, getting about halfway through, and calling him to talk about it. I couldn’t make it through the movie… not because I was put off by the violence (which was the case with a lot of initial viewers), but because I was too excited to sit still!”
The good folks over at The Art of the Title compiled one hell of a OO7 compendium. All of the main movie title sequences of the last five decades for one super spy. A not-to-be-missed video article, if there ever was one, for true Bond fans.
“After 50 years and 23 films, the James Bond franchise is inarguably the most successful and steadfast in film history. Based on a canon of novels by journalist and WWII intelligence officer Ian Fleming, Bond was already a household name in the United Kingdom a decade before reaching the silver screen. But it was Sean Connery’s performance as a souped-up version of Fleming’s iconic superspy that turned 007 into one of the UK’s largest cultural exports, on par with Doctor Who and The Beatles.”
A good friend, let alone another who more than shares my passion for a certain kind of fiction, really highlighted one of the great two-parters in episodic television of the 60s with his own superb two-part breakdown. Musings of a Sci-Fi Fanatic, indeed.
“And while as a child I was in tune and sensitive to the dramatic weight of this story, it still remains as powerful today, which is even more of a feat. I was thoroughly moved by the plight of Captain Pike and The Menagerie was an deeply emotional experience then and now. The Menagerie is a magnificent accomplishment in science fiction drama. It’s truly no wonder it won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Dramatic it is, but it is indeed a splendid hybrid of human drama and science fiction at its very best.”
While we’ve mention Bond more than once here, as a counter-balance to Dennis Cozzalio’s thoughts on the film, Darren Mooney of the m0vie blog, in his end-of-year countdown of his top 12 films for 2012 did just that with his eleventh entry.
“The wonderful thing about a pop culture commodity like James Bond is the flexibility that the character affords those looking to tell stories using the iconic character. Want to tell a story about high-stakes gambling? We can do that. What about averting a war between China and Great Britain? We’ve got it covered. Want to knock off Star Wars? Why not? How about pitching the character against Fu Manchu? We’re way ahead of you. Bond is flexible, and it’s one of the strengths of the character. Don’t like Roger Moore’s interpretation? Here’s Timothy Dalton. Tiring of Pierce Brosnan? Daniel Craig will be along to kick things into action.”
December wouldn’t be complete if not for another stellar round of appreciations for a certain film. And Dan of Fogs Movie Reviews and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen… did the honors quite, forgive the pun, wonderfully.
“Frank Capra was one of Hollywood’s biggest directors. By the time production began on “It’s a Wonderful Life”, he had already won three Best Director Oscars. ”It Happened One Night” (1934), “Mr Deeds Goes to Town” (1936) and “You Cant Take it With You” (1938). That list doesn’t even include what would arguably become his most famous work (aside from “Life”), “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington””
“Every year I resist watching Christmas movies until I feel the joy of the season come over me. And every year that happens later and later. That’s not to say I don’t feel joy, but that time seems to fly by so quickly these days I have no time to go from fall to Thanksgiving to Christmas before I’m able to catch my breath. I mean, it seems I was immersed in Halloween horror fare about five minutes ago. This year, however, I am trying my best to be proactive in the joy department by starting to watch my favorite Christmas movies early. And I am succeeding as I’ve already watched the one, absolute essential – not only a Christmas favorite, but one of my favorite movies of all time.”
Another writer I recently discovered this Fall (by way of his extraordinary post-election piece) juxtaposed the above with another film tied with the yuletide season. It was kinda angelic…
“… I bet many of you have never seen another movie with similar themes, that was also released in 1947- The Bishop’s Wife (though more of you may have seen the 1996 remake, The Preacher’s Wife.) I’ve seen the original version two or three times, but this year I just happened to see it soon after seeing It’s a Wonderful Life, and the two movies together have given me a lot to think about.”
And if we’re to speak of things divine, Darren’s fifth entry in his My 12 for 12 series fittingly followed that one…
“Faith is a funny thing. If you don’t have it, it’s impossible to explain. If you do have it, it needs no explanation. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus feels a little bit ham-strung by the “Alien DNA” that it carries. As a prequel to the iconic film series, it’s hardly the most successful endeavour. Indeed, the film’s references to everybody’s favourite chest-bursting extra-terrestrial feel almost forced. Like the discussion about the Scientology influence on The Master, focusing on the instantly recognisable xenomorph tends to obscure the unique strengths of Prometheus as its own film.”
Finally, let’s close out 2012 (a year that purportedly was to bid all of us adieu instead of the other way around — and we’re still here, thank you very much) with something most fitting. Colin’s list of a category of film that drives his passion, that is. The man did pretty damn well in his first full year of blogging on a new site, I’d say.
“My last entry, on western stars, offers ample evidence of that, turning out to be the most popular piece I’ve posted by some considerable margin. I’d mentioned that I was intending to do something similar on my other great cinematic passion, film noir, and so it’s time to make good on that. Again, I’ve deliberately restricted myself to ten stars who made an impact on cinema’s shadowlands. Film noir isn’t a genre like the western; it’s a more nebulous form where the convergence of melodrama, crime and fate all become bound up in the creation of a cinematic demimonde that defies definition yet is immediately recognizable.”
Ed. Note: it was my idea to augment the quote above with a link to Colin’s earlier and equally wonderful list of Western film actors. If not me, then who? Happy New Year :-).