As I mentioned in April, last year I did not have a chance to publish a year-end piece on those blog articles I read and most admired. Certainly, the complicating issue was the number of marvelously written posts out there, along with not enough time to do it all. So now that we’re beyond the halfway point in the year, and not to be caught flat-footed once more, this is the next entry for spotlighting those authors and their blog/online posts I most enjoyed in the second quarter of the calendar period. That this piece has landed on the Fourth of July celebration, which so happens to coincide with another minor milestone (my 200th post on this blog), is just serendipity. Since this month will cover the Sports genre for my AFI Versus Top 10 next week and the parallel post book/movie review at the end of the month, I think a Lefty Gomez quote would be perfect for this instance:
“I’d rather be lucky than good.”
Time’s a wastin’, so shall we get going?
My good friend and author John Kenneth Muir kicked off the Spring quarter with another stellar look at a cult favorite that has become one of the most popular of John Carpenter films:
“So once more, movie audiences get an on-screen representative of “us” countenancing a strange land and strange customs, but Big Trouble in Little China leverages tremendous humor not only from the peculiarities of this culture clash, but from the rather dramatic presentation of the American hero in question.”
[Ed. note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention JKM‘s look at a film just about every male I know admires, The Grey]
Blogger and Cinema Viewfinder movie reviewer Tony Dayoub cast a biblical and discerning eye toward the Easter/Passover offerings on Blu-ray Disc as we approached those holiday celebrations, which made an impression:
“… the movies that look best are the larger formatted blockbusters of the 1950s and ’60s — shot on CinemaScope, VistaVision and other rival formats to compete with the growing popularity of television.
Of these, the most popular and critically acclaimed were often the biblical epics. They had proven to be quite successful during the silent era, making the name of directors like the one most closely associated with the genre, Cecil B. DeMille. It was he who famously responded when asked why he liked to make such films, “Why should I let 2,000 years of publicity go to waste?””
Author Joseph Maddrey‘s take over at his blog, MOVIES MADE ME, on Stephen King’s epic tale of Good vs. Evil, in a post-apocalyptic world of our own making, brought back memories of my experience with the novel (and coincided with my springtime ride with “Captain Trips” once more on audiobook):
“Now, I’m not trying to criticize my 9th grade English teacher. She introduced me to the work of T.S. Eliot, along with the teachings of most of the great Western philosophers, and she exerted a major influence on me as a writer and as a person, for which I will always be grateful. But I do believe she underestimated Stephen King. She assumed that he was simply exploiting people’s morbid curiosities, rather than trying to teach them anything. What she should have realized is that any writer worth his or her salt conveys a set of personal beliefs, and thereby challenges the reader to examine his or her own beliefs.”
There’s a reason I included Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige in my AFI Top 10 for the Mystery genre, and Darren Mooney of the m0vie blog gave voice to it in his marvelous and discerning look at the film:
“I appreciate all his films, but I think that The Prestige stands as the pinnacle of the writer’s work to date. After all, in a career built around movies exploring the power of narrative, it’s hard to resist the film that compares cinema to magic. I think it’s a deftly-constructed and cerebral film, one of the few movies that still intrigues and confounds me when I stick it on.”
My duo post partner Rachel, the Scientist Gone Wordy (on my suggestion, at that) went outside of her normal material with her April parallel review for one of my favorite films in 2011, and the wonderful result spoke for itself:
“I don’t review films often and I had lots of jumbled/random thoughts regarding the film so I’m going to do what I do whenever I can’t seem to get myself organized for a review: borrow the format of that estimable Canadian blogger, Apprentice Writer. (I shamelessly rip this format off when needs must and AW is so kind as to not mind at all… I think ;-).”
Colin of the Riding the High Country film site never fails to give just the right spotlight to great black and white classics featuring underrated movie stars of yesteryear, like this one. Too many modern audiences dismiss these just because they (or their parents) weren’t even born when these were released:
“Apparently, Hitchcock originally wanted Gary Cooper for the role of Johnny Jones, but had to settle in the end for Joel McCrea. I can’t see any problem with that piece of casting as McCrea had the easy-going openness that the part demanded, and was able to walk the fine line between comic stooge and man of action. He’s entirely believable as the fish out of water, the no-nonsense crime reporter suddenly thrust into the middle of a huge political storm with nothing but his own wits to see him through.”
[Ed. note: Colin’s look at “Nicholas Ray’s overwrought, subversive western” in his June review also was one worth taking in]
What was certainly the most commented upon piece of his this year was this review by John Kenneth Muir, and represents what I believe is the most insightful examination (at his Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic Television blog) of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus:
“In terms of visualization, Prometheus is nothing less than staggering. And in terms of narrative and meaning, Scott and his controversial writer Damon Lindelof have forged an intricate puzzle box, one which remains available to multiple interpretations and deep analysis.”
[Ed. note: another great review on this same film I’d recommend is the one by my colleague J.D. from Radiator Heaven]; as well, I endorse my friend Sci-fi Fanatic‘s extraordinary comparison of the film with Scott’s revolutionary 1979 work, Alien, in his piece over at Musings of a Sci-Fi Fanatic]
Ruth from the wonderful film community she’s gathered, Flixchatter, nailed why I love this year’s Pixar release of BRAVE in her glowing review (and why my wife and daughter looked at each anew after our screening of the movie):
“But beneath all that rip-roaring humor, there’s a poignant and heartfelt story about the celebration of family. The underlying theme in Brave is a love story, but not between a Prince and a Princess, but between a mother and a daughter. That alone makes the story unique, but another thing that sets this movie apart from other classic fairy tales is the absence of a *villain.* Nothing against classic good vs evil plots, but it’s so refreshing to see a fairy tale without a stereotypical villain hellbent on destroying a kingdom or jealous of the princess’ beauty.”
[Ed. note: Are You Going to Eat That? and Julie Summerell offered a comparable but no less interesting view of the same work in her review — and to be sure, the mother’s perspective just shouldn’t be missed on this film]
Justin Harrison, writing for Film School Rejects, very much married two of the three arts I orbit fairly regularly into one splendid examination of a set of filmmakers by the music in their movie scenes:
“… but what absolutely drives me wild about him is his use of music in his pictures’ key scenes. Mann’s soundtracks are usually a mix of contemporary rock, house music, a slow and/or seductive piece for particularly romantic moments and several compositions written specifically for the film by his composer. At least once in every one of his films that I have had a chance to see, Mann takes a piece from his soundtrack and sets it to a climactic or character defining scene and the resulting moment never fails to astound.”
Glenn Kenny, reviewer for MSN Movies, really hit the nail on the head (with an axe, no less), finally expounding on what I couldn’t quite formulate in my head, with the reason I was non-plussed when I first heard of this novel and its later movie adaptation:
“And if you’re going to sin against morality and insult history at the same time, you had better be ruthlessly, divertingly entertaining about it. And “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is mostly a dippy, self-important slog that doesn’t even bother to be interestingly outrageous in its historical revisionism.”
What were your favorite reads during this quarter?
Please add your links to your comments below. We’ll revisit another set come September, folks. A safe and sane holiday celebration to you all.
The entire series can be found here.