Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

The Winter Crop: Year of Bests – 2013

A couple of years back, I did not publish a year-end piece on those articles I most enjoyed reading for the period. Routinely, my online reading turns up a number authors and articles that meet and exceed whatever threshold I have in head. That, and time not being the luxury it once was. I promised not to get caught flat-footed again. So, I rectified the issue by gathering them up and presenting them each quarter. This being be the initial one for the year that includes my favorite number.

Shall we return to this?

Huey in Vietnam
Once again I am fortunate to have extraordinary contributions come my blog’s way. Kevin, the writer that goes by the moniker of Jack Deth, started his run of articles just last January. With a knack of historical perspective and context, I am thankful to the man for the content he continues to provide. And has I’ve been known to do, even though it was an article hosted on It Rains…, it’s a more than worthy piece from a fine blogger (besides, who’s writing this anyway?):

Communicating Strength Through Sound: Helicopters in Vietnam

“For anyone born in the early 1960s and beyond. There are many sounds borne of childhood that will bring heads up to look in all directions. The first and most cherished is the familiar sound of silver bells announcing the approach of the iconic Good Humor Man behind the wheel of his white truck. Another is the sharp sound of a traffic cop or lifeguard’s whistle at a community pool. The third is a sound heard for so long it’s instantly identifiable as to not raise an eyebrow. The age old “Whop! Whop! Whop!” of any variation of the immortal Hughes helicopter. In either early Army Olive Drab or Dirt Brown.”

Barnabus Succumbing
My colleague from the ancient land of Hibernia (source for some of my favorite crime novels of late, btw), and one who is no stranger to this series, Darren Mooney of The Movie Blog, did it once more. His early re-examination of a maligned (I think unfairly) work by filmmaker Tim Burton had me in lockstep with his view:

Birthing Hips Sink Ships: Dark Shadows & Improbable Feminism…

“She manages Barnabas, manipulating him towards their shared ends – it’s Elizabeth who romantically recasts Barnabas’ past failures in order to motivate him, and she makes the decision to keep him around for as long as she feels he is of use. It’s very clear that she won’t tolerate a threat to the family in her care, and she seems to have a much stronger moral centre than Barnabas. While Barnabas is prone to melodramatics and bouts of melancholy, Elizabeth merely observes that the family will “endure.”


Illana Teitelbaum, writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, took an interesting, literary perspective to what filmmaker Peter Jackson delivered with his newest blockbuster fantasy. It’s worth reading whether you are a book and film fan:

Enchantment Dispelled: On Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’

“HOW KIND OF Peter Jackson: for the price of one movie, he gave us two. One of these movies is about a heroic warrior prince fighting for his lost homeland, and some political intrigue with elves and wizards; the other, much shorter, movie concerns a hobbit.”


My good friend and author John Kenneth Muir, another writer familiar to this series, went and offered an additional of his own for 2013. Looking back at an extraordinary television show hitting its double decade anniversary come September. The primer for such only got the geek in us, of any age, gleefully going. Or, at the very least, trusting no one:

X-Files 20th Anniversary Blogging: Series Primer

“Nobody in their right mind would have or could have predicted back in September 1993 that a series about the paranormal — airing on upstart Fox — would out-live both of the aforementioned high-profile genre programs, and garner much more popularity and critical success than either.”


Any Star Wars fan worth his/her salt, has an opinion about George Lucas’ fantastical and mythic sci-fi series of movies. No doubt, spurred with last year’s announcement of the Walt Disney Co. buying Lucasfilm, with plans to release Episode 7 of the long-running saga in 2015. But it was Rod Hilton, of Absolutely No Machete Juggling, who came up with something more intriguing. An alternate viewing order of the existing six five films that fixes the issues with both the Release Order and Episode Order (and I’m planning on doing this later in the year):

The Star Wars Saga: Introducing Machete Order

The problem with Episode Order is that it ruins the surprise that Vader is Luke’s father. If you think that this reveal doesn’t matter since it’s common knowledge, I suggest you watch the looks on these kids’ faces. This reveal is one of the most shocking in film history, and if a newcomer to the series has managed to avoid having it spoiled for them, watching the films in Episode Order would be like watching the ending of The Sixth Sense first.”

left reeling

Part of the issue regarding studios moving to stop distribution of 35mm film prints is that it impacts beyond chain and revival theaters. Laura Nelson, writing in the Company Town segment of the L.A. Times‘ entertainment section, covered those thought long forgotten, or just plain gone, that are staggering in the midst of that decision:

Digital projection has drive-in movie theaters reeling

This time of year is always slow at drive-in theaters, which have been struggling with declining attendance for decades. But it’s not just cold weather that has made this a winter of discontent. The digital revolution is here, and that could mean lights out for many of the nation’s 368 surviving drive-ins.”


Strange how people who are on opposite coastlines can come together on something like a movie. Especially if it’s a film thrown out early in the year because the studio had little confidence or belief in the production. My friend and colleague Dan of Fogs’ Movie Reviews and I did just that with regard to a little gangster-friends-family number that seemed to come out of nowhere:

Stand up Guys

“So while other critics will probably harp on some of the more unfeasible elements of the plot, I’m going to hang my hat on the characters and the actors and say I really, really enjoyed this film. Walken, Pacino and Arkin all have their moments where they’ll make you laugh, or make you sympathize with them. Once the three of them get going on their hijinks, it’ll be hard not to smile, and once they experience some of the consequences of their actions (both from that night and from their lives), it’ll be hard not to grimace a little.”


My overseas colleague who specializes on Westerns and Film Noir, Colin of Riding the High Country, spotlighted another gem a short while back. One more Elmore Leonard story adapted as a 1967 oater that retained its past and reveled in the genre’s future to come:


“… instead I’m going to look at one of those late 60s westerns that seemed to benefit from the turmoil of the time, Martin Ritt’s Hombre (1967). Here we have a movie that avoids the outright nihilism of the Euro western, retains the structure and moral complexity of the best 50s efforts, and looks forward to the bleak honesty of revisionism. In short, it becomes a kind of philosophical meditation on social responsibility.”


Author Bryce Wilson, writing for inReads, did everyone who enjoys great characters of literary pulp and movies a favor by looking at one of the best creations by the esteemed Donald E. Westlake. His page-to-screen examination of the one and only Parker is well-worth the read:

Page-to-Screen: The Many Lives of “Parker”

“Donald Westlake’s master thief Parker is one of the most clearly defined characters in all of genre fiction. A ruthless sociopath, Parker has a perfect clean line simplicity to him, complemented by Westlake’s (writing under the name Richard Stark) dark sense of humor, gift for narrative sleight of hand, and clinical procedural plots.”


Two contrasting points of view stood out in the ether right after Disney released Sam Raimi’s newest, which happened to be a prequel to a fantasy classic. John Kenneth Muir‘s:

Cult-Movie Review: Oz The Great and Powerful (2013)

“To fully understand Oz The Great and Powerful, it’s necessary to remember and understand Raimi’s creative approach, and this enduring fascination he boasts for the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the moviemaking experiencing, the technology that makes mass entertainment of this sort possible in the first place.”

… and Darren Mooney‘s:

Any Witch Way But Backwards: How Oz The Great & Powerful Erodes the Feminist Appeal of The Wizard of Oz…

“It’s a shame, then, that Oz: The Great & Powerful rolled on March 8th, celebrated asInternational Women’s Day. Dorothy Gale has been described as “the first feminist role model” and The Wizard of Oz is packed to the brim with strong female characters. Although Dorothy obviously can’t play a major role in this prequel, one does wonder where all the strong women have gone.”


For sure, I’m going to miss Breaking Bad when the AMC series ends its stellar run come summer. But I’ll take solace that FX has just renewed JUSTIFIED to keep me and mine going. It’s that good, folks. With the series finale tonight, I know that Criminal Elements‘ Regina Thorne will offer another superb recap as she’s done throughout this entire quarter:

Justified Episode 4.12: “Peace of Mind”

“Tim and Cassie have another heart to heart, wherein Cassie confesses that her brother was the true believer, not her. She’s been praying that Tim’s bullet would find Boyd Crowder’s heart. (I don’t think that’s the way it’s going to work, because Raylan is clearly the one meant to finally kill Boyd. Not till the very last episode of the series, though, please!)”


And finally, much like Darren’s piece a year ago, the blogger Margaret (aka Lady Sati) of Cinematic Corner, produced a great close-out to the quarter with another appreciative look at a Martin Scorsese motion picture that certainly deserves more attention than it gets:


“Though Casino has some basis in truth it is pure entertainment first and foremost. Though it runs almost for 3 hours, it never let’s go – you are completely glued to the screen. The film pulls you in this fascinating world of money, greed, lust and danger and you are completely caught up in this story, with its three incredible main players. Though not one of them is especially likable or easy to relate to, for a strange reason you care for them. Why is this reason strange? Because it’s a good story. And the stories we see on screen nowadays are rarely as good as this one.”

The entire series can be found here.

12 Responses to “The Winter Crop: Year of Bests – 2013”

  1. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael and company:

    It is both an honor and privilege to be included amongst so many superior scribes!

    Also quietly anxious to see who does and does not survive tonight’s season finale of ‘Justified’.


    • le0pard13

      You’re certainly welcome, Kevin. Great to have your writing here. Thanks.

      p.s., and now, I’m depressed this morning since I won’t have a new JUSTIFIED episode to look forward to next week. I’ll have to wait for BURN NOTICE to return to hold me over, kinda, till BREAKING BAD arrives ;-).


      • jackdeth72

        There are always alternatives. Can’t argue with ‘Burn Notice’. Though, if you like YouTube. There’s access to full episodes of ‘The Sandbaggers’, ‘Danger! UXB’, ‘Horatio Hornblower’, ‘Sharpe’ from the BBC. A&E’s contemporary, ‘Longmire’ and ‘Ripper Street’ from BBC/America.

        Just some suggestions to get you through your video Jonesing.


        • le0pard13

          I’ve read every Craig Johnson novel in the Walt Longmire series, so A&E’s LONGMIRE was a natural pick for my wife and I. Can’t wait for that one to start up again. Thanks, Kevin.


  2. Rachel

    Oh my gosh! It has been 20 years since X-Files premiered. Time flies!!!

    Great round-up here, Michael! I always find something I would not have otherwise and I love that!



Are you talkin’ to me?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: