Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

The Spring Crop: Year of Bests – 2013

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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 my head. 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 the second for the year.

Editor’s note: timely, too, as I will be taking a short break from blogging while I join my family on vacation right after this publishes. Some posts are lined up during this break (along with the light timer), so it’ll look like I’m still home. Cheers, all :-).

Shall we return to this?

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While we await whatever Breaking Bad has in store for its last eight hours, I am nothing but a promoter for the thing that’ll sustain me after BB is laid to rest. JUSTIFIED. And I can’t wait until the appropriately named Danger Guerrero (btw, the last name means ‘warrior’ in spanish) gives us the lowdown summary for each future episode to come. You only need read what he wrote for last season’s finale to get my drift:

Takeaways, Highlights, And GIFs From Last Night’s Episode Of ‘Justified’: ‘Ghosts’

“There are many things I love about Justified, but I think two particular examples from last night’s season finale really highlight what makes the show so great: First of all, the opening scene with Raylan, Winona, and Nicky Augustine’s elf and elfgoons. That could have easily been dragged out as the focus of the whole episode (Raylan trying to figure out how to save Winona and Baby Rayleen — which, again, is officially the baby’s name as far as I’m concerned — while he was a hostage himself, tons of “don’t hurt the baby” drama, etc.). Instead, within the first 10 minutes or so, Mama and Papa put about a dozen bullets into the bad guys and we were off to deal with other important business. This show moves fast. Try to keep up.”


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As some of my readers know, I (like others) have a distinct fondness for the opening titles segment of popular film. You, too? Then, you have to read The Art of the Title. Described by its founder Ian Abinson as “… the leading online resource of title sequence design, spanning the film, television, conference, and videogame industries. Featuring title design from countries around the world, we honor the creators and innovators who contribute to the field, discussing and displaying their work with a desire to explicate, facilitate, and instigate” And look what they set their sights on last April:

Skyfall (2012)

“Kleinman upheld the tradition of the Bond sequence as set down by Binder and Robert Brownjohn (1963’s From Russia with Love and 1964’s Goldfinger), but his background in shortform direction and modern post-production introduced the format to an entirely new bag of tricks. While only six years had lapsed between Binder’s last and Kleinman’s first sequences, it was a millennia in digital years; the tech revolution had overgrown Hollywood, leading to a steady flow of visual effects-heavy blockbusters inching ever further into Bond’s turf.


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Margaret, the Game of Thrones fanatic writing over at cinematic corner, took an interesting look at the parallels between two of my favorite things:

Visual Parallels: Breaking Bad + Pulp Fiction

“As I was rewatching Breaking Bad recently I noticed an astonishing amount of parallels to Pulp Fiction. I’m sure the creators and the writers of Breaking Bad saw Tarantino’s classic and some of these are just too similar to be dismissed as a coincidence.”


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Paul Lambertson of Lasso the Movies regularly “…talks about movies, especially the classics”. So when he wrote up one of Gregory Peck’s fantastic westerns, a Hall of Fame film by director Henry King, sure as shootin’ it was going to make my read list:

The Gunfighter (1950)

“The greatness of “The Gunfighter” comes from the surprising difference between what you expect from a western and what Henry King gives us with this film. Gunfighters are always portrayed as exciting, action-packed men who want nothing more than to continue with the way things have always been for them. In this film, Ringo is the polar opposite of what we would expected. This is of course why Gregory Peck is the perfect choice for the role.”


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Aliya Whiteley writing for Den of Geek made the distinct case for an actress who truly blazed a trail for those who followed. She takes a look back at her life and finest movies…:

Remembering Myrna Loy

“Even if you have no idea who she is, you’ve probably seen Myrna Loy. Or, at least, a statue of her. In the opening shots of Grease, there’s a white statue of a girl outside Rydell High – filmed at Venice High School, California, where Myrna Loy was a student. She posed for it when she was 16, before she became one of the most popular screen stars of the 1930s. The statue was vandalised many times, but was eventually rebuilt in bronze, and remains there today.”


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Andrew Johnson is a freelance journalist and the founder of Film Geek Radio, and writes for the Movie Mezzanine site. He wrote a splendid, thought-provoking essay back in May on something we’ve taken for granted and used the superhero film genre to tee it up and really examine:

Tony Stark Is a Villain: How the ‘Iron Man’ Films Subvert Traditional Views on the War on Terror

No superhero brand tackles the War on Terror with as much frequency and arguable nuance as the films of Marvel Studios. The heroes in these movies aren’t just extensions of American militarism, beating up bad guys because, well, they’re bad. While they function as a form of fantasy, allowing audiences to delight in comic-book violence, they also capture the national confusion and self-doubt that set in after the United States was crippled by multiple wars, a stagnant economy, and above all, increasing distrust of those in power.”


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My good friend Ruth of Flixchatter also got the ball rolling in May for likely the biggest event film of the summer with her collaborative Man of Steel Countdown. Her lead piece, a wonderfully personal one mind you, kicked it off in grand style:

Man of Steel Countdown — Superman and Me

“Superman is very much an American, but he’s also very much an alien. As they were raised by Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Siegel and Shuster perhaps also struggled with issues of immigration and assimilation as Clark/Superman does on earth. But through his struggles of concealing his identity and living a dual life – like many immigrants trying to fit in — Superman rise above all that and choose to be a champion for humanity, a citizen and protector of the entire planet Earth, not just United States.”


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The one known as Chandler Swain describes himself thusly: “I’ve been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing “Sayonara” so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable.” It’s no surprise he’d be the one to write thoughtfully about a film with our most controversial war at root, and tailored for the Memorial Day weekend:

At War With War: “The Green Berets” (1968)

John Wayne’s production of “The Green Berets” (it would be ludicrous to ascribe credit to another individual) was the only Hollywood studio film to directly deal with the Vietnam War during the conflict, and would remain so for another decade. That the film tackled what could modestly considered a hot-button topic makes it a subject of interest, but that its depiction of that topic was in direct opposition to the growing, violent national mood of the time shows a rare example of American filmmaking bravura that in itself cannot be ignored as a foundation for further industry critical evaluation.”


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As a native-Angeleno, I can laugh at and/or get a little ticked with what people say about us. I get it, we’ve a bull’s-eye on our back. However, when Erin La Rosa, writing for Buzz Feed, wrote up what it truly feels like living and maneuvering in this fishbowl, nailing each and every point that any LaLa Land resident who has driven our streets for a decent length of time will recognize, there was no way I couldn’t host it here:

30 Things Only Drivers in Los Angeles Will Understand

“18. The devil’s bargain: Do you take the freeway, or the canyon road (Laurel, Coldwater, Sepulveda)?”


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Benjamin Schwarz writing for The Atlantic produced a marvelous treatise on the something we’ve lost, at least on film:

The Rise and Fall of Charm in American Men

“In nearly 30 stilted movies—close to half of all the pictures he would ever make—his acting was tentative, his personality unformed, his smile weak, his manner ingratiating, and his delivery creaky. See how woodenly he responds to Mae West’s most famous (and most misquoted) line, in She Done Him Wrong: “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?” But in 1937 he made the screwball comedy The Awful Truth, and all at once the persona of Cary Grant gloriously burgeoned. Out of nowhere he had assimilated his offhand wit, his playful knowingness, and, in a neat trick that allowed him to be simultaneously cool and warm, his arch mindfulness of the audience he was letting in on the joke.”


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A new colleague I’ve met online this year (and hopefully will catch up with in person, shortly), Richard of Kirkham A Movie Day created a simply splendid piece for a film from my childhood. One that still manages to make me smile while thrilling me no end:

The Adventures of Robin Hood: A Love Letter to a Movie Classic

“It was not until I was in my teen years that I remember seeing the film on television and in color. That is when my love affair really began. Some time in the mid 1970s, I went to a screening at the Rialto Theater in South Pasadena. This theater was a neighborhood movie palace from the old days, with ornate wall carvings and a balcony. A few years earlier it was converted into a revival house and old films as well as unusual fare were programmed into the theater. I think my Dad and I went and saw “The Sea Hawk” which was in black and white and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” in color, on the same night.”


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Speaking of someone who blogs in the same vicinity as I, moi finally caught up with notable Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Rule recently (at this month’s Earthquake screening). A good thing, too. Especially since I’ll give him another link here, his movie quizzes are the stuff of legend folks, for a wonderful article and personal chronicle with the rare thing I hope to introduce my children to this summer, the Drive-in:

From Dim to Dynamic: A Short Personal History of Drive-in Movie Projection

“Way back in 2005 I was lucky enough to be part of a gathering of drive-in movie aficionados who ended up becoming the Southern California Drive-in Movie Society, a group which managed to transcend our natural tendency toward nostalgia and ended up playing a part, however small, in promoting the mini-resurgence of drive-in awareness and popularity here in the greater Los Angeles area. The formation of SoCalDIMS, as it came to be known, coincided with the emergence of a super-bright illumination system called Technalight, with which many of the drive-ins we frequented, as well as many others around the country, were eventually retrofitted.”


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And speaking about drive-ins, look who turned 80 — no, not Aurora, of Once upon a screen, who I met this year at TCM Film Fest 2013. It’s the drive-in itself, silly:

The DRIVE-IN turns 80

“It was a Tuesday, eighty years ago today – June 6, 1933 – that people first drove their cars right up to a screen to watch movies on Crescent Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey.  A new form of entertainment was born and Once Upon a Screen remembers once upon a screen in everywhere U.S.A. with a special birthday tribute to the DRIVE-IN theater.”


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This cannot this be a valid highlight reel without a review from my good friend and author John Kenneth Muir. He’ll surely be the one who recognize the following quote, “And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!” And his will be attached to one in the small number of summer films that did not manage to disappoint me this movie season:

Cult-Movie Review: The Purge (2013)

“It’s been a long-time since we have gotten a dystopian film of such raw power and energy (I was reminded, actually, of the cut-throat British film No Blade of Grass [1970] in that regard).  Accordingly, The Purge might be forgiven its story and character trespasses — of which there are many — because it sincerely attempts to function on almost entirely cerebral or intellectual territory.”


Man of Steel

Okay, let’s cut-to-the-chase about the one film that is dividing this great nation of ours — and still managing to bring in a boatload of box office cash Warner Bros. way. On one side there are my friends (along with my son) who think it a wonderful achievement and a Superman film for our time. J.D. of Radiator Heaven in support of the former with…

Man of Steel

“Goyer and Nolan wisely reboots the franchise and amps up the action and the visual spectacle to impressive levels while also managing to get us invested in the characters so that we care about what happens to Superman amidst all the noisy CGI carnage. While it may seem like faint praise considering their quality, this is the best Superman movie since Superman II (1980). After the fanboy love letter that was Singer’s movie, we needed one that finally got away from the Christopher Reeve era and struck out on its own, which Man of Steel does quite impressively.”

Then there are those of us (my wife and daughter included) who were dazzled at the start, but blown-away, not in a good way, by its final outcome (and think it a Superman film for our time, dammit). Rob Bricken writing for io9.com in support of the latter with…

The Most Important Scenes from Man of Steel (As I Remember Them)

““Dark and tortured” and “Superman” never belong in the same sentence, unless that sentence is “Superman met his dark and tortured friend Batman for coffee.””

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It should be noted we lost one of the truly great writers of all-time recently. It seems all I ever watched on television growing up had these words in their credits:

Written by Richard Matheson

My colleague Edward Copeland linked up the celebratory piece I wrote a couple of years back for his seminal novel over at his site, Edward Copeland’s Tangents, in tribute to the man:

“Come out, Neville!”

“The I Am Legend novel remains a masterpiece of modern fiction by one of the true pioneers of books, television and film. Richard Matheson wrote novels of mystery, science fiction, horror, fantasy and, believe it or not, Westerns. Name a writer’s award, and he’s probably won it (the Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, Golden Spur, and the Writer’s Guild awards to name a few). And if I were to pick just one of his works to be emblematic of his skill and genius at writing, I don’t think I could do better than naming this novel to represent that.”

Thank you, Ed.

Writer Troy D. Smith of Tennessee Wordsmith did it one better with his marvelous tribute for the author who affected a good number of us over the decades; and will continue to do so for those who’ve yet to discover him after his leaving:

Farewell to One of the Greatest Genre Writers of the 20th Century: Richard Matheson

“I’ve spent the better part of my life (I’ll be 45 on July 6) telling everyone who’d listen that Richard Matheson and Philip K. Dick are the most underappreciated lights in the sci-fi firmament, and that they should be household names as much as Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, or Ray Bradbury are. In the three decades since Dick died, his dystopian novels have reached broader audiences and his name has become more well-known. I hope -and I’m fairly confident this will happen -that Richard Matheson will get the same attention.”

Let’s end this here with the now immortal words that will always be Richard Matheson’s legacy, which closed his most important work, that have become strangely fitting with his passing:

“Robert Neville looked out over the new people of the earth. He knew he did not belong to them; he knew that, like the vampires, he was anathema and black terror to be destroyed. And, abruptly, the concept came, amusing to him even in his pain.

A coughing chuckle filled his throat. He turned and leaned against the wall while he swallowed the pills. Full circle, he thought while the final lethargy crept into his limbs. Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.

I am legend.”

The entire series can be found here.

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30 Responses to “The Spring Crop: Year of Bests – 2013”

  1. Aurora

    Have a wonderful vacation, Michael! Thanks for the mention of the Drive-In piece. Hurry back – you’re a must-read for me now, part of my routine.

    Aurora

    Like

    Reply
  2. jackdeth72

    Excellent post, Michael!

    It looks like you pulled out all the stops in an enjoyably good way.

    Have a great time!

    Like

    Reply
  3. lassothemovies

    Thanks for reading and enjoying my post. Have a great break and hope to see you back soon!

    Like

    Reply
  4. ruth

    Wow, THANK YOU so much Michael, it’s such an honor to be included!! Enjoy your vacation. I’ll be in San Diego for a few days and also Long Beach, I’ll DM you later though I don’t know if we’ll have enough time for a meet up, but someday we will… we must! 😀

    Like

    Reply
  5. fernandorafael

    “Dark and tortured” and “Superman” never belong in the same sentence, unless that sentence is “Superman met his dark and tortured friend Batman for coffee.”

    That is fantastic! Great post and have a cool holiday, Michael 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  6. chandlerswainreviews

    You flatter me sir. As always, your pieces are engaging and invaluable. (I must learn to comment and correspond this more often.) What a treasure trove of interesting articles (except for that Chandler fellow, sad case there) that I might be reminded to reread or “discover for the first time”. (Is that a redundancy?)

    Like

    Reply
  7. 70srichard

    Oh, wow. Thanks for including the post on my favorite film. I’ve visited a few of your other links here and look forward to the others. We’ve been gone for a brief vacation as well so I just saw this. Hope your time away is great.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      It was a marvelous write-up for one of the great Curtiz and Flynn collaborations. The film holds up still after all these decades. Thanks, Richard.

      Like

      Reply

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