Summer’s Ending: 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 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 third for the year with a 13 in it.
Shall we return this?
Writer Jon Negroni teed up July just right and swung from the heels (it’s baseball’s post-season and the Dodgers are in it so please forgive the metaphors) by delving into the unexpected, behind-the-scenes postulation for what those nefarious folks over at Pixar are really up to. The fiends!:
“Several months ago, I watched a fun-filled video on Cracked.com that introduced the idea (at least to me) that all of the Pixar movies actually exist within the same universe. Since then, I’ve obsessed over this concept, working to complete what I call “The Pixar Theory,” a working narrative that ties all of the Pixar movies into one cohesive timeline with a main theme.”
Citizen Screenings is a blog by the fabulous Aurora and has hit some milestones of late. One I frequent every chance I get. Good, too, because she has some wonderful contributors offering splendid pieces. Like Maegan‘s from early summer that looked at a pair of actors and celebrities we seem to have a shortage of now:
Elizabeth and Richard: The First Five Films
“And so, not wanting to be among certain writers, I’ll refrain from dwelling on the tempting, clichéd image of those Fabulous Burtons, that rapacious Liz n’ Dick, and instead focus this piece on Elizabeth and Richard and the first five films they starred in together. From the summer of 1963 to the summer of 1967, Elizabeth and Richard reached the zenith of their professional accomplishments together and would later look back on those years fondly as some of the absolute best times in their personal lives.”
The good folk over at The Art of the Title showcased the titles for one of my favorite films of the summer. Guillermo Del Toro’s wonderful homage to the Kaiju films, Pacific Rim.
“The unholy techno-organic offspring of Avengers and Dragon Tattoo, the sequence is a heart-pumping showpiece set to the sweet strings and screeching riffs of composer Ramin Djawadi and guitarist Tom Morello. Dwarfing jets, tanks, and helicopters alike, the Jaegers and Kaiju (Pacific Rim’s skyscraper-sized mecha and monster combatants, respectively) battle it out one pose at a time, like enormous obsidian action figures in the hands of an unseen child. Robot jocks throw punches, colossal fists crack gargantuan jaws, cities crumble, kaiju roar, and the screen becomes a twirling tangle of machine and monstrosity.”
Celebrating “…detective stories – tales of crime, mystery and suspense – in print and on film, television, radio and the stage”, blogger Sergio has given Tipping the Fedora a marvelous mission statement. He also gave a notorious film (and book) its due. A Peckinpah work that still rattles the cages for all that view it, even more than four decades later:
“The plot of the book is followed fairly closely but emotionally this is a much tougher experience and with a more violent climax though, in fact, the body count is reduced. The film’s most talked about sequence however – one completely absent from the book – sees Amy raped by her old boyfriend. This is initially presented ambiguously to suggest that she may in fact be giving in willingly but this is cancelled out completely by the brutality of the latter part of the scene. The aim is to shock the audience but also render them complicit in the highly mixed signals of the story – in addition this is an event to which we are privy but David is not.”
Hey, when someone as notable as director Martin Scorsese, writing for The New York Review of Books, helms a piece about film, and the language and cultural relevancy of the medium, then you damn well should take the time to read it:
The Persistent Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema
“Light is at the beginning of cinema, of course. It’s fundamental—because cinema is created with light, and it’s still best seen projected in dark rooms, where it’s the only source of light. But light is also at the beginning of everything. Most creation myths start with darkness, and then the real beginning comes with light—which means the creation of forms. Which leads to distinguishing one thing from another, and ourselves from the rest of the world.”
Come August, it warmed my heart something fierce when Alexandra Alter, writing for The Wall Street Journal‘s online section, wrote about the surge of a form very close to my heart. Audiobooks is what kept my love of reading going in a time where work and family made it harder to read that novel or historical tome. She covered why well in her article:
The New Explosion in Audio Books
“Once a static niche for aficionados renting clunky cassettes or CDs for their commutes, audio books have gone mass-market. Sales have jumped by double digits in recent years. Shifts in digital technology have broadened the pool of potential listeners to include anyone with a smartphone.”
It’s one thing when online acquaintances make recommendations for the films they write about or like. It is quite another when a good friend, someone I’ve connected with in the ether, truly champions a film. Ruth of Flixchatter did exactly that in her piece concerning a dark time in her homeland of Indonesia, and included her interview with the documentary’s director:
The Act of Killing review and interview with Joshua Oppenheimer
“What this film exposes is that the new military dictatorship basically used any means at their disposal to get rid of anyone presumed to have any association with the communist movement. The killings resulted in one of the most brutal genocide in history, with nearly a million people slaughtered within a year. The Act of Killing is a documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish.”
Ever since my dear friend Corey Wilde introduced me to the work of author Adrian McKinty, I’ve made it a habit to follow the Northern Irishman via his novels and blog. Not been disappointed. That’s saying something since he and I part company big time on such things as The Beatles’ influence and song, or the need to read Frank Herbert’s DUNE. Perhaps, I took a little glee in his recent reaction to a film, one I probably will not subject myself to, but did enjoy how he described the experience:
“If you’re a sensitive soul like me you should not watch Ben Wheatley’s Kill List. I watched it last night and I was pretty darn disturbed. So disturbed that I stayed up for hours watching the utter head pounding banality of the live stream of Mike and Mike on ESPN2 in an attempt to get some of the images out of my mind. It didn’t work.”
J.D. Lafrance and his blog, Radiator Heaven, is no stranger to this site or Year of Bests list. Convinced me again he did, via his review, on seeing a Nicole Kidman film I’d put way down on the old movie stack I keeping adding to.
“As she said in a career retrospective interview, “I’ve never been in a film that was universally lauded so I don’t know that feeling. But I know the feeling of polarizing films, that make people angry and uncomfortable and I’m very comfortable with that.””
In a summer movie season I found kind of disappointing, especially the tent pole/franchise variety, it seems I took the most pleasure with those that weren’t. Even if others found one of those not living up to their expectations. Case in point, The World’s End. Two bloggers who read and comment regularly here had great takes on the final film in the Cornetto trilogy. And I agree with them.
ckckred of Cinematic:
“Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, The World’s End has plenty of dazzling and stunning action sequences full of Jackie Chan style moves. It’s impossible to deny Edgar Wright’s talent as a filmmaker. His blend of comedy and fighting has never been so stylistic and strong (in many scenes, Wright uses long tracking shots of the group fighting off the alien robots, getting visually impressive results). Even outside the action, the direction of The World’s End is superb. Wright commonly uses unique transition and utilizes recurring images to create more humor. It’s clear that Wright has thought through the movie and the results are very worthwhile.”
Richard Kirkham of Kirkham A Movie A Day:
“It would be easy to confuse this movie with this summers earlier “This is the End”. Both of them feature a group of friends who party too hard and end up facing an unexpected Apocalypse. “The World’s End” builds up to the fireworks more slowly and it has a much stronger sense of character. The actors here are not playing thinly veiled versions of themselves, they are characters in a story. There is some background established and we are not reliant on our knowledge of other movies to make sense of who each one is. Bits and pieces of the back story emerge as the film goes forward, revealing some surprises but mostly confirming our fears and expectations about these friends.”
I’ve already said it: “Not only is the blogger from Musings of a Sci-Fi Fanatic one of my favorite writers on the genre that is part of his sobriquet, but his compositions on music are nonpareil. He puts so much thought and depth into to it that I cannot help but be drawn.”
Lana Del Rey: Born to Die: The Paradise Edition
“Why are people slaves to the radio? Hasn’t the Internet changed all that? Summertime Sadness made the rounds on pop radio and garnered a little, much deserved attention even if it’s not one of her very best from her instant classic Born To Die (2012; fifth best seller of that year) recording. It’s still incredibly good.”
My good friend and author John Kenneth Muir, another familiar soul, highlighted a television show that kept many of us glued to the set once it appeared twenty years ago this summer. Fascinated, intrigued, and/or just plain scarred by it, The X-Files was that kind of program, and for which he prepared a very nice intro for it:
The X-Files Week: Series Primer
“Like Star Trek before it, The X-Files boasts a rabid and large fan base, has made the transition to the big screen, and seen its storytelling translated to the venues of comic-books, video games, and novels. Catchphrases from the series, (like “the truth is out there,” “Trust No One,” and “I want to believe”) have become part of our shared pop culture landscape as well.”
The old amateur photographer in me just loved this look at what it takes to make magic in the darkroom. The analog darkroom. Michael Zhang for PetaPixel:
Marked Up Photographs Show How Iconic Were Edited in the Darkroom
“The comparison images above show photographer Dennis Stock’s iconic portrait of James Dean in Times Square. The test print on the left shows all the work Inirio put into making the final photo look the way it does. The lines and circles you see reveal Inirio’s strategies for dodging and burning the image under the enlarger, with numbers scattered throughout the image to note different exposure times.”
Colin of Riding the High Country has been here before. Highlighting a 1959 film of James Cagney’s, a longtime favorite of mine, is not what got him another, though. As usual, it’s his writing.
“The “Tan War”, so named after the involvement of the British irregulars recruited to strengthen the RIC, remains an emotive subject in Ireland due to the atrocities perpetrated against the civilian population. I can clearly remember people of my grandparents’ generation, who lived through those turbulent and violent times, speaking with undisguised venom about the Tans. The film under examination here reflects that hostility, but doesn’t shy away from depicting the implacable fanaticism that characterized some elements within the Irish rebel movement at that time either.”
Editor’s note: I did notice my friend inserted the much-needed colon Abrams and Paramount somehow forgot to put into the title.
Finally, JKM bats clean-up with one of those films I mentioned earlier that most let me down. While John still hasn’t convinced me to change my opinion of it, he did spotlight the one thing I appreciated about the sequel to the reboot movie, “…a social critique; a commentary on our times to go alongside the action and lens-flare.”
Cult Movie Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
“Accordingly, the film plays as a recap of the difficult “War on Terror” years since 2001, years in which America condoned torture, holds suspects in perpetuity without trial, launched a pre-emptive war, and has relied on advanced, push-button technology to destroy enemies from afar, in violation of law and perhaps morality. Into Darkness is about who we have let ourselves become…all out of irrational, overwhelming fear and anger.”
The entire series can be found here.
29 Responses to “Summer’s Ending: Year of Bests – 2013”
Thanks for including my review! Summer didn’t feel so long ago.
You’re welcome and thanks. The summer sure went quick, my friend.
Thanks Mike. It’s great to be in such good company.
You always a great case to see a particular film, Colin. You’re welcome and thanks.
I’d read that Pixar one a while back. It was quite something. There’s plenty to think about there.
Oh, yes there is. Thanks, Mark 🙂
Great post Mike and, as always, thanks very much for the support and the kind words – both are greatly appreciated.
You’re welcome and thanks, Sergio. Plus, happy birthday 🙂
Thanks for the shout-out, my friend! Much appreciated. That review was a labor of love.
Always glad to bring your film reviews in, J.D. And one can see it was a labor of love with your writing. You’re welcome and thanks.
It is a privilege to be included in the round up with the fine authors you are highlighting. I will be visiting all the sites you mentioned here to discover the excellent work you have mentioned. Thanks for mentioning my work in this distinguished group.
You’re welcome and thanks, Richard. Glad to find we both enjoyed The World’s End via your excellent look at it.
Thank you for the mention! I’m delighted that you enjoyed my post so much and thankful to Aurora for hosting it on her stellar blog.
Aurora does have a stellar blog. Wonderful piece, Maegan. You’re welcome and thanks.
Lovely tribute to your virtual friends, Mike. Interesting post — I’ve still not seen ‘The Act of Killing’ and you reminded me. 🙂
I always enjoy doing these. Many thanks for the read and your support, Cindy.
Great post! Already bookmarked some of these for reading later but The Pixar Theory blew my freakin’ mind. STUNNING.
It is wild, isn’t it? Many thanks for your readership, Fernando. Much appreciated.
Love your quarterly roundups as they send me to some great material on the webbie! Thanks!
I’m a huge Kidman fan but a bit behind on her films… easily done as she is doing so much work these days. I love seeing just how much work she’s doing and how so much of it isn’t run of the mill. Can you think of other actors in her age bracket doing that right now? Or any age bracket? I’d love your take on actors out there working a lot and doing challenging roles.
Thank you very much, Rachel. Nicole Kidman has become quite an interesting, talented actress. She’s rare in that she’s done more challenging work after she won her Oscar than merely doing paycheck roles. She’s somethin’.
Kill List was a terrible film in my opinion, so much hype over here in the UK and it just was the most ridiculous movie with a ludicrous ending. Anyhow, great post as always here Michael 🙂
You’re a braver man than I, Tyson, for viewing Kill List. Many thanks for the kind words, my friend.
It wasn’t very graphic at all, not compared to most films I see anyway. More eluded to than shown, so to speak. But the ending made the whole journey for me such a waste of time. To each their own, as always 🙂
Good to know, Tyson. Thanks :-).
Sorry for my tardy response, but massive THANKS for including my post. What an a honor, esp. to put me in the company of The Art of the Title, a site I so admire. LOVE the sequence for Pacific Rim, can’t wait to get a hold of that Blu-ray 😀
I really appreciate the kind words and support Michael. My interview with The Act of Killing director is one of my blogging highlights this year, thanks so much for reading and sharing the post!
My pleasure, Ruth. I also think your article a highlight for the year. The Act of Killing director could not have asked for a better champion. Thank you 🙂
AWESOME collection of links, Michael. Really enjoyed the marked up photographs, especially.
Thank you very much, Eric. Yeah, that darkroom article really brought back the old days for me. As always, I appreciate your readership and regular comments, my friend.