Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Spring Fling: Year of Bests – 2014

spring blooms

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 write-ups that 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 the first of such for the year.

Shall we give 2014 a go then?


Might as well kick off the year with something that upsets the old apple cart, by Benjamin H. Bratton writing for The Guardian and AlterNet:

Why TED Is a Recipe for Civilizational Disaster

“Think about it: an actual scientist who produces actual knowledge should be more like a journalist who recycles fake insights! This is beyond popularisation. This is taking something with value and substance and coring it out so that it can be swallowed without chewing. This is not the solution to our most frightening problems – rather this is one of our most frightening problems.”


My Irish colleague Darren Mooney of the m0vie blog is no stranger to the Year of Bests series, and he’s made it once more. This time, in his continuing highlight of Star Trek – The Next Generation episodes. Here, examining the introduction of the best adversary of the entire series, The Borg:

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Q Who? (Review)

“Q Who? is unsettling, and decidedly so. It’s very clearly a collection of things that should not be happening on The Next Generation. It is also exactly what the show needed at this point in time. The last episode ended that the Enterprise crew using magic memory wipe technology to side-step an ethical issue. It’s important that the show demonstrate that these are still people who face problems and threats that they can’t conveniently defeat with technobabble.”


I know, what could an Ars Technica tech piece possibly have anything to do with the popular arts I cover on this blog? Good question. The simple answer is technology. Specifically the file systems in our lives, which have become more and more important to us all. With the studios moving away from 35mm film for movies made, the plain truth is Jim Salter’s article becomes significant as cinema transitions over to digital:

Bitrot and atomic COWs: Inside “next-gen” filesystems

“Most people don’t care much about their filesystems. But at the end of the day, the filesystem is probably the single most important part of an operating system. A kernel bug might mean the loss of whatever you’re working on right now, but a filesystem bug could wipe out everything you’ve ever done… and it could do so in ways most people never imagine.”


And since we’re over at Ars Technica, might as well enjoy Lee Hutchinson’s Op-Ed piece. Specifically on the opportunity the upcoming Star Wars movies present in cleaning up the whole mess Lucas left us. We can thank Disney later, on our way out of the theater:

Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded universe

“Star Wars is sacred to geeks. Characters in Kevin Smith movies refer to it as “the Holy Trilogy,” and for almost as long as Star Wars has existed, fans have wanted to know more about the universe outside of the movies—and the canonicity of all the elements of that universe is the subject of almost ecclesiastical-scale debates. The movies are unquestionably official—they are the foundational elements of Star Wars, even Episodes I-III. However, the combined mass of video games, board games, tie-in novels, cartoons, and anything else branded with a Star Wars logo occupies a lesser tier in the hierarchy: all these things are still “official” in that they carry the logo, but they are merely part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.”


Glen Berger these days is a psychotherapist, relationship counselor, business coach, among other things. But he once worked at A & R Recording’s 799 7th Avenue facility manning the booth under the legendary studio manager, Nick DiMinno, during the 70s. Here’s his sublime recollection of why the Chairman of the Board couldn’t stand Mitch Miller:

My 30 Minutes With Sinatra: The Saddest Thing of All

“A roly poly Neapolitan looking fellow barreled into the control room anxiously. He introduced himself as Don Costa, one of Sinatra’s favorite musical arrangers from that time. He had not actually arranged the track we were about to work on – Gordon Jenkins had – but he was there to facilitate the process. He told us that Mr. Sinatra had just left Jilly’s – a saloon run by his friend, Jilly Rizzo, just up the block on 52nd between Broadway and 8th, and one of Frank’s favorite hangs – and would be here in a moment.”

american hustle

I know there are a few of you out there who either loved or despised David O. Russell’s most recent film. I’m one of the former. Jimmy So of The Daily Beast revealed “How much of the movie American Hustle actually happened, and what the real legacy of the famous Abscam caper it’s based on”:

The Real Story and Lesson of the Abscam Sting in ‘American Hustle’

“America, so it seems, was founded on swindling the natives, kidnapping Africans, the scams of the robber barons, the sins of the gilded age, the Teapot Dome scandal, the Boss Tweeds, the Huey Longs (All the King’s Men), and the Richard Nixons (All the President’s Men). Moral and political corruption, the very heart of the American hustle, seems to have been with us always.”


One of my favorite books from last year was authored by Eric Schlosser. Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. So when he saddled up to write on one of the all-time great black comedies for The New Yorker, including its famed metaphorical opening titles sequence, one of my favorites, I knew it was going to be another eye-opener:


“At the opening of the film, Kubrick included a disclaimer (“It is the stated position of the U.S. Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurrence of such events…”). He then introduced the “doomsday device,” and turned the aerial re-fuelling of a B-52 into erotica. Pablo Ferro, a graphic designer, created the title sequence and drew the credits by hand.”

new detroit

With corporations ruling much (okay, too much) of our lives today, let’s hope they’re not as bad as those io9‘s Rob Bricken highlighted in his piece. Film-wise, anyway:

10 Baffingly Incompetent Evil Corporations

“It’s hard to be a mega-company and not be evil. There’s just something about setting up a huge conglomerate of global reach that somehow makes a CEO want to develop viruses and weapons and evil robots, I guess. But just because a corporation is evil doesn’t mean that’s it’s good at being evil — here are 10 companies who should have held a few evil training seminars before enacting their nefarious plans.”

I hate sampling

I’ve mentioned it somewhere before, I hate sampling. And if you don’t know what that musical technique is, then read/listen to Yahoo‘s Rob Walker and the videos his piece highlighted to learn more:

Listen: Some of the Most Famous Samples in the World, and the Songs That Used Them

“Video remixer Eclectic Method has put together a tight but effective three-minute clip, “A Brief History of Sampling.” Quick cuts juxtapose source material like James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” with the familiar songs that have used choice musical slices in practically infinite ways. (In the case of “Funky Drummer,” that means songs by Public Enemy, Dr. Dre, LL Cool J and more.)”

movie titles

I’m a long-time fan of the opening titles sequences for movies through the years. Therefore, the good folk over at The Art of the Title get regular visits by me. If it is for you, too, then Ben Radatz’s look at ‘The Golden Age of the American B-Movie Title Sequence’ is well worth your time:

They Came From Within: B-Movie Title Design of the 1940s & 1950s

“Earning its title from the long-abandoned practice of attaching risky low-budget films to first-run — or “A” — features on a double bill, B films favor no particular genre or era; any Hollywood production is subject to its own B treatment, provided that its profit potential has been established. Yet the relationship between mainstream and B production has always been dynamic and symbiotic; historically, B films have been a proving grounds for box office buoyancy, testing out new talent and techniques while pushing censorship boundaries at every turn.”


I consider author John Kenneth Muir a good friend of mine. But that’s not the reason he’s made this series a number of times in the last few years. No, he makes it because of what he writes. A prime example would be his contribution to the Anorak site back in February:

Childhood’s End: The Five Most Terrifying Movies Made From A Child’s Perspective

“At its best and most illuminating, the horror film genre expresses fears about the future, about mortality, and about, even, how we live day-to-day. Some notable horror movies, however, have also attempted to explicitly sow terror (and indeed, melancholy…) by adopting the perspective of a child as he or she broaches change, and the onset of maturity. After all, the end of childhood is also, in many ways, the end of innocence itself.”


J.D. over at Radiator Heaven, is another good friend who has contributed here. Normally, you’ll find him writing wonderfully about film. But when he puts his mind to it, he examines books just as well. And when it’s a watershed sci-fi classic, you can guess the rest…:


“It is amazing to think that William Gibson’s debut novel, Neuromancer, turns 30 years old this year. It was a landmark science fiction novel that helped spearhead the Cyberpunk sub-genre of science fiction. As the author has said in interviews, it came out at just the right time when people were receptive to such a stylish, dystopic vision of the future. Gibson’s novel went on to become the first winner of the science fiction “triple crown” – the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award – and influenced countless other SF novels and films.”


It’s not a big reveal that I’m a big fan of Bond, James Bond. So when Michael Reed, writing for Den of the Geek, took a look at the potential turning points over the course of the venerable series, you know what I was knee-deep into that day:

Big turning points in the James Bond movie franchise

“007 lists resurrection amongst his hobbies, but speculation is our game today. Your own ideal fantasy James Bond film probably depends on what sort of Bond you’re into. If you like serious Bond, you probably consider it a crying shame that Timothy Dalton didn’t get to make at least one more film.”


Might as well have another good friend, Ruth of Flixchatter, help awaken 2014 with a film from her BlindSpot series. And it’s a Capra Classic. Her enthusiasm for discovering new old movies is just infectious to read, and admire:

February 2014 Blind Spot: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

“I didn’t realize that I’m doing another Frank Capra film back to back in the BlindSpot series! Well, I had initially wanted to do a James Stewart marathon after the Gregory Peck one, but I never got around to it. Well, I finally got to see it on President’s Day last weekend, what a fitting time it was and this film certainly lived up to its classic icon status.”


Few things are more fun than a lively interview with an engaging actor. One who happens to be a favorite of mine. Such was the case last month when Ain’t It Cool News had Quint talk to the genre icon that is Kurt Russell:

AICN Legends: Quint chats up Kurt Russell about everything from Walt Disney to John Carpenter!

“The things I actually did, if people took the time to look at what I was doing at the time, it was a little different. When I did the light comedies at Disney, that was quite a different thing for me to be doing because when I first went there the character that I played was a the son of an alcoholic and he was very ashamed of it. The kid had real problems, but he was a tough kid that wanted to be a part of something.


Hometown colleague Richard Kirkham has been examining the films of 1984 over at his second blog, 30 Years On: 1984 a Great Year for Movies. His tribute to a Ron Howard rom-com, one we’re all still secretly keen on, warmed this old heart, for sure:


““Splash” manages to be a very funny movie and a dramatically romantic one at the same time. Hanks’ star was rising like a comet and Hannah was luminescent in the role. John Candy managed to be obnoxious and sweet and sell both persona’s coming from the same character. The movie was a box office smash ending up at number ten for the year, and more impressively, being a favorite of families for the last thirty years.


Personally, I’m overjoyed when movie bloggers of this day-and-age discover and rave about old television movies. Especially one from my youth. A TV flick that remains intriguing and haunting to this day, if you’ve ever seen it, that is. Victor De Leon of Vic’s Movie Den did, and captured it well:

Vic’s Review – “A Cold Night’s Death” (1973)

“Everything fell into place and the finished product was re-named “A Cold’s Night’s Death.” A TV movie that chills, frightens and appropriately confounds the viewers. A short and sweet little creep-fest that keeps the audience glued with a resonating atmosphere and well placed low budget charm. ACND is a gem of a “Made for TV” flick that joins “Bad Ronald” up at the upper decks of those lost little films that have garnered cult status by being so elusive.


Let’s close this highlight reel with more stellar work by the legend that is Kurt Russell (and, oh yeah, a film that co-starred Sylvester Stallone). Jonathan Wood of made the case for that since “… it will be absurd and awesome in equal measures.”:

What Would Kurt Russell Do? Making the Case for Tango & Cash (1989)

“Next is Kurt Russell’s Gabriel Cash—second in the title, but first in our hearts. While Stallone’s Tango is pristine übermensch, Russell’s Tango is a rugged everyman. Just an everyman who happens to be able to rock a mullet so hard it could throw a weaker man’s hips out of joint. Russell’s character is the more accessible of the two policeman. The one who we might actually aspire to be.

The entire series can be found here.

14 Responses to “Spring Fling: Year of Bests – 2014”

  1. thinkatron

    It is an honor to be included on your list of bests for Spring, my friend, and also a privilege to be in such great company. Thank you for including my article about “Childhood’s End”…it means a lot to me! I was also thrilled to read the retrospective of 1984, and about “A Cold Night’s Death.” Fantastic reading, and as always, thank you for pointing us towards great online writing.


    • le0pard13

      My pleasure, John. Your piece on Childhood’s End certainly registered with me. There’s always some reading on those subjects that enthrall us both, and it’s good to share them. Many thanks, my friend.


  2. 70srichard

    To be included among such illustrious company is a great honor. Thank you, I hope I can continue to find ways of saying things that intrigue you enough to keep reading. I’m going to look at all of these that I haven’t already seen. A great heads up for reading material. Thanks for all the choices.


    • le0pard13

      You’re more than welcome, Richard. Happy to do it. Really enjoyed your look back at SPLASH, and your series on 1984. Remember the year well. Thank you, my friend.


  3. Victor De Leon

    Wow! I am so very honored to be on your list and I am in great company! I appreciate you considering me for your Spring Fling.

    There are some amazing posts on here and some great reading material that is going to keep me busy for some time. I’m glad that you gathered all of these wonderful articles for me to check out. Sometimes, unfortunately, some fall through the cracks and I miss some awesome posts.

    Thanks again for adding my review. This was a wonderful surprise!


    • le0pard13

      Thank you very much for the kind words, Victor. You deserve to be in this company. Loved your experience with this film. Saw it when it first debuted on TV and it’s been with me ever since. 🙂


  4. J.D.

    As John said in his comments, I am honored to be included with so many other wonderful contributors! What a great list. I just watched AMERICAN HUSTLE recently and so I eagerly anticipate reading that article that you linked to – I’ve been wondering just how much of what is in the film is true.


    • le0pard13

      You’re deserving, J.D. I continue to be a big fan of your writing. Glad to hear you watched AMERICAN HUSTLE and thought to look more into it. We love those 70s, the decade and the movies they wrought. Now I need to tee up AMERICAN GANGSTER once more. Thanks so much, my friend. 🙂


  5. ruth

    Awww, thanks so much for including me amongst such wonderful articles, Michael, I’m so honored! Hey I’m in the camp who enjoyed American Hustle too 😀

    Oh I think I will love this Michael Reed guy just from what he said about Dalton, woo hoo! Thanks for sharing that one!


    • le0pard13

      You’re certainly welcome and deserving, Ruth. And glad to hear we’re AMERICAN HUSTLE fans! Wasn’t Michael Reed’s Bond article great and informative? Glad to read his appreciation of Dalton, too. Many thanks, my friend. 🙂


  6. Writer Loves Movies

    This is a great idea to keep a record of favourite posts and share the love for them. Some very interesting articles here too that I will definitely check out soon! Thanks for sharing!


  7. Rachel

    I’m so glad you do these throughout the year. Thanks for sharing all these highlights! I’ve come by so many wonderful articles through these posts I know I would not have seen otherwise.



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