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 each quarterly. This the second of such for the 2014 annum.
Shall we get the summer in gear then?
Let’s get the season going with another of Art of the Title‘s splendid looks at the graphic artist that created so many memorable and dazzling opening titles sequences:
“Over the course of his career, Pablo developed great friendships with Hollywood directors like Stanley Kubrick, Hal Ashby, and Jonathan Demme, actor Steve McQueen, musician Harry Nilsson, and calligrapher Harold Adler. He would migrate from Cuba to New York, to London, back to New York, and finally settle in Los Angeles, the beating heart of the American movie machine.”
One of my favorite authors, the late-Elmore Leonard mastered the western and the crime tale. If anyone else brought more appreciation to the under-appreciated city of Detroit, I don’t know who that’d be. Michael Weinreb highlighted why that is in his Grantland piece:
“Now, just for fun, let’s go back and count the anachronisms: the snooker table, Eastern Airlines, the pay toilets, the printed newspaper, the very idea that sleazy blackmailers would consider the airport a safe place to extort a legitimate businessman. And, of course, the airport locker. There are no lockers at the Detroit airport anymore, which is a shame, not really for practical reasons, but because nobody ever used airport lockers with as much verve and creativity as Elmore Leonard did. The man was the Miles Davis of the airport locker.”
Horror and Bad-Ass? A natural tandem. Guys write about them so much that it’s almost a staple. But a woman’s perspective? Sarah Dobbs’ fine appreciation of these female horror leads for Total Film made a point, and was definitely worth a read.
“The Female Lead: Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) is a nurse who picks the wrong patient to fall in love with, accidentally bringing a werewolf home with her.
Coolest Moment: Alex isn’t the violent type – she’s a nurse, after all – but the way she talks down a snarling werewolf at the climax of the film is pretty badass.
Does She Make It To The End Of The Movie: Yes.”
My good friend and author John Kenneth Muir is no stranger to this highlight reel. Though we may disagree on some rankings for those venerable OO7 movies we love, we’re totally in sync with one controversial Bond flick. Writing for Anorak, he comes up with five justifications for it:
“This Bond is indeed more “dangerous” (as the movie’s ads told us…) because he has the capacity to act impulsively and emotionally, and not think things through. This is a facet of Dalton’s portrayal that I very much admire. He plays Bond as a human being who makes mistakes, and who reacts to his dangerous environs not with humor or an arched eyebrow, but with genuine emotions.”
Movies have been traumatizing people from the beginning. My wife can relate how many times Disney has mistreated mothers onscreen. But TV can do it to you, too. Jenny Morrill, for Den of the Geek, walks us through 10 of TV’s bleakest, most disturbing and incongruous TV moments:
“Anyone being made to fight to the death is disturbing – that’s why Battle Royale and The Hunger Games are so popular, not to mention that bit in Flash Gordon where he has to avoid getting skewered in the balls. But in Being Human, the fighter has so much more to deal with than your average combatant with a run of bad luck.”
Let’s move away from the bleak, at least for just a moment. Vincze Miklós writing for io9.com accomplished that with a pictorial look back at our favorite in behind-the-scenes images:
“The TARDIS and the starship Enterprise feel like enchanted places that we visit in our imaginations. But the reality of working on a TV show involves long hours in a studio, and the magic takes a lot of work. Just check out these revealing behind-the-scenes photos from our favorite fantasy and science fiction shows.”
Let’s stay in place with io9.com, and this time concern ourselves with the more metaphysical. As George Dvorsky covered:
“Philosophy goes where hard science can’t, or won’t. Philosophers have a license to speculate about everything from metaphysics to morality, and this means they can shed light on some of the basic questions of existence. The bad news? These are questions that may always lay just beyond the limits of our comprehension.”
Aurora of Citizen Screen, who I again met up with last April for the TCM Film Festival, is another friend who has shown up here. She earned her way on to this when she wrote of another classic, and in a way that had me wanting to tee it up for another viewing:
“I watched The Black Swan in preparation for this commentary on the latest bluray release of the film and my lord does it ever look gorgeous! I really can’t comment about details of restoration, since I’m unfamiliar with those processes, but I can say that it is noticeable the film got a great makeover. The colors are breathtaking and scenes – whether close-ups or sea battles – are spectacular. The beauty of both Power and O’Hara deserve nothing less – and they’ve never been more beautiful.”
It’s that time of year again, folks. The crack of the bat, beating it down to first base for a close play. Baseball will always be special. My friend Richard Kirkham gave homage to an 80s classic that just brings back the memories and images of the game in that very special way:
“The cute little girl from the neighboring farm idolizes him and his Dad can see that there is something special about his boy, but not so special that he can achieve greatness without some effort. His father’s words will echo through the rest of the movie, because Roy will have to struggle. Mostly against despair. The struggle starts when he loses his mentor. The magic of hard work is realized not through a montage of training sequences, but through the self made bat that Roy fabricates out of the wood from a tree struck by lightning that hovered over his fathers resting place. Like the innocent and hopeful kid he is, Roy gives his magic staff a name that could only come from a pure hearted farm boy.”
Of late we’ve been losing too many greats of the cinema. Roderick Heath examined, through some splendid images, why the late-Gordon Willis was a master of light and shadow:
“Gordon Willis, who died yesterday at the age of 82, was a great cinematographer, one whose gifts found the perfect time and venue to mature, and ideal collaborators whose works he could lend them to. The famous use of underexposure in the photography of The Godfather films imprinted a certain visual language in the minds of a mass audience, a sombre palette of muted colours and invasive blacks, where the mystique of family pride and historical survival always seems under assault by a hostile universe, by an inky moral rot, eternally poised between Manichaean extremes.”
We mustn’t forget that the ear feeds the mind, too, as composer Christopher Fox reminds us in his piece for The Guardian. The analog is just as important as the digital, folks:
“Driving today has fewer distractions, hour after hour passing as the MP3 player shuffles through its enormous repertoire, and listening at home is equally trouble-free, a laptop and headphones doing away with the need for all those records, cassettes, CDs, turntables, amplifiers, wires and speakers. So much time filled, so much space saved; never before has music been so available and yet so immaterial. Perhaps it’s this immateriality that has provoked a revival of interest in older audio technologies, in ways of recording and listening that involve something more tangible than a stream of digital code.”
My overseas friend Colin, of Riding the High Country, always interests me with his looks at the Western and the Noir. But when he turns his critical mind to one of my all-time favorite films, and pairings, well…it doesn’t get any better than that.
“I guess it’s impossible for any film to exist, be it a work of serious intent or an unashamed piece of escapist entertainment, outside of the zeitgeist of the era in which it’s made. A film like Charade was made at a time when the world was poised on the cusp of hope and despair; huge changes were taking place and such an environment is by definition uncertain. Now I don’t want to make any pretentious claim that Charade was trying to be a statement about the upheaval taking place all round. Rather it’s just an observation that even the lightest pieces of entertainment can’t help but reflect to some extent the state of flux at that time. It’s this sense of never feeling confident about what may happen next, of how the plot may develop, that is one of the film’s great strengths.”
There were a number of us who truly enjoyed Days of Future Past, but were a tad puzzled with some aspects. James Hunt for Den of the Geek (UK site) had our backs. He’d answer the most pressing questions about the Singer film:
“X-Men comics have a reputation within the industry for being a little too complicated. In part, that’s because the original Days Of Future Past storyline made it cool to create possible dystopian futures and mix characters from them into the team. Bishop, Cable and Rachel Summers all joined the X-Men after coming back from the future. Villains like the Dark Beast and Stryfe came from timelines that no longer exist. Keeping it straight requires a lot of work.”
Okay, I admit it. I’m a fan of Paul W.S. Anderson, and not because whom he’s married to. He’s a visual and action stylist who entertains. Perhaps not in a way many expect, or admire. He may not be your cup of tea, but Bilge Ebiri writing for The Vulture explained why he is for us:
“If you’re looking for a real underrated genre auteur — a guy who makes a particular kind of populist movie and gets very little critical respect for it — Paul W.S. Anderson is your man. From the gaming-inspired action-fests Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, to the post-apocalyptic Jason Statham car flick Death Race, to the down-and-dirty cult sci-fi horror classic Event Horizon, Anderson very consciously makes movies you’re supposed to scream at — in delight, horror, vengeful wrath; you name it.”
Few bluesy artists enthrall me more than the music of Bonnie Raitt. So when Mikael Wood interviewed Bonnie, for the L.A. Times, about one song of hers in particular that gets many of us aching, in a good way, I was right there:
“I knew immediately when Mike Reid sent me the song that it was absolutely one of the most honest and original heartache songs I had ever heard. It was a point of view that I had been on both sides of, and it struck me deeply; I knew immediately I wanted to sing it. Just the demo was as evocative to me as people say my version is to them.”
Tony Dayoub is also no stranger to this page. Writing for his Cinema Viewfinder blog, his take on a pair of intriguing films is why his is a perspective I always seek out:
“A couple of movies, just out in these past few weeks, are worth considering for the way they justify anachronistic masculine concerns with their simple, respective applications of period setting. The Rover is set in the near future, in a world where an unexplained (though I believe the reason is strongly implied) lack of women contributes to the macho aesthetic. Cold in July has it far easier, taking place nearly 30 years ago in Texas where gender equality was not unheard of but definitely slower in getting a foothold.”
I’m drawn to those who can express their film evaluations on personal terms. So, when Damian Arlyn looked at HER on his blog, Cinememories, in this unique way, it blew me away:
“Years ago when I worked at the video store in Oregon, I spent a lot of time on the IMDB message boards discussing movies with total strangers. Amidst all the various conversations, Kristin and I each found the other fun and interesting. We became Myspace friends (that’s how long ago this was), corresponded individually and subsequently graduated to talking on the phone. Eventually we became really good friends (chatting sometimes for up to eight hours straight). I looked forward to receiving a private message from her or hearing my phone ring and knowing it was her. After several years of this, the big step came when I flew out to Indiana where she was attending school and spent a week with her. It was a great week and it cemented something that I had known already for a while… I loved her.”
Admittedly, I wasn’t her biggest fan when Star Trek: Voyager was on its initial run for television. I see that as a mistake, now. Partly because Cate Sevilla in her BuzzFeed, GIF-laden pictorial helped straighten me out regarding Capt. Janeway — by the way, this was simply an awesome way to close out the quarter:
“Captain Janeway is tired of your shit. JANEWAY OUT.”
The entire series can be found here.