Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Winter’s Tail: Year of Bests – 2015

Winter-Scene

Way back when, I did not publish a year-end piece on those articles I most enjoyed reading for the period. Routinely, my online browsing 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 fourth and final of such for the year.

Maybe little warmth is left, but there’s some to hold us over, maybe…to at least next year.


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For the last quarter of the year, Tom re-published on his site, Digital Shortbread, his first contribution to Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings, a new ongoing effort for this fine blogger. Highlighting a documentary that is excellent and quite relevant to what’s going on:

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets

And though some parts of the film wade around in a fair amount of legalese and Silver dedicates at least half of his time within a court house where not much transpires other than cross-examinations, 3 1/2 Minutes often engages the adrenaline system. Given that we are only now two or three years removed from these incidents, there’s a great tension in watching the drama unfold. Was Dunn a racist man? His fiancée’s testimony is quite telling. Did Davis provoke him? Was there actually a weapon in their vehicle? What can the state of Florida do to un-muddy the waters when it comes to describing ‘stand-your-ground’ as it relates to self-defense laws?


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Avid reader and passionate writer, Jonathan Robbins is no stranger to this highlight reel series of mine. So it’s no surprise his timely and seasonal contribution at Robbins Realm Blog to Halloween lands here. His wonderful review of ‘The Howling’, a must-watch for October, or anytime really, a must-read:

The Howling (1981)

The well executed film, “The Howling,” was directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins). The movie was written for the screen by two time, Academy Award nominee, John Sayles (Passion Fish). The source material was taken, although altered quite a bit, from the novel of the same name, written by Gary Brandner, which was published by Fawcett Publications in 1977. The movie, which has a runtime of 91 minutes, premiered at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival in France, in January of 1981, where it won the Critics Award. Pino Donaggio (Carrie) provides a fantastic score for the film, which captures just the right balance of eeriness to compliment what is transpiring on the screen. Oscar winner, Rob Bottin (Total Recall), did an excellent job, within limited budgetary constraints, of producing high quality and imaginative special effects, especially for the time period.


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Senior Entertainment Writer at Uproxx, Mike Ryan, nailed the fascination and unsettledness I had with the film, Steve Jobs. Certainly, Aaron Sorkin’s creative treatment of three distinct points in the visionary Apple founder’s life, along with his trademark dialogue, displaced any lack of action this drama had on display:

‘Steve Jobs’ Squeezes The Life Of The Apple Visionary Into Three Concentrated Doses

“The more I think about Steve Jobs, the more I realize it’s a really oddball movie. As I write this, it’s been more than a week since I saw the film (the New York Film Festival’s centerpiece presentation on Saturday), and I think about it a lot more than I thought I would when it ended. (I will try to explain that confusing sentence.) Steve Jobs is so dense with information compacted into what amounts to three vignettes of Jobs’ life over a 15-year span, it almost tricked me into thinking it’s not a full-on biopic. But all the information of a regular biopic is there, it’s just served concentrated. It’s in the days that follow when we start adding water to what we were given — in an effort to get to what this movie is actually supposed to taste like.”

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By the time we got to November, Alex Godfrey’s look at the same film, for The Guardian, was equally worth a gander:

Aaron Sorkin on the cult of Steve Jobs: ‘I hadn’t seen anything like it since John Lennon was killed’

“Jobs’s commitment to his products was, as Sorkin’s screenplay sees it, compensation for his own interpersonal flaws. The film’s first act, set at the 1984 launch of the Macintosh, focuses on Jobs’s maniacal insistence that the computer say “Hello” to the audience. Whereas Sorkin’s Mark Zuckerberg lacked social graces but created a global social network, his Steve Jobs strives to put more humanity into his products than he displays to those around him.”

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Finally, let’s not forget my good friend, Mark over at his splendid Three Rows Back film blog. His review also has to be considered when it comes to examining this remarkable film.

“Sorkin’s script, inspired by Walter Isaacson’s authorised biography, isn’t backwards about coming forwards when it comes to giving a voice to supporting characters with an axe to grind, including fellow Apple co-founder Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak (Seth Rogen, never better) and engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg). Even marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), his staunchest ally and only friend, arguably, often tears her hair out at Jobs’ ardent single-mindedness.

As frustrated as they may be, however, they each remain satellites orbiting around the star attraction, seemingly unable or unwilling to fully cut their ties”


Admittedly, when one of my all-time favorite films receives attention from bloggers I admire or follow, it gets my consideration. So, when two of such gave more than favorable examinations, well…they just had to noted here. In October, Tom of Digital Shortbread gave it a gander with a Throwback Thursday piece:

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TBT: Chinatown (1974)

“In the case of Roman Polanski’s 1974 noir crime thriller Chinatown ‘stylish’ just doesn’t feel adequate. What’s more is the film does not rest on that laurel. Aside from being visually iconic and brought to life with a swankiness only a duo like Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway could provide, Chinatown offers a complex and cerebral mystery involving romance, seduction and copious amounts of danger. Equal parts mesmeric and paranoiac, this fictional world set during a period of severe drought in 1937 California was inspired by the Californian Water Wars, a series of conflicts beginning at the turn of the 20th Century between the city of Los Angeles and farmers and ranchers of the Owens Valley over ownership of the local water supply and its subsequent distribution.”

Not so much as counterpoint, but one on equal footing (writing-wise and friend-wise), J.D.’s wonderful November tribute for this film over at his Radiator Heaven site was also in the not-to-be-missed category:

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Chinatown (1974) is a rare example of a collection of artists at the height of their powers coming together to produce a masterpiece born out of conflict and strife. Fresh from his success on The Last Detail (1973), screenwriter Robert Townewrote a mystery inspired by the California Water Wars that took place in Southern California at the beginning of the 20th century and involved a series of disputes over water with Los Angeles interests securing water rights in the Owens Valley. Studio chief and producer Robert Evans bankrolled the project and Towne wrote the screenplay with his good friend Jack Nicholson in mind. The actor was coming off the critically-acclaimed The Last Detail asked Roman Polanski to direct. The two men had been looking for a project to work together on and chose this one. The end result is a wonderfully complex and nuanced tale of greed and corruption whose deeper meanings and rich attention to detail reveal themselves upon subsequent viewings.”


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This is going to start an argument among a certain actresses’ fans, but I think Alan Fish, contributing another splendid piece for friend Sammy’s Wonders in the Dark blog, offered a very persuasive post, and wrath, about that famed film performer. Let’s get ready to rumble!:

The Excommunication of Meryl Streep

“There’s perhaps only one thing more predictable than the love of Steven Spielberg in modern film buff circles; the deification of Meryl Streep. Or at least maybe there’s something else equally predictable, my thunderous objection to this sanctification. Meryl Streep is a technically gifted actress with a marvellous command of accents, but she’s also the personification of a poison that has inflicted American cinema since the turn of the 1980s.”


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My dear friend, y mi hermana en la apreciación de cine, Aurora presented an event over at her classic film blog, Once upon a screen…, that I couldn’t help but promote and support (and of course, read). Hollywood’s Hispanic Blogathon. ¡Órale!:

¡De Película! Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon

“The celebration of Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage is upon us and I’m honored to be hosting a terrific array of posts.  I’ll waste no time getting to the submissions, which exceeded my expectations.  But first to all the bloggers who’ve taken the time to contribute – it means the world…”


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I sincerely wish the staunch defender of the semi-colon, copywriter and film fan-slash-blogger, Chris Thompson, would write more. If you examine his deft piece he wrote for his Terry Molloy’s Pigeon Coop site, you’ll discover why I say that:

WHY INSIDE OUT IS A MASTERPIECE BUT WON’T BE REMEMBERED AS ONE

“The complexity with which Pixar has delivered Inside Out’s messages is quite something. It just gets how difficult it can be for many growing up from childhood to adolescence and sympathises with it. It’s saying that sadness is an essential part of being a balanced human being and that you can’t have joy without sadness, and for that reason it’s not just a brilliant film, but also an incredibly important one.”


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By the time anyone reads this, the entire populace on the third rock from the sun will be well aware of the next chapter in the Star Wars saga. No way around that. They’ll be an entire and voluminous mix of movie reviews on the subject, or its treatment. But back in October, Albert Burneko, writing for The Concourse, asked a very important question:

What If The New Star Wars Sucks, Too?

“What upcoming release has ever stoked as much feverish anticipation as The Force Awakens? It almost certainly will claim, by big monstrous margins, every box-office and viewership record in the history of filmmaking. It may well wind up as the most widely consumed entertainment product in history. Already I—a fairly casual fan of the overall Star Wars oeuvre, relatively speaking—have made plans to see it more than once: one time on the biggest, loudest screen I can find, and then one more time in that one theater where I can bring my kids and order dinner for them while we watch. I’ve never even considered doing that before, much less with a movie still two months from its release date.”


Them01

I’ll just copy my friend J.D.’s comment for this amazing Roderick Heath piece for Ferdy on Films: “Fantastic article! You really nailed what makes this film work and why it is one of the best monster movies from that era and one of the few that still holds up.”:

Them! (1954)

Them! is the greatest atomic monster movie. Made with machine-like skill and chitinous beauty, it’s one of the very few sci-fi classics of the 1950s that feels scarcely dated. Part of its rare value and specific force stems from adopting what was then a radical idea, starting off in a different genre altogether, and proceeding with remarkable swerves of story and expectation. Them! unfolds essentially as a police procedural. Early scenes carefully posit signs of something incredible and far beyond the ordinary, violent death and carnage falling under the provenance of professional lawmen, whose method is linked with that of scientific enquirers, sifting facts and winnowing out inescapable conclusions.


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Yes, a few of you will note I’ve mentioned this extraordinary episode of the X-Files more than a few times in this series. Jeremy Egner, writing for the New York Times near Halloween, couldn’t have picked a more appropriate interview for the season:

‘X-Files’ Writers Recall the Show’s Most Disturbing Episode

“It’s likely to be some combination of a shudder, a squeal and a groan, a mix of delight and revulsion. (A reporter’s wife: “Please, God, not at the dinner table.”) The Peacocks are at the center of “Home,” an “X-Files” episode that originally aired in October 1996. Viewers complained that the tale about the murderous inbred clan was too disturbing and network executives apparently agreed. While “Home” appeared later on the cable channel FX, it was never again broadcast on Fox, save for a special Halloween airing in 1999; network ads at the time billed it as “an episode so controversial, it’s been banned from television for three years.””


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And speaking of Halloween, the writer known as Mr. Peel, Peter Avellino, examined on this date my favorite werewolf film on his blog, Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liquer. With all due respect to steadfast fans of The Howling, which is my close second, this still tops it, folks. At least for me and Peter:

He Was On The Moors

“It was a moment of truth. There I was, doing the dishes late one night when suddenly the realization entered my head out of nowhere. “AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON really is better than THE HOWLING.” And that was it. Since I hadn’t even been thinking at all about either film I paused to consider this and accepted the thought as correct. Maybe I felt conflicted about the decision since the game of which werewolf film was the better one was something I had long turned around in my head for the obvious reasons—each released in ’81, each at least as much of a comedy as a horror film and the two of them containing what were at the time somewhat revolutionary werewolf transformation effects. Not to mention that the directors of the two films, John Landis and Joe Dante, are both friends so who knows what sort of joking rivalry has occurred because of this. I feel a little bad because Joe Dante has always been supportive of this blog. My feelings for his films don’t diminish, they never will, but nevertheless in this case I had to accept the truth.”


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Ken Sharp, writing for Goldmine magazine, had the angelic-voiced (and other half of the iconic ’60s duo) Art Garfunkel in for an interview. Doesn’t matter how much-troubled water has gone under the bridge, if you were anywhere near this time, his thoughts on a stellar career is worth gathering in:

Art Garfunkel recollects a wonderful career

GM: “You have the new vinyl box set on your table. Which is the album you’re most likely to lean toward picking to play out of the bunch?”

AG: ““Bookends” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” are neck and neck; our second-to-last album and our last album are both endeavors to be proud of. Roy Halee, the third member of Simon & Garfunkel – the engineer, the Geoff Emerick that sat with George Martin when The Beatles records were made – Roy Halee was brilliant in the sonics, in making the sound of our records beautifully well-tooled. I like that word; it makes me think of Ferraris (laughs). We spent a lot of time making sure our records had a great sound. In those days you cared a lot about putting the earphones on and playing your vinyl records and hearing something wonderful from moment to moment to moment. So we hit our stride on “Bookends” and on “Bridge.””


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One great interview deserves another, so Ned Zeman’s with Burt Reynolds is more than just timely. The Vanity Faire article was downright fascinating for those of us who’ve followed the once king of Hollywood through his triumphs and travails. Onscreen and off, they’re legendary:

Burt Reynolds isn’t Broke, but He’s Got a Few Regrets

“After an auction of many of his most iconic belongings, the Hollywood legend is back with a memoir about the famous people he worked with and loved. Ned Zeman tracks the Bandit down at his Florida mansion for a discussion about his career, his breakups (including that one with Sally Field), and what really cost him the most.”


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Once again Aurora presented an online piece a good many of us stood to attention for, especially a couple of “violent masterpieces”…and if you know what’s good for you, you will, too:

Violent Masterpieces: BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) and THE WILD BUNCH (1969)

“The late 1960s, which is the period many consider the “official” end of the classic era in film, brought forth a new realism to American film.  This is particularly true in the realm of violence as noted above.  I attribute the change to the fact audiences grew up and could no longer be presented idealistic views of the happiness and purity still being served by what was left of the big Hollywood movie studios.  Assassinations, the youth movement and the Vietnam War all played a part in the “awakening” of Americans.  Just as audiences grew up, so did filmmaking in a sense. A new crop of film director emerged to match audience cravings for realism.  Nothing has mirrored society as has film, after all.”


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Every year, there are films that naturally build anticipation. Some for the subject, others for the filmmakers (and cast). Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak was one of them, to the surprise or disappointment of some viewers. Another Roderick Heath post in the rare affirmative at Ferdy on Films had me in total agreement:

Crimson Peak (2015)

“A number of contemporary ghost tales made for the cinema have been set like Crimson Peakin the first quarter of the 20th century—Haunted (1995), The Woman in Black (2011), The Awakening (2012)—because the era presents a telling, yet quaint, opposition between evolving modernity and the persistence of the irrational, and they often reference the actual explosion in interest in spiritualism of the period. Del Toro goes a few steps further. Just as he looked to the schisms of Spanish history to ground his dark fantasias in a real-life sense of angst and unhealed wounds, here Del Toro takes New and Old Worlds as a similar line of division and angst.”


MIimpossibleRN

Maybe this is my interview-ladened version of year-end bests, as it turns out, but the folks at the Art of the Title contributed yet again. This time with Mission: IMPOSSIBLE – Rogue Nation in its sights:

Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015)

“Working under fittingly impossible timelines — one week to create the pitch, six weeks to execute the damn thing — the team at Filmograph, led by Creative Director Aaron Becker and Executive Producer Seth Kleinberg, delivered not one but two sequences: an opening to declare the arrival of the film and a closing to round it off with levity, all at breakneck speed. The opening sequence acts as both trailer and primer, dousing the audience in style and rhythm while giving glimpses of the film to come — just enough to whet the appetite, but not so much as to spoil the main event. The familiar typography and that iconic Lalo Schifrin-composed score ground the opening in the series’ origin as a ’60s television show, while stepping firmly into new territory.”


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Okay, I admit I tend to always gravitate back to The Lads. Every chance I get, I guess. But, I don’t recommend it to my readers unless it has a distinct value. At least for those of us who still hold The Beatles, and their work and music, in high regard. Case in point,  John Greco‘s look at when cinema and music hit a pinnacle:

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) Richard Lester

“Prior to A Hard Day’s Night, rock and roll musicals were a disreputable lot consisting of Alan Freed “extravaganzas” which were mostly excuses to bring early rock and roll singers like Little Richard, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry along with Doo-Wop groups such as The Flamingos and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers on to the big screen surrounded usually with the simple idea of putting on a big show for the kids against the wishes of parents, teachers, local town leaders and other narrow minded authority figures. Not much better were the Elvis movies, though some of his early films (King Creole, Jailhouse Rock, and Flaming Star) reflected signs of an untapped acting talent up there on the screen. Disappointingly, by the time A Hard Day’s Night arrived, Elvis’ films had been reduced to the stale pabulum formula of Fun in Acapulco, Kissin’ Cousins and It Happened at the World’s Fair, generally with songs just as bland and forgetable as the titles (The Bullfighter Was a Lady, Barefoot Ballad, Cotton Candyland).


Tomorrowland

J.D. returns with another piece over at his Radiator Heaven blog that reinforces a theme that seems to be prevalent as 2015 comes to close. Praising a big film that didn’t get much praise when released this summer, and I happen to agree with his assessment:

Tomorrowland

“In this cynical and jaded world in which we live in idealism and optimism are often mistakenly equated with naiveté or stupidity. This may explain why Tomorrowland (2015) tanked so spectacularly at the box office and was roasted over the coals by critics. Based on the Walt Disney theme land of the same name, the film champions dreamers and creativity. Hoping for a repeat of the successful adaptation of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride into a wildly popular movie franchise, the studio brought in director Brad Bird, fresh from the box office hit Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), screenwriter Damon Lindelof (Prometheus), and cast George Clooney to anchor the film in a supporting role opposite Britt Robertson (The Longest Ride) as the young lead. The studio certainly had all the right elements in place but dropped the ball when it came to marketing Tomorrowland, which is staggering when one realizes how many millions of dollars were spent promoting it in a cryptic way that was completely unnecessary. After all the dust has settled and the post-mortems have been made, the question remains, is the film any good? Obviously, the answer is very subjective. I, for one, loved it.


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Like my wife will tell you, I, like most men, am visual by nature. That can be good and bad, again, as my wonderful spouse will explain. Still, makes me appreciate certain art forms. Here, admiring a distinct characteristic of “the black film” that the site, One Perfect Shot, gave credence to:

THE DARK BEAUTY OF FILM NOIR IN 50 SHOTS

“Expressionistic shadows (THE LETTER, THE STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR) evoke the brooding, nocturnal fears of the protagonists. Low-key lighting (OUT OF THE PAST, SUNSET BLVD., THE KILLING, and most screenshots here) adds striking contrasts to images, amping up the tension of any scene. Reflections (THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, THE NARROW MARGIN, TOUCH OF EVIL) cram the frame with information and overwhelm the viewer with a choice of objects to look at. Characters break the fourth wall or come close (SHADOW OF A DOUBT, GUN CRAZY), aggressively invading the audience’s world.”


Art work by Peter Stults

Art work by Peter Stults

Following that same vein, made this project by Peter Stults certainly worth pursuing. Let alone, reading and imagining his efforts with actual movies many of us would be absolutely giddy for.

What If: Movie Posters Vol. V

“What If: Movies ReImagined for Another Time and Place continues now in volume five. This collection conquers various 2014 and 2015 releases, along with some random movies of yesteryear, as well as a majority of the filmographies of David Lynch, David Fincher and David Cronenberg (gave myself a “David” challenge). Be sure to check out the previous volumes (IVIIIII, and I). Please do not ask for digital files.”


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Today, ‘ye old western, as a film genre, gets short-shrift among my youthful blogging colleagues. That very reason leads to my continuing attempts to get many to give the “oater” another examination, and why I send readers to my friend Colin and his western/film noir blog, Riding the High Country, to explain why.

Comanche

“What can be termed pro-Indian sentiments are to be found scattered throughout the westerns of the 1950s, and Comanche is yet another example of this trend. Part of the beauty of these movies, for me anyway, is the realistic way this is handled. We’re not presented with some blind diatribe, demonizing one side or the other for the sake of cheap point scoring. Instead, by focusing on a few individuals, there’s a more balanced perspective offered – the rights and wrongs, along with the brutality and cruelty perpetrated by both camps is acknowledged and confronted. As with almost everything in life, it’s only through such consideration of the subtle shadings that a mature appreciation is possible. And remember, it can’t be stated often enough that the 1950s was the decade when the western itself attained full maturity as a cinematic art form.”


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Rolling Stone magazine staff writer David Ehrlich certainly convinced me that the “Franchise reboot has become a box-office phenomenon — because it understands that winning isn’t everything.”

Why ‘Creed’ is the Greatest Underdog Movie Since ‘Rocky’

“America may be the most powerful country in the world, but losing is what we love. Losing is what allows us to keep fighting, and fighting is what we do best. We loved Rocky for being an underdog — we didn’t have to love him for being a winner. To make the leap from a single film to a massive franchise, however, he would have to become a winner. And when he became a winner, he got boring.  (See every Rocky movie after Rocky II. Yes, we know, he beats Ivan Drago and thus is singlehandedly responsible for ending the Soviet Union and the Cold war, but still.)”


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Everything goes in cycles. A surprising movie lands on the public interest. People jump on board and examine what they find (Rachel and I did a few years back, see here and here). Naturally falling out of favor with some. Good to see where my friend Mark Walker landed with the film (though, I suspected 😉 ):

Drive

“In 2008, just three years after the publication of James Sallis’ crime novel Drive, Universal Studios got behind the idea of a film adaptation. Originally, director Neil Marshall was to take the reigns and craft an L.A-set action mystery with Hugh Jackman as the lead. Two years later, this proposed plan collapsed and in stepped Ryan Gosling. With a spate of successful films and strong performances already behind him, Gosling was an actor in high demand and for the first time in his career he was given the opportunity to choose who would direct the film. Already a big admirer of his work, he chose Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. The film was eventually released in 2011 to mass acclaim and struck a chord with audiences and critics alike. Not only was Refn awarded Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival but the film received a 15 minute standing ovation.


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Fine, I won’t say anything more about the new Star Wars – The Force Awakens film. I’ll just let Roderick Heath once more (for Ferdy on Films) present his monumental treatise of the prequels everyone and his mother picks on. I’m trying to be fair, here (‘course, how long that lasts is beyond my control).

Star Wars – Episode One: The Phantom Menace (1999) / Episode Two: Attack of the Clones (2002) / Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

“The fervent anticipation at the nearing release of Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens carries an unavoidable sensation of déjà vu. Like just about everyone else my age, I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy, and recall another wave of both powerful hype and real expectation through the closing months of the last millennium that crested with the release of George Lucas’ return to the series, Star Wars – Episode One: The Phantom Menace. This cinematic phenomenon began as a good-humoured, referential piece of space disco created by Lucas, a man who up until 1977 had been best known for a film about teens driving about all night to the musical accompaniment of ’50s oldies. But the series he inaugurated with Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) quickly became something rare: giant blockbusters viewers adopted with the fierce personal attachment of cult films.”


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Inasmuch as I write on occasion about music album covers, mostly the older LP variety, let it be said that I do sometimes look at those that aren’t vintage. Reading The Vinyl Factory helps:

The 20 Best Vinyl Record Sleeves of 2015…

“It’s difficult to justify a reissue in this list unless the artwork has been updated and looks absolutely amazing. Stones Throw ticks both boxes by bringing back Egyptian Lover’s groundbreaking hip-hop classic ‘Egypt Egypt’ as a custom-built pyramid. The record itself a white triangle vinyl and the sleeve is comprised of 8 black panels with gold foil and magnets that fold into a free-standing pyramid. One of this year’s better Black Friday RSD releases.


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While I’ve mentioned him numerous times, mostly because of his marvelous movie quizzes, Dennis Cozzalio‘s writing over at his Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog is what drew me to his work. Observe:

THE MYSTERIOUS CHORDS OF YOUTH

“Sorrentino’s latest, Youth, begins by setting us down on a rotating stage, our gaze fixed on a pop singer who performs while her audience, the guests at a posh Swiss resort, swirl around her in the shadows. Among those guests are Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine), an aged composer-conductor who near the film’s beginning politely refuses a request by a representative of Queen Elizabeth to perform his signature composition, “Simple Songs,” for Prince Phillip’s birthday. (Subsequent refusals from none-too-easily dissuaded royalty become increasingly impolite.)”


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This unofficial highlight reel of J.D.’s work during this quarter ends with his look at another crime film (a genre I personally love) that doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves.:

American Gangster

“For a film that was a critical and commercial success, I’m surprised that American Gangster (2007) isn’t talked about more or revered by film buffs as much as it should. The general consensus seems to be that it’s a good film but not a great one. Ridley’s Scott’s film is an epic depiction of the rise of Frank Lucas, from right-hand man of Harlem gangster “Bumpy” Johnson to major league smuggler of heroin from Vietnam to the United States during the war via the bodies of dead soldiers on American service planes. He was eventually detained by a task force led by Newark police detective Richie Roberts.”


How is it that Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) comes up with some really splendid lists? It’s a gift, I tell you. Like this one, which concentrated on the best among the small screen (in the UK and here) for detection. The private variety. Shall we scream “bloody murder?!?:

Top 25 TV Detectives

“Well, I have been watching the BBC’s new police drama River starring Stellan Skarsgård and Nicola Walker. Whether it will be a one-off or continue I don’t know but I think it is as good as Cracker ever was and really hope it will be remembered. With that in mind, I wanted to think about shows that do stick out and last in people’s minds long after the initial screening. This post is about specific shows, not the literary sources – so in the case of Sherlock Holmes, I’m selecting the version that I think worked best on the small screen. Which is why there is no Maigret here …  I hope everyone will agree some of these TV shows deserve a shot at artistic Valhalla, but I really would love to know what you would add / subtract.


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I am keeping my word on not saying anything about a certain movie…didn’t say anything about someone else writing about it, though. Say Darren Mooney of the m0vie blog and his quite articulate review:

Non-Review Review: Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens

“In many respects, Star Wars was the film the helped to launch the modern “blockbuster” model of cinema, and a large part of The Force Awakens is the reassurance that not too much has changed in the intervening years. Sure, there are a few script tweaks to reflect more modern tastes for the post-Dark Knight era, but the basic storytelling engine is still the same underneath. If The Force Awakens is a hybrid, it is a hybrid fashioned from the parts of the three original Star Wars films and just a dash of something more twenty-first century.”


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Movie-maker, 35mm purest, and foil for Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino gathers opinions, and reactions, like nobody’s business. Love or hate him, you can’t ignore the man. Maybe… So when one of best interviews of the year comes around, with QT at its center, written by Amy Nicholson for L.A. Weekly, best to not miss it:

QUENTIN TARANTINO ISN’T TELLING YOU WHAT TO THINK

“Tarantino’s new film pivots away from his sprawling epics, but it’s no less political. The Hateful Eight is a pared-down thriller about murderess Daisy Domergue, a bounty hunter, a black Union soldier, two white supremacists, one cowboy, one hangman, one innkeeper and one stagecoach driver, all trapped in a rural outpost called Minnie’s Haberdashery during a Wyoming blizzard. Count up the characters and you’ll notice that the hateful eight are really nine — Tarantino’s first clue not to trust anything you hear. The Haberdashery isn’t even a haberdashery, and, as the tensions on this cold night get icier indoors, these killers’ claims get harder and harder to prove. We’re not even sure how to pronounce “Domergue.” Is it dough-min-gray or dommer-goo?”


barry-lyndon-7

Rich Ouellettee’s wonderful fortieth-year celebratory piece over at Reel and Rock on a Barry Kubrick film that doesn’t get enough love was also something that got in under the wire, to my everlasting thanks.

KUBRICK’S “BARRY LYNDON” AT 40: THE SCOURGE OF THE 1%, THEN & NOW

“Forty years ago this month, when your now world-weary blogger was but a whipper-snapper of a high school senior, I arrived early one day into my two-day-a-week journalism class and told the teacher how much I had enjoyed seeing Barry Lyndon, which had recently opened at the local multiplex. “Oh, I saw it, too—it was boring.” The she added, “You’re just saying that because it’s Stanley Kubrick.” I came up with a less-than-sparkling comeback about how she must have missed Kubrick’s cutting critique of 18th-century class structures but she was having none of it. Instead, she compared the film, about an Irish bounder who rises to the top of Georgian high society before his inevitable downfall, to a special issue of National Geographic, featuring photos of European estates that are brought (slightly) to life.”


projectionist

How about an opinion piece written by Tom Scudamore for his blog, filmbrothers2015, and on a subject that runs close to my heart (as a former projectionist) and head (as someone who spent the last couple decades involved with the digital realm).

Is it time for the projectionist to make a comeback?

“One of the main obstacles to getting real film projection back into cinemas is dispelling the myths that surround it. Film isn’t, for example, the more temperamental of the two mediums. A movie stored digitally costs around £7,500 per year to maintain, and will start to deteriorate after a decade or so – imagine trying to use a laptop today that you bought in 2005. With only £700 of annual upkeep (mainly cleaning and climate control), however, a 35mm print can remain pristine for a century or longer.”


jessica-jones

Finally, let’s close out this highlight reel as we’re about to get into the second half of the decade by presenting a list. Not any one, mind you, but a top ten from the good folks over at Art of the Title and covering some of the best title sequences for said annum. Cheers.

Art of the Title’s Top 10 Title Sequences of 2015

“Paring the long list down from 50 to just 10 was a difficult task, but we believe these sequences represent the cream of the crop. So remember: Title sequences do not exist in a vacuum. They are not conjured out of thin air. They’re painstakingly crafted, composited, and hand-drawn by teams large and small all around the world, with budgets modest and mighty, in state-of-the-art facilities and in home studios. We invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the most interesting and innovative work to hit screens this year.”


The entire series can be found here.

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25 Responses to “Winter’s Tail: Year of Bests – 2015”

  1. Colin

    Big round-up of some great work there, and very kind of you to include me among them. Some I am familiar with and others are new to me and look like they’re well worth checking out.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  2. Mark Walker

    What a fabulous piece to end the year with, Michael. A great way to give some appreciation to other bloggers and I’m honoured to be included. I’ll have to bookmark this so I can work my way through the links. Thanks again my friend. And a Happy New Year to you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Great to have your work featured here, Roderick. Wonderful content you and Ferdy on Films, produce. Happy New Year to you, too. Thank you. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  3. J.D.

    Thank you for the numerous mentions! I am honored to be mentioned among such illustrious company! So many fantastic articles linked here. I’ve got my holiday reading mapped out.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      You certainly had an outstanding and deserving quarter, J.D. Always good to showcase your material, my friend. Thank you. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  4. robbinsrealm

    Thank you so very much for including my review of the film “The Howling” in your Year of Bests post. I greatly appreciate it.

    I would like to wish you and your family a very Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  5. Tom

    Thank you very much for highlighting my stuff Michael. That is greatly appreciated! 🙂 A lot of great clips here to sort through as well, very pleased to see I could make it onto such a prestigious list.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  6. Three Rows Back

    Wow, what a round up! There’s so much good stuff written out there by so many people; not least of all yourself. And thank you for the kind mention; really appreciate it. I’ve not been able to blog as much as I would have liked, but I’ve enjoyed it just as much as ever.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      It was a fine year for blogging and some excellent content came of it. Yours and Tom’s, through your Decades Blogathon. Well deserved, Mark. Thank you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  7. table9mutant

    Great post! Lots of amazing stuff to check out here. I love when you do these posts. 🙂 So glad you highlighted the review Chris did of Inside Out – I think that was one of my favorite movie reviews on these blogs this year. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  8. jackdeth72

    Some superb work presenting and defending diverse ideas here, Michael.

    A marvelous Year End conglomeration of new found facets in the cinematic diamond!

    Very good stuff indeed.

    Kudos to Sergio and Peter Stults!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

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