"...the main purpose of criticism...is not to make its readers agree, nice as that is, but to make them, by whatever orthodox or unorthodox method, think." - John Simon

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity." - George Orwell

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Favorite Posts/Blogs from 2009

Inspired by le0pard13's recent post over at his fantastic blog Lazy Thoughts From a Boomer, I've decided to give a shout-out to some of the blogs and posts from the blogosphere in 2009 that really struck a chord with me, inspired me and sometimes made laugh and entertained the hell out of me. This is by no means a comprehensive list and it was a real challenge picking only one example from each of these blogs as there is so much quality on each and every one. Also, my profuse apologies to anyone I might have omitted. And by all means, check these blogs out and support their creative endeavors. I would also like to give a shout-out to The Dancing Image blog for providing such a great post celebrating some of the best blogs and for the formatting which I cribbed for my own post. I have a choice quote from said post along with a link to it. Enjoy!

"Where Midnight Run stands out is in the intricate ground situation, De Niro's character is brimming with angst--"silence and rage," as Grodin puts it at one point--but we never get to it laid out for us. Gradually, as they become closer, De Niro reveals all to Grodin, but never with verbosity--and we already know almost everything he's telling Grodin anyway. The significance is in his personal revelation."
- "Midnight Run" - The Stop Button

"Streep was in her early thirties when she shot Still of the Night for her director but she looks about ten years younger. Maligned at the time by several leading critics for her attempt at the archetypal icy Hitchcockian blonde, this is frankly the Meryl Streep I have always wanted to celebrate ... Still of the Night is captivating, haunting and all of the overly nuanced and calculated technique of her later more acclaimed work is refreshingly absent."
- "M.I.A. on Region 1 DVD Tribute Month: (Film 6) Still of the Night (1982)" - Moon in the Gutter

"Marvin's Walker is the noir hero twice removed, which perhaps explains his generic qualities, his ironic distance. He's certainly not Bogart, but nor is he Belmondo, aping the affectations of Bogart: he's something much simpler, a copy of a copy who retains only the crudest, most essential features of the original, with none of the nuance or sensitivity. He's a tough guy, but not a man of honor, a scrappy fighter not above kicking an opponent in the balls or slapping around a woman. Walker's hardly a hero, stoically and expressionlessly killing his way through the line of men separating him from a payoff that wasn't even his to begin with; he feels he deserves it by virtue of the fact that he stole it."
- "Point Blank" - Only The Cinema

"A combination crazy chase movie, Easy Rider-esque examination of "America," and a one-part-existentialism/one-part-mystic philosophical statement, Vanishing Point remains both compelling...and breathtakingly beautiful."
- "Dodge Challengers and Mobius Strips: Director Richard C. Sarafian on Vanishing Point" - Some Came Running

"It's to Soderbergh's credit that Che: Part One is far removed from the conventional bio-pic, deciding to, once again, take his own path rather than down the familiar road of the warts and all, piecemeal tragi-drama; Che: Part One is so far removed from the constraints of the formulaic bio-pic that it shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence."
- "Che: Part One - Review" - Film for the Soul

"Where Boogie Nights succeeds masterfully is as a document of a moment in show business history and how the camaraderie of the players binds them together after the show is over. As a pure entertainment, it features plenty of ‘70s kitsch, a consistently twisted black wit, a ceaselessly mesmerizing visual palette, and that ass kicking retro soundtrack."
- "What's Up With This Script? Are You Down With This?" - This Distracted Globe

"While I don’t have that much use for Peckinpah’s worldview, and consider his prominence largely a sign of pervasive misogyny in Hollywood culture (I’ll reconsider my position the day that Hollywood regularly produces eloquently man-hating movies by female directors), I have to admit that few directors are as good at dramatizing their pathologies as Peckinpah."
- "961 (103) The Getaway (1972, Sam Peckinpah)" - Shooting Down Pictures

"Don’t let this tragic frittering away of talent taint your judgement of Unbreakable, his mature masterpiece that strikes a balance between a populist star vehicle and an uncompromising personal approach, where his rather prissy care over composition finds its affective match in the subject matter."
- "Unbreakable Patterns" - Spectacular Attractions

"Stillman sticks with a reliable stable of actors to portray his upwardly (and downwardly) mobile schemers, cartographers of the social landscape that would make Oscar Wilde proud. Stillman’s propensity for writing verbose characters that deal in pithy quotes has occasionally made him a victim of the Dawson’s Creek critique—aka, “Who actually talks like this?”"
- "Last Days of Disco, The - Uptown World" - Hammer to Nail

"One wonders if there weren't tornadoes that night, would I still have enjoyed the film as much. As a film by itself, it certainly doesn't possess the characteristics that would keep it in constant rotation. It may be for no other reason than everytime I watch Twister it's like remembering every wacky encounter I've ever had with a tornado. Including one wonderful date-night with my wife."
- "I Have A Weakness And It Goes By The Name Of Twister" - Lazy Eye Theatre

"Instead, it’s Raimi’s clear love for putting it all together. With everything going on, DARKMAN is consistently exciting and all these years after it was made it’s still an absolute blast to watch. There’s something about it’s scrappiness and nuttiness that even now puts a goofy grin on my face and even if the SPIDER-MAN films are probably “better” in a number of ways in another ten years or so I think I’ll still want to see this one instead."
- "That Would Be Just Fine" - Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur

"James Cameron's lean script careens along at a relentless pace, something he'd repeat with Aliens and the sequel. In the first fifteen minutes we've met the Terminator, the hero, and the damsel in distress- though she's anything but- and the characters are sculpted before our eyes with very few words."
- "The Arnold Project #14: The Terminator" - Pluck You, Too!

"The good news is that I eventually grew the hell up and my mind expanded. Eventually I became worthy of appreciating NIGHTBREED for the flawed but brilliant film it is. It was all there all the time (well, at least the parts that were not jettisoned by an apathetic FOX studios). All I had to do was settle the hell down and listen, rather than try to direct the film psychically from my theater chair."
- "Nightbreed" - kindertrauma

"Enter the 1990s. In some circles, the popular consensus is that Carpenter hasn’t made a good film since THEY LIVE. In my opinion, that’s not because Carpenter has changed as a storyteller but because we have changed as an audience. Sci-fi and horror movies simply were not as popular in the 90s as they were in the 80s. The fantasy-friendly Reagan era was over and Hollywood made a general shift toward more realistic, naturalistic films."
- "John Carpenter: The Later Years" - Maddrey Misc.

"In addition to this rich narrative, The Mosquito Coast features beautiful cinematography (it was filmed in Belize), a well-suited score, and searing performances. It's no wonder Harrison Ford considers this his favorite film - he's never played a character as dark as Allie Fox. Having rolled out three Star Wars and two Indiana Jones in the nine years before this, he was probably desperate for a "real" character."
- "Underrated MOTM: The Mosquito Coast (1986) - Getafilm

It doesn’t seem revolutionary anymore to say “I never thought an animated film could evoke such emotion and make me actually feel something” (and, oh man, the ending of this movie still gets to me) because of the success of the aforementioned Pixar movies had in transcending animation, but in 1999, it was a rare thing to say indeed, and The Iron Giant definitely makes you utter those words."
- "Revisiting 1999: The Forgotten Films -- The Iron Giant (Brad Bird)" - Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies

Breaking Away is one of the most sweetly funny films I've ever seen. In fact, re-watching the film reminded that as much as the time period from whence it came is often lauded (to the point of exaggeration) as the "last golden age of movies," it also was the last great age of serious coming-of age movies."
- "A really great visit with old friends" - Edward Copeland on Film

"Amazingly, De Palma crafts an action sequence in the very film language appropriate to the era of his film, the 1920s-1930s. In his review, critic Hal Hinson called the staircase shoot-out scene De Palma's "greatest stunt," only-half impressed, but I suggest that given the context, given the reflexivity, given the re-purposing of a classic sequence for a like thematic purpose, it is much more than a stunt. This is De Palma conceiving and deploying brilliant visuals to chart for audiences the epic nature of the Capone/Ness conflict."

- “Cult Movie Review: The Untouchables (1987) – John Kenneth Muir’s Reflections on Film/TV

Though, as usual in an Eastwood film, I don't feel the supporting characters are really all that well-played (including the rather limp Fahey), I do find Eastwood's performance so overwhelmingly impressive, the script (by Viertel, James Bridges and western auteur Burt Kennedy) so engaging, and the African locales so rapturously photographed (by Jack Green) that, for me, this becomes one of the director's most vivid efforts."
- "Film #128: White Hunter Black Heart" - filmicability with Dean Treadway

"The amount of daring it took to allow Wang Chung to score the film cannot be quantified. A music score that is almost a character onto itself at times, the new wave band best known for their nonthreatening brand of pop rock create an invigorating soundtrack that repeatedly injects the proceeding with an added oomph.. A chaotic mix of drum machines and synthesizers, their bold sound is inexplicably in perfect harmony with every scene. Frantic during the film's many chase sequences, restrained during the quieter moments."
- "To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985)" - House of Self-Indulgence

"Subtle gradation's in lighting and what I perceived as subliminal overlaps of skulls on faces, etc., made me think this was the trippiest film ever made, though when I saw it later, straight, all the subliminal traces seemed to vanish, so I stopped watching it, to not tarnish the profound memory of when God spoke to me through a film by Joel Schumacher (that's right, go ahead and laugh!)."
- "Great Acid Movies #16: Flatliners (1990)" - Acidemic

"Perhaps the ultimate recognition of women as they really might be is the fact that nobody at the NYPD questions the idea that a heterosexual woman could be the serial killer. Certainly this is not an equality women might want to accept, but it does recognize that women are capable of the full range of emotions and of acting on those emotions."
- "Sea of Love (1989)" - Ferdy on Films

"Jeffrey Combs, in the role he was clearly BORN to play, just freaking OWNS it from frame one, investing his line readings and mannerisms with such delicious arrogance, intelligence, and MADNESS that most viewers would not be surprised to find out the actor actually had a basement full of bubbling beakers and body parts where he spends his hobby time."
- "Re-Animator (1985): or, Getting Ahead in Horror" - Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies

The key to understanding the unique beauty of this twisted little film is to defy the typical moviegoer propensity to focus on the star power. The real story in Birth is with the supporting cast. Mainly young Sean. Once you get him, you get the movie."
- "Birth" - Celluloid Slammer

"Arkin and Caan artfully walk this tightrope while blasting each other with the funniest bile-soaked, rapid-fire, semi-improvised dialogue ever to grace an action comedy. These two really seem like they’ve spent an adult lifetime dodging each other’s verbal onslaughts. And their partnership is one with real dirt under its fingernails, a long-abandoned model of movie friendship cut from the moth-eaten cloth of interpersonal paranoia, suspicion, respect and, yes, the sneaky subtext of homoerotic romance and, of course, panic-- exactly the kind of treat most often flattened-out or outright buried underneath the THX Dolby super-soundtracks of modern play-it-safe crash-and-bang contraptions."
- "Crash and Bang: Freebie and the Bean" - Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule

"Despite its portrait of a bleak world, there is a very redemptive spirit at the core of After Dark, My Sweet. It is a film to be applauded, a near-masterpiece of modern noir with a perfect mixture of hope and despair, of dread and relief, that carries us on the back of its keen visual touch and astute characterizations to the type of richly rewarding viewing experience that makes one fall in love with the movies in the first place."
- "After Dark, My Sweet (dir. James Foley, 1990)" - The Blue Vial

"As stated, this is Sam Peckinpah’s most crazed film, and of course, the one of which he was most proud. The movie’s atmosphere is so grimy that I actually took a hot bath after it was over. The sweaty cinematography by Alex Phillips (who later shot a myriad of exploitation efforts like THE DEVIL’S RAIN, SORCERESS and SURF II) keeps you in the hothouse ambiance throughout."
- "Forgotten Films: Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)" - Technicolor Dreams

"Unlike “The Godfather”, which deals with the upper echelons of the mob world and mythologizes the gangster lifestyle “Mean Streets” give you a view of small time marginal thugs living in Little Italy. As influenced as Scorsese was by those who came before, “Mean Streets” would go on to influence filmmakers of the next generation."
- "Mean Streets (1973) Martin Scorsese" - Twenty Four Frames

"Before you stick this thing in your player, I want you to mark out an 8 foot radius around your TV set. Then I want you to make sure there's nothing in that zone that you wouldn't mind having 40 gallons of testosterone poured over. EXTREME PREJUDICE has been proven to make wombs shrivel and has turned the frilliest of ladies quite husky; it makes men stumble, confused, into the street with a mysterious desire to chomp on cigars and arm wrestle. It's robust, potent, severe, and is completely safe when used as directed."
- "Film Review: Extreme Prejudice (1987, Walter Hill)" - Junta Juleil's Culture Shock

"Over the years, Westlake often praised Duvall’s performance. “That’s the guy I wrote,” he said more than once. In contrast to Marvin in Point Blank, Duvall’s Macklin actually feels like a living, breathing human being, with a sense of humor to boot (he and Cody laugh giddily after narrowly escaping with their lives during a shootout)."
- "The Outfit (1973)" - Film Noir of the Week

The Best of Times is one of those films that didn't draw much attention at first, but has grown an admiring following among critics and fans. And though Spottiswoode directed the piece (and is a more than adequate one, at that), in my mind it is one more associated with future director/writer/producer Ron Shelton because of his distinctive gift for creating meaningful yarns about sport and athletes. Even some of his throwaway lines could be considered classic dialogue for its snap among the characters. He knows of what he writes, too (being himself a former minor leaguer). Tell me of another writer who'd know the significance of the white shoes on a quarterback (the Namath reference, if there ever was one) and use it so effectively as was done during the replay game."
- "Appreciative Review: The Best of Times" - Lazy Thoughts from a Boomer

Lastly and certainly not least I would also like to give a heartfelt kudos to the gang over at Wonders in the Dark, in particular Sam Juliano who has been great supporter of my blog. They are an incredibly passionate group and tirelessly champion film. They are also a constant source of inspiration for me.


  1. J.D.:


    It is an honor to be included on this list; and in the company of so many great bloggers.

    Thank you, my friend.

    best wishes,
    John Kenneth Muir

  2. Thanks for the mention, J.D. I really appreciate it!

  3. Thanks for including me in this round-up, J.D., I appreciate it!

  4. J.D.

    This is awesome. I need to come back to this and check out all the posts. Thanks for including me among them.

  5. Thanks much for the shout out. Honored.

  6. I think all of these year end post roundups are a giant conspiracy to make sure I NEVER get any work done, watch any movies, read any books, work on the various projects I have waiting to be done, make love to my wife, eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom.

    Another great batch of posts to check out, along with 3 or 4 new blogs to add to my RSS reader. Ah, the days when I'd just read 3 or 4 movie blogs...

  7. Many thanks for the shout-out, and the inclusion in a great round-up of posts/blogs, J.D. I am honored and touched by this, my friend. Plus, you've given me some great reading to catch up on :-).

  8. J.D. - Thanks for mentioning 24frames, I'm honored to be included in such company. There is so much quality and knowledge out there that I am constantly amazed and inspired.

  9. Everyone: You guys are all more than welcome. Just sharin' some of the love as it were and really a genuine shout-out to y'all for your consistently amazing work over the year. You guys all make me feel part of this great film-blogging community we've got going on.

  10. Thanks so much JD! It's a real honor to be in such great company and I appreciate you including me.

  11. Jeremy Richey:

    It was my pleasure, my friend! I always enjoy reading you blog(s) and Moon in the Gutter was responsible for me really diving in and doing the blogging thing on a regular basis.

  12. I'm honoured to be included in such illustrious company, and thanks for choosing one of my posts that hardly anyone noticed when I published it...

  13. Thanks for including my Wang Chung thoughts.

  14. Dan North:

    My pleasure! I really love UNBREAKABLE and your post summed up everything I would ever want to say about it and so eloquently!


    You are welcome. Wang Chung doesn't get enough props.

  15. Thanks for the mention, J.D. I'm really glad you enjoyed my review of Sea of Love, which I thought was going to be an easy write and turned into a week of reflection on its larger themes.

  16. Marilyn:

    You are welcome! I hadn't seen that film in ages and your review really brought the memories back and motivated me to watch it again. So, thanks for that!

  17. I just discovered this--thanks for the mention! It's an honor to be in such rarefied company, and to have the esteem of a blogger such as yourself. Many thanks!

    The Vicar

  18. The Vicar of VHS:

    Sure thing! RE-ANIMATOR is one of my all-time fave horror films and you really conveyed what makes the film so great and exactly how I feel about it. I thoroughly enjoy your blog and read it all the time.

  19. Wow, thank you for the mention- it's an honor to be among such esteemed company!

  20. Sean Gill:

    You are welcome. Since discovering your blog I've thoroughly enjoyed your unique take on such a diverse collection of films. Every day I look forward to what you're going to post next.