"...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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Favorite Posts/Blogs from 2011

It's that time of year again where I post some links to articles from 2011 that really made me think, laugh and inspired me to raise my own game in terms of writing about film. As always, this is by no means a comprehensive list and I had real difficulty picking only one example from each of these blogs as they are all teeming with quality posts. My profuse apologies to anyone I might have omitted. And by all means, check these blogs out and support their creative endeavors. I have a choice quote from said post along with a link to it. Enjoy!

"If Kane had been around in the age of Facebook, maybe there wouldn't have been so much confusion over who or what Rosebud was: he'd have a picture of it in his albums! He'd have a sledding game on there, and a 'design your own vintage sled' app. The ornate picnics and famous guest-collecting could be canceled, because he wouldn't need to see his friends to prove they existed. He could make Xanadu online via one of those online worlds with the Sims."
- "The Rosebud Principle" - Acidemic

"Not only did this signal the arrival of a talented director-writer-producer, it changed the look, feel, and texture of the crime drama genre from that point forward. And though it’s approaching the 30 year mark, it remains an enthralling examination of a world few had explored as thoroughly as this new filmmaker. The film incorporated a solid cast, with more than one actor making their own screen debuts. It’s a gritty, authentic story – one that has a mesmerizing atmosphere and soundtrack in tune with this director’s now trademark visual style."
- "Anniversary 30 - Reprise: Thief" - It Rains... You Get Wet
"On the tail end of this coin is David Fincher. He has the opposite problem of Nolan in that I read all too many writers who see a lot of magical qualities in him as a director that I don't. As I said above, I'd pick him over Nolan anytime because I think Fincher is an excellent director but not a particularly ingenious one. I find that Fincher's fortunes rise and fall with the quality of his scripts more often than not. If the script is, say, Zodiac, everyone agrees, Fincher is a genius. If the script is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, not so much."
- "Clash of the Cults - Nolan and Fincher" - Cinema Styles
"Like The Blair Witch Project in 1999, Paranormal Activity proved that you don't need big special effects to deliver big scares. And unlike BWP (which I still consider to be brilliant), PA had more showmanship to offer, injecting more audience-pleasing jump scares into the mix. I love the rinky-dink, handmade quality to PA's brand of funhouse tricks (like the Ouija board that bursts into flames) and I love that they've carried that quality onto the rest of the series."
- "Paranormal Praise" - Dinner with Max Jenke
"This is a dark movie to be sure, not offering any hope outright, except in the process, the idea that despite the likelihood that it will all end badly, there are people out there who try to defend the helpless. Whether they're effective or not is another story. Sometimes they are, although even when they succeed, there are others who can't be helped. All in all, you have a compelling picture of two human disaster stories that have been kicked around enough to be able to deal with most anything, except the possibility that they won't achieve their purpose in the world. There is hope in the effort, there's also tragedy and futility, and at the end we find truth which only presents more dilemmas and possibilities."
- "Narc" - Criminal Movies
"76 minutes. That's right all you film makers who feel like you have to add filler to make your movie more substantial, Trancers clocks in at a cool 76 minutes, and it's probably more awesome than your 100 minute painfest. I'm just saying. Also, put the computer away-- or only use it when you have to, as opposed to using it as a crutch-- because this looked really nice, and in 1985, they weren't greenscreening and CGI'ing us to death. This was just a really fun low-budget sci-fi flick that has only gotten better over time."
- "Trancers (1985)" - Director to Video Connoisseur
"Miami Vice’s terse, deterministic approach to the usual beats of the action-crime genre, as opposed to the operatic prolixity of Heat, is one of the things I like most about it, but this also perhaps made it bewildering for many. Mann tries to explicate as much of the drama as possible through the behaviour of the characters rather than through what they say to each other, and he floors the notion that action is character. The casual shot in which Crockett notices that Montoya and Isabella are wearing his-and-her watches gives away a lot, though it also opens yawning abysses of subsequent uncertainty."
- "Miami Vice (2006)" - Ferdy on Films
"Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut, in fact, represents a radical restructuring of the first film’s narrative trajectory. It enriches the film’s dramatic power; heightens the emotional effect of the battles (the late battle at Gaugamela is seen at the beginning of the film); makes clearer the connections between the importance of mythology (and self-mythology) to Alexander himself-- and between the telling of stories on cave walls, in history books, and with a camera; and digs deeper into what Armond White rightly termed, in his thoughtful review of the theatrical version, Stone’s use of the warrior genre as a gateway into examining the very basis of manifest destiny."
- "'All Men Reach and Fall...' Oliver Stone on History, Mythology and Redemption: Alexander Revisted: The Final Cut" - Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule
"Seen today, Frantic plays sort of like Polanski’s sweet vengeance against the United States; he seems to be asking his audience, “How would you like it?” The film is full of eccentric characters that loom in the background and stare at the hero with a devilish glee, enjoying the heck out of giving him a hard time. The French police howl at his fury. A cackling Jamaican accosts him in the stall of a men’s bathroom. A dog watches him from the front seat of a taxicab, salivating at his curious demeanor."
- "Frantic (1988)" - Icebox Movies
"I'm not gonna lie. James Mason is my favorite part about this movie. Nobody does "SMUG CONDESCENSION" like James Mason. He floats in and out of the film, bending the citizenry to his will, killing children, and selling antiques at exorbitant prices. You believe wholeheartedly that he views Salem's Lot simply as a village of trifling insects to be exploited for his nefarious purposes. And it's James Mason. I mean, if you're not kind of rooting for him, then maybe you shouldn't be watching this movie anyway."
- "Television Review: Salem's Lot (1979, Tobe Hooper)" - Junta Juleil's Culture Shock
"Strip them down to their barest element and all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films are essentially very vivid character studies. While most modern American filmmakers are more comfortable building their films around situations, it is the people in Anderson’s films that guide them. All of them, from Sydney in Hard Eight to Daniel in There Will be Blood, are haunted by Quiz-Kid Donnie Smith’s line in Magnolia concerning the fact that “We may be through with the past, but the past isn’t through with us.” Like the great early seventies character studies by the likes of Rafelson, Altman and Scorsese, Anderson’s films are populated with people looking for something usually just past their grasp, while attempting to escape from something that is always close behind."
- "Faces and Names: Paul Thomas Anderson's Devotion to Character" - Moon in the Gutter
"It seems silly to toss superlatives onto Jennifer Jason Leigh for her work here, but she simply is Dorothy Parker, right down to her bones and maybe because people have always slightly associated the period affectations connected with this and HUDSUCKER she’s never really gotten the attention for it that she deserves. It may be mannered but mannered seems appropriate and as she becomes Dorothy Parker in front of the camera the cumulative effect of it all becomes mesmerizing, an ideal fusion of a lead performance complimenting what the director is doing."
- "You Might As Well Live" - Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur
"Personally, the film walks that always difficult fine line in an introductory hero film balancing excitement, character and origin story like a circus performer on a tightrope and the trick is a sight to behold. Johnston succeeds beautifully as we hold our breath. With such a sure and steady hand on the project it's interesting how Johnston often receives backhanded compliments regarding his work as if he stumbled upon good luck. He may not be Christopher Nolan, but his work is solid as it is here in Captain America: The First Avenger."
- "Captain America & The Invaders" - Musings of a Sci-Fi Fanatic
"Jennifer Eight never lived up to its potential and as a result it is almost forgotten today. Instead of two narratives beautifully weaved, Jennifer Eight is two films fighting each other: the dramatic narrative hurts the mystery and vice versa."
- "Jennifer Eight (1992)" - Quiet Cool
"Effective little chiller it may be, but there are plenty of instances where ‘The Devil’s Rain’ verges on camp. The sight, just minutes in, of Lupino wringing her hands and projecting wide-eyed sincerity and trying to pretend that she’s not in a B-movie horror outing while The Shat gives it the thousand yard stare to a point just off camera (I began to suspect that he was locked in a stare-it-out contest with the dude holding the boom) while DELIVERING all-his-dialogue IN A MANNER that-randomly-alternates … between … STENTORIAN ENUNCIATION and rat-a-tat-speed … with … more … pregnant pauses … than … a … Harold Pinter play. But. At. The. Wrong. Moments. I can only assume that when the man read a script, his brain automatically Tippexed out all the punctuation and he paused and stopped and raised his voiced and then spokerealfast at what he thought were the right moments. (They weren’t.)"
- "Summer of Satan: The Devil's Rain" - The Agitation of the Mind
"But what is interesting here, regardless of what is actually going on, is the way the concept of time travel is contextualized in these fleeting, almost subliminal moments in a way that so many movies dealing with time travel neglect entirely or gloss over: they convey the sheer abysmal, abstract horror that the experience of such a process would likely reap on the human psyche. Too many movies, ones more concerned with sprawl and gamesmanship, are saddled with lame, pat side effects accompanying their time travel: nosebleeds, earbleeds, headaches, whatever. But in The Jacket, you might as well lose your mind."
- "The Jacket (John Maybury, 2005)" - The Blue Vial
"Although All the President’s Men could be casually described as a film about two journalists taking down a corrupt president, the film is surprisingly free of any grand emotional crescendo. There’s no point in which Woodward or Bernstein are transformed from grinding members of the workforce into patriots, ala Norma Rae scrawling “UNION” on a piece of cardboard in a brave act of defiance. They begin the film as wide-eyed reporters and they end it that way, too."
- "Ordinary People" - The Cooler
"I’m not sure how The Night Flier escaped my attention for all these years. As far as Stephen King adaptations go, this is one of the most underrated I have seen. With a well hewn plot that both entertains on a surface level and deeper, The Night Flier is sure to please the casual viewer as well as those who tend to dig deeper."
- "The King of Wilmington - The Night Flier (1997): Why Turn Into a Bat When You Could Fly A Plane?" - The Lightning Bug's Lair
"Black Rain’s world is as teeming with visually fetishist detailing, and fascination for the textures of cultural cross-pollination in an urban setting, as Blade Runner, a world of high technology and colossal capital stricken with moral rot and criminal chimera. The mood also matches the sodden, clammy anxiety that underpins Nick’s relentless, kick-‘em-in-the-teeth drive to nail Sato and redeem his soiled manhood and professional pride. The film as a whole is a design classic, laden with that very late ‘80s blend of streetwise grit, video-clip chic, and gamy, expletive-riddled boldness."
- "Black Rain (1989)" - This Island Rod
"Or, more accurately, it's built on the charm, attractiveness and rapport of the two leads, who are at their most naturally charismatic here, radiating the self-assurance and sexiness that makes them irresistible both to each other and to audiences. Theirs is a mad love, a lunatic love built on seductive banter, utterly unbelievable in any conventional sense: why would a smart, capable woman dedicated to the law fall so deeply in love with the man who represents her complete opposite? But then again, why not? Clooney and Lopez are so attuned to one another, so comfortable in one another's presence onscreen, that the unbelievable is rendered not only plausible but unavoidable, fated, totally logical."
- "Out of Sight" - Only the Cinema
"O.C. AND STIGGS is like buying the new O.M.D. record in 1987 and finding out it’s King Sunny Ade, the juju musician who provides the jaunty songs and appear in a penultimate scene. Reportedly the movie was shot in a rush so MGM wouldn’t interfere and it shows — there’s a disjointedness that can be perceived as intentional if not completely successful. You can zone in and out of the film while you’re watching; I don’t even know what the hell to make of O.C. AND STIGGS."
- "Forgotten Films: O.C. & Stiggs (1987)" - Technicolor Dreams 70
"Dominated by a caustic aesthetic of anticipatory anxiety, a sense of psychic uneasiness that suffuses every frame, Mad Max is literally a movie about mankind speeding -- foot pressed hard against the pedal -- towards moral and spiritual annihilation."
- "Cult Movie Review: Mad Max (1970)" - John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Film/TV
"Hal Needham, director of such astute visions of grandeur as Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run understood the United Statesian yearning for escape from such philosophical self flagellation and conceived a new vision, a new concept of proactive intervention that coincided perfectly with our desire for a resurrected self-image. Hegemony and war needed to be fun and sexy again, and Needham, pungent genius that he was, went right for the jugular, hell bent on stuffing as many wheelies and explosions into this foreign mis-adventure as Megaforce’s already strained spandex seams could take."
- "Megaforce" - Lost Video Archive
"It’s interesting to watch Day Of The Dead in wake of reading the script as Romero did work in images, set pieces and even entire characters into the new framework but all are presented in completely different context. What he delivered in its stead is this claustrophobic exceedingly nasty little movie, as much about mental apocalypse as physical. The meltdowns inside the characters own minds as well as the world at large.Where the original is epic, Day is almost intimate (Probably the only zombie film you could stage as a one act play), where Romero’s original script is unusually optimistic, a definite end point for his trilogy, the Day we ended up with is a bitter film, while Romero’s script has a much clearer brand of class commentary, the Day we end up with is a film uneasy about attempting to give any answers."
- "The Modern American Horror Film: Subtext and Text: Day of the Dead" - Son of Danse Macabre
"Produced by Ruby-Spears Productions, and created by veteran comic book scribe Steve Gerber (Man-Thing, Howard the Duck), this action-packed animated fantasy epic featured imaginative (if somewhat formulaic) stories, appealing characters, great voice acting, and character designs by two of the greatest comic book artists to ever wield a pencil. Thundarr and his friends were visualized by the animation veteran Alex Toth (Space Ghost, The Herculoids), while virtually every other character (and vehicle, setting and/or prop) were designed by the legendary Jack Kirby (Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Devil Dinosaur)."
- "DVD Review: Thundarr the Barbarian (1980)" - Space: 1970
"Two of the things that cinema does better than any other medium is the potrayal of texture and a state of mind, and Morvern Callar does both of those things better than just about any movie I’ve ever seen. Darkly comic, dislocative, and impressionistic Morvern Callar is a wonder."
- "The Unseen #62: Morvern Callar" - Things That Don't Suck
"Visually speaking the film takes advantage of filming in Las Vegas, and all the lights and the fakeness that comes with it. Most of the film takes place inside of hotel bars, casinos, hotel rooms, out on the streets of Las Vegas and in the dessert. There’s some beautiful cinematography on this one. I would rate this film amongst Gilliam’s best, no doubts. This film is the closest you’ll ever feel to using drugs, without using them. "
- "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)" - The Film Connoisseur

"One of the most over-the-top, silly, and gory movies of all time, Peter Jackson's Dead Alive is a flick that just keeps topping itself. You think it's got as crazy as it's going to get when it introduces the flip-top nurse zombie...then it throws in the famous Kung-Fu Priest (Stuart Devenie), bodies ripped in half, an animated (and strangely adorable) set of roving internal organs, and a skull-bursting Zombie Baby. By the time we get to the famous end party scene (Oh Crikey! It's Lawnmower Deth!), the viewer might rightly believe he's seen it all...but as Lionel warns his girlfriend, "I haven't seen Mum this evening...""
- "Dead Alive (1992): or, Kicking Arse for the Lord" - Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies


  1. Thanks man for including me in there! I did love writing that review, in fact, I wrote it right after I had finished reading the novel. I will be checking it out all the others you've posted on here.

  2. Hi J.D.

    What a wonderful selection of posts from 2011, and I'm incredibly honored to see my Mad Max review amongst them. I have read many of these, and I missed a few, but you've provided me some great reading choices and remembrances.

    I would add to this list your exquisite review of Malick's The Tree of Life from June/July, one of the finest analyses of the film I have yet encountered.

    All my best,

  3. Thanks for the link, J.D. Looks like there are a lot of other good articles here I need to check out, too.

  4. J.D., thanks a million for the shout-out! I look forward to another year of great writing over here at Radiator Heaven.

  5. Thanks very much J.D. I am honored to be in such great company.

  6. Honored to again be included in your pantheon. Thank you for another great year of your work!

  7. J.D.
    Once again, I'm humbled and honored to make the Radiator Heaven Annual Year In Review.

    It means an awful lot coming from such a quality writer - a voice I greatly admire.

    It's funny when we write. We never know what might tickle one's fancy. Thank you kindly for the nod my friend.

    I will say these are my absolutely favorite posts here at Radiator Heaven for 2011:

    The Mosquito Coast
    The Rocketeer
    To Live And Die In L.A.
    The Untouchables [I have since rewatched the film as a result- wonderful]
    Super Troopers
    The Indian Runner
    The Tree Of Life
    Escape From New York
    your review of Captain America
    The January Man
    Lord Of The Rings
    and The Committments [I'm picking that one up today].

    But your site turns out consistently remarkable quality and 2011 was no exception. Keep it up J.D.
    best regards, sff

  8. Thank you, J.D. I'm very flattered that you included one of my posts. You're a very inspirational blogger to me, as well. Cheers.

  9. Thank you so very much for including me in such an exemplary list, J.D. I am honored, sir. I'm proud to say, a good many of these articles I've read in past year and I very much agree with you for placing them here. I look forward to catching up with those posts and bloggers I haven't yet read. I'm also in accord with SFF and JKM on the content you've done in 2011 at Radiator Heaven. For each year I've followed your wonderful blog, it only gets better, my friend. I look forward to what you have in store for your readers in 2012, J.D. Best.

  10. Many thanks JD. As always any compliment coming from you means a whole lot. And being included with such company only makes it better.

  11. Ah, I see some of my best run-on sentences quoted here! Thanks, in all seriousness, for the good favour, JD.

  12. Humbled and honored to be in such great company.

    And I still don't know what to make of OC AND STIGGS.

  13. What? Honored in Radiator Heaven for 3 years running? And among such rarefied company, too! I'm humbled, and delighted! Thanks again, my friend. This gives me something to shoot for in 2012...I don't want to get lazy and end the streak!

    Happy New Year from the Vicarage!

  14. You are all more than welcome. It was my pleasure revisiting these particular posts on your blog as it reminded me of the consistent great work you all do. Keep it up!

  15. Many thanks for the mention! So glad you enjoyed that post. Also thanks for all the other mentions, looks like some great reading ahead!

  16. Brent Allard:

    You are welcome. I really dug that NARC post. It's one of my fave films and you really did it justice.