Saturday, September 02, 2006

THE SLIFR LABOR DAY WEEKEND READING LIST


I’m trying to race out the door toward a little road trip with my wife and two girls, but before I do I wanted to give a shout-out to some of the outstanding writing I’m going to be taking along to read and reread on my journey. With work like this available, it’s no wonder I and a lot of other folks I know, are getting so much more out of writing found on some of excellent blogs and other online sources instead of, or at least in addition to, the usual outlets. Let’s raise a glass to a Labor Day Weekend marked by no labor and extra-long, relaxing days in which to kick back and soak up some of the superb posts that make up the SLIFR Labor Day Weekend Reading List.

(Once again, I'm sorry for Blogger's refusal to provide a picture-posting service that actually works on any computer other than the one at my office. When I come back next week I'll post the pics I had planned to include with this reading list. My apologies for the lack of cool illustrations. Hopefully the links will help you to forget...)

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FLASH! JUST ADDED, September 3, 10:55 a.m.:

Andy Horbal at No More Marriages has a fascinating discussion going on under his post "Italics", an attempt to create some sort of standardization of the use of all those cool little tools like italics, bold, quotation marks and create a betterr standard of readability for film blogs.

But, as usual, that's not all that's going on at Andy's excellent blog. He rounds up the latest batch of online considerations of the current state of film criticism and the shape it may or may not be taking in the light of print alternatives like Scanners, Thee House Next Door, Girish, Hell on Frisco Bay and other film-devoted Web sites.

And Andy has saved a wonderful present for all of us "Internets," courtesy of our friend Walter at Quiet Bubble. Here's Walter:

"Emily Gordon at Emdashes–a supercool blog about the New Yorker that anyone interested in the magazine’s past, present, and future should be reading–has uncovered a whopper: about 3000 short film reviews by master critic Pauline Kael, online, freely accessible. Go, now."

Take a guess as to what just got added to my sidebar! Thanks, Emily, Walter and Andy!

Happy Labor Day, indeed!

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Matt Seitz has got what amounts to a virtual publishing house running at full speed over at The House Next Door these days, and he’s shining the spotlight on some excellent writers and their work in addition to his own. And what’s refreshing about the group he’s gathered together is, they’re all emerging with their own distinctive voices—they’re not just trying to ape Matt or second-guess what his tastes might be. Some of the great stuff available right now includes Dan Jardine’s nod to that touchstone TV movie that seems to have scared the shit out of just about everyone who watched the ABC Movie of the Week in the mid ‘70s—Dan Curtis’ Trilogy of Terror, the third episode of which starred Karen Black vs. a very scary doll of death.

The House Next Door also points the way toward Edward Copeland’s rousing appreciation of a frequently dismissed (if it’s remembered at all) horror sequel, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part Two. Ed stole my thunder a bit here—I had (and still do have) plans to unveil and discuss this little treasure in September. But it’s hard to be annoyed when someone who writes as well as Edward does gets there first. I’ll be linking to this one again when my own piece appears.

Finally, but by no means least importantly, Aaron Aradillas premieres at the House with part one of his appropriately epic study of polarizing firebrand director Oliver Stone. The first part of this long, detailed and provocative study goes up through The Doors and includes some choice words on one of my favorite Stone films, Talk Radio. I can’t wait to read Aradillas on Nixon, which I think is one of the most radical studio movies ever released, when part two shows up soon. (Don’t worry. I’ll let you know!)

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Jim Emerson, or as I like to think of him, the Hardest Working Man in Film Criticism, continues to provide proof as to why his blog Scanners is perhaps the best site around for discussion, observation and worthwhile fellowship with fellow film fans right now. This Seattle-based writer doesn’t shy away from commenting on the “real” world too, and we often discover, along with him, the ways in which film informs and intersects with that real world through some really insightful writing. I’m thinking particularly of recent pieces on bogus reportage on the influence of bloggers, the capture and subsequent release of the self-appointed murderer of Jon-Benet Ramsey, 9-11, the Movie and the return of The Scream. Jim also checks in today on the return of another icon of madness, Griffin Mill, aka The Player.

As if all that weren’t bounty enough, the Opening Shots series is sporting a new wrinkle. There’s a new poll that you can take to vote for your favorite opening shot of all time. Of those listed, I’m voting for Nights of Cabiria, but I could be talked into a vote for Touch of Evil, I guess… And Jim continues posting brilliant Opening Shots submissions, including juicy and sublime considerations of Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night from “nonpracticing film critic” and co-founder and artistic director of the Lake Placid Film Forum, Kathleen Carroll; Mike Calia on Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs; Andrew Wright on Paul Schrader’s Cat People; Schuyler Chapman on Repo Man; and Jim himself with two excellent submissions that have got me scrambling for the “add” button on my Netflix queue—Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, with Fearless my favorite Peter Weir movie, and one I haven’t seen in years, and Gary Sherman’s Raw Meat, a grisly horror film from the early ‘70s about which I must confess complete ignorance:


“They don't grind 'em out like Raw Meat anymore. I don't know if horror movies will ever seem as seedy as they did in the first half of the 1970s, when even the emulsion itself seemed to carry dread and disease. In this British horror-thriller, released in the UK as Death Line and directed by Gary Sherman (Dead & Buried), there's Something in the Underground. Yes, there's a through-line to The Descent here. And Guillermo Del Toro (Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth) considers it one of his favorites.”

When Jim says something like this about a movie called Raw Meat, just how long do you think I can resist?

Speaking of The Descent, for those of us who are still haunted by Neil Marshall’s subterranean nightmare, Jim continues his prodigious spelunking of this new horror classic and comes up with much more on the movie’s powerful imagery. If it isn’t obvious that you should be checking Scanners daily, it should be—and the way Jim has been turning out great material lately, you should be checking it out more than once a day.

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The fine folks at Cinematical, always on the front lines with the latest rumors, Hollywood bluster and well-considered opinions and thoughts on film, check in with news of Peter Jackson’s latest (I know at least one film fan who’s not gonna be happy about this), as well as a sharp and sassy review of Kirby Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated. If it’s not yet, Cinematical is another site that really should be a daily stop on your Bookmarks tab.

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Twitch has a new trailer for the new Korean monster film The Host that’s ready to unspool for you and give you nightmares. It’s yet another preview for a movie that viewers have actual reason to believe might be as good as advertised. If it does, and if Pan’s Labyrinth delivers as promised, you can throw The Host and The Descent in alongside and start thinking of 2006 as one of the best years for the horror/fantasy/science fiction genre in many a moon.

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Over at the deliriously obsessive site DVD Beaver, where they’re currently doing digital back flips over Criterion’s new three-disc edition of Seven Samurai, there’s a spectacular page entitled ”The Femme Fatales of Film Noir”, featuring beautiful chiaroscuro shots of the likes of Gloria Grahame, Anna Mae Wong, Gene Tierney and a deadly bevy of other noir beauties. The shots come courtesy of Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans, a virtual treasure trove of beautiful high-resolution head shots and publicity poses from the studio vaults. Dr. Macro also features keen links to a rich series of film noir posters, full-length MGM shorts and lots more. It’s the kind of place a movie fan could get lost in, and when it happens to you it’s my guess that you won’t mind one bit.

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One of the film blogs I’ve been keeping my eye on lately is Andrew Bemis’s Cinevistaramascope. (What a great title!) Andrew writes in a loose, unpretentious style that speaks well to his smart, thoughtful approach to movies. He keeps us up to date on everything he watches on a weekly basis (films rated one to 10), he goes to drive-ins, he often writes about movies I love, and he features great pictures to augment his posts in a very eye-pleasing and uncluttered way. Why wouldn’t I love Cinevistaramascope? I think you will too.

The other is The Ongoing Cinematic Education of Steven Carlson, in which Steven posts short, succinct reviews of current releases and whatever else strikes him—films recently seen on DVD as well, I suspect, as stuff from the archives of his mind which might not yet be available digitally. Steve posts reviews the way I wish I could—with no eye toward the marketplace, necessarily, but also with consistency and reliability. He’s another sharp writer with a very good sense of humor and a good bullshit detector, especially when it comes to pretense (his own as well as that of filmmakers)—he recently held a contest to see who could guess which rave review he wrote while completely drunk. And he even takes requests!

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Kim Gordon is back on the beat at Sunset Gun with a couple of keen pieces, one on Hollywood’s obsession with true crime, and the other filled with choices observations about Elizabeth Taylor, Riot on Sunset Strip and one of Roman Polanski’s most dismissed movies. And if everything your mom and dad warned you about watching too many horror movies needs confirmation, take a look at this pic and see what happens when Kim sits down to watch the Peter Fonda-Warren Oates scare-chase thriller Race with the Devil.

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And just to wrap things up, I want to point the way to some excellent new posts from some old friends on the blogger highway. Michael Guillen’s The Evening Class is an excellent forum for both Michael’s keen, often poetic observations about film and his intuitive skills as an interviewer of filmmakers, some independent and some of a decidedly independent bent who are working inside or on the edges of the Hollywood system. One of the latter is idiosyncratic director Michel Gondry, who sits down for a spirited conversation with Michael about his methods, his influences, his new movie The Science of Sleep and, most importantly for Michael, the director’s dreams.

As regular readers of SLIFR hopefully know by now, one of my favorite blogs is also one that regularly drives me green with envy, Brian Darr’s Hell On Frisco Bay. And Brian is busy stoking the fires of the green-eyed monster again, making me wish I could take the red-eye to San Francisco every weekend (and certainly not to watch the Giants.) He’s got his detailed account of the fall film scene in Frisco up and running, and it’s a must-read, not only to get yourself upset that you’re not in the bay Area, but also take notes on about interesting upcoming titles that may be coming to a theater (or a video store) near you soon, if you’re lucky.

And last, but far from least, Girish Shambu posts a list of the movies he’s most interested in taking in at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival. As usual for Girish’s site, not only do you get the blogmeister’s unique, personal commentary, but that of the cream-of-the-crop of fellow bloggers who routinely chime in and make his comments column a bustling community of voices that would make Robert Altman stand up and salute. Girish’s achievement in the blogosphere would be towering even if he shut the comments spigot completely off. But he doesn’t, and as a result every post on his site, like this latest one, has the potential to turn into a respectful, good-natured, but serious roundtable exchange of ideas, with Girish as participant and sharp-eyed emcee. We should all be thankful for this film blog oasis.

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Have a great weekend! I've gone fishin'. Be back next week!

13 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

Wow .. I try to keep up with key people are saying about movies, but you listed several sources here I had not heard of .. thanks for the heads up!

lucas said...

dennis,

something you might find interesting. Andrew Horbal's "No More Marriages!" started an interesting discussion about standardizing the way we all use film titles.

http://andyhorbal.blogspot.com/2006/08/italics.html

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks, RF! That's what I love about blogging and creating these reading lists-- everybody's world gets expanded, including my own...

thanks to folks like you, Lucas! I forgot to check in on Andy, and as a result of discovering "Italics" because of you, I ended up with a whole bunch of new stuff to add to the top of my Weekend Reading List courtesy of Andy's great site!

Thanks so much for checking in. Happy Labor Day!

lucas said...

glad to be of assistance

Dennis Cozzalio said...

And by the way, everybody, I should have said so earlier, but be sure to check out Lucas's terrific site 100 Films for even more great writing on our favorite subject!

lucas said...

awww, shucks.

Bemis said...

Thanks very much for the mention, Dennis!

As for favorite opening shots, I had to vote for A Clockwork Orange from the list provided. There's something about Wendy Carlos' score, coupled with Malcolm MacDowell's unblinking stare, that is just completely hypnotic.

Steve said...

Gawrsh.... now I'm gonna have to adhere to some kind of standard of writing, aren't I? :-)

Thanks for the shout, man. And yeah... everything I write about falls under the 'recently seen' banner, whether via theater, DVD or other.

Brian said...

Thanks for the shout out, Dennis, and even more for the handy guide to recent must-read material!

Tom Sutpen said...

Good and sensible shout-outs, Dennis, to Cinevistaramascope (which I'd not seen before), and Steve Carlson's more-than-fine blog (which has been on my regular blog visit route for some months now)!

I don't want to jinx anything, but something tells me we've only just begin to dimply perceive the outlines of what film blogging might evolve into. And I think you're onto something in noting the unpretentiousness of Cinevistaramascope, because if there's a truly refreshing quality most of our fellow film bloggers share, it is that.

Salut!

Tom Sutpen said...

Yeesh. My apologies for the typos ('dimply'??) in the above comment. Blog comments and Vodka don't mix, I guess.

As (I think) the late Joe E. Lewis once said: "The minute I read about the dangers of drinking I gave up reading".

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

Dennis, enough with the fishing. We miss ya, man.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Whew! You should have seen the one that got away! But seriously, folks... I never expected I ever would be, but I must admit it's nice to be missed! Thanks, TLRHB! (I've really been enjoying your De Palma series, by the way.)

My vacation was jampacked with family-style fun-- my youngest daughter and I were almost attacked by a giant crawdad which came creeping out of a river, pincers a-clackin', hell-bent on eating us alive! And it was even more jampacked with... driving-- 24 hours' worth in a span of about 36 hours on Friday and Saturday. The last couple of days I've been playing Catch-up, Welcome Back To the Working Week, and Express Recuperation. But even though I was able to keep up a little bit while in Oregon, I've missed things down here on the virtual farm and I feel like I'm raring to go with some (hopefully) good new stuff. Thanks to everybody who stopped by while I was gone! As Jackie Gleason might have said, and heeeeeere we go!