One of the essential American films of 2016.
One of my favorite pastimes, especially when I should be doing something else, is moseying around the blogs of my readers. You may have noticed that when the name of a poster is displayed in blue, that means it's a link -- usually to the author's blog, although you might be surprised. Assembled here is a distinctive readership of interesting people, not least because I am vigilant about never posting idiotic or perfunctory comments. A certain civil tone is (usually) maintained, avoiding the plague of flame wars.
More than a year ago, when the blog was somewhat new to me, I wrote: "Your comments have provided me with the best idea of my readers that I have ever had, and you are the readers I have dreamed of. I was writing to you before I was sure you were there. You are thoughtful, engaged, fair, and often the authors of eloquent prose. You take the time to craft comments of hundreds of words. Frequently you are experts, and generous enough to share your knowledge."
After now having posted more than 36,000 comments, I have only confirmed that judgment. You are everyone, and you are everywhere. Collectively, you know everything. They say if you have 36 people in a room, it will be someone's birthday. I say if you have 36,000 comments in a blog, one of those posters will know who A. W. Wainwright is, or how a flagellum works, or what you will see if you stand at the edge of the universe and look out. And several will provide me with practical advice about how to improve my computer's speaking ability.
I got it into my head to write a report about my rummaging around on your blogs. I had no idea what riches I would find. Many of you will not find your splendid blogs listed here, because there are simply too many. This entire entry is culled from blogs I found only on my two most recent entries, which as of this moment total only 293 comments. Some of you complain you get started on reading a thread and lose track of time. With this blog, you may have to check the calendar.
This proviso: These blogs are listed in no order, and there is no favoritism. I copied their URLs in the order I found them, and they've been written in the same order.
This winter Grace Wang will miss strolling in a summer dress
One of my favorite blog writers is Grace Wang, of "Etheriel Musings," who is an attorney in Toronto. She's a natural writer. You sense no angst or hesitation in her prose. It sparkles like conversation. She attended the Toronto Film Festival, and her entry on "City of Life and Death" will not be bettered by any other critic.
She saw "Mr. Nobody," and wrote: "I don't know where to even begin with describing this beast. And it is a beast of a film. Running at two and a half hours, your brain constantly racking and racing, synapses firing at lightening speed to try to keep up with the plot, which fragments and spins in a thousand directions into just as many plotlines, skipping back and forth in time and universes, it is not an easy watch." Knowing what you know about me, you can understand how she made me eager to watch this film by writing: "The film is simply sumptuous, a feast for your senses. It references the big bang theory, the nature of time, superstring theory, and memory - the thought that the universes splits whenever you make a decision, and allows countless versions of yourself to exist simultaneously, in parallel universes, living out every possible version of your life. What an idea. What a concept."
An ambitious project has been undertaken by Paul J. Marasa at "The Constant Viewer," subtitled "Excerpts from an Imaginary Cinema Diary, 1876-2009." I hope he doesn't plan to see every film ever made. Paul teaches at Knox College in Galesburg. What sort of a writer chooses such an undertaking? He describes himself: "Lost, lonely, and vicious. Fast, cheap, and out of control. Good, bad, and ugly. I married a monster from outer space, a communist, a vampire, a witch, an angel. I was a male war bride, a prisoner on Devil's Island, a fugitive from a chain gang, and many many teenage things."
Here is his imaginary moviegoer's diary entry about "Transformation by Hats" (1896): "A simple vaudeville performance, as a man dons and doffs a series of hat-and-nose-or-whiskers disguises in rapid succession. I am finding more and more that these little scenes are uninteresting per se; what makes them memorable is the associations they engender in me, either of other moving pictures, occurrences in my own life, or some other sudden connection. Here, I was drawn inside the mechanics of cinema, individual images streaming along, creating the illusion of motion. And as the performer went through his routine, he reenacted that mechanism, but not to produce a single smooth action, but a series of images--of himself, to be sure, but different, shifting suddenly from one self to another. Somehow this also puts me in mind of the demolished wall un-demolished, images changing with no logic, but only as unexpected as a magician's trick, in which, of course, one expects the unexpected."
Seongyong Cho of South Korean is known here for his perfect command of English. In many cases, if his name were concealed, you'd mistake him for an American or British film student, hanging out with his friends and reporting on a favorite bartender. In South Korea, as is only reasonable, he writes in Korean. Here is his review of "Jimmy Carter Man from Plains."
Andrew Dobbs, at The Deliverators, writes evocatively about his former job as a projectionist at a dollar house. He regrets the way video is pushing out film through celluloid: "I think the work of projection is a beautiful thing, a quiet job fit for studious and ascetic types. There will be no projectionists in a few years, and this is sad to me. There will be nobody haunting those hallways above the magic, standing at the last rung of the entertainment business ladder to make your movie happen."
Our friend S. M Rana is a surprise. We think of him as a source of concise, pithy comments. On his blog he is revealed as the author of extended, eloquent essays on such as Tarkovski's "Solaris," von Trier's "Antichrist" and Shakespeare's Hamlet.
S.M. Rana's recommended noodles
But all is not profound on S. M. Rana's blog. He grows poetic on the subject of an instant noodle cup named Maggi Cuppa Mania. In the spirit of my entry about the wonders of the rice cooker, he writes: "This miracle of convenience would not have been possible but for the Morphy Richard 500W kettle which has the water boiling in little more than a jiffy. Respect the virginity of the kettle by using it for nothing besides boiling plain water and it may stand by you for ever making it well worth its thousand rupee cost."
And he equals the great film "Tampopo" in this description of eating the noodles: "Talking of Mania one must not forget that lovely yellow plastic fork another wonder which one discards not without a tinge of regret. Now how best to eat them since complexities are involved. Being so chill-hot it takes a good many seconds to travel from cup to fork and in the slow journey of the tubelets across your lips and gums down the throat there is, by the laws of the physics of (the high specific heat of water) a chance you might blister your gums . One way is to drink the soup first which gives a chance for the temperature of the noodles to drop faster."
Improving (in my opinion) on the inspiration behind "Julie and Julia," where a blogger set out to cook every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook, Matthew Dessem of "The Criterion Contraption" has set out to view and write an extended essay, in depth, detailed, profusely illustrated about every single film in the Criterion Collection. Here is his index of the films covered so far. I'm especially pleased with his defense of Criterion's inclusion of Kevin Smith's "Chasing Amy."
John Van Dyke, of Dave Van Dyke fame
Not the least of the surprises at Dave Van Dyke's site is that his name is John Van Dyke. He is a man of many gifts. He leads "The Van Dyke Revue," a rock and country band popular in Michigan and Indiana, and is a sculptor. We know on the blog that he's also a teacher. His blog is the only one of those listed here that has a sound track. I liked it instantly, and was inspired to order his latest CD from Amazon. Only days before, the Revue performed at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, where he admired the classic Golden Hawk.
Paul Sampson is an old friend from the University of Illinois and O'Rourke's Pub. Now relocated to Los Angeles and drinking Diet Rite, he offers in his site a miraculous cancer care. I was pleased to read this cure and confirm that he is still the same old Sampson. Kevin (KET) writes a blog titled "For When I'm Bored." That must be rarely. A recent entry is titled, "On Congee, Gai Lan, Pearl Milk Tea, and Jennifer 8 Lee." Jennifer is the star of an amusing video about the historic role Chinese restaurants have played in American life. "If apple pie is thought if as American, ask yourself how often you eat apple pie, and how often you eat Chinese food." She is formidably well-informed and entertaining. Only on a blog like this would you learn that fortune cookies (1) are unknown in China, (2) were invented in Japan, and (3) were manufactured in the U.S. by Chinese when the Japanese were interned during World War Two.
Kevin (KET) also writes on anime, Malaysian and Indian topics. He lives in New Jersey and explains: "I started this when I took a month away from Final Fantasy XI, an MMORPG and found myself bored way too easily, but with no desire to play again. It's just too depressing, my difficulty finding a job, so I just decided to start one of these to pass the time when I have nothing to do...which is quite often."
Larry Rand was one of the key singer-songwriters of the Chicago Folk Revival in the 1960s and 1970s, and has always been a splendid writer. He was a mainstay of the legendary Earl of Old Town, and recalls that when Earl Pionke was asked by a drunk for his name, he replied "Earl," and when asked for his last name, replied "Town."
Larry's blog, "The Seven Piles of Wisdom," includes a terrific memory of Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary. Larry opened for her one night in Washington, D.C. He remembers: "The gig at the old Cellar Door nightclub started with a bang. Mary was traveling with a four-piece band and her two daughters; needing more space than a cramped dressing room, she had invaded the office of the head of Cellar Door Productions, which booked most of the large venues in DC. One of her young daughters kept busy by using a paper punch to make pretty patterns in papers on the boss's desk; they turned out to be an $11 million Rolling Stones multi-concert contract. Loud words were spoken -- but Mary did not vacate the premises. She knew how many tickets she had sold and stood her ground."
I first met my old friend Joe Leydon when he was the film critic of the Houston Post. When we see each other at the Toronto Film Festival, we are usually the oldest active critics in the room. He often seems to be in conversation in the aisle next to my favorite seat in the Varsity 8. These days he teaches and writes reviews for Variety. He links to his reviews on his "Moving Picture Blog," which includes a great many other things, including this no doubt authentic trailer for the 1951 adventure serial, "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Joe goes way back. He just posted "The Day I Asked Roman Polanski Why He Might Want to Return to the U.S." from an interview he did at Cannes in 1986. Polanski should have said, "Today. When I saw how the French reacted to my new movie with Walter Matthau as a pirate, I knew anywhere would be better than here"
One recent poster wondered what it would be like to have such as Randy, Tom, Bill and Keith Marie Haws all together in my living room. I suspect Marie might be the cheerful peacemaker. Oooh! Oooh! She is such a gifted painter, drawer, animator and photographer. Her paintings and photographs of Venice, my second favorite city, are superb. I'm a little disappointed that she doesn't say much on her blog so I could quote it -- it's mostly dedicated to her portfolios -- but I am consoled that she says so much here. See two of her works below.
Randy Masters is revealed on "Lick Creek Photography" as not only a determined defender of Intelligent Design, but a gifted photographer. He as recently updated his blog to include a portfolio of photos from his Air Force career, in response to aspersions for which Indian Idiot has now sincerely apologized. Randy is a good fellow for many reasons, not least for his key role is extending our debate on Darwin to a current total of 3,600 comments. He also traveled to Champaign-Urbana for my Ebertfest 2009, something I hope Indian Idiot will also do. (I know what you're thinking. No, to my disappointment, Indian Idiot doesn't have a blog. Nor do Bill Hays, Tom Dark or Keith Carrizosa, more of Randy's sparring partners).
A reader who was chagrined by not being mentioned in the Randy-Tom-Bill-Marie-Keith connection was Paul Arrand Rogers, who would certainly be invited to the party. His blog, "Careful With that Blog, Eugene," ranges from reviews of "Funny People" ("no minor entry in Apatow's canon") to this TV commercial by former pro wrestler Ric Flair.
Serdar Yegulalp says, yes, that is his real name. His "Genji Press," is "of the Far East, Near West, and a great deal in-between." He is an "author, music lover, reader and critic, nipponophile, and information technology journalist," and has written several books, including his latest, Summerworld,a fantasy novel.
"The Michael Jackson Hair Accident Hoax" is exposed by Richard Voza. at "Brainsnorts." Oh, yes it is. He includes Jackson photos from before the accident ("notice the corners developing on the sides of his forehead? notice the balding that has begun? he's losing his hair, so he's taking pieces of the remaining hairline and greasing the hairs on his skin to cover up the bald spot.") Then there's the famous fiery video footage, in which you can't see if it's really Jackson. Then "after" photos: ("back then, people who had hair transplant surgery had to wear bandages around their heads to cover the scabs and bleeding following the surgery. today, the technology is better, but not then. jackson, who was so freaky about his appearance, was ultra freaky about his hair. losing it was the biggest obstacle for his 'forever young' attitude. he couldn't walk around with bandages or the surgery would be obvious. he needed an explanation, so he came up with the fake fire accident. Not convinced? look at these pictures of him in the years after the accident. look how much better his hair looks, how thick, how straight. that's because it wasn't his hair but the hair from the transplant surgery.")
Marilyn Ferdinand, from FerdyOnFilms feels deep sympathy for Farrah Fawcett, and doesn't write yet another obituary tribute but a moving essay on her best work, "The Burning Bed:" "It came as an enormous shock to the cultural system when Farrah Fawcett, pin-up supreme of the 1970s, smashed her Barbie Doll image by playing the smashed-up wife of an abusive husband who eventually murders him by setting fire to their bedroom as he sleeps off another drunk. Blondes are supposed to have more fun, right? Fawcett didn't see it that way, and her choice to take on this savage tale that would see her beauty hidden beneath bruises, blood, and K-Mart clothing was a bold statement about herself, her art, and perhaps even her view of domesticity. The Texas belle herself married and divorced one time only and endured a severe beating at the hands of Hollywood producer James Orr in 1998 after spurning his proposal of marriage. Francine Hughes, the character she plays in The Burning Bed, must have haunted her thoughts in the wake of her own battering."
For articulate, soul-searching autobiography, Conor Woody has the beginnings of a good book. Go to the link and read the first two entries, "My first robbery, my first guilt, and my first life goal" and "My aspirations, my first rebellion, and the sound track from a dull childhood." I also admired his entry about how the experience of seeing "Pulp Fiction" awakened his mind at a young age and set him on a new course for life.
In another entry, he writes: "I am in the most introverted state I've been in since... probably ever. The last few days I've been in this existential funk like I've never been in before. I like to think of myself as thoughtful, but never like this. It's gotten to the point where I'm annoyed with myself. I can't get out of my own head. My head physically feels like it's compressed. Like it's about to explode. The world around me is inconsequential. This is a dangerous state to be in, obviously, but I'm embracing it because I think it's just a stage."
Vivek at "Off the Mark" writes a great deal about Indian films, and also such Western films as "The Decalogue." Like the majority of bloggers, he doesn't supply about of himself, and his "About Me" entry is oblique. Notice here how little you learn about Vivek and how much you learn about cricket:
"Many years later, facing a platoon of androidal bulldozers demolishing earth to build an inter-galactic ring-road, I would recall the day in Bangalore when I first discovered ice-cream. I would also recall my: Cricket. Tendulkar's hook (when he plays it) and his upper-cut over third-man, Leg-spin, Asgiriya at Kandy, Gibbs' flick, Laxman's flicked straight-drive, Francis Thomson's Lord's, Vaughan's cover drive, Donald's action, Metronome McGrath, Lara's dance down the wicket, Martyn's square cut, anything from Gayle that is played across the line.Cinema. Seventh Seal, Jalsaghar, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, My Neighbour Totoro, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Yojimbo, High and Low, My Best Fiend, Pushpak, Taxidriver, Fitzcarraldo, Children of Heaven. Achievements. 1. 3rd rank in 1st standard. Last rank in 11th standard. Only Ravi Shastri's batting order has seen more places .2. Won many Rs. 40 cheques from Indian Express while in school. Never encashed them. 3. Won a floppy (a big one, green in colour) from Indian Express. I gifted it to an auto driver. Thus began my attachment to interior decoration. Thus it ended. 4. Have had more dreams of falling from a building than real experiences of falling from a building. 5. Watched Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat four times. Still couldn't get it. 6. Was the best Book Cricketer in class 9B."
Michael Mirasol at Flipcritic came to my defense last May when I wrote negatively about a Filipino entry at Cannes, "Kinatay." Outraged Filipino readers accused me of xenophobia, racism, stupidity and worse. He discusses the dust-up here. Like a great many overseas readers and bloggers, he has an understanding of American pop culture that would shame many an American. Here he has well-written appreciations of George Carlin, Cyd Charisse, and Stan Winston.
And I have more blogs here, but, Reader, it is late and am weary. I am also in awe. No wonder I go to the incoming comments every day with true appreciation. I'm asked, "How can you read all those comments?" How can I not? They're from the best and the brightest. You.
Compose lyrics for "Blog of my blogs" to this tune:
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A photograph and a painting by Marie Haws: "The Glorious Decrepitude" and "Girl in the Coat"
A Wordle Cloud created from this entry. (Thanks to Marie Haws)
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A look at this year's competition for Best Actress.