Year in Review: Shooting My Mouth Off in 2016

I look at this and I wonder why I always feel like I haven’t done jack-squat. Or, at the very least, I could do more. Well, I always can do more. Regardless, here are links to some of the things I’ve written this year. Not just film writing, but stuff here too.

Interview with Stephen Cone on “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party”
“Evangelical America doesn’t even celebrate heterosexual sexuality! When you grow up in that environment, you end up with a lot of really lonely adults. There’s a lot of really beautiful qualities to the Southern Evangelical world, which is the world I grew up in. My father is a pastor, so it’s a world I love in a lot of ways, but one of the ugly parts of it is the lack of emphasis on the importance of pleasure and joy.”

Review of Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (2016), directed by Stephen Cone
“Grace’s continual longing to go in the pool, and her fear of her mother’s judgment if she did, as well as her fear of how much she WANTS to go in that pool, is its own ongoing cliffhanger.”

R.I.P. David Bowie
“He embodied possibility. He was true to himself and part of that meant willingness to change. Not even willingness: he had to change, because he was alive. And human beings are not static. And performers must please themselves first. And as he changed, his persona broadened, and as his persona broadened, more and more people were drawn into it, more and more people could relate to it, were fascinated by it, felt the possibility in it. If he could be so flexible, then couldn’t we? Maybe? Maybe identity isn’t static. Maybe gender isn’t static. Maybe none of us are as trapped as we thought.”

“Animals don’t hate, and we’re supposed to be better than them.” – Elvis Presley, the Twin Who Lived
“Where those fairgrounds once were is now the main square in Tupelo in front of City Hall: a vast lawn, with circular steps, benches, a big Christmas tree, and a beautiful statue of Elvis, onstage in the very spot he had performed in 1956. The statue was erected in 2012. The statue is isolated in the middle of the large lawn. Nothing is around it. He is highlighted against the low buildings of Main Street, nothing huddles up alongside of him. There is no other context for the statue. It hovers in thin air. It’s lonely up there in the stratosphere.”

Recap: Supernatural: Season 2, Episode 19: “Folsom Prison Blues”
Supernatural NEEDED to happen in order to set Ackles free. There’s something about the look on his face here (the makeup, plus what he’s DOING with his face), and the posture … that makes us believe. There’s something erotic about that puffy bruise with the cut on top of it. Maybe I’m like Marion Keisker, who responded to Elvis’ pimples and awkwardness, feeling somehow the personality that already existed beneath.”

R.I.P. Alan Rickman
“Alan Rickman didn’t just speak: he chewed words, he rolled them around in his mouth before letting them go, he relished them. He drew out syllables, he held onto consonants (who can hold onto a “t”? Or an “n”? Alan Rickman could and did).”

On The Autobiography of Leroi Jones, by Amiri Baraka
“I love that the editors of this anthology excerpted the part of the memoir that deals with Jones’ memory of attending Negro League baseball games in Newark, where he grew up, and what those games were like, and what they meant to his community. “His” team was the Newark Eagles. The way he described the fan reaction was: “pure love.” In the white world, everyone had to “Yes, sir” “No, sir” and tolerate rubbing-shoulders with racists. Little-boy Jones watched his father blossom at those games, the easy banter with fellow spectators, getting to know some of the players, who were heroes. Everyone dressed to the nines for those games.”

Happy Birthday, Patricia Highsmith
“Love is not sane. Love assaults every sense, leaving the lovers in a state of dizzying captivity. People do not behave like they are sane when they fall in love. Love is a riptide. Love is glorious, love is awful. Highsmith understood all of that, the yearning, the trembling sense of possibility, the terror of rejection. How would one survive life if this particular love crashed and burned? Love is life or death.”

Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton
“Why on earth would you look at a fabulous creature/creation/human like Dolly Parton and decide that concern-trolling her appearance is your best first response?”

“The Long Shadow of Gilda
“The ending, with Johnny and Gilda exiting together, is a holdover from the days of the cathartic “The End” of musicals, but it leaves an uneasy impression, similar to the final scene in Notorious. In neither ending does it feel like “love has triumphed.” It’s more like a criminal getaway. That confusion, so rich, so tormented, so surreal and true, is a huge part of Gilda’s fascination, its enduring draw.”

Happy Birthday, Langston Hughes
“The roots of his poetry were in black American music, not white European literature. That was the huge advancement of Hughes, the thing that changed the landscape: the vernacular not only going mainstream, but coming through the prism altered. The poetry in the everyday, the slang, the local. This is not a small thing. This is how the world changes. You can’t even measure Hughes’ influence in that regard.”

Happy Birthday, Sam Cooke
“He started with a specific image: A boyfriend encouraging his girlfriend to dance the cha-cha, and then she can’t stop. A love song filled with images of education (so important to him, a voracious reader and learner), slide rules and Latin and geography. A glimpse of a chain gang on the side of the road …There’s a place out “New York way” where people twist the night away. People having a party, dancing, the radio on, and “the Cokes are in the ice box, popcorn’s on the table …” Hey, you want to go to the party “over at Mary’s place”? Hell, yeah, Sam, I do.”

Review of Used Cars (1980); d. Robert Zemeckis
“How on earth had I never seen this movie?”

On “Head Down”, by Stephen King
“The world of Little League is of the ultimate importance to everyone who participates in it. It’s great for the kids, the adults are invested, the parents/friends/siblings come to watch the games … it’s a full-spectrum community experience. King captures that.”

February 3, 1959: The Day the Music Died
“The story of why they all got on that plane, during the “Winter Dance Party” tour across the Midwest, is the story of one ominous mishap after another.”

On “Madonna II: Venus of the Radio Waves,” by Camille Paglia
“God, we NEED our contrarians. We need them desperately! Not to agree with 100%, but to push against conformity, to provoke conversation (even outrage), to question/mock sacred cows rather than blindly worship them.”

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Bishop
“A treasured memory is telling my dad I was getting into her, and how much I loved her, and he asked if I knew her poem “The Moose.” I didn’t. He pulled out a book (he always knew where the right books were), and read it out loud to me. My father had a gravelly voice, unforgettable, warm and grumbly, and he was wonderful when reading out loud. As much as I love “The Moose” (and I DO, it’s now in my Top Bishop poems), what I really love is that when I read it now, I still hear it in my father’s voice.”

Happy Birthday, Edna St. Vincent Millay
“If you only read her poetry (and she’s perfect for when you are lovelorn or nostalgic) you would think she was the most sentimental person on the planet, with one great lost love she yearned for all her days. The fact that she was a ruthless harlot makes her romantic “persona” even more interesting, more deliberate, more a theatrical act of CONJURING than reflection of a personal truth.”

On “Elizabeth Taylor: Hollywood’s Pagan Queen,” by Camille Paglia
“Paglia resists the Meryl-Streep-cult, and tells us why… Elizabeth Taylor connects her to the Dionysian impulse. A woman made to be looked at, to be savored, eaten up, celebrated, an Icon. Paglia sees Meryl Streep’s hard-working-ness to be an example of the Protestant work-ethic that Paglia feels is so damaging and prudish and anti-Art.”

Review: Cemetery of Splendour (2016)
“This is the potential of cinema, to show us experiences that lie beyond words. There is value in conventional narrative, and value in a good story told well. But being prescriptive about what cinema is, or what a good story needs in order to be effective, contracts the possibilities of the medium. Who made up those rules anyway? Weerasethakul embodies possibility.”

“Make voyages! — Attempt them! — there’s nothing else …” Happy Birthday, Tennessee Williams
“An interviewer asked Williams once: “What is your definition of happiness?” He replied, “Insensitivity, I guess.””

Oscars 2016: If We Picked the Winners: Sylvester Stallone in Creed
“Success can calcify talent. Big stars can grow risk-averse. Stallone spoke about how he had allowed that to happen to him. And so he put himself into the hands of a new director and in service of a “Rocky” script he did not write. Of such risks great performances are made. Grounded, funny, touching, subtle, not only is it the best performance of Stallone’s career, it’s one of the best performances of the year.”

Happy Birthday, Marlon Brando: We Can Still Hear That Roar
“Please notice Brando’s stress in the famous line; “I coulda been a contender … I coulda been somebody”. Brando stresses: “I coulda been SOMEbody,” he puts the stress on “some”. I want to talk about Brando’s choice, and it was a choice – although Brando probably couldn’t have put it into words – to stress “some,” in the word “somebody” – which is a counterintuitive line-reading, and one of the reasons the moment is so powerful. It’s a famous line, but I have to point out that it is usually imitated incorrectly; people think they remember the line right, but they do not.”

Conversations with Mitchell, Part 4: Zac Efron
Mitchell: What comes to mind for me when I think about Zac Efron, and why I think you and I love him so much, is Errol Flynn. Errol Flynn was so handsome, so unbelievably gorgeous. He had so much charisma. And so it was hard to take Errol Flynn seriously.”

Conversations with Mitchell, Part 5: Jean Harlow
Mitchell: We always want to compare contemporary stars to the old stars. “So-and-so’s the new so-and-so.” And the reality of it is that there is no such thing as the “new so-and-so”. The people who truly succeed, who leave legacies behind are individuals. They are one of a kind. And certainly at the time, Jean Harlow was one of a kind.”

Conversations with Mitchell: Zac Efron, Part 2
Mitchell: If Zac Efron can figure out how to tap into that thing going on now where it’s now okay for men to admit a sexual attraction to other men and still be straight – in the way that women can do with women, and gay men can do with women … Men have never been allowed to say, “Fuck. If I were gay, I’d stick my dick in Zac Efron.””

Touched with Fire (2016): Not a Review. Not Really.
“The recent Amanda Bynes public breakdown was a great example of how the public discourse around mental health is often so disgusting, even from people who should know better: I watched people make fun of her and I thought: What on earth do these people – many of whom I know who clearly think of themselves as “tolerant” lovely liberal people – think that mental illness or breakdowns look like? Do they think people are SYMPATHETIC during breakdowns? Or understandable? Or “manic pixie dream girls” who cry copious tears and yet still remain adorable? What the hell are you people smoking?”

Oscar Night: For Gena Rowlands
“I was proud to be asked to write the narration for the tribute reel for Gena, played at the Governor Awards ceremony in November 2015.”

On reading Shakespeare’s sonnets in chronological order out loud
“People who don’t understand this kind of project often say stupid shit like, “Relax, Sheila.” “Why don’t you take a load off and read something light?” “How about a beach read?” These people do not understand the pleasures of in-depth rigorous intellectual pursuits – which are so pleasurable they practically have a sexual element, and I wake up excited for the next sonnet and where it will bring me. They do not understand that I have never ever been onboard with the concept of “the beach read.” Fine, if that works for you, but to me the “Beach Read” thing is like a different language. Me no speak it. If I sound irritated, that’s what a lifetime of having people shake their heads at how they wish I would lighten up, or calm down, or read something “easy.” Shakespearean sonnets are easy too.”

Review of Krisha (2016)
“It wasn’t just a turkey. It was life-or-death.”

Recap Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 20: “What Is and What Should Never Be”
“It makes me uncomfortable to see him comfortable.”

All Hail Tom Jones
“If you’re not ready to celebrate Tom Jones, this post will be extremely confrontational.”

Review: Born to Be Blue (2016)
Why an artist is important or revolutionary is what should matter. Budreau cares about what Baker meant.”

R.I.P. Patty Duke
“To say it was a great performance “for a child” is to totally limit the magnitude of what she accomplished as Helen Keller.”

Fade to White: Thelma and Louise Turns 25
Sheila O’Malley: I know, I can’t tell you how many road trips I’ve gone on with a friend and at some point there’s a “Thelma and Louise” joke.
Christy Lemire: It’s got such a great sense of mood—tense, thrilling, melancholy.
Sheila O’Malley: “Good driving,” says Thelma. It gets me every time.”

Interview with Photographer Sheila Welch: “In Cars”
“When you’re in your car, it’s almost like the world outside doesn’t exist. There was an image that started to emerge, this look in people’s eyes when they’re alone, and I want the viewer to interpret it in their own way, but what I was trying to capture was that very human vulnerability. To me, that is what it means to be human, being vulnerable. And being vulnerable means being present.”

Review: Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
“”Everybody Wants Some!!” is a corrective to the tired, false “dumb jock” stereotype.”

Review: The Dark Horse (2016)
“Chess was a way for them to access the pride of their culture and history, the fact that they all “once were warriors.” It is a militaristic game played by two people, but what happens on the board is a group event, and that was how Potini viewed the game.”

Review: God’s Not Dead 2 (2016)
“They’re so rooted to this specific time and place in American evangelical Christianity that future generations, even Christian generations, might watch them and ask each other, “Wait … can someone look up ‘Duck Dynasty,’ because it seems to have been very important to these people.””

R.I.P. Merle Haggard
“It’s a very masculine voice, masculinity that is open, unafraid, there.”

In Praise of Sonia Manzano (“Maria” on Sesame Street)
“It is an EXPLOSIVE monologue delivered by Sonia Manzano in the middle of a Christmas special for kids. Seriously. Her acting is Oscar-worthy.”

Swann’s Way: The Best Love Letter I Ever Got
“Wade came from Texas and he was wearing a Stetson hat. Just so you get the picture. Plus big chunky silver-turquoise rings like Dean Stockwell in Tracks. He was gorgeous. Or I thought he was. Like a young Jack Nicholson. Or a young Christian Slater. By the time we dis-embarked at 18th Street, we were friends.”

Review: Sing Street (2016)
“Putting together the band has the naive enthusiasm reminiscent of the punk-rock girls in the 2013 Swedish film “We Are the Best!”. The bar for entering rock ‘n’ roll is pretty low; there are no entrance exams.”

Review: Radical Grace (2016)
“The new pope, Pope Francis, chose the name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, a 12th-century pope venerated today for his devotion to the marginalized of his time, and – sadly, still – our time: the poor, the sick and diseased—much of his work was done with lepers—and his love of the natural world and animals. Pfleger acknowledged the new feeling of freedom in the Church, because of Francis, but also sensed the political war going on in the Vatican right now, as well as strong pushback from many of the faithful. Pfleger joked, “I pray every day Francis has a food taster.'”

Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
“Julian Dennison as Ricky is one of the funniest children on film in recent memory. Ricky may be a victim of circumstances, but in his mind he is Tupac, he is a superhero, he is Rambo.”

Review: Men & Chicken (2016)
“Elias is first seen on a date with a woman in a wheelchair who makes the fatal error of accidentally interrupting him. He snaps, “Do all people in wheelchairs interrupt this much?” Not surprisingly, Elias has no luck with women.”

July and Half of August Premiere: Albuquerque
“The whole thing started because of what I wrote. And people responded to that script from the get-go and so here we are today.”

July and Half of August: Some Screengrabs
“Here are some glimpses of what the film looks like.”

AFME: Talking with Wes Studi
“Studi said that any Native American becoming an actor knows that he will be asked to do what he called “Leathers and feathers” parts. It’s part of the gig. It’s a “way in.” He shared a story, though, about one of his first roles in a TV movie. He had to creep along a roof, ready to shoot someone below, and the director said, “Okay, so when you come along that roof, I want you to be low and sneaky like an Indian.” Wow. Studi said, “So what did I do? I snuck along that roof like a low and sneaky Indian.””

Spontaneous Tribute in Albuquerque
“Then he said, looking up into the wings at God, “And please remember Prince … and anyone else who has passed on.” Mum reached out her hand to me and whispered, “Bill O’Malley.” Echoing my own prayer. We both were in tears. And then – from all over the theatre – people started calling out names. Nobody had microphones. This was a spontaneous event. The voices came from everywhere. Nobody spoke over each other. There were no repeats. Name after name after name. Called out by individuals from every corner of the theatre. “David Bowie.” “Merle Haggard.” “Natalie Cole.” “Glenn Frey.” “Maurice White.” It went on and on and on and on…. Until finally it stopped. On its own.”

Review: Sin Alas (2016)
“The paranoia of Castro’s Cuba is intense in the 1960s sequences, and the style reflects that reality. In the current day, life on the street may be more relaxed, but that paranoia remains: open doorways, labyrinthine stairwells, windows peering down on the residents from above.”

Review: The Lobster (2016)
“If every interaction contains the possibility of monogamy as well as societal-redemption, not to mention avoiding being turned into an animal, then personal connection becomes not only impossible but irrelevant.”

R.I.P. Katherine Dunn
“I’ve been staring at the computer screen trying to think of what to say.”

John Wayne’s Balletic/Symphonic Gesture in Angel and the Badman
“The gesture is magnificent, and all of a piece.”

My Favorite Elvis Album/Book/Movie: for critic Padraic Coffey
“It was the first of what would be a theme in Elvis’ life, that came up again and again, where he didn’t so much reinvent himself, but reminded everyone of his relevance, his power. He was an extremely competitive man. Even when The Beatles came in the mid-sixties, he was anxious to dominate. He could be very lazy, but when he put his mind to it, he moved mountains.”

Review: The Fits (2016)
“Toni is comfortable in the boys’ world, and Royalty Hightower is totally believable as a young and competent athlete. She moves through the girls’ world like a ghost, or maybe it’s the Lionesses who are the ghosts. Whether she’s ready or not, Toni is about to be a part of it.”

Always the Greatest: Remembering Muhammad Ali
“Outside of being a boxer, outside of being a man of convictions, political courage, compassion, strength, he was also an entertainer and he took that seriously. He knew what people wanted from him, and he provided it with panache. That is old-school generosity and, unfortunately, a lost art.”

July & Half of August: Screening at Videology
“It’s gratifying to hear an entire group of people erupt into surprised laughter. When Jack gestures to the bartender for another round after an awkward moment, people roared. When she started babbling about Tess of the D’Urbervilles people lost it. These were moments I hadn’t thought of as particularly funny.”

R.I.P. Chips Moman
“Chips Moman ushered (pushed, really) Elvis into a modern sound. An adult male sound. A guy with responsibilities, a daughter, a marriage, a social conscience, an awareness of the world, and relatable human problems – of which “Suspicious Minds” is probably the best example.”

Recap: Supernatural: Season 2, Episode 21: “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1″
“Director Robert Singer knows his High Noon inside and out.”

Review: Wiener-Dog (2016)
“At one point, Zoe says to her grandmother with desperate brightness, “I’m still young!” and Burstyn snaps, “Don’t kid yourself.” That could be a summing-up of Solondz’s outlook on life. It’s not that there isn’t humor in life. Or joy. There is. But don’t kid yourself.”

R.I.P. Michael Herr
Dispatches was required reading in my family, talked about often by my Vietnam-vet uncles. Dispatches has more in common with gonzo journalism than, say, William Shirer’s amazing dispatches from Berlin in 1932-33. Michael Herr, once he was in the thick of it in Vietnam, understood that politicians would always be politicians, but that the real story was what it was LIKE over there. Let other journalists “interpret” the press releases and press conferences and write nice adult dispatches for the complacent folks back home to read. Herr was the voice of the men (and boys) on the ground.”

On The Girls, by Emma Cline
“Evie is mostly a “guest” at the ranch, and so its maneuverings often happen behind the scenes. I am not sure that this works entirely. Because to me the really interesting question is, and it’s the eternal question: If Evie had seen more of the backstage story, more of Russell’s violent nature, the mania, the planning for a violent confrontation … would she have still stayed?”

R.I.P. Scotty Moore
“Listen to Elvis’ first track, the track that shook the world, that started it all, and listen to what Scotty’s doing in the background. Elvis really couldn’t play the guitar. Scotty’s presence was essential.”

Review: Life, Animated (2016)
“When Owen Suskind was three years old, his motor and language skills deteriorated, seemingly overnight. He retreated from the world.”

On This Day: July 5, 1954 – Elvis Presley Recorded “That’s All Right”
“Sam Phillips was very interesting on his own yearning at that time, saying that he didn’t even know what sound he was looking for, he didn’t know how to describe it because it didn’t exist yet – but the search for it was what drove him on so tirelessly. However, in 1953, Sam Phillips didn’t hear it in Presley. A year later, he did. And then, almost by accident. It was Presley goofing off on this fateful day that made Sam Phillips shout, A HA.”

R.I.P. Abbas Kiarostami
“There are only a few directors who inspire such reverence, such passionate interest over DECADES.”

Review: Captain Fantastic (2016)
“Just because Ben is a lefty doesn’t mean he’s not a jerk.”

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the Berkshires
“Big Daddy has one objective: get through to my lost son. Watching Jim Beaver try all these different tactics in trying to achieve his objective was gorgeous, tense, thrilling.”

Review: Phantom Boy (2016)
“The characters cast shadows so stark that they are almost entirely separated from their bodies, like second selves, detached and watchful, as though everyone on the planet also has a phantom self, like Leo does, straining to roam free.”

Review: Don’t Think Twice (2016)
“One of the cardinal sins of improv is saying “No.” Example: One person points a finger at another person and shouts “Bang bang!” The person who was clearly just shot at says, “That’s not a gun, that’s your finger.” The line might get a laugh but it ends the scene. “Yes, and … ” makes sure that a scene continues, creating the environment of acceptance that makes all good improv possible. “Yes, and … ” is how Birbiglia and his ensemble approach every scene in the film.”

My favorite “Uplifting Movie”: Blue Crush
“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. “Guilty pleasure” assumes that some pleasures are more “valid” than others, that you should be embarrassed to admit you find pleasure in certain things. I don’t subscribe to that view. As long as your pleasure doesn’t hurt another human being or animals, then guilt shouldn’t come into the picture at all. Life is tough enough as it is. Pleasure is hard to come by. Revel in it if you find it, who cares where. I bought a ticket to see “Blue Crush” to escape the heat wave. I stayed to see the next show because I wasn’t done mainlining its joy, its colors, its music, its characters and atmosphere. I’m still not done.”

Review: Little Men (2016)
“”Little Men” has a melodramatic set-up out of 1930s agitprop theatre (landlords vs. tenants). Melodrama for some reason has a bad reputation, seeming to suggest soap operas or three-hanky weepers, but melodrama has always been one of the most effective genres for social and economic criticism because down on the ground things really are that important. There is nothing melodramatic about losing one’s home and livelihood. It’s life and death to the people involved.”

Review: Bullhead (2011)
“In his vulnerability, in his desire to look like he should be there, to look like he is part of the human race – from which he feels forever banished – he pretends to dance. It’s one of the most tragic things I’ve ever seen.”

Riotous Excursions: Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby
“Who else but Baz Luhrmann could take these images and make them as huge and as sinister and evocative as they are in the novel? Who else could make these images as important to the film as “what happens” in the plot?”

World-Class Acting: On Joan Crawford and Sudden Fear
“Her work in this scene should be studied by young actors as an example of the pinnacle of what film acting can be, as well as the importance of listening, listening being the most important “skill” any actor needs to have.”

Review: Disorder (2016)
“Vincent’s brain, already flooded with excess adrenaline, cannot absorb what comes at him; he isn’t sure if what he perceives is real or a phantom manifestation of war trauma. His confusion bleeds out into the audience. We question his reliability as a narrator.”

Review: Spa Night (2016)
“Ahn and his cinematographer Ki Jin Kim film all of this in widescreen, creating a sensual mood, scenes drowned in steam or blue light. Confidence like Ahn’s comes from confidence in the story he wants to tell. “Coming out” may be a rite of passage but each story is different, each person has different pressures.”

On Rust and Bone (2012)
“Ali is not a therapist or a life coach. But his independence from her (as well as the fact that 1. he showed up today at all and 2. legitimately didn’t seem to understand why she didn’t want to go swimming) makes her stronger, somehow. Makes things clearer for her. He’s not a manic pixie dream boy and she’s not a manic pixie dream girl. They’re both too selfish and isolated and damaged to spend any energy at all being “inspiring” for one another. That’s not how this story operates.”

Review: Kicks (2016)
“Sneakers send a message: “I am somebody.” Sneakers also make you vulnerable to those who want what you have.”

How It Went Down, Or: As I Remember It: Two Separate Things Became One Thing.
“Once the train of hypomania leaves the station, it takes an act of enormous willpower – buffered by support – to slow all that shit down. I was incapable of it.”

R.I.P. Curtis Hanson
“Curtis Hanson approached material like a storyteller, in the way the old-school directors used to do before everybody got self-important about their own personal vision.”

R.I.P. Bill Nunn
“Radio Raheem haunts the landscape. Radio Raheem is the symbol of “the problem”, as it has always been in this country – and it’s the rare kind of character where you all you have to do is say his name and people nod in understanding of what it means.”

Giant (1956): 60th Anniversary Screening at Film Forum
Carroll Baker: Nobody who writes about films is going to like this answer. They never told an actor how to act. They cast you because they thought that you were right for the part, that you could do it. Only the bad directors tell you how to read a line, how to define your character. The good ones let you do your job.”

TCM Diary: Miriam Hopkins!
“She was an extroverted performer, expressive in her gestures and emotions, an actress who could easily command the center of the screen (or the periphery, if necessary). Her comedic timing was as sensitive as a tuning fork, and her ability to shed oceans of tears was equally impressive. In tantrum mode, she was explosive. Hopkins projected to the cheap seats. It’s a kind of acting that is out of style now: born from vaudeville and other stages, the broad presentational 19th-century pantomime style. It’s an approach that takes enormous skill and moxie, both of which Hopkins had in spades, and she added superior cinematic know-how (witness her exquisite work in close-up).”

What If? A Chronicle of What Might Have Been, illustrated by Annie West
I contributed an entry titled “What If Elvis Had Lived?”

September/October Film Comment: “Sweet Agony: Dean Stockwell in Compulsion

Review: Under the Shadow (2016)
” Rashidi’s visceral performance is meticulously structured in its emotional progression, although the end result does not feel “structured” at all. What we see is a woman losing her mind.”

Supernatural: Season 2, Episode 22: “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2″
“Kim Manners’ style buries us, traps us, smothers us. How to film tragedy and operatic emotion? Make it as beautiful as you possibly can.”

Review: Little Sister (2016)
“In its radical yet thoughtful way, “Little Sister” insists that bridges—in us and in the culture—can be gapped, abysses can be crossed, divisions are not permanent.”

Review: Christine (2016)
“Rebecca Hall’s performance, however, is one of the most insightful portraits in recent memory of how untreated depression can operate. Depression is not pleasant, and people who suffer from it are not always sympathetic. Chubbuck is a maddening person to those who love her. Even her supporters are eventually pushed away.”

“Am I Too Loud For You?” Happy Birthday, Eminem
“The song is a fantasy. Last time I checked Kim Mathers is still walking among the living. Fantasies aren’t just unicorns and rainbows. Fantasies are often ugly and pathetic, which is why we hesitate to share them.”

For the Oscars’ Governors Awards: Anne V. Coates Lifetime Achievement Reel
“I am thrilled to have been asked to pay tribute to this genius. So far there has been no word on who will read the script I’ve written, but the actress they have approached is an exciting prospect for me. Hopefully I will have given her something beautiful to read.”

The State of Cinema in 2016, According to Yours Truly
“Movie-making is a business. Of course. But it is also an art. Rating the health of cinema purely on box-office receipts is a depressing internalization of the capitalist value-system.”

Review of Elle (2016)
“Every interaction, not just sexual and political, contains small jostles for power, position, dominance. Who’s the “top”? Who’s the “bottom” in any given moment? There are competing objectives in every conversation, each side maneuvering to get what they want. Jostling for power comes in many different forms, playing out in romantic relationship, office dynamics, even in a conversation with a group of friends where you have something to say and everyone is too busy talking to give you “the floor.” “Elle” is a dissertation on power dynamics.”

New Voices: Ebert Young Writers Program For the Arts Covers HIFF 2016
“Watching a film knowing you are going to write about is a different mindset. What are the questions to ask? It’s not enough to say, “I didn’t like it” or “I did like it.” These students were so good at asking questions: Why did this work? How did the director help tell the story? If it didn’t work, what was the problem?”

Review: Always Shine (2016)
““Always Shine” is a persona-swap movie, clearly influenced by “Persona” and “Mulholland Drive,” two other films featuring actresses who experience a dangerous and disorienting merging, boundaries obliterated, the quest for identity totally irrelevant in the world of theatre, where you—the person—are supposed to disappear anyway.”

Review: Miss Sloane (2016)
“Perera’s awkward script makes it abundantly clear just how difficult it is to pull off Aaron Sorkin-esque dialogue, the rat-a-tat-tat of “The West Wing” or “The Social Network,” featuring people wholly fluent in complex “insider” language. It’s challenging to write and it’s challenging for actors to deliver.”

Supernatural: Season 3, Episode 1: “The Magnificent Seven”
“What Padalecki is REALLY playing through the boring dialogue having to do with crop failures and demon silence is the scene beneath the scene. This is true throughout: it is always present and Padalecki never forgets it. To me, this is Padalecki’s episode entirely.”

Review: Things to Come (2016)
“What happens is not as important as Hansen-Løve’s attitude towards what happens. In this, and in her other films, “Tout est pardonne,” “Father of My Children,” “Goodbye First Love” and “Eden,” she is interested in a character—or, in the case of “Eden,” a specific “scene”—and how it evolves over time. There is a George Eliot style of distance in her approach, although she is not unattached or indifferent. Her distance helps her to create extremely detailed scenarios, rich with complexity and accuracy, as though her perch on a cloud gives her more perspective. She is not intimidated by Aristotle’s unities. She peppers the action with title cards: “Several Years Earlier.” “One Year Later.” etc. Characters don’t age visibly. She has been criticized for that with her other films, but that criticism seems to be focusing on the wrong things. She’s one of our current great humanists.”

Happy Birthday Little Richard: Preacher. Showman. Maestro.
“He is searching for a catharsis, too. The apotheosis of his expression.”

Chicago Recap
“At some point, when I took a breath (I ranted for about, no word of a lie, 15 minutes), Mitchell said quietly, “All I said was ‘I like Demi Lovato.’”” Contributors: The 10 Best Films of 2016
“An enormously tender film, “Paterson” embraces community (the local bar, the craft fair attended by Paterson’s girlfriend, the passengers on Paterson’s bus), but it also embraces the private dreamspaces of its characters, some that are shared, others left hidden. What a thing it is to watch a film where everyone does their level best to be kind to one another. That’s what living in the world is all about.”

TCM Diary: The Night Digger & Alice, Sweet Alice
“From one scene to the next, religious iconography overwhelms the screen: paintings of Mary and Christ, marble statues, crosses on every wall, religion leering at the characters from behind. Parishioners kneel at the altar, pushing out fat tongues for communion (Communion was the film’s original title), looking like a parade of aggressive Rolling Stones logos. Religion is not a refuge in Alice, Sweet Alice. It is a rejection of the body itself, but the body—its tongues, its teeth, its menstruation—will not be denied. The murderer in the yellow slicker flitting through the hallways (a callback to the red-hooded child in Don’t Look Now) is an avenging reminder of the primacy of the body.”

“Let’s Have a Party”: The Great Wanda Jackson
““I’m Joan. I’m here with Wanda.” The best two sentences I’ve ever heard.”

The Best Movies of 2016
“The cumulative effect of No Home Movie is devastating, even more so since Ackerman is no longer with us.”

The Great Performances of 2016
“Society tells us to toughen up. We are shamed for being “weak,” for “whining”, for struggling. It’s worse for boys. Girls at least are allowed to have emotions. Boys are told boys don’t cry, grow some balls, “man up.” The message is clear and as damaging as it gets: vulnerability and masculinity cannot be allowed to co-exist. Carefully, sensitively, Rhodes unpacks all of that and shows the peril of Black’s emotional life.”

Review: 20th Century Women
“During scenes in the house, cinematographer Sean Porter sometimes pushes the camera slowly towards the characters sitting around the kitchen table, or pulls it back, the camera moving towards the doorframe. It’s subtle, almost imperceptible, but it provides a clear sense that “20th Century Women” is an act of memory. The camera seems to be Jamie’s perspective in the future, thinking, “Oh, wait … remember that one conversation in the kitchen? Who was there again? What was said again? Oh, that’s right, that’s right … I remember now.””

R.I.P. Carrie Fisher
“There is pain in the book. It’s obvious. Hollywood is a dark and corrupt place. But the humor is paramount. This may be called “denial” in some circles. And her work has often been criticized (wrongly) for not going deep enough, for relying on the wisecrack. This is a result of the self-help-ification of our culture. For Fisher, for so many people, humor is survival.”

This entry was posted in Actors, Books, Movies, On This Day, Personal, RIP and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Year in Review: Shooting My Mouth Off in 2016

  1. Fiddlin Bill says:

    Still the best blog I’ve found. Thank you for your work!

  2. Stevie says:

    I second the motion, Bill is absolutely right, this is the best blog on the net. And you are not only the most productive person in the whole world, my dear Sheila, you are supremely skilled and gifted. I feel like I tell you this 100 times a year but I will never tire of letting you know how much I appreciate you. Happy new year! Love you, xxx Stevie

  3. Dg says:

    Thanks Sheila.. this is the last blog standing in my world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.