Year in Review: Shooting My Mouth Off in 2017

It’s been a God-awful year in so many unprecedented ways. It’s also been a great year for me professionally (which has brought with it its own set of challenges.) Here are some of the things I’ve written this year.

Reviews, Articles, Interviews

For Film Comment: On Faulkner’s Tomorrow (1972)
“The effectiveness of the performance lies in the silences, its unexpected gentleness, the way he says bluntly: ‘Marry me, Sarah.’ [Robert] Duvall has said: ‘I still point to Fentry as my best part.’”

Review of Hidden Figures
“Maybe it’s because my background is Show Biz, not criticism/film-studies. Coming from Show Biz, as I do, the notion that “crowd-pleasing” is somehow … a bad thing? … or a not-important thing? or that it means shallow and pandering and “light” … does not make sense to me. At all. Of course if you TRY to be “crowd pleasing” then yes, it can come off as pandering, or if the manipulation involved is too obvious (soundtrack choices, etc.) – if too much of that underlying structure shows, then yes, stop going for my heartstrings so obviously, Film. But “crowd-pleasing” as synonymous with pandering?”

For Review of Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (2017)
“One of the most powerful impressions I got from Reynolds in “Bright Lights” was that her cheerfulness was not naivete, ignorance or shallowness. Her cheerfulness was a choice. Her cheerfulness shows how tough she was. Her cheerfulness helped her survive, in the same way that Fisher’s humor helped her survive.”

For Review of Ma (2017)
“”Ma” falls into all the traps you can probably imagine just from hearing the description. It takes itself very seriously. When it tries to lighten the mood, it feels false. It’s what some people might call “self-indulgent.” But I wish that more artists would indulge themselves, their passions, obsessions, questions. Through “indulging,” you get unique and challenging art told from a personal point of view.”

For Book Review: Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936, by Edward Sorel
“[Sorel] makes no bones about his love for Astor, or his outraged confusion over some of her choices… At one point, he exclaims at her in frustration, “For cryin’ out loud!” But it’s just because he thinks she’s criminally underrated as an actress, and he wishes more people knew about her. He has appointed himself “the keeper of her flame.” At one point, he yells, “She was a great actress and dammit—I want to see her on a goddam postage stamp!!” Two exclamation points!! His unembarrassed fervor is the best tribute Astor could ever receive.”

For the Criterion Collection: DVD/Blu booklet for release of Something Wild (1961)
““You don’t know who I am,” Mary Ann says to Mike, when he asks her to marry him. He asks, “Who are you?” In the close-up of Baker’s face that follows, she looks detached, startled, trapped. She doesn’t know the answer. Maybe she wouldn’t have known the answer even before the rape. Either way, the possibility of finding out who she is was taken from her by the man who raped her in the park. The film’s ending, and the look on Mary Ann’s face as she stares up at Mike, is deeply ambiguous.”

In honor of the Women’s March, January 21, 2017: Ladies I Love
“Women have been making essential contributions to culture and history and science and art and politics since the beginning. I am honored to take a moment (or … hours, to compile the list and then track down photos) out of my day to celebrate them.”

For Review of Mr. Gaga (2017)
“In his choreography, [Ohad] Naharin blends the visceral with the abstract and intellectual, and is a compelling subject all on his own, a man of alternate withholding and stark honesty. “Mr. Gaga” is an intense pleasure: the extensive footage of Naharin’s choreography in performances over the years, beautifully captured by Ital Rziel, gives an intimate and thrilling glimpse of what he is all about. Naharin’s work is distinct. You could recognize it in a lineup.”

For Review of Fifty Shades Darker (2017)
“The thing about Dakota Johnson—and it’s very important—is that she is unable to suppress her clear intelligence and, even rarer, sense of humor. It’s so evident that it becomes a defining characteristic, as well as an important anchor for a film that desperately needs it. The dialogue is so silly and so repetitive that it could sink a far more seasoned actress. But she survives. There’s a goofiness about her, a charming awkwardness that feels organic; Foley was smart enough to realize how much Johnson’s sense of humor helps the film…Johnson doesn’t quite make Anastasia distinctive or unique, but she does come off onscreen as reactive, and impulsive. She is not afraid of the material and also not afraid to show how absurd she finds some of it, how absurd she finds him. This is no small feat. She’s fun to watch.”

For Review of Kedi (2017)
“I am a cat owner, I admit, but even I was surprised at the power of “Kedi.” Where did all that emotion come from? It’s because what Torun really captures in her unexpectedly powerful film is kindness in its purest form.”

I moved. Here’s a packing/unpacking montage.

For I interviewed my Actors Studio teacher Sam Schacht about “The Method.”
“I did a television show many years ago with Maureen Stapleton. And the set-up of the studio was such that I could see her sitting across from me and there was a monitor up above where I could look up and see her on camera. In the room, it didn’t seem like anything was happening with her, but when I looked on the monitor I couldn’t believe how much was happening. There was something going on with her that the camera was seeing that I wasn’t seeing.”

For Review of American Fable (2017)
“”American Fable” is an elegy to a way of life that has nearly vanished, a phantasmagorical imagining of what a real-world event like the farm crisis looks and—more importantly—feels like to an intelligent child. Loss pulses through the film in every frame. It’s an extremely impressive debut.”

From the Dusty Vaults: Awkward Bored Bed-Rumpled Slightly Disreputable Actors All in Black With Funereal Attitudes Submit To An Interview
During my move, I unearthed an old VHS tape of Michael, Laurie and I being interviewed on a cable access talk show about the production of Killer Joe we were appearing in. I watched it. I laughed for DAYS.

#TBT You make a grown girl cry
“He’d yell: “CRY! Really sob now!” And I’d burst into huge “Wahhhh” sobs and he’d shout, “That’s right! Yes!” (It seems, in retrospect, that it can’t have gone down this way. But it did.) He was crawling all over me, crouching over me pointing the camera down, shouting, “GOOD! THAT’S IT!” as I wailed.”

For Review of Kiki (2017)
“One thing “Kiki” does really well is show how these dance competitions are an organizational structure for kids who might otherwise slip through the cracks. Everyone makes their own costumes, which are fantastical and outrageous. Taking place in school gyms and community halls, it’s a safe space where people can let loose and express themselves, with no fear of harassment or rejection. This is a scene that takes care of its own. In many cases, it’s literally life or death.”

An interview with Fielding Edlow and Larry Clarke about their web series Bitter Homes and Gardens
“‘Married couples spend a lot of time on the couch. Larry and I got really into Breaking Bad, for example. When the show ended, I felt like, ‘Well, what’s the point of staying together? All we had was Breaking Bad. If I can’t watch whatshername sell meth overseas, then what’s the point anymore?'”

For Review of Catfight (2017)
“It’s common to say that we live in a very literal age, an age where satire is dead, where people credulously share Onion articles on Facebook (and then dig their heels in when it’s pointed out to them the article is not real: “Well, it COULD be real.” Yes. That’s satire.) But every age has its sacred cows, and satire chips away at those cows, at the privileged, at society’s unquestioned structures and assumptions. “Catfight” is not at that level (satire is the most difficult genre to do well), and the film’s tone is a hard one to sustain.”

For the Muriel Awards: I wrote on Isabelle Huppert’s performance in Elle
“Who IS this woman? She is a severe, self-sufficient tough cookie, revealed mostly in what she does: her behavior as dinner party hostess, the way she stares at the small hatchet in a contemplative deadpan, her brief moment of air guitar on the dance floor.”

For the New York Times: Episode 1 re-cap of Feud
““Feud” acts as a pointed reminder that Streep — and Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, who play Davis and Crawford — are the direct beneficiaries of the battles that Davis and Crawford fought in the ’40s and ’50s.”

For Review of This Beautiful Fantastic (2017)
“Some of these men appear to have nothing else to do in their lives but look out for her, get her out of scrapes, teach her how to live, blossom, grow.”

For the New York Times: Episode 2 re-cap of Feud
“Someone familiar only with the imitations may be forgiven for thinking that the original moment must be hilarious and campy. But there is nothing funny about it. It’s extremely frightening.”

For the New York Times: Episode 3 re-cap of Feud
“The best kind of acting is a full-body, full-voiced expression, something many contemporary actors — trained to rely on the close-up — cannot manage without seeming artificial. Both Sarandon and Lange have always used their bodies and voices fully to communicate emotion and character. Sarandon’s distinct voice-over in “Bull Durham” is one of the many reasons that film works, her voice oozing into our ears with character and intimacy and humor. Lange’s primal scream (“What about my civil rights?”) in “Frances” comes roaring out of the depths as her body bucks and thrashes around like a live electrical wire.”

Two Scenes Where Actors Climb Over Fences: Compare and Contrast
“Do all those cuts make the scene better? Make the moment more exciting? I find such film-making lazy to the point of insulting.”

For the New York Times: Episode 4 re-cap of Feud
“Money talks. The Boys Club would do well to listen.”

For “We Forgot About the Flowers.” A Discussion About Ice Castles
“I’m glad she finally got back with her age-appropriate boyfriend in his white briefs.”

For Review of The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)
“There are unfortunate moments when the real cliffhanger of the film is whether or not Antonina will sleep with Heck, instead of what will happen to the Jews curled up in animal pens.”

Not written by Yours Truly, but I’m including it anyway: For the screening of July and Half of August at Ebertfest: Matt Zoller Seitz’s program entry about my film.
“Jack and Neve’s relationship, which, as the title indicates, unfolded in about six weeks on summer, and that was so rooted in raw intellectual and sexual chemistry that neither party seems comfortable describing it as a relationship.”

For the New York Times: Episode 5 re-cap of Feud
“If there was a rivalry between them in the 1930s and 40s, it was a rivalry between champion thoroughbreds. The narrative in “Feud” – that the two of them were pawns in a male-dominated game – does a disservice to these fearless pushy pioneers.”

For Film Comment: On Kim Stanley
“James Earl Jones appeared with her in the 1960 Broadway production of Taffy and said: “I considered her to be, for women actors, what Marlon Brando was for male actors. She carried that great depth of exploration and dealt with a well of passion and feelings that the character had, just like Marlon did.” The comparison to Brando is so common that Jon Krampner’s 2006 biography of Kim Stanley is called Female Brando.”

For the New York Times: Episode 6 re-cap of Feud
“For all intents and purposes, Crawford’s career was over after that. She had miscalculated the situation, and the powers-that-be called her bluff. Crawford, who got her start dancing on tables, couldn’t adjust to the new rules of engagement. Lange plays Crawford as though she can feel the midnight that Warner talked about – a midnight cold and dark – nipping at her heels.”

For Review of Heal the Living (2017)
“Adapted from Maylis de Kerangal’s 2014 novel, “Heal the Living” is director Katell Quillévéré’s third feature, and shows her humane vision of the interconnectedness of humans and the fragile miracle of life.”

For the New York Times: Episode 7 re-cap of Feud
“A late-night scene between Davis and Crawford is a perfect example of the forced-binary structure of the narrative. Davis asks Crawford what it was like to be “the most beautiful girl in the world” and Crawford responds by asking what it was like to be the “most talented girl in the world.” Bette Davis may not have built her career on her looks, but her looks were nothing to sneeze at (read Farran Nehme’s Film Comment essay on the subject), and Crawford was hugely talented, by any measuring stick available. It’s too simple to say that each wanted what the other had. As sensitively as Lange and Crawford play that scene, it’s a simplistic rendition of an extremely complex reality. The real story is that Crawford struggled to find her footing as she grew older and as the studio system collapsed, while Davis adjusted, rolled with the punches.”

For The Moviegoer at Library of America: On East of Eden (book and film)
“[Steinbeck] wrote in his journal: “Always before I have held something back for later. Nothing is held back here. This is not practice for a future. This is what I have practiced for.”

Ebertfest 2017 snapshot. My film screened! I met Hugh Dancy! I met Isabelle Huppert!
“At one point, something amusing happened during one of the film introductions and my phone lit up with a snarky text from Matt Seitz, who was seated 5 rows behind me.”

For the New York Times: Episode 8 re-cap of Feud
“She sits on her plastic-covered couch, watching footage of the Vietnam War on television. There’s a beautiful moment when she comes across one of her movies on television. Lange’s face melts into soft affection and gratitude that somewhere out there people had not forgotten her. (This moment echoes one of Crawford’s moments in “Baby Jane.”) The sequence goes on for some time, one evocative fragment after another, a poignant portrait of a woman slowly turning into a ghost.”

Recap: Supernatural: Season 3, Episode 2; “The Kids Are Alright”
“Lisa was going to be a huge deal in the future, they all knew that even if we didn’t, so they had to get her right on the first try. They do.”

For Review of Chuck
“”Chuck” does nothing new, and it moves through boxing tropes like it’s ticking off checkmarks, but there’s an honesty to it, a fresh and messy one.”

For Review of Take Me
“”Take Me” rides the waves of a simulation scenario gone haywire.”

For Film Comment: Review of The Wedding Plan (2017)
“Burshtein takes love and happiness very seriously. She knows what loneliness can do. The Wedding Plan, with its beautiful flow between comedy and sentiment, celebrates the pursuit of love, its absurdity, intensity, and power.”

For Review of Manifesto (2017)
“Blanchett is a maestro of the Mask. Masks conceal, but they also reveal.”

For My review of The Women’s Balcony (2017)
“”The Women’s Balcony” is an eccentric portrait of an already devout community suddenly under pressure from a super Orthodox rabbi to observe their faith in a more rigid way. While the mood is that of a gentle and affectionate comedy, the film makes some extremely sharp points about fanaticism, sexism masked as holiness, and tolerance among the faithful.”

Pat McCurdy and I Discuss Elvis
“A guy comes up and says, “You want to pay your respects?” He opens the gates and we walk up to Graceland, just the 6 of us, and we paid our respects to Elvis. The place was rundown, the yard was all muddy. There wasn’t that shrine yet that they built. There was just a little grave with his name on there. The swimming pool had junk floating in it.”

For Review of Band Aid (2017)
“You’d think two bohemian types like Anna and Ben could resist succumbing to phony roles such as “husband,” “wife,” “breadwinner,” etc., but no. The institution is too strong. The frustration of the film (possibly inadvertent) is watching two people so readily buy into a life that does not suit them at all.”

For Review of Megan Leavey (2017)
“Beyond its fascinating informational aspects, “Megan Leavey” is a powerfully emotional film that somehow—unbelievably, considering the subject matter—avoids sentimentality altogether.”

For Review of The Journey (2017)
“It’s “The Odd Couple” with Irish accents. There’s a naivete at work in the concept: If only these men could bond about football, their wives, their kids … if only these staunch enemies could see one another as people, then maybe the Catholics and Protestants will join hands in love and harmony!”

Interview with Shelagh Carter, director of Before Anything You Say (2017)
“I wanted to experiment with memory.”

For Interview with Charles Taylor about his new book Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-in Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ’70s
“Aesthetically, right now, we are dealing with the most conservative generation I can remember. It’s a generation that expects art to act out parables, not just in the content of the art, but in the making of it. They care about the correct—not politically correct—but correct attitudes, which they seem to think is something we have all agreed on and established.”

For Review of The Beguiled (2017)
“How much turbulence a man can bring.”

For Review of The Little Hours (2017)
“What could have been—in less confident hands—a one-joke sketch becomes, instead, a consistently wacko screwball.”

For Review of Birthright: A War Story (2017)
“The people in charge of making decisions about women’s health do not even know that the stomach is in a different place than the uterus.”

For Review of To the Bone (2017)
“Eating disorders are a thornier issue, stranger, more intractable, scarier. The wider culture participates in perpetuating these illnesses, and so maybe that’s one of the reasons why Hollywood—a place filled with thin women—is hesitant to address the issue. Thinness is so equated with beauty norms that it’s a culture-wide propaganda bomb. Two months after a celebrity gives birth people start making fun of what she looks like in her bathing suit. Girls get the message very young. To address anorexia (in particular), you would have to address the entire culture’s preoccupation with weight, its obsession with policing what women look like. Eating disorders are symptoms of the sickness of society.”

Review of Groundhog Day: The Musical on Broadway
“The music tilts into mania and nightmare, minor chords and discordance proliferating, and the jubilant bouncy choreography (by Peter Darling, co-choreographed with Ellen Kane) starts to seem frankly psychotic the third or fourth time you see it, as Phil realizes with horror that this moment – this day – this damned SONG – will be his life now. Forever.”

Recap of Supernatural: Season 3, Episode 3; “Bad Day at Black Rock”
“I have a soft spot for gorgeous hunks who excel at clumsy pratfalls. I can count such men on one hand.”

For Review of The Girl Without Hands (2017)
“Human outlines are dark slashes imposed on the many-layered background. These outlines cannot and do not hold. The figures shimmer in and out, sometimes disappearing altogether, the background becoming foreground, a vision of total obliteration.”

For Review of The Incredible Jessica James (2017)
“”The Incredible Jessica James” works, primarily, because of its devotion to its lead actress. She’s the reason why we’re all there.”

For Review of Columbus (2017)
“”Columbus” is a movie about the experience of looking, the interior space that opens up when you devote yourself to looking at something, receptive to the messages it might have for you.”

For Review of Ingrid Goes West (2017)
“Much of the laughter comes from a queasy recognition of online behavior, stuff we all do. (There’s a huge difference, for example, between typing “Hahahahaha” in response to a post, and “Heh heh.” Which self do you want to present? Personality becomes completely performative.)”

For Film Comment: Elvis, Actor
“Elvis was a persona actor. If you hold Presley up against Laurence Olivier or Claude Rains, then it doesn’t even seem like they are in the same profession. But it is the same profession. Presley had many natural gifts and he knew how to use them. He was dazzling to look at. He didn’t take himself too seriously. He had a gift for slapstick comedy (he does a pratfall in 1965’s Tickle Me rivaling the one Cary Grant does in the music room in The Awful Truth). Most importantly, he operated from a place of generosity. And generosity like that cannot be manufactured. Audiences feel it.”

The Eclipse
“Some rando leant me his glasses so I could stare up, and out of the black I saw the smoky-orange of the sun being covered up. It was awe-inspiring.”

#TBT That parrot in Key West
“One day, I was drinking a Bloody Mary, ignoring all the foot traffic from my comfy spot on the couch, and reading a book on the collapse of Communism, because of course that’s what you do when you’re visiting Key West and staying in a crack house with a naked mannequin looming over your head.”

For Review of Polina (2017)
“The diverse world of dance and the pursuit itself: that’s what “Polina” is about.”

For Review of Beach Rats (2017)
“”Beach Rats” works best when it’s elusive, when it succumbs to its interest in bodies; filmed in fragments, forearms, cheekbones, stomachs, sculpted with shadows. The film is frankly voyeuristic, sometimes objectifying, but it’s an appreciative objectification, reminiscent of Bruce Weber’s photographs. The male bodies dominate. We are in Frankie’s claustrophobic world of longing.”

For Review of School Life (2017)
“It’s school as microcosm, an entire universe operating at full capacity.”

For Review of Strong Island (2017)
“This is not a collage of photos created by a computer. You sit with him as he shows you what he wants you to see. It’s extremely effective.”

For Review of Rat Film (2017)
“Baltimore, in these sequences, looks like a glamorous wasteland, with empty buildings, thick shadows, streets strewn with trash, the two men standing guard, fragile bulwarks against a pandemic problem.”

For Review of Bobbi Jene (2017)
“Bobbi Jene Smith has had a unique life as a dancer, but her personal problems are extremely ordinary.”

Recap of Supernatural: Season 3, Episode 4; “Sin City”
“Ackles’ work is so good here. He shows us the surface and he also shows what the surface covers. He does this without seeming like he’s TRYING to do it. Actors give that game away all the time, telegraphing to an audience: “Do you see what I’m showing you? Do you understand the layers? See all my layers?” Ackles NEVER does this.”

For Review of Super Dark Times (2017)
“There’s something very weird about this town. Even before the main event occurs, there are subtle and not-so-subtle indications that something is very, very wrong. A huge bridge is closed off, the kind of bridge providing access to the world outside. Kids sneak out there to fool around on its rusted decaying railings. There are dilapidated factories covered in graffiti. Parks and streets are empty. Where is everybody?”

For Review of Barracuda (2017)
“Shouldn’t you be kind to guests, especially one who’s so hard up, especially one who’s a long-lost family member? “Barracuda” says “Not so fast … “”

For Review of Dina (2017)
“There are some extremely dark moments in “Dina,” and these are even more powerful because of Santini and Sickles’ humanistic approach. Their care for Dina and Scott is clear in every frame. They don’t “set them up” so much as they set the scene in order for us to peek through the window into the characters’ world.”

For Review of Thy Father’s Chair (2017)
“The film could have felt voyeuristic, or, worse, mean-spirited. Neither man has an explanation for why they let the house get like this. It’s probably a host of intersecting factors, with unmanaged mental illness and alcoholism (the house is littered with empty wine bottles) the primary candidates. It’s interesting to note that even with all of the chaos in the house, the brothers’ religious books are lined up neatly on a shelf, easily accessible to them.”

For Review of Maya Dardel (2017)
“Lena Olin is better than the film she’s in, and she dominates the other actors onscreen. She can’t help it.”

For Review of The Light of the Moon (2017)
“There are a couple of truly extraordinary scenes where the couple try to have sex again, and he’s afraid of hurting her, and she wants him to do it like he used to do it, and they’re both worried the other is thinking about the rape … These scenes are so honest! The actors are so honest!”

For Review of Princess Cyd (2017)
“You don’t realize how positional most films are, how they push audiences to think a certain way about characters/story/conflict, until you see a film like “Princess Cyd,” until you see how Cone presents his characters and then steps back, allowing them to work it out for themselves.”

For Film Comment: Review of Lady Bird (2017)
“At 23 years old, Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird captures the knock-kneed pimply awkwardness of adolescence, the awful season right before blossoming. There are brief moments when she flares out into a startling beauty, a beauty of which Lady Bird is wholly unaware, and not at all in charge of. As she struts across the stage during her audition for the play, belting out a Sondheim song as though she’s Angela Lansbury, wearing flaming red lipstick, there’s a sudden glimpse of the woman she might become. But in the meantime, it’s all flailing arms, haphazard expressiveness, reaching for a persona that might fit.”

For Review of Thelma (2017)
“Trier, in films as diverse as “Reprise,” “Oslo, August 31st,” “Louder Than Bombs,” and now “Thelma” (all of which he co-wrote with Eskil Vogt), effectively taps into the undercurrents of dread running through human beings’ lives. The dread may not have a specific source, although it can become focused, expressing itself in suicide attempts, heroin addiction, the isolation that comes with depression. Trier’s films are filled with a tragic kind of knowledge, the knowledge of what it means to struggle, but also the knowledge of what it means to stop struggling.”

Kristen Stewart. Androgyne. The Beautiful Boy. Gamine. Epicene. The Tomboy. Either/Or. Neither/Nor. Both.
“With deference to Camille Paglia, she is an extreme example of a sexual persona. And it is hers alone. The fact that she’s uncommonly beautiful … almost intimidatingly so … adds to the overall effect. And, like Marilyn Monroe, Kristen Stewart can – at will – depending on the project – dim her beauty. She can appear extremely ordinary. She could walk through Times Square undetected, I have no doubt.”

Rules of the Sex/Love Game to Keep In Mind, Thanks to Howard Hawks
“I know it’s hard, boys, but anything worthwhile is hard.”

For Review of Mr. Roosevelt (2017)
“The premise of “Mr. Roosevelt” is pretty slight, but it’s filled with funny performances and biting snippets of social commentary.”

All Hail Tiffany Haddish
“Talent like hers comes along once in a generation, if that.”

For Review of Quest (2017)
“”Freestyle Fridays” represent a fragile microcosm of the whole. It is a place where—in the midst of struggles to make ends meet, health issues, political wrangling far away—people can come and speak their minds and be supported. Watching the film makes you think, “This space must be protected. It represents the best of us. It shows us who we are when we decide to take care of each other.””

For 10 Best Films of 2017
“The film is an eerie ghost story, taking place in a landscape of almost total spiritual flux. It’s a mournful contemplation of grief and loss, mortality flickering on the periphery, and Maureen’s attempts (mostly failed) to communicate with the dead gives her a desperate urgency. Nothing is stable in “Personal Shopper”—not jobs, relationships, gender, identity.”

For Individual Top 10s of 2017
“Filmed with a fraught immediacy, reminiscent of John Cassavetes’ films, “My Happy Family” culminates in one of the most unforgettable final shots of the year, rich with tension and ambiguity.”

For Great Performances of 2017
“I can’t better my Ebert colleague Odie Henderson who, in his review of “Mudbound”, compared [Garrett] Hedlund to Errol Flynn. That is exactly right.”

For Review of The Greatest Showman (2017)
“The real standout, however, is “Rewrite the Stars,” the love song between Efron and Zendaya,taking place in the empty circus tent, when she flies on the trapeze far above him, and he tries to climb up the ropes to meet her. Up, down, they both go, sometimes coming together, dangling above the ground, or sweeping in a wide circle together around the periphery of the tent. It is a moment when the film—every element onscreen—merges and transforms into pure emotion.”

In Memoriam

R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore
“A pioneer. A game-changing woman. A torch-bearer for the rest of us.”

R.I.P. John Hurt
“Experience had marked him, as it marks us all. His experience of life – all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the decadent beauty, the doomed hope, the sense of humor – was in his face (from the get-go) and in his voice.”

R.I.P. Emmanuelle Riva
“Over 50 years [after Hiroshima Mon Amour], she appeared in Michael Haneke’s stunning and devastating 2012 film Amour, for which she won the Cesar Best Actress Award.”

R.I.P. Bill Paxton
“This is one of my favorite scenes in Apollo 13.”

R.I.P. James Cotton
“He was born in 1935 on a cotton plantation, and was a working musician early (10, 11 years old early). He toured with Howlin’ Wolf. Eventually he hooked up with Muddy Waters and toured with him for years, his harmonica solos an integral part of the songs. Later in life, he formed his own band, and toured as a solo act for 60-plus years. He played with everyone.”

R.I.P. Chuck Berry
“There would be no US without HIM.”

R.I.P. Powers Boothe
“Without someone like Boothe, the A-Listers cannot shine as bright.”

R.I.P. Chris Cornell
“It was the greatest voice to emerge from my generation.”

R.I.P. Anita Pallenberg
“What a life.”

R.I.P. Jeanne Moreau
“Show me the way to the big reckless brilliant people.”

R.I.P. Sam Shepard
“Maybe you’d have to be a theatre person to really – and I mean really – “grok” what Sam Shepard meant.”

R.I.P. Jerry Lewis
“My introduction to Jerry Lewis (like my introduction to so many icons, like Shirley Temple, Esther Williams, and more) came from watching afternoon TV with my cousins in their furnished basement. That’s where I saw so much stuff for the first time. Interspersed by ping-pong matches.”

R.I.P. Kimber Wheelock
“You were the first to usher me into the world where I so wanted to be. There would be others after you. But you … you were the all-important first. I am in tears of gratitude as I type this.”

For R.I.P. Harry Dean Stanton
“He made sense staggering through the desert; he made sense on the back of a horse; he made sense in a prison yard; he made sense cruising the nighttime streets in a beat-up gas guzzler. He could be a cowboy, a conman, or a lost romantic soul. No wonder his career lasted over 60 years with no interruption. His friend and colleague Sam Shepard said of him, “He’s one of those actors who knows that his face is the story.””

R.I.P. Tom Petty
“There’s something beautifully humble about him in this performance. He sets the stage, he establishes the well-known song … But what he is REALLY doing is creating space for what comes next. What comes next is Prince. And Prince will need a TON of space. Petty knows that so he goes about creating it. It’s world-class what Petty does in that performance.”

R.I.P. Danielle Darrieux
“It is one of the greatest performances of all time in one of the greatest movies of all time.”

R.I.P. David Cassidy
“The sneering contempt with which this huge Teenage Idol was treated – by “serious” people – is sadly par for the course in our culture – and, in my opinion, as I’ve said before about other similar figures – stems a lot from misogyny. “Wait a second, WE didn’t anoint this guy. WE’RE supposed to be the ones who tell people what’s cool. We can’t let millions of screaming GIRLS tell us what’s cool. Who cares what GIRLS think?” Well, hate to break it to you, boys, but teenage girls ALWAYS know what’s cool and they know LONG before you do. When you hear thousands of girls screaming at once, you should follow the sound, not make fun of it. GIRLS anointed Elvis their King long before the mainstream did. Teenage girls – and gay boys – are early adopters.”

Monthly Viewing Diary

January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017

On This Day

BOTD Anton Chekhov
BOTD, Langston Hughes
BOTD James Joyce/Ulysses published
The Day the Music Died
BOTD Laura Ingalls Wilder
BOTD Charles Dickens
BOTD Elizabeth Bishop
BOTD Brendan Behan
BOTD W.H. Auden
BOTD George Washington
BOTD Edna St. Vincent Millay
BOTD Dean Stockwell
BOTD Cyd Charisse
BOTD Jack Kerouac
Happy Π Day
BOTD Sylvia Beach
The Ides of March
BOTD Rudolf Nureyev
BOTD Wilfred Owen
BOTD Henrik Ibsen
Premiere of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
BOTD Tennessee Williams
BOTD Frank O’Hara
BOTD Seán O’Casey
BOTD Lon Chaney
BOTD Marlon Brando
BOTD Bette Davis
BOTD Billie Holiday
BOTD Christopher Smart
RMS Titanic sinks
BOTD Charlie Chaplin
BOTD Thornton Wilder
BOTD Library of Congress
BOTD Ann-Margret
BOTD Willie Nelson
BOTD Machiavelli
BOTD Orson Welles
BOTD Martha Graham
BOTD Edward Lear
BOTD Margaret Wise Brown
BOTD Bob Dylan
BOTD John Wayne
BOTD Marilyn Monroe
D-Day, 1944
BOTD Gwendolyn Brooks
BOTD W.B. Yeats
BOTD Billy Wilder
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
BOTD Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Elvis records “That’s All Right”
Storming of The Bastille
Moon landing
BOTD Emily Bronte
BOTD Richard Linklater
Elvis’ debut
BOTD Herman Melville
BOTD Percy Bysshe Shelley
BOTD Robert Mitchum
Ulysses allowed into America
BOTD Esther Williams
BOTD Louise Bogan
BOTD Alfred Hitchcock
BOTD River Phoenix
BOTD Joan Blondell
Germany invades Poland
BOTD Freddie Mercury
BOTD Buddy Holly
BOTD Otis Redding
BOTD Mary Oliver
BOTD H.L. Mencken
BOTD B.B. King
BOTD Hank Williams
BOTD William Carlos Williams
BOTD Stevie Smith
BOTD F. Scott Fitzgerald
BOTD “Blind” Lemon Jefferson
BOTD T.S. Eliot
BOTD Jerry Lee Lewis
BOTD Truman Capote
BOTD Groucho Marx
BOTD Buster Keaton
BOTD e.e. cummings
BOTD Oscar Wilde
BOTD Angela Lansbury
BOTD Eminem
BOTD Wanda Jackson
BOTD Samuel Taylor Coleridge
BOTD Joan Fontaine
BOTD Catherine Deneuve
St. Crispin’s Day
BOTD Sylvia Plath
October 27, 2004
BOTD Teresa Wright
War of the Worlds broadcast
BOTD John Keats
BOTD Walker Evans
BOTD Ida Tarbell
BOTD Alain Delon
BOTD Anne Sexton
BOTD Owen Wilson
BOTD William Blake
BOTD Louisa May Alcott
BOTD Jonathan Swift
Premiere of Streetcar Named Desire
BOTD Little Richard
Pearl Harbor
BOTD John Milton
Boston Tea Party
BOTD Maud Gonne

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15 Responses to Year in Review: Shooting My Mouth Off in 2017

  1. Stevie says:

    There are no words adequate to describe the stunning quality of work you did this year, Sheila. It’s a phenomenal achievement. I hope you will take a few moments to just sit back and see the fruits of your labor for what it is: an outstanding effort, the work of an artist in full flower. Thank you.

    • Brooke A L says:

      I second that completely: “the work of an artist in full flower”. We are all so lucky that you exist, Sheila. And I mean that.

    • Jessie says:

      Thirded. What an achievement! Thanks, Sheila!

      • sheila says:

        Thank you, Jessie!

        Supernatural has brought so many awesome people to my shores.

        And 2017 was especially special since you and I got to meet! And see Logan Lucky!!

        • Jessie says:

          A terrible, downhearted year in general, but with a few shining bright spots — that week will be a lifelong highlight, and that night in particular! <3

    • Barb says:

      I could not say it any better. Congrats, Sheila, on this amazing year, and thank you for the gift that is this amazing space!

    • sheila says:

      Bless you, Stevie!

      I rarely take the time to step back – but in a moment like this, seeing it all there in one place – it is rather astonishing. It’s amazing I ever do anything else in my life!

      It’s been a terrible year – it’s been a good year – my film at Ebertfest!! Elvis in Film Comment!! :)

      Love to you, my friend, and here’s to a … better? dare we hope? … 2018.

  2. mutecypher says:

    Sheila, your writing is superb and you are so prolific! It is such a treat to read your thoughts and insights and observations and experiences. I hope you have a wonderful 2018!

  3. Nicola says:

    Lady, you are prolific. Happy new year, Sheila.

  4. Audrey says:

    Happy new year, Sheila and all! Thank you for your lovely work this year, it was a blast to come and read through as much as I could.

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