Year in Review: Shooting My Mouth Off in 2013

Some of the things I’ve written in 2013, for my own site, and also other outlets.

Thoughts on Memphis.
“Memphis is wounded, and Memphis is obviously depressed. There are a lot of sad ghosts here. But Memphis does not forget. Memphis is brave enough to remember.”

On F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack-Up”.
“Fitzgerald has done us all a great service by being bold enough to put that into words. It is one of the greatest descriptions of depression ever put on paper. In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning. Such sentiments certainly comfort me, because “yes, yes, that is what it is like”, but it would also be helpful to those who do NOT understand, who have never suffered in that way.”

On William Hazlitt.
“Muscular, often funny prose, with a talent for memorable epigrams, he is fearless in his own opinions, one of the best qualities of a really good writer. No hemming and hawing, no giving room to the “other side”, unless it is to destroy it completely. You have to be a really good writer to pull that off.”

Jacques Tati’s Playtime: Life Is Better Than Beautiful. It’s Funny.
“The fun of Playtime, expressed perfectly in the restaurant sequence, is that it shows that the facades we believe in, the facades we put so much store in, are really boundaries that keep us from being our true wacko selves. And yet we continue to dress up and go out to a fancy dinner, and we keep expecting that the world will conform to our ideas of it. The world never cooperates. And it’s best to just go with it rather than resist. If you were the type of person to storm out of that restaurant in a huff, and write a complaining note later on, then you would have missed the fun of what happens when everything goes wrong, what happens when you let go of your idea of how things Should Be, and succumb to the insane reality of How Things Are.”

Imagining Elvis: From Quentin Tarantino to Scott Walker
“Fantasies about Elvis are an important part of understanding his impact. Those who love him, who wish he had lived longer, have stories they still wish to hear, they have a desire to insert Elvis into their own narratives.”

The Color of Paradise (1999); Dir. Majid Majidi
“Majid Majidi is interested in the ways in which God operates in our lives. Obviously, the natural world is very important here: cold rushing water, woodpeckers, alfalfa plants, flower petals, are all God’s visible presence in our world. Mohammad seems to seek out that presence with more consciousness than others. He is precocious in that respect, while, at the same time, he is a normal little boy who wants to be loved, and fears abandonment.”

Man of Marble (1977); Dir. Andrzej Wajda
“Considering the issues portrayed in Man of Marble, and considering its cynicism and honesty, it’s hard to believe that it was made at all. Prophetically, the penultimate scene in Man of Marble takes place outside the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, where Solidarity started, helmed by Lech Wałęsa. There are the gates, the gates that would be world-famous not even a decade later.”

The Wonderful Weird WTF-Ness of Sylvia Scarlett
“But it’s not Cary Grant’s turn yet. He’s the third lead in Sylvia Scarlett, he can’t “get the girl”. He plays a boisterous amoral con-man, who behaves reprehensibly at times, but he’s so likable we forgive him and want Katharine Hepburn’s character (Sylvia/Sylvester) to hook up with him. Grant’s final moment in the film, staring out a train window into the dark country landscape, fills our hearts with fondness for him, for his sudden altruistic gesture. Oh, the big lug has a heart after all! Although Grant would make about 7 more films until The Awful Truth, the birth of the true leading man is here, in Jimmy Monkley. The film wants us to look elsewhere, wants us to consider Brian Aherne, wants us to care about things other than Jimmy Monkley, but Grant is so charismatic the film suffers when he is not onscreen.”

Jesus-Loving Elvis: He Found a Home On the Other Side
“So even in the happiest most rousing numbers like the one I posted today, there is an acknowledgement of the deepest kind of pain (listen to the lyrics, such a contrast to the melody, so moving). And so, in the act of testifying, in the very act of singing such a song, pain and sorrow can melt away. That’s what I hear when I listen to this track. I hear Elvis in his element (and he was one of those odd ducks who belonged everywhere and nowhere at the same time). I hear Elvis’ pain literally washing off of his back AS he sings. That’s the whole POINT of it for him, as well as the joy in sharing his love for God.”

She Is In the ZONE
“Girls and their fantasies are indestructible. It is one of the most powerful energy forces on the planet and Elvis tapped into the Mother Lode.”

Barbara (2012), directed by Christian Petzold.
My first review for Roger Ebert. He emailed me, basically from his death bed, to tell me how much he loved my opening paragraph. I feel so lucky.
“The woman sits in a park, legs crossed, smoking, relaxed. Two men watch her from a window above the park, and they discuss her, looking down on her. “If she were six, you would say she was sulky,” one of the men says. “Since her incarceration, her group of friends has been destroyed.” She is meeting the two men, and one says, “She won’t come in a moment before it’s time.” It is an eloquent exchange, and even more eloquently filmed, the woman seen in long shot, from above. She knows she is being watched. Her “relaxation,” then, is an act of public theatre.”

Jef Costello in Le Samourai: What You See Is What You Get, But What Is That Exactly?
“Jef Costello, I am sure, knows he’s “off”. He has probably been this way from birth. This is the way he is made. In circulating amongst “the English”, he wouldn’t be able to help but notice that other people’s behavior (laughter, hugging, casual chit-chat) was foreign to him, inaccessible. This difference would have shown up early.”

On Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast
“It is also a universal truth in Fairy Tales that you should be careful what you wish for. Anyone who has ever been confronted by a genie coming out of a bottle will know that. Don’t be hasty with your wishes. Be very very specific. Try to think ahead, try to project yourself forward into the ramifications of your wishes. Otherwise, you’re screwed.”

Take Shelter (2011), directed by Jeff Nichols
“What happens when you start to lose your grip on reality? What do you do? Who do you talk to if you start to see things that other people don’t see? The film takes these questions seriously.”

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000), directed by Bela Tarr
“Werckmeister Harmonies could be seen as a metaphor, for sure, of living under tyranny, of learning early the necessity of keeping your head down and not calling attention to yourself. Of man’s inhumanity to man. Similar to the opening scene in Mikhail Bulgakov’s brilliant Master and Margarita (so full of terror and you cannot quite place why: it is just a friendly meeting in a public park on the surface of it),Werckmeister Harmonies works subconsciously and subtextually. The dread felt by the populace is there in the shadows, it is there in the camera movement (which often comes in so close to a face that you ache for it to pull back so you can see more of the scene), it is there in the music.”

Beyond the Hills (2012); Dir. Cristian Mungiu
“Beyond the Hills, with its long takes and unmoving camera, has the feel of great live theatre. The script is complex and charged, and the emotions are enormous, although the action (as it were) doesn’t really get going until the final third of the film. And once it starts, once the exorcism becomes inevitable (and it is so inevitable as to be practically foreordained), everything changes. The screen becomes frenetic, jagged, chaotic. People run at top speed in and out of frame. You can’t see what is happening clearly. The camera still never moves, and yet you ache to see the periphery, you are impatient to see around corners, because in that way perhaps you can get ahead of events and stop them. This is a classic response to classic tragedy.”

The act of looking
“So I had my little “Oh woe to us who do not take the time to LOOK” lecture imposed on me by some busybody-inner-voice, and decided to just stand there for a while, looking at the scene.”

On Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy
“Rupert Pupkin does not “get his,” in the end. We, the audience, are instead made complicit in our own culture which creates Rupert Pupkins. We want to see him punished, shown the door. Instead, he is celebrated, he gets what he wants, fame and fortune (like Travis Bickle, who is hailed as a hero for his vigilante act of violence at the end of Taxi Driver, in a deeply uneasy finale). Pupkin doesn’t “bomb” in his appearance on the Jerry Langford show, guest hosted by the real-life Tony Randall. He gets laughs. Yes, there’s the little matter that he kidnapped Jerry Langford to get there, and now has to do some prison time. But he gets a book deal out of it. There are no repercussions.”

On the Taiwanese film Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood romances, George Cukor films especially, with their easy blend of serious subjects, in-depth characterizations, and outright hilarity. The colors here are all bright and happy, greens and pinks and oranges and blues, and with all of the sadness and loss presented, what Chen leaves us with is a sheer celebration of the pursuit of love.”

Ebert Fest 2013: QA with Haskell Wexler
“Haskell Wexler said that he likes to film what is actually in front of him. The images before him tell him how to shoot, and the images before him are so perfect that in some cases all he has to do is turn the camera on. Of course there is so much art that goes into a moment like that, you have to be damn good, and ready for the surprise moment.”

On Whitewash, starring Thomas Haden Church
“Thomas Haden Church has never been better (and that’s saying a lot: he is always good). He is in every scene, and for the majority of the film he is all by himself. There are a couple of moments where Church huddles inside the bull dozer, talking to himself, lost in a paranoid fantasy world. He is riveting, scary, utterly vulnerable.”

On Patrick Wang’s In the Family
“It is an unbelievably confident first feature, and while there are many issues that are present (gay rights, racism), they are never underlined or even spoken. I don’t think the word “gay” is ever used. The fact that Joey is a Chinese-American with a Tennessee accent is not commented upon, although you can see, in certain scenes, that he is treated with a baffled kindness, because people don’t know where to place him.”

Guest Post: Sheila O’Malley on Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION
“And in Todd DiLaMuca, we can see Bill Murray as Leading Man. Not everyone is a Leading Man, but he is, he always was.”

What Maisie Knew (2013)
“Steve Coogan, in his few scenes, is terrifying. It’s a great portrayal of unfettered narcissism. He has one moment, in the back of a cab, saying goodbye to Maisie, that is as good as anything he has ever done. For just a moment, you see him understand, and actually feel, his own terrible nature.”

My comments on the essay ‘Elvis! David!’, by Hendrik Hertzberg
“In June of 1972, Elvis Presley returned to New York after a nearly 20-year hiatus (and he didn’t tour there originally, he appeared on TV shows there) to play Madison Square Garden. He played four sold-out shows, breaking the record at the time.”

The Internship (2013). I was one of the only people who liked this movie.
“Google is just the excuse to tell a story about the challenges of growing older, the importance of taking risks, and what it means to be a man in a changing world (shades of Willy Loman again). On that level, the film is solid and quite effective. The moments of sentiment, when they come, feel fully earned, and they come out of characterization.”

My comments on the essay ‘Dylan’, by Hendrik Hertzberg and George Trow
“Of course you have to give a shit what the audience thinks of you. But honestly, you can’t care TOO much. Because often they don’t know what’s best for them, frankly. Often they are wrong in what they want from you. The anxiety about change is rich considering that he was representative of a “movement” that was all about change.”

The Melancholy Hero: On the Acting of Owen Wilson
“And even in his moment of immortality, he still looks ‘so sad.’ His sense of humor and his openness and enthusiasm always remains intact, and yet his essence is wistful, full of barely hidden pathos, even melancholy. One does not often think of grown men as being ‘wistful’ or full of ‘pathos’; only little plucky orphans in pig-tails and pinafores should be ‘wistful.’ But with Wilson, even in his comedies, I sometimes catch a glimpse float across his face, and want to say, like Adriana in Midnight in Paris, ‘You look so sad.'”

R.I.P. James Gandolfini.
“Today, as I reel from the news that Gandolfini died after a suspected heart attack at the terribly young age of 51, it is the image of him charging across that big Broadway stage, ripping off his jacket, barreling forward randomly and clumsily, that comes to my mind. It was like being attacked. Judging from the reaction of the rest of the packed house, the sudden electric gasp of over 1,000 people, the burst of frightened laughter through the crowd, I was not alone. His presence could not be contained on that stage. It threatened to overflow and overwhelm us all.”

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. One of my favorite films of the year.
“Beatrice and Benedick steal the show, though, in this version and in every version I’ve seen, on film or on stage. Nobody has informed the two of them that they are not the leads, that their romance is the subplot. Their barbs are sometimes vicious, and both characters show a studied indifference towards marriage and love. Beatrice and Benedick are the patron saints of 1930s screwball comedy.”

R.I.P., Eileen Brennan
“She always seemed on the edge of something, the edge of cracking up, the edge of laughing hysterically. She’s on the run from something. Shadows are in her eyes. She drinks to forget, she fucks to forget. Sometimes, in her roles, life has beaten her. Other times, she’s still got some fight in her. She was never a typical leading lady, but again, in the 1970s, “typical” was not what was wanted.”

A Band Called Death (2013)
“In 2000, at a family wedding, David (who would die later that year) gave the master tapes of the Death songs to his brother, saying, ‘Keep these safe. One day the world is gonna come looking for this music.’ Indeed they have.”

My comments on “The Duke In His Domain”, the famous and infamous profile of Marlon Brando written by Truman Capote.
“Logan continued to ban Capote from hanging out on the set, but Brando had invited Truman to come over to his suite for dinner or a drink. Not an interview, that was not in the cards, that was not expressed, permission was not given. It was 100% casual, “come on over, let’s hang out.” Capote himself said later that interviewing Brando hadn’t ever occurred to him. (Yeah, right, Truman.)”

My comments on the essay “Gone for Good”, by the great Roger Angell
“‘Gone For Good’ tells the haunting story (or, at least it’s haunting in Angell’s hands) of Pirates pitcher Steve Blass who one day, seemingly from out of a clear blue sky, stopped being able to pitch. His “case” became so famous that similar situations are now referred to as “Steve Blass Disease”.”

R.I.P. Karen Black
“Time to pop in Five Easy Pieces, Nashville, Burnt Offerings, Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean. But maybe not Trilogy of Terror. That thing still gives me nightmares.”

“Play It, James!” Going to see James Burton
“People were starting to chat, people were standing up, and Burton was talking … and then … (impromptu, clearly, the other band members weren’t ready for it, and all sort of stood nearby, frozen, wondering if they would be needed) … Burton played, solo, an eerily gorgeous and simple version of “Love Me Tender”. The house lights were up. People had already started gathering their things together, Burton was still talking, and then suddenly, he stopped talking, pulled his guitar into position, and, in an almost meandering subconscious way, began playing a song that we all know so well. No one sang along. The band was gone.And I felt the absence in that moment, for the first time all night. The absence of Elvis.”

You Are What You Do: His Girl Friday
“Hawks is radical in that he makes the woman central to this ultimate journey, when so often the woman is forced to compromise in other films of that era (and ours). You must choose, if you are a woman: domestic bliss or a career. Here, Hildy gets both, although “bliss” is probably a wild misrepresentation. She and Walter Burns will live together, work together, and fight like cats and dogs until the end of their days. Life will be fun, messy, exciting, infuriating, busy, and focused. To Hawks, that’s what “having it all” looks like. And Walter Burns, ruthless as he is, understands that. He finds Hildy hilarious. He “gets” her. She will be safer with him, ironically, than with the more staid Bruce Baldwin.”

Una Noche (2013)
“Havana jumps off the screen in a visceral way. You can smell it, feel it, like a living presence. Raul complains at one point, “The only things to do here are sweat and fuck.” The entire atmosphere is jagged with rampant sexuality, street harassment, open prostitution, and cruel jokes. Every interaction takes on a sexualized tone, bordering on violence, which Lila finds tiresome. It takes a lot of energy to bat that nastiness away. You can sense the exhaustion.”

R.I.P. Julie Harris
“Her spirit, her voice, her body language could reach the cheap seats. The woman won five Tonys. Well, six, if you count the one she received in 2002 as a Lifetime Achievement Award.”

R.I.P. Seamus Heaney
“When I read Heaney’s poems, I hear my Dad’s voice. This is devastating news.”

Our Nixon (2013)
“Some have criticized Our Nixon for trying to humanize what was proven to be a criminal administration, and there has been a controversy about whether or not the film is accurate. Accuracy seems somewhat beside the point. Our Nixon is not supposed to be an entry in an encyclopedia. It is a bizarre through-the-looking-glass snapshot of a time and a place, recorded by the men who were there, men who were soon to be rightly Infamous.”

My comments on John Updike’s masterpiece of baseball writing, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu”
“Describing Updike’s piece does not do it justice. Excerpting it also takes away from its power as a whole. And no matter how many times I have read it, I still feel the sense of soaring excitement near the end when Williams hits that home run.”

Enough Said (2013)
“Because what the hell, who the hell cares about your big belly or your cellulite? There is sex to be had. We like each other. Let’s do it, let’s fall in love. Enough Said is so good, and so accurate, about the Beginnings. The tentative getting to know one another, the gentle way of interrogating someone (“you have 80 bottles of mouthwash … why?”), and the way we start to trust.”

Ikiru (1952), directed by Akira Kurosawa
“As I watched Ikiru this last time, I thought to myself of Emily’s monologue in Our Town, and how – in moments of stress – it reminds me of How to Live. It is that important. It has that much resonance. That is the Art’s potential.”

The Roger Ebert Meet the Writers Movie Love Questionnaire.
Tell me about a moviegoing experience you will never forget—not just because of the movie, but because of the circumstances in which you saw it.
Seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” at a drive-in with my cousins when I was a kid. My father and uncle took us there in a station wagon with a “way back,” and we were all in our pajamas, 6 or 7 of us. I miss drive-ins. I think back to that night and don’t remember the film so much as the feeling of what it was to be a kid, to be a kid in the summer, no school, no summer job yet, hanging out with my cousins, having popcorn, and being out in public in our pajamas. The freedom of it!”

Metallica Through the Never (2013). This may be my favorite thing I’ve written so far for Ebert.
“As macho as Metallica’s collective stage presence is, what they tap into is a very dark place where they are alone, helpless, and isolated. Music critic Steve Huey once observed that “in one way or another, nearly every song on ‘Master of Puppets’ deals with the fear of powerlessness.” That’s where the rage comes from.”

R.I.P. William Graham
“Graham sensed some hesitation from Elvis in some scenes, particularly small conversation scenes, he felt a sort of selfconsciousness. He also sensed Elvis’ hunger to be a good actor, to devote himself to his work in a way that had meaning for him. So Graham took the time to work privately with Elvis, explaining the Meisner technique to him and doing some of the Neighborhood Playhouse exercises with Elvis at his house. (Oh, to be a fly on the wall.) Elvis dug it.”

Concussion (2013)
“Robin Weigert is known mainly to HBO audiences as Calamity Jane from “Deadwood”, although she’s been a regular on many other television shows since then. She gives a star performance here. Her work is reminiscent of Jill Clayburgh, or Diane Keaton, or Ellen Burstyn, leading ladies in an era of film that did not shy away from mess and ambiguity.”

My comments on ‘Marginal Notes on the Inner Lives of People with Cluttered Apartments in the East Seventies: Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger”, by David Samuels
“I’ve written before about my own discovery of Franny and Zooey, and also a crucial re-reading of it when I was 25, 26. It changed the course of my life. It put a fire under me. It ignited a sense of urgency about my future, my life, that had been dormant for a while. I applied to grad school the following week. In my application essay, I referenced Zooey’s monologue to Franny. I got in to grad school. In a matter of six months, I moved from Chicago to New York.”

The River (1951); Directed by Jean Renoir
“It’s a film that flows (the structure coming from the river itself, so often mentioned in the film). It’s a film that is circular. The river flows on, the seasons cycle, we have spring, we have birth, we have death. We have the death of childhood, the birth of womanhood. We have the re-birth of Dr. John (which seems incomplete, and that’s appropriate, because life isn’t neat), and we have the awakening of Melanie. But there is no resolution. Nothing is “settled” at the end, because that’s not how life is. That’s not how Renoir saw life. Life goes on. We move on with our griefs, our new understanding, there will be other joys in the future, other sorrows.”

On Fallen Angel (1945)
“Even when you learn later his life of hard-knocks and disappointments, you don’t really feel bad for the guy. Plenty of people who have a life of hard-knocks don’t USE people. But it’s a magnificent performance, tightly coiled, and yet over the course of the film, he begins to unravel. And maybe that unraveling will redeem him in the end. But maybe not. I don’t know.”

Gravity (2013)
“So. Yes. As a woman, I was proud that a woman had to figure shit out on her own, and made mistakes, and freaked out, and took a second to cry (I felt impatient with her, thinking, “THERE’S NO CRYING ON THE SPACE STATION” – although I probably would have cried a couple of floaty-zero-gravity tears as well, in her position), and then realized that – like Morgan Freeman intones in The Shawshank Redemption, you either get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Death of a Salesman (1951)
“One of the things that really struck me this time in hearing these words was the hope that Willy had placed in Biff, and the burden that that put on the son. This is, of course, key to the play but it was the way March played it, the way his whole face changed at the merest mention of Biff, that really drove home the point that Willy was doomed in this love.”

Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
“And while infidelity does come up in the relationship, it comes from the same place that most infidelity comes from: an underlying sense of boredom and restlessness, as you settle down into monogamy. Adèle senses that Emma is somewhat uninterested in what she does for work. Emma thinks Adèle could do better for herself, challenge herself, go out on a limb. Emma presents this as “I just want you to be happy” but you do get the sense that Emma may be concerned that her FRIENDS don’t think Adèle is good enough for her. This is never said explicitly, but it’s there, and Adèle feels it.”

The Motel Life (2013)
“Motels are up there with the Automat, the drive-in, jukeboxes, and cars with tailfins, as emblematic of certain aspects of American culture. These things are familiar even if their heyday predates us. “The Motel Life” does not shy away from the seedy aspects of its world, but it also understands the dark glamor there (especially in a show-stopper of a scene through a casino). We have all been in such places, even if it is only through the movies, or through our books. We know those red leather booths, those cigarette machines, the neon, the geometric tile floors, the crappy art on the walls. It’s already in us, it’s a part of us.”

Remember My Forgotten Man: from Gold Diggers of 1933
Gold Diggers of 1933, made during the first breathlessly terrible years of the Great Depression, has it all, and is still innovative today. What a transcendent film. It is honest. It says exactly what it means.”

The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
“Maria Braun does what she needs to do to survive. And it is also clear that she gets off on it. This is no victim. She enjoys the sex she has, she enjoys the power she wields, and she enjoys the monetary rewards in hats and jewels and country houses. But, as her mother worries at one point, “What is going to happen to your soul, Maria?””

35 Random Facts About Me.
Self-explanatory.

For my friend Allison: Making a New Friend as an Adult
“However, a friendship was not born that night. It was an opener. Neither of us followed up on it, though. Neither of us suggested we should catch a movie sometime, grab some dinner. Maybe we knew we were in the presence of someone who would become Important to us, and it made us shy.”

All Is Lost (2013)
“Because he is played by Robert Redford, we already come to him with all kinds of associations, powerful, resonant. Half of the film is us projecting all of our stuff onto him. The great movie stars all may be talented charismatic individuals but what they all do best is act as projector screens for our associations/dreams.”

My comments on H.L. Mencken’s essay about meeting with Rudolph Valentino.
“How on earth would Mencken, the sage of Baltimore, chewing on his cigars and listening to Beethoven in a rhapsodic stupor, ever come into this degrading tempest in a teapot??”

Sunlight Jr. (2013)
“Melissa and Richie may have nothing going for them, except dreams of maybe signing up for a college course, and maybe getting a job fixing electronics, and maybe getting their own apartment … but what they do have going for them is a true bond, which contains both sparking chemistry and the ability to laugh at themselves.”

Anniversaries
“It may be too soon to talk about all of this (in fact I think it is) but the season is rampant with markers, dates, numbers, anniversaries. They march towards me out of the fog, bearing their weighty associations like punk-ass monoliths sneering at me in a challenge. Emily from Our Town knows that the only truth worth knowing during our time being alive is that we are in one another’s presence, and there are those that we love, and we need to be present to that Love as much as we can. That’s it. Everything else is just philosophy, intellectual mind-games.”

“I’ve never been an attention-seeker, and that seems like probably a hell of a career choice … ” – Eminem: On Eminem’s latest album.
“The trick (and it’s no trick, it’s actually just a matter of talent and courage) is to continue to worry over/work on your same themes without turning yourself into schtick or a nostalgia act. Eminem, whose fame was so supernova-hot so fast, was aware of that from the beginning, and talks about it constantly in his songs.”

Her (2013); directed by Spike Jonze
“But for me, there was no there there.”

Peter Labuza interviews me for his Cinephiliacs podcast.
We talk about movies, and John Wayne, and Elvis and John Cassavetes’ Opening Night!

My Favorite Roger Ebert: On Michael Gilio’s Kwik Stop
“Eventually, it did get a short run at Facets in Chicago, and Ebert did a QA afterwards onstage with Michael. To say that this was exciting is to understate the event so much as to make it meaningless. It is in such moments that an artist’s life work is validated. It is in such moments that an artist can find the strength to go on, even if your beautiful little film does not receive the distribution it deserves. Ebert had a huge impact on Michael’s life, and his sense of himself. In darker moments, he will always have the memory that his film, representative of so many dreams and representative of what he was about, was recognized and cherished by Roger Ebert.”

On Ms. 45 and Revenge Movie Feminism
A roundtable with two other critics about Abel Ferrara’s rape exploitation flick Ms. 45.

The new restoration of Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
“Rebel is totally out of tune with anything that could be described as properly American. It’s totes French, in other words. Or should I say: Tôtes?”

My comments on Lester Bangs’ famous piece on The Troggs titled “James Taylor Marked for Death”
“What happened to rock songs about love and sex and getting it on and feeling your girl up and going at it hot and heavy in the back seat of your car at the drive-in? When did we all get so SERIOUS? So self-conscious? Doesn’t anybody want to just FUCK anymore?”

R.I.P. Joan Fontaine
“Acting in that atmosphere, where one is aware that people have both high expectations and low opinions of your ability, had to be a nightmare. But the performance is a revelation, and it made Joan Fontaine a star. From the first moment you see her, encountering Laurence Olivier standing on the edge of a cliff, you see what would be the trademarks of Fontaine’s entire career. She calls out to him to stop him from jumping (we hear her voice offscreen), and he whirls around to look at her. She stands there, in a simple sweater and skirt, flats, looking at him with both concern and alarm. He barks a retort back at her, and she cringes backward at his tone, but there is still that kindness in her eyes, eyebrows lifted in empathy. But she obeys him, and walks off down the path away from him. It’s all there, the entire performance, in that first moment.”

Frances Ha (2013); directed by Noah Baumbach
“I understand the momentous feeling one gets when you write out your name to put on your little urban mailbox, and there’s only one name to put there, and maybe there’s a pang that there aren’t two names, but at the same time, it’s a beautiful independent feeling to know that this is your place, and your name, and you are trying to be a grownup and there it is, on your mailbox label. How do you even put this tiny stuff onscreen and have it tell such a gigantic and universal story?”

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013); directed by the Coen Brothers
“The times they are a-changin’. And we can hold hands in rapt silence in our Greenwich Village coffee shops all we want, but stars will rise. We will follow them, feeling validated that “one of us” has reached so high. But we will have conflicting feelings about the money, about the stardom, about someone who seemed to be “one of us” turning out to be … an individual, after all. This has been well-documented elsewhere, exhaustively, and I won’t go into it, and the film doesn’t go into it either, but the ending suggests where we are going. It throws the rest of the film into sharp and almost agonizing relief.”

On Audra McDonald
“Watch how she makes sense of the lyrics, she is so good at that, she makes every song an acting soliloquy. She does not compromise the voice, though, ever: because the voice is the instrument through which she gets her feelings out, and the feelings pent up in the song.”

Breaking Down the Schtick: Dean Winchester/Jensen Ackles, Physical Comedy, Objectification, Consent, and Other Supernatural Topics Inspired By Three Seconds of Footage
“The reason Supernatural works, and I would even put out the theory that it is the only reason, is because both Ackles and Padalecki are funny.”

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2 Responses to Year in Review: Shooting My Mouth Off in 2013

  1. M Berg says:

    I don’t get nearly enough time to read other peoples’ blogs anymore. So coming back to your blog (which I do from every couple days to every few weeks) is a little like popping open “Crime and Punishment” after a few years away; it’s always a little overwhelming, and yet I look forward to it.

    Happy New Year!

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