Saturday, December 31, 2011

Explore The Dancing Image - TOP POSTS


This is a collection of my strongest work. It will top the blog as I take a break from the site. (If you want to see an updated version featuring a few more highlights from 2012, visit the "Top Posts" page.)
 
Welcome (or welcome back) to The Dancing Image. There are several ways to explore the site, beginning with the video clip series "32 Days of Movies." With selections from my collection, I created a tour through a century of cinema, from The Cameraman's Revenge (1912) to Antichrist (2009). Click on this icon to browse the films included, or visit the video gallery to peruse chapters.

As for the rest of the site, I can point you to the movie timeline for a chronological overview of all films covered on The Dancing Image, or the directory for an alphabetical archive of all my reviews and other miscellaneous pieces. You can also visit the picture gallery to scroll through great images from the past three years; click on any picture to visit the post in question. My annual blogger round-ups offer a wider view of the blogosphere, starting with the 2011 tribute. Finally, though it's linked below as well, I'll point you to one of my last posts of the year in case you missed it: a list of 100 of my favorite movies.


TOP POSTS

This post's primary purpose is to highlight some of my work, whether prose essays, image-only visual tributes, or even the occasional video piece. Before each description I've specified which of five categories a piece falls into ("Essay" - "Video" - "Mixed Media" - "Image" - "List"). This way, if you prefer certain approaches over others, you can pick and choose what to look at. Though I hope you'll check them all out eventually.

They advise saving the best for last but as a wise man once said, I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion...

____________



32 Days of Movies - "To Become Immortal, and Then, to Die."    "Reality Cinema"
video
Chapters 19 & 31 in video series - one closes off the 60s epoch with a bang (including a lightning fast montage featuring 60 years of cinema in 40 seconds) and the other scans the 00s, with its mixture of documentary and impressionism



One hundred films I love, with a picture and brief capsule for each



 Astaire and Rogers
video
Video clips of every single Fred & Ginger dance number



Boomer Baseball: Field of Dreams & the 60s
essay
Field of Dreams seen through a prism of 60s nostalgia and boomer mythology



Cities of the Imagination
mixed media
A prose/image reflection on city dreams, using Carl Jung, the Chinese film The World, Michel Gondry's music videos, and my own memories



Citizen Kane
essay
An analysis of how each narrator subtly shifts the tone and style, both cinematic and narrative, in this celebrated masterpiece



Civilisation in Pictures
image
Great works of Western art, in visual tribute to the wonderful British TV series



The Corruption of Michael Corleone
image
The descent of a character into darkness and evil, told using only images from the Godfather films



directed by Brian De Palma
video
A video tribute to the dark fusion of sex and violence in the director's cinema
(this is the one piece I am proudest of)



The Director's Chair
list
32 favorite directors, represented by evocative title cards & clips from their work



A dirty dozen
list
An imaginary lineup of double features, arranged thematically into six categories: 'Their Town,' 'Secret Societies,' 'She Did It Her Way,' 'Rising to the Top,' By Airplane or Submarine,' and 'Movement, Music, and Montage'



The Fall and Redemption of Anakin Skywalker
image
An image-only representation of Darth Vader's trip to the dark side



Flight of the Red Balloon
essay
A review of the French film, exploring its relationship to the earlier Red Balloon and the French New Wave, which kicked off my 'Best of the 21st Century?' series



The Great Movies
mixed media
A tribute to one of my favorite movie books, an obscure, out-of-print coffee table tome discovered in childhood and relished ever since; includes many scanned images from the book itself



Hooray for (Hating) Hollywood: Sunset Boulevard
essay
A review of Sunset Boulevard which concludes my series on early 50s films dishing the dirt on the film industry



In the Beginning...
image
Nine great 'opening' images from movies - meaning these are the very first visuals we see onscreen; this post also kicked off an active and lively 'picture gallery' meme, and the other entries are listed at the bottom



essay
A re-examination of the holiday classic in light of its psychological darkness, political implications, and historical resonance



Just because you are a character, doesn't mean you have character... Part 1  Part 2
list
Two posts, taken together comprising 100 favorite characters in film history, from Nosferatu to Kong to Mrs. Robinson to  E.T. to the Dude



Lawrence of Arabia
essay
An essay on one of my favorite films, celebrating its expression of personal psychology through epic landscapes



Let Them All In... Let the Right One In Book/Movie/Remake
essay
History of all the different versions of Let the Right One In, a film about a teenage girl vampire and her strange friendship with a lonely little boy



The Magnificent Ambersons
essay
Observations on a massacred masterpiece, and how the studio's cuts actually reflect the very theme of the movie: the descent from elegance into the mundane





The Musical Countdown - 42nd Street • The Gay Divorcee
video • mixed media
Two offbeat entries in a musical countdown: 42nd Street leads with a 5-minute video examining the narrative & stylistic sweep of the Busby Berkeley classic, while The Gay Divorcee explores the "Night and Day" number through Arlene Croce's prose & images from the film



Reading the Movies
list
My ten favorite movie books, with the stories behind each one, fifteen runners-up, and an invitation for other bloggers to participate (they did)



Remembering the Movies, Dec. 3 - 9
mixed media
Probably the most interesting entry in my movie-history series, this covers a Siskel & Ebert conversation on Edward Scissorhands, two classic cartoons from Warners and Disney, my capsule on Flash Gordon, memories of films seen when I was 7 and 17, and extracts from a contentious debate between Pauline Kael and the Maysles Brothers on the truth of Gimme Shelter.



The Restoration: Glimpses of the Past - and Future?
image
A smorgasboard of screen-caps, stills, and posters from unavailable films, in tribute to the 'Film Restoration' blogathon



Shaking the Foundations
image
Enticing images from the fantastic Italian film Fists in the Pocket, a sixties touchstone about the ultimate dysfunctional family; the visual tribute concludes with one of my all-time favorite quotations, a profound statement on the film and its times



Shine on You Crazy Diamonds...
list
20 headshots of my 20 favorite actresses



The Singer Not the Song
image
Beautiful images captured from 'The Nightingale,' based on a Japanese fable, aired for Shelley Duvall's 1980s TV series 'Faerie Tale Theatre,' starring Mick Jagger in yellowface



The Social Network
mixed media
Musings on The Social Network, presented in the form of a Facebook page



Summer Hours (Best of the 21st Century?)
essay
Review of the French film about a family letting go of their country home - maybe my strongest piece for the 'Best of the 21st Century?' series



The Sunday Matinee - Before the Revolution
essay
Bertolucci's hard-to-find classic, about a romantic young man who struggles with his Marxist beliefs and sleeps with his aunt, gets the 'Sunday Matinee' treatment, as part of my series on 60s New Wave cinema



Syndromes and a Century
image
Images of city and country, green and white, warm and cold, from great Thai film



They Once Were Coming Attractions... (memories of my movie past, 1988 - 1998)
image
Sheer nostalgia for my generation (born circa 1983), a lineup of movie posters from everything I saw in theaters between ages 4 - 15



This Sporting Life, Billy Liar, and the British New Wave
essay
Historical overview of British 'kitchen sink' films of the 1960s, focusing on two films which came out in 1963, representing a profound shift in the movement



Top of the World
image
A visual tribute to Rocky's triumphant morning run



Triumph of the Will
essay
Reflections on Leni Riefenstahl's powerful and disturbing Nazi propaganda doc



Twin Peaks: Lonely Souls • Beyond Life and Death
essay
Write-ups on two climactic 'Twin Peaks' episodes (the revelation of the killer, and the finale), entries in my series on the TV show



Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
essay
After watching this movie (the prequel to the TV series), I was impressed, upset, and uneasy with what I'd seen, and I wrote this review



Two Things We Know About Pictures
mixed media
Impressionistic tribute to Pierrot le fou, using Godard's famous quote and images captured from the film



Waiting for the 25th Hour
essay
Seven years after the movie came out (and at the exact time the main character would be getting out of prison) I revisit Spike Lee's 25th Hour, one of the few films to deal directly with 9/11, for the 'Counting Down the Zeroes' series



The Way We Weren't: Art Under Bush
essay
Polemical response to Newsweek's shallow 'Art in the Bush Era' piece, reflecting on culture and politics of the 00s - this one came straight from the gut



The Wind in the Willows - Dulce Domum • Toad Hall
essay
Observations on Kenneth Grahame's classic book accompanied with images from film adaptations: 'Toad Hall' explores the setting in light of British social history; 'Dulce Domum' relates Grahame's personal biography to the book's theme of 'home'


Vertigo, Vertigo Variations, and Watching Movies While Blogging


This concludes "The Big Ones," a series covering 32 classic films for the first time on The Dancing Image. The film is addressed below, nearer the end - but, fair warning, there are many pit stops along the way.

Good evening. Nearly a week ago, I wrote my final review of 2011, a piece to conclude an era of blogging, an era which began in the summer of 2008 when I sat down at the town library and addressed Be Kind Rewind and the Lumiere short films in typed prose. The page was all-white, there were no images, there was no sidebar and, of course, there were no readers, except for me. I closed that review with an admonition to myself and the invisible reader, stating that I would return to revise my first blog post since it wasn't quite satisfactory. I never did.

Today, however, I have deleted my "final" piece, the 32nd post in "The Big Ones," on Vertigo, one of my favorite films. The piece was terrible and while I've no doubt posted crummy pieces in the past, I feel I've mostly managed to skirt mediocrity. Not this time - so the "Vertigo" of December 31 is gone, replaced by this "Vertigo, Vertigo Variations and Watching Movies While Blogging" (the date remains for archiving purposes, but in fact I'm posting on January 7.) The irony of such tangled identities and convoluted elisions and replacements, of past and present overlapping and intertwining in both the subject of my post and the post itself, is not lost on me.

100 of My Favorite Movies


These are not necessarily the movies I consider "greatest;" they're closer to being personal favorites I would be most compelled to watch at a given moment. I've ordered them roughly by preference, though looking at the list it feels rather arbitrary...and of course, it could change in a minute or two.

UPDATE 2016: From 2012 to 2016 I ran a series covering every one of these films from #100 through #1. This list now doubles as a directory for all of those entries - click on the title to read each one.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Last Call


Soon my final piece for "The Big Ones" goes up, on Vertigo, one of my two or three favorite movies. It will also be my last review for some time. On New Year's Eve, I will put up a revised version of my Top Posts to serve as the front page for this blog during a time of inactivity, a reminder to readers old and new of the site's potential as an archive.

Before I get there, I wanted to take a moment to do two things. One, as I did a few weeks ago, to highlight some recent posts - I have been putting pieces up more rapidly than ever before, so some stuff gets lost in the shuffle. These are the ones I think stand out, relatively speaking anyway.

Two, I wanted to take a moment - since I don't do it often enough - to say how much I appreciate your readership, whether you're casual or regular, a commentator or a lurker, fresh to the site or an old-timer. I suppose I would have been blogging even if no one was reading; for three years The Dancing Image was a very necessary outlet for me. But it's always reassuring to have an audience, whatever size. Thanks from the bottom of my heart - you made it feel worthwhile.

Here are some of the stronger recent posts. Check them out if you missed them before:


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ugetsu


This is an entry in "The Big Ones," a series covering 32 classic films for the first time on The Dancing Image. There are spoilers.

In discussing Rear Window, I wrote of Hitchock’s peculiar and attractive visual style, appealingly voyeuristic as we watch characters from afar, unable to see them closely yet fascinated as if by a child gazing on an ant farm or a dollhouse. I noted that the style was rare, although imitated or echoed at times by Jacques Tati, Jerry Lewis, and Wes Anderson. Always there’s a playful, tongue-in-cheek nature to this camera approach, a lighter-than-air quality that makes us grin ear to ear. Even in Rear Window, a tense thriller, the style is employed with a wink and a nudge.

Yet, in a way, Kenji Mizoguchi is doing something similar in his masterpiece Ugetsu, to very different effect. The camera stands back, observing the characters not with a melancholy detachment but a kind of helpless and stoic compassion. We watch in this way not to adopt the point of view of the voyeur, focusing in on a detail from afar, but rather to engage in a more omniscient perspective, a sensibility aware of human foibles and the terrible serendipity of circumstance yet unable to avert their course. The effect is less akin to a charming dollhouse and more like a brutally beautiful Brueghel, taking in the tragedy and the beauty in one unblinking gaze.


Tokyo Story


This is an entry in "The Big Ones," a series covering 32 classic films for the first time on The Dancing Image. There are spoilers.

Shukishi and Tomi do not need money from their children. They don't need a place to live. They have their own home, and they seem comfortable enough in it - they even have a young daughter, an unmarried schoolteacher, who still lives with them. There is no crisis in their lives - no overt crisis anyway. This is, in a sense, the tragedy of Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story: there is no great tragedy just simple sadness and disappointment, without catharsis or indignation to leaven the melancholy. In one of the film's famous exchanges, the youngest daughter, wearing an expression of strained frustration, asks her sister-in-law, "Life is disappointing, isn't it?" "Yes, it is," the other woman responds. With a smile.