Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): The End of 2015, a status update: Star Wars & more (5 days this week)

Monday, December 28, 2015

The End of 2015, a status update: Star Wars & more (5 days this week)


Offering a strong ending to a strong year, I will be posting every weekday through the end of 2015. This allows me to play catch-up (after struggling to find Monday posts, in January I'm going to be a hit with a big backlog of posts as several long-delayed works go up simultaneously). It also allows me to continue the trend of the past few weeks, as I covered the Lynch/Rivette screenings at Lincoln Center, and to end the year with my highest number of blog posts since 2011 (despite taking a month and a half off following the completion of my Journey Through Twin Peaks series).

This has been a great online year for me, although it was difficult in other ways. When I look back, I see two major causes for this sense of accomplishment and appreciation. One is Journey Through Twin Peaks, the video series I began last year but concluded in February after uploading what I consider to be the best chapters of the whole endeavor, covering Fire Walk With Me. Since then, I have watched these videos - particularly 7 Facts About Fire Walk With Me - become my most popular works, some receiving views that nearly double anything else I've ever done and best of all, earning (mostly positive) comments and likes almost every day. Whenever, I was having a rough week, it was nice to stumble across notifications thanking me for my work on this labor of love.

The other reason this was a good online year for me was the generosity and encouragement of Kevin B. Lee, the dean of video essayists, whom I interviewed in March about his Transformers: The Premake video essay. Having supported my work in the past (including when I ran into a possible snag with YouTube takedowns of Journey), Kevin invited me to contribute to Fandor Keyframe, where I have been able to mix professionalism and creativity for one of the few times in my life, and also connected me to Chris Luscri, whose Out 1 video project provided further professional opportunity and creative reward (the resultant video, a collaboration with Covadonga G. Lahera, will be going up next year on MUBI and was one of my favorite projects from 2015).

Learning to Look: Eye Contact in Satyajit Ray's The Big City (selected by Kevin as one of the notable video essays of the year, in a round-up I contributed to as well) and Welcome to Hill Valley (4 Times "Back to the Future") were particularly well-received results, but I enjoyed all five videos I was able to create for Fandor this year, and look forward to more contributions in the years to come (one is already waiting in the wings for January). I was even able to write about the Lynch/Rivette series for Fandor while taking a break from the videos. Meanwhile several of my Lynch videos were featured on PressPlay's video round-ups alongside write-ups by Max Winter, and I became a recurring guest on the popular Twin Peaks podcast Unwrapping Twin Peaks.

I've been blogging for eight years, and the ability to reach and communicate with readers or viewers has always been a roller coaster. I am very gratified to have been able to connect with so many this past year.

Even with the delay of the new Twin Peaks series into (probably) 2017, 2016 promises to be a good year as well. I have a number of ideas for videos and other projects that I look forward to working on and I hope to finally accomplish something I couldn't quite pull off in 2015: creating a backlog for my Favorites series and also my weekly TV coverage so that I can finally dig deeply into the past decade of acclaimed television, supplementing the cinema side of my blog by focusing on the avenue where most of the action has been happening lately. I have often said that the future of "the movies" actually lies in TV and the internet and 2016 should provide opportunities to deal with both.

That said, the big screen isn't exactly dead even if I've become almost entirely disengaged. The year 2015 saw my cinemagoing habit hit an all-time low, in which I saw no new releases between Interstellar and Creed; in fact I viewed more features in a theater during my week and a half in New York than I did during the previous two and a half years! One film I have seen, and desired to write about, is the new Star Wars film. There's plenty to say about the film, and even more to say about the phenomenon, so I will discuss both in a piece that won't exactly be a conventional review of The Force Awakens.

That essay will go up tomorrow (this was one of the prime reasons for settling on a five-day schedule this week). The Prisoner piece will go up as usual on Wednesday, followed by either a new video or - if it's available - a link to my guest post on Welcome to Twin Peaks, on Thursday. The week will conclude as the new year begins with my weekly Favorites contribution on Gone with the Wind.

While you're waiting for those pieces, let me offer some recommended reading/viewing on the new Star Wars film, many of them critical although I had a good time watching the movie (I think it's a pleasurable experience, by and large, but its flaws offer much heartier food for thought than its ability to deliver satisfactory entertainment). One post I couldn't un-see during The Force Awakens compared a few shots of J.J. Abrams and George Lucas. I have my own judgement but the piece simply lets the images speak for themselves, so see what you think.

Bob Clark was much less ambiguous in his clever, amusing, and kinda heartfelt animation, in which his avatar defends a planet of prequel icons from a Death Star with Mickey Mouse ears (his cheeky Twitter caption for this video read, "That's no moon - it's a corporation!"). Unsurprisingly, Bob has emerged as one of the chief critics of the new movie but his Twitter takedowns are very nuanced and eye-opening, focusing particularly on what he sees as Abrams' lack of visual grace.

Salim Garami notes - as many have - the issues with the "remake" aspect of The Force Awakens while Roderick Heath's excellent review launched a great discussion in the comments section. Make sure you also check out his defense of the prequels, some of the best writing I've ever encountered on that subject and a much-needed riposte to the increasingly glib "How to Skip/Endure the Prequels in Your Star Wars Marathon" advice columns that have been popping up. Recognizing both the strengths and flaws of The Force Awakens has made me even more appreciative of what the prequels want to do - quite a different subject than what most fans wanted them to do - and I look forward to rewatching them soon.

On that note, you can also visit my write-up on the previous six Star Wars film from 2010, as well as the accompanying visual tribute to Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Vader. And as a lead-in to tomorrow's review, the piece of Star Wars prose I'm proudest of is probably my impromptu reaction to Lucasfilm's sale. I still hold many of the reservations and disappointments of that essay, but now the new Star Wars is here, no longer abstract, and it deserves consideration on its own. Finally, to take a birds' eye view of the saga, you may enjoy watching this collection of back-to-back trailers for Episodes 1-7, as I did just before going to the movies on Christmas Day.

See you tomorrow, thanks for a great year, and may the Force be with you.

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