Lost in the Movies: February 2011

Remembering the Movies, Feb. 25 - Mar. 3

Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past

This week, we finally take a break from 1931 (which has dominated the past few weeks) and skip forward for a screwball from Sturges. There are several classics in the lineup this week, as well as an interesting back-and-forth between Siskel and Ebert (as well as a Tom & Jerry cartoon from the fifties - hard to say which duo is more contentious).

This might also be the place to the mention for those who missed it that Blog 10, the year-end round-up, finally made its debut last week. Check it out for some great links, images, and excerpts...

Dishonorary Awards: Why Not to Watch the Oscars This Year

By refusing to broadcast the Honorary Awards for the third year running, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has blown a raspberry at the luminaries of film history. Perhaps we should return the favor. 

(originally appeared on 2/21/11, republished with some modifications before the 2012 broadcast)

This is not a clever list of "Top 10" reasons to ignore, criticize, or make fun of the Academy Awards. Right now I'm only interested in one deeply unfair and indicative reason. That said, a brief bit of background may be in order.

Remembering the Movies, Feb. 18 - 24

Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past

The shark has pretty teeth, dear - and with the above image the "bad guy" theme continues for yet another week. I've cheated this week too: as happens occasionally, I overlooked a movie a few weeks ago when it would have been eligible. Usually I'm able to include a given film on the date of another premiere/wider release if I accidentally miss it on its very first screening date. In this case, however, there was nothing I could do. So for hopefully the last time, the 1951 film is actually several weeks old but has been included because it deserved a spot on February 7. Apologies to all the anal Remembering-the-Movie-watchers out there. I promise to get it right next time.

Blog 10

Blogger in a Red Blouse (after Pierre Bonnard)
Mike Licht,

This past weekend, in resurrecting Dracula's image (first used last November to call for Blog 10 submissions) I reminded readers of my promise to round-up blog highlights from the past year. Today, let me quote another 1931 horror film: "It's Alive!"
The past two months have been extremely busy for me - I was barely able to squeeze out one "Remembering the Movies" per week. I didn't have any time to work on my long-delayed year-end round-up until now, but finally I can say it's up and running. This is the third (and possibly last?) time The Dancing Image has hosted an annual tribute to the blogosphere.

As in 2009, I asked bloggers to submit what they thought was their best work of the year - and the result shows the wide array of possibilities offered by the internet - reviews, yes, but also visual tributes, video pieces, lists, musings...even blog posts unrelated to film and film posts not from blogs.

If you are curious about my own work, which I've pretty much left out here, you can visit my Top Posts page, which collects my strongest pieces (after the dust cleared, the stuff I still find most interesting, original, well-written, or informative). And "The Year of the Blog" summarizes my activity in 2010.

Before jumping in to the list proper, I want to pay tribute to a few individuals who deserve a spot above the fold. First of all, no account of the past year would be acceptable without mentioning Sam Juliano and Allan Fish. Sam's site, Wonders in the Dark, was where I spent most of my online time (that is to say, truth be told, most of my free time) this past year, and Allan's massive countdown was one of the primary reasons why.

I've tipped my hat to Allan's work, which will soon be appearing in book form, elsewhere (see the "Wonders in the Dark" tab above). But here I'd like to kill two birds with one stone, by linking my favorite essay Allan's written, which also happens to be about Sam Juliano.

Sam is a great guy, whom I had the good fortune to meet in person last fall, and one of the most generous and enthusiastic bloggers out there (example: when asked which of his own pieces he wanted to submit to this round-up, he selected a tribute to another blogger). However, Allan's piece so perfectly captures Sam's eccentricities and likability that I'll shut up and let it speak for itself:

"Secondly, he’s terrified of flying, so it’s rather lucky he lives in New York, where he sits and waits for the mountain to come to Mohammed, presiding over gatherings at Juliano Towers like a modern day Trimalchio mixed with the spirit of human kindness. A sort of dictatorship by generosity and fuelled by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that means when he gets interested in something there’s no holding him back. When the blog was starting up, you couldn’t get him away from the computer. Believe me, I tried; I couldn’t even do it when I was there. In my harder moments I nicknamed him the Sultan of Sycophancy, but there’s one crucial difference. A sycophant flatters to deceive, to ingratiate, to impress; it’s all part of a plan. With Sam I think he knows no other. He couldn’t say a bad word about anyone, unless they insult one of his children. By which I don’t mean Melanie, Sammy, Danny, Jillian or Jeremy, but a particular film seen by him as sacred. Slag off Far from Heaven, say, and he’ll go onto his haunches and start issuing forth verbal vitriol worthy of Malcolm Tucker in full bollocking mode."
"The Genesis of Wonders in the Dark - A Tale of Three Sanshos" Allan Fish, Wonders in the Dark

Next, I have to acknowledge my own favorite blog post of the year, and perhaps of all time. It's disarmingly simple: in response to my call for personal picture galleries, Dean Treadway decided not to pick ten or twenty screen-caps, but rather 200. He did so spontaneously, mostly avoiding thematic or chronological organization and the result is a sweeping, giddy love song to the whole grand cinematic smorgasbord. His epigrammatic captions also manage to capture some of that movie magic, but it's the images that speak louder than words:

"A Cinema Gallery - 200 Images: Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI" Dean Treadway, Filmicability

Finally, I want to mention Tony Dayoub, one of this The Dancing Image's earliest and most consistent commentators and followers. He came on board in August 2008, when I was writing about "Twin Peaks," and offered a number of insightful and knowledgeable observations. Meanwhile, he has maintained and grown a thriving movie blog, Cinema Viewfinder, and begun writing for other venues as well (most recently, the sleek online Nomad publication Wide Screen). Over the past few years Tony has been developing a professional site that captures the best qualities of the pros (economy, focus, consistency) as well as the amateurs (a focus on what he finds interesting, a flexibility to the approach). He has offered several selections from 2010, and ultimately I went with his take on The Social Network, probably the most-discussed film of the year - yet I found Tony's review to be one of the sharper takes on the movie.

"As the fast-paced film progresses it becomes clear that these barriers never really come down, they just become frustratingly transparent, allowing those who are 'out' to get a look in without ever actually making it 'in.' Like the crucial sliding glass door I described earlier, the barriers become almost invisible, sneaking up on the characters and the viewer. The Social Network's climax, in which Saverin finally discovers how far out of the loop he is at Facebook just as the company signs up its millionth user, mostly plays out with Saverin and a lawyer behind a closed office with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall which allows us to see, not hear, a loyal old friend get stabbed in the back by Zuckerberg. By the time Saverin comes out and causes a scene, we are witnessing the aftermath, not the incident."

And without further ado, the grand round-up begins below...

Remembering the Movies, Feb. 11 - 17

Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past

Concerning the above picture, a trend continues and another resumes today. Firstly, we have the second 1931 film in a row. I like to change the highlighted year week to week, just to spice things up. But this week, as with last week, a pick from the Great Depression seems inevitable (and this particular image seems oddly appropriate for Valentine's Day). Meanwhile, after the lovable Little Tramp topped last week's entry, we return to the villainous focus which has characterized 2011 up to now: as with every other week of the year so far, a fascinating bad guy steals the top spot.  It's also nice to bring things full circle, because back in November I used Bela Lugosi's hypnotic image to solicit blog links for a year-end round-up. This Monday, after many delays, that round-up will finally be unveiled. In the mean time...

Remembering the Movies, Feb. 4 - 10

Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past

This week, it's two of everything. Two gritty New York pictures back to back (one of which incited a fierce protest movement), two films about fascism (one for, one against) released exactly ten years apart, and two Chaplin classics - one following the other on this list. There's also a bit of cheating going on: since I missed some of these films on the true first screenings, I'm allowing several by on technicalities (either using their wider release date or a particular premiere as the benchmark), including a film I saw in theaters almost exactly two decades ago - my memories of that occasion will appear below. Finally, we've got a connection to the previous post, as you'll see right away. A week later, but ten years older, a certain doctor is stopping by for dinner once again...

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