Lost in the Movies: April 2011

(farewell announcement)

update: as of September 2011, I have returned to blogging. The announcement for my return is here. The rest of this post remains as written, as a sort of historical marker.

This will be my second to last entry on this blog. On Wednesday my last post, prepared ahead of time, will go up. It's an appropriate finale because it represents a moment of triumph. I'm very proud of the work I put in here and regretful of abandoning projects, some of which I was already well underway on.

However, there comes a time when you have to make a choice. Right now I am sharpening the blade and trying to focus all my energy in one direction. That entails difficult decisions, and I have to stop dipping one toe in this particular pool: you can't do things halfway, and when you pick your priorities you can't hedge your bets.

Though it was far from my favorite feature, I'm most disappointed about not continuing the "Remembering the Movies" series - I think because once you stop that, you can't resume it. The whole point is its prompt and regular appearance every week, so once I stop there's a gap in the program which can never be plugged up again. There's a finality to cancelling it which brings home the reality of not blogging anymore in a particularly bitter way.

On the flip side, I've always seen this site not as something ephemeral or day-to-day but as a growing and permanent archive of my work. None of that will change. I will still store all my writing here and have the same features to draw your attention to past work (which, I suppose, all my work will be at this point).

Some years from now I may return to the idea of doing a canonical series, a notion that tempted me throughout my entire blogging career; but that will be a very different adventure, entailing far more commitment and to be undertaken with a different mindframe. Hopefully, if I follow through with it, I'll see some of you there. In the meantime, friends, goodnight and good luck. And thanks for coming along on the ride.

Remembering the Movies, Apr. 22 - 28

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

Some weeks are busier than others. This week sees three hugely popular films, any of which could take the top picture spot. Amelie is probably the most popular among the general public, while Yojimbo would have the lead among cinephiles, but my personal pick would be the iconic screen-cap from The Public Enemy. Ultimately the Amelie image, with its heroine sitting engrossed in front of the silver screen, proved too apt to resist yet I couldn't bear to part with the rain-soaked gangster's grin, so Cagney appears below. Yojimbo, along with the other seven other films (including Oliver Stone's first movie, and the recently deceased Elizabeth Taylor playing a young mother), appears after the jump.

On another note, the visual tribute has returned this week, though from now on it will be on Wednesdays rather than Thursdays. Next week's is one of my more imaginative ones, so stay tuned. On with the show...

Running on Empty (directed by Sidney Lumet)

In honor of Sidney Lumet's passing, I thought I should write up one of his films. I didn't even have to ask myself which one to choose - I knew it would be Running on Empty. Sure, it helped that I'd already reviewed one of my other favorite Lumets, The Verdict, and that I had a recently purchased VHS copy of Running on Empty sitting around waiting to be watched. The movie's premise doesn't hurt either: it deals with a family on the run from the law, because the parents participated in a terrorist action fifteen years earlier at the height of their radical activism. I'm a sucker for films about the sixties, particularly those that deal with the decade from a bittersweet, semi-nostalgic distance of twenty or so years - see my essay on Field of Dreams, which focuses exclusively on this angle.

I wrote then about "a late 80s trend: the ascension of the baby boom generation to Hollywood's height of power, accompanied by a burst of 60s nostalgia which helped (re-)define the era for a generation [represented] by 'thirtysomething' and 'The Wonder Years' on TV, big hits like The Big Chill and smaller films like Running on Empty (among others) in the cinema, as well as cultural events like the 20th anniversary of Woodstock and the release of the Beatles catalog on CD." The point of these enterprises - with the exception of the musical commemorations - was not so much to relive the era as to resituate its legacy, and those who experienced it, in the context of a later time period and the onset of middle age.

Yet I don't think this is why I'm so fond of Running on Empty - in a way the sociocultural connection seems almost incidental. At heart, the film is timeless in its feel and universal in its application; as with most powerful drama, it is simply a heightening and exaggeration of something everyone experiences - growing up, breaking away from your parents, and on the flip side letting your children go. The stars of the movie are not really Christina Lahti or Judd Hirsch as the fugitive mom and dad, but rather River Phoenix as the sensitive, gifted teenage son who loves his parents but yearns for a life of his own.

Remembering the Movies, Apr. 15 - 21

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

Yesterday I announced a return to visual tributes along with a line-up of fresh pictures. Check it out here if you missed it.

This week, a classic or two alongside some definite oddballs, including Ringo Starr in a fur toga and Phoebe Cates' creepy imaginary friend. Also, on a more serious note, an utterfly fascinating - and blistering - attack on Holocaust dramatization by Jacques Rivette.

Return of the Visual Tribute

Starting next week, I am bringing back the Thursday visual tributes: posts devoted entirely to the image. Dancing about architecture is fine, but sometimes it's nice to let the visual element of a visual medium speak for itself. That said, I plan on launching more written pieces soon too, starting with a review of one of my favorite Sidney Lumet films on Monday, in honor of the deceased auteur. All in all, I'm hoping to start picking up the pace around here so that by May I'm back to posting five days a week, if only temporarily.

Meanwhile, I've put up a sort of mini-visual tribute below, consisting of images I collected for particular posts but never used until now. No rhyme or reason to the arrangement. You can also check out last year's visual tributes to whet your appetite.

So what's so special about Oct. 22, 2010??

Here's a story that might resonate with all you bloggers who check your stats addictively. It's been clear for a while that certain posts receive way more hits than others: in particular my introductory Willows piece from last fall and my "40 Characters" entry from two years ago have proved perennially popular. Obviously the primary reason is image content - Google searches yield hits on certain pictures I included and users who click through find themselves on my site. Also certain posts - like the Characters one - were promoted or linked up at various sites (though it's fallen off lately, the picture gallery meme and "Reading the Movies" rode high for a while on these links as well).

Yet there's one post that, lately, has been crushing all the others, and for the life of me I can't figure out why. It's a Remembering the Movies entry from October 22, 2010, with L'Age d'Or the highlighted film and Malena and The Magnificent Seven among the other movies mentioned. This is before I took my new, flashier approach to the series so there aren't a whole lot of images. None of the titles would necessarily be expected to generate lots of hits - it's not like The Godfather or Star Wars is featured.

Yet, especially in the past month or so, no other single piece has been nearly as popular. Finally I have to ask, what's going on here? Has one person bookmarked the page and used it as an entry to the site ever since? Is there a Monica Belluci fan who uses it for motivational purposes every day? In fact, when I look at the "traffic sources" option, there are no incoming links that stand out, so I can't imagine one person is generating all this activity.

I'm genuinely curious, so if any of you have looked at this post for a particular reason - aside from stumbling across it while otherwise using my blog - can you let me in on the secret?

Remembering the Movies, Apr. 8 - 14

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, I revised The Dancing Image. You can read about the changes here if you missed the announcement.

I haven't seen any of the films highlighted in the series this week, so I'm particularly interested in your take on them. Excalibur's a bit of a cheat, but since its UK release date is unavailable I'm using the stateside premiere. Anyway, it deserves to get its due since it has hovered around the top of my Netflix queue for years now without making it to my door - even Arthur couldn't pry it from that resting spot...

The Dancing Image Past, Present, Future

This weekend I made some changes to the sidebar and several pages of The Dancing Image. I'm using this as an opportunity to offer up a springtime update, including future plans but starting with the recent changes I made.

Remembering the Movies, Apr. 1 - 7

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

As you may notice, I made a few changes around the blog yesterday. The sidebar is now more visual, and the idea is to encourage new readers to explore the archives. Especially at a time when I am posting lightly (even as the audience share keeps growing) I want to keep the site's backlog alive. More on that tomorrow.

For now, we're highlighting a film that I actually haven't seen; nonetheless, the Powell-Pressburger operatic adaptation is probably the most renowned movie on this list and deserves its picture at the top. The Tales of Hoffmann is joined by two drug movies, two on/offscreen romances, and an early Murnau.

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