Lost in the Movies: May 2012

The Long Goodbye

This review contains spoilers about the book and the film.

One of the most unique neo-noirs of the seventies, The Long Goodbye displays both the advantages and pitfalls of free-association adaptation. Both critics and defenders of the film tend to miss the point. Goodbye boosters point to Altman's rich invention and thought-provoking subversion of genre tropes, but tend to take for granted the conventionality of the source - Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. Marlowe had become in '73 and remains today a cultural icon as the prototypical private eye thanks to Chandler's series of detective stories and novels spanning the thirties and forties and (especially pertinent here) the films based on this material. Meanwhile, the film's critics notice what Gould's and Altman's Marlowe is missing but don't seem to appreciate what is added to, or even improved upon, from the book. The latter group have become more obsolete these days, as the distance from Chandler's era increases and the movie becomes more and more a part of the cinematic firmament it once seemed to subvert - a fixture rather than an outlier. In the mean time, I sense, less and less people commenting on the film have actually read the book it's based on, or realize how much the film's sense of subversion, disappointment, and distance shares with the novel itself - and what the film misses in some of its broader departures.


Around 1991, when I kicked off my video collection in earnest (the few kids' films I owned up to that point didn't really count towards a self-conscious canon), Ben-Hur was one of the first VHS tapes I purchased - or that my father purchased for me anyway; at 7, I didn't have much in the way of a disposable income. I remember seeing the case in a video store somewhere in Boston - around Easter, I think. I was impressed by the grandeur of that iconic poster on the cover, with the title chiseled out of the hard rock of a canyon face, against which a Roman statue leaned while tiny chariots raced around the huge letters. I was spurred on too by the bulk of the video package - remember that at this time, long films got two cassettes, creating a hefty physical size to match the scope of the movie within.

What are 100 (of Your) Favorite Movies?

An Open Question for Bloggers, Lurkers, and Stumblers

Call it a meme if you like, though I think the term's gone out of fashion. Anyway, I'm not setting any rules or regulations, and I'm not tagging anyone - just asking a question that I'd love to see answered. The "(of Your)" part of the title is essential; these lists need not be definitive in any way. They should just represent movies you want to highlight at this particular moment to express your taste or amuse yourself and others. If a hundred titles are too many, or too few, pick another number. Feel free to include pictures and brief explanations (that was the most fun part for me) - or not. You can respond in the comments below or on your own blog; you can tag others or follow my lead and just ask everyone. And of course you could snicker at the question and say, huffily (as a fellow in a Joy Division shirt recently sneered at me when I asked his favorite of their albums), "I hate those stupid questions!" But where's the fun in that?

Here's my own list, from last December (already there's a bunch of stuff I would change around): 100 of My Favorite Movies

Enjoy yourselves. I'm really interested to see who picks what.

Lost and Found - and Back in Action

In which The Dancing Image is removed, restored, and - as of today - reactivated

I thought it was all over.

Last week, I passed my blog on to a co-worker, thinking he would enjoy some of the features. When I came to work Monday, I was told the address didn't work. Thinking he must have typed it in wrong, I jumped on his smart phone to connect him directly. What I found when I reached thedancingimage.blogspot.com made my blood run cold..."This blog has been removed." No explanation of who/what/where/why/when just a simple message apparently sweeping away 4 years of dedication, passion, and organization - what (embarrassing as it may be to admit) was the work I valued most from the harried, often frustrating time known as my mid-twenties.