"Bring Me the Heads of Five Bloggers..."
When I started this blog in November of 2004, the last thing I expected was that anyone outside of my own circle of friends would actually read it, and even then I figured I’ve have to employ some sort of weaponry or base tactics or combination of both to ensure that they did.
Nearly three years later, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule still doesn’t exactly have the readership of Entertainment Weekly, or Ferret Monthly for that matter, and I’d bet that a lot of those family members that read the site occasionally out of a sense of obligation (or a fear for the lives of their family pets) probably gave up on it a long time ago, the exceptions being Thom McGregor, Blaaagh and Murray—thanks, loved ones! But it does get read by a lot more people than I would have ever imagined possible, thanks to folks like Peet Gelderblom, who contacted me early on and asked if he could publish one of my articles on his fantastic criticism site 24 Lies a Second, and David Hudson at Green Cine Daily, who found his way here around the same time and has, thankfully, kept me in some very heady company with regular highlighting of this blog in his daily list of links ever since.
And I feel fortunate to have gotten in on the ground floor of the Blog-a-Thon movement with the notorious Showgirls Blog-a-Thon, at the invitation of one of my favorite bloggers, Brian Darr, who runs the awe-inspiring San Francisco-based Hell on Frisco Bay like a delightful spinning top of information about the city’s revival and festival scene. Brian got me in contact with a whole passel of fun and super-smart bloggers and film writers and got a ball rolling which has yet to show any signs of stopping, even during a period in my life when I have seemingly less and less time to devote to writing. By the end of 2006, David Hudson was writing about the phenomenon of the Blog-a-Thon as a significant development in the widening landscape of Internet film criticism:
“These informal, self-organizing symposiums are as vital as the academic sort, only, for better or worse, depending on your point of view, far less academic. They turn up fresh insight into the subject at hand while introducing like minds to each other (and sometimes not-so-like minds), making that afore-mentioned loosely connected community a little less loose.”
And Matt Zoller Seitz, in a long, tangled, fascinating conversation with Keith Uhlich on Matt’s blog The House Next Door (an online film writing phenomenon in itself) a few months back, gave me one of the most heartening name-checks this blog has yet received when the two of them got around to the subject of how film criticism is changing:
“What you see when you read Internet film criticism is criticism that is not constrained by word count. You don't have to cram it into 30 or 60 seconds or less, like a lot of TV-based reviewers do. The presence or absence of a still picture illustrating the text, or the decision to run the piece on the front of the section versus inside -- none of this stuff has any bearing anymore, it's all about the content of the piece. Not only can you go long if you want, you can do multiple posts on the same film, or on the same director. You can write about a movie that's 30 or 40 years old and connect it to something today, and nobody can say boo to you. You can illustrate your essay with frame grabs, to indicate visually exactly what it is that you're talking about. Or you can refer readers to YouTube if there's a relevant clip up there. Or if you have a lot of server space you can pull your own clip and hope the studio doesn't sue you.
What we're talking about here is an ever-evolving experience of media. You don't so much consume it as dip into it. It has no beginning. It has no end. It has no past. It has no future. It is in that continuous present that you talked about in your Miami Vice review. For an internet critic like, say, Dennis Cozzalio, an old film directed by Robert Aldrich and the new Peter Jackson version of King Kong are equally present-tense. Dennis is a little bit older than me—he just has the reckless adventurousness of a college kid in this respect. Internet-based criticism doesn't just encourage this type of thinking, it demands it. To be an Internet-based critic is to be free of previous paradigms -- except the new ones that you can't see right now, because you and other Internet critics are actively in the process of constructing them.”
Matt is a critic I’ve been reading for years, so that was doubly exciting for me to read, as well as an excellent example of the specific kind of encouragement that is, I think, unique in this loosely-tightly-knit community of bloggers—the sense that everybody seems to be in it for the good work and the exchange of ideas, not just for the recognition and who can get blurbed in the ad for Georgia Rule. I thank Matt for creating a site that is a locus for perpetuating that good work as well as the creative encouragement to nurture it as well.
And now this. For the first time, I’ve been tagged for a meme, and it’s a doozy.
Andrew Bemis, proprietor of Cinevistaramascope, one of my favorite blogs, was given a “Thinking Bloggers Award” and commissioned to include five sites to which he would pass the award onto. Mine was one of them. But in order to accept the award, the blogger who receives it must in turn provide a list of five other blogs to which he/she would give the award. It’s a great way to bringing new (and perhaps even familiar) sites some extra exposure (like Andrew’s wife’s blog, You Struck Me Dumb Like Radium, which has all the markings of a real keeper), and I thank Andrew for the spotlight he’s thrown on SLIFR. It seems there are rules, however:
1) If, and only if your blog is one that is tagged on my list below, you must write a post with links to five other blogs you like that consistently make you think (hence, the Thinking Blogger’s Award).
2) Link to this post so people will know whose good idea all this was.
3) Proudly display the “Thinking Blogger Award” logo with a link to the post you wrote.
As I told Andrew, as I gaze to my right and peruse the blogroll I’ve amassed over two-and-a-half years, picking five will be a lot easier than whittling it down from 35. But here I go, five blogs I love that regularly make me think. They are all excellent sites devoted to film, pop culture, and a couple occasionally even tread the realm of politics. But the thing that unites the blogs I had to list is the very personal sense I have, from reading them and from communicating with their authors, that I could spend long hours with each and every one of those bloggers, be it in some dusty cantina on a distant planet, or a low-lit bar with heavy, high-backed leather chairs and cheap whiskey, or at a comic convention, or roaming the aisles of a top-notch video store, or hanging out drinking coffee at a film festival somewhere far from the world I live in, basking in the love each of us has for film and the exchange of ideas, thoughts, and enthusiasm about it. They are all smart, personable, generous and, best of all, I consider them my friends. Who wouldn’t want to share that? Here they are, in alphabetical order based on their names. And thanks again, Andrew, for giving me a reason.
Is there a blogger out there with a more encyclopedic knowledge of the nooks and crannies of classic Hollywood, combined with the energetic sensibility attuned to investigating the subject with such playful third-person authority, as the Self-Styled Siren also known as Campaspe? If so, I don’t know about them, and if I did I doubt I’d want to replace her with them anyway. She’s just too damn sharp, and she’s so lacking in pretense and puffery that luxuriating in the deep-dish, but oh-so-readable posts she offers up with astonishing regularity is just too much of a temptation to resist. The SSS has become one of life’s necessities—in just the past month, for crying out loud, she’s written about Charles Laughton’s Javert (my wife and I did the subtitles on that one and the Milestone version, Campaspe!), Kiss Me, kate, Elia Kazan, Hollywood and the Afterlife, Dana Andrews and Jean Negulesco and even Hostel Part II, for cryin’ out loud! It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t like Once Upon a Time in the West-- a writer this good makes you enjoy the differences as well as the eye-to-eyes, and the chance to reexamine your own passions through another reflection. And believe me, a leap through this looking glass is what anyone who loves the movies needs to take right away.
Sometimes I think my whole blogging career has been about me discovering that certain someone who makes my previously supposed expertise in movies, and certain genres of movies, look pale and pathetic in comparison. Kimberly Lindbergs is the hostess with the mostest when it comes to horror and science fiction, especially the European variety, and she simply knows more about those genres than anyone I’ve met this side of Forrest J. Ackerman. Her site, Cinebeats: Confessions of a Cinephile, is an amazing cornucopia of inquiries into horror style, genre, fashion, gore, comic books, Mario Bava and just about anything any horror fan who wants to expand their horizons could possibly desire. But that’s not all—Kimberly’s own self-description of the site reads like this: “Cinebeats chronicles one woman’s love affair with 1960s and 1970s cinema.” (Calling Kim Morgan!) She even turned me on to an old Claudia Cardinale movie I’d never heard of before! Cinebeats took a long breather last year, but Kimberly is back, and it looks like she’s gonna stay this time. Thank Prince Sirki (and Barbara Steele) for that!
On May 11, 2006, about a year and a half into the SLIFR project, I got the happiest surprise of my resurrected writing career when Jim Emerson devoted an entire post to my Professor Van Helsing Spring Break Quiz at his blog Scanners. I remember that entire previous week being one of the most frustrating of my life—I had spent two years attempting to secure a job in Portland, Oregon, and I saw it all unexpectedly go down the drain, along with a lot of hope I had for the future, when the deal I was working out with my soon-to-be employer fell apart for reasons I still don’t understand. Jim, of course, had no idea about any of this, but when I discovered his post I also discovered an unexpected source of validation, which was all I needed to send me away on a cloud of renewed hope. Hey, a writer I really like took note of something I did without any prompting on my part! Suddenly my troubles seemed (for the moment) a little less haunting, and I felt like even though pursuing my writing may not ever result in monetary reward, it was paying off in terms of putting me in the path of people with whom I felt connected intellectually, experientially, emotionally. And Jim, one of the most generous and encouraging folks I’ve ever met (who I’ve yet to actually meet!), has become over the past year and change a fast friend whose site remains, along with Green Cine Daily, at the top of my list of daily must-stops. Jim sports a voluminous, swooning, critical and fiercely articulate talent, without the need to seem cutting-edge by going against the grain for the sake of showing off his tastes, which makes him exactly the kind of critic I not only crave to read, but also the kind of critic I hope to become. Never mind that we do happen agree on a whole lot—we share a favorite movie (Nashville) and a passion for Tex Avery, Barbara Stanwyck, Miller’s Crossing and Elizabeth Pena. The disagreements are part of the fun too, and there simply is no more inviting table to be called to sit at than the comments under one of Jim’s posts. His threads are the kind my own site aspires to as well—thoughtful, civil, giddy, serious and uber-fun to read and participate in. You probably already know about Jim and Scanners, but I honestly couldn’t have excluded this blog for a dumb reason like familiarity. It’s been too important to me to do anything other than celebrate it.
Sunset Gun and the MSN Movies Filter blog are just two of the places Kim Morgan calls home on the Internet. I discovered Kim’s writing last year, around the time that Jim Emerson began his Opening Shots Project, when my wife handed me an article written by her that she thought I’d enjoy. To say she was right would be an understatement. Kim and I established an e-mail connection not long after that, and when I began reading Sunset Gun regularly, I was delighted to discover someone of the female persuasion who shared my enthusiasm for classic Hollywood film noir, horror films and, most particularly, the down-and-dirty thrillers of the ‘70s. (I leapt for joy when she posted an enthusiastic bit about one of my favorites, Race with the Devil.) Kim is one of those rare writers who isn’t afraid to post her feelings, passions and even peculiarities on her sleeve and make explicit connections between her own personality and the films she writes about, and she has a punchy, accessible style that fits those methods perfectly. She’s a University of Oregon homey too! And she recently sat in for Roger Ebert across the aisle from that guy who seems afraid of anyone whose taste strays even slightly off the beaten path (she mopped the floor with him, of course). What’s not to like?
In his blog Bad for the Glass, the man formerly known as That Little Roundheaded Boy now regularly trolls the mean streets of American pop culture, past, present and occasionally the future, in a trenchcoat, smoking unfiltered Chesterfields, and asking only a nominal fee plus daily expenses. The Shamus has a long memory—he knows his ‘60s-‘70s music inside and out, he’s sharp as a tack on all kinds of films (though he don’t like horror) and often he’ll rattle off 100 great things about John Wayne as easily as some of us can order lunch—and he has a short fuse too—he’s one of the rare bloggers who’s not into archiving old material or even latching on to one particular template for long, so if you read something of his you like, print it out, because it may not be there next week. He and I will occasionally duke it out over a movie like V for Vendetta or an inescapable phenomenon like the Oscars, but it’s always with mutual respect. The Shamus (TLRHB) is one of my original blogging friends, and he’s always a delight. (Oh, and a look at the image the Shamus uses to represent himself ought to give you a clue as to the meaning of the title of his blog, if you haven’t already figured it out.)
And I know I’m breaking format, but here's one to grow on: Damian Arlyn’s Windmills of My Mind. Damian is a video store manager in Corvallis, Oregon, and his writing and ambition have really been a pleasure to experience. The two of us can’t agree about certain movies, but Damian has a real seeker’s sensibility about him and an openness to other points of view that is refreshing, even if he can’t be beaten and humiliated into submission and agreement! Damian’s blog is definitely one to watch as the summer progresses, because he’s cooked himself up a doozy of a challenge—he’s giving over the 31 days of August to a career retrospective of his favorite filmmaker, Steven Spielberg, a massive undertaking that should be loads of fun to read and participate in. Windmills has plenty of other goodies to enjoy too, so get to it! And Damian, that 1941/The Boys from Brazil double bill is a standing date for when next I get to Corvallis, Oregon!
Saturday, June 16, 2007
"Bring Me the Heads of Five Bloggers..."