It’s been a while since I’ve served up a weekend reading list, but I’m slowly but surely getting in the end-of-the-year/Christmas/New Year’s mood and it seemed like, what with the stack of printouts of articles to read growing ever higher on my desk, that I really should make some effort to pass along the treasures. I’ll have some treasures of my own next week, including a new quiz from the latest faculty member of SLIFR (he used to hang around in a big house with some other professors and a very sexy lady in a sparkly dress), the SLIFR Christmas Wishes List, and maybe even my own Top 10 and other 2007 awards, posted in a somewhat more timely manner than usual, even though there are many films I have yet to see. (What’s new?)
Also, while we’re talking about movies to see (Los Angeles Division), I have to own up to an incredible missed opportunity on my part to talk about the film geek university classes that have been going on down at the New Beverly Cinema since the beginning of December. Remember “Grindhouse 101” in April and May of this past year? Well, no less a cinematic dignitary than Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the brilliant Amicus send-up Don’t! has been holding court at the New Beverly curating his The Wright Stuff series. A click here will, like a knife in your heart, show you what you’ve already missed. But it’s not too late: the Wright Stuff has one more weekend, and it’s a doozy: tonight and Saturday, December 14 & 15, Wright will showcase perhaps the swingin’ 60s double feature, Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls AND the one and only Monkees movie, Head, directed by Bob Rafelson, written by Jack Nicholson, and featuring cameos by Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston and more! This is perhaps the first double bill of an “X” and a “G” film in history! And the cherry on top? Edgar will be introducing Micky Dolenz before the show!
’Cause you need to see it again: Edgar Wright’s Don’t!
I’m already paying my psychological penance for having missed Edgar’s superb double bill of Mike Hodge’s Flash Gordon and Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik on December 5 (Edgar’s guests? Prince Barin himself, Timothy Dalton, and Joe Dante!). But I’ll not make the same mistake this weekend. I’ll be at the New Beverly Cinema at the head of the line on Sunday night to see the sharp pairing of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Raising Arizona and Sam Raimi’s essential Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Word has it that there will be surprise guests at Edgar’s elbow when he introduces the films on Sunday evening too! I hope to see you there—I’ll be the guy at the head of the line with the indestructible grin on his face. (If you’re not into the whole surprise thing, the double bill shows Monday night as well.)
And since we’re plugging the New Beverly Cinema, you might want to take note of the seasonal fare the Grindhouse Gang has in store on Tuesday: Bob Clark’s seminal Black Christmas along with the notorious-for-15-minutes Silent Night Deadly Night. Now there’s some spicy wassail!
On to the reading list:
One of my favorite film critics, Nick Schager, takes a look at Five Directors Who Shifted Gears for the Better and gives some love to one deserving director who I never thought I’d have much use for (take a guess). Also essential is Slant magazine’s Year in Movies 2007 featuring Nick and Ed Gonzalez’ refreshingly dissimilar top-10 lists. “This year saw the resurrection of the western in forms both classical (3:10 to Yuma) and revisionist (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford),” writes Nick, “a comeback that speaks to the genre's enduring power, but also, perhaps, to a desire for conflicts more traditional and allegorical in nature than those provided by the literal-minded present-day war films that arrived in cineplexes to general indifference.” Both writers have lots more to inspire and provoke your passions. Don’t miss this column.
Keith Uhlich has also mounted a don’t-miss affair over at The House Next Door-- it’s a snazzy photo essay taking in ”Flames and Flashes of the Movie Year 2007 that will spur all sorts of connections and asides in your mind as you wrap up the movie year in your own head. Read the comments too.
Over at Cinema Styles, Jonathan Lapper has created an homage to one of my favorite pastimes and managed to insert me into it (sort of) as well. That’s all I’ll say except, please replace your speakers before driving home…
The excellent gathering of film critics at MSN have revealed their 2007 Year in Review. You can check out top-10 lists by some of my favorite movieheads, including Jim Emerson, Kim Morgan, Sean Axmaker, Dave McCoy and others. Also attached to the MSN holiday experience is the hopefully now annual return of what used to be a favorite feature in the Film Comment days of yore-- Moments Out Of Time, a poetically composed remembrance of great movie moments of the year courtesy of Richard T, Jameson and Kathleen Murphy.
Tangentially related, and yet not at all (huh?), is Jim Emerson’s 2007 Exploding Heads Awards (Part1), one of those delicious, caloric lists designed to jar your memory and make you go “How dare he!” and laugh out loud, often all at the same time. Naturally, part 2 can’t come fast enough!
“The golden rule, I guess, is - unless you're doing something that's absolutely a clear-cut commercial venture like a sequel to a very successful film - to follow your interests and see where they lead. Because you never know what ultimately is going to be successful. The Godfather - in the months before it came out - there was a general feeling that that film maybe wasn't going to work. Certainly when Apocalypse Now came out it was critically not very well received. But if you can just keep going, that's the key. Sometimes the films aren't well-received when they come out but then people look back on them later with great fondness and say, `I'm so glad that film was made.'"
Over at the indispensable Green Cine Daily, Michael Guillen has a sit-down with Academy Award-winning master of sound and editing Walter Murch on the occasion of his latest collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola, Youth Without Youth.
“No other director invites us to take the medium apart and put it back together again in each film, as Godard does. There's much to be learned and pondered in that operation, for those willing to undertake it, and a fair amount to be enjoyed too: Like most Godard films, Pierrot le fou abounds with isolated moments of intense lyricism, the grace notes of an artist in love with the beauty of the ephemeral.” Godfrey Cheshire locates Pierrot le fou on the pop art scale right alongside Help! and Goldfinger.
We heard about this one a couple of weeks ago over at Kimberly’s pad, and here’s more info to get excited about: Sadie Frost will star in the first original Hammer Films production in many a bloody moon, Beyond the Rave.
Aaron Hillis bumps up against John Landis and Brian De Palma with mixed results.
Stumbling upon a mini-wave of interest in Laird Cregar, Peter Nellhaus checks in on the horror of the man who led Cregar to Hangover Square, director John Brahm.
And finally, I just felt like checking in on an old friend, and it turns out he’s up to plenty: Paul Clark at Silly Hats Only is getting ready for the 2007 Muriel Awards, but that’s not stopping him from having a lot of fun. Check out the latest round of Paul’s Famous Last Words feature, the first in what one hopes and assumes will be an ongoing series, The Movies of My Life, and the freshest installment of Paul’s When Good Directors Go Bad series, this one focusing on Ridley Scott’s 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Paul and I have a comically checkered history when it comes to this column—two of my favorite movies, 1941 and New York, New York, have recently come under the strafing of his keen observations. And now I’m sure Paul will insistI’m just being a nincompoop or a petty contrarian when I reveal that, no, I don’t think much of Ridley Scott as a director (Not “Good”) and yet, though I have never seen it on the big screen, I kinda liked the delirium of Scott’s Christopher Columbus tale. I realize I am quickly cashing in my chips at the Paul Clark Bank of Credibility, but I promise to give this one a fresh look before firing off a huffy comment!
Coming next week: A look at the Best of Mr. Shoop’s Summer Quiz, the SLIFR Christmas Wish List, the World Premiere of Andrew Blackwood’s Slap, and a brand-new quiz from the newest faculty member at SLIFR University. Stay tuned!