Monday, November 23, 2009

A WEEK'S WORTH OF GRATITUDE



When I was a young boy a very wise school teacher once told me to never keep all my thanksgiving bottled up for the official holiday but to spread it throughout the whole year. I certainly remembered that instruction (I was a second or a third-grader, I believe), but I sometimes wonder if I do very well at honoring it and living it out. If so, then good grades all around. But if not, then I can only ask for the indulgence and forgiveness of everyone around me who deserves better. Let this week be the reckoning and the restitution.

To my dear wife: Life is often unkind or indifferent, and I’m thankful for you that you are neither of those things. When things are difficult, just like when they are happy and healthy, I hope you know you have a place to rest in me. And when times are happy and restful and less stressful, as they will be one day, we will know that we are stronger and happier for the things we have endured together. Despite what you are convinced is true, you are beautiful, and the love you dole out daily is awe-inspiring. I love you!

To my beautiful daughters: The love I have for you and the pride I take in you is immeasurable. Thank you for fulfilling every dream I had of what being a daddy could be. Even when you’re obnoxious and loud and full of beans, I always try to balance my love of peace and quiet with the knowledge that the noise you two make is usually a happy noise. From such a din I sometimes need a break, but it’s a din I couldn’t live without.

To my parents (all four of ‘em): Thank you for the love and the good sense you’ve managed to pass along to two generations now. You all worry too much, and we try not to give you too much reason to do so, but even when you do we are grateful that underneath the worry is genuine love and concern. For all you give and receive, thanks a million times over.

To my best friend: It’s so easy to take for granted that the people who mean the most to us will always be there. Well, you’ve always been there, even though our lives have rarely set us in the same place at the same time for very long. I’m thankful that the opportunity exists that soon we might be within a few miles or so of each other again, and that we might be able to sustain our treasured friendship on more than just phone lines and the magic of e-mail. Thank you for everything you do to help keep me sane and happy in the knowledge that there is someone far away who really knows me.

To all of you who offered your congratulations on SLIFR’s fifth anniversary, much gratitude, more than I could ever express. For those who left comments underneath the post, if you go there you’ll find more personalized responses from me. But I did want to take the time to write something to express my thankfulness to each of you who contributed to the fifth anniversary post itself with your generous thoughts and spirit.

Joe: Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that you would ever become a regular reader of this site, or that I would have had the honor of interviewing you twice! But I couldn’t be prouder that you are and that I have. All my best for The Hole and whatever is up your sleeve next! And needless to say, I look forward to running into you at a screening somewhere, or perhaps even at Dante’s Inferno III next summer?

Brian: You are truly too kind, but nevertheless I really appreciate all the support and enthusiasm for this blog that you regularly share with your readers. It’s a real honor to count myself a peer amongst the likes of you.

Jim: I will never forget the day I saw your link and your long piece after you stumbled upon SLIFR and the Professor Van Helsing Quiz. I felt like people who were the perfect audience for this blog might finally get a chance to read it and either embrace it or reject it for themselves. And judging by the up-tick in traffic that began that week and has built steadily ever since, I can say without hesitation that the day you discovered SLIFR was the day this blog truly started to come alive. Thanks so much for your support and the occasional argument (Speed Racer, no surprise!) and the proof that a real friendship survives the disagreements and learns to thrive because of them as well as in spite of them. And thanks for providing daily inspiration as to what a film blog can be. I hope someday to rise to the standard you set.

Peet: You were there on the ground floor for me, even though you’re half a world away and we never even talked face to face until about a month ago—and that was on Skype, so the real face-to-face meet has yet to occur. You’ve been endlessly encouraging and quick to offer the strong words that need to be heard on occasion too, and I really appreciate how you’ve shared with me aspects of the projects you’re involved in and allowed me the feeling of being made a small part of your creative process. I look forward to the day when all that distance can be breached and we two friends can shake hands and share a hug in real space.

Glenn: I’m still a bit in awe of being able to so easily trade thoughts and writing with someone as talented and prolific as you, someone I’ve read for so long and never imagined I would one day be in contact with. Thanks for your fine writing and your passion, for the sense I get from everything you write that it all matters.

Lauren: I will always be indebted to you for your talent and empathy, but also for your appreciation of the rain, especially the Eugene rain, which is originally what drew me to your writing and inspired me to contact you. Thank you so much for what you’ve taught me about the writing process and for being a good friend. It was really wonderful to finally meet you this past spring!

Kimberly: You have never failed to make my jaw drop just a little over the fire and wit you bring to your web site, not even to mention the encyclopedic knowledge of a stripe of cinema that most well-read cinephiles might easily turn up their noses over. I don’t remember who ran across whom first, but I do remember thinking that in having you and your writing enter my life I had encountered a kindred spirit, one who I knew would always know what I was talking about and who would undoubtedly be able to steer me into dark, jewel-encrusted corners of genre cinema that I wouldn’t have had the knowledge or the nerve to gravitate toward otherwise. Thanks for truly being that spirit!


Don: In regards to my ever-expanding appreciation of your redheaded progeny’s fifth outing, I can only say that one of the reasons we (I) see movies more than once is not just to get the same things out of them as before, but the hope of perhaps getting more, or with luck hearing them speak to things about me that have changed somehow, even to show me the ways in which I was seeing things that initially weren't quite right, how they may have been skewed by circumstances. So if we can be affected by our moods or our preconceptions to the negative, then it makes sense that the opposite is also true. And if that means getting to know you better has given me a better insight into what your movie is and what it's up to, then I will cop to that! Besides, enthusiasm is an impossible thing to fake (at least for me). I know there are those who will roll their eyes and mutter on occasion, "Oh, here he goes again about Seed of Chucky..." But I've enjoyed the process of coming to my senses too, and I hope that gets translated as much as anything else. Most of all, I’m exceedingly grateful that you, in the spirit of a good-natured exchange, contacted me after reading that review. What was it that Bogart said to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca? Oh, and at the risk of my cinephile street cred, I still like Seed of Chucky better than Blow-Up.

Mystery Man: I don’t know who you are, but your taste is impeccable!

Bill: One of the genuine delights about blogging for me has been meeting a new voice coming out of virtual space, that voice becoming a presence in the comments column, and then striking out and creating a blog of style and importance in its own right. You’ve always been a fine, quick-witted, deep-digging writer on The Kind of Face You Hate, which is why I wanted to associate with you on the Inglourious Basterds project—I trusted that your insights and skill at expressing them would prod me into keeping pace and give plenty of avenue for rich and heated discussion, and I wasn’t wrong. That was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had as a blogger or writer or both, and it got even headier when some of the big guns decided to get involved. But throughout the history of our association I’ve always appreciated our disagreements as much as the agreements, because out of those come some really keen insights, and I’m proud to say none of them ever resulted in anything but mutual respect. Finally, on a personal note, I recall that you were the first to contact me when I first let out the news of my diagnosis with adult onset diabetes. I will never forget the spirit in which you offered your words of realistic encouragement to me, words which made me realize that such a diagnosis was a far cry from a sign marking the end of the road. Bill, I’ve never been to Virginia or our nation’s capital, but on the off chance that I get there someday, the diet sodas, and everything else on the menu, are on me.

Ray: Discovering your essay on Nashville was one of the highlights of an entire lifetime of reading about movies. What an honor that you would grace these blog with your kind words. Thank you.

Ivan: Yet another tale of the fires of an unlikely friendship stoked by the wonder of the Internets! Ever since I met her my wife Patty would tell me tales of this wonderful guy she knew in college named Ivan Simon, whom she always held in such high regard. So when she found you on Facebook and suggested that we become friends, I have to say I was a little intimidated! But she thought we’d have plenty to talk about, you being a teacher, me wanting to be a teacher someday. And we did—but who knew we’d have just as much to talk about regarding the movies. I am exceedingly jealous that, living in San Luis Obispo, you get to go to the spectacular Fremont and the homey Sunset Drive-in any ol’ time you want, and I’m so glad that we were able to share the joys of Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man together. (Re the Coen Brothers movie, I probably won’t get a chance to really write about it until the end of the year, but until then I refer you to the pieces by Bill Ryan and Greg Ferrara that I will have highlighted in the next post, two of the best, most intellechewy pieces of the movie I’ve seen anywhere.) And I look forward to the day when you are reunited with your old school chum and you finally get to meet her husband, who already counts you among his most valued friends. Thanks for the kind words, Ivan and for fighting the good fight in the classroom.

Chris: For your take on the title of my blog alone I am grateful. But you have brought so much to the table in the comments here that I can’t imagine what SLIFR would be like without you. Your testimony is all the evidence that I’ll ever need that simple agreement on crucial topics isn’t a requirement for appreciation of a writer, and even if there is agreement there is always room for eloquent disagreement as a vital subset of the original position. Of course, when we do agree on a film like Speed Racer it’s a pretty wonderful thing to discover another writer who coveys ideas with such zeal and conviction that I’m constantly nodding and grinning, as I often do when I read your pieces, saying to myself, “Damn it, if I could only have written that, or written it that way!” Thank you ever so much, Chris, for your beyond-the-pale contribution to these birthday festivities. And the next time you spy me skulking around the New Beverly (or anywhere else), daughter in tow or no, please say hi. It’ll be totally my pleasure to shake your hand.

Tom: They talk about generous bloggers, and when they do if they’re not talking about you then they need to be corrected. (Instructed in the proper, that is, not corrected in the Philip Stone Shining sense.) The images you provide at your site, ad the ambience you create there, result in one of the most unique sensibilities on the Internet, which is saying a lot when everybody and his donkey seems to want to weigh in on Watchmen or The Dark Knight or the weekend grosses and damned little else. Thank you for all the joy and enrichment you and your blog have brought to my life personally. You’ve provided me with more audio connection to Pauline Kael than I ever thought I have to hear in my entire life, and I owe to you the picture that heads my sidebar, a picture of a mitt-wearing Sergio Leone catching a baseball that so perfectly encapsulates the spirit and the title of this blog. For that and so much more I am grateful, especially that I feel justified in calling you my friend. I continue to look forward to any place and time where your name shows up attached to a piece of writing or yet another evocative, free-associative, richly detailed photo series.


Charley: Back in the early ‘80s, when I was first dipping my toes into the world of writing film reviews (my small-town newspaper gig from 1983-1985 would be the one and only time I’d actually get for the privilege), I used to read about young writers (including, probably, you and David Edelstein and others) who would write to Pauline Kael, send her samples of their work and sometimes eventually even get to know her. I used to gnash my teeth because I had no idea, back in those dark days when VCRs still seemed magical, how to begin to look her up. Not that I necessarily would have had the audacity to send her anything I’d written—my work was pretty basic, but still beyond what was being served up at any other paper in Southern Oregon in terms of detail and willingness to dig beyond the surface of a press-release type review, yet I was always getting cut mercilessly (no surprise) for length and I lacked a certain level of confidence, both in my manner and in the writing itself. Some 25 years later when, as you rightly say, every Tom, Dick and Hargrove can post without even the slightest consideration whatever fool thing flies off the top of his head, Internet film criticism is more easily accessed but is often not worth the relative trouble it takes to click the mouse. In this regard, I feel honored to have struck up the kind of exchange with you, and with David, and with your wife Stephanie, that has allowed me to interact with film critics I’ve respected an admired for years on somewhat the same playing field. You have always been one I’ve enjoyed tussling with when reading your pieces, whether I agree with you or not. And I will always be grateful for your opening my eyes to Showgirls. Your willingness to consider that movie on its own terms, by what it spoke to you, conventional wisdom be damned, not only allowed me to see the movie afresh, it also empowered me to not only write about the movie myself but claim that spirit of audacity, the freedom to write about whatever movie I wanted to as long as I could communicate that kind of passion in my reasoning. Without your piece on Showgirls, I might not have had the nerve to stand up for 1941 or Mandingo or Speed Racer, and those are pieces that have come to define the attitude I take toward movies as a critic. Even to call myself a critic—what balls! Thank you for helping to instill the feeling that I wasn’t entirely delusional in making such a claim.

Bob T.: I have always appreciated your openness and genial sensibility, and you’ve always managed to translate what comes across in your blog so well to wherever you show up to make comments and interact that I always brighten up a little when I see your name under something I’ve posted. Thank you for your kind words and for enjoying the personal touches that make writing this blog even more meaningful for me. I feel too like I can apologize about that whole Blue Monday thing now that the Expos have gone on to that field of dreams. That you would even consider rooting for the Dodgers now means a lot to me too!

Keith: Thanks for your Up Close and Personal thoughts! The work you do with The House Next Door continues to inspire me and countless others, but I think bonding over a shared appreciation of a movie as clearly fine and badly dumped-on as The X-Files: I Want to Believe may mean even more to me. It’s nice to know there is someone else who understands the love you have for certain movie orphans, especially when that person is as intelligent and articulate as you are. One day Ali will get us all together and we can toast Gillian Anderson in person. Until that day, I will constantly look for your name and your thoughts as one of the most trusted critics in my esteem. (And speaking of motherless movies, what did you think of Orphan?)

Mike: There have been many highlights for me that have resulted from writing this blog, but meeting you has been one of the highlightiest. I don’t know many people as genuine outgoing and friendly, as so passionate about a certain sport and a certain team, as you, my friend. And it tickles me that I enjoyed your movies so much before meeting you, yet it was you who acted like meeting me was a big deal the night when Don was feted at the Horror Movie Awards a couple of Halloweens ago. I really appreciate your support and your friendship, and my kids and I both would like to pass on our appreciation for Curious George and Firehouse Dog. Knowing you’re out there reading SLIFR makes me wanna keep it going and keep it good. Thanks, Mike!

Bob W.: It has been my great pleasure to meet you, hash over old times we never knew we shared, and expose you, a self-proclaimed gore-o-phobe to both Seed of Chucky and Drag Me to Hell on the two occasions we’d seen a movie together. If you wanna go more genteel next time, Bob, I ‘m game—you’ve certainly earned it! And I am more than happy to that our association has been in some ways mutually beneficial, because as unlikely as it seemed that anyone would ever end up reading this blog, it seems even more unlikely that I could steer attention to other writers like you who deserve to be read and appreciated. If SLIFR has done this for you, Bob, I couldn’t be happier. Here’s to many more years of harvesting good film writing and thinking in the pumpkin patch of the blogosphere, and here’s to making real friends out of reel ones and zeroes. Thanks so much for all your encouragement and support, Bob!



To all the readers here who lurk and who make themselves known, happy Thanksgiving!

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7 comments:

bill r. said...

Thank you very much, Dennis, for all your kind words. I think you probably know that the feelings you expressed are %100 mutual, but just in case you're unclear: The feelings you expressed are %100 mutual.

I know you were probably a little bit overwhelmed by all the goodwill that came your way recently, but it's posts like this (well, all of your posts) that bring this stuff out in people.

Also, while it would be fantastic if you could travel out here for a visit, who's to say I can't wing my way westward to see you? Greg and I can hitch a plane out together!

As for the the personal note...you know, I get down about it sometimes, to be honest, but then I look at the reality of the situation, and realize that my fate is actually still very much in my hands, and look at people who've been dealth much MUCH worse hands, and I think, "Well hell...I ain't got it so bad." Not only that, but look at how long Wilford Brimley and BB King have been hawking their favored products! That must mean something!

Three weeks until the INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS DVD...just thought I'd throw that in.

greg6363 said...

"White meat, dark meat. All will be carved."

Ali Arikan said...

What a wonderful post! And, yes, I really hope we can all get together some day. Like so many others, I am proud to call you a friend, Dennis.

Peet Gelderblom said...

Back at ya, Dennis!

Kimberly said...

Thanks so much for the super kind words, Dennis! I'm really thankful that I've got to know you during my adventures in blogging and I'm always impressed by your own film knowledge as well. I hope you and your lovely family have a fabulous Thanksgiving!!

blaaagh said...

Thank you, Dennis, for being such a steady presence and such a source of support, wit, fun and insight (and about ten thousand more things!) over these many years. I am most grateful for you.

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