Saturday, June 16, 2007


"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!


Lester said...

Dennis, congrats on being tagged. Thank you for your mention of my readership of this blog. I enjoy reading your comments about movies, and at your urging I have visited each of the blogs that you have tagged at one time or another. There are some pretty damn good writers out there who have some very interesting things to say about movies, and you are right in the midst of that heady bunch of writers. I am proud, no I am damn proud of you, cousin.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I think I've known you for about as long as you've had this blog and I gotta say that I've come to really appreciate and respect your love of all things movie related. Your are a real film fan and as such are the best authority on what a film fan feels about films.


Anyway, if someone has tagged you for this award I could think of no one who deserves it more. Except for Kim Morgan. She's much more attractive than you buddy. Sorry, had to go there.

Dennis you are dude!!

Damian Arlyn said...

Thank you so much for the shout-out, Dennis. You are a scholar and a gentleman. My only regret is that I am unable to return the favor. Had I been selected for this Award by someone else, I definitely would have chosen your blog as one of my five.

Also, I know exactly what you mean about the sense of "validation" you received from Jim Emerson, Matt Zoeler Seitz and co. I experienced the same thing when Matt referred to me as a "critic" in one of his posts on House Next Door. Me! A real, honest-to-God critic! That felt good! Well, your tagging me for the "Thinking Blogger" Award fills me with the same sensation.

Okay. Okay. As Dabney Coleman says in Tootsie: "Enough of the Mutual Appreciation Society." I gotta get to work on my own five blogs to tag. Keep an eye out for that post and thanks again. :)


P.S. I'm still open for that 1941/Boys from Brazil, double bill. I only recently wathed Spielberg's movie again and finished writing my post about it. Without going into detail on what I said (you'll have to wait until August like everyone else), I will let you know that my opinion of the film essentially hasn't changed but, for reasons I will elaborate on in the piece, my willingness to occasionally revisit it has.

The Siren said...

Wow, thank you so much, Dennis! I am going to give this some serious thought on my end. So many great bloggers, and only five choices? *racks brain*

Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Thanks so much for the kind words about my blog Dennis. You made me blush.

It might take me awhile to post a similar list since I'm knee deep in a bunch of other things, but I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks again!

Larry Aydlette said...

Dennis, I just logged back in after a week off for vacation and what do you give me...MORE HOMEWORK! You're going to make a great teacher! That's really nice of you to tag me. Of course, you picked many of the blogs I would have automatically picked, with you at the top of the list. I'll have to get my head out of the vacation clouds, but I'll try to respond soon. The idea of having the word "thinking" associated with my blog is too much to resist. Thanks again for the kind words. As I always say, without your initial encouragement, I wouldn't still be here driving people crazy with my changing web addresses and templates.

Anonymous said...

You da man, Dennis. I've just spent a day and a half in a state of indescribable delirium, where I thought I was having a prolonged heart attack (I felt like I had a dying fish in my chest), food poisoning and/or flu. Finally reaching some semblance of consciousness Wednesday noon. And I came to to your kind words! I'm feeling better already...

Dennis Cozzalio said...

To Peet, David, Brian, and Matt, Keith, Jeffrey and all the good folks at the House, I hope it's clear that mentioning you all in the opening comments of this blog was my oh-so-clever way of expanding a list I'd already planned to inflate past the imposed limit of five to include four more blogs that I really couldn't do without. (Kids, in the future you have my permission to consult this post as empirical proof that five really does equal 10!)

Damian: A chink, if not a full-on crack, in the 1941 armor?! I can't wait for August! :) Soon you'll be singing that John Williams march in your sleep, soldier!

Campaspe: You're very welcome. I'm really looking forward to your list, because I bet I'll be introduced to at least one or two blogs that I've never seen before! And yeah, that five choices thing, as you've seen, was something I really had to work hard to find a way around!

Cinebeats: Finding a good, smart horror site is easier said that done, and I'm really glad I somehow stumbled upon yours. (I wish I could remember how, exactly-- guess I'll just have to chalk it up to good old-fashioned luck.) And thanks for the thoughts on Hostel II. Though I'll be on vacation for the next six days, I'll try to post some reaction to your comments too. By the way, Jim has started up a very interesting conversation about the movie here. I really liked his concluding thought.

Shamus: And I want that on double-spaced pages with a header and page number in the top right-hand corner of every page! Where'd you go on vac? I picture you and the family unit in some mountain resort somewhere. Don't know why! And by the way, I didn't even have to think twice-- I knew your blog would make the list! I'm just glad I got to you before someone else did!

Jim: Holy hell, I hope you had someone taking care of you. Your experience sounds nightmarish-- literally so-- and that dying fish imagery puts me in mind of The Host for some reason. I'm really glad you're feeling better. I finally got to Knocked Up Sunday night (and ducked into a late show of Ocean's 13 afterward to make me feel better about the $11 ticket price) and I was bowled over by it. It's a much more solid movie than 40 Year Old Virgin (which I loved), and I thought your characterization of that confrontation scene between Rudd and Mann when she finds out his secret was spot on-- you're never led to an Apatow-approved response as to what's transpiring there, and as a married man I found myself switching gears about every 30 seconds, from horror to amusement, to pain of self-recognition, to a kind of appalled glee that everything about the scene was so right, and yet so difficult, and that Apatow didn't go for the easy laughs. I promise I'll check in at your site for more. And I wanna drop in on the Eli Roth discussion too-- I will do so when I get settled up in the Beaver State on Friday.
Get well, my friend, and thanks again for the great work you do. Oh, and by the way, I got an e-mail from Milan Pavlovic the other day-- my issue is in the mail!