Monday, November 30, 2009


Flemish painter Gabriel Metsu's The Sick Child (1662)

Feeling not so well after a lovely Thanksgiving. Hope yours was just as good, sans racking cough, insistent wheeze and cemented sinuses. In the event that I'm out of commission for a day or two, that's the reason. Thanks for all the great quiz responses so far! Mine are due up when the coconut ceases throbbin'! Till then...



”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ... I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.”

– Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal, 1729

Citizens, I come here today not to suggest we eat our young. Neither did Jonathan Swift, actually, but given this country’s current anti-intellectual bent and distrust in some circles for anything beyond bubba-speak and homegrown mea culpas, satire is, more than ever before, what closes, and gets boarded shut with rusty nails, on Saturday night, is likely to get you burnt at the stake in the town square, or at the very least excoriated by the brainiac likes of Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin. Despite our tendency as loving parents or relatives to express our enthusiasm for our young in cannibalistic terms (“I could just eat you up!”), even posting a picture like the one below is probably just as likely to affirm certain beliefs and prejudices as it is to expose them as nonsensical. And there are still some who choose to believe that Starship Troopers was about the heady rush of killing giant bugs.

Therefore I choose to hold dear Swift’s mightily ironic Proposal on its own brilliant terms, to cherish it as an essential element of my personal library, along with other great inflammatory works of social commentary as Twain’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic—Updated” and to steal from it only its modest title and re-jigger a line or two in service to my own very modest proposal for how to take the blues out of holiday movie-going.

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through the malls and faceless shopping developments of this great country when they see the velvet-roped lines leading up to the box-offices of worn-out cracker-box cinemas of ancient design and multimillion-dollar multiplex facades alike crowded with filmgoers of the female sex, boyfriends in tow, being dragged to Twilight-New Moon or whatever Christmas-themed comedy or Robin Williams-John Travolta disaster for the umpteenth time. The only sight sadder than boys mooing in unison behind their girlfriends is the prospect of these same cud-chewers saving up their goodwill for having endured last week’s Date Night Chick Flick in anticipation of (what else?) making Jenny or Bobbie Sue turn around and line up for Avatar.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of ticket buyers willing to exercise little or no discrimination when it comes to the effect of being bombarded by TV advertising and babbling junket whores, in the arms or at the heels of their significant others but sometimes shuffling aimlessly, alone, toward their studio-predetermined destiny with becoming $8-12 less rich at the feet of the weekend’s anointed crap-tastic epic, is in the present deplorable state of the fiefdom a very great additional grievance. Therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of encouraging these moviegoers to become sound, useful members of the commonwealth in support of the distribution of alternative holiday film-going choices, including the investigation of the offerings made at whatever local repertory establishment might be available, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

It is not for myself or my own enshrinement that I would endeavor to propose such an unlikely occurrence as mass turning-away from the likes of Avatar or Did You Hear About the Morgans? or Nine or Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, however good, bad or indifferent they may each turn out to be. There is no way to stop the likely crush at box-offices showing films like these from people desperate to be separated from their hard-fought earnings. However, I would like to propose, given that there are four full weekends of big studio choices yet to be unloaded before the end of the year, that when determining which film to see perhaps at least one movie beside the big hype machine of the weekend should be considered, especially when such a choice is, if there are other family members involved, likely to run into the $60-80 range, when snacks, parking and/or baby-sitting fees are factored in.

I know that at first this sounds like some kind of sacrilege. But movie executives are not preachers guiding the flock to the most fulfilling experience possible, and I dare say if Christ himself came down off the cross and extolled the faithful to go see Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes he’d be less effective than the current studio-orchestrated ad campaign (what with those crucial Burger King tie-ins and all) which promises a more muscular, AVID-accelerated sleuthing experience. And it is entirely possible that a movie which may not immediately enrapture the senses with its hard-boiled, 25-words-or-less premise, or one without the ringing familiarity of a Hugh Grant-Sarah Jessica Parker romp or a weepy family drama starring Robert De Niro, could provide its own unexpected pleasures. (The key word being, of course, unexpected, for nothing, it seems, is such anathema to modern movie-going audiences as some element of a film they have not already be exposed to in the incessant trailers and TV ads rearing back and taking them by surprise, making them feel something other than the processed emotions they have taken as a guarantee with their ticket purchase price.)

Never heard of The Lovely Bones? Why not take advantage of the seemingly limitless sources on the Internet which can provide relatively bias-free information about the film’s themes, its content, or even the filmmakers who made it. Curious about odd-sounding titles like Invictus? There are already intelligent voices out there suggesting that Clint Eastwood’s movie might be an excellent alternative when those screenings of It’s Complicated are all sold out. The modest proposal of this piece, therefore, is to simply consider something other than one’s first choice when it comes to holiday movie-going adventures, to take a step away from the studio-certified-and-anointed offerings, to look closer at the tinier print ads in the overwhelming movie sections of the local newspaper. These are where movies like A Single Man can be found, and where some theaters in some cities may still be showing worthy leftovers from October and November such as A Serious Man, Fantastic Mr. Fox, An Education and The Maid.

But you already look there, don’t you, Dear Reader? It might be a fair criticism of this proposal to note that most of the people likely reading this are already of a certain cinephilic bent and therefore automatically inclined to eschew (or at least consider eschewing) the latest blockbuster based on advertising and glowing box-office standings. (Did a movie ever actually get better, or more attractive, simply because it was “The #1 Hit in the Country!”?) But cinephiles can betray a herd mentality too, Yours Truly included, and if we look closely enough we can challenge ourselves in the same way. If, for example, you are a Los Angeles film geek devoted to the monthly schedules of the New Beverly Cinema or the Cinefamily and you absolutely love and appreciate the off-the-beaten path cult cinema those two venues have thrived in offering over the last couple of years, you could challenge yourself by adding to your diet of Grindhouse Tuesdays or Midnight Fridays or HolyFuckingShit! Saturdays one of the many choices you might not automatically gravitate toward and expand your cinematic horizons in the process.

Right now, for example, if you're in Los Angeles this week you can treat yourself to a restored version of Jacques Tati's comic masterpiece M. Hulot's Holiday (1953). This restoration is touring the country and will likely be arriving at other Landmark Theaters locations across the country soon. The new Cinefamily calendar for December is not yet available at this writing, but on December 11 and 12 at the New Beverly, for example, you could take in a sublime Preston Sturges double feature, The Palm Beach Story (1942) and Sullivan Travels (1941), which will not only teach you everything you need to know about American movie comedy—and one of the most underrated of Hollywood film actors, Joel McCrea, who stars in both pictures—but will also without a doubt outshine anything opening at the multiplex that same weekend, and at close to half the price. Instead of staying at home and running Raging Bull on your home theaters system, you could venture out into the community and see rarely screened prints of John Huston’s highly-regarded Fat City (1972) and Ralph Nelson’s feature adaptation of Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) instead, movies that paved the way for the grueling realism Scorsese brought to Raging Bull’s violence and its sweat-soaked milieu. The very next weekend, December 18 and 19, brings a double feature to the New Beverly screen that ought to be irresistible catnip to any self-respecting movie fan, a chance to see two of Billy Wilder’s least frequently exhibited features, Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter and Erich von Stroheim in Five Graves to Cairo (1943) doubled with Bing Crosby, Joan Fontaine and Richard Haydn in The Emperor’s Waltz (1948). Neither film may be considered a classic on par with Sunset Boulevard, but for completists and others concerned with tracking and understanding the career of one of Hollywood’s great writer-directors, they are both essential and enormously entertaining, and again a damn sight safer bet that anything on Big Hollywood’s docket for the weekend before Christmas.

Finally, the New Beverly ushers out the old year with a three-night engagement of a film that used to be a staple of its calendars in the days when Michael Torgan’s father Sherman was operating the theater. I like to think Michael is paying tribute not only to the wisdom of his potential audience but to the programming acumen of his dad in returning Marcel Carne’s stunning wartime classic Children of Paradise (1945) to the New Beverly. This is a rare opportunity to see a film many consider the greatest ever made, one which many of us have never seen projected properly. My own experience with it is restricted to one god-awful 16mm screening in college, and though yours may be slightly better—that old Criterion DVD, or a VHS transfer, perhaps—I’d wager you still need to jump on the chance to upgrade and see Arletty and Jean-Louis Barrault enact their tragic love story the way movies were meant to be seen. Children of Paradise was not only a New Beverly staple, but a staple of exactly the kind of challenging, world-aware repertory cinema that was emblematic of the programming of repertory houses throughout the country in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when college film societies and revival houses thrived in concert with each other to service a younger, more risk-taking college-age crowd of cinema lovers. These audiences regularly gambled the $2 or $3 or $4 admission on names and faces and films they’d never heard of in the hopes of seeing not just a movie, but perhaps experiencing an epiphany, a sudden turn along the path that might lead them to explore other avenues of film, and art in general, that they might not ever have considered important or fascinating or germane to their existence before. The prices are a little higher these days, but still about half what you'd spend to enter a multiplex-- the New Beverly's admission is a shamefully low $7. And it is this sense of film history, these ties to the tradition of film-going as a living, breathing experience that programmers like Michael Torgan, Hadrian Belove at the Cinefamily, the crew at LACMA here in Los Angeles, and other venues as far flung as Austin, Texas and Seattle, Washington, are striving to keep alive. By stepping outside your circle of taste, by trying something new, you’re casting a vote of confidence not only that these venues will be able to continue their mission in the face of mighty and near-overwhelming odds, but also in your own desire to stretch the boundaries of your own experience, to test uncharted waters, to give the movies an opportunity to touch you directly, unexpectedly, with passion and intimacy. My modest proposal is that you dedicate at least the price of one admission, whether it be to a local repertory cinema or in renting a classic which you've never seen, toward taking that kind of chance this holiday season.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


It’s been a good long while, relatively speaking, since any of the prestigious SLIFR faculty has been tapped to create a movie quiz for the faithful (if slightly masochistic) readership of this blog. And we figured that in order to find the best person to handle the task of a creating a quiz that would be unprecedented in its volume of questions, one that would cover the breadth of the holiday season, we would have to go to the man or woman who exhibited the sheerest of confidence in the face of an overwhelming percentage of likelihood against one’s projected outcome, someone not at all uncomfortable with flying directly into the harsh winds of posted odds and all good sense. After some debate within these hallowed halls (a debate which partially accounts for the lateness of the quiz’s posting), we felt that the only logical choice was perhaps our most ingenuous and inspired teacher. We turned readily to our most illustriously logorrheic staff member, physics specialist and jack-of-all-trades Professor Russell Johnson, and it is our good fortune to report that he readily accepted this latest in a long line of career challenges. Professor Johnson, who has long since abandoned his given name in favor of that of the lantern-jawed ‘50s contract player whom he uncannily most resembles, and whom gained immeasurable pop culture cachet as the nom-de-plumeless Professor on TV’s Gilligan’s Island (“It used to get me girls,” claims the dotty scientist), came up with several great questions, and some that were determined to be insufficient for the high standards established by other quiz-writing professors who have tried their hand at this game. (Professor Kingsfield left the room in a huff when presented with Professor Johnson’s potential query, “How many Double Stuf Oreos can you eat during a screening of Werckhemister Harmonies?”) So for this quiz Professor Johnson, only slightly miffed at his colleagues’ dismissive attitude, proposed that the student body itself be polled for possible questions that could substitute for the ones rejected from Professor Johnson’s submissions. This turned out to be a smashing idea, and the response was enough to make the professor admit that some of his ideas weren’t all that spiffy. (“That Sutpen kid—give me what he had for breakfast! And Gelderblom—the Kennedy/North juxtaposition is genius. I couldn’t think of anybody but George Lazenby to pair with Kennedy, and that’s for shit!”)

As always, when answering the questions please be sure to cut and paste the questions and write your answers underneath so that when your answers are displayed in the comments section it’s easy to recall what the answer is in reference to. Also, a reminder about Blogger’s relatively new 4,000-or-so character restriction on length of comment. Most of you will need at least two or three separate posts to post your completed answers under the quiz post here at SLIFR. Do not worry about taking up too much space. As long or as short as you want to go, it’s always fun reading your answers and it causes no technical inconvenience or hardship for your complete answers to be posted here. If, however, you have your own blog and would like to post the answers there, that’s cool too—just make sure to leave a link where we can go to read and enjoy them wherever they may be. So, without further ado, we present Professor Russell Johnson’s “My Ancestors Came Over on the Mayflower” Thanksgiving/Christmas Quiz. As the title implies, we here at SLIFR University hope to be receiving your submissions all the way through the Christmas holiday and into the new year. I promise too that I will submit my own answers in a timely fashion before the end of the year. (Professor Johnson may be dotty, but he’s a hothead about missed deadlines.)

Have fun, folks!


1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.

2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible? (Question submitted by Peter Nellhaus)

3) Japan or France? (Question submitted by Bob Westal)

4) Favorite moment/line from a western.

5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s (The Naughties?).

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?

9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film (Submitted by Tony Dayoub)

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.

12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?

13) Which DVD in your private collection screams hardest to be replaced by a Blu-ray? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?

15) Actor/actress who you feel automatically elevates whatever project they are in, or whom you would watch in virtually anything.

16) Fight Club -- yes or no?

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.

19) Best (or worst) death scene involving an obvious dummy substituting for a human or any other unsuccessful special effect(s)—see the wonderful blog Destructible Man for inspiration.

20) What's the least you've spent on a film and still regretted it? (Submitted by Lucas McNelly)

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?

22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.

23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.

24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.

25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.

26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald? (Submitted by Larry Aydlette)

27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?

28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?

29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?

31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.

33) Favorite movie car chase.

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film. (Submitted by Patrick Robbins)

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.

37) If you could take one filmmaker's entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.

39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?

41) Your favorite movie cliché.

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.

44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.

45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?

47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director. (Submitted by Patty Cozzalio)

48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending. (Original somewhat ambiguous submission---“Something about ambiguous movie endings!”-- by Jim Emerson, who may have some inspiration of his own to offer you.)

49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?

50) George Kennedy or Alan North? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)


Monday, November 23, 2009


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!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Way back when, in the dark ages just after the turn of the century (21st), when the word “blog” was more likely to conjure images of congested sinuses than opportunities for personal expression on the Internet, I began reading Jon Weisman’s Dodger Thoughts, a blog devoted to analyzing and processing the experience of being a thinking Dodger fan (not, as some of you might be thinking, a mutually exclusive proposition). As I followed how Jon used the format to consider and critique not only the Dodger organization and individual games, but also the intricacies of the game at large, and also to interact with his ever-growing readership, I began to think about starting my own blog. Finally, in November of 2004 I screwed up enough courage to create a template, come up with a name (The Good, the Bad and the Dodgers) and dedicate my first post, an introduction and a sort of mission statement which was designed to clarify my purpose as much to myself as to anyone who might actually stumble across this embryonic, anonymous site. I wrote that I did not want to “contribute to a junk Internet culture that values quantity, immediacy and accessibility over genuinely considered thought, cogent analysis and good writing” and expressed a hope that “after time there might be… a coherent feeling and approach on this blog that might attract a readership with a reasonable anticipation of what I might be up to and, of course, a desire to follow along.”

But at the beginning I knew I was only writing for myself and for what few friends and relatives I could cajole into occasionally checking my new project out. And before the pixels on the first post were even dry I reconsidered that title, which I felt was going for a certain evocation and juxtaposition of subject matter but hadn’t quite made it there. The title I replaced it with worked better, I thought. It is the one that remains on the header to this day. My first real post, an article previously written for my own amusement and practice, came in at just over 7,000 words. I assured my reader afterwards that it was an anomaly, that I didn’t have the energy or drive to write articles of that length on a regular basis. And I got a lot of free advice from friends who suggested I keep my average about 6,000 words shorter, at least, because surely no one would ever have the patience or attention span to slog through a blog loaded with similarly logorrheic epics.

It took nearly seven months of sitting online for that article to generate a comment, and when it did the comment seemed to confirm the wisdom of my friends’ advice. The author was one Frobisher, and here’s what she/he said, in its entirety:

“ After reading your blog may i be presumptious enough to say you could have done with serious sub-editing. It was long-winded and bloated, sometimes less really is more!”

My response, either consciously or unconsciously, framed the terms of debate that I hoped would stand as more and more comments hopefully began to come in:

“ Frobisher: You may. Thanks for checking in. How did you get here? And what did you think of some of the other pieces?”

I didn’t care that she/he thought the piece was overlong and long-winded nearly so much as that she/he somehow got here, read it and was willing to talk about it. My dear wife, however, took umbrage under the assumed name she decided to use when responding on the blog and stood up for her husband in her typically sharp-tongued manner:

“ Frobisher, may I be presumptuous enough to introduce you to capitalized words and Webster's 11th edition?”

And a little over two years later, someone named “Frank Booth” (much nicer than his PBR-swilling rep) felt compelled to chime in, and he started his comment with a nice bit of encouragement:

“Nice blog. Long-windedness be damned--it's your party, ramble if you want to.”

It was May 2007, two and a half years later. The train was a-rolling. We were halfway then to where we are now. November 15, 2009, two days ago, marked the fifth anniversary of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, and as Frank Booth suggested in evoking the anguish of Leslie Gore, I’m throwing a party. I never thought I would still be writing this blog five years after I started it, and I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t made a lot of excellent friends along the way. Along with everyone who might be reading this now, I’ve invited some of those friends, old and new, to join in our little anniversary wingding. And there will be music, comedy, some odd and lively and strange moments to watch and savor, some of which are directly related to things I’ve written about here, and some only representative of the spirit which I hope reigns here and runs untethered. But most of all I just want to send out thanks to anyone who ever read anything I wrote here over the last five years, and especially to those who then wrote back with their own thoughts and started a real conversation. It’s that desire for communication, inspired by the investigation and understanding of what movies can mean when they are at their best, and what it means when they’re not, which I hope carries this blog into the next five years, and beyond.

“Everyone has a few websites they visit frequently, especially movie lovers. Among the very best of these is Dennis's eccentricly titled SLIFR, which I've become pretty addicted to. In addition to providing links to other worthy sites and Blog-a-thons, Dennis provides informative commentary and opinions on everything from Eurohorror to indies to TV and current releases. Best of all, it's fun. One of my favorite sites, and not just cuz he says nice stuff about me. Honest. (Okay, I admit it, I do like that part)” – Joe Dante, director (Gremlins, Explorers, Matinee)

"Dennis Cozzalio might truly be the most remarkable figure in the film blogosphere: a man of indefatigable energy and admirably broad tastes who somehow manages to seemingly see everything, and to write about it with wit, grace, passion and depth. On top of which, he is as humble and good humored as anyone you're likely to encounter on the Internets. That shimmering landscape he calls Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule exists to remind us all of what the blogosphere could be, if we only relaxed and engaged with our peers in a spirit of open, seemingly endless generosity. Dennis makes writing about film seem like a party, and everyone is invited." – Brian Doan, Bubblegum Aesthetics

“It was, as I recall, the late summer of 2006 -- a very dark time. My friend and colleague Roger Ebert had suffered an arterial hemorrhage July 1 and nobody knew what the prognosis for recovery would be. Or, if they did, they weren't saying, and like many others I was wracked with anxiety, worried sick about his condition. Meanwhile, I was running a web site called… without Roger Ebert. This is an impossible thing to do, let me tell you.

A few months earlier, we had moved my blog Scanners out from under the URL and onto an actual MoveableType blogging platform, and I was able to persuade the Chicago Sun-Times to let me open it up to reader comments, something we'd never done on the main site. Frankly, working alone in Seattle, with Roger incommunicado, was making me not only worried but lonely.

Something had to be done. I decided to reach out to the movie blogging community, under the naive assumption that there was one. Turns out, there was, and one of the first people I reached out to was Dennis Cozzalio at the delightfully named Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. (I had been a huge baseball fan in the mid-to-late 1980s -- especially the 1986 Mets and then Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers after I moved to Los Angeles in 1987.) I came across one of Dennis's wonderful quizzes -- but the thing I liked most about it wasn't his clever questions, but Dennis's own answers. I mean, this sounded like a guy who could be a friend of mine. I wrote about it on Scanners.

Today, even though we've never actually met face-to-face, Dennis is a friend of mine. And through him (or in concert with him) I've found some of my other favorite hangouts in the movie blogosphere: The House Next Door, That Little Round-Headed Boy (who's been through several other incarnations), girish, Self-Styled Siren, Cinebeats, Flickhead, If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger…, Cinema Styles, Arbogast on Film, Like Anna Karina's Sweater, The Kind of Face You Hate… There really is a community of serious-minded (but funny), knowledgeable (but not ostentatious) movie writers out there, and Dennis seems to be at or near the heart of it all.

If you've spent much time at all at SLIFR, you know why. The guy is amazing: smart, inexhaustible (how about those periodic, comprehensive LA repertory round-ups?!), articulate (clean, too), incredibly generous… and just fun to be around. Not a month has gone by since that day in 2006 that I haven't learned something really valuable from something Dennis has written. And this is a guy with a full-time job, a Lovely Wife and two Lovely Daughters, who went back to school to get an education degree, who actually teaches, and who also enthusiastically devotes himself to the celebration of drive-in movie culture. I get exhausted just thinking about him. In a good way.

What more can I say? Dennis, my most heartfelt congrats on five years of SLIFR. Long may its marquee glow!” - Jim Emerson, Scanners

"Dennis Cozzalio embodies everything I look for in a film critic. His writing is honest, informed, open-minded, sensitive, exuberant, analytical, passionately opinionated but never, ever condescending. For filmmakers, he's the perfect audience. For the rest of us, he's the ultimate movie guide." – Peet Gelderblom, filmmaker, cartoonist

“Why is SLIFR such an exemplary blog? Because Dennis Cozzalio combines a veteran historian's erudition and a great critic's perceptive eye with the infectious attitude of a lifelong enthusiast. It's a rare, heady mix that always makes for exhilarating, provocative reading. Happy anniversary!” - Glenn Kenny, film critic

“There are close to 115 million blogs out there. Technocratic estimates that 60-80 percent don't make it past the first month. Dennis has been blogging tirelessly (well, I bet he gets tired sometimes) for five years. It's hard to keep up the momentum, not to mention the creative energy. As a fellow blogger, albeit a reluctant blogger, I salute Dennis and wish SLIFR a happy 5th and many more.” – Lauren Kessler, author (Dancing with Rose, Stubborn Twig, The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes)

"Dennis obviously loves to write and he's damn good at it, but I find his generous spirit and willingness to support his fellow bloggers truly inspiring. He has gone out of his way to offer me words of encouragement when I really needed them and I've seen his graciousness and kindness extended to other bloggers on numerous occasions. Even though we might occasionally disagree about a film I know Dennis is more than willing to listen to my opinion and take it to heart even if we don't come to the same conclusions. His hospitality is apparent at his blog where he welcomes newcomers and old friends in an equally friendly fashion. He is truly a gentleman's blogger if there ever was one and I take off my sombrero to the man!"- Kimberly Lindbergs, Cinebeats

“In 2006, I came across Dennis's review of my movie Seed of Chucky. The review certainly was no rave. I'd call it a tepid half-appreciation. At best. But after browsing the site (and by "browsing" I mean staying up all night to rabidly consume the site's entire contents up to that date), I quickly recognized a kindred spirit -- someone whose enthusiasms could encompass both Nashville and The Boys from Brazil. I sent Dennis a note; he invited me to meet for coffee; and we've been friends and moviegoing pals ever since. As his many readers-- fellow bloggers, print critics, filmmakers, and fans alike—can attest, Dennis is one of the finest writers about movies to have emerged from the blogosphere. And as a proud member of the SLIFR community, I have had the pleasure of getting to know (at least electronically, and in a few happy cases, three-dimensionally) the various unique voices and attendant points-of-view of my fellow citizens. I also have had the pleasure of getting to know Dennis's family, and enjoy my new identity -- given to me by his daughters -- as "the guy who always watches Speed Racer and Hairspray with us."

Regular readers may have clocked, over the past few years, Dennis's seemingly growing appreciation for Seed of Chucky. If I were cynical, or even the slightest bit realistic, I might at this point question Dennis's objectivity about this particular movie. His status as a true friend, however, has never been in doubt.” – Don Mancini, writer-director

"Dennis Cozzalio could sneeze a thousand words! And some of it's actually intelligent." -- Mystery Man, screenwriter

“I started commenting on Dennis's site about two, two and a half years ago, I think. If memory serves, my first comment on SLIFR was the first comment I left on any blog, and SLIFR was the first blog of any kind I ever followed. There are several reasons for this. One is that Dennis may well be the most welcoming blogger on the planet. Every comment is appreciated, as is every opinion -- I know this, because Dennis and I have a history of disagreeing on movies, politics, and whether or not the entire sport of baseball is a complete waste of time. But Dennis has never talked down to me, or to anyone that I've ever noticed. And given how vast his knowledge of film is, he probably could have found a couple of pretty good angles for doing just that, but he never did.

So he's a very friendly guy, so friendly, in fact, that despite the fact that I've never met him in person, I do consider him a friend. An actual friend. But since SLIFR is a movie blog, it's worth repeating that Dennis knows a shit-ton about movies. I think the first time he and I ever really connected was in the comments of a post he wrote about Jonathan Rosenbaum's post-mortem takedown of Ingmar Bergman. It was a really good conversation, and at one point I said to Dennis that, because of his writing, I'd been spurred to track down and watch Raw Meat, Charley Varrick, The Man Who Never Was, The Emperor of the North Pole and The Plague of the Zombies, all of which he had praised in the preceding months. I didn't agree with his verdict on all of those films (although I didn't actively dislike any of them, and The Man Who Never Was, for example, I thought was really excellent), but Dennis had been able to communicate his enthusiasm for each in a way that made me think, "I really need to see that." And not one of those films is any kind of high profile "classic", in the institutional sense of the term -- each has a cult big enough to keep it on video, but those films are still rarely talked about. Dennis knows that this is completely irrelevant to the quality of a given movie, and he loves stumbling onto great, forgotten genre films.

Further, his complete lack of ego regarding his own tastes is truly admirable. What I mean is, if Dennis likes a film, he doesn't give a damn what the majority opinion is. He'll go to the mat for it. Not to be contrarian, but because he enthusiasm for it is genuine. And, as I said, he communicates that. He communicates it so well, in fact, that I still feel a bit of honest-to-peaches guilt over the fact that I still haven't given Speed Racer a shot. Really, I feel bad about that. I will get around to it, though, I promise. As soon as Dennis finishes reading Flicker.

Later, I started my own blog, and a few months ago, when Inglourious Basterds came out, Dennis sent me an e-mail and asked if I wanted to join him in an on-line, co-blogging conversation about it. Brother, was I honored by that. Really, of all the great film bloggers he could have asked, he asked me. I still don't know why, apart from the fact that, despite our occasional differences of opinion, Dennis and I do have a particular affinity for various genres, but the same could be said for a whole host of film bloggers. So I was truly flattered, and jumped at it. The resulting four part series of posts is an enormous highlight of my so-far brief blogging career, and not just because we got Jonathan Rosenbaum to swoop in and defend certain statements he'd made about Tarantino's film (you can all judge for yourself how successful his defense was). That series was also a highlight because for about a week I was joined at the hip with Dennis, one of the best and brightest and justifiably revered (and justifiably beloved, on a personal level) film bloggers out there. I wouldn't have been able to write half the words I ended up typing out for Inglourious Basterds if Dennis hadn't set the standard in each post, writing gleefully and intelligently about a film too many people were willing to dismiss out-of-hand. I had to step up my game, to be worthy of the association with Dennis. Whether I did or not, I don't know, but I did my best, because the last thing I wanted to do was let Dennis down.

So happy fifth anniversary, Dennis! Callooh, callay! I hope you and SLIFR hang around for about fifty more.

Also, you're a miserable bastard.” - Bill Ryan, The Kind of Face You Hate

"Dennis Cozzalio isn't just a dynamo who's running a great blog, he's also doing some of the most engaged, robust and rewarding writing about movies to be found anywhere." – Ray Sawhill, writer

“Dennis Cozzalio blogs about film the way Manny Ramirez bats on steroids, with power, timeliness, and superhuman pizazz. Cozzalio deftly expresses his cinematic insights with the verbal virtuosity of a Vin Scully, appealing to a wide-ranging audience of movie mavens and film-viewing novices." – Ivan Simon, high school teacher, San Luis Obispo, California

“SLIFR IS FIVE! In my head, a voice says ‘Slyffer.’ SLIFR, that not-a-word acronym for Sergio Leone (and the) Infield Fly Rule, is how I mentally pronounce Dennis Cozzalio’s web log. Maybe everyone does. Of the curious (and long) title, one might observe that SLIFR contains a superabundance of commentary on neither baseball nor Leone. Nor is it fixated on the Manly Pastimes of sport and violent Westerns. Why is it even called that!? Rather than a description, is a title about the feeling and spirit of the thing.

The spirit of the infield fly rule itself is to place emphasis on talent and gamesmanship rather than, say, infielders dropping pop-ups to force out pinned-down runners. It also involves the better judgment of an umpire who is paying attention to determine if the fly ‘could’ be caught. Maybe I’m exerting extraordinary effort, but there you have it: judgment call —criticism — invoked in effort to make the game more fun for everyone.

I’m just guessing again, but I believe I first read SLIFR in September of 2006, while patrolling the Internet for reactions to Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia. De Palma is one of my favorite filmmakers, one I hold near and dear — I spent a good chunk of 2006 playing De Palma in a sketch comedy revue — and over time I’ve learned deal with the usual set of blanket dismissals leveled against the director (plagiarism, misogyny, plain meanness and whatever ‘style over substance’ is supposed to mean) by dismissing them right back. I have no need or desire for critics to echo my personal opinions back to me, and if anyone feels that way, I imagine they run out of critics to read, and quick. Anyway, Dennis did not like The Black Dahlia as much as I did (i.e. — not much and very much, respectively), but that is hardly important. The piece on Dahlia starts with a mini-essay on divisions in the way the critical community grapples with De Palma, followed by reviews of reviews by esteemed SLIFR pals Matt Zoller Seitz and That Little Round-Headed Boy. And THEN he goes into lengthy notes on Dahlia’s problem areas before circling back to its place in De Palma’s filmography. This is all cool stuff that you can’t do in newspapers, and at which a good blogger excels.

See, SLIFR is a generous blog. It is not a multiple-posts-a-day place, but it is generous in a far more useful way. The Dahlia post is just an example among hundreds, but it contains an extended, engaged essay, which wrestles with the film, acknowledges personal response, and conveys a sense of community. As any regular reader knows, each season is greeted at SLIFR with an exhaustive guide to Los Angeles revival theatre screenings and an open-entry, no-prizes movie quiz. Though I am already aware of L.A. theater schedules, and the quiz responses run into triple digits, I end up reading every last word. Every time. I have to guess at when I found SLIFR because when I bumble onto an Internet spot I enjoy, I read through the archives in full.

In November, 2006, when I learned that Robert Altman had passed away, my first thought was: I wonder how Dennis is going to take this. We become invested in the tastes of our favorite critics, even if we don’t share them. All it takes to be a good, competent film writer is a sturdy knowledge of film history and skill to articulate thoughts with words. The rarer talents are ability to forge connections to other experiences (film or literature or the social sciences; whatever), see into the code that composes the text, and apply an evaluative eye with some acumen and panache. Dennis’s writing has all those qualities, but the complete mystery factors are those SLIFR offers in spades: honesty of opinion and the ballsy seductive skill to make a reader want to hear you out. That’s what it takes to put Mandingo on your 100 Favorite Movies List and to write approximately once a week about your abiding love of 1941.

I find 1941 almost impossible to finish watching, and my favorite De Palma is Body Double, a film for which I know Dennis has no great enthusiasm. The majority of the time, and on the important matters, our tastes seem pretty well aligned... but that’s not really the point. One of the reasons I tend to prefer academic film writing and critical analysis over review-oriented writers is the willingness to spend energy and effort thinking seriously about films the writer does not like. To generalize, reviewer types and most bloggers are at their weakest when faced with movies they hate or adore. Dennis’ Black Dahlia piece runs, what, 6200+ words? It is not a sin to have an opinion about movies, even a very weird opinion. The art of criticism is one of backing it up. The next morning you may realize you don’t agree, but while reading SLIFR the point of view is always thoroughly argued, well reasoned, and damned if it isn’t convincing. At the very least, the mission outlined in Post #1, has been realized: for five years SLIFR has delivered ‘genuinely considered thought, cogent analysis and good writing’ without junking up the Internet.

In addition to passion for the noble pursuits of film and baseball, I hear that Dennis has what they call a “real life,” finding time for things like jobs and enjoying his city, outdoor activity and a family he clearly cherishes. Don’t we all have those? Real lives? And it seeps into SLIFR in the best possible way. It is in pieces about taking his daughters to see Duck Soup or High School Musical 3, or boosting for local drive-in theaters, or the epic tragic-comic-romance story of chasing down Screen World volumes, that it matters that we know — or feel like we know — something about the man who holds the opinions. Intimate personal details aren’t necessary (or necessarily desirable — honestly, I know more about Harry Knowles’ digestive system than my own), but a sense of the writer’s personality, values and extracurricular interests provides warmth and context even in deep-contemplation film criticism. The focus is still on the movies, but long-term Cozzalio readers inevitably have a picture of the master of ceremonies as a well-rounded, funny, hard-working, kind and humble human being. Even if we don’t know him personally, those are qualities put forth in the content of SLIFR itself.

More succinctly: Last year a coworker asked me, ‘Hey, do you have a movie blog? You were linked by Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. It’s one of my favorites.’ ‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘mine too.’” - Chris Stangl, curator, The Exploding Kinetoscope

“I'm not sure when I first became aware of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. I believe it was in the early months of 2006, perhaps sometime before that. In any event, the very title, the wondrous range of topics it implied, was something this reporter found instantly intriguing. It drew me, like a paper clip to a magnet; and passing it by simply wasn't an option. Thus did I first venture into what fast became, and remains, one of my favorite haunts in this man's blogosphere. Four years later, I still visit and read SLIFR regularly, enthusiastically . . . though admittedly I rarely comment (this is just my somewhat introverted nature at work; I often can't bring myself to leave comments on my own blogs); and still it amazes me. Not the volume of Dennis's writing, nor really with its always superb quality (the man knows whereof he writes; far more than some other, more celebrated voices in this concord). No, what continues to impress me no end about this blog is that it has created, and maintains, something very like a communal spirit within the film blogosphere; a true sense of Welcome. It is the least insular film blog in creation. I could try the patience of everyone reading these words by developing that point; detailing what an achievement that truly is. But I think everybody knows (or ought to know) the full context of what I'm saying here. To paraphrase something Gore Vidal once said about a certain print publication, SLIFR is the only film blog that more-than-adequately services its readers. I'm proud to testify before this committee that I am now, and will always be, one of them. Happy Anniversary!” - Tom Sutpen, If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats

“By now, is there anything more tiring than to listen to the web cheerleaders who, like digital-age descendants of Captain Video's gee whiz cadets, tell us all about how the internet is going to make everything just swell, tell us this even as venues disappear and the ones left have no place for writing that is anything more than an impotent knee jerk?The Internet has fucked us good and proper, and film criticism may be the most fucked of all. No longer do we have to listen to the loudmouth behind us at the multiplex because now he has his own site. Now every Ben, Luke, and Harry gets to blurt about what's wicked pissa this week with a sense of history that makes the guy in Memento seem like Henry Steele Commager.

Where the web has given us something can be found in the sites that are written, not just squirted out like canned cheese, where the writers are ignoring what's current (ie., what will be forgotten on Monday morning) in favor of what obsesses them, angers them, inspires them, makes them dream, overwhelms them. Writers like this, and Dennis Cozzalio is one, combine the fan's avidity, the critic's attention to nuance, the conjurer's ability to evoke, and the sense of interwined awe and recklessness that makes criticism worth reading and writing. It starts, I'm guessing, with a sense of being in thrall, of standing up, like a man facing a hurricane, to what thrills you, and respecting movies enough to know that what doesn't achieve that formidable power is a paltry thing. It was never easy to do this in print, never easy to write criticism that doesn't depend on fashion. But with discoveries being made all the time via DVD (and still, thank God, in rep houses) what's "old" can seem more vital, more alive, more pressing than this week's releases. I love Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule because it operates out of that loving demand for movies to be worthy of the power we've invested them with. If some time in the future, film criticism gets to throw away the crutches, it will be because people like Dennis kept making offerings to the movie gods. Screw the heathens! God save the believers. – Charles Taylor, film critic

"SLIFR was one of the first blogs I stumbled across when I entered the world of film blogging and it still remains one of my favourites. The quizzes, of course, are a big reason - answering them is fun, but even better is reading the great responses from the very long list of contributors to the SLIFR community. The main reason, though, is that Dennis brings the 'personal' to each of his posts that makes his writing and criticism so much more interesting, entertaining and, for me anyway, useful than many of the other writers out there. I prefer film criticism to inject the personal reaction to the art form and SLIFR provides that with each and every post. I may never forgive the Dodgers for "Dodger Blue Monday" (against my beloved Expos), but I can almost see myself rooting for them in your honour, Dennis..." – Bob Turnbull, Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind

"The subject is always a surprise at Dennis Cozzalio's blog Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Predictability is criticism's cardinal sin (and it's easiest trap), but the only thing you know for unwavering certain when going to Dennis' site is that you're going to get something up-close, in-depth & personal. Of most I'd ask forgiveness for invoking a bad Michelle Pfieffer movie to offer praise ("She eats the lens!"), but I won't with Dennis because it's entirely likely he'll publish an extended defense one day. Hey, you loved The X-Files: I Want to Believe (my brother!) and at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, anything's possible. Happy 5th Anniversary!" - Keith Uhlich, The House Next Door and Time Out New York

“There is no blog comparable to SLIFR. Bridging the gap between academia and entertainment better than any other of its ilk, Dennis C.’s sometimes endless cinemaniacal ramblings always fascinate, intrigue and amuse—without ever being self-righteous, self-serving or snarky. The film school prof you wish you had is now set to dominate a blog-niche you never knew you needed. All that, plus the best name ever! – Mike Werb screenwriter (Face/Off, The Mask)

“All good blogs are, I think, honest extensions of the personality of their proprietors. SLIFR is, by acclamation, one of the very best, and not only among cinephile sites. A scholarly, goodhearted place run by a scholarly, goodhearted fellow that takes us everywhere from the dankest realms of exploitation cinema to the joys of family and friendship, to the geekiest and most wholesome forms of bone-deep, all-around movie love, readers are hooked on SLIFR because they sense it reflects the truth of what Dennis Cozzalio is all about. There are lots of very sincere pumpkin patches on the web, but something tells me that SLIFR would be the Great Pumpkin’s favorite hangout.” – Bob Westal, Forward toYesterday and Premium Hollywood