Friday, July 16, 2010


Hey, kids, SLIFR and I are on top of the moon this week!

It’s been a very busy, very heady week for me and for Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. I finally got to see Despicable Me-- I loved it (review forthcoming). It has the punch and wit of the best politically incorrect Warner Brothers cartoons, a great eye for exploiting 3D (stick around for the end credits) and toying with an audience's expectations for it, and a hilarious script that never pushes for effects or jokes too hard.

Secondly, the imbroglio over Inception and David Edelstein’s much-maligned negative review brought much attention to these parts, not least of which from Roger Ebert, who tweeted the message “FWIW, I think it’s perfectly permissible for David Edelstein to dislike Inception.” (How reasonable! Kids, this is a good example of how to approach an opposing opinion—Ebert gave the movie four stars.) What’s more, Ebert attached a link to my piece on Patrick Goldstein’s weird rant to his own comment, and I found out in very quick order just how many people follow Ebert’s every tweet. My traffic on Wednesday went through the roof—an all-time high—and though it dropped precipitously the next day, it’s still running above average through the end of this week. (And no, all you hotheads, I did not write the piece to attract attention from the likes of Roger Ebert for the express purpose of driving up my traffic. On very rare occasions it just happens that way.)

But there was a much nicer surprise in store on Wednesday that had nothing to do with Roger Ebert, Christopher Nolan or Patrick Goldstein. Internet friend Ted Haycraft left me a message on Facebook (“Have you seen this yet?”) along with a mysterious link which led to the web site for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, specifically the on-line edition of Film Comment and an article by Paul Brunick entitled “IT’S ALIVE!: The Top Film Criticism Sites: An Annotated Blog Roll”. The article, part one of an extensive two-part piece on Internet film criticism, is far more open-minded than mentions on this digital-age phenomenon have been in the magazine in the past, and there’s a lot of good information to be had and debated within it. But the really cheery part of the article came in Brunick’s long sidebar, into which he leads with the following:

“The projects included here span a wide range of genres: digital film journals, multi-writer theme sites, side projects of film studies academics, digital outreach by professional print reviewers, and, above all, the personal blogs of unpaid enthusiasts. Our only criteria for inclusion were that (a) posts must be written primarily in the English language and (b) the content must be specifically produced for online consumption. The selections are unranked and in randomly generated order (our highly sophisticated algorithm is modeled loosely on the perennial schoolyard favorite MASH).

For years now, Internet film critics have been relentlessly dumped on by many (but by no means all) in the legacy media. Though they’ve gotten little in the way of social recognition or financial compensation, cinephile bloggers have filled in the gaps of mainstream review coverage, corralled hard-to-find source materials, enriched cinema’s theoretical vocabularies and historical narratives, and shared their personal obsessions in often fascinating, hilarious, and deeply affecting ways. I feel personally privileged and just really fucking happy to shine a light on their work—all of them life-affirming examples of democratic participation and humanizing cultural exchange.”

Wow. That’s enough to put a smile on this Internet writer’s face already. And “unranked and in randomly generated order” or not, it was exceedingly thrilling to see my good friend Farran Nehme Smith and The Self Styled Siren right at the top of the heap. The list would be littered, as it turned out, with good friends and Internet acquaintances, including Acquarello’s Strictly Film School, Rumsey Taylor’s Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Glenn Kenny’s Some Came Running, Dennis Lim’s Moving Image Source, Tim Lucas’s Video Watchblog, the eponymous blogs of Girish Shambu, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Dave Kehr, Greg Ferrara’s Unexplained Cinema, Jim Emerson’s Scanners and such essential sites as The House Next Door, Senses of Cinema, DVD Beaver and even Ain’t It Cool News.

And smack dab in the middle of that list was an entry for Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule!

As I said to the list of folks whom I e-mailed immediately with this giddy-making news, this honor has to be counted as one of the highlights of my writing life, if not my life in general. I started this thing off with zero expectations for an audience or even my own ability to sustain it past a couple of months or so. Instead, SLIFR is going on six years, has brought me many new friends and has allowed me to keep the company and be mentioned in the company of the kinds of people who do such good work on all those sites mentioned. I am honored beyond even my own capacity to articulate and understand at this point. Wednesday was a pretty good day, and this news has sustained by spirit and renewed my drive to live up to the enthusiasm of the likes of Paul Brunick and Violet Lucca (who wrote my entry on the sidebar). Thanks to each and every person who has helped me get this blog into the seventh month of 2010. Hopefully you know who you are. Many of you can be found on that list too.

The list is located on the site for The Film Society of Lincoln Center and also at The House Next Door, which cross-published it with Film Comment and Slant magazine. The full article, with a brief tag directing readers to the list, will also be available in the hard copy of the latest issue of Film Comment, available on newsstands now. (It’s the one with the picture of Leo on it.) Mine just came in the mail!



The Film Doctor said...

Congratulations, Dennis! Your work clearly deserves the honor, and I was not at all surprised to see your blog listed.

Don Mancini said...

As Gru would say: "THAT'S what I'm tal-KING...a-BOUT!"

Philip Concannon said...

That is indeed a great honour and you fully deserve it, Dennis. Congratulations!

Bryce Wilson said...

Congratulations Dennis.

This is about as well deserved as it gets.