Okay, these things are supposed to be once a week, not once a month or whatever it keeps being lately. Still getting into the groove. Working it out. In the meantime, this will be a supersized edition – most links are within the last couple of weeks or so, but there are some exceptions where I felt the post warranted it. :)
Several posts popped up celebrating Marilyn Monroe’s birthday on June 1st, and I think this one my Kim Morgan is my wistful favorite – it’s wide-ranging and really gets at the person beneath the myth, something a lot of commentaries on Marilyn Monroe fail to do. See also The Lady Eve of The Lady Eve’s Reel Life discussing Marilyn’s final film The Misfits, a post that fits both Marilyn’s birthday and the Horseathon that was currently underway, sponsored by My Love of Old Hollywood. Also, Bobby Rivers at The Cinementals has a great post about Marilyn’s ability to make dorks and nerds feel loved.
The recent Mary Pickford blogathon generated a number of good posts, and I really enjoyed this one from The Cinementals. Yeah, I’m going to be linking The Cinementals a lot from now on, so just get used to it. They generate an awfully lot of high-quality content, and it’s getting to be one of the premier sites for classic movie fans. Anyway. Here Carley talks about Pickford as really the first big Hollywood celebrity – and how that differs from our current definition of the term. Also check out Page‘s picturiffic post about Pickfair at My Love of Old Hollywood, and Brandie‘s exploration of the working relationship between Pickford and writer Frances Marion at True Classics.
Also celebrating a birthday this month was the wonderful Judy Garland (see my tribute), and Lara goes into Judy’s legendary wit, while also pointing out that it was something of a public front for her. Fascinating commentary, and the section about the candid interviews revealed a side of Judy that I didn’t really know about. See also Aurora‘s tribute to Judy at The Cinementals, and Ryan McNeil‘s perhaps fortuitously-timed Blind Spot review of A Star is Born.
The Latest Whither Criticism Kerfluffle
Seems like there’s a big debate over the “value of criticism” or “what is criticism” or approaches to criticism or what have you that takes over a bunch of the big dog film critic blogs for a while every six months or so, and even as they get repetitive, I always enjoy reading them. The current topic is the common one of film critics vs. mainstream opinions, kicked off immediately by a video podcast from the New York Times featuring film critic A.O. Scott and media commenter David Carr. Appalled by Carr’s lack of logical rigor, Jim Emerson analyzed the crap out of the video, while Glenn Kenny offered his thoughts on criticism itself. Meanwhile, others looking in, like the excellent amateur blogger Velvet Cafe (whose blog is a must for extremely well-written personal experiences with movies) wondered why all the fuss over such a trifling video. I left my own long comment on Velvet Cafe’s blog, but the gist of it is that I agree with Emerson, though I’m not as angered as he was. The video mostly just made me frustrated that the level of discussion it displays is considered adequate in any way. It’s a ridiculous video, and while it might not be worth getting up in arms over, Emerson’s breakdown of it is exactly right. If this is what passes for critical discourse at the New York Times (about criticism or anything else), then we’re in a bad way.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy are independent films. Does that statement make you go “whaaaa?” the way it did me? Check out Kristin Thompson’s extremely interesting article about big-budget independent films, which are financed not by a big studio bankrolling things from the start, but from international distributors putting up a portion of the cost up front for a share of the profits. That system is extremely risky when it comes to something the size of LOTR, but it paid off extremely well in that case, giving smaller distributors around the world a lot more cash for a few years to invest in other properties. With New Line Cinema, at the time functioning as a wholly independent producer, now subsumed into Warner Bros, who will take their place, and what blockbuster franchises can hope to be the next indie cash cow? Thompson looks to Lion’s Gate, with its recent take-over of the Twilight and Hunger Games franchise. In any case, Thompson’s look into this specific type of distribution is very interesting and enlightening.
Chris Edwards already runs one of the best silent film-related blogs out there at Silent Volume, and now he’s contributing at The Cinementals, as well, with a series on getting into silent films. He’s already into the series for real with a post on starting with silent shorts, but I’d like to highlight his introduction post as well, which wonders why there’s an apparent divide between classic film fans and silent films – in other words, why do so many people who love classic films draw a line at silents in a way that they don’t do for black and white, older acting styles, etc. There are a number of suggestions proffered in the comments, including lack of availability, even more different style, and lack of continuity between the silent and sound eras. It’s an interesting question, for sure. Definitely stay tuned for the rest of Chris’s posts, especially if you’re interested in getting into silent film. Also on topic and at The Cinementals, Trevor Jost runs down his favorite silent films.
The other “best silent film-related blog other there” (in addition to the previously-mentioned Silent Volume) is easily the Mythical Monkey Writes About the Movies, where the Mythical Monkey ostensibly writes about his choices for the Silent Oscars (if there were such a thing), but actually writes excellent long-form essays about all manner of silent films. This entry is about the career and influence of Cecil B. DeMille, who is often derided today for his love of populist spectacle, but was, in the 1920s, one of the most highly respected and influential directors in Hollywood. There are good reasons for this, and I’ve got to say, I’ve heartily enjoyed all of the silent DeMille films I’ve seen, which isn’t something I can say for all silent filmmakers.
A bit of a self-plug here. I was on the Demented Podcast a few months ago, and my score on their ridiculously hard trivia game was good enough to get me a spot in the Battle Royale, where the top five scorers of the podcasting season play off against each other for the championship title. Lots of great trivia, lots of fun, and lots of laughs are traded here. What’s that? Oh, how did I do? You’ll have to listen to find out!