Friday, August 10, 2007

Off the Blogging Grid

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a much needed vacation to Myrtle Beach. It's been a long enough summer as it is, and this is coming at just the right time. So for nearly a week I will be "off the grid", at least in terms of the blog. I will still have all the other other electronic annoyances with me, but this marks the first occasion on which I will be away from this or any blog for about a week, and I'm not really sure how I feel about that. Writing and reading film blog articles is such an important aspect of my daily life that I'm sure it will be difficult to cut myself off. Nevertheless, being away from it all will probably provide me new life and insights into my writing and that of others. Like I said, I won't be completely cut off like I would be at some lake somewhere in the Pacific Northwest for a week (though someday I'd like to do that), but this time away from home and the blog should give me some time to enjoy family and friends while also relaxing, watching movies, and reading. In that regard, I'm looking forward to this week off. Before I leave, I will highlight a number of blog and print articles (a la David Hudson at GreenCine Daily) that I've been reading over the last week, as well as what books I will be reading over this short break.

Though this project probably needs no plug from me, I have to point out one of the most ambitious and all-around accomplished film blog projects I've seen this year: Damian Arlyn's 31 Days of Spielberg. Being an unabashed Spielberg fan and scholar myself, I look forward to Damian's terrific posts about each of his films every day. He approaches each movie equally as an unapologetic fan as well as an informed writer; this unique combination provides the flow and insight of each of his entries in this daily series. Though he is currently only up to 1981 --with about a quarter century of Spielberg's films left to go-- we are already seeing the beginnings of a very memorable project. When I return from vacation next Thursday, Damian's blog will be the first place I go to catch up on what will likely be a couple hours worth of great reading. [Note: For thoughts on the emerging plagiarism scandal, click here]

Speaking of Spielberg, seeing these chronologically ordered analyses of Spielberg's films is in itself a fascinating project. This got me thinking about another outstanding blog project, Jim Emerson's Opening Shots Project. As I read Damian's thoughts on almost each opening shot of Spielberg's movies so far, I realized how interesting it would be to examine all of Spielberg's opening shots in relation to each other. As Jim observes, an opening shot can tell you a lot about a movie. But looking at a director's oveure of opening shots may tell us hidden things about a director and provide insight into her or his artistry. I'm not sure if this will be something I pursue as a companion piece to the 31 Days of Spielberg, but it's definitely something I've been thinking about lately.

Anyway, here is a short list of some of some other notable articles I've read recently:

-- Henry Jenkins has recently posted an in-depth interview with Kristin Thompson, author of the upcoming book, The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood, which I can't wait to get my hands on. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films are loved by many moviegoers and blasted by most "sophisticated" critics, but the films remain in my mind a great cinematic achievement. Thompson, one of the cinema's premiere scholars, clearly loves the movies and examines them in light of their success and resounding influence in pop culture and today's media economy. If you enjoy reading her work or find Jackson's films worth paying attention to from any critical perspective (aside from the quality of the movies), check out this interview (Part 1 here, Part II here, Part III here).

-- Tram Ngo examines the problematic male perspective in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up.

-- Though I have only seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou only once and was not entirely won over, I have to admit that several sequences and images from that movie have stuck with me over the years. Now, having read Ryland Walker Knight's provocative essay on the film, I am intrigued to see it again. Even if you haven't seen the film or didn't like it, the essay is extraordinarly written; a bridge between poetic insight and academic prose.

-- Something that I am greatly looking forward to returning home to (besides hosting an end of the summer fiesta) is David Lynch's Inland Empire, which will hopefully be waiting in my mailbox. As a digital cinema enthusiast and a huge fan of the brilliant Mulholland Drive, I just can't wait to see this film after all I've read about it. Pacze Moj has recently put together a striking piece centered around various images from the film that's worth checking out.

-- IFC's 50 Greatest Sex Scenes may be the definitive countdown of sexuality in cinema. There have been many lists in the past, but this Top 50 hits all the bases and is notable for its shear variety. The list represents not a hypermasculine approach to sexuality in cinema. It does not prize the male gaze above all else; this alone makes it worth reading. The list captures the many manifestations of sexuality made visible in cinema. I only have one nitpicky concern, and that is why Cronenberg's Crash is not on the list. For me, that is the only glaring omission.

-- Jeremy C. over at Austintation, a new film blog, has put together a collection of images from Michael Mann's extraordinary Miami Vice. Appropriately, Jeremy does not supply any commentary. The images speak for themselves.

-- Looking at Ecological Theory and Hollywood Cinema, Brian E. Butler's article in Film-Philosophy represents an interesting juxtaposition of seemingly incompatible theoretical concepts.

-- Finally, In light of the recent news regarding the forthcoming definitive DVD release of one of my favorite films, Blade Runner, I thought I might highlight David C. Ryan's Senses of Cinema article, which takes a retrospective look at the film, its themes, and its resonance today. Much has been written on Blade Runner over the years, but Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece is one of those films that will always seem like not enough has been written about it. It's a rich film with unmatched atmospheric tones and compositions, and it will be released on December 18, 2007.

While away, I will have the chance to dive into a number of books I just received, the first of which is Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, which I have read about half of at this point. It's an outstanding book that deeply analyzes a number of trans-media narratives and events in pop culture today. The book also offers an insightful account of electronic and digital media and how they influence social interaction. I'm inclined to agree with the quote on the front of the book citing Jenkins as the 21st century Marshall McLuhan.

I will also continue reading David Bordwell's Narration in the Fiction Film. During my last vacation earlier this summer, I started reading it but only made it through the first few chapters. When I returned, I was knee-deep in class reading and didn't get a chance to finish the rest of this book. Now, finally, I can pick up where I left off. If the remaining several chapters are as good as the first three or four, then I'm sure I'll learn quite a bit.

I would as well like to get started on another book that I recently purchased, Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram. Along with this and the piling research I have for the SCMS blogging workshop in March, I should have my hands full as the Fall semester approaches. If I ever get sick of all this film and media writing, which I find that often I do, I'll catch up on reading Harry Potter; I'm currently about midway through book six. Since reading fiction keeps me sane (along with watching movies), I think I'll have to make a point to at least finish The Half-Blood Prince over the break, after which I will probably plow through book seven.

That about does it for me. Have a great week, and expect me to return next Thursday with a post or two.


Damian Arlyn said...

Thanks for the plug, Ted. I can always use more. Have a great vacation. I just got back from one myself and it was fabulous. I hope yours is even half as good as mine was. See ya soon! :)

Austintation said...

Lol, well, at least promote something I'm sort of proud of. ;) Anyway, I just watched my brand-new copy of "Inland Empire", so I'll be dedicating the next week to swallowing up that masterpiece (It's currently my 2nd favorite film of all time). I'd also like to add that I wouldn't mind helping you out with some sort of an opening shots project, for I and my other contributor, Ben, were looking at doing such a thing ourselves. Thank!

Ted Pigeon said...

With all this work on digital cinema I've been doing lately, I am really looking forward to Inland Empire. A few days more and I will see it, finally...

Austintation said...

Ah, yes, I [heart] DV. It might be one of the 5 greatest things ever to happen to the medium, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Damian's blog on Spielberg has been accused of plagiarism on the forum discussion list: