It’s June! To celebrate, I offer you an alternative to Alex’s Stay In and Watch Some Stuff suggestion. Get our there and live your lives, readers! We didn’t collectively survive a polar vortex just so we could remain indoors during the precious weeks this city doesn’t feel terrible outside.
Way, way back in kindergarten – somewhere around 1992, if my memory doth serve – I distinctly remember a journal entry I was asked to write. (Go ahead, try and remember what you were writing about in kindergarten. I’ll wait.) The topic was “What games do you like to play at recess?” In these journals, our teacher was looking for a minimum of one (1) word, which could be accompanied by pictures to better illustrate the nature of the physical activities we were getting up to for fifteen minutes a day five times a week. Many of my colleagues wrote simple entries about the joys of playing kickball, tag, or the legendary game of “slide”, which involved a stick figure standing halfway down a right angle triangle that would have given Pythagoras nightmares for millennia. My teacher, poor Mrs. Richards, went around the class, reading them out loud for everyone to share. Naturally, a fair shake of trouble-makers had not participated, which led to much laughter and consternation amongst the class.
Finally, she arrived at my desk. I proudly/simply handed over my journals – I had been unable to decide upon a single game that would accurately define how I spent my time at recess, and so I had provided not one, not two, but three journal entries. (This indecisiveness would become greatly reflected in my extracurriculars and career choices for years to come.) Mrs. Richards took them up, cleared her throat, and prepared to read them out loud.
Then she stopped.
“Yes, Mrs. Richards?”
“What’s this?” She showed me the second – already out of order! – of my highly detailed journal entries, utterly baffled by what I had created.
Okay, I am going to do this in much more concise fashion this year, since I never even finished all my write-ups about the best stuff on TV from last year. The top ten TV shows of the year will each get a few sentences and then it’s just lists, lists, lists. Hope you like lists!
I’ve been putting off summing up my experience of the year 2012 in cinema for a while now. It just seems that I never see enough to really pass judgment on a year until 1/6th of the next one has passed. Part of that is just the general lethargy of me not seeing half of what I want to on time. But there’s also a big part of me that doesn’t want to write an article like this until I can bitch about the opinions of others, namely the voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So I will get to my overall thoughts on the cinema of 2012 in a second article, first I have to get rid of my venom in this one.
In specific I want to tell you, dear readers, that the Academy gave its highest honor, the Oscar for Best Picture of the year to a film that is wholly undeserving of such praise. Now this is not an unusual occurrence. In the past ten years I have agreed with the Academy’s choice all of once, when the Coen Brothers won top honors for their 2007 Western/Noir/Existential Philosophy Think-piece No Country for Old Men. That’s not to say that I hate every Best Picture winner. I have absolutely no complaint with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Departed, The Hurt Locker, or even The Artist winning it all. There were movies I preferred to all those films, but they are all good to great films that deserve to be seen and stood out against the films they competed against at the Oscars. That’s not something that I can say for Argo, the film that was named Best Picture of 2012. I know my esteemed editors here on The Addison Recorder have sung the praises of Ben Affleck’s Iran Hostage thriller in their own 2012 pieces, but my opinion runs rather dramatically counter to theirs.
Oscar nominations come out on Thursday morning (7:30 CST for our loyal local readers), a couple weeks earlier than usual. Since I have spent way too much of my life reading, writing, and thinking about this annual race to milquetoast immortality it seemed prudent for me to create a little pre-nomination primer. I’ll check back in after nominations are announced and again closer to the ceremony in February because I nerd over this like Travis nerds over baseball hall of fame ballots. I’ll go over Best Picture in detail and then just post my prediction for the other major categories (acting, directing, and writing).
The “Major Contenders” Group:
Zero Dark Thirty
Les Miserables (requisite UGH)
Hey, remember this? I have no explanation as to why it has taken me a month and a half to finish off my list of TV’s best, but here we are. Having previously listed my Honorable Mentions, Standout Performances, Episodes, and Moments, as well as spots #10-#3 on my list, it’s time to finish the whole thing off and reveal my top two shows from the 2011-12 TV season, each of which will get an entry. Today:
2. Mad Men
Picking up where we left off two days ago, Alex and Andrew continue to debate Sight & Sound’s list of the “Greatest Films of All Time.” Be sure to check out Part One if you missed it.
Alex, I grant you every single point about Citizen Kane…I find the story as compelling as you do, and the idea that it takes an entire cast of characters to make an individual life is a profound one which may never have been as fully realized as Welles and Mankiewicz realized it. This being said, your description of Kane could just as easily be applied to Jay Gatsby, Julian English, even Michael Corleone in his way…and I have felt much more emotionally overwhelmed by The Great Gatsby, Appointment in Samarra, and even the two Godfathers (even though I’m not a giant fan of part one) than by Kane. Maybe my problem is I always come at film more from the writing/story perspective than the pictorial/mise-en-scene perspective. I hold both as the two equal standards of judgment, but the story takes precedence only because of my turn of mind. (And I’m not saying you discount story…I know you and your love of movies too well to make such a horrid and untrue claim…but you and I see movies from slightly different angles, just slightly, but still.)
Anyway, my point: with Gatsby, English, Corleone, Scottie, I see them as Shakespearean tragic heroes, good men brought to death, be it actual or spiritual, by a flaw. Kane is never presented that way, which makes empathy for him harder to obtain…and on the one hand, this may part of the brilliance of Citizen Kane, that the protagonist is so down-to-earth and recognizable and presented without either endearing or purely villainous qualities…Kane is neutral, is Everyman despite being the MAN among men, is recognizable. But at the same time, Welles’s refusal to give the adult Kane, his Kane, any character trait I can relate to beyond his very human ambition, anything which makes me feel involved with him, means that I only appreciate the film for that intricate and dense plotting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a film, a novel, anything with a whirling story like Kane which is so well-told. And I will never deny Kane’s greatness for an instant. You will see it appear on my own top ten list at the end of this reply because I know how much we all owe Welles. I am simply trying to understand why people are now disinclined to rank it as number one, and I think it is because it lacks the pull on the heart, even though it may be the darkest corners of our heart, which is found in Vertigo.
The list is out. For a certain brand of cinephile, yours truly very much included, that can only mean one thing. Once a decade the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound magazine polls the world’s leading film critics and directors, and compiles their list of the “Greatest Films of All Time.” This tradition started back in 1952, and has continued apace since then. Sight & Sound takes the measure of the cinematic canon every ten years so as to avoid momentary effusions and measure long-term trends. Other groups, most notably the American Film Institute, have crafted rival lists that hope to match the original for prestige and influence. The explosion of the internet has also created a surge of lists, from the venerable like They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They, to the ridiculous, such as the IMDb Top 250. But the Sight & Sound list rises above them all, and today it unleashed something of a sea-change.
For the first time since the inaugural list in 1952 (which crowned Bicycle Thieves), Orson Welles’ landmark debut feature Citizen Kane has not been voted into the top spot. Instead, Alfred Hitchcock’s lurid and mysterious Vertigo has ascended to the pinnacle, rising from a second place finish a decade ago. I’ll get to the importance of all this in just a moment, along with the myriad other interesting tidbits raised by the new Top Ten, but first the list. (Please note, I will be referring to the Critics’ List unless I note otherwise. I like and respect the Directors’ lists, but I tend to think of it as being akin to the Coaches’ Poll in college football: interesting but perhaps not as well informed.)
1. Vertigo (1958, USA, Dir: Alfred Hitchcock)
2. Citizen Kane (1941, USA, Dir: Orson Welles)
3. Tokyo Story (1953, Japan, Dir: Ozu Yasujiro)
4. La Règle du jeu (1939, France, Dir: Jean Renoir)
5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927, USA, Dir: F.W. Murnau)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, USA/UK, Dir: Stanley Kubrick)
7. The Searchers (1956, USA, Dir: John Ford)
8. Man with a Movie Camera (1929, USSR, Dir: Dziga Vetov)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, France, Dir: Carl Theodore Dreyer)
10. 8 1/2 (1963, Italy, Dir: Federico Fellini)
So, Andrew, what are your thoughts on Kane being dethroned by Vertigo? Or is that not even where your thoughts landed when you saw the list?
Picking up where we left off last week, I am continuing my run through the best that TV had to offer this past year. This week I am listing off spots ten through three from my top ten list. I tried to write out what made each of these shows special and worthwhile, though none of them got the space for consideration and praise that they truly deserve. That being said, I realized before I even wrote this that the two shows that top my list will need a ton of space just to get all my thoughts about them into coherent order. So they will get their own posts in a few days. Until then, enjoy this section and take a guess as to what my top two are.
Oh, and if you haven’t yet, check out my Honorable Mentions and Individual Citations list first. Enjoy!
I watched more great TV in the past season than I can ever remember doing before. This is a big, bold statement, essentially saying that the best of TV in the past 12 months stands up to the best of any other such period, ever. But, hey, I lead with it, so I stand by it. If you want to be on the bleeding edge of what is current, great, and vital to American popular culture right now, turn on your TV (or download lots of videos off the Internet, as I too often did).
So, without much ado I want to get on to the listing and such. There will be two distinct parts to this article: first, the list of my picks for the top ten programs that aired from June 2011 to June 2012. Each show will get a brief write-up arguing my case for it, and the top two will get another, longer article devoted to them soon. I will also call out what programs deserve an honorable mention, and those that I missed and should not have — you can all take me to task for that. After that I will go through and list of some of the individuals or specific episodes that deserve a special mention outside of the list. Enjoy!