Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Look at me, Damian! It's all for you!"

Happy birthday to me.

Hope nobody does anything too unusual at my party.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Damian's Top 100

"The list is an absolute good. The list is life."

In response to the AFI's most recent "100 Years, 100 movies" list (and since folks like Jim Emerson, The Siren and Ed Copeland are chiming in with lists of their own) I figured I would go ahead and share my list of the 100 greatest films I've ever seen. Although this list is (obviously) hindered by the large amount of movies I have not seen yet, and although it is a list constantly in flux (it could easily change tomorrow; it's already changed eight times just in the making of it), for RIGHT NOW I'd say this accurately represents my own personal ideas/opinions regarding the best movies I've ever seen (with #1 undoubtedly proving to be no surprise for those who know me).

100. The Red Violin (1998)
99. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
98. The Player (1992)
97. Lost In America (1985)
96. The Verdict (1982)
95. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
94. Broken Blossoms (1919)
93. Downfall (2004)
92. Being There (1979)
91. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
90. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
89. Night at the Opera (1935)
88. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
87. Goodfellas (1990)
86. Rebecca (1940)
85. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
84. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
83. The Matrix (1999)
82. Grand Canyon (1991)
81. Wizard of Oz (1939)
80. Gandhi (1982)
79. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
78. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
77. Ben-Hur (1959)
76. The Misssion (1986)
75. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
74. Robocop (1987)
73. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
72. On the Waterfront (1954)
71. JFK (1991)
70. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
69. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
68. L.A. Confidential (1997)
67. Annie Hall (1977)
66. It Happened One Night (1934)
65. Stagecoach (1939)
64. This is Spinal Tap (1984)
63. Strangers on a Train (1951)
62. The General (1927)
61. Wild Strawberries (1957)
60. Visions of Light (1992)
59. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
58. Safety Last (1923)
57. Laura (1944)
56. Young Frankenstein (1974)
55. Fargo (1996)
54. Sunrise (1927)
53. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
52. Brazil (1985)
51. The Exorcist (1973)
50. The Usual Suspects (1995)
49. Gone With the Wind (1939)
48. The Searchers (1956)
47. Raging Bull (1980)
46. 400 Blows (1959)
45. Rear Window (1954)
44. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
43. M (1931)
42. High Noon (1952)
41. E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
40. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
39. Deliverance (1972)
38. Goldfinger (1964)
37. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
36. Vertigo (1958)
35. Alien (1979)
34. Day for Night (1973)
33. Chinatown (1974)
32. Back to the Future (1985)
31. La Strada (1954)
30. Apocalypse Now (1979)
29. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
28. The Seventh Seal (1957)
27. Casablanca (1942)
26. Blade Runner (1982)
25. City Lights (1931)
24. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
23. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
22. Taxi Driver (1976)
21. Pinocchio (1940)
20. 12 Angry Men (1957)
19. Tootsie (1982)
18. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
17. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
16. Se7en (1995)
15. Amadeus (1984)
14. Jaws (1975)
13. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
12. Double Indemnity (1944)
11. 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968)
10. Die Hard (1988)
9. Top Hat (1935)
8. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
7. Unforgiven (1992)
6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
5. Manhattan (1979)
4. Citizen Kane (1941)
3. Psycho (1960)
2. The Godfather (1972)
1. Schindler's List (1993)

Runners-up (a list of about a dozen or so films that came THIS close to making the final cut): Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Network, Ed Wood, Aguirre: the Wrath of God, Midnight Cowboy, Trouble in Paradise, Kurasawa's Dreams, The Manchurian Candidate, Public Enemy, Das Boot, The Untouchables, Grand Illusion, Big Night

After the Music

Well, the Filmmusic Blog-a-thon has officially ended (although, as I said before, I will accept late entries if a few people still wish to contribute something) and to say that I am very pleased with the results would be the understatement of the decade. Even with another blog-a-thon happening this same weekend, the reaction of the blogosphere was overwhelming, well beyond what I expected it to be. In all honesty, I didn’t know, when I decided six months ago to host this event here at Windmills, whether the subject of filmmusic (which greatly appealed to me personally) would even interest anyone else. In the ensuing months, I began to get encouraged by the number of people who expressed a desire to participate, but never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate such an incredible response. With over thirty bloggers contributing posts (some more than one) on a wide variety of themes and ideas (but all of them revolving around the topic of music in film) I have become further convinced that music truly is the universal language.

There were entries in which people described one of their favorite film scores/composers, entries where people analyzed specific aspects of scoring of a film, entries where people listed favorite songs/soundtracks and even some self-proclaimed “non-filmmusic fans” managed to find something to write about. Since I’ve really only had time to skim the contributions so far, I would like eventually to sit down and read every single post in intimate detail and then reply to everyone who participated. It may take a while (especially with the 31 Days of Spielberg project still keeping me busy as well as my own personal list of 100 greatest films I’m working on as a response to the AFI's list and Ed Copeland's list) but I do plan to.

Hosting this blog-a-thon has been a tremendous amount of fun, as well as a great learning experience, and someday in the distant future (if/when I find another subject which I am as passionate about and inspired by as filmmusic) I’ll host another one. For right now, however, I want to just bask in the enormous success of this one. I also want to extend a big heartfelt “Thank you” to everyone who joined in on my "crusade" to get more dialogue going about music in movies. I am truly grateful and appreciative of your efforts. I couldn’t have done this without you. All of you.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Music is Ending...

Tomorrow is the final day of the Filmmusic Blog-a-thon, so if you have a post you still wish to contribute, feel free to do so. If you are unable to make it by the "deadline" (and I know of several people who expressed a desire to participate but have, for a variety of reasons, been unable to do so) don't sweat it too bad. I will accept late entries. Just let me know somehow and I'll add it to the already impressive list of links.

I will also post some concluding thoughts later this week about this whole experience. In the meantime, I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has participated so far. I can't thank you enough. :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

"Put another dime in the jukebox, baby!"

With the Filmmusic Blog-a-thon in full swing I thought it was about time to add a few more songs to the jukebox widget here on Windmills Of My Mind and draft another post elaborating on my choices (the first post can be found here). Once again we've got a variety of different tunes that I think people will like. I know I do at least. So just sit, back, relax and enjoy these six pieces by six more great filmmusic composers.

1. Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky) - Along with Vangelis' Chariots of Fire this is probably the single most inspirational training song ever written for a sports movie (I dare you to listen to the whole thing without getting even a little pumped). Whatever else Bill Conti does, he will always be known as the guy that scored Rocky!

2. Love Theme from The Godfather - Who can forget Nino Rota's wonderfully sad theme for Coppola's classic gangster epic? Nevermind that Rota, because he reworked some melodies from a previous score, did not win the Best Original Oscar he deserved for it, as long as great filmmusic is celebrated his name (and this piece) will be remembered.

3. The Name's Bond... James Bond - From the end of Casino Royale, here's... Aw, heck! This one needs no introduction. Like Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther" theme, it speaks for itself.

5. North By Northwest Overture - Establishing the tone perfectly for the thrilling adventure that was soon to follow, the great Bernard Hermann composed this fast and furious main title for Hitchcock's most action-packed film.

4. The Council of Elrond - A conversation with a fellow film blogger on the quality (or lack thereof) of Howard Shore's scores for the Lord of the Rings movies prompted me to post this one. Combining three of the film's major themes (the Rivendell theme, the Shire theme and the Fellowship theme) with a liltingly beautiful solo by the ethereal Enya, this heartbreakingly lovely, and yet still grand and majestic, piece is one of my favorite cues from the first film.

6. The Colonel Bogey March - Composed by Malcolm Arnold for David Lean's brilliant Bridge on the River Kwai, here's one of the most memorable military marches for any war movie to send us off in style.

That should be enough to get us through the blog-a-thon. I'll post more again later. Toodles for now!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The FILMMUSIC BLOG-A-THON (the first one ever hosted by Windmills of My Mind) wasn't officially supposed to commence until tomorrow. However, since I am already receiving contributions from bloggers (and because I've been looking forward to this for a long time), I figured I'd go ahead and start the show a day early. This post will serve more or less as the "headquarters" for the blog-a-thon. If you wish to participate just send me an e-mail ( or respond with a comment below providing a link or web address to your post. The blog-a-thon will continue through the weeekend, ending on June 25th, so you have plenty of time to think of something to write about if you haven't already. I'll keep updating the list of links here as they come in (and maybe even chime in with a few thoughts of my own).

NOTE: Just to give the "competition" equal exposure, William Speruzzi over at This Savage Art is holding an Ambitious Failure Blog-a-thon this week as well. Hopefully, since both blog-a-thons take place over a period of several days, people won't have to choose between the two because that would be a shame. I know that if it weren't for my own blog-a-thon I'd be contributing an essay to William's project myself (as I can think of a few films that reach for greatness but don't quite achieve it).


-In the official Announcement I lay out my plans and hopes for the blog-a-thon.

-The New Sound of Windmills describes the first six songs I've added to the new "jukebox" widget here on my blog and in "Put Another Dime in the Jukebox, Baby!" I add six more.

-There are also a few "personal musical journeys" with film composers that I think are significant (John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and Danny Elfman).


-Ray DeRousse of The rec discusses the use and misuse of John Williams' music for the Star Wars series, complete with youtube clips, in Sounds of a Collapsing Empire.

-In Music Makes Pictures, Piper of Lazy Eye Theatre highlights several songs that he loves from the soundtracks of various films.

-Filmscreed's Jeff Duncanson posts the first of what he promises will be many "Filmmusic Hall of Fame" clips (this particular one focusing on a lovely piece from Days of Heaven).

-Joe Valdez reviews the musically-themed film The Commitments over at his blog This Distracted Globe.

-The Shamus over at Bad for the Glass laments the current quality of filmmusic and lists several contemporary scores that he finds stand well above the rest in Modern Film Music: An Oxymoron?

-Over at Joe's Movie Corner, J.D. praises the beauty and perfection of the soundtrack to Pokemon: the movie 2000.

-Jeremy Richey of Moon in the Gutter selects a rather unlikely, but no less deserving, candidate to honor in his piece on Francis Lai's beautiful score for Emmanuel 2.

-Some people have monsters under their bed, while J.J. of As Little as Possible reveals that he has them in his head; check out his tribute to the scores for Monster and Monster's Ball.

-Filmmusic-lover Kimberly Lindberghs of Cinebeats: Confessions of a Cinephile beautifully expresses her regard for George Delerue's score in Godard's Contempt.

-A newcomer to the blog-a-thon phenomenon, Tom Dwayne of the (almost) daily appreciator gives his personal filmmusic "testimony" in Everything I Know About Music I Learned Watching Beavis and Butthead.

-The always intelligent and stimulating Ted Pigeon of the Cinematic Art examines the relationship between images and sound/music in Revisioning the Film Score.

-Jeff Duncancon at Filmscreed continues his "Filmmusic Hall of Fame" feature with entries from Alexander Nevsky, Mean Streets, (one of my personal favorites) Raging Bull, The Last Emperor and Aguirre: the Wrath of God.

-Peter Nellhaus of the aptly named Coffe, Coffee... and More Coffee writes about the great David Raksin's idiosyncratic score for Invitation to a Gunfighter.

-Filmsquish, my favorite eccentric film blogger (and I use that descriptor with the utmost affection, Squish), lists some truly memorable movie themes in his contribution to the Filmmusic Blog-a-thon.

-Nate Rogers at Zoom In reflects on how the absence of filmmusic can be just as effective as its presence in his meditation on unscored films Filmmusic or the Lack Thereof.

-Complete with screengrabs, and even a youtube clip, Moviezzz praises the soundtrack for Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World.

-Fellow soundtrack collector Tor Y. Harbin (a.k.a. Mr. Cellophane) writes of his favorite movie themes in a post that could easily have been written by me: Filmmusic... How Do I Love Thee?

-At Ogg's Movie Thoughts, Oggs Cruz composes a wonderful tribute to "the most underappreciated musician in the Phillipines," the late Yoyoy Villame, in Babae sa Breakwater.

-Just in time for the AFI's latest list, Bemis of Cinevistaramascope impressively highlights the top 100 Pop Songs in Movies.

-Proving that not enough acclaim can be heaped on Delerues' music in Contempt, Joseph B. of It's a Mad, Mad Blog 2 chimes in with Music Makes the World Go Round.

-Remember that moment in Say Anything when John Cusack held the boombox over his head? Of course you do. So does Mostly Movies' Simon Crowe (no relation to Cameron I'm guessing), as he relays in Gesture confused with meaning - Mumblecore, Say Anything, and the boombox

-Writing about the soundtrack for a different Cameron Crowe movie, Bob Turnbull of Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind expresses his affection (with the help of a few clips) for the music of Almost Famous.

-Peet Gelderblom of Lost in Negative Space writes what I think is the definitive defense of "Mickey Mousing" (with sound clips no less to help illustrate his point).

-My good friend Tucker (a.k.a. Cineboy) of Pilgrimakimbo proposes an intriguing analogy regarding filmmusic in his thought-provoking Filmmusic and Architecture (metaphorically)

-DVD Panache's Adam Ross reminisces about the lost art of the overture in movies and reminds us all of a familiar, and quite catchy, cable TV overture that used to precede features in HBOverture

-Everyone's favorite teenage British female filmblogger Emma (of All About My Movies) lists her top 20 favourite pieces of filmmusic ever, including mentioning a few of my favorites through the process.

-Dodo Dayo of the alliteratively-named Piling Piling Pekula blog writes in Superbad Hot Wax about the music featured in blaxpoitation cinema

-A proud admirer of synthesised filmmusic, Glenn Dunks (a.k.a. Kamikaze Camel) of Stale Popcorn expresses his affection for two Angelo Badalamenti scores (including clips from two lynch movies) in Bringing the Syntehsised Score Into the 21stCentury

-I remember thinking at the time I saw Ravenous that it contained one of the most bizarrely eccentric and uniquely memorable scores I had ever heard in a film. Apparently Barnaby Haszard Morris of Jdanspsa Wyksui felt the same way as he writes about it in Tracks I Never Tire of #3: Boyd's Journey

-In the second part of his "Revisioning the Film Score" series, Cinematic Art's Ted Pigeon discusses specifically how music and images interrelate (and uses John William's scoring of the truck chase scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark to illustrate) in Musically Mapping Affect.

-Over at Pentimento, tmh muses over some unanswered questions about filmmusic and specific composers in Right into the Thick of Things.

-"Don't Let Burt Bacharach score Your Film!" by Bob Westal of Forward to Yesterday. The title says it all!

-Dan E. of Cinemathematics writes about one of his personal favorite film scores (Brick) in Settling the Score.

-Fellow Oregonian Evan T. Burchfield of Continuity discusses the importance of Hanns Eisler's score for Alan Resnais' brilliant The Music of Night and Fog. Evan also provides screen shots from the film and sound clips of the music to emphasize his point.

-Since you can never have too many top 100 lists, Okenheim at TheSophomoreCritic reprints the AFI's Top 100 Movie Songs list from several years back.

-A tardy entry but a great one nonetheless: Matt Zoeller Seitz of The House Next Door asks the question "What movie music won't stop playing in your head?" and provides his own answer (Bernard Hermann's Taxi Driver).

This is great, folks! Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Name That Shot" Winner & Answers

Well, I may not have been "flooded" with a whole host of responses to my screenshot quiz, but I did receive what I thought was a decent amount of answers reminding me, once again, that there actually are people out there reading this blog. Some contributors e-mailed me their guesses while others posted them in the comments section (incidentally, I would like it in the future if everyone could e-mail them to me so that we don't run the risk of anyone "cheating," i.e. reading other people's guesses and incorporating them into their own). At any rate, the winner is Gonzalo Jimenez who got 20 out of 25. Good job, Gonzalo!

Here are the answers:

1. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) - Classic film. Clasic image. I don't think anyone got this one wrong.

2. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) - James Anderson's portrayal of Bob Ewell used to enrage and terrify me as a youngster. To this day I'm unsure as to whether Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch was really so noble, heroic and righteous as he seemed or whether it was because he played opposite such a despicable character.

3. UNFAITHFUL (2002) - This was, in my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated films the year it came out. It garnered an Oscar nomination for Diane Lane but it deserved much more.

4. DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978) - Two films starring Richard Gere in a row. Didn't plan that, of course, but Terry Malick's Days of Heaven is such a beautiful, lyrical work that I felt compelled to feature something from it.

5. ROAD TO PERDITION (2002) - The last film shot by the great Conrad Hall and the work that won him his third Oscar (though by the time of the ceremony he had passed away, so his son, a talented cinematographer in his own right, accepted the award).

6. BRAZIL (1985) - "This is a professional relationship." Creepy. Creepy. Creepy.

7. BEING THERE (1979) - This one might be a bit of a spoiler but it is one of my all-time favorite final shots of any film, so I had to include it.

8. THE AVENGERS (1998) - I didn't think anybody was going to get this one as I figured I was the only person in the world who actually saw this movie (I was certainly the only one in the theatre when it was released). Great visuals. Little else.

9. THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955) - One of the few Hitchcock films I haven't seen. Very funny shot though.

10. KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004) - Ourageous flick. Looking forward to the sequel.

11. INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE (1994) - Always loved this image. I remember getting unnerved by it when I first saw it in the trailer.

12. TRON (1982) - Another one I don't think anybody missed.

13. CITIZEN KANE (1941) - One person tried to get on my good side by guessing Schindler's List for this one.

14. YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (1985) - Before Harry, Ron and Hermione there was Holmes, Watson and Elizabeth. Wonderful movie from my childhood with fantastic Oscar-nominated special effects (including this stained-glass knight, one of the first photo-realistic CG images used in a movie).

15. THE VERDICT (1982) - Great opening shot of a great movie.

16. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) - "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the war room!"

17. THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986) - One of many bizarre characters to be found in this darkly atmospheric mystery featuring Sean Connery as a medieval detective.

18. "M" (1931) - My pick for Frtiz Lang's best movie.

19. TOOTSIE (1982) - One of my favorite films. I love how the woman holding the cake and singing "Happy Birthday" to Dustin Hoffman blows out two of the candles in the process.

20. PLEASANTVILLE (1998) - I thought for sure that the house being in black-and-white while the flames were in color would give this one away.

21. MEET THE PARENTS (2000) - I still think this is one of the funniest situational comedies of the past ten years.

22. PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984) - David Lean's last picture.

23. SIGNS (2002) - Arguably the best and most memorable scene in movie history involving a family listening to alien communications on a baby monitor.

24. MANHATTAN (1979) - Another one of my favorite films. God, Mariel Hemingway is so beautiful here.

25. THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994) - The first Coen brothers movie I ever saw, the beginning of a love affair that continues to this day.

So, that does it for this round of "Name That Shot." Thank you to everyone who participated. I will do another one of these eventually but it'll have to wait until after the Filmmusic Blog-a-thon (which, incidentally, is this week) because that is no doubt going to keep me rather busy through the weekend.

Alex Thomson (1929-2007)

I didn't learn about this until just now but Oscar-nominated British cinematographer Alex Thomson died on the 14th. Thomson entered the film industry in 1946 as a clapper loader and worked his way up to regular camera operator for Nicolas Roeg in the 1960's before becoming a full-fledged director of photography in 1968. His career suffered a hiatus in the mid 70's when he was injured falling off a camera rostrum on the set of Jesus Christ Superstar, but he eventually returned to work for a number of different filmmakers and genres, including fantasy (Excalibur, Labyrinth, Legend), action (Executive Decision, Cliffhanger, Raw Deal), sci-fi (Leviathan, Demolition Man, Fincher's Alien film) and period drama (The Scarlet Letter, Black Beauty). While the quality of the films varied, Thomson's keen eye never did.

I think, however, that his major accomplishment was shooting Kenneth Branagh's epic version of the unedited text of Hamlet. It is, for my money, the closest a movie can get to being a definitive adaptation of Shakespeare's greatest playas well as the most visually spectacular. Shot entirely on 70mm (the most recent film to utilize that format), I had the opportunity when I was in college to see the complete 4-hour version of Hamlet at a theatre called the MacDonald (which is sadly no longer there). It was the only theatre in Eugene that had a 70mm projector, so it was the only venue playing Bragnagh's film. Not only was it truly breathtaking to behold, it was also the only movie I've ever seen on the big screen that had an intermission. Branagh's Hamlet is set for release on DVD later this year and at long last I'll be able to get rid of my widescreen VHS copy and appreciate the incredible cinematography of the late great Alex Thomson in all its glory.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, Roger!

Roger Ebert turns 65 today and despite my wanting to talk about how important and influential he's been to the world film criticism, Ted Pigeon already did a fantastic job of that not too long ago. So, there's really no need for me to. I will, however, briefly mention something that I just learned. Not only was Roger Ebert born 65 years ago on June 18, but so was Paul McCartney! Now that was a good day for history!

The Thinking Blogger Award

"For there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

One of my favorite sites to visit everyday is Dennis Cozzalio’s Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Despite not having a clue to what the title means, I love checking in to hear Dennis’ latest thoughts on whatever subject strikes his fancy. His posts are consistently interesting, witty and spark great discussions. Once in a blue moon, Dennis also puts up one of his great movie quizzes that I thoroughly enjoy answering (they always challenge my cinematic knolwedge and remind me how much I still have to learn about movies). Thus, since Dennis’ blog is one of my regular online stops, I was pleased to discover in a recent post that SLIFL had been tagged with a meme (a term which I had never heard, let alone knew the definition for, until this happened) for the “Thinking Blogger Award." That they couldn't have found of a more suitable candidate I think.

As Dennis goes on to explain in the post, receiving the “Thinking Blogger Award” does come with a condition: the recipient must tag five other blogs that he/she feels also deserves the title. It is not unlike the “Pay it Forward" plan that Haley Joel Osment came up with in that awful movie, except that instead of picking three people you pick five. As I was scrolling down the page reading the list of blogs that Dennis selected, I found myself agreeing with him heartily. Campaspe’s Self-Styled Siren (a blog I only recently discovered myself and added to my list of links), Jim Emerson’s Scanners (which, along with another site that I will mention shortly, inspired me to start blogging in the first place), Shamus’ Bad for the Glass (formerly known as That Little Round-Headed Boy) and Kimberly's Cinebeats: Confessions of a Cinephile are all favorites of mine (the only recommendations he made that I wasn't familiar with was Kim Morgan's Movies Filter and Sunset Gun, which I shall now have to check out).

When I got to the bottom of the list, however, I saw a rather familiar-looking image and read the following text:

And I know I’m breaking format, but here's one to grow on: Damian Arlyn’s Windmills of My Mind. Damian is a video store manager in Corvallis, Oregon, and his writing and ambition have really been a pleasure to experience. The two of us can’t agree about certain movies, but Damian has a real seeker’s sensibility about him and an openness to other points of view that is refreshing, even if he can’t be beaten and humiliated into submission and agreement! Damian’s blog is definitely one to watch as the summer progresses, because he’s cooked himself up a doozy of a challenge—he’s giving over the 31 days of August to a career retrospective of his favorite filmmaker, Steven Spielberg, a massive undertaking that should be loads of fun to read and participate in. Windmills has plenty of other goodies to enjoy too, so get to it!

To say I was surprised was an understatement. Dennis has been very kind in recent weeks with his readership and his praise, but I would never have expected to make Dennis’ list of five blogs that he can’t (and won’t) do without. Naturally I was flattered. It’s always nice to discover that a fellow you respect feels the same way about you. It is also, however, a little intimidating because it makes you feel all the more responsible for what you are doing with your blog. Of course I’m honored to receive the “Thinking Blogger Award.” In the eight months since I began this "journey" I’ve always wanted Windmills of My Mind to be an honest and genuine expression of my own personality, but have also tried to keep it interesting, accessible and, not least important of all, thought-provoking. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about movies and about internet communication. I certainly have a lot left to learn but this experience has been a most gratifying one and this Award in many ways feels like a validation of all the effort I’ve put into this endeavor. What makes this particular incident satisfying is that I now have a chance to give something back.

There are three rules for participating:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the "Thinking Blogger Award" with a link to the post that you wrote

So, here are five blogs that have helped to stimulate my thinking in this ongoing process of blogging:

1. PilgrimAkimbo – I’ve always maintained that when I was in college my friend and housemate Tucker Teague opened my eyes to a whole world of movies I wouldn't have known about otherwise, but it has turned out to be a very pleasant, and most welcome, development that I continue to learn from Tucker via his blog PilgrimAkimbo (begun around the same time that I began mine). Tucker is easily the most knowledgable individual about cinema that I’ve met. I like to say that he’s “forgotten more about movies than I’ll ever know," but what makes his blog a fascinating read is that he deals with very real and very profound issues of life as well as art. In addition to movies, Tucker writes about his family, his job, poetry and other topics that he finds significant. Yet the blog, like the man himself, always has an air of humility, restraint and contemplation about it that are quite compelling. Tucker’s ideas are a constant challenge to me personally and I am more than happy to share them with others so that they too, hopefully, can have an experience similar to mine. I've known Tucker for over 12 years now and I don’t get to see him nearly as much as I would like to, but I am glad we’ve had the opportunity to continue our friendship, as well as our cinematic educations, here on the film blogosphere.

2. The Cinematic Art – Although, like myself, Ted Pigeon has been blogging for only a short period of time, he’s already established himself as a formidable presence in the blogging community (earning what I consider to be the “Holy Grail” of linkage; a place in the sidebar of Jim Emerson’s Scanners) with his excellent blog The Cinematic Art and he has achieved it through the sheer sagacity of his ideas and the stark lucidity of his writing. Ted may be six years my junior but he’s already a better writer than I’ll ever be. As a Phildelphia editor and professional film student with a background in communications studies, Ted is engaging in some of the most astute, in-depth and eloquent analysis of the audio/visual medium that I’ve ever seen (either online or in print). His recent piece on Jaws is so good that it almost makes my writing about it for "31 Days of Spielberg" unnecessary. If you haven't yet checked out his blog I highly recommend doing so. Just make sure you bring your brain with you because you'll need it.

3. Like Anna Karina's Sweater - For months now I've labored under the impression that Filmbrain's blog Like Anna Karina's Sweater was run by a woman (until someone, thankfully, set me straight on that point). Why I thought that I have no idea. Perhaps it was the name of the blog or the image of that lovely woman with her hand on her chin that first steered my mind in that direction. I honestly don't know, but what kept me coming back to the site was not the gender of its host but the caliber of its content. Filmbrain is one of the most intelligent, passionate and lucid film bloggers that I've ever read. In addition to sharp, spirited writing about subjects such as the misogynist tendencies of filmmakers like Eli Roth and Quinten Tarantino, Filmbrain gets my "film brain" going at least once a week with his wonderful Screen Capture Quizzes (which I only occasionally know the answers too). His site is a true delight and if you haven't yet checked it out, I highly recommend you do so quite soon.

4. No More Marriages! - I doubt that any serious film blogger needs me to describe this particular site, but in addition to Jim Emerson's Scanners, Andy Horbal's No More Marriages (a blog which derives its name from my all-time favorite play) can be credited, or perhaps blamed, for making me a blogger. Back in September, Andy did a survey wherein he asked people to name the greatest American film made in the last 25 years. I chimed in with my own pick (Schindler's List) and through the process discovered a whole online community of smart, educated people who loved movies and loved talking about them. As I continued to learn more about the plethora of film blogs out there, Andy's site served as a sort of "home base" for my exploration. I saw it essetially as the HQ of the film blogosphere. Andy's posts were always fun, intellectual and informative (not only about movies but also about topics like sports and cooking). Andy also happens to be the most outspoken apprectiator of the art of film criticism I know (a subject that, I am ashamed to admit, I have neglected for too long) and the most thoughtful advocate of the responsibilities of blogging I think is out there. I'm almost sure that Andy has already been tagged with this meme but I couldn't possibly, in good conscience, mention the phrase "Thinking Blogger" without drawing attention to this individual who is a giant in that regard. Alas, Andy's blogging has been sorely missed for the past several months as he has been in a period of personal and professional transition. Andy's been been working on a new blog (to be unveiled on July 1st) entitled Mirror/Stage which he promises will be rather different in tone and intent from No More Marriages! Well, different is okay with me as long as it retains that amazing intellect and unapologetic zeal for cinema that made No More Marriages one of the premiere films blogs on the internet. In other words, all it needs is that "Andy Horbal feeling" and I'll be satisfied (actually I guess we all have that "Andy Horbal feeling," but since he's Andy Horbal, I'm assuming he has it in Spades).

5. Lazy Eye Theatre - The thing I love most about Piper's Lazy Eye Theatre is the straightforward, down-to-earth, no-nonsense tenor of its writing. While Piper's unashamed love for all things filmic comes through loud and clear in his blog, he does not corrupt his opinions with condescending, elitist attitudes or feel the need to "dress up" his ideas with empty, pesudo-intellectual jargon. Piper's writing is smart and confident but it is also extremely accessible. There is a simplicity and economy to Piper's posts, a sort of noble "everyman" quality, that is quite refreshing. This is not to suggest that Piper doesn't provoke thought on the part of the reader because he absolutely does. He just doesn't mince words. If Piper feels strongly about something, he will let us all know in no uncertain terms. And yet, throughout it all, Piper manages to maintain a humble and conscientious personality at the same time that he writes about whatever he damn well pleases. Piper's a true original and stopping in at his blog is always a highlight of my day.

So, there you have it. Five blogs without whom Windmills wouldn't be the blog that it is and five bloggers without whom I wouldn't be the person I am. Thanks to all of you for being examples of the kind of thinkers I respect and admire. While I'm at it, I would like to extend my gratitude to all of the bloggers whom I have had the opportunity to correspond with throughout this whole experience, all of my readers out there in "virtual land" and a special "thank you" to Dennis for tagging me with this meme in the first place.

I guess That's it. Now I can proudly display the following graphic:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fatherly Words of Wisdom

"My old pappy always used to say, 'there is no more deeply moving religious experience... than cheatin' on a cheater.'"
"I never said that once. You've been misquoting me all your life."
"What, we're gonna quibble over fine points?"
"You never even get close. I'm sick of it!"
"Well, I figured the things you say were always so damn dumb I had to improve on 'em. That's all."


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Poor, Abused, Misunderstood Eli

After the immense, and wearying, online discussion that occurred last week over the Hostel sequel, I pretty much resolved to refrain from doing anymore writing about Eli Roth and his movies (having previously decided not to view any more of his movies). The whole argument over the horror sub-genre called... um... Well, if you've been following the conversation, you already know what it's called (I am trying not to use the label because it REALLY angers some people). Once the box office numbers came out and Hostel II under-performed, I figured that was it. I wouldn't have to worry about writing anything more about it for a long time.

Today I came across a piece at Cinematical that links to Roth's MySpace account where he has written a blog about the reception of Hostel II (entitled "Last Chance to See One of My Movies") and I'm sorry, folks, but I simply must respond to this. This is my last Eli Roth post for a long time. I promise. I just have to get this out of my system.

Here is the text of Roth's message (in its entirety):

Hey Everyone,

I'm in Paris, doing press for the French release of
Hostel Part II, and tonight I'm off to Rome for the last leg of the press tour. After that I'm going to take a long overdue break, since I've gone from one film to the next without stopping, just to recharge my brain a bit.

I want to thank all of you for your kind e-mails and incredible support for the film. However, piracy has become worse than ever now, and a stolen workprint (with uninished music, no sound effects, and no VFX) leaked out on line before the release, and is really hurting us, especially internationally. Piracy will be the death of the film industry, as it killed the music industry, and while it makes a smaller dent in huge movies like
Spider Man 3, it really hurts films like mine, which have far less of an advertising and production budget. Not only that, critics have actually been REVIEWING the film based off the pirated copy, which is inexcusable. Some of these critics I have actually known for a few years, and while I wouldn't dignify them by mentioning them by name, I know who they are, as do the studios, and other filmmakers, and they will no longer have any access to any of my films.

What I'm saying is, this is your last chance to see one of my films for a while. If you haven't seen it, go now, because after next weekend the film will be gone from theaters. There are too many other summer movies coming in, so basically we get two weeks in cinemas, and then the film will live on DVD. I am not directing CELL any time soon, and I most likely will take the rest of the year to write my other projects. Which means I wouldn't shoot until the spring, and you wouldn't see a film directed by me in the cinemas until at least next fall. If everyone on my friends list went to see the film this weekend and brought a friend, it would make a huge difference. Bring a non-horror fan - try to convert them. It's the only way these films will live. But right now the R rated horror film is in serious jeopardy. Studios feel the public doesn't want them any more, and so they are only putting PG-13 films into production. The only way to counter this perception is to get out there and support R rated horror. It's the only message they'll hear. People love the movie, and even though it only cost $10 million dollars (as opposed to the other summer tentpoles which cost $300 million), and has already earned its money back, if it's not a massive money earner then they'll just continue to make the same PG-13 films everyone complained about a few years ago.

To counter piracy, fans can flood file sharing services with fake
Hostel II downloads just so no one can ever actually get the movie, but the only thing that really makes a difference is supporting the movie in the theaters. Also - the theater OWNERS know this as well. If horror movies aren't bringing in customers, they're not going to program them. If we are going to send them a message, we have to do it with our wallets, and we have to do it now. I've done all I can to make a great film for the fans, as violent and bloody and fun as possible. The rest is up to you guys...

Thanks again for all your support,


All I can say is... IS HE SERIOUS?

Roth is blaming Hostel II's dismal numbers on pirates? And not even of the Caribbean variety (which would actually make more sense).

Okay. First of all, please understand that I'm not suggesting movie piracy isn't a very real problem because it is. Neither am I saying that it doesn't pose a threat to the movie industry because it does (there is no denying, I think, that piracy has affected the box office numbers of theatrically released movies in recent years). Neither am I denying that a workprint for Hostel II was stolen and circulated (Dave Poland admits in his own attack of the film that he saw the movie on a bootlegged DVD). There is no way of knowing for sure how much piracy "took away" from Hostel's box office, but it sounds as if Roth believes that MORE people saw the film illegally than saw it legally; that the numbers would've been much, MUCH higher had everybody who used nefarious means to see Hostel II had simply gone to the theatre and paid to see it like they were supposed to. For Roth to lay the blame for the extremely poor reception of his film solely on the shoulders of piracy is not only really sad and pathetic, it demonstrates to me, once again, the kind of "reasoning" Roth uses that turned me off to him in the first place: namely, a complete and utter lack of personal responsibility. He's pointing the finger everywhere but at himself.

It's similar to the kind of sentiments we heard expressed in the aftermath of Grindhouse's lousy performance in theatres. Now I'm not testifying as to the quality, or lack thereof, of Grindhouse because I didn't see it, but I was frankly dumbfounded that Tarantino, Rodriguez and the Weinsteins were so shocked when their EXTREMELY VIOLENT and THREE-HOUR-PLUS film that was RELEASED ON EASTER WEEKEND didn't do well. I remember Weinstein lamented that perhaps one of the reasons behind it's disappointing performance was that their advertising campaign didn't do a proper job informing the public as to what the movie really was. He said that people just didn't know. That's why they didn't go see it. Well, I think it's very possible that people knew exactly what it was and that's why they didn't go see it!

The possibility that perhaps these movies didn't fare well with audiences not because people were uninformed or were watching them illegally but because maybe--just maybe--people didn't actually want to see them never seems to have crossed anybody's mind. In Roth's and Tarantino's own little world, everybody wants to see their latest movie (regardless of what it may be) and if it doesn't do well, it has to be publicity or piracy or perhaps even something wrong with the audiences themselves because it couldn't possibly have anything to do with... the movie! Naturally, audience reaction and box office intake shouldn't really be a factor in determining a film's artistic value (many films now regarded as masterpieces flopped in their initial run and many films that "killed" at the box office are now forgotten) and filmmakers can blame the ignorance or lack of taste in moviegoers all they want, but they didn't complain when these same ignorant moviegoers with no taste turned their previous films into gigantic successes.

In addition to Roth's frustrations with his rather convenient scapegoat of piracy, he also bemoans the "end of R-rated horror" and, again, it seems to me that his focus is entirely on the wrong thing. He advises people to get out and support R-rated horror right away and I can't help but wonder: Why? Why should I rush out to see an R-rated horror film right now? Simply because it's R-rated? If so, what does the rating have to do with it? Is it better to support a bad R-rated horror film than a good PG-13 horror film? I guess 28 Weeks Later is still playing in some cities. I haven't seen that one yet and, quite frankly, I'm far more interested in it than in Hostel II. That's rated R, isn't it? Should I support that film? Would that make Eli happy? Or was there another R-rated horror film that he would rather I pay to go see?

Roth seems to be afraid that this present lack of enthusiasm for R-rated horror movies (particularly his own) will lead to studios producing a string of PG-13 horror films, which I guess "everyone" was apparently complaining about a few years ago. My question is: So what? Speaking only for myself, I could care less what a movie is rated. If we have a string of terrible horror movies, that would be more upsetting to me than if they were all rated PG-13. Being PG-13 doesn't mean a horror film is going to suck anymore than having an "R" means it's going to be brilliant. And yet it seems that in Roth's mind, PG-13 is inherently inferior and "R" automatically superior because, let's be honest here, you can show more violence with an "R" (as he says, he tried to make a film that was as "bloody and as violent and as fun as possible"). For me, this merely confirms what I've been saying all along: namely, that Roth's films are, and always have been, about the violence. Not about building suspense, not about creating a sinister atmosphere, not about making interesting characters or about "saying" something significant with the work (i.e. having any kind of socio-political underpinnings to the mayhem). It's about the violence. Pure and simple. That's why he makes these movies and that's why I think they deserve the notorious moniker that they've been given.

Look, Roth has the right to make whatever kind of films he wants (as do Tarantino and Rodriguez and Rob Zombie and whoever else) and he certainly has the right to care less about whether anyone other than he happens to like them, but he can't have his cake and eat it too. He can't make movies only for himself (that appeal to his own personal sensebilities regarding horror, violence and sex) and then be surprised when nobody else watches them. You can't dictate what people like or are going to want to see (as the saying goes, "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink"). When you make a film for "an audience of one," take a guess as to how many people are going to come to your movie.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Name That Shot!

I've seen this done before on other film blogs (particularly Filmbrain's Like Anna Karina's Sweater, Emma's All About My Movies and Filmsquish every Monday) but I've never actually done one myself. So, I figured it was about time. You probably know how this works already, but I'll go ahead and explain anyway. Below are images from 25 different films. Some of them are absurdly simple to guess while other will no doubt prove a bit more difficult. Send me your answers ( and the person who gets the most correct will, as Emma says, "get a mention here on my blog." Good luck. Have fun.