Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blogathons of the Future

The blogathon seems to have fallen into disuse lately - used to be, you'd get three a week (look at the entries for last spring and summer on my index - three a week may be an exaggeration, but one a week isn't...) Now? they are few and far between. Summer, though, seems to be an inspiration to try a few more - three coming up in June/July, all of them looking good. A Japanese cinema blogathon is obviously my cup of tea - that should get me to actually write a post....

June 15-21: Wildgrounds hosts a Japanese Cinema Blogathon.

June 21-30: Claude Chabrol blogathon, hosted by Flickhead.

June 28-July 4: Michael Mann week at Radiator Heaven.

One reason blogathons seem to have disappeared in the last year is the number of memes going around - favorite characters, favorite actors, various A to Z memes - fun stuff, without the challenge of forming quite so many complete sentences... There are a couple of those underway right now - which, judging from the early entries, do require the use of complete sentences: well worth checking out and returning to....

The Dancing Image asks about Reading the Movies. "A list of the movie books which had the greatest impact on me." He offers - he invites.

And Getafilm fires up a meme - Favorite movie period/place. There are rules:

1.) Think of a place (real or fictional) and time (past, present, future) portrayed in a movie (or a few) that you would love to visit.
2.) List the setting, period, applicable movie, and year of the applicable movie's release (for reference).
3.) Explain why, however you'd like (bullet points, list, essay form, screenshots, etc.). If this is a time and place that you have intimate knowledge of, feel free to describe what was done well and what wasn't done well in portraying it.
4.) If possible, list and provide links to any related movies, websites, books, and/or articles that relate to your choice (s).
5.) Modify Rules #1-4 to your liking. And come up with a better name for this meme.
6.) Link back to this Getafilm post in your post, please.
7.) Tag at least five others to participate!

And finally - Iain Stott is conducting a poll for the 50 Greatest Films of all time.

UPDATE: Jason Bellamy just announced a Pauline Kael week, June 15-19. He will post Kael excerpts, and loose the dogs of Internet Commentary upon them... people generally have opinions about Pauline Kael, so that should be lively...

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I've mostly given up politics here, but once in a while - sort of - at an angle... for instance, there is this exchange going on n the blogs: Mark Krikorian at the Corner comments on how to pronounce "Sotomayor" - response is predictable, and he comments again. The first time he's bland - "So, are we supposed to use the Spanish pronunciation, so-toe-my-OR, or the natural English pronunciation, SO-tuh-my-er, like Niedermeyer? " - the next time, he's a bit more pointed:
This may seem like carping, but it's not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

Response has not been favorable, at least not from the lefty blogs (and since I certainly don't read The Corner, without lefty blogs, I'd never have heard of this "controversy". I notice as of today, they are yukking it up about this, as if every word they say about it didn't make them look a little more ignorant...). Is it a "controversy"? Right wing responses to Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the court have not edified - a good chunk of the commentariat is going straight to the race and gender stuff, though I suppose a few are trying to gin up controversy about her record or comments made through the years... I don't know. If the pronunciation thing is anything more than bloggers pissing on each other over a snide remark someone made - that's very sad.

The follow up comments at the Corner are particularly sad. They do tend to get to their point - that Sotomayor is a weird foreigner (born in the Bronx! or whatever) trying to ruin our beautiful mother tongue... they might be taking the piss, of course. The simple answer to the initial question is - try to pronounce a person's name the way they do, or your best guess, if you haven't heard it. Along with a corollary - don't get too worked up when people mispronounce your name, unless you've corrected them recently and they're being stubborn - or taking the piss. I suppose it's equally true - when you are in a country where people speak a different language, do your best to make pronouncing your name easy for them.

What's sad, though, is that under it all, this is a pretty fascinating subject: the political, social, linguistic implications of names - of words and pronunciations, as words flow between languages. It's a window on the ways languages functions - how they evolve and interact; questions about names are themselves fascinating to look at. The ways questions like this are handled change between cultures - I've had Chinese friends, and Vietnamese friends, for example - immigrants, as children, now naturalized citizens - the Chinese friends, more than one of them, adapt English names. The Vietnamese friends do not. Does that mean anything, other than the different communities take slightly different approaches to how they relate to English in America? You see it in other areas too, more public - sticking with Asian names, for a long time, in film books, and film writing (to name one example), Japanese names were given in western order - Akira Kurosawa; but Chinese names are usually given in Asian order: Wong Kar-wei. There are bound to be interesting historical reasons for that...

As for pronunciation - the obvious problem the Corner people have is that they are underestimating the English language. It is, after all, a notoriously greedy language - it takes in anything, accommodates other languages - there is no standard way to pronounce words in English, partly because English from the first was made up of French and Latin and Anglo-Saxon and big chunks of half digested Celtic languages, all of them maintaining their collection of sounds, while redistributing them around the letters used to represent this mess... and it continues apace. Never mind arguing how to pronounce Sotomayor in English - try to get people outside New England to pronounce "Quincy" correctly. (For that matter imagine a Kennedy pronouncing Sotomayor.) The idea of defending proper English pronunciation from the incursion of Spanish derived pronunciations is defending something that doesn't exist from something that made English what it is...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blog? What Blog?

Closing in on two weeks since my last post? That doesn't seem possible.... there are reasons, I suppose, but as usual, they aren't very convincing - I'm not convinced. Anyway, with nothing profound to add here, I will provide the barest kind of links roundup:

A comment from Sean Axmaker on the coming DVD release of Cronenberg's M. Butterfly - a film (or rather, play) very much relevant to the lack of blog content in the last couple weeks.

Joseph B. on films missing from DVD.

Bright Lights after Dark on Marlene in The Scarlett Empress.

Almost a week ago - Ed Howard's take on Yesterday Girl - German films are on my mind. of which just won Cannes - German language, anyway. Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon.

...not to mention, Kristin Thompson's comments on Lotte Reninger, the German animator... and some other new DVD releases from the archives...

Girish's post on John Ford and Undercurrent's Ford issue is more than a week old... modern drama and Spring have cut me off from the web in terrible ways.

And finally - the first issue of Unspoken: Journal for Contemplative Cinema has been online for 2 weeks itself. A project growing out of the Unspoken Cinema blog, and featuring some very interesting work on Bela Tarr.

Hopefully, my next post will come before June...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Retroactive 2008 Best Of

I need some content here, and what's better than a list? Like every year, come May (sometimes June), I get around to posting a Best of Last Year, including all the films that get released in the spring. It's a nuisance, waiting for films to show up - but now, I have seen most of what I want to - with a couple Absolute Requirements finally getting screened (if not released), in Still Walking and Tokyo Sonata - though there are a couple more, 35 Rhums, maybe Night and Day, that ought to count as absolutes... But I said - I need content - so... here's a list. I have to say - even now - 08 doesn't look like all that great a year - a nice selection of films, but nothing like the blitz of great stuff that came out (somewhere) in 07. Anyway - here are 25 films from last year, roughly in order:

1. Che - USA - Steven Soderburgh
2. Tokyo Sonata - Japan - Kiroshi Kurosawa
3. The Headless Woman - Argentina - Lucretia Martel
4. Birdsongs - Spain - Albert Serra
5. Hunger - UK - Steve McQueen
6. Christmas Tale - France - Arnaud Desplechins
7. My Winnepeg - Canada - Guy Maddin
8. Still Walking - Japan - Hirokazu Kore-Eda
9. Wall-E - USA - Andrew Stanton
10. Revanche - Austria - Gotz Spielman
11. The Class - France - Laurent Cantet
12. Encounters at the End of the World - USA - Werner Herzog
13. Gomorrah - Italy - Matteo Garrone
14. Man on Wire - UK - James Marsh
15. Ballast - USA - Lance Hammer
16. Waltz With Bashir - Israel - Ari Folman
17. Momma's Man - USA - Azezel Jacobs
18. Burn After Reading - USA - Coens
19. Wendy and Lucy - USA - Kelly Reichardt
20. Goodbye Solo - USA - Ramin Bahrani
21. Rachel Getting Married - USA - Jonathan Demme
22. Sita Sings the Blues - USA - Nina Paley
23. Happy Go Lucky - UK - Mike Leigh
24. Speed Racer - USA - Wachowskis
25. Tokyo! - Japan (France, Korea) - Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, Bong Joon ho

(And for reference - what I had seen in January:)

1. The Headless Woman - Lucrecia Martel
2. A Christmas Tale - Arnaud Desplechin
3. My Winnipeg - Guy Maddin
4. Encounters at the End of the World - Werner Herzog
5. Man on Wire - James Marsh
6. Ballast - Lance Hammer
7. Burn After Reading - Coen Brothers
8. Momma's Man - Azazel Jacobs
9. Rachel Getting Married - Jonathan Demme
10. Happy Go Lucky - Mike Leigh

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Manny Manny Manny...

Oh dear - poor Manny - makes it even easier to love having Jason Bay instead. (Along with another three run shot tonight...) Manny though - what the hell? I mean, it is one thing to hear about A-Rod or whoever, juicing up back in the day - but anyone getting caught now, friends, is begging for it...

On the other hand - articles like this, saying baseball should ban juicers - no... Unless you want to see 3-4 players a year banned forever. Because there is no way this is going to stop. It's not a good thing - I'm glad they're trying, and hope it brings things back under control - but this is a fact of the game now. Look at the Olympics, look at bicycle racing - it keeps going, no matter what they do - it's a technological battle, drugs vs. enforcement...

I don't know how to stop it. There is too much money on the table for players not to try to find an edge; you can't just accept it, you certainly can't encourage players to do it (and accepting it is demanding it, really) - and the option is always going to be there. It's a technological fact of life now - it won't go away. So - who knows what will happen? This is just going to be part of baseball from now on.

Though still - hard to feel much sympathy for anyone caught using now. I take it as given that more players than not were using from the late 90s - but now? they're going to do it, but if they do, they deserve what they get.