Friday, September 23, 2011

All My Blogs Come Home to Roost*

(Upon review I kinda buried the lead.  Moving to a new blog: Stranded Below Nirvana.  Thanks.  Keep reading.)

Sometimes you take a break without even knowing you needed it.

The last few months were spent enjoying the things I've been writing about for years, on this blog and others, without the feeling that I was under some sort of self-imposed deadline to get it down, to cogitate and consolidate my thoughts on a movie, a novel, or music into some semblance of structure for publication.

It was nice.

I've always suffered from the problem of wanting to write about too many things, and thinking I needed to compartmentalize those thoughts into different blogs.  One one blog became two, two became three, and combined with writing gigs for other web zines and it got to the point where I wasn't enjoying what I was seeing, or hearing, and the act of putting words down lost its passion.  Here at Celluloid Moon it became particularly hard, since it's been this blog more than many others where I've come to find and share thoughts with dozens of good and decent people who love movies with the same verve and enthusiasm I do, and better yet, can write like a bunch of muthafuckers on fire about the French New Wave, Italian giallo, the New Hollywood of the 70s and the tent-pole spectacles of today with a fierce intelligence and spark that rallied me to be a better writer, and moreover, a better viewer, of films.

It was that better viewer that sat down over the summer delighting in equal measure things like CAPTAIN AMERICA and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, the astonishing Blu-rays of Lucas's STAR WARS and Cocteau's ORPHEUS, and perhaps my favorite memory, the feeling of my son sitting in my lap as we watched our first movie in the theater together, the fantastic WINNIE THE POOH.  But this feeling of delight didn't end with films, the experience of reading books - any books - again without worrying about when the review was due or if it fit with the audience's tastes at the web zine I was writing for was exhilarating.  And music?  Music sounded better than it had in years: it felt like everything old was new again, and everything new was hitting just the right spots to make it my favorite album for however long I was listening to it until the next most amazing thing ever blasted from my speakers.

And in the middle of it all, the itch started to come back.  Not all at once, but was a simple prickling near my ankles grew, became more agitated, until I started looking at all the places I had been writing, and decided to just start fresh, with a place I could ramble about anything I wanted to, whether it was the new batch of DVDs and Blu-rays sitting forlornly in my binders, the waiting books on my nightstand, both physical and virtual, and the literally dozens of albums from every genre imaginable straining to jump up and be heard.

So starting officially and approximately October 1st (though there is five years of content nestled and waiting), I'll be writing pretty regularly about everything under the sun over at my new home, Stranded Below Nirvana.  Those who know me will say, "hey, that looks like your old site Geek Monkey."  And they'd be right.  I didn't want to waste the site, and I really enjoy the extras that come with a Squarespace account, so a fresh coat of paint later and there you are.

If you were kind enough to link to Celluloid Moon, I hope you'll make the switch and point over to Stranded Below Nirvana.  I still plan to talk (probably a lot) about the movies I see and love, but also about a lot more.  For those I link to here, fear not:  Stranded Below Nirvana has a links page where you'll all be linked to once again.

Thanks for reading.  See you all soon.  I'm sure there's something we can talk about.

* Title bastardized from the excellent short story by Harlan Ellison, "All the Birds Come Home to Roost"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Winter's Bone (2010)

Despite the great performances, the first thing I thought about WINTER'S BONE after the credits rolled was just how economical it was. A shade under 100 minutes, the film wastes very little time driving you into the heart of the story - 17-year old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) has to find her father, a crank cooker named Jessup awaiting trial who put the family house and land up for his bond. Knowing he'll never show up for court, and having to raise her younger brother and sister alone (her mother spends most of the film in a trance-like state), holding on to the the house and land is the only thing keeping Ree and her family from disintergrating.

Everything you need to know about Ree, her family, and the various players who will fade in and out of the story come from this search, and it's a beautiful piece of storytelling from writer/director Debra Granik and her writing partner and producer Anne Rosellini. Set in the Ozark region of Missouri, WINTER'S BONE takes a very simple premise (daughter searches for lost father) and imbues it with a haunting, otherworldly atmosphere by grounding everything in a reality that few mainstream moviegoers are familiar with. The poverty and familial culture represented in the film feels almost classical at times - Jessup Dolly, the missing father; the mysterious Thump Milton, who runs the crooked kingdom of drugs that the town turns a blind eye to; and of course the vengeful, outcast Teardrop, Jessup's brother and Ree's eventual partner in the search for Jessup, who may not even be alive.

I know it was a foregone conclusion that Christian Bale was going to get the Oscar for best Supporting Actor, but John Hawkes as Teardrop turns in an amazing, subtle and brooding performance, alternating between physically terrifying and introspective, holding every scene he's in with a haunting stare that is captivating to watch. It's as much as transformative performance as Bale's especially when compared to the first film I saw him in, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, where he played a lovesick nebbishy shoe salesman whose arm catches fire. Here he has a presence similar to Dennis Hopper, and the climactic scene where the town sherrif pulls Teardrop over is incredible: one of the best fight sequences of the year (Alison Willmore brought this up in her 2010 wrap-up on the IFC News Podcast) without a single punch.

It feels like Jennifer Lawrence sprung out of nowhere to give life to Ree Dolly, a young girl forced to grow up much faster than anyone should have to, raising her siblings and caring for her mother all while to trying to keep food on the table and the influences around her from infecting herself and her family. Her voice is worn with experience, tired and tough, with no room for negotiation or excuses. In a film where every face is lined with a million stories, it's impossible to turn away from hers, and Lawrence manages to be carry the plot of WINTER'S BONE without having to rely on anything other than her determinedness, her drive to find her father and save her family.

Filmed with a striking grace, with a tight screenplay anchored by two excellent Oscar-nominated performances, WINTER'S BONE may have been the big surprise at the awards ceremony this year (it scraped up four nominations including Best Picture), but to anyone who saw the film it should have come as no surprise at all. Great movie, and definitely one of the best of 2010.