To celebrate, I’m opting for the lazy man’s guide to blogging and digging out (or at least linking back to) my ten favourite posts from the first age of Agitation. Original material will resume shortly.
1) Peckinpah as Prospero. I dedicated the whole of December ’09 to a celebration of Sam Peckinpah’s life and career, tying in with the 25th anniversary of his death. It proved the most well-received project I’ve undertaken on the blog and gave me the most satisfaction personally. I’m proud of every single article I posted during that month, but “Peckinpah as Prospero”, a distillation of the importance of Peckinpah’s cameo as Will the coffin-maker in ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’, stands out as the first (and thus far only) time I’ve abandoned the standard operating procedure of overall movie reviews and concentrated in specific detail on one crucial scene. This is the deepest I’ve ever engaged with a film.
2) THE HEY, INTERNET, STOP BEING SUCH CYNICAL EFFING DOUCHEBAGS BLOG-A-THON: Where Eagles Dare. When the inimitable Stacey Ponder at Final Girl put out the call, two years ago, for contributions to a blog-a-thon whose only remit was “write about something in the world of film that fills you with complete and total unbridled fucking retarded JOY … wear your heart on your sleeve and tells us all why you love something”, I didn’t need asking twice. ‘Where Eagles Dare’ is one of those movies that I absolutely loved as a kid – I loved the explosions and the derring do and all that business with the cable cars and I loved the music and it was the first ever movie I saw Clint Eastwood in – and is that rarest of beasts: a movie I love just as much as an adult. This article was the impetus for my Personal Faves project, an on-off series that I’m still working my way through.
3) Inglourious Basterds (a review in five chapters). The day Quentin Tarantino’s controversy-baiting war movie opened in the UK was my first wedding anniversary. We’d booked time off work; a restaurant table had been reserved. Ordinarily, I’d never have dreamed of dragging my better half to a war movie on such a day. But it was Quentin fuckin’ Tarantino! Luckily, Paula was more than receptive and loved the movie as much as I did. I knew then I’d married the right girl! I blogged a “first impressions” review that day and probably would have left it at that but for a fucktarded miss-the-point review in the New York Times that I just couldn’t leave unchallenged. The result, at 2,100 words, was the longest review I’d posted prior to the Peckinpah-fest getting underway.
4) Exorcist II: The Heretic. Last year, I dedicated a week to watching, researching and reviewing all five ‘Exorcist’ films. Since only one is a bona fide masterpiece, two are pretty decent (Blatty’s ‘Exorcist III’ and Schrader’s ‘Dominion’) and the other two are vile, heinous, filthy, poisoned, bilious, despicable and malicious acts of desecration upon cinema, this proved to be something of rollercoaster in terms of quality. It’s a tough call on which is the worst of the franchise, Boorman’s ‘Heretic’ or Harlin’s ‘Exorcist: the Beginning’. ‘Heretic’ probably wins out in terms of open-mouthed disbelief at just how bad it is – and how much pant-wettingly worse it gets. This review is far and away the most sarcastic piece of prose on the blog, challenged only by …
5) The Twlight Quartet: Romeo and Juliet, Bonnie and Clyde, Edward and Bella?!? The centerpiece of four articles I posted on consecutive days, royally ripping the piss out of Catherine Hardwicke’s fuck awful adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s (allegedly; I haven’t read it) fuck-awful novel. It’s a review so snide that I interrupted myself parenthetically half way through to muse “I ought to abandon the mission statement of this blog and review more bad movies. I am just loving how much of a bitch I can be!”
6) Unforgiven. Clint Eastwood’s supreme work as actor and director. The best western since Sam Peckinpah passed on. This piece is the kind of straightforward appreciation I try to produce for Agitation as a matter of course.
7) The Prestige. I’ll be revisiting this one next month as part of the Christopher Nolan blog-a-thon being hosted by Bryce at Things That Don’t Suck between 11 and 18 July, but I’m still quite proud of my original piece on what remains one of my favourite films of the last decade. I’m most proud of the fact that I wrote a fairly in-depth review, discussing all of the reasons I love this tricksy and brilliantly constructed film, whilst delicately manoeuvring around the lacunae with nary a whisper of a plot spoiler. As I noted in the article, “to get into a really interesting discussion of the film … I'd have to give away an audacious, jaw-dropping triple-whammy ending (I've spoken to some people who think it's a double-whammy ending; it's entirely possible it's a quadruple-whammy ending - like much of the film, it's up to the viewer to figure it out) … and I want everyone who watches 'The Prestige' to be as blown away as I was by it.”
8) The Wages of Fear. Like ‘Where Eagles Dare’, ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘The Prestige’, this was written as part of the Personal Faves project. Mostly I talk about the films I’m considering in terms of the direction, the performances, the iconography, etc. – based, of course, entirely on my opinion; other times, I link my articles in to a personal recollection triggered by or involving the film. In other words, a lot of what I write is as much about me as it is about the movies. This is one of those rare pieces that is driven by the atmosphere of the film. Clouzot’s cynical thriller is as black-hearted as it is white-knuckle. I’d like to think this article captures why.
9) Grindhouse. Another article I owe to Stacie at Final Girl. For those of you not in the know, Stacie hosts a semi-regular film club. She selects a film, sets a date and the good and the great of the blogosphere contribute articles on said movie. In January ’09, she picked the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration ‘Grindhouse’. One problem: ‘Grindhouse’ had never been released in the UK. Not in its intended format, anyway. The distributors saw fit to release and extended (almost two hour) cut of ‘Death Proof’; there was rumour that ‘Planet Terror’ would go direct to DVD. It eventually got a theatrical release, several months after ‘Death Proof’ had done the rounds. However, thanks to the Region 1 DVD of ‘Planet Terror’ and a bit of surfing for the spoof trailers on the net, I managed to create my own ‘Grindhouse’ experience. I would still dearly love a release on DVD of the film QT and RR intended.
10) The Day of the Jackal. Have you ever written a piece you’ve been inordinately pleased with? You’ve crafted some decent turns of phrase, struck a conversational tone, achieved a nice line in droll humour. You post it on your blog, feeling quite satisfied. Check back the next day for any comments. Check back again. And again. Absolutely bloody nothing. Granted, in the early days of this blog it was a big deal to get just one comment (whole swathes of posts went by without any response) and I didn’t start Agitation with the sole intention of getting lots of hits and being uber-popular. (I’m reminded of a cartoon I saw depicting a little kid sitting on the knee of a department store Santa; Santa asks what he’d like for Christmas; the kid replies, “I want an X-box and an iPod and fifty comments a day on my blog.”) But I digress. The point is: my ‘Day of the Jackal’ review, posted as part of last year’s Shots on the Blog crime festival, fits the old saw of all my articles being like my children; I love them all, even the unpopular ones that don’t fit in and get bullied by the other kids and stay in their room listening to heavy metal and reading back issues of “Guns ‘n’ Ammo”. Hell, I probably love those kind of articles even more and for precisely that reason.