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- Any movie viewed in the year 2013 that I haven’t seen before qualifies for the list.
- I balance artistic merit with a swinging good time.
- In order of importance I rank artistic brilliance, “re-view-ability” and only then “a swinging good time”.
- I do twelve top movies. Consider it cinema calendrics.
- I never agree with my rankings three months down the road, but this list is at least a first impression ranking.
1. To the Wonder (2013, Terrence Malick)
To the Wonder is not the visceral punch that Tree of Life was, but it shows that Malick is still at the top of his game. Click here for my review.
2. Gravity (2013, Alfonso Cuaron)
Gravity is perhaps the most perfectly constructed action film of all time. It is the climax of the genre. Click here for my thought on it.
3. Prince Avalanche (2013, David Gordon Green)
I once said “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice and shame on Paul Rudd for making more movies.” I can happily separate this film from Rudd’s typical fair. My review is here.
4. Eternity and a Day (2003, Theo Angelopoulos)
Theo Angelopoulos, whose The Weeping Meadow is among my favorites of all time, is a master. Every image is haunting, mythical, rich and worth as many eyes as the world has got.
5. Francis Ha (2013, Noah Baumbach)
Woody Allen once said “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Francis, I am pleased to add, laughs with him.
6. Los Cronoscrimenes (2007, Nacho Vigalondo)
Timetravel movies are tricky particularly in making us care since Time is a key aspect to drama: exactly what the genre tinkers with, but Los Cronoscrimenes shifts the focus to freedom and morality. It’s a sticky and sinister film.
7. [TIE] The Bling Ring (2013, Sofia Coppola),
and The Virgin Suicides (1999, Sofia Coppola)
As a fan of Eugenides (who wrote the novel on which the movie is based) and as one who is mesmerized by whatever Coppola films, The Virgin Suicides has been on my must watch list forever. It is a testament to Coppola’s skill that I don’t hate her movies despite using protagonists that I wouldn’t care about at all.I don’t know why The Bling Ring is sticking with me. It doesn’t matter how shallow Coppola’s characters are or how far they descend into stupidity, she does magic before your very eyes.
8. Much Ado About Nothing (2012, Joss Whedon)
Whedon is always good for some fun, but his take on the Shakespeare comedy was surprisingly thoughtful. Nearly every shift from the source text was fruitful and enlightening. Some of the staging was off, as was some of the goofing, but overall a pleasing remake.
9. After Earth (2013, M. Night Shyamalan)
It’s cool to bag on M.N. Shyamalan now, but I found After Earth to be a tightly wound flick. With so many big action flicks clueless about the use of a flashback (Pacific Rim, Man of Steel) it was nice to see one tied nicely to the macrostory.
10. Attenberg (2010, Athina Rachel Tsangari)
I have a thing for Greek filmmakers. The awkward, funny, bizarre, heartfelt and soulcrushing Attenberg by Tsangari (producer of the grotesque, terrifying, hilarious, sad Dogtooth)
11. World War Z
A competent popcorn flick.
I love Twitter jokes and lists and Twitter Joke Lists. Here’s my first compilation and here’s my second:
I asked her to dance. She thanked me and said she was flattered, but she declined. I had to ask her why. She said, This is a grocery store.
— Arjun Basu (@arjunbasu) March 24, 2013
Arjun’s little romantic/unromantic/silly/sad stories get me. Every. single. time.
Doughnuts are like bagels that you can eat.
— Bryan Donaldson (@TheNardvark) April 4, 2013
You can sit in a Taco Bell and make your burritos kiss for as long as you want. There’s no rule.
— Nathan Buckley (@duplicitron) April 4, 2013
I love this sort of humor, adulterating childlike activities.
Twenty monkeys using fifteen typewriters only needed a half hour to produce the collected works of Dan Brown.
— Uncle Dynamite(@UncleDynamite) March 30, 2013
I could fill an entire post with Uncle Dynamite. He’s quite a treasure.
I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum and I thank you for your patience because I brought a lot of gum. I’ll be over there if you need me.
— Tim Siedell (@badbanana) March 26, 2013
This joke regresses nicely into meekness.
Decent prank: earn a college diploma
— jon(@senderblock23) March 30, 2013
Underplayed to perfection.
“After a while… Eric.” -last line of my alligator/crocodile buddy cop screenplay
— Miah St. Cyr (@MiahSaint) March 24, 2013
First run thru this isn’t that funny, then it’s funny, then it is touching, then I’ve spent a lot of time appreciating something silly.
Well I like dead Pan humor but Wendy won’t stop crying and the lost boys are throwing plates at me
— sweaty five dollars (@iscoff) April 3, 2013
Man, I cannot pick out my favorite part of this tweet…
Movie Idea: A man forced to choose between his two passions: tap dancing and cat burglaring.
— Matt Roller (@rolldiggity) March 25, 2013
Beware, this tweet takes on a life of its own in your head. I’m in the latter half of the third act myself.
Taste the Rimbaud
— Elisa Gabbert (@egabbert) March 29, 2013
I’m glad somebody does something with all those jingles I have in my head.
sorry, but if you want to speak human mouthwords to me you will need to submit a written application at least seven business days in advance
— Keply Pentland (@MmeSurly) April 2, 2013
K. Pentland doesn’t do jokes, she’s just marvelously herself.
Sitting here staring into my purse wishing that someone had accidentally dropped a taco in there earlier.
— Kendra Alvey (@Kendragarden) March 26, 2013
I may have a thing with tacos…
- Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
- Submissive to everything, open, listening
- Try never get drunk outside yr own house
- Be in love with yr life
- Something that you feel will find its own form
- Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
- Blow as deep as you want to blow
- Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
- The unspeakable visions of the individual
- No time for poetry but exactly what is
- Visionary tics shivering in the chest
- In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
- Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
- Like Proust be an old teahead of time
- Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
- The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
- Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
- Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
- Accept loss forever
- Believe in the holy contour of life
- Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
- Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
- Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
- No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
- Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
- Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
- In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
- Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
- You’re a Genius all the time
- Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
1. Write One True Sentence
“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”
2. Stop Before You’re Stuck
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.”
3. Think About the Story Only When Working On It
“When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything. But afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”
4. Read What You Last Wrote
“The best way is to read it all every day from the start, correcting as you go along, then go on from where you stopped the day before. When it gets so long that you can’t do this every day read back two or three chapters each day; then each week read it all from the start. That’s how you make it all of one piece.”
5. Make Don’t Describe an Emotion
“I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced. In writing for a newspaper you told what happened and, with one trick and another, you communicated the emotion aided by the element of timeliness which gives a certain emotion to any account of something that has happened on that day; but the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always, was beyond me and I was working very hard to get it.”
6. Write Before You Type
“When you start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none. So you might as well use a typewriter because it is that much easier and you enjoy it that much more. After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333 which is a damned good average for a hitter. It also keeps it fluid longer so you can better it easier.”
7. Be Brief
“It wasn’t by accident that the Gettysburg address was so short. The laws of prose writing are as immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics.”
There are many fine uses of Twitter, but to me Twitter is for jokes. And since I love Top Tweets Lists I thought I’d take a crack at my own. I’ve cherry plucked 12 from my fav list from roughing within the last month or so.
I took the cucumber out of my pants. She sagged visibly then. Plastic bags were extra, I said. That night, our salad tasted like bitterness.
— Arjun Basu (@arjunbasu) January 31, 2013
Arjun Basu tweets short stories, often bittersweet, sometimes merely bitter, but always compelling.
I wish I was a Wiccan named Walter, I wish I was a vaulter, I wish I had a girl who looked good also named Walter.
— donni(@donni) January 31, 2013
There’s so much fun to be had with references to the past. Ephemeral jokes work best when the subject is ephemeral, like the above Skee-Lo reference.
Ready to feel old? When was the last time a friend asked you to go out? No, wait. That’s not old. That’s lonely. Ready to feel both at once?
— vladchoc (@vladchoc) January 31, 2013
Vladchoc is good at breaking jokes humorously.
Gauge a person’s importance by throwing a handful of Skittles at them and seeing how long it takes you to get tackled by large men in suits.
— Ted Travelstead (@trumpetcake) January 26, 2013
Ted Travelstead is pretty much the most creative joke teller ever. He eschews established funny for the unmined areas.
Jerry needs a haircut for a date that night but doesn’t want a bad “Day 1 Cut.” Kramer has a guy who can cut it so it’ll pass for a “Day 14”
— Modern Seinfeld (@SeinfeldToday) January 16, 2013
Seinfeld Today is flawless.
Even if your wife is 9 months pregnant, she probably doesn’t want to be called your “little linebacker of love”.
— Joffre the Giant (@joffrethegiant) January 18, 2013
Sometimes it’s the true things that make us laugh.
I never feel guilty about eating baby carrots because it’s not like adult carrots are doing anything great with their lives.
— Matt Roller (@rolldiggity) January 16, 2013
If you wanted to fight me because this isn’t the funniest Matt Roller tweet in the last month then I would acquiesce, because anything he tweets his star worthy and plus I’m a really huge sissy.
??? // RT @lindachown2013 Language of the poet makes meaning invisible.
— Aarοn Belz (@aaronbelz) January 31, 2013
This is easily the most economic joke I’ve ever seen on Twitter. Aaron Belz is one of the best.
Pushed Eli’s buggy into the ditch & set an elaborate hex upon it. When he remonstrated, I merely said “Meet thy new boss, lamb.” #AmishWar
— Uncle Dynamite(@UncleDynamite) January 23, 2013
Uncle Dynamite escalates this joke perfectly. Stunning.
New slogan for KFC: “We found lunch in a hopeless place.”
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) January 9, 2013
One of my favorite things about Twitter is all the helpful free advice for America.
Four hours later, I realized that I wasn’t hired to babysit a child, this was, in fact, Frankie Muniz.
— Charlene deGuzman (@charstarlene) January 17, 2013
This Tweet is really scary. Pretty sure it’s the plot of an upcoming Paranormal movie.
*an endless horde of pugs in full gallop, rippling like the sea, and my form, appearing intermittently, diving in and out like a dolphin*
— Liam G. (@LHGarrett) January 15, 2013
Sometimes the painting of the picture is the best part of the picture.
The Man with the Shredded Ear
All Guns Are Loaded
The Man Who Loved the Rain
The Corpse Came in Person
The Porter Rose at Dawn
We All Liked Al
Too Late for Smiling
They Only Murdered Him Once
The Diary of a Loud Check Suit
Stop Screaming — It’s Me
Return from Ruin
Between Two Liars
The Lady with the Truck
They Still Come Honest
My Best to the Bride
Law Is Where You Buy It
Deceased When Last Seen
The Black-Eyed Blonde
Musical directions in Erik Satie’s piano works:
- “Wonder about yourself”
- “Provide yourself with shrewdness”
- “Alone, for one moment”
- “Open the head”
- “Very lost”
- “In a very particular way”
- “Light as an egg”
- “Like a nightingale with a toothache”
- “Moderately, I insist”
- “A little bit warm”
- “Very Turkish”
by S.S. Van Dine, 1928:
- The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.
- No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.
- There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.
- The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It’s false pretenses.
- The culprit must be determined by logical deductions — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time. Such an author is no better than a practical joker.
- The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.
- There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader’s trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.
- The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic séances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. A reader has a chance when matching his wits with a rationalistic detective, but if he must compete with the world of spirits and go chasing about the fourth dimension of metaphysics, he is defeated ab initio.
- There must be but one detective — that is, but one protagonist of deduction — one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn’t know who his codeductor is. It’s like making the reader run a race with a relay team.
- The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story — that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.
- A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person — one that wouldn’t ordinarily come under suspicion.
- There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature.
- Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.
- The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be rational and scientific. That is to say, pseudo-science and purely imaginative and speculative devices are not to be tolerated in the roman policier. Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure.
- The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it. By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face — that all the clues really pointed to the culprit — and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter. That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying.
- A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no ‘atmospheric’ preoccupations. Such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.
- A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments — not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities.
- A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kind-hearted reader.
- The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in a different category of fiction — in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak. It must reflect the reader’s everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.
- And (to give my Credo an even score of items) I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author’s ineptitude and lack of originality. (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect. (b) The bogus spiritualistic séance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away. (c) Forged fingerprints. (d) The dummy-figure alibi. (e) The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar. (f) The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person. (g) The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops. (h) The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in. (i) The word association test for guilt. (j) The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth.
“For the writing of detective stories there are very definite laws,” Van Dine wrote, “unwritten, perhaps, but none the less binding; and every respectable and self-respecting concocter of literary mysteries lives up to them.”
Guidelines adopted by director Chuck Jones in making Warner Bros.’ Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote cartoons, from Jones’ 1999 memoir Chuck Amuck:
- The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “beep-beep!”
- No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of the Acme products.
- The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” — George Santayana)
- No dialogue ever, except “beep-beep!”
- The Road Runner must stay on the road — otherwise, logically, he would not be called road runner.
- All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.
- All materials, tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
- Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.
- The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
PARAPROSDOKIANS are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently humorous.
1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
8. They begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
10. Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations. On my desk is a work station.
11. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
12. In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’
13. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
17. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
18. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
19. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.
20. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
21. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
22. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
23. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
24. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
25. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
26. Where there’s a will, there are relatives.