Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Top Five Blog Posts (times two)

I began last year's blogging in a slightly unusual way, with a book review. I want to start 2017 by doing something completely new: offering a brief retrospective about some of my favorite and most popular posts of the past.

In addition to functioning as a kind of "greatest hits" retrospective, I hope this post draws attention to some of the earlier entries in this blog's three-plus year archive more generally. In the process of compiling these two top five lists I've realized that there are some enjoyable gems among my earlier posts.*

First I will share a list of the blog's top five most popular posts, ranked by how many total pageviews each one has received as of 12/30/2016. That list, with comments, will be followed by a list of my personal top five favorite posts, also with comments.

Top Five Blog Posts by Pageviews

1. Why Manhunter Kicks Red Dragon's Stupid Ass. One always hopes that a post's high pageview count corresponds in some way with the quality of the writing and interest of the content of the post. However, I don't kid myself. Much as I wish that the number-one clicked-on post, "Why Manhunter Kicks Red Dragon's Stupid Ass," was well-viewed due to strong interest in Michael Mann and his great thriller Manhunter, I strongly suspect that its draw has more to do with the words "Kicks Stupid Ass" appearing in the title.

Nevertheless, "Why Manhunter Kicks Red Dragon's Stupid Ass" stands as one of the blog's finest examples of using close attention to cinematic aesthetics to defend a taste preference. I do genuinely think Manhunter is a vastly better film than Red Dragon in almost every way, but what I like best about this post is the deliberate way in which I make my case clear to the reader. It's a good example of close visual analysis (via the scene comparisons) used to support an argument, as well as a chance for me to champion the great Michael Mann.

(Due to its sharp visual analysis and overall written flow, I would have chosen "Why Manhunter Kicks Red Dragon's Stupid Ass" as a personal favorite post in any case. Yet I was spared having to use up one of my five picks since it was the top winner by number of pageviews -- a total of 1,438 on 12/30/2016.)

2. In Defense of the Jaws Sequels. I am so glad this post is statistically popular because I am quite fond of it. I genuinely love the Jaws sequels (especially Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge) so am happy to think I might have persuaded other film lovers to take a chance on one or more of these hidden gems.

3. Five Directors to Watch Out For. This is an important post and the earliest-composed one (November 2013) to appear on either list here. It discusses the work of Nicole Holofcener, Steve McQueen, Lars von Trier, Steven Soderbergh, and Nicolas Winding Refn, all of whom I still revere. It also reveals this interesting truth about me:
at the end of the day, I would rather see a "noble failure" by filmmakers with something interesting or unique to show me rather than something formulaic and cliched that simply "plays it safe."
That is a key to understanding my cinematic tastes and aesthetic preferences.

Sidney Lumet, director of 12 Angry Men (1957) and several other truly great films. 

4. Alternate Top 100: 12 Angry Men (1957). An incisive piece about a truly great film in which I claim that 12 Angry Men is "the greatest fiction film about the American legal system of which I am aware" and "one of my favorite movies in any genre." I stand by those statements, and that is why I include 12 Angry Men in my "Alternative Top 100," a list of films meant to be added to or swapped into the Entertainment Weekly Top 100 Films list to correct its "oversights and errors." As I write of this project,
I am simply naming some films that I think should be on any legitimate list of this kind. See my second footnote here if you want an idea about which titles I would cut from EW's list to make room for my alternative selections.
I am proud and pleased to note that Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men, an essential watch for anyone, is the first film I selected for this distinction.

5. The Reef vs. Open Water. I love this post because it expresses my enduring love for fictional shark attack movies and because it contains this line:
Broadly speaking, Open Water is about how modern bureaucracy, white peoples' need for cheap tourism, and lack of personal connections between married people lead to mistakes that destroy us, then we get eaten by sharks, whereas The Reef is about bonding with friends and relatives, mending past relationships and discovering rekindled love, then we get eaten by sharks.
My Top Five Favorite Blog Posts

In making these selections I went with my gut instincts at first -- by which process I came up with eight or nine posts. In winnowing the list down I tried to choose for content but also for good writing and a satisfying overall unity to each piece. I hope I succeeded and that you'll check out some of these ones if you haven't before.

1. Review: Prometheus (2012). This post constitutes an excellent defense of an under-appreciated movie. It includes a well-balanced discussion of the film, including its weaknesses, and the piece as a whole flows well.

2. I Am A Feminist. A key manifesto and as much autobiography as I'm ever likely to write, this post acknowledges many key influences on my worldview and thinking, including my maternal grandmother, pop-cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian, and most importantly, my intellectual mentor Kathleen Rowe Karlyn. Without Karlyn's guidance I would have neither my astute critical perspective on popular culture nor my beloved day job as a film studies professor. "I Am A Feminist" is must-read if you want to understand where I'm coming from as a person and movie critic.

3. Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014).  Eviscerating reviews (like this one and this one) are the funniest. This is such a review and is therefore quite funny. Yet it also gives credit where credit is due (no shaky cam!) and marks a pivotal entry in my increased highlighting of racism and Orientalism in popular films.

4. EW #11: King Kong (1933). It is huge fun to write about films you love well, and I love the 1933 version of King Kong. I also despise Peter Jackson's bombastic 2005 remake, and this review both extols the virtues of a deserving classic and briefly runs down why the CGI remake is a colossal waste of time. Plus it includes a reference to mule piss, a sure sign of an excellent piece of film criticism.

5. Film Reviews Are Subjective. This is the famed "Fuck the Tomatometer" post with the picture of the kid flipping the bird -- an image that almost singlehandedly guarantees this post a spot among my favorites. Despite its seemingly confrontational stance, "Film Reviews Are Subjective" is a thoughtful, metadiscursive piece about the nature of film criticism. Like "I Am A Feminist," this post is a manifesto about one of my core stances as a person, a writer, and a cinephile.

I actually see "Film Reviews Are Subjective" as one of my better pieces of writing -- I like its discussion of film fandom and subjectivity as inextricable components of honest film criticism. I like the contrast that Sal's Marvel fandom allows me to create with my own eclectic tastes. Plus I get in a few great jabs at that useless, annoying tomatometer.

* At one point I tried to install one of those "featured post" widgets to help promote older blog entries, but the widget screwed up the look of the sidebar so I deleted it.

No comments:

Post a Comment