Holy shit, January 2009 is shaping up to be a month I wanna forget, and fast. I know, I know, the inauguration was great but now it's over and la famille Campaspe is still recovering from whatever the hell virus hit us. The economy is still dropping like a stone, the weather is bad, I can never get everyone well enough to get anything done or (almost) anything watched. The Siren went to the doctor yesterday. Ever had the kind of cough that makes someone change seats on the subway to get away from you, even though you are diligently covering your mouth?
Worst of all, my solace in all times of trouble, Rumpole, will never solve a new case again, because the great John Mortimer died Jan. 16.
February, the Siren wants to kiss you full on the lips when you finally get here.
So this post is the Siren, trying to find the silver lining. We begin with the Siren's proud acceptance of
The Dardos Award, bestowed first by Flickhead and next by Glenn Kenny.
Here's the purpose: "The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."
There are rules, however:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.
The Siren is tickled pink, especially since not only did she not snag a Weblog Award nom this year, none of the blogs she was rooting for won their categories either. The Dardos comes with the happy obligation to pick five other worthy blogs. Some of the Siren's best choices are already chosen but there are a lot of good ones out there, so here goes. She's expanding the definition of "writing" by the way, since a picture is worth a thousand words:
Marilyn and Roderick at Ferdy on Films, for always raising the tone
Operator_99 at Allure, for always making things more beautiful
Shahn at Six Martinis and the Seventh Art, for the best screen captures ever
David Cairns at Shadowplay, for constantly reminding us of more awesome old movies to see (check out this one, a noir starring George Sanders that I'd barely heard of)
Jacqueline T. Lynch at Another Old Movie Blog, for loving old movies (and Dorothy McGuire) as much as I do.
Update: The Siren has been informed that David Cairns and Marilyn Ferdinand were already tapped for the Dardos. So the Siren isn't replacing them--no sirree, they are irreplaceable--but she is adding two exceptionally worthy bloggers who, so far as she knows, haven't received a Dardos yet. If she's wrong, and they have, well shoot, the Siren can play the Dardos Shell Game long as it takes. So, two more Dardoses to:
Ivan G. Shreve for Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, because he mixes nostalgia with pungent wit, watches great movies, has cool taste in noir and because I can't stop staring at whatever the heck he has on his banner.
Chris Cagle at Category D, because he writes about film on a very high level and because his still-going-strong 1947 project is one of the Siren's favorite things in the film blogosphere.
Tuesday's New York Times has the great Dave Kehr doing what he does best: writing up a set of classic-era DVDs that might otherwise be overlooked or consigned to the nostalgia shelf, and paying due, unironic and well-argued respect to those films. It is a beautiful thing to open a mainstream publication and find a critic willing to argue for the aesthetic and social importance of Delmer Daves and Troy Donahue. The Siren does not always agree with Kehr, although she agrees 100% with this review of the Warners set, and is now thinking she needs to buy it. But Kehr doesn't condescend to the old, and thank god for that.
The Siren wants to be polite in bring up her next topic, because she is trying not to worsen her condition with stress, but do you suppose fellow Times writer Sarah Lyall could make more of a point of reading Kehr and learning from his approach? Look at this line, in a Sunday article about the Guy Ritchie version of Sherlock Holmes due in November, describing Basil Rathbone as "sexlessly debonair in the way Hollywood liked its leading men in the 1930s and 1940s." In his Sherlock Holmes movies, yes, because the role was written that way. But in Rathbone's other movies, like the one above, NO and as for leading men--okay, I won't rant, if you're reading this blog you don't need me to elaborate, just scroll down to the 20 actors meme or any other classic-film-blogger's 20 actors meme. This is the kind of line about old movies that instantly brands you as someone who needs to watch more old movies.
And that brings the Siren to a sincere memo to the extremely funny and very popular Tbogg, who has been energetically mocking Big Hollywood, the new conservative film site. An enterprise to which the Siren says, hey, rock on. But there are a number of entries about John Nolte's TCM Pick feature along the lines of "Hey, another old movie on TCM!" Which might, just might give people the impression that there is something, well, mockable about watching old movies. Clearly the Siren disagrees with that as a general premise, but more importantly, John's championing of old movies is the best reason to read the site. That, and Robert Avrech on anything to do with silent movies. Sometimes the Siren finds good movies via John, other times she disagrees, but does anyone want to argue that even the lowest-common-denominator commenters on BH--no, make that especially them--would not benefit from watching Double Indemnity? Please, Mr. Tbogg, if John wants to tell his readers to watch "Paths of Glory," let him.
Edward Copeland, a voice much-missed during a too-long absence from the blogging scene, has been back for a while, gracing us with, among other things, an absolutely classic title for his review of The Reader. (Don't drink anything when you're clicking over, I'm warning you.) Brooke Cloudbuster at The Performance Review has agreed to take up the gauntlet for this year's Oscar survey as Edward continues his recovery. This year's theme, one dear to the hearts of all Stinky Lulu fans, is The Best and Worst of the Best Supporting Actresses. The Siren is looking forward to participating.
Finally, the Siren did manage to slot her two Foreign films of the past two weeks, she just didn't post them, so she is now.
Sous les Toits de Paris, Rene Clair (1930). The Siren wasn't crazy about the articles she read online about this one; she liked it a lot more than did most reviewers. What they found to be creakiness, the Siren saw as deliberate artifice trying to meld silent film and sound. Beautiful to look at and marvelously bittersweet. Updated to add: Gareth has a good post about the movie, the Siren is happy to reveal. Since it is brief, I won't quote it at length, just go read the whole thing.
Une affaire de femmes, Claude Chabrol (1988).
The Siren owes her Chabrol addiction to Flickhead. Here, Dennis Grunes discusses a scene that also cut the Siren to the quick:
Chabrol and Huppert’s Marie isn’t Mama from I Remember Mama but an imperfect mother, a human possibility and being—a glimpse of which we get from the get-go when she administers the first of several light smacks to her young son, Pierrot. When the baby she is carrying, a girl, is praised by a neighbor, Marie responds, “I got it right with this little one.” Chabrol cuts to Pierrot, whose depth of injury at this remark, to which his mother is oblivious, is apparent to us. In their apartment, Pierrot fishes for reassurance, asking his mother, “When I was born you were happy, too?” But Marie’s response is too general, too impersonal, to reassure: “You were a boy. It is always right to have a boy.” Later, Marie will neglect both children for the sake of her illegal work or her affair, leaving them to fend for themselves during one of Paul’s (it is implied) recurrent abandonments of family or, once he has unapologetically returned, with Paul. Still, she is elsewhere shown to be an affectionate, attentive mother. Throughout, Marie Latour is recognizably, sometimes distressingly human.
Finally, the Siren has to admit that David Ehrenstein's birthday greeting was one of her favorites.