The end of 2015 is now upon us, and behind us lies the first full calendar year of The Solute’s existence.
But before we pop the champagne, crack off the firecrackers, and kiss that certain special someone, several of us Soluters would like to take a moment to look back on the year, and to commemorate our personal favorite Solute articles of the year — both those created by our own hand (carpal tunnel syndrome is real) and those of our fellow writers.
2015 was an odd year for me — The Dissolve dissolved, I moved cities, and had a fair amount of personal issues. That aside, I believe that one of the best things I’ve ever written — and am still writing! — is my ongoing series on American gangster movies, American Underworld.
The most recent installment, in which I dig into my love of, among other things, the Howard Hawks’s gonzo gangster flick Scarface.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Ritual itself is hugely important here. The priest’s-eye-view from Taxi Driver makes a return, this time showing not a perversion of the Eucharist on the altar, but the original that the Church is imitating. There are constant slice-of-life snippets of Jewish ritual, goats being cut up and blood running down the Temple drain, foreshadowing Jesus’ death and the nature of it. He is the ritual sacrifice to reunite God and man, much more than any enlightened spiritual ideas of love and self-denial. Actually, it’s a surprise how much the fundamentalists rejected this film, since it seems to be part of that tradition to its core, the snake-handling side in particular. And those ultra-conservative Christians embraced it more than the media gave them credit for: in Scorsese on Scorsese, the director repeats a story from Jay Cocks, of a screening with two “black ladies behind him saying, ‘Hallelujah!’ and ‘That’s the way He said it!’… Which is exactly the way it should be.” The Jesus of the film is certainly a fire and brimstone preacher, confronting everyone He meets with their unworthiness, daring them to repent, to love Him or crucify Him. When He returns from His meditation in the desert with the ax he used to fell the Tree of Knowledge, He says, “Once I believed in love. Now I believe in this!” But the genius of the movie is how much those two opposing forces are one and the same.”
I have to confess that I don’t spend as much time reading the site as I feel I ought, and I know I’m forgetting a few articles I really liked at the time I read them. I’m a bad person who is near-perpetually sleep-deprived. I hang my head in shame. But skimming back through the archives some, I found once again Nerd’s touching article about Calvin and Hobbes, “‘But Don’t You Go Anywhere’: The All Too Real Fantasy World Of Calvin And Hobbes,” and I’d like to draw attention to it. Also to observe that there’s something all the more powerful about a certain strip he includes because Calvin and Hobbes are alone in it, with Calvin telling us what his mom said instead of being told it by her. He’s processing.
For my own, I was torn. The thing is, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go for a piece that I thought deserved a little more attention but maybe wasn’t as good or another that was better but not as “important.” In the end, I may have split the difference with “Of Sexual Politics and Superheroes,” my piece about women in (mostly) the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It could do with an update; I will have things to say about Jessica Jones in the New Year, probably. But it’s been a delightful experience to share things with you, and I hope to continue both my regular weekly “thing in my head” column and my new Celebrating the Living tributes in 2016!
I often say that I hate most of what I write, and that’s probably not more than one-third self-deprecation. But looking back on my writing, I’ve found that I actually had a tough time narrowing down my work to one particularly good piece, which says something to the creative energy this site has brought out in me and many others. After careful deliberation, I chose my overview of Harris Savides’ work, which I’ve been trying to ape ever since (as of this writing, I have three similar pieces in the pipeline). The process that led to that article came as a result of The Dissolve’s shutdown and the mad rush of ideas that came with the dramatic (and sad) increase in free time. The pieces I wrote them are probably the best pieces I’ve written or will ever write, and this is the best of them, and probably what I should strive for in everything I write; succinct yet thorough, not overly concerned with glib one-liners, and invested in the look of films without getting bogged down in just saying that they’re beautiful.
As for my favorite piece from this site’s other writers, I really knew from the minute this assignment was brought up which author I was going to write up, and that’s my main man wallflower. He pretty much represents everything that this site and the mothership represented; intelligent people writing intelligently and thoroughly about film. Nowhere else was this intelligence and diligence shown better than during his series on Stanley Kubrick, and perhaps in no article in that series better than his one on A.I. It’s a beautiful piece of writing, it’s a funny piece of writing, it’s the kind of piece of writing that makes you wonder what you’ve been doing with your time, and what he’s been doing with his.
Nerd in the Basement:
2015 has been a transformative year for The Solute, and I’m privileged to have been along for the ride with this site in what I sincerely believe will be looked back on as one of its most formative years. And of all the numerous film reviews, movie news and editorials/rants I put out on this site in the past 365 days, I think my personal favorite is my editorial looking back on the Peanuts comic strip on its 65th anniversary. This piece of pop culture has been a hugely influential one on my life, and to write about its impact on me, as well as the finer nuances of the comic as a whole, was an incredible honor.
It’s an honor to be working on a site like The Solute with so many top caliber writers whose passion for the realm of cinema I find to be most inspiring. The work put out by the guys and gals on this site always impresses me, and I do wanna highlight one particular piece in this retrospective; The Screen Flickers, And There We Are, by Gillianren. A marvelous essay examining the real meaning of the term “film buff” as well as the wonderful sense of unity cinema can bring about.
Looking over my work at The Solute for this past year brought about a not-at-all startling conclusion: I barely wrote jack shit for the site this year. Actually, to be honest, I put out more articles than I remembered, but it was still a pitifully low number, and I swear I’ll work on that next year. Er, this year, I guess.
Really, there was one article that really came together the way I wanted this year, and that was my look at Back To The Future… The Ride, written to coincide with The Dissolve’s Movie of the Week coverage of the 1985 classic. It gave me a chance to look at story structure modes in non-traditional media, and talk about the fascinating way theme park attractions can act as mini-sequels.
Everyone else wrote a lot, a lot, a lot more articles than I, which makes it much harder to whittle down a favorite. In the end I’m going with Matthew Cowe’s Solute Record Club article on The Smiths’ debut album. Matthew’s record club articles are always fantastic, but I chose this one because he actually convinced me to listen to a bad that I previously written off. I didn’t have anything against The Smiths, but I was positive that there was nothing there for me to enjoy, and I was very wrong. Cheers, Matthew, the power of persuasion is a dangerous tool! Use it responsibly.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, from THE SOLUTE to you!