Well, that's another year done and dusted. I rarely get too personal on this blog, but as this time of year tends to lead one to contemplation, perhaps you'll forgive me a bit of indulgent navel gazing. 2013 ended up being a bit of a rough year for me, in some respects. First, my baby son, Kenji, went through two surgeries - with one more, the biggie, still to come in early 2014. Fortunately, he came through them both like a champ and is doing great, with an excellent prognosis, but the stress of the overall experience surely shaved a few years off my life. This, coupled with my dear Grandma Mary passing away around Thanksgiving, made the past year a bit of an emotional roller coaster. My grandmother lived a good, long life (she was almost 90) and I feel lucky to have spent a lot of time with her over the years, and her death wasn't unexpected...but it was still a blow. These events, along with a busier-than-ever teaching schedule, have sapped some of my energy to write on this blog. I didn't fare too badly in the end, managing to scrape out 26 posts on this main page (not counting this one), plus 9 book reviews on my Books page, and a few more on my TV page. Not too shabby for my first full calendar year of blogging, but a far cry from what I had intended. I had hoped to write much more, but that's how things panned out. Best laid plans, and all that.
But the year definitely had many upsides as well, and I feel blessed in many ways. At 46 years old, I'm a wee bit paunchier and slower than before, but still remain generally hale and hearty, and haven't lost that bounce in my step that characterized my younger days. I'm lucky to have a great job (with the added bonus of a cool, hands-off boss) that I not only continue to enjoy but which allows me plenty of time off during university holidays, a rare gift indeed. Other than my late grandmother, my wonderful family (and equally wonderful in-laws) continued to hang in there and are doing well, for which I'm most thankful. My friends at home and abroad also prospered in 2013; I was especially gratified to see my longtime best bud, Clayton (who not only created the masthead and general design for most of this site, but maintains his own fabulously-varied and educational blog at Claytonology) make a much-needed move from a cold, inhospitable life in a west coast big city, to the slower pace and more human scale of small town living in the rural midwest, which has proven to be a life-altering, soul-enriching experience for him.
I'm also fortunate enough to have a lovely, kind and patient wife, who not only accepts my movie fixation, book, DVD and Blu-Ray buying habits and occasional late night blogging hours, but also even joins me in my old movie viewings, time permitting. And most of all, having Kenji in our lives has in all other respects been an absolute joy, his mere presence brightening not only our lives but those of my parents and other friends and relatives. While fatherhood has added a myriad stresses and worries to my life (and yes, some sleepless nights), it has also changed it for the better in so many other ways. Watching him grow and develop has been, simply put, fantastic. So far, his interest leans more to books than movies or TV (he's a big Dr. Seuss fan), but I'm working on him. He's showing a gratifying, burgeoning interest in The Muppets, and occasionally will sit still for Tom & Jerry and Moomin cartoons, so all is well on that front. It's early days yet...I can't wait to introduce him to the Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny, Tarzan, cowboy movies and Godzilla, to name just a few. Fun stuff to come in the future, to be sure.
To get back to movies, and blogging, 2013 saw me participate in a few blogathons which proved very rewarding. I was pleased to take part in both the Classic Movie Blog Association's Fabulous Films of the 40s Blogathon in February, as well as Patti's first (and very successful) blogathon at They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To, celebrating John Garfield's 100th Birthday, in March. July also saw me contribute a lengthy love letter to Route 66 for the Me-TV Summer of Classic TV Blogathon, sponsored by the Classic TV Blog Association. And finally, I was glad to add my two cents to the Hammer Horror Blogathon, hosted by Rick at Classic TV and Film Cafe. There were several other blogathons I was tempted to join, but in the end, I decided discretion was the better part of valor, and opted out rather than stretch myself too thin. The deadlines blogathons bring can be a very helpful motivation, but there were times when I had my fill of stress and obligations and chose to pare things back instead. It's been less than two years since I started this blog, but overall I'm still finding it an enjoyable creative outlet, if always challenging.
I still found time to watch a goodly amount of movies last year, some even - marvel of marvels! - at the theater. A few newer releases that I found noteworthy include The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (many complained about the film's excesses, but I lapped all that Middle Earth fantasy goodness up); Jack Reacher, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie's nimble, gritty adaptation of Lee Child's series of bestselling novels, the sleeper hit of the year for me: an intelligent, lean-and-mean throwback to pre-CGI, 70s muscular action-thriller filmmaking; and Guillermo del Toro's gleeful giant robots vs. giant monsters smash up, Pacific Rim, arguably the most fun I've had at the multiplex in a long, long time, expertly tapping into my inner 12-year-old. Other new releases I enjoyed on the big screen or at home on Blu-Ray, despite their flaws, were the visually striking and imaginative sci-fi gem, Oblivion; blockbusters Man of Steel (lots of good, epic stuff, but not enough of Kevin Costner's Pa Kent for my liking) and Star Trek Into Darkness (a questionable reworking of The Wrath of Khan, but featuring a very game cast as younger versions of the classic Enterprise crew, all but overshadowed by a wonderfully menacing performance from the ubiquitous and very talented Benedict Cumberbatch); and Cabin in the Woods, a very clever riff on horror movie cliches. More entertaining popcorn viewing included the schlocky but very fun Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, the equal parts harrowing and swaggeringly cool Django Unchained, the well-done but ultimately rather depressing "found footage" teen superhero drama, Chronicle, and the in-name-only theatrical reboot of the classic 70s UK crime drama The Sweeney, the latter bolstered by superlative action scenes and an effective team-up of growling, graying lion Ray Winstone and sullen punk Ben Drew, as rough cops out to bring down the bad guys.
2013 was a stellar year for Blu-Ray and DVD releases (well, DVD-R, anyway). Amongst too many excellent titles released, I managed to snag for my collection the westerns Shane (gloriously restored in HD), High Plains Drifter and Joe Kidd; Olive Films' very nice release of John Ford's endlessly charming classic, The Quiet Man (surely the best that film has ever looked on home video); miscellaneous Hitchcock gems like Rear Window, The Birds, Vertigo, Rope and Frenzy; and the Japanese release of my beloved John Wayne safari romp, Hatari! (about which more shall be coming soon, hopefully in January). Thanks to the kindness of my film historian pal Stuart Galbraith IV (check out his new site, World Cinema Paradise), I was also able to borrow and watch stuff like The Jayhawkers, Death Hunt, Shout at the Devil, Escape from Zahrain, The Fly, Cinerama South Seas Adventure and many more. There were also discoveries aplenty from Warner Archives Made On Demand DVD-R service, with several juicy acquisitions arriving at the Flugel homestead, such as the gorgeously colorful Dick Powell - Debbie Reynolds comedy, Susan Slept Here, the Cornel Wilde-directed end-of-the-world pic, No Blade of Grass, and a slew of Hollywood B mystery series collections, featuring such luminaries as The Saint, The Falcon, Philo Vance, Perry Mason, Nick Carter and the (new to me) "Fast" trilogy (Fast Company, Fast and Loose, Fast and Furious) featuring husband-and-wife bookseller sleuths, Joel and Garda Sloane. These are just the tip of the iceberg, with lots of goodies left to dig into in the coming months.
Which leads me finally to yet another positive from the past year - all the great people I've "met" through this endeavor, fellow bloggers and dedicated blog readers who've made it a habit to regularly stop by this little corner of the internet. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank those who've given me support and encouragement from the start, like Colin, whose erudite blog, Riding the High Country, went through a well-deserved explosion of interest and commentary over the past year; the tireless, bon vivant Sergio of Tipping My Fedora; the ever-cheerful Ruth from Silver Screenings (she of the signature royal "we"); and the aforementioned Clayton. Also heartfelt felicitations go out to more recent regulars or otherwise periodic commenters, like Kevin, from Kevin's Movie Corner, who seems to have met more famous actors and Hollywood personalities than anyone else I know; John at Pretty Sinister Books, who introduced me to so many forgotten or little-known authors of mystery fiction; Prashant from Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema, who mixes in fascinating reflections on Indian culture and daily life with his many reviews; Patti from They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To, whose passion and enthusiasm for classic Hollywood actors and actresses is contagious; Toby at the great 50 Westerns from the 50s (can't wait for the book!); the indefatigable Laura at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings; Caftan Woman, who always displays great taste in movies; Becky from Classic Becky's Brain Food, who made a welcome recent return to blogging; the very busy and always witty Ivan from Thrilling Days of Yesteryear; Ruth, who covers the new movie scene at her lively blog, Flix Chatter; and the effervescent Dorian TB from Tales of the Easily Distracted, just to round up the usual suspects. Thanks also to Todd Mason of Sweet Freedom fame for frequently linking to my posts on his weekly Forgotten A / V Tuesdays Round-ups, without any prodding from me. And finally, my sincere thanks to all of the many others who've taken the time to leave comments on my various ramblings. Your feedback is always welcome, and much appreciated.
So roll on 2014! I have some fun stuff planned for the blog in the new year, but whatever ups and downs the coming months hold, I promise to keep on truckin', and post more frequently.
Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for reading!
Opinionated ramblings about new and old movies (mostly old, as that's the way I like 'em!)
Blogs of Note
Stuart Galbraith IV's World Cinema Paradise
Movie Morlocks (TCM's Classic Movie Blog)
50 Westerns from the 50s
Riding the High Country
Tipping My Fedora
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Classic TV and Film Cafe
Just a Cineast
She Blogged By Night
Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema
Out of the Past -
A Classic Film Blog
Pretty Sinister Books
They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To
In So Many Words...
Greenbriar Picture Shows
My Love of Old Hollywood
Tales of the Easily Distracted
Another Old Movie Blog
Lasso the Movies
Kevin's Movie Corner
Films From Beyond the Time Barrier
Carole & Co.
Rupert Pupkin Speaks
Vienna's Classic Hollywood
The Lady Eve's Reel Life
ClassicBecky's Brain Food
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