I turned 40 in June. This website passed the 150000 hit mark in November. And The Huffington Post published my 10th piece that same month.
More milestones are approaching and they’re approaching quickly. Next February, The Writings Of Dennis Earl turns 10. And at some point, my 1000th piece will be posted in this space. (You’re currently reading number 968. 969 will be posted shortly.)
However, before we even reach these important breakthroughs, let’s be reflective and introspective as another year, one filled with highs and lows, is on the verge of ending.
Let’s start with HuffPo. After becoming a contributor in 2014, I was able to get six columns published (seven if you count the one translated into French) that same year. Disappointingly, my output was down a bit in 2015. I only managed to get four items posted on their blog this year. (I found it difficult to come up with more good, original ideas. Not an unusual problem for me, unfortunately.)
The biggest of the four was Why Pope Francis Was A Liberal Reformer, an updated version of 8 Reasons Pope Francis Isn’t A Liberal Reformer which was posted in this space two years ago. It has inspired almost 90 comments, 150 likes and one weird, long-winded email from a reader who, shall we say, didn’t care for it. (No, I didn’t read the whole thing but I did save it.) Another two-year-old piece, 4 Controversial Movie Castings That Ultimately Resulted In Triumph, only garnered one comment and 10 likes after it too was revised for HuffPo. Although I mentioned Renee Zellweger’s surprise success as Bridget Jones, let the record show I hated that character and that movie (and its sequel). I included her because most people disagreed with me.
Eight Men Who ‘Retired’ At WrestleMania (14 comments, 45 likes) expanded The Five Men Who “Retired” At WrestleMania from last year while Survivor Series Trivia (15 likes) was an improved, reworked version of this original 2014 offering which required numerous updates and corrections.
It’s a shame HuffPo doesn’t keep track of page views for its contributors. It would be great to know how much of a following I have on there.
Speaking of followers, let’s talk about Twitter. How in the hell did I get over 600 of them in three years? Incredible. (A quarter of that total follows this website directly. Wish I knew how to get the numbers up here.) I remember 2013 when I could count on two hands the number of users who wanted me in their timelines. It’s a nice feeling to have so many folks, famous and anonymous, interested in my tweets and writings these days. Well, except for Wil Wheaton, Bill Cosby, Warren Kinsella and a HuffPo entertainment reporter who all blocked me this year. At any event, you can follow me @DennisCEarl.
As for The Writings Of Dennis Earl, what stood out here in 2015? Much to my surprise, movie reviews, which represented almost half of the overall offerings. (Output was down a bit in this space, as well.)
After a disappointing period of only managing to successfully screen roughly 30 to 60 pictures annually between 2006 & 2014, how delighted I am to note that I watched almost 140 this year.
Granted, I only liked 11 of them but still, that’s a huge jump from the 63 flicks I saw in 2014 of which only 7 were any good.
Unsurprisingly, of the 30 reviews posted in 2015, most focused on horror films. Whether it was older titles like The Sender, Maniac, Sleepaway Camp, Curtains, Stagefright: Aquarius and God Told Me To, or more recent fare like Unfriended, The Purge: Anarchy, House Of 1000 Corpses and The Lords Of Salem, there was no shortage of crap to humourously skewer. (Cinematic cheese often deserves a thorough, literary roasting.)
One of my favourite pieces of the year, though, was this more serious double review of both versions of the notoriously awful I Spit On Your Grave. I’ve suffered needlessly through many a no-star feature these past 25 years but nothing compares to the completely joyless experience I had enduring these two despicable, irresponsible, pseudo-snuff films. Watching two women get gangraped for an extended period of time, then observing their ugly, blood-drenched acts of vengeance was so unpleasant I’m truly amazed I didn’t cancel both screenings. Harshly denunciating both of these films in this space ultimately felt cathartic and cleansing.
After more than 30 years avoiding it, I finally sat down and watched the theatrical cut of the original Halloween. In the early 80s, I was terrified by the slightly longer TV edit and spent the rest of the decade haunted by the memory of Michael Myers’ original killing spree. Nothing scared me more than John Carpenter’s pitch perfect score. (I would love to find the soundtrack on CD.) It took me until this year to finally work up the courage to watch it again, this time from an adult perspective.
Despite some flaws, Halloween remains a potent, merciless thriller and it inspired this enthusiastic review, another of my personal favourites this year.
I wish I could say the same for all its many sequels, six of which I also critiqued in 2015. Like its predecessor, Halloween II scared me a lot as a kid when I watched it on TV. The theatrical cut today, though, is far from terrifying. In fact, like all the follow-ups in this franchise, it’s wholly unnecessary. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch & Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers are incredibly silly while Halloween 5 and Halloween Resurrection are vicious and just plain dumb. It has its moments but Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, the seventh release, also feels like a needless retread.
As I was watching these seven films out of sequential order (7, 8, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3), based on what was available right away to speed up the process, I also checked out Rob Zombie’s two remakes. Far bloodier and much less involving than Carpenter’s original, without question Zombie’s Halloween II is a bit more depraved than his own Halloween which is saying something. After screening his other three features this year, I’ve yet to be impressed by the former White Zombie frontman.
While bad horror films at least offer the possibility of unintentional laughs, there’s not even the tiniest bit of consolation from subjecting yourself to miserably unfunny comedies. In 2015, I encountered dozens of examples, a few of which I wrote about.
26 years after I first saw it with friends at my local cinema (which no longer exists), Weekend At Bernie’s has aged very poorly. (I still think the sequel is dumber.) Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy is just as horrendous. And don’t get me started on the offensive I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, one of three typically lousy Adam Sandler movies I suffered through in 2015. (Blended & Eight Crazy Nights were the others.)
Of the four Tom Hanks films I screened from his dreadful 80s period this year, The Man With One Red Shoe is the least terrible which speaks very lowly of his first decade on-screen. (Dragnet, The Money Pit and Turner & Hooch are even worse.) Before he raked in the dough for doing Two And A Half Men for over a decade, Jon Cryer was Maxwell Hauser in the outdated Hiding Out which I actually saw on a dubbed VHS tape. And it took roughly two screenings to confirm that Horrible Bosses only has one genuine laugh. (The slightly less bad sequel only manages to generate a few more.)
Blake Edwards’ “10” at least benefits from the compelling Bo Derek whose unashamedly free-spirited sexuality and intelligence temporarily distract you from her uptight, sexist, homophobic stalker, Dudley Moore. One of my dad’s favourite films, I just can’t muster the same enthusiasm.
I was far more fascinated by the excellent documentary Comic Book Confidential. Released in 1988, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a follow-up to cover the last couple of decades of this still vibrant industry. Much to my surprise, I also enjoyed National Treasure, an unabashedly absurd but well crafted comic adventure that features one of Nicolas Cage’s less manic performances.
Speaking of movies, 25 Years After Seeing Back To The Future Part III In A Theatre, I’d Much Rather Watch Movies On DVD was an essay I’d been secretly wanting to write for quite some time. Over the last decade, I’ve grown very tired of the excessively loud, very expensive cinematic experience. And despite being invited out a few times after it was written, I’m maintaining my theatrical boycott. I’m much happier with my neurotically drawn out home video screenings. (I’m talking captions and multiple pee breaks.)
Let’s shift gears now to music. My 2011 review of Breaching Vista’s Vera City became the last of my lost MonkeyBiz.ca pieces to get reposted here. It’s one of only two critiques that actually inspired a response, in this case indirectly, from a member of a band I was evaluating. (The other, incidentally enough, was this republished assessment of Yukon Blonde’s Tiger Talk as previously noted here.) Although originally sent to my then-editor at the time of its original unveiling, the mostly positive comments were forwarded to me. They were then heavily excerpted in the above link.
I’m a major supporter of David Bowie who has been remarkably busy with new projects the last couple of years after keeping a mostly low profile the last decade or so. (Look for Blackstar, his newest album, on January 8.) Last Christmas, I got the 3CD version of his most recent greatest hits package Nothing Has Changed from my parents. Although generally excellent, I was disappointed it excluded some key singles which inspired the appropriately titled 12 Singles Disappointingly Omitted From David Bowie’s Nothing Has Changed.
Two days later came Five David Bowie Classics That Bombed In America.
When the alt-rock legend’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts announced the first of several career-spanning box sets in June, I reported Original Holy Holy Single Finally Makes CD Debut In New David Bowie Box Set. (Why couldn’t it have been included on my Rykodisc copy of The Man Who Sold The World?) In July, I listed 12 David Bowie Rarities That Have Never Been Released On CD.
Finally, 5 Rock Songs That Slyly Reference 5 Other Rock Songs was a long dormant entry that finally came together after listening to Bowie’s Queen Bitch for the first time in years. I belatedly noticed that some of the lyrics were subtly referenced in The Killers’ Mr. Brightside. I already knew that Bush quoted Life On Mars? in Everything Zen.
I was hoping to do more Bowie-related pieces but these were the only ones I managed to finish. Maybe next year.
In the summer, I started watching old Degrassi Junior High episodes on MTV Canada. (I hadn’t seen these in years and was unaware they were being aired again.) With the song’s catchy opening theme in my head, I was walking to my local library one day when for some reason I imagined the lyrics rearranged to Live And Let Die, one of the best James Bond themes, although I was thinking more of Guns N’ Roses’ cover version. That led to this goofy parody. (Paging Axel.) I wonder if Kevin Smith would be amused.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 31, 2015
UPDATE: After not being entirely happy with this original posting, I decided to make some alterations near the end of it. I’ve relocated & expanded the Breaching Vista review section, moved 5 Rock Songs to the end of the Bowie paragraphs and made Degrassi Junior High the new conclusion. I think it plays a lot better now.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 6, 2016