At Wonders in the Dark we enjoyed one of our banner weeks, as several threads boasted some of our most fascinating comment threads and heftiest totals. At the top was the review for Von Trier’s Antichrist, but superlative response was also affored the countdown reviews for The Truman Show and The Double Life of Veronique, as well as reviews of Campion’s Bright Star and an opera, Janacek’s From the House of the Dead, the latter of which received a delightfully surprising and exhilarating response.
The two biggest “events” for me this week were the Wednesday evening opera (Janacek’s From the House of the Dead, -based on Dostoyevsky-directed by film and opera luminary Patrice Chereau) at the Met (reviewed on Friday here at WitD) which was a shattering experience, and a magnificent Saturday night showing of Chaplin’s masterpiece, Modern Times, with Lucille and all the kids at the Loews Jersey City movie palace and their gigantic screen and werlitzer organ, which navigated a pre-film Christmas carol session with the movie patrons, many of whom -surprisingly – were teenagers. When my own kids admitted to me that they liked Modern Times, it really warmed my heart, as this, City Lights and The Gold Rush are three of my favorite films of all-time, as is the case with many other film fans. As a number of you will remember our pal Dave Hicks chose the film as his best of 1936 in his completed annual countdown at GoodFellas, and he penned a fabulous essay here: http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2009/06/1936-modern-times-charles-chaplin.html
I saw three new releases in the theatres:
UP IN THE AIR is the is the year’s biggest bust, a classic example of a film that is grossly overrated, and seemingly is headed for the Best Picture Oscar, in a decision that will mark it as the worst choice in Academy history. This is a smug, emotionally distancing film that attempts to impart some existential substance on what is a slender and tedious premise, and George Clooney plays George Clooney is a situation that putters out after a half hour, and never segues into that level of melancholy which would give this romantic comedy any level of real significance. It’s passable at best, but the recognition it is receiving is kind of appalling.
BROTHERS, a Jim Sheridan re-make of Suzanne Blier’s superior film from a few years back, is a decent enough effort, a bit better than I expected, though it doesn’t have any resonance beyond it’s narrow focus. Still, it grips on the strength of it’s performances, and competant direction, even if those flashback sequences are rather predictable. It’s worth a look.
EVERYBODY’S FINE. The weekend’s best film is the one that was almost guaranteed to be the worst one. The trailers were abysmal and appeared to make the film look trite and formulaic in the worst sense, yet Kirk Jones has surprisingly fashioned a nuanced, probing and truthful look at a dysfunctional family, that has been compared to ABOUT SCHMIDT, but also with some distant kinship to Ozu’s TOKYO STORY, but with a dash of lies and secrets. As Bob Clark reminded me online today, it’s based on a 1990 Tornatore film I didn’t see, but it’s Robert DeNiro’s unexpected subtlety in a role that could have inspired saccharine overload, that really fueled this deeply-affected dramedy, that is rather a trap for snobs. This film had particular emotional resonance for me in my personal life as of late, as one sub-plot involved a situation I am most familiar with, and continue to mourn.
Anyway, as I am not yet aware of how the sports teams have fared, I’ll let Dave Hicks and Joel talk about the Bengals and Pats. The Olson family though is rightly thrilled about the Ducks and their upcoming Rose Bowl appearance!
Around the blogosphere there is quite a bit of action, and it’s by and large most stimulating:
At Darkness Into Light, Dee Dee is running a series of Lubitch reviews by her good friend, Australian Andrew Katsis. His latest is on Ninotchka: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2009/12/counting-down-twenty-five-days-to_04.html
Tony d’Ambra has traveled north to Southeast Asia for ten days on business, but he’s provided an invaluable noir list for his “Recess Noir” post at FilmsNoir.net. We wish him the best during his trip: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/recess-noir.html
John Greco continues to illuminate the blogosphere with his ever-prolific writings on film known and relatively unseen. His latest is Where Danger Lives: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2009/12/06/where-danger-lives-1950-john-farrow/
WitD’s favorite Garden State scribe, the ever-versatile David Schleicher has what appears to be a fascinating look into the past with a personal memoir: http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/the-spiral-of-the-seasons/
Troy Olson has finished his comprehensive ‘Italy Trip Report’ and it really deserves everyone’s attention, especially those who have travel plans or wish they did: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2009/12/italy-trip-report-finally-finished.html
Craig Kennedy, preparing his popular Watercooler thread, has a perceptive piece up on thedocumentary The Cove, which he was no fan of: http://livingincinema.com/2009/12/05/dvd-review-the-cove-2009-12/
After penning one of the great internet reviews of recent months on Wellman’s silent classic Wings, our dear UK friend Judy is back on top in what appears to be another gem on Wellman’s Beggars of Life: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2009/12/06/beggars-of-life-1928/
Daniel Getahun, ever-prolific as always has an engaging essay in his “300″ series on New York, I Love You at Getafilm: http://getafilm.blogspot.com/2009/12/300-words-about-new-york-i-love-you.html
Ed Howard’s stupendous review of Hitchcock’s Sabotage at “Only the Cinema” also includes a lively and contentious comment thread that’s quite worth a look: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2009/12/sabotage.html
Long-time South African friend and blogger Nick Plowman is back in print at Fataculture with a superlative review of Three Monkeys: http://fataculture.wordpress.com/2009/12/06/review-three-monkeys/
At Gateway Cinephiles, Missouri’s finest film critic, Andrew Wyatt, apparently has som every good things to say about The Road, which needs to be read: http://gatewaycinephiles.com/2009/12/05/here-at-the-end-of-all-things/
At “Cinemascope” our very good friend Shubhajit has one of his cae capsules up on the Dardennes’s The Son: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2009/12/son-le-fils-2002.html
Samuel Wilson has a review up at Mondo 70 of 1982′s Vice Squad: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2009/12/vice-squad-1982.html
Marilyn Ferdinand, Writer Extraordinaire, has what appears to be yet another extraordinary essay up on a Jewish film, Defamation: http://ferdyonfilms.com/
A most-interesting quiz that has been circulating the net is presently at Pat’s place, “Doodad Kind of Town: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2009/12/lets-get-quizzical.html
The esteemed Film Doctor has the Media Links post up at his place right now: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2009/12/notable-film-and-media-links-december-3.html
Jason Bellamy, fresh off his marathon complicity with Ed Howard on their Monthly Conversations (this time with Lawrence of Arabia, which shamefully I haven’t gotten over to yet), has a Weekly Rant up on “Prop Blunders” at his place, “The Cooler”: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2009/12/weekly-rant-best-prop-blunder.html
J.D. at Radiator Heaven is featuring that Thanksgiving/Christmas quiz in his lead position: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2009/12/slifrs-thanksgivingchristmas-movie-quiz.html
Our dear friend Qalandar has a piece up at his place titled “The Museum of Innocence”: http://qalandari.blogspot.com/2009/12/fragment-on-museum-of-innocence.html
R.D. Finch has his typically elaborate, well-penned essay up on Renoir’s The Golden Coach: http://movieprojector.blogspot.com/2009/11/theater-of-life-jean-renoirs-golden.html
Rick Olson’s latest post, always a must read, is “A Tale of Two Openings” at Coosa Creek Cinema: http://coosacreek.org/mambo/2009/12/05/a-tale-of-two-openings/
And last but by no means least is Tony Dayoub, who presently has a review I will most assuredly be getting to on Herzog’s film at The View Finder : http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2009/12/movie-review-bad-lieutenant-port-of.html Tony also reviewed “Everybody’s Fine” I see, which I must read tonight!