by Sam Juliano
We at Wonders in the Dark continue to think about our friend Murderous Ink and his Japanese compatriots at a very trying time in their nation’s history. While reports continue to underline the gravity of the situation, it seems that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As the moving reports documented here at the site by our friend have been deeply appreciated.
Maurizio Roca e mailed me late Sunday afternoon to inform me that the countdown will resume on Thursday, April 7th, due to unforeseen circumstances surrounding his move within the Borough of Brooklyn. His impassioned correspondance yet again confirms how dedicated he is to this great project and to the site’s readers, and I can’t thank him enough for all the time and abiding commitment he has made to film noir and the difficult task of comparitive assessment. Do what you have to do my dear friend, and understand we are all grateful for everything you’ve done.
A number of terrific posts were published this past week at the site, and they include Tony d’Ambra’s latest poetic foray, a brilliant and rapturous work on the Korean masterwork Poetry which already has landed on page 1 of the google page; Jim Clark’s splendid examination of the filmmaking career of Canadian artist Dennis Cote, Jamie Uhler’s latest installment in his incomparably authoritative Getting Over the Beatles series; Bob Clark’s newest essay on the Zack Snyder flick Sucker Punch, and two more magisterial entries from Allan Fish in his long-running “Fish Obscuro” series. Of course the stellar daily noir entries from Maurizio have received many page views and comments, and some more fabulous side-bar work from Dee Dee on various anniversaries and up-coming projects have kept the place hopping. Dee Dee in fact has announced a major interview slated to post on Tuesday, April 5th.
I had a rather busy week on the cultural scene, managing three stage plays in Manhattan and at the Performing Arts Center in Smithtown, Long Island, and also seeing four new releases, including one at a new site in Brooklyn (recommended by our friend Longman Oz in Dublin).
The 57 mile trip to Long Island on Saturday night to see a staging of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” yielded a mixed result. Mind you, this landmark play – running non-stop in London for 59 years – is a very great one, but regional actors in the north shore community theatre (a renovated movie palace) were only average, and most were almost impossible to hear. The place was modestly attractive, and the stage set of a hotel room during a snow storm was well-designed, but the production was missing a spark, inducing some in the audience to nod off, while a few others complained to their wives that they’d be “better off being bored at home.” Those couples never returned after the intermission. As I was the instigator for this trip, I got some friendly ribbing from Lucille and Broadway Bob who were also there for the ride.
Friday evening’s “Theatre For A New Audience” staging of the Bard’s Macbeth was high-quality stuff from the same company that gave Shakespeare fans two top-rank productions of Othello and Hamlet over the past two years. Once again the distinguished African-American actor John Douglas Thompson (who superbly played the moor in Othello) is memorable as Macbeth, while Annika Boras makes for a commanding Lady Macbeth. Mimimalist staging is wed to a traditional reading, made all that more riveting with the help of exceptional lighting and some creative stage embellishments. The witches were three young men wearing hippie garb, and Macduff was played by another worthy African-American thepian, Albert Jones. The company’s Othello is still unmatched, but it was refreshing to see a stage Macbeth that didn’t embrace updated fascist settings. Hence, I have always preferred traditional readings. This is the ninth stage Macbeth I have seen since my first at the Actor’s Cafe Theatre all the way back in 1973, when I reviewed it for the Bergen Community College school newspaper.
The week’s big surprise (although the reviews were reasonably solid) was the three-hour-and-fifteen minute Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part 1 staging at the Peter Norton Space on 42nd Street. The play by Tony Kushner, is set in the 1980s against a backdrop of greed, conservatism, sexual politics, and the discovery of an awful new disease: AIDS. Both a love story and a political drama, the story centers around a group of separate, but inextricably connected individuals whose relationships are disintegrating as the AIDS crisis starts to grab hold. Kushner’s dark, cynical humor captures the fragility of the human condition and his prophetic and sublime words pierce the heart and move you to tears. Even with a high regard for the television mini-series with Al Pacino and Meryl Streep from 2002, the staging, performances and brisk pace of this long production made for a most memorable Wednesday evening. The second part is over four hours, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get tickets before the April 25th closing, though I’ll be watching. I attended this play with Broadway Bob, who also responded most favorably.
On the movie scene I saw the following in theatres:
One Hundred Mornings *** 1/2 (Thursday evening) Brooklyn Retro
Bal (Honey) **** 1/2 (Sunday morning) Village East Cinemas
Source Code ** (Sunday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex
The Lincoln Lawyer *** 1/2 (Sunday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex
Our esteemed friend Longman Oz in Dublin informed me of a new Brooklyn movie theatre called the ‘retro cinema’ which sits literally under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was this location I traveled solo to on a rainy Thursday night, and discovered a most interesting screening place: a back room of a busy restaurant bar, that shows only movies that failed to win Manhattan openings, films that may have made their mark at Cannes, Sundance and elsewhere. The seats were reportedly taken from cars and actually are quite comfortable, and a bar waiter asks repeatedly before the film begings if “everyone is good with the food!” The film is is not run on a projector by rather on a blu-ray disc on a 12 foot screen. The results were actually quite impressive, and the film, ONE HUNDRED MORNINGS, while not remotely great, still makes a fine case for the future of Irish director Conor Horgan, who imparts some subtle intrigue to his present-day apocalyptic scenario. I guess we’ve seen so many end-of the-world movies that have hit us over the head, that a pull back can become tedious, but I’d dare say Conor’s film reminded me in tone and pacing of Lynn Littman’s 1983 TESTAMENT, though that earlier film is far more disturbing, while Conor documents his societal beakdown in far more predictable terms. The outcome in ONE HUNDRED MORNINGS is expected and nothing revelatory, but the film is memorable for it’s deliberate pacing and attention to the smallest cracks that open the floodgate to the inherent barbaric instincts that surface in such a doomsday scenario. I would like to thank Longman for his heads-up on the film and this unique theatre in this memorable seedy neighborhood, and would like to mention that our friend Chuck Bowen penned a terrific review of the film for SLANT: http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/one-hundred-mornings/5356
In addition I saw another clunker from Duncan Jones (I was no fan of MOON either) but this less existential thriller resorts to the same tactics over and over again, and the ending is rather ludicrous. I’ve seen all I need to see with the parallel universe theme in the original STAR TREK episode “Mirror Mirror,” which at least was engaging and unconvoluted. Jake Gyllenthal and Vera Fermiga can’t really develop either. THE LINCOLN LAWYER was a decent legal thriller with a nice twist, and the week’s best film is one recommended highly from my friend Srikanth (Just Another Film Buff), who placed it among his best films of last year, though I have it as a 2011 release with the USA opening this past week. The beautiful Turkish film BAL (HONEY) showcases some lovely scenery and a moving story with a terrific lead performance by the child actor Bora Altas, and it concerns loss, beauty and an acute sense of mystery. It’s an intelligent and meditative film that should appeal to all serious cineastes. I hope to have a full review at some point.
Some of the links this week are carry-overs:
Tony d’Ambra has had a sizzling week. His recent poem on the Korean film Poetry, penned at Wonders is a treasure, and severla days ago he posted his greatest noirs of all-time list at FilmsNoir.net that respresents his first-ever attempt at such a venture despite his resounding expertise. The results speak for themselves (63 noirs that received 5 star-ratings from the Sydney native): http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/the-greatest-film-noir.html
John Greco has a terrific review of Andre de Toth’s Pitfall headlining at Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/pitfall-1948-andre-de-toth/
At Scribbles and Ramblings Sachin has penned a great double examination on Roy Andersson films: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2011/04/roy-andersson-double.html
At Movie Classics Judy Geater has a wonderful post up in appreciation of James Cagney on 25th the anniversary of his passing: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/james-cagney/
At Speaking from the Heart Laurie Buchanan asks what gear you are in today while remembering a turtle crossing she has noticed earlier that day: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/turtle-crossing/
Jason Marshall has named Hattie McDaniel as Best Supporting Actress of 1939 for her beloved performance in Gone With the Wind. His terrific essay is over at Movies Over Matter: http://moviesovermatter.com/2011/03/31/hattie-mcdaniel-gone-with-the-wind-best-supporting-actress-of-1939/
Ed Howard’s miraculous run at Only the Cinema continues with a superlative examination of Charles Vidor’s classic Gilda: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2011/04/gilda.html
One of the most truly ecclectic of all bloggers, Samuel Wilson has penned an intriguing piece at Mondo 70 of 1969′s Machine Gun McCain: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2011/04/machine-gun-mccain-gli-intoccabili-1969.html
Jaime Grijalba has authored an exceptional essay on Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal at Exodus 8:2: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2011/04/cardinal-1963.html
At SmiledYawnedNodded Longman Oz has an excellent capsule reviewing leading on Ken Laoch’s Route Irish: http://smiledyawnednodded.com/2011/03/28/routeirish/
Filmmaker/blogger Jeffrey Goodman is leading up with an intriguing piece on “Social Media for Filmmakers” at The Last Lullaby: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2011/03/social-media-for-filmmakers-guru-thomas.html
At Ferdy-on-Films Marilyn Ferdinand has a marvelous essay up on Anthony Mann’s underexposed Railroaded: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=9326
Meanwhile at This Island Rod, Ferdinand colleague Roderick Heath has a stupendous essay up on Die Hard 2: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2011/04/die-hard-2-1990.html
Jeff Stroud is leading up with a fascinating post titled “The Moment of Encounter” at The Reluctant Bloger: http://jeffstroud.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/the-moment-of-encounter/
At Living in Cinema Craig Kennedy is offering up a wonderful “mini-review” of The Elephant in the Living Room: http://livingincinema.com/2011/04/01/mini-review-the-elephant-in-the-living-room-2011/
“A Friendly Farm Gate Chat” is topping at Terrill Welch’s wonderous Creativepotager’s blog. I strongly suggest joing Terrill on her modest shopping spree: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/a-friendly-farm-gate-chat/
At The Seventh Art Srikanth Srinivasan has penned a superlative capsule review of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing: http://theseventhart.info/2011/03/26/ellipsis-36/
The inspiring and resilient ‘Murderous Ink’ is enduring all the fears and inconviniences in Tokyo at the present time, enough to return to blogging about the cinema. His new piece at Vermillion and One Nights on 1957′s Downtown is a must-read for all serious cineastes: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2011/03/downtown.html
David Schleicher has a great post up at his place on baseball movies as the 2011 season commences: http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/03/31/the-starting-nine/
At Darkness Into Light Dee Dee is on a celebratory holding pattern with some posts chronicling the past events, prizes, contests and noir happenings over the past weeks. No one has worked harder for so many just causes, and no one’s passion has been more palpable: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/
Stephen-Russell-Gebbett’s latest exceptional post at Checking on my Sausages is on Hulk: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2011/03/hulk.html
Hokahey has penned an exquisite piece on the new Jane Eyre at Little Worlds: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2011/04/beautiful-jane-eyre-2011.html
At Cinemascope, Shubhajit is leading with a terrific capsule on a Bengali film called Life Goes On: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2011/04/life-goes-on-2010.html
At the home of the venerated Coffee Messiah Michael Harford leads up with a most telling post on “Coffee and Art”: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2011/03/gettin-to-be-that-time-of-year-again.html
Kaleem Hasan’s Satyamshot remains the place to be for Indian culture, film, sports and politics: http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/
J.D. has authored an impressive essay on Eerie, Indiana, a kind of Twin Peaks for kids at Radiator Heaven: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2011/03/eerie-indiana.html
Troy Olson is headlining at Elusive as Robert Denby with a fabulous review of the Korean I Saw the Devil: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-saw-devil.html
Jon Lanthier has a new round-up of recent viewings, all-written with his incomparable insights and style at The Aspiring Sellout: http://aspiringsellout.com/2011/03/viewing-log-2/
Andrew Wyatt has a terrific review up on Sucker Punch at Gateway Cinephiles: http://gatewaycinephiles.com/2011/04/01/sucker-punch/
Kevin Olson’s exceptional review of the noir Force of Evil is still heading up at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/for-love-of-film-noir-blogathon-force.html
R.D. Finch has penned a terrific review of The King of Marvin Gardens at The Movie Projector: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2011/04/king-of-marvin-gardens-1972.html
Pat Perry is heading up at the reinstated Doodad Kind of Town with some Oscar pieces: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2011/02/oscar-winners-2011-and-great.html
T.S. at Screen Savour has some marvelous capsule reviews up for “Media Month” on some of cinema’s greatest features: http://www.screensavour.net/2011/03/media-month-february-2011.html
Matthew Lucas has penned a superlative essay on the Turkish Bal (Honey) at From the Front Row: http://fromthefrontrow.blogspot.com/2011/03/review-bal-honey.html
At The Cooler Jason Bellamy has an engaging (and challenging) post for movie lovers titled The Eyes of March: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2011/03/eyes-of-march-2011.html
At Cinema Styles Greg Ferrara has posted a loving remembrance of Elizabeth Taylor: http://cinemastyles.blogspot.com/2011/03/elizabeth-taylor-rest-in-peace.html
Jake Cole has a penned a superlative piece on the vampire movie remake Let Me In at Not Just Movies: http://armchairc.blogspot.com/
Daniel Getahun has posted the ‘Top Ten documentaries’ of 2010 at Getafilm. Looks like an essential for cineastes: http://getafilm.blogspot.com/2011/03/best-documentaries-of-2010.html
Drew McIntosh is heading up with five caps from an underrated Divivier gem from 1943 at The Blew Vial: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2011/03/flesh-and-fantasy-julien-duvivier-1943.html
Anu, at The Confidential Report has posted a spectacular Top 10 list that again shows why and how he’s an ultimate cineaste: -2010/http://theconfidentialreport.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/top-ten-of\
At Velvety Blackness, Jean has written a brilliant essay on the cult classic Underground: http://velvetyblackness.blogspot.com/2011/03/underground.html
At Visions of Non-Fiction, Dave Van Poppel has penned an intriguing essay on Clio Bernard’s The Arbor, that should be seen by all cineastes: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com/2011/03/arbor.html
Jeopardy Girl talks a bit about Chomet’s The Illusionist and some other things at her “FAQ” pst at The Continuing Story of Jeopardy Girl: http://jeopardygirl.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/some-faq/
And the esteemed Film Doctor has also taken on the multiplex feature with singular insights at his place: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2011/03/baby-doll-and-steampunk-zombie-nazis-9.html