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Archive for December, 2011

By Bob Clark

The overlap between the manga and anime industries in Japan is an interesting thing to consider for how relatively rare it is in the way that comics and animation are produced worldwide. Japan obviously isn’t the only country in the world where both mediums thrive, but in a sense it’s the only one where they do so side by side, and where talent can cross between the two rather freely. In the United States you’ve got plenty of world-famous animation studios, comic-book presses and daily cartoonist syndicates, but these things are all pretty much separated by the distance of an entire continent– Disney in California, and Marvel, DC, hell even Mad Magazine based over in New York. In Europe, while there’s still room for art-conscious cartoons and animated films here and there, you don’t have quite the same kind of deeply rooted industry for it in the same way that lets illustrators like Herge or Moebius become household names. Hell, even Canada’s got the occasional big-name in terms of comics with guys like Dave Sim or Bryan Lee O’Malley, but I doubt you’re about to see them or others follow the path of Norman McClaren anytime soon.

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by Jaime Grijalba.

Well, that wasn’t long, was it? Just as this review, that may feel a bit short to some, but it has a reason to be that way. Anyway, I feel like I have to repay you after all this time of inactivity, after all I made a promise and I have to honour it, as I said last time. While I know that this is time for celebration and recounts, lists and retrospectives, oportunities for festivals, awards and many other things, specially for those art or just entertainment look-forwarders (I just invented that word, I’m sorry), but here is summer, and for me summer has always had one meaning for me: lots and lots of reading. Lots of dead time to read volumes and pages of infinite books from different authors from all over the world. I mean, I just started myself in the past month, I finished three novels, including this and the earlier reviewed Vargas Llosa novel, and then there was ‘The Tunnel’ by Ernesto Sábato, an argentinian writer who died this year, shy of turning a 100 years old. And then there’s my favorite part of summer: Stephen King. I think he’s a marvelous storyteller and every summer I turn out one or two of his novels, and this year it seems it’ll be 3, because I’m already finishing ‘Bag of Bones’, that just recently had a TV incarnation that I wanted to see, so I needed to finish the novel first. But what am I talking about S. King when we shall be talking about a Nobel Prize Winner… well let me roll my eyes, oh you snarky little lumpy princess, I am saying this and saying it now: I prefer King to Llosa.

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Steven Spielberg's deeply emotional 'War Horse' based on novel and Broadway play is one of the best films of 2011.

by Sam Juliano

I was awakened at around 2:30 P.M. on Sunday morning by a loud crashing sound on the roof of my home.  I immediately realized that our expected visitors had arrived with several sacks of gifts and goodies for the sleeping children.  I opened the front door and offered the bearded fellow with the red and white suit some steaming hot cocoa and freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.  The spritely fellow was the coolest St. Nick I’ve ever met, as he offered up a new blu-ray of Bad Santa and The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t.  Still he admitted he was a lifelong fan of all the holiday staples, including Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life and the 1951 A Christmas Carol, and had tens of thousands of copies to deliver before daybreak.  So after a few words he was off again, leaving me to the horizontal position until the noise of opening gifts awakened me again after 9:00 A.M.

As Wonders in the Dark moves toward 2012, the present down period will almost definitely be replaced soon enough by upcoming John Ford and Stanley Kubrick retrospectives from The Long Voyage Home’s Peter Lenihan and WitD’s Dennis Polifroni, respectively.  I am planning to post my Best Films of 2011 list a week from today, and am still undecided if I will be going with ten or twenty.

The week prior to Christmas typically included a slew of movie theatre visits and a DVD at home viewing of an essential film that will be opening in theatres on December 30.  It also included a charity concert of Christmas songs from some distinguished Broadway alumni at the Symphony Space on Broadway and 91st Street. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1951 86m) DVD1/2

Aka. A Christmas Carol

Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?

p  Brian Desmond Hurst  d  Brian Desmond Hurst  w  Noel Langley  story  “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens  ph  C.Pennington Richards  ed  Clive Donner  m  Richard Addinsell  art  Ralph Brinton, Stanley Couzins  cos  Doris Lee, Constance da Pinna

Alastair Sim (Ebenezer Scrooge), Mervyn Johns (Bob Cratchitt), Hermione Baddeley (Mrs Cratchitt), Kathleen Harrison (Mrs Dilber), Michael Hordern (Jacob Marley), Carol Marsh (Fan), George Cole (Young Ebenezer), Roddy Hughes (Mr Fezziwig), Hattie Jacques (Mrs Fezziwig), Michael Dolan (Spirit of Christmas Past), Francis de Wolff (Spirit of Christmas Present), Eliot Makeham (Snedrig), Louise Hampton (Laundress), Jack Warner (Mr Jorkins), Miles Malleson (Old Joe), Brian Worth (Fred), Ernest Thesiger (Undertaker), Patrick MacNee (young Marley), Peter Bull (First businessman and Narrator), Rona Anderson, John Charlesworth, Glyn Dearman, Olga Edwardes,

In his distinguished career, the great Alastair Sim made several superb films – Green for Danger and The Happiest Days of Your Life for Launder and Gilliat to name two selected here – as well as achieving immortality in the inferior St Trinian’s films and in such parts as the eponymous inspector in An Inspector Calls.  If asked to name the role for which he was most cherished, however, there would be only one winner.  He’s hardly the only Ebenezer Scrooge in screen history; a delicious Seymour Hicks and a less happier Reginald Owen played him in the thirties, then there was the awful musical with Albert Finney and the muppet variation with Michael Caine.  Small screen viewers might recall a celebrated TV version with Michael Hordern (who played Marley to Alastair Sim), a memorable performance from George C.Scott and a less satisfactory one from a too funereal Patrick Stewart – Dickens’ character was not funereal, simply miserable and miserly.  Yet still, over half a century on, Sim towers over all and sundry. (more…)

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We began avant-garde month by defying language – with silent films whose currency was visual, whose ideograms were images. Today we openly confront, pull apart, and reassemble language, on a kind of a cracked-looking-glass Sesame Street, numbers and words thrown in the air, land where they may, brought to you by the letter X – as in crossed-out, mysterious value, or X marks the spot. Today each avant-garde selection touches on a different base: documentary, animation, and narrative, all while remaining resolutely experimental. Two short entries are followed by a longer one (covering A Walk Through H, a fantastic film that seems to aptly round out all our themes). Bring your map, but don’t expect it to help any.

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Copyright © 2011 by James Clark

Henri-Georges Clouzot as a Christmas fabulist? Well, his Quai des Orfèvres (1947) does race over a Christmas time-frame. But where is the “peace on earth, goodwill toward men”? At the end, the principals do stagger up to their living-room Christmas tree and a day of celebration. But, despite fulsome protestations of their love for each other, one of them is just a few hours past attempting suicide and the other has frequently and convincingly given her partner (her “flame”) to understand that she hates him. Surely that punishing scenario, as guided by a notoriously hard-boiled auteur, could never yield a cogent dispensation of love, to make the season bright?

If we reflect a bit more, however, and take a close look at this very hard to define vehicle—action thriller? murder-mystery comedy? historical slice ofFranceadrift after the War? sentimental suspense? assault upon the French film and music industries? or ridicule of the quality of policing inParisat that time? (A police inspector is taken to task: “You don’t look like a policeman to me. You don’t even have a raincoat…”/ “It was stolen…”)—we might not only discover a fresh holiday treat, but a more comprehensive way of appreciating Clouzot’s quite bewildering (though directly impressive) art. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(India 1960 195m) DVD2

A pretty petrel

p  Karim Asif  d  Karim Asif  w  Karim Asif, Aman, Kamal Amrohi, Ehsan Rizvi, Wajahat Mirza  ph  R.D.Mathur  ed  Dharamvir  m  Naushad  art  M.K.Syed  cos  Jaggi

Prithviraj Kapoor (Emperor Akbar), Madhubala (Anarkali), Dilip Kumar (Prince Salim), Durga Khote (Maharani Jodha Bai), Nigar Sultana (Bahai), Ajit (Durjan Singh), M.Kumar (sculptor), Murad (Man Singh), Jilloo Maa (Anarkali’s mother), Sheela Dalaya (Suraiya), Jalal Agha (young Salim),

History and legend link the story of our past.  When both are fused in the crucible of art and imagination, the spirit of this great Lord is revealed in all its splendour and beauty.”  So begins the film that has been, at one time or another, claimed as India’s biggest epic, the supreme Bollywood production and indeed India’s most beloved film.  Seek it out on DVD now, however, and a quandary is presented.  Virtually all prints are now of a 2004 colourised version of the film. 

            Colourisation is a topic likely to cause the mildest mannered of film buffs to spurt steam out of their ears like dragons.  To even think of calling it a no-no is to understate the feeling of intense hatred caused by the cronies of Ted Turner and the use of this process from the 1980s.  One recalls poor Orson Welles dying and begging those round him to ensure Turner didn’t get his crayons on Kane.  Or those poor souls unfortunate enough to have sat through colourisations of everything from Laurel and Hardy to Alastair Sim’s Scrooge and It’s a Wonderful Life who still require therapy.  There was always a difference with regard to Karim Asif’s film, however, in that those doing the colourisation felt they were abiding with his wishes.  Asif had wanted Mughal-e-Azam to be in colour throughout its three hour plus running time.  As it is, with the budget swallowed up by the vast sets and colour stock at an absolute premium, he only got enough Technicolor film to shoot two sequences. (more…)

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