by Sam Juliano
I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’ll modestly acknowledge the unseasonably mild weather we’ve been having in the Northeast as we approach mid-February and a hint of the Spring. The Oscar season is in full florish, and there will be a site interview published a week from tomorrow, courtesy of Jason Giampietro who filmed a lengthy discussion between Dennis Polifroni and Yours Truly that started on the banks of the Hudson River in New Jersey and continued in the nearby Boulevard Diner.
The Giants enjoyed their Manhattan ‘Canyon of Heroes’ parade and victory rally at Met-Life Stadium in East Rutherford, and area football fans were in exceeding bliss. At Wonders in the Dark, it’s business as usual with Peter Lenihan working his John Ford magic and Jamie Uhler, Bob Clark and Allan Fish (with his wildly-popular year-by-year voting countdown) doing some great work over the past days. Dee Dee also featured a superlative recent poem from Tony d’Ambra with a noir theme, and she also posted an engaging piece on the various versions of The Maltese Falcon.
Early plans are beginning now to formulate for the upcoming ‘Best Comedy Films of All-Time” countdown that will tentatively go with 70 films (as the musical countdown did) and will showcase a host of writers from Wonders and other blogs proctored by longtime friends. At this point it is thought that the final week of April or the first week of May would be a probable launch date.
Lucille and I (with Sammy and Danny in tow for a few films and Broadway Bob for the two plays) had a very busy week on the beat over the past seven days, taking in the final Monday of the MGM Silent Film Festival, two of the first three offerings in the William Wellmann retrospective, and two stage plays that included the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s highly-praised Richard III with Kevin Spacey appearing at the deformed King in an imaginative production. We also saw the highly “unremarkable” off-Broadway musical Tokio Confidential at a 16th Street underground theatre. I saw two new openings, including the first masterpiece of 2012, Bela Tarr’s THE TURIN HORSE and a fantastic British documentary, THE MINER’S HYMNS. On movie screens we saw:
The Patsy 1928 **** 1/2 (Monday night) Film Forum
Wings 1927 ***** (Friday night) Wellmann at Film Forum
The High and the Mighty *** (Sunday afternoon) Wellmann at Film Forum
The Turin Horse ***** (Sunday night) Elinor Bunin Monroe Theatre
The Miner’s Hymn **** 1/2 (Sunday night) Film Forum
THE PATSY was the second silent in a row to sell out the Film Forum, and both as the series came to a close. The delightful King Vidor/Marion Davies comedy, teams star and director in a genre that was rare for both, and it’s surely one of the ‘talkiest’ silents with a preponderance of tital cards. WINGS, the first-ever Best Picture winner was presented in specdtacular fashion with a HD print that features the new blu-ray restoration. The extraordinarily eloquent William Wellman Jr. (now 75, and author of a new book on the film) dazzled the audience with a delightful introduction and fascinating anecdotes of his early life growing up and of visits to his home of celebrities like Gary Cooper. He spoke of the stunts employed in the film, and of his father’s propensity for bizarre humor. He cited the ‘bubbles’ sequence in WINGS as a prime example. Wellmann Jr. also provided some wonderful anecdotes before the Saturday afternoon screening of THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, which he declared his father’s most successful film commercially. Artistically, however, I consider the film a lesser Wellmann. The coming week will be Wellmann Heaven, with a Monday through Sunday schedule that will include 15 films. My tentative plans are to be there for every single one of those.
I watched Bela Tarr’s THE TURIN HORSE on Sunday evening at 8:30 P.M. at the Elinor Bunin Monroe theatre in Lincoln Center. Although I had seen it back in December on a bootleg, nothing can match the state-of-the-art presentation and the big screen, and the result in a sure masterpiece of the cinema, a stunning rebuff of everyday life, and the seeming coming of Armegeddon, negotiated by Tarr’s mesmerizing long takes and the stunning windswept cinematography by Fred Kelemen in black and white, and a haunting minimalist score by Tarr alumni Mihaly Vig. The attention to the various details including the imposing head shots of the aging horse, the eating by hand of boiled potatoes and the slow evaporation of well water paints a picture of death and decay that visually parallels Tarkovsky, but as always shows the Hungarian filmmaker in a league of his own. In the earlier stages of 2012 this is unquestionably the best film of the year.
The final of three stage productions in the trans Atlantic “Bridge Project” at BAM’s intimate Harvey Theatre the Shakespeare work about the deformed power-crazed king, RICHARD III is fueled by a remarkable performance by Kevin Spacey who adds another chapter to his continuing study of blood-thirsty psychopaths after screen portrayals in The Usual Suspects and Seven. Spacey was commanding in his venomous performance and the reasonably imaginative staging by Oscar-winning film director Sam Mendes includes a banquet of the dead, an ominiscient avenging angel, black-and-white newsreel footage and color video simulcasts. At the start the most-identifiable “Now” is draped over the stage to lead-in the famous opening “Now it the winter of our discontent” monologue, and ‘My kingdom for a horse’ in the second act is compellingly executed. The production ran three-and-one-half-hours, but in most ways it was unforgettable.
THE MINER’S HYMNS is a piercing elegiac score by Islandic composer Johann Johannssonmightil assists the vision of Broitish documentarian Bill Morrisson , who examines a way of life long since gone by combining present-day footage of the lands that once were colleries, and the impressionistic footage of the people and places that inhabited the working class hamlets that once defined a different culture. THE MINER’S is a mesmerizing documentary.
As far as the derivative musical TOKIO CONFIDENTIAL, seen on Saturday night at the Atlantic Theatre, the less said the better. The music attempted to sound Puccinian, but was underdevelped and the drama was lame and incoherent. The production speaks volumes for the watered down quality of musical theatre these days, especially in off-Broadway theatres. Shame.
Most blogosphere updates are included:
Judy Geater takes her study of versatile American director William Wellman further with a superlative review of the 1939 rarity “The Light That Failed” at Movie Classics: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/the-light-that-failed-william-a-wellman-1939/
Ed Howard has written a masterpiece on a masterpiece with his new review of Bela Tarr’s “Satantango” at Only the Cinema: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2012/02/s.html
Jon Warner takes a minority position on “The Artist” but his defense is brilliantly posed at Films Worth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2012/02/artist-5-thoughts.html
Tony d’Ambra poses some fascinating questions in his intriguing new post on the BBC’s celebrated 1999 “Shooting the Past” at FilmsNoir.net: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/shooting-the-past-bbc-tv-1999-inside-the-frame.html
John Greco has written a superlative essay on Arthur Miller’s “The Americanization of Emily” at Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/the-americanization-of-emily-1964-arthur-hiller/
Jaime Grijalba celebrates some upcoming worldwide love for Chilean cinema at Exodus 8:2 in a new treatment of the Robinson Crusoe story that has even attracted the attention of Disney: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2012/02/cine-chileno-del-2012-2-selkirk-el.html
Terrill Welch’s new oil painting posted at the Creativepotager’s blog, titled “Orcas in Evening” is a spectacularly beautiful canvas: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/orcas-in-evening-original-painting-by-terrill-welch/
Samuel Wilson likens 1974′s “The Arena” as a “touch of exploitative genius” in a buffo essay on the rarity at Mondo 70: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2012/02/arena-1974.html
R.D. Finch at The Movie Projector gives Joseph Losey’s “The Criminal” definitive treatment: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2012/02/criminal-1960.html
Marilyn Ferdinand has penned a magnificent review of the 2011 Indian film “Corrode” at Ferdy-on-Films: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=13084
Roderick Heath also raises the tone at Ferdy-on-Films with a spectacular review of Vincente Minelli’s “Home From the Hill: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=13105
Peter Lenihan’s latest installment of “Key Films” at The Long Voyage Home includes stupendous capsules on pre-code treasures: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/2012/02/key-films-12feb12.html
Pat Perry takes a candid and insightful look at “The Iron Lady” and Meryl Streep’s performance in her new multi post at Doodad Kind of Town: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2012/02/on-big-screen-and-home-screen-capsule.html
Laurie Buchanan’s latest engaging post at Speaking from the Heart, “Only Your Hairdresser Knows for Sure” is surely food for thought: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/only-your-hairdresser-knows-for-sure/
“Explore the Dancing Image: Top Posts” is leading the way at Joel Bocko’s rich treasure trove at The Dancing Image: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2011/12/explore-dancing-image-top-posts.html
Shubhajit has penned one of his greatest capsule reviews ever on one of the cinema’s supreme achievements, Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” at Cinemascope: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2012/02/tokyo-story-1953.html
Dee Dee has posted a wonderfully informative and engaging piece on the origin of lobby cards at Darkness Into Light: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2011/11/holding-auctiontaking-look-at-eleven.html
Patricia at Patricia’s Wisdom offers up some beautiful ‘love’ poems and asks for personal favorites from her readers: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2012/02/reading-poems-of-love/comment-page-1/#comment-24429
At The Schleicher Spin our very good friend David writes a glowing appraisal of the Iranian “A Separation”: http://theschleicherspin.com/2012/02/06/a-separation-white-lies-and-blood-money/
Filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman at The Late Lullaby has posted a stupendous round-up of the best cinematic experiences he’s enjoyed in 2011: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-top-10-or-so-films-for-2011.html
At Satyamshot, Kaleem Hasan has posted some striking images from “The Avengers”: http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/images-from-the-avengers/
Craig Kennedy at Living in Cinema has posted his ever-popular “Watercooler”: http://livingincinema.com/2012/02/12/tired-of-waiting-for-you/
The ever-creative Stephen Russell-Gebbett features movie “helicopters” at his latest post at Checking on my Sausages: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2012/01/helicopters.html
J.D. at Radiator Heaven offers up a superb essay on “Titan A.E.”: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2012/02/titan-ae.html
Anu at The Confidential Report has checked in with a fabulous Ten Best list that fully warrants everyone’s attention: http://theconfidentialreport.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/top-ten-of-2011
Just Another Film Buff (Srikanth) has posted another stupendous capsule review, this time on Sengelese director Djibril Diop Mambety’s “The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun” at The Seventh Art: http://theseventhart.info/2012/02/12/ellipsis-56/
Murderous Ink, in Tokyo examines ‘Nuclear Noir’ in a brilliant new post at Vermillion and One Nights: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2011/12/nuclear-noir.html
Hokahey insightfully writes about ‘Chronicle’ and the ideas of his high school drama club at Little Worlds: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2012/02/chronicle-and-serendipity.html
Jason Marshall has penned an excellent takedown of Spielberg’s “War Horse” at Movies Over Matter: http://moviesovermatter.com/2012/01/10/you-can-lead-a-horse-to-war-spielbergs-war-horse/
At Scribbles and Ramblings Sachin Gandhi features an engaging film itinerary engagingly seen in the light of football groupings: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2012/01/2012-african-cup-of-nations-film.html
Roderick Heath at This Island Rod takes an exhaustive look at the new “The Thing.” Typically is a master class essay: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2012/02/thing-2011.html
Tony Dayoub has posted an excellent feature on the ‘Top 15 Films of 2011′ at Cinema Viewfinder: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2012/02/titan-ae.html
At The Cooler, Jason Bellamy celebrates his fourth anniversary: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2012/02/celebrating-4-years-of-fun-and-games.html
Adam Zanzie at Icebox Movies has authored a marvelous essay on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”: http://www.iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2012/01/on-torture-and-revenge-in-girl-with.html
Michael Harford, the erstwhile ‘Coffee Messiah’ offers up an engaging video about the beverage’s worldwide popularity: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2011/11/coffee-break.html
Troy Olson announces plans to commence with his Robert Bresson project at Elusive as Robert Denby: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2011/11/argh.html
At Petrified Fountain of Thought Stephen Morton has penned a masterful takedown of “Melancholia” http://www.petrifiedfountainofthought.blogspot.com/2012/01/review-melancholia.html
Drew McIntosh is a real scholar and good skate, as he just gave away a blu-ray of Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” at The Blue Vial: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2012/01/take-two-tarkovsky-blu-ray-giveaway.html
Kevin Olson offers up a postscript to his recent Horror Blogothon at Hugo Stigliz Makes Movies: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/italian-horror-blogathon-postscript.html
Dave Van Poppel is gearing for some updates at Visions of Non Fiction, but presently is still leading up with his very fine review of “Project Nim”: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com/2011/08/project-nim.html
At The Man From Porlock Craig explores the work of the great S. Ray with a splendid review of “Pather Panchali”: http://themanfromporlock.blogspot.com/2012/01/iu-cinema-experiences-pather-panchali.html
Jeopardy Girl has some great plans in 2013 with a vist to the U.K. in the cards. She talks about it at The Continuing Saga of Jeopardy Girl: http://jeopardygirl.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/pickmeup/