Archive for December, 2012

by Sam Juliano

                             ‘Those who do not weep do not see’      -Victor Hugo

Art is manipulative.  Whether its creator’s intent is to spur humor or consternation, or move the work’s viewers to the depth of their being, there is always a conscious and overriding intent to embolden and exhilarate through a direct appeal to the emotions.  Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Mozart, Beethoven, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, Dickens and Dante succeeded as well as any others in the pantheon of Western culture.  Then there’s Victor Hugo, whose 1862 novel Les Miserables, written on wide canvas of suffering, injustice and loss, asserted that love and compassion are the most important gifts one can forward another in this life.  Hugo takes his case even further when he proposes that “To die for lack of love is terrible, the asphyxia of the soul” and “To love or have loved, that is enough.  There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.”  Hugo’s sprawling novel, with it’s emotional epiphanies and character-driven melodramatic narrative was meant to be a transformative work, one aimed to spur government reforms, especially within the justice system and the unjust class structure in nineteenth-century France, one that turns good people into beggars and criminals.   With it’s larger than life characters and lofty philosophical themes, Hugo’s novel was a perfect subject for the cinema, and tailor-made for some kind of operatic transcription.  To be sure there have been dozens of film adaptations of the epic work dating back to the silent era all the way up to a 1998 adaptation by Bille August with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey playing Valjan and Javert.  The number of times filmmakers worldwide have turned to Hugo’s novel may well in fact be within hailing distance of Stoker’s Dracula and Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  The best of these versions was  Raymond Bernard’s four-hour plus epic of 1934, which is the most faithful to the source, and a 1935 Hollywood treatment with Fredric March and Charles Laughton in the leads that is well acted and mounted but substantially truncated. (more…)

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2013 fireworks new years New Year 2013 Wallpapers, Quotes

by Sam Juliano

2012 is on it’s last legs, and for many it’s a year better left to expire without looking back.  Sure there were high points, artistic accomplishment and personal goals met, but tragedy intruded one time too often.  We at Wonders in the Dark were deeply saddened to hear the news of Lori Moore’s passing over the holiday season.  Lori, who over the past few months collaborated with Dee Dee and Barbara LaMotta on the John Garfield petition was well-regarded by her peers and referred to as one of the loveliest of persons.  Our deepest condolences to Lori’s family, to Dee Dee, and to all those who were fortunate enough to be touched by Lori in their lives.  I never was lucky in my life to meet Lori, but was moved to hear the testament of others.

On Saturday morning I drove Lucille and the family up to Newtown, Connecticut to leave flowers at the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dickinson Drive.  Set back on a slight hill, the road leading up was barricaded off, but visitors were permitted to walk up to the school building.  A wire fence now encircles the one-story structure, and many of the windows are now boarded.  After we stayed for about ten minutes, a police car came, and an officer politely asked that people leave as heavy snow began falling.  My kids will remember this as one of the saddest days they’ll ever experience, and though our intentions were of solidarity and grief, it was a very difficult trip to make.

It’s been a tough week too with physical maladies afflicting WitD staffers on both sides of the Atlantic.  In Kendal, in northwestern England Allan Fish has been felled by a nasty stomach viris, while hear just outside of NYC in Fairview, New Jersey, Your Truly has had some intermittant stomach nausea, bloating and acid reflux to deal with.  Still I did my best to function, and escorted the family to several films, including multiple viewings of the long-awaited Les Miserables.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture The Last Picture Show, US (7 votes)

Best Director Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange (6 votes)

Best Actor Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange (7 votes)

Best Actress Jane Fonda, Klute (5 votes)

Best Supp Actor Ben Johnson, The Last Picture Show (9 votes)

Best Supp Actress Ellen Burstyn, The Last Picture Show (8 votes)

Best Cinematography Robert L.Surtees, The Last Picture Show (6 votes)

Best Score Georges Delerue, Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent & Isaac Hayes, Shaft (3 votes each TIE)

Best Short Hapax Legumena I: (Nostalgia), US, Hollis Frampton (4 votes)


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By Bob Clark

Celebrity deaths, so the common wisdom of the morbidly curious goes, usually come in threes, and this past Christmas was no exception. We lost two of our best character actors in Jack Klugman and Charles Durning, whose collective contributions to film and television cover a generously wide span of content– everything from hardboiled dramas and lighthearted sitcoms to great American theater and raunchy modern animation. Both of them were lesser-known names than many of their contemporaries, but odds are you’d recognize them by their faces or the parts they played, which isn’t something you could say very easily about the third part of this mortuary trifecta. How many people nowadays know the name Gerry Anderson right off the tip of their tongues? Fewer still would be able to place his face, or even claim to have seen him on television or in a magazine. As a producer, writer and creator on television, he’s much more likely to be known by the works he made rather than any facetime with his audience, and for somebody engaged in creating works of children’s television you’ve got the automatically receding half-life of nostalgia. Unless you grew up withhis programs in their original runs or maybe in reruns, odds are you only know about them if making a concerted effort to track down all the curiosities of quasi-animation and puppet stylings on the big or small screens from the past half century or so. And perhaps the best thing that can be said about Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet is that, for all their flaws, they’re worth the effort.


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by Allan Fish

(UK 1997 415m) DVD2

Twentieth Century Blues

p  Alvin Rakoff  d  Christopher Morahan, Alvin Rakoff  w  Hugh Whitemore  novels  “A Question of Upbringing”, “A Buyer’s Market”, “The Acceptance World”, “At Lady Molly’s”, “Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant”, “The Kindly Ones”, “The Valley of Bones”, “The Soldier’s Art”, “The Military Philosophers”, “Books do Furnish a Room”, “Temporary Kings” and “Hearing Secret Harmonies” by  Anthony Powell  ph  Chris Seager  ed  Jake Bernard  m  Carl Davis  art  Eileen Diss  cos  Dany Everett

James Purefoy (Nicholas Jenkins), Simon Russell Beale (Kenneth Widmerpool), Paul Rhys (Charles Stringham), Jonathan Cake (Peter Templer), Miranda Richardson (Pamela Flitton), Emma Fielding (Isobel Tolland/Jenkins), Claire Skinner (Jean Templer/ Duport), John Gielgud (St John Clarke), Alan Bennett (Sillery), John Standing (older Nicholas Jenkins), Joanna David (older Isobel), James Fleet (Hugh Moreland), Edward Fox (Uncle Giles), Julian Wadham (Gen.Liddament), Zoe Wanamaker (Audrey McLintick), Richard Pasco (Sir Magnus Donners), Adrian Scarborough (J G Quiggin), Nigel Lindsay (Odo Stevens), Oliver Ford Davies (Le Bas), Grant Thatcher (Mark Members), Harriet Walter (Mildred), Frank Middlemass (Edgar Deacon), James d’Arcy (Jenkins as student), Michael Williams (Ted Jeavons), Nicholas Jones (Bob Duport), Paul Brooke (McLintick), Sarah Badel (Lady Molly), Colin Baker (Cannon Fenneau), Nicholas Rowe (David Pennistone), Robert Pugh (Capt.Biggs), Eileen Atkins (Brightman), Emily Mortimer (Polly Duport), James Callis (Gwinnett), Sean Baker (X Trapnel),

Upon its first showing on Channel 4 in the autumn of 1997, A Dance to the Music of Time was paid the ultimate compliment – it was compared by critics to the imperishable 1981 Granada adaptation of Brideshead Revisited.  There were undoubted similarities; being partially set in Oxford, encompassing the events of the 1930s and World War II.  In truth, however, there was a big divide in terms of pages to running time ratio.  Brideshead was not a large novel, yet was followed so punctiliously that it stretched to eleven hours’ worth of drama.  Powell’s story ran twelve novels, yet was televised barely two thirds the length of the Waugh adaptation.  One would think that it would mean too much plot was cut out, and indeed a great deal was cast aside.  Yet the central plotline, that of the eponymous dance to Father Time’s tune undertaken by the four male protagonists remained very much intact.  It helped, too, that the four protagonists – Nicholas, Kenneth, Charles and Peter – found such perfect actors to essay them.  Rhys is spot-on as Stringham – Powell’s Sebastian Flyte, as it were – doomed to an equally sorry end; Purefoy is the perfect centrepiece, forming the soul of the piece with intelligent assuredness a million miles away from his other famous TV role as a droog-like Antony in Rome; future Oswald Mosley Cake is also good as the cad with a heart.  Best of all, however, was Simon Russell Beale as the insidious, supercilious Widmerpool, one of the truly great performances in TV literary adaptation.  They are complimented by a cool Skinner as Jean (memorably naked in the opening scene) the brilliant Richardson as supremely superstitious and bitchy Pamela, and superb vignettes from Pasco, Fox, Wadham, Williams, Ford-Davies and the ever reliable Pugh.  It’s a shame the makers’ felt compelled to replace Purefoy, Fielding and Skinner with older actors in the final episode.  (more…)

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© 2012 by James Clark

Just as Holy Motors kicks off with a man waking in the middle of the night, screaming, “No! No! No!” in face of a spectre of historical malignancy, a seemingly smaller-gauge film, also from this year, namely, The Hunger Games, opens with a young girl screaming amidst a nightmare only too real, about being chosen by the government to participate in a gladiatorial exhibition where twenty-four young people must fight each other to the death until only one remains alive but, in view of the powers-that-be, hardly living. (One could regard that latter diversion as pertaining to the New Year’s Bowl Season at hand.) Whereas the former, almost instant Surrealist classic, envisions a life of alienation from mainstream world history, but a life still improvable through monumental effort, the latter, giving us instant nightmares as a fixture within the same entertainment spa containing Harry Potter, deploys a domain precluding effective motion, and follows closely a protagonist who walks the walk and becomes both a public enemy and a beloved rebel.

Treating this latter vision becomes, then, both, an as always stimulating survey of an entry into avant-garde cinematic discovery, and, as never before, somewhat incredulous treading into territory so seemingly unpromising as to be frequently driving one not to believe what he’s seeing. The film industry has for a long time (in a sort of synchronization with television), and as late more pronouncedly, sprayed about franchises marketable as showing bold and consequential sensibilities—James Bond and Lord of the Rings being among the revered profit centres in this light. Though seldom articulated, the fandom of these products banks upon narratives the overtones of which imply some kind of departure from stolid certainties and pieties. It also banks upon those circumventions of Main Street safely delivering, when all is said and done, its pseudo warriors right back where they started, as restive poseurs confirmed in a normality of paralysis. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Is there anything more frustrating in this God forsaken world than red tape, that seemingly endless commodity that allows bureaucracies, lawyers and even blood relatives of artists to stop movies being seen purely for the sake of money.  In Britain I grew up with bans, some of them self-imposed, as with Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, while other films like Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter will never see the light of day in the UK due to the killing of animals during the film.  But how many times do I look on film buffs’ innocent wish lists for releases on DVD and Blu Ray and I think to myself, “do you not realise this will NEVER happen.  Such a person will not allow it.”

One particularly well known example is The Devils.  As many doubtless know – and if you don’t, why not? – The Devils will never be seen on DVD or Blu Ray in the full director’s cut with the reinserted ‘Rape of Christ’ sequence because the killjoy right-wing idiots at Warner Brothers see it as their God given duty to keep the film in the archives away from impressionable minds.  In the UK the BFI managed to wangle an agreement to get the full theatrical version at least released, but Warners blocked the director’s cut and even the theatrical release could only get a DVD (no Blu Ray).  It’s a criminal shame, and yet The Devils is only the tip of the iceberg.


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Sympathy Comments

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
–From a headstone in Ireland
“Some people come into our lives,
leave footprints on our hearts,and we are never the same.”
– Author unknown
“When you lose someone you love,
you gain an angel you know”
– Author unknown
“May tender memories soften your grief,
May fond recollection bring you relief,And may you find comfort and peace in the thoughtOf the joy that knowing your loved one brought…For time and space can never divide

Or keep your loved one from your side.

When memory paints in colors true,

the happy hours that belonged to you.”

–Helen Steiner Rice
“There are no goodbyes for us.
Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

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by Joel Bocko

If there’s a more American film than It’s a Wonderful Life, and a more American hero than George Bailey, I don’t know it. No other film more comprehensively or powerfully captures the common American experience between the wars – that is to say, between Armistice Day and V-J Day – and no other film creates a richer dialogue between the dreams and ambitions that motivate us (then and now), the comforts and camaraderie that soothe us (perhaps then more than now), and the responsibilities and burdens we feel toward our families and communities (now more essentially than ever). It is timeless but it is also very, very much focused on its own time (or rather, a time just passed), a quality that gives It’s a Wonderful Life tremendous strength rather than dating it. By featuring popular songs and political references, by tying the daily life of Bedford Falls into the greater drama of the nation, it provides us with a moving portrait of our parents’ or grandparents’ experience; by not being afraid to situate itself in a particular moment in history, the movie shows us the universal in the particular. Besides, It’s a Wonderful Life has never been timelier, maybe not even when it was released, amidst a postwar era waving goodbye (and good riddance – no wonder the film struggled at the box office) to the years depicted onscreen.

Indeed, while it represents a generally darker, grittier strain than was apparent in most thirties films, It’s a Wonderful Life functions more as a culmination of one Hollywood epoch than the introduction to a new one. Its ensemble cast, its determinedly studio-created world, its dreamy, diffused black-and-white glow, all hearken back to the golden age of Hollywood which was starting to come to an end. Within a few years, techniques like location shooting, stylistic developments associated with noir and naturalism,  looser acting styles imported from New York, and outside circumstances like the HUAC hearings and the breakup of the studio monopoly would all contribute to a noticeable shift in American movie style and content. These trends would escalate with the increasing use of color and the introduction of widescreen, facilitating an increase in lavish epics to compete with television (ironically, the medium that would eventually make It’s a Wonderful Life the classic it remains today). Before long, the kind of film It’s a Wonderful Life represented – focused in scope, indulgent of character, romantic in its emotional content yet realistic in its sensitive observations of social dynamics – would be more or less extinct.


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by Sam Juliano

As we approach Christmas Day 2012, many of us with faith and optimism can look ahead to a much better year than the past one has yielded.  While we at WitD feel the right candidate won the presidential election and the movies were generally better this year than they were in 2011, the past twelve months brought us far more tragedy than any any year since the 9-11 attacks over a decade ago.  Hurricane Sandy inflicted massive damage and human loss, the movie theatre killings in Aurora, Colorado, shocked and traumatized a nation, and just a little over a week ago an unspeakable act of depravity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has darkened the holiday season, broke so many hearts, and left many of us feeling guilty for going on with our lives.  We must go on of course, and we need to stress the positive and think of all the lovely people we know and interact with, and the knowledge that the vast majority of people are good, loving and supportive.  The week’s wrenching funerals in Connecticut have affected so many of us, and while we move forward with our plans, hobbies and interests we do it with the heaviest hearts, knowing that others not so fortunate will be grieving for the rest of their lives, with their babies taken from them.  As I stated on last week’s MMD, everything we do is meaningless in the wake of this most horrifying of deeds.  I want to again thank the site’s own angel, Dee Dee, for posting the sidebar link on a way to show support for those who survived this unconscionable terror.

The site’s long-running comedy countdown concluded this past week in triumphant form, with some of the finest essays of the 20 week venture appearing appropriately enough right before the final bell.  For the second year in a row Wonders in the Dark hosted a highly-successful community project that attracted some of the best film writers out there, and some of those scribe’s finest work.  First of all I want to thank Maurizio Roca for his painstaking efforts in compiling and posting the weekly voter placement scrolls that appeared at the end of each individual review.  This was a massive undertaking, and was sustained for well over four months.  Richard R.D. Finch, one of the net’s finest writers, was incredibly supportive, and typically posted some of the most insightful comments day after day, usually in the very first spot after the review appeared.  Jon Warner didn’t miss a single post, and as always his contributions were astute, informative and enthusiastic.  Several others were there nearly every day and each have been invaluable at this site from Day One: Judy Geater, Pierre de Plume, Pat Perry, Dennis Polifroni, Frank Gallo, Sachin Gandhi, Peter M. and Shubhajit Lahiri.  The writers of course gave this countdown some of the most exceptional writing an analysis the site has ever hosted and posted, and each one should be applauded: Jon Warner, Pat Perry, Judy Geater, Richard R.D. Finch, Ed Howard, John Greco, Tony d’Ambra, Brandie Ashe, Allan Fish, Mark Smith, Marilyn Ferdinand, Sachin Gandhi, Roderick Heath, Joel Bocko, Allan Fish, Shubhajit Lahiri, Maurizio Roca, Jamie Uhler, Pedro Silva, J.D. LaFrance, Dean Treadway, Jaimie Grijalba, David Schleicher, Jim Clark, Samuel Wilson and Bob Clark.  I also want to offer my deepest gratitude to my dear friends Laurie Buchanan, David Noack and Frederick for their impassioned support for my own writings on the countdown.  Needless to say Dee Dee was there a number of times as well to offer insights, support and vital technical assistance. (more…)

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