by Sam Juliano
The long-running comedy countdown is nearing the end, with the final fifteen films posting over the coming three weeks, with the #1 choice due for Friday, December 21. It has been an remarkable run, and I want to thank all those who have written essays, and have religiously left comments during the weekday project. It’s been quite a bit of work for everyone, including Maurizio Roca, who has managed the weekly tabulations, and the many who have set aside time during their days to check on the latest entries. It is hoped and anticipated the countdown will provide for a lasting reference point in the comedy genre for years to come.
The final weeks of the year are also providing quite a bit of excitement for movie buffs, as critics and buffs are hot to trot to see the likes of Amour, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Tabu, Berberian Sound Studio and The Hobbit among others. It that time of the year when some of us in the list making fraternity ponder endlessly to comprise the best of the best, and invariably engage in e mail flame throwing wars. But it’s all harmless enough. The New York Film Critics Awards will bve announced later today. The Gothams will be the first to check in, with both the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association due to post their results on Wednesday. The titles that keep getting named in predictions are Lincoln, The Master, Argo, Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty.
Then there is the imminent approach of the holiday season, which should keep many of us hopping on a daily basis in one capacity of another. As we move closer we will cover some of the related events as they unfold. The John Garfield petition is still moving forward, and those who haven’t yet affized their John Hancock are encouraged to do so by clicking on the sidebar link under the icon’s photo. Dee Dee, Lori Moore and Barbara LaMotta have been working tirelessly on this project for months.
Lucille and I (with Broadway Bob for two and Sammy for one) saw the following this week:
Hitchcock *** 1/2 (Monday night) Union Square Cinemas
Samsara *** (Friday night) The Picture House Theater (Pelham, NY)
Mea Maxima Culpa **** 1/2 (Tuesday night) Film Forum
A Royal Affair **** 1/2 (Sunday morning) Paris Theater
Killing Them Softly ** 1/2 (Saturday night) Union Square Cinemas
Nikolai Arce’s fascinating period costume drama A ROYAL WEDDING is a Danish film that defly weaves romance, court intrigue and tragedy in a picturesque tapestry that recalls “The Madness of King George.” Set in 17th century Europe during the Age of Enlightenment, it features a batty king who marries his English cousin, but erratic behavior leads to his wife’s affair with his trusted German counsul. This intimete epic is one of the year’s most beautifully lensed films, and a lovely score completes the deal. Mads Mikkelson and Alicia Vikander are superlative as the aduturers. Certainly A ROYAL WEDDING contends for a year-end ‘best of’ list. Lucille and I watched the film on one of Manhattan’s most celebrated screens, that of the ornate movie palace, the Paris Theatre, which has been operating for decades at it’s 58th Street landmark across the street from the Plaza hotel and the famed toy store “FAO Schwarz” on Fifth Avenue. We toured the store and as always were amazed. If any of the kids had been with us we’d end up bankrupt!
HITCHCOCK, a rather entertaining look at the directing icon’s making of “Psycho” isn’t always effective, but it’s better than some out there are saying. For the most part Anthony Hopkins is most amusing as Hitch, and Helen Mirren is classy as Alma Reville, the director’s beloved spouse. The battles with the censors and the audience reaction to the horror classic were funny, and the film included a good number of facts that surrounded the production. It’s chessy at times too, but it trumps “The Girl” and is mostly enjoyable.
Lucille and I traveled 11 miles to Westchester, New York Saturday night to watch SAMSARA in the quaint ‘Picture House Theatre’ in the town of Pelham. The film was not playing in their main auditorium (which was showing “The Intouchables”) but in their 14 seat “screening room”, a new addition that provides blu-ray projection on a 16 ft screen and comfortable reclining sofa chairs. This theater and rustic environs were quite a find, and a nice Italian restaurant to boot! SAMSARA was often captivating and meditative, and I thought the soundtrack contained some sublime and haunting passages including the employment of the harp, organ, chorals and a talented African female. I didn’t find that everything worked throughout, but that’s the risk when the approach though discerning is till somewhat random. The disturbing sequences of conveyor line dismantling of food products from their sources recalls a recent documentary from Denmark about the systematic killing and pachaging of farm animals and “Food Inc”., though the manner in which these sequences are presented in SAMSARA is more in the ‘fast lane’ spirit of the Italian “Mondo Cane”, with it’s off-the-beacon-track visual montages. I thought Fricke’s previous ”Baraka” was more mystical and awe-inspiring, but I like the director’s attention in SAMSARA to visual order and how crowd-filling screnes are united by color, movement and shape. There’s no denying that there is an epic scope to this melting pot, and there are images here that become enveloping, intoxicating and mesmerizing. I am aware that the very best way to see this film would be on the very big screen but the blu-ray projection and the intimacy of the experience at least trumps any home viewing. I wasn’t fully engaged with SAMSARA throughout, but the flashes of brilliance and the still unique presentation is one I don’t regret availing myself of.
Andrew Dominick’s long-awaited follow-up to “The Assassination of Jesse James” is a noirish off-shoot titled KILLING THEM SOFTLY, a Brad Pitt starrer that actually shows the actor impressive against type, and both James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins quite good in support. The sickening violence committed against Ray Liotta’s character is way over the top, and stylistically over-emphasized, and the economic theme that features opening and closing Obama speeches are as pretentious as hell, with the film’s metaphorical undercurrent never quite jiving with this talky gangster film that offers retaliation a la mode. It is very hard to but Brad Pitt’s killer as a political intellectual or history scholar though!
MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD (translation: “through my own immense fault) is a wrenchingly powerful documentary by Alex Gibney about the abuse of deaf young boys at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee from 1950 to 1974. that began over fifty years ago by Father Lawrence Murphy. The director employs uses voiceover and subtitles for the victims’ stories, but accentuates the audio for telling re-enactment. It doesn’t require sign language to translate the pain and humiliating committed at an impressionable age by a serial predator. Some vignettes are deeply disturbing, like one in which a victim says he was chosen by Father Murphy while watching Bambi in a dark theater. He confesses that he felt Father Murphy bumping the back of his head for attention. Many years afterward, he realized that it was Murphy’s erection he felt against the back of his neck. Others tell tales of how Murphy masturbated them in the confessionals. One man remembers Father Murphy telling him that ejaculation relieved him of his sins. Chris Cooper and Ethan Hawke are among the voice cast, and Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk and therapist reports the nefarious findings. in the end the film is deeply affecting and a rightful condemnation against Catholic authories who attempted to downsize or overtly cover the crimes. Father Murphy, who died in 1998 was forced into retirement, but was never charged with with what is now estimated as nearly 200 individal cases of sex abuse.
I copied last week’s link scroll, and made some updates:
Samuel Wilson at Mondo 70 has published an exceptional essay on Andrew Domick’s Brad Pitt starrer “Killing Them Softly”: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2012/12/on-big-screen-killing-them-softly-2012.html
Judy Geaters’ “Dickens in December” series is unway at Movie Classics with a fabulous review of Noel Langley’s 1952 “The Pickwick Papers”: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/the-pickwick-papers-noel-langley-1952/
At The Cooler Jason Bellamy has penned a brilliant appreciative essay on Ron Fricke’s “Samsara”: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2012/11/shiny-and-new-samsara.html
Joel Bocko has posted a fantastic review of Sophia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” at Lost in the Movies, that has attracted a terrific comment thread: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-favorites-lost-in-translation-98.html
At Twenty Four Frames John Greco has posted a great piece on 1933′s steamy pre-coder “The Story of Temple Drake”: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/the-story-of-temple-drake-1933-stephen-roberts/
Pat Perry has posted a superlative trio of capsule reviews at Doodad Kind of Town on “The Loneliest Planet,” “Sound of My Voice” and “Price Check”: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2012/11/beat-crowds-three-good-movies-you-can.html
At Ferdy on Films Roderick Heath is now leading up with a master class essay on Suzuki’s 1965 “Story of a Prostitute”: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2012/story-of-a-prostitute-shunpu-den-1965/16711/
Laurie Buchanan’s latest post at Speaking From The Heart asks readers to identify that moments when everything has you stretched to the limit: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/when-women-gather-on-the-rim/
Tony d’Ambra leads the way at Films Noir.net for a terrific piece on the little-exposed Italian noir ‘La Bionda’: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/la-bionda-the-blonde-italy-1992.html
Jaimie Grijalba has officially launched his fantastic new site “Overlook’s Corner” with a buffo piece on Chilean cinema: http://overlookhotelfilm.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/chilean-cinema-2012-12-miguel-san-miguel/
At Cinemascope Shubhajit Laheri has authored a superlative capsule on Ang Lee’s “The Life of Pi”: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2012/12/life-of-pi-2012.html
Murderous Ink at Vermillion and One Nights has written a wholly fascinating essay on anew volume about Japanese acting icon Setsuko Hara, who is still living at age 92 in relative seclusion: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2012/11/all-about-setsuko-hara.html
Dean Treadway’s new post “Cinema Gallery: 30 Scenes of Loneliness” is essential for all passionate film lovers. It’s over at Filmicability: http://filmicability.blogspot.com/2012/11/blog-post_6.html
At the magical Creativepotager’s blog Terrill Welch has a showcase of visual treasures up in her ravishing new post “New Homes for art and other studio musings”: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/new-homes-for-art-and-other-studio-musings/
Jon Warner leads the way at “Films Worth Watching” with his terrific WitD comedy countdown review of Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be”: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2012/11/to-be-or-not-to-be-1942-directed-by.html
History teacher Hokahey has written a marvelous, thought-provoking review essay on “Lincoln” at Little Worlds: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-morning-of-vote-spielbergs-history.html
Ed Howard has penned a fabulous essay on Douglas Fairbanks’s “The Black Pirate” at Only the Cinema: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-black-pirate.html
Sachin Gandhi offers up a fabulous report on the Calgary Latin Wave Festival at Scribbles and Ramblings: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2012/11/calgary-latin-wave-festival.html
David Schleicher has authored a magnificent essay on the new James Bond movie “Skyfall” at The Schleicher Spin: http://theschleicherspin.com/2012/11/15/i-fall-you-fall-we-all-fall-for-skyfall/
Weeping Sam offers up some thanks in his latest post Thanksgiving feature “Giving Thanks for Friday Music” at The Listening Ear: http://listeningear.blogspot.com/2012/11/giving-thanks-for-friday-music.html
A treasure trove of priceless reviews and listings can be accessed on the pages of The Last Lullaby, director Jeffrey Goodman’s indispensible site: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/
Dee Dee offers up petition co-founder Lori Moore’s own take on a John Garfield classic over at Darkness Into Light: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2012/09/john-garfield-in-nobody-lives-forever.html
Roderick Heath offers an excellent review of Oliver Stone’s latest film “Savages” at Ferdy on Films: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2012/savages-2012/16614/
R.D. Finch has written a splendid essay on 1965′s “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” at The Movie Projector: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-spy-who-came-in-from-cold-1965.html h
Kaleem Hasan offers an engaging post at Satyamshot titled “Shahrukh in Conversation with Yash Chopra”: http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/shahrukh-in-conversation-with-yash-chopra/
One of the net’s finest writers, the exceedingly talented Jason Bellamy has written a fantastic essay on Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” at The Cooler: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2012/09/touching-void-master.html
At Patricia’s Wisdom our friendly host has penned a terrific book review of “Televenge”: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2012/11/televenge-pamela-king-cable/
The comment section under Kevin Olson’s superlative essay on “The Master” at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies makes this presentation a must read for film fans: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-master.html
At the Coffee Messiah’s blog the indominable Michael Harford features a collage on cultivation: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2012/09/cultivate.html
Craig Kennedy has penned at terrific review on “Frankenweenie” at Living in Cinema: http://livingincinema.com/2012/10/05/frankenweenie-2012/
Stephen Russell-Gebbett has posted another thought-provoking piece, this time on ‘images inspired by paintings’ at Checking on My Sausages: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2012/11/images-inspired-by-paintings.html
David Lawrence, thjat erudite and personable educator from the U.K. features a poster of a Hammer classic at his new site Musings and Meanderings: http://1mouth2ears.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/movie-posters-1-dracula-has-risen-from-the-grave-1968/
Brandie Ashe happily announces a “Singin in the Rain” giveaway at True Classics: http://trueclassics.net/2012/08/10/singin-again-plus-a-giveaway/
Roderick Heath has posted a terrific new review of the reteaming of John Hillcoat and Nick Cave for this year’s “Lawless” at This Island Rod: thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2012/10/lawless-2012.html
J. D. LaFrance has penned a terrific piece on Tony Scott’s “The Last Boy Scout” at Radiator Heaven: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-last-boy-scout.html
The esteemed Film Doctor, a professor on Film Studies at a southern university, has written a fascinating piece on P.J. Anderson’s “The Master” at The Film Doctor: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-master-s-whip-lash-8-notes.html
Adam Zanzie has posted a terrific “alternative Sight and Sound list at Icebox Movies: http://www.iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2012/08/my-alternative-sight-sound-list.html
Jason Marshall has continued his superb coverage of 1942 at Movies Over Matter with a wonderful post on his Best Actor choice for that year: Chishu Ryu: http://moviesovermatter.com/2012/08/09/chishu-ryu-in-there-was-a-father-best-actor-of-1942/
Peter Lenihan has written a superlative essay talking about two films: “Dredd” and “Savages” at The Long Voyage Home: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/2012/09/double-feature-dredd-savages.html
At The Blue Vial Drew offers up “w/o” and some intriguing Fordian parallels: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2012/10/wo_5.html
At The Last Lullaby, the ever delightful filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman takes a look at part sixteen of his long running quartet series: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2012/04/favorite-four-part-sixteen.html
Stephen Russell-Gebbett at Checking on my Sausages again offers up a brillinatly-creative feature on ‘Sport as the Perfect Fiction”: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2012/08/sport-is-perfect-fiction.html
Tony Dayoub takes a look at the summer’s Barnes and Noble 50% off sale for Criterion collectots at Cinema Viewfinder: http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2012/07/criterion-summer.html
Greg Ferrara at Cinema Styles talks about the Colorado shootings in a moving feature: http://cinemastyles.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-dark-knight-shooting-in-colorado.html
Jeopardy Girl talks about her “least favorite film” at her wonderful new series at “The Continuing Saga of Jeopardy Girl”: http://jeopardygirl.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/2-my-least-favourite-film/
Dave Van Poppel has a tremendous batch of short reviews up at Visions of Non Fiction on the Toronto Film Festival: