by Sam Juliano
London and Kendal are now memories, and the summer is on it’s death throes, with today’s Labor Day holiday the final off day before work starts for many. Tomorrow is the first day of school in our district, with a teacher’s meeting scheduled for today, and the first day for students set for Wednesday.
The western countdown proper will commence on Monday, September 30, though the two weeks prior (starting on September 16) are reserved for the possible writing of some runner-up and feature western pieces yet to be determined. If no posts materialized (or even if a few do) the remaining days will be left blank, allowing for the writers to have more time to complete their reviews. In an e mail sent out to the full group of writers and voters, a tentative schedule grip has neared full completion, with only three or fours essays still unclaimed.
Once again, the site thanks the incomparable Dee Dee for her work on the sidebar and her posting of the Labor Day icon. Australian Tony d’Ambra, another longtime friend and associate also helped out WitD big-time last week by reversing an ill-advised font change, using his knowledge and skills to overcome the difficulties in negating the change.
Despite the continuing challengers on the physical front, Lucille and I attended some theatrical showings, with one new release and three movies playing at the Film Forum’s Horror, Science-Fiction and Fantasy Festival. We saw:
The Spectacular Now **** 1/2 (Sunday) Montclair Bow-Tie Cinemas
The Fly 1958 **** (Thursday) Film Forum
The Fly 1986 *** (Thursday) Film Forum
Demon Seed ** 1/2 (Friday) Film Forum
In a battle of the two versions of THE FLY, the earlier one directed by Kurt Neumann actually trumps the later one by master class director David Cronenburg, largely because it’s superior character development, the presence of Vincent Price and an unforgettable finale featuring a spider web in a garden brings this bizarre story to fruition better than the gory set pieces the famed director focuses on. Certainly some fine performances in Cronenberg’s film, and eerie atmosphere, but unlike most of his other work this 1986 re-make is uneven.
Then there’s Julie Christie in 1978′s DEMON SEED, which has some arresting moments but in the end it a rather ludicrous hybrid of “Rosemary’s Baby” and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. At the time of its release it was seen as ahead of its time, but now ironically its dated.
One of the best coming-of-age movies in quite a while is James Ponseldt’s THE SPECTACULAR NOW, which deals with the insecurities and uncertainties of love and young adulthood. The movie is ultimately heartbreaking, but it’s realistic and unsentimental and it features extraordinary performances by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, and a brace of convincing supporting turns from Jennifer Jason Leigh and others. Vivid and intelligent, the film captures the interactions of teenagers trying to make sense of the world around them.
After too long a hiatus I have resumed watching THE WIRE and completed Season 3 over the past week, while taking in the first five episodes of Season 4. I will have more to say about Season 4, when I complete it for next week’s MMD, but for now I’ll say it already appears to be the finest individual season of the show. Season 3 was exceptional as well, and here is my brief assessment:
Though a few episodes in the middle were on a narrative “holding pattern” and one could argue with some validity that there is some preachiness, I can’t deny that this epic opus of crime, corruption, power plays, drug co-opts, gritty realism, and narrative complexity seems to have hit it’s full stride in this third season. It’s an arc of traps and vengeance all played out on a grand scale, with the complicity of the Baltimore police department and the machinations of the African American drug lords reaching the frenzied conclusion in the brilliant final two episodes. Like any series, there are some redundancies and a bit of padding, but it’s still overwhelmingly intricate and engrossing, and the fact that I finished the entire series over two days (yesterday and today) with two marathon sessions -some watched with Lucille- is enough testament to its worth.
I have not given up on the links, but this has been a tough week in more ways than one, so I was unable to do anything to reinstate them.