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Archive for the ‘author Allan Fish’ Category

farmer 1

by Sam Juliano

Surely a prime reason why odds makers never set betting lines for the Caldecotts and the Newberys is that they are noted for being notoriously unpredictable, not to mention there being something rather unsavory about plopping down money on childrens’ book awards.  But heck, there is active wagering on who will become the next Pope, and that contest is pretty much just as difficult to call.   Sure there have been instances where front runners have emerged (The Lion and the Mouse, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, Flotsam were all seen as ‘favorites’ in their release years for generally held logic that went beyond speculation).  While all three are extraordinary picture books, the deal was sealed when one author-illustrator was deemed overdue for decades, another book visited the hallowed grounds of our worst national tragedy, and the other was the absolute masterpiece by one of the profession’s most venerated and awarded artists.  Yet, recent gold medal wins by Brian Floca, Jon Klassen, Chris Raschka, Brian Selznick and Simms Taback were not a sure thing according to the book pundits, in fact a few -Selznick’s and Raschka’s (A Ball For Daisy) seemed to come out of left field, though I’d be hard-pressed to name a more worthy winner than the former’s towering The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  In any case, if such a system were in place, I’d venture to predict that Marla Frazee’s spare, loving and creative The Farmer and the Clown would be established as the favorite for several most significant aspects. (more…)

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shooting-1

by Alan Fish

This review, aimed at honoring the star of this year’s ‘Mr. Turner’, is the thirty-second in the continuing Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series at Wonders in the Dark.

(UK 1999 182m) DVD1/2

The Gadarene Club

p  John Chapman  d/w  Stephen Poliakoff  ph  Bruno de Keyser, Ernie Vincze ed  Paul Tothill  m  Adrian Johnston  art  John-Paul Kelly  cos  Susannah Buxton

Lindsay Duncan (Marilyn Truman), Timothy Spall (Oswald Bates), Liam Cunningham (Christopher Anderson), Emilia Fox (Spig), Billie Whitelaw (Veronica), Arj Barker (Garnett), Blake Ritson (Nick), Andy Serkis (Styeman), Sheila Dunn, Jean Channon,

It’s time for a personal favourite here, one of the great achievements of either screen in the last two decades, but also typical of the way television is overlooked for its bigger brother.  And yet look at films such as Dekalog, BerlinAlexanderplatz, Heimat, Das Boot and Fanny and Alexander.  All are works that are listed in film guides and yet were originally made for the small screen.  Of writers at their peak around the time of the millennium, surely the best would have to be Stephen Poliakoff, whose delights have ranged from the enigmaticFriends and Crododiles to the affecting Gideon’s Daughter, from the intricatePerfect Strangers and the less successful but still memorable The Lost Prince.  All of which leads one to beg the question, why go for this? (more…)

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Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin

This review, originally published in March of this year, is the thirty-first in the continuing Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series at Wonders in the Dark.

by Allan Fish

(UK 2013 108m) DVD1/2

The girl who fell to earth

Nick Wechsler, James Wilson  d  Jonathan Glazer  w  Jonathan Glazer, Walter Campbell  novel  Michel Faber  ph  Daniel Landin  ed  Paul Watts  m  Mica Levi art  Chris Oddy

Scarlett Johansson (Laura), Paul Brannigan (Andrew), Jessica Mance (alien), Krystof Hádek (swimmer), Scott Dymond, Michael Moreland,

After watching Under the Skin Mark Cousins tweeted “if movies hadn’t evolved out of other art forms, like the novel or theatre, what would they have looked like?  Like Under the Skin.”  Ne’er a truer word was tweeted, and yet it’s a statement that also gets to the heart of why the film was always going to be so divisive.  Many film writers, critics and commentators and the vast majority of audiences are set in their ways.  They like their films to have a linear narrative.  They can jump forward and back in time, so long as they explain everything by the end credits.  Under the Skin is a film that is happy to explain nothing.  It revels in its ambiguity.  To appreciate it one has to take a quantum leap, not to wonder what will happen next but to wonder what we will see next.  (more…)

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combo-1

 

This review of ‘The Big Combo’ is the thirtieth in the continuing Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series at Wonders in the Dark.

by Allan Fish

(USA 1955 89m) DVD1/2 (Spain only)

First is first and second is nobody

p  Sidney Harrison  d  Joseph H.Lewis  w  Dalton Trumbo  ph  John Alton  ed  Robert S.Eisen  m  David Raksin  art  Rudi Feld

Cornel Wilde (Lt.Leonard Diamond), Richard Conte (Mr Brown), Brian Donlevy (Joe McClure), Jean Wallace (Susan Lowell), Robert Middleton (Capt.Peterson), Helen Walker (Alicia Brown), Ted de Corsia (Ralph Bettini), Lee Van Cleef (Fanty), Earl Holliman (Mingo), John Hoyt (Nils Dreyer), Jay Adler (Det.Sam Hill),

One of the last great hurrahs of American noir and one of the pivotal films of the 1950s in the depiction of screen violence, The Big Combo is a film that gets more and more enjoyable with each passing year.  Six years after his masterpiece Gun Crazy, Combo probably doesn’t quite match its predecessor, but there’s so much to enjoy, so much to revel in, that it comes pretty darn close to matching it.

Lieutenant Diamond is a thirty-something detective who’s spending too much money for his sympathetic captain’s liking trying to achieve the impossible.  His target is the enigmatically named Mr Brown, the head of an organised crime racket in New York known as ‘The Combination’.  With the help of his former boss, Joe McClure, now affected with hearing problems and forced to pay lip service to Brown, and two favourite hoodlums, Fanty and Mingo, he runs things in New York.  Diamond tails his girl, Susan, in an attempt to get some information, but when she attempts suicide, Brown starts to get annoyed by the Lieutenant’s harassment and steps up the heat himself.  Diamond comes to realise that there’s a dark secret in Brown’s past, which may revolve around his missing wife, Alicia, an anchor, and his equally conspicuous by his absence partner Grazzi, who had led the Combination back in the old Prohibition days. (more…)

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clockwork

Note:  This review of a 70’s masterpiece is the twenty-ninth in the ongoing ‘Allan Fish Bonnaza’ Encore series at WitD.

by Allan Fish

(UK 1971 137m) DVD1/2

A bit of the old ultraviolence

p  Stanley Kubrick, Bernard Williams  d/w  Stanley Kubrick  novel  Anthony Burgess  ph  John Alcott  ed  Bill Butler  m  Walter Carlos (including Henry Purcell, Edward Elgar, Giacchino Rossini, L.Van Beethoven, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)  art  John Barry, Russell Hagg, Peter Shields  cos  Milena Canonero

Malcolm McDowell (Alex de Large), Patrick Magee (Mr Alexander), Michael Bates (Chief Guard), Warren Clarke (Dim), James Marcus (Georgie), Michael Tarn (Pete), Anthony Sharp (Minister of the Interior), John Clive (stage actor), Adrienne Corri (Mrs Alexander), Miriam Karlin (Miss Weathers), Carl Duering (Dr Brodsky), Clive Francis (Joe), Dave Prowse (Julian), Philip Stone (Dad), Sheila Raynor (Mum), Aubrey Morris (P.R.Deltoid), Godfrey Quigley (prison chaplain), Paul Farrell (tramp), Steven Berkoff (cop), John Savident (conspirator), Margaret Tyzack (lady conspirator),

Viddy well at this horror show cine, o my brothers.  Kubrick’s most controversial film, this was the definitive cult film in the U.K after its withdrawal from our eyes for 26 years.  (Indeed, I still remember the sweaty-palmed glee with which I devoured the film for the first time when a friend imported a video copy from the US.)  A horror comic masterpiece of sorts, without a shadow of a doubt, it follows the story of a young murderer cum rapist in a futuristic nihilistic Britain who is released from prison after undergoing the Ludovico experimental treatment, this time as a victim of society. (more…)

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snapshot_dvd_01-50-45_2010-03-22_20-13-37-greed3

Note:  This is the twenty-eighth entry in the extraordinary Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series, and it considers a silent era landmark.

by Allan Fish

(USA 1924/1998 141m) not on DVD

A dentist’s tale

p  Erich Von Stroheim, Irving Thalberg  d  Erich Von Stroheim  w  Erich Von Stroheim, June Mathis  novel  “McTeague” by Frank Norris  ph  Ben Reynolds, William H.Daniels  ed  Erich Von Stroheim, Rex Ingram, Grant Whytock, June Mathis, Jos W.Farnham  Carl Davis  art  Richard Day, Cedric Gibbons   

Gibson Gowland (John ‘Doc’ McTeague), Zasu Pitts (Trina Sieppe), Jean Hersholt (Marcus Schouler), Chester Conklin (Popper Sieppe), Dale Fuller (Maria), Tempe Pigott (Mother McTeague), Silvin Ashton (Mommer Sieppe), Joan Standing (Selina),

No other film in the history of cinema fills us with such a sense of both awe and loss.  Loss because of what the characters go through during the film’s duration, but even more for the loss of the director’s original intention.  Greedwas butchered like no other film was butchered, and unlike many such films of the modern era, there is no chance of a director’s cut ever emerging.  Von Stroheim’s masterpiece was edited down from well over a hundred hours of stock footage to an original length of 8½ hours, from which it was cut to exactly seven for its premiere.  When Irving Thalberg insisted he cut it down to a commercial length, Von Stroheim sent it to another artist on the MGM roster, his friend Rex Ingram, whose editor Grant Whytock helped him cut it down to 3¼ hours.  Refusing to cut any more, Ingram handed it back, but it was then further cut by June Mathis to 2¼, as it survives to this day.  It’s amazing it still stands as a masterpiece.

The story is made into a tragedy of human despair and greed worthy of Hugo and Zola, as we follow McTeague from his beginnings in a gold mine in 1908 to his being sent away by his mother to learn dentistry from a charlatan.  Setting up in San Francisco, he comes to know Marcus, who introduces him to Trina, a delicate young girl whose teeth he fixes.  Marrying her, their life is thrown into turmoil when Trina wins an illegal lottery and she hoards the money from husband and friend alike, while McTeague is slowly driven to madness and violent retribution. (more…)

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long-day-closes-1

Note:  This is the twenty-seventh entry in the ongoing ‘Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series.’  It considers a Terence Davies masterwork that Allan placed at No. 2 during his 1990’s countdown of a few years ago.

(UK 1992 85m) DVD2

Shining a torch into the night sky

p  Olivia Stewart  d/w  Terence Davies  ph  Michael Coulter  ed  William Diver  md  Robert Lockhart  art  Christopher Hobbs  cos  Monica Howe

Marjorie Yates (mother), Leigh McCormack (Bud), Anthony Watson (Kevin), Nicholas Lamont (John), Ayse Owens (Helen), Tina Malone (Edna), Jimmy Wilde (Curly), Robin Polley (Mr Nicholls),

Watching Terence Davies’ autobiographical piece was, to this reviewer, rather like flicking through a family album, heralding from a family barely removed from that depicted in the film, in location, time and spirit.  It isn’t a prerequisite to be acquainted with the north, or with Catholicism, or remembrances of the 1950s, but it certainly helps.  And though those who cannot tick those boxes can and do enjoy and celebrate the film, they do miss something in the translation.

It’s more than merely an exercise in nostalgia, critics both professional and amateur have talked of it being like a stream of the subconscious, and in many ways they’re right, with remembrances of different years and moods taking place seemingly at the same time.  Essentially, the viewer is transported much like Scrooge by the spirits of Christmas into the childhood remembrances of Bud, an 11 year old from the terraced streets of Liverpool.  All the expected reminiscences are present and correct, from canings to show the kids who’s boss and visits to Nitty Nora the Bug Explorer to the mind-numbing tedium of assembly and warm welcomes to black men who mistakenly come to the door to begging for a shilling for the pictures and neighbourly gatherings on the doorstep.  It really is a different world, and one so dreamlike that one is not surprised when seemingly otherworldly voices ring in one’s ear, reminiscences not just of Bud’s but of our own collective movie-going subconscious.  Those with ears to hear will recognise choice sound-bites from Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Meet Me in St Louis, The Ladykillers, Private’s Progress, Great Expectations and, several times, The Magnificent Ambersons, mixed with songs from Nat King Cole, Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds (Tammy, naturally).  To this, add several choice snippets of hymns known to anyone who’s suffered through a Catholic primary education, Waltons-like ‘goodnights’, and a friend of the family who lives to do Cagney and EGR impressions.  To this add a truly stunning visual sense, which bathes the film in a romantic, nostalgic glow despite actually being very gloomy in its surface aesthetics.  Rain, as befits the wet North-West, is never far away, and the reflection of rain patterns on windows on wallpaper in darkened rooms adds a further ethereal touch.  And not for nothing does the film open with a credit time lapse shot of a bowl of roses slowly wilting and dying, a simple but telling metaphor for the fleeting nature of those happiest days of Bud’s, and Terence’s, lives.  (more…)

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