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Brenton Thwaites in screen capture from haunting THE GIVER, based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 Newbery Award winning masterpiece.

Capture from Lenny Abramson’s audacious and melancholy FRANK.

by Sam Juliano

Relatively mild August temperatures continue to stay the course as we move closer to the final days of the month that usually scorches.  Vacations are reaching the last leg, as September and the new school year is just about two weeks away.  A very difficult week, with the loss of a 64 year-old first cousin (mother’s brother’s daughter), Antoinette Rotundo, who suffered through a decades-long illness, and a bike accident in Toms River down the Jersey shore that required a hospital stay for my brother Thomas Juliano (Fairview Police Chief).  Concussion, broken nose and face scrapes were the result of the mishap.  After visiting my brother in the Toms River Medical Center -he will be fine but a little recuperation time at home- we all stopped down at Seaside again for their famed large slice pizzas and another brief excursion on the boardwalk.

The Romantic Countdown continues, moving closer to the two-thirds completion point.  It all ends on October 6th.

Lucille, young Sammy and I (and the others for one) managed to see three films this week around the hospital visits, several wakes and my cousin’s funeral: (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The summer continues to hold to temperatures in the lower to mid 80’s in the New York City area, but all things together this is a blessing – in past years we’ve had much worse.  For me it’s been an uncomfortable week, what with a persistent sore throat preventing me from having all that much fun.  In any case the Romantic Countdown continues, and will be moving in the 30’s this week.  Incredible, when you consider it seemed like yesterday when it launched.  As announced on previous MMD’s the projected final date for the unveiling of the Number 1 film will be on October 6th.

In the meantime we move closer and closer to September and the beginning of yet another new school year.  We are not sure what we have lined up for the coming weeks aside from a few screenings of the Classics of Polish Cinema  series (vigorously promoted by Martin Scorsese and reviewed at FoF by Marilyn Ferdinand) in Philadelphia.  It appears that Lucille and I will be making at least two trips there, and one -on Wednesday, March 20th to see Pharaoh will involve a family ride there with the entire brood and a family friend.  If things work out I will also see Eroica and Night Train and one or two others.  The plans are all tentative.

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By Dean Treadway

I first encountered Lars Von Trier’s masterful Breaking the Waves in an unusual way: it had just been nominated for a slew of Golden Globe awards (including the top three Drama awards, yet it would only garner one eventual and clearly unavoidable Oscar nod), in a year dominated by indie-flavored movies like Fargo and The English Patient. When the nominations came down, I was dumbstruck, because Breaking the Waves had not yet played in my hometown, but had definitely made a splash in Cannes earlier that year. I wasn’t even able to make it out to the theaters to see it that year, it was so low on my priorities. I was a fool.

When I finally did see it, I was doubly dumbstruck,  and could have kicked myself for not catching it on the big screen when I had the chance. I found it to be a complete masterpiece–to the point where it still remains the most recent entrant into my personal top twenty films of all time. As overwhelming as it is cinematically, with Von Trier and cinematographer Robby Muller working at their absolute apex, it was Emily Watson that impressed, and still impresses me most. Her Bess, so loving and trustful and completely devoted, was unlike any fictional character I had ever seen. She felt like a wide-eyed child, but yet she was very much an alluring woman, with a woman’s fullest desires, but perhaps without the wherewithal to understand those drives, except to say that she knew she totally had to follow them to what she saw as their natural end. She is like a strong but tiny bird one wants to help survive the cold outside. The fact that she had equal desires to be faithful to God and to her church complicated matters, especially since the church she follows (in early 70s Scotland, where the film is set) has a very dim view of women’s thoughts or contributions, except as earthly birth vessels. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

It seems almost miraculous, but the New York City metropolitan area continues to dodge the 90 degree temperatures that define late July and early August.  Days have alternated between the comfortable and the humid.

The romantic countdown has dashed to the half way point and beyond, with a final date of October 6th set to unveil the review for the #1 film.  Comments and page views have been reasonably impressive for a time of the year that is traditionally down for blog sites.

The hectic week we absorbed no doubt played a role in my present battle with the flu: nausea, aching joints, head aches and feverish flashes.  A lot of advil the last four days.  The better solution would have been to stay home!

On Monday at the beginning of the week we embarked on a day trip to Seaside Heights, New Jersey with the family.  This was the area that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy last year.  It is remarkable how the area has rebounded.  The kids enjoyed the rides on the Casino Pier, pizza and ice cream, and the arcades.

Lucille, Sammy and I attended a terrific band at the Emerson Hotel off Kinderkamack Road on Friday night.  Known as the “Rated R” the membership included a female vocalist, bass guitar and vocal, guitar, keyboard, percussion and drums.  They did songs by Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, the Commodores (Brick House), Stevie Wonder, Talking Heads (Take Me to the River),  Journey, Tears for Fears, Dion, Three Dog Night, Van Morrison, Marshall Tucker Band, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt, Pat Benatar (3 songs!), Grand Funk Railroad, The Mamas and the Papas, Frieda Payne, Otis Redding, Beatles (You Can’t Do That) Sly & the Family Stone, Four Non Blonde, Box Tops, Aerosmith, Jefferson Airplane, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Carly Simon,  and a song from the movie ‘Eddie and the Cruisers.” (more…)

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by Sachin Gandhi

Love and Romance are emotions that often escape logical explanations. When one is hard pressed to understand why one person loves another, the phrase “Love is Blind” or “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to the rescue. Once these phrases are uttered, no further explanation is required. No one will ask to dissect the meaning of these phrases and instead nod their head in agreement. As a result, these phrases can also result in an airtight screenplay, where a writer/director can use these phrases to have a plot that cannot be questioned. Not surprisingly, such phrases can be gold in the hands of the right writer/director. Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve, based on a story by Monckton Hoffe, utilizes these phrases in such a clever manner that one cannot fault anything but instead laugh and admire the effort. In the film, Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) falls for the same woman twice, blindly following his heart and shutting down his mind even though all evidence points to him staying away. (more…)

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Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knighley in a capture from John Carney’s charming “Begin Again.”

Screen capture from 1949 Film Noir classic GUN CRAZY by Joseph H. Lewis

by Sam Juliano

With today’s posting of the Number 51 film in the Romantic Countdown, Fried Green Tomatoes, we have officially approached the half way mark of the project.  The schedule calls for October 6 as the day to unveil the poll position choice.  Until then it will continue to be every Monday through Friday.  I would like to thank those who have been generous with their appearance and comments during the countdown, and am most pleased that it is doing so well in every sense.

Again I want to thank our guardian angel Dee Dee for keeping things spirited on the side bar, especially with all the latest developments in Film Noir, including the presently-running Femme Noir Festival at Manhattan’s Film Forum, where Lucille, Sammy and I have attended eight (8) of the offerings so far with several more planned for this coming week.

A terrific, comprehensive John Waters Retrospective is slated for Lincoln Center in September, while the Film Forum will be running both a festival on films made from Tennessee Williams’ plays, and one on the American icon Frank Capra.  One week runs for Rome Open City, That Man From Rio, The Conformist and Fedora are also slated also with a five film roundup of the films directed by Leos Carax. (more…)

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56. Bringing Up Baby

by Pat Perry

In 2007, Nathan Rubin memorably coined the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” to capture a familiar character/trope in romantic comedy: “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

There is probably no earlier or better example of this archetype than the character of Susan Vance (unforgettably played by Katherine Hepburn) in the legendary screwball farce Bringing Up Baby. From the first time we glimpse her, striding purposefully onto a golf course, till her final moments in Cary Grant’s rescuing grip as she dangles from a rapidly crumbling dinosaur skeleton, we know that Hepburn’s Vance is a force of nature, giddily marching to the strange rhythms humming inside her own, impenetrable brain – and absolutely the right match for Grant’s befuddled, deadly serious paleontologist.

If  “manic pixie dream girl” has come to be understood as a pejorative, it’s likely because this sort of pixilated dynamic is a tricky thing to pull off – often imitated, rarely duplicated. Two outright homages to Bringing Up Baby – Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up Doc? and James Foley’s Who’s That Girl? have had varying degrees of success (or, in the case of Foley’s film, no success whatsoever)  in convincingly capturing the enchantment that a madcap, free- spirited woman can have over a shy, serious, man who’s about to marry the wrong woman. (more…)

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Screen cap from the most chilling scene in John Stahl’s 1945 masterpiece LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN.

by Sam Juliano

It all comes down to generous gulps of Poland Spring, extended refuges into air-conditioned rooms and mental countdown towards one’s planned vacation.  Some of course are already on those vacations – beaches and resort amusements are very much a part of the daily itinerary.  Summer can be one’s eternal joy, but it comes with some baggage, especially if your region is prone to exceedingly high temperatures.  Since most regions so apply, one is usually engaged in a love-hate relationship with the season.

The Romantic Countdown continues to inch forward to the halfway point.  The high quality of the writing is a constant joy for readers, many of whom have been troupers in the comment threads.

Many thanks to our guardian angel Dee Dee for her continued work in revising the site sidebar.  Coincidentally enough her posters for the just started Femme Noir Festival at the Film Forum are highlighting some of my own recent movie-going as Lucille, Sammy and I took in two double features that launched the venture on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.  This past week we saw: (more…)

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By Jon Warner

 

There have been several films that follow an inanimate object (or animal) as it is transferred ownership to different people, with the meaning or importance of said object changing depending on the situation and the person involved. Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950) follows a Winchester rifle across several owners. Tales of Manhattan (1942) is a fascinating film involving several stories following a formal tailcoat. There’s also The Red Violin (1998). Even Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) and War Horse (2011) do something similar. Max Ophuls’ magnificent melodrama The Earrings of Madame de… seems to follow a similar pattern on the surface, as a pair of expensive earrings transfer owner several times. Ophuls’ film, though, seems to do something just a little different. It’s not really about following the earrings. In fact it is more about the motivations behind the giving and receiving of them than anything regarding chance transfer of ownership. Considering the monetary value of the earrings, no single person seems to give them a second thought until the earrings come full circle back to the original owner, as they are finally received as a gift of true love, becoming a glimmering example of both a failed marriage and an adulterous affair.

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Book reading by celebrated children’s book author/illustrator Peter Brown at Word bookstore/cafe in Jersey City, N.J.

Richard Linklater’s visionary “Boyhood” in the best film of 2014.

by Sam Juliano

The romantic countdown is doing quite nicely, with elevated comment totals of late and a real sense of purpose by both the motivated writers and those inspire to contribute on the corresponding threads.  We aren’t so far from the half way point in fact.

Thanks so much to our Guardian Angel Dee Dee for her continued attendance to the sidebar.  And thanks to all who spend even seconds at the site leaving ‘likes’ or acknowledgements.

Summer moves forward, as does the program I am teaching until August 8th.

Lucille and the gang came along for two new releases this week in theaters.  We also attended a book reading and presentation at the Word Bookstore in Jersey City.  Peter Brown of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild fame was on hand as per my FB report: (more…)

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