Screen capture from underrated Civil War film “Free State of Jones” directed by Gary Ross
by Sam Juliano
After months of taking small steps in behalf of the upcoming Top 100 Science Fiction Countdown we are now nearly ready to launch this amazing project. Posting officially begins on Wednesday, July 6th, when the Number 100 film will be covered with an essay from one of the countdown’s writers. Because we decided to go the distance with this endeavor, we will be posting every day of the week this time around. This is the first time we have utilized the weekend for countdown purposes. For more than three months we will be presenting the writings of twenty-four (24) authors until Thursday, October 13th, the day when the #1 film will be covered. It is thrilling that after a lethargic reception, enthused participants have rallied around the project and as of this writing 92 of the 100 assignments have already been filled!
June is nearly spent, leaving all of us with the certainty of some scorching temperatures as we navigate air conditioning and those days trips to the seashore that are near fruition. No doubt as I write this several in the readership are away enjoying the early weeks of the summer. The 4th of July is only one week away as well.
Lucille attended another retirement dinner for a teaching colleague this past week, and watched two movies in theaters, one a new release, the other a musical classic perfectly timed with Independence Day. We saw: Continue Reading »
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by J.D. Lafrance
The 1970s was an era where disco tortured our eardrums and nihilistic cinema ruled an American landscape riddled with a deep distrust of the government brought about by the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X, which were still fresh in people’s minds. When The Parallax View was released in 1974, America had just come out of a long and costly war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal would soon leave the Richard Nixon presidency in tatters. It would be the second film in an unofficial trilogy of paranoid thrillers made by director Alan J. Pakula that included Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976). With these films he was commenting on the times in which he lived – dark and rife with fear and loathing. And Pakula wasn’t alone. The ‘70s was an era that featured some of the best political thrillers ever made with the likes of The Conversation (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Winter Kills (1979). Arguably, The Parallax View is best of the bunch as it incorporated affectations of a surrealistic style with archetypal thriller conventions to produce a film where nothing is what it seems and good doesn’t always triumph over evil.
Senator Charles Carroll (William Joyce) is an ambitious independent politician rumored to be seeking the Presidential nomination in the coming year. It is July 4 and he’s doing a meet and greet at the Space Needle in Seattle when he’s shot and killed by two assassins dressed as waiters. One of them is killed trying to escape while the other (Bill McKinney) sneaks off in the ensuing chaos and confusion. After months of investigation, an unidentified government committee releases a report that states Carroll was killed by a lone assassin with no evidence of a conspiracy. At the time, this must have reminded people of the findings by the Warren Commission Report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which found Lee Harvey Oswald to be the only gunman acting alone.
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Screen cap from Kaneto Shindo 1952 Japanese masterpiece “Children of Hiroshima”
by Sam Juliano
The first stage of the science-fiction countdown has concluded, and Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. has announced that 33 ballots have been cast. After the results are sent on to me later this week I will immediately notify the group involved by e mail so writing assignments can be firmed up. Everything considered the project is panning out to be far more successful than was original anticipated, and I want to thank everyone on board for their passionate attendance towards its negotiation. After speaking to a few members of the group, I have decided to expand the actual countdown to a Top 60 – meaning the tabulation and essay writing will include 60 films, to be presented as always in reverse order. July 1st (Friday) will be the first day of launch, with a Monday through Friday schedule that will run through mid September. I have received several requests from prospective writers, asking me to set aside assignments connected to films that are widely anticipated to make the final cut. Lastly, I regret not being able to institute the element of secrecy that some in the group had suggested, as it would complicate the manner in which this endeavor will be presented. Still, the site readers -aside from those in the e mail group- will still be in the dark as far as the results are concerned.
The tragic death of Star Trek’s Chekov, Anton Yelchin at 27 years old leaves one in a sense of disbelief. Such a promising young actor and reputedly wonderful man has now been snuffed out to the implausibilities of fate. R.I.P. Anton’s work will live on forever.
Lucille, Danny and I attended Round 2 of Edward Hemingway’s new book tour at the Curious Reader Bookstore in Glen Rock, New Jersey on Saturday morning in promotion of his fabulous “Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus.” the popular and affable Hemingway -the youngest grandson of you-know-who- charmed the large group of youngsters and adults in attendance. Continue Reading »
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Fiddler on the Roof lyricist Sheldon Harnick at Film Forum on SundayEnter a caption
by Sam Juliano
The depravity in Orlando over the weekend reduces all other discussion to below inconsequential, but life goes on in unconscionable mode, leaving us to ponder yet again how current gun laws continue to allow such events to transpire. Of course even with revision, we wouldn’t be safe from recurrences, but it all seems much too easy. There are no words for the horror in the Pulse nightclub.
Last night’s Tony Awards offered no surprises, with the musical Hamilton and the play The Humans dominating the festivities. The surprisingly successful ballot stage of the science fiction countdown has now reached its final days, with a deadline of 11:00 P.M., this coming Wednesday, June 15th. So far we have exceeded 20, and expectations are for several more than that before voting is closed, at which point Voting Tabulator extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. will take over.
Another busy week for Lucille and I included a trip to the Court Bookstore in Brooklyn to attend a launch party for Edward (grandson of you-know-who) Hemingway’s “Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus.” As always for such events, young Jeremy was with us. Continue Reading »
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by J.D. Lafrance
In retrospect, releasing an R-rated buddy action movie at the beginning of the summer blockbuster season – amidst comic book superhero movies and children’s animated films – was probably not a good idea. The Nice Guys (2016), Shane Black’s throwback to a bygone era, has performed unremarkably. With this and the lackluster returns from his previous buddy action movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), it is both unfortunate and obvious that mainstream movie-going audiences no longer want to see the brand of violently comedic crime movies Black helped popularize in the 1980s and 1990s. They want movies that put an emphasis on sitcom-style comedy, eclipsed by sanitized action, and starring popular comedians like Kevin Hart (Ride Along) or Melissa McCarthy (The Heat).
I suppose one could see the writing on the wall with the massive success of the Rush Hour movies. Black even seemed to acknowledge this with Iron Man 3 (2013) where he had to disguise his trademark motifs under the guise of the Comic Book Superhero genre. Black’s unique stamp on beloved material angered Marvel fans, a poisonous dose of bad luck that followed him into The Nice Guys. This is a shame because for fans of R-rated buddy action movies, The Nice Guys is pure cinematic catnip and a reminder of how excellent this genre was and could still be. Continue Reading »
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