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 © 2017 by James Clark

 We live in one of those eras where whole nations (or nation-links) have been widely regarded as irredeemably perverse and evil. Over the years, Catholics, Jews, Communists, gays, Japanese, Germans, etc. have been subjected to fierce and massive opposition. Therefore, when approaching a film notable like, Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016), a rare artist refusing to cut ties with (though not a supporter of) militant Islam (within Iran), there is a special preparatory requirement to make very clear that our stalwart is, first and foremost, a citizen of the contemporary world, which is to say, the secular, cosmopolitan world.

In view of this, we’ll put forward a glimpse of the heart of Kiarostami’s work, a glimpse which Michelangelo Antonioni would be touched by, not to mention many other modern filmmakers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh9-uKavbu0

Only an artist alerted to an imperative of dynamics brooking no capitulation to ancient enthusiasms would find necessary that those enveloping thrusts comprising Roads of Kiarostami take the spotlight. Kiarostami’s eventual semi-exile (the regime being happy about his festival winnings, but increasingly suspicious about the content of the material and therefore suspending any further financing), whereby his final two films—Certified Copy (2010) and Like Someone in Love (2012) were produced in, severally, Italy and Japan—comprised a distress that the oddity (uncanniness) he had romanced from the days when Persian Iran was Muslim-Lite had been targeted by a stream of volcanic, though tempered, spleen. But in our film today, Close-Up (1990), that ingredient of nausea is abated. Our special investigation of this surreal saga, then, has to do with those winning roadways and their comedic (Jarmuschian) whimsy remaining a viable navigation even where Paterson-like thought-police pose challenging roadblocks. Continue Reading »

Tombstone

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By J.D. Lafrance

“A lot of people, a lot of studios, wished Tombstone would just die. Kevin Costner was gearing up his film Wyatt Earp at the same time, and it would have been easier if we’d just gone away. But Tombstone had a lot of things going for it. First and foremost it had me.” – Kurt Russell

Almost every year there seems to invariably be two similarly themed films duking it out for box office supremacy. One does better than the other because it comes out first or has a bigger movie star in it or is just better in quality. In 1989, The Abyss out performed two other underwater alien films, Leviathan and Deepstar Six. A few years later, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) outperformed Robin Hood (1991) thanks to the movie star power of Kevin Costner. In the late 1990s, you had the competing asteroid disaster films with Armageddon (1998) vs. Deep Impact (1998) and the rival erupting volcano thrillers, Dante’s Peak (1997) and Volcano (1997).

In the mid-‘90s, Hollywood was at it again with competing Wyatt Earp biopics: Tombstone (1993) and Wyatt Earp (1994). Despite the former having an earlier release date, the latter featured Costner in the title role of the legendary lawman and with respected screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan behind the camera. In addition, Tombstone was plagued with publicized production problems as its director was fired early during principal photography only to be replaced by another with almost no prep time. Amazingly, against the odds, Tombstone was not only made, but also won the box office showdown over the much longer, slower-paced Wyatt Earp. Audiences preferred the more entertaining, action-packed Tombstone with its fantastic cast of character actors led by none other than Kurt Russell. His film delivered the goods, plain and simple. Despite the absolute critical drubbing it received upon its theatrical release, it should be regarded among the best westerns of the ‘90s alongside the likes of Unforgiven (1992) and Dead Man (1995).
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by Sam Juliano

An Allan Fish Online Festival will commence on our beloved site colleague’s birthday (May 11) and will continue at least for 14 days, though it could well run a few days more (perhaps until May 28th) depending on the level of participation.  The original suggestion made by my longtime site colleague and friend Jamie Uhler, and this resilient Chicagoan has created quite a magnificent poster, while setting the ground rules for the project’s execution.  The specifications were sent on to a limited e mail chain of past countdown writers as well as site members, but nothing is set in stone as far as the actual number, so anyone not previously included is welcome to speak out in the comment section under this post.  The choice for each writer will be to review a film they found online (Allan’s oft-used method of finding rarities) and it will run at WitD and the blogsite of that day’s participant.  Obviously we have a little over three weeks left before we will be launching this and no definitive schedule is expected to be finalized before maybe May 5th or so.  I am guessing that when the smoke clears as far as acceptance e mails go, that we will probably have 17 people writing single reviews.  Unlike other projects at the site there will be only one review to a customer, which of course will allow most invited to accept.  What was originally posed to be a one week tribute could well end up being close to three weeks, but as Jamie said in response. “the more the merrier.”  Also, since this is the first year in a planned project to carry over to other years the bigger pool seems appropriate.  Those planning to participate are asked to respond to me directly on the e mail sent out.  Note:  just to reiterate, the May 18th final date has now been expanded and will be finalized as soon as I find out how many will actually contribute.

Then, in late June we are planning to commence with the long desired Greatest Television Show/Series countdown.  Voters will choose their Top 50, the countdown will go with a Top 60, so we can enjoy ten extra essays.  American, British, and all other foreign country programs will be considered (Berlin Alexanderplatz from Germany for example) and mini series like The Civil War, I Claudius, The World at War are all game.  I will send out the first e mail to the group in a few weeks, but be advised that anyone really taking this project seriously may want to brush up on some shows.

Lucille and I will be attending the annual Tribeca Film Festival beginning this coming Thursday and continuing until April 29th. Continue Reading »

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By J.D. Lafrance

The 1990s was a good decade for Jennifer Jason Leigh. She was not only prolific, flirting with mainstream movies like Backdraft (1991), but also at the height of her creative powers, turning out one astonishing performance after another, disappearing into her roles with chameleon-like proficiency. It was also the decade where she tackled her most challenging roles in a way that threatened to alienate the critics and her fans. In Georgia (1995), she played a struggling musician that has the heart but not the talent as evident in an excruciatingly awful cover of a Van Morrison song that goes on for so long that it tests the resolve of even the most die-hard Leigh fan.

She also tackled stylized, almost impenetrable accents in The Hudsucker Proxy (1993), the Coen brothers’ homage to screwball comedies, and her crowning achievement, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), where she portrayed legendary writer Dorothy Parker with incredible accuracy. The film was directed by Robert Altman protégé Alan Rudolph, a talented filmmaker with a frustratingly uneven filmography. With Altman attached as producer, Rudolph was able to assemble an impressive cast – a who’s who of ‘90s character actors, like Campbell Scott, Lili Taylor and James LeGros; and survivors from the 1980s, like Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Beals and Andrew McCarthy. It is to Rudolph’s credit that he is able to handle such a large and diverse cast, so much so that a cheat sheet is almost required in order to keep track of who everyone is. Admittedly, Rudolph plays large portions of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle fast and loose, letting this talented cast run with their characters. For the most part it works, especially the scenes that take place in the Algonquin Hotel.
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Screen cap from the British classic “A Kind of Loving” (1962) by John Schlesinger at Film Forum

by Sam Juliano

Spring weather has finally asserted itself in the New York Metropolitan region as the week before Easter is upon us as we near the middle of April.  The Tribeca Film Festival launches in just nine days, though the actual schedule -aside from the special events- begins on Thursday, the 20th.  Lucille and I will be super active as always, and I’ll be reporting on FB and back at the site here on successive Mondays.  The Montclair Film Festival begins immediately after Tribeca concludes, and there are two dates we will be attending, as our friend Jay Giampietro’s new short is being screened on the opening Friday.

Lucille, the three boys and I attended a local classic rock venue on Saturday night at the Oak Ale House in Maywood, New Jersey where our friends the group Nemysys, presented their usual rock standards in addition to some new additions.  We saw two films in theaters, but both were old classics screened at the Film Forum.  I have seen both, especially the De Mille many times over the years.  Seeing them on the big screen is always a treat.  I also saw numerous newly arrived blu rays of classic films that I plan to re-cap on future MMD’s. Continue Reading »

© 2017 by James Clark

      Poetic filmmaker/ musician, Jim Jarmusch, has been bringing to our consideration singularities of dynamics for a long time. The effectively eccentric apparitions populating these works, often far from the dominant sagas of the struggles, treat us to white-hot energies paradoxically muted and doomed. With his recent creation, Paterson (2016), a memorable motif from the past resurfaces for the sake of contemplating 21st century dotage toward lives having erected fire-walls the better to confine themselves to tepid and myopic cocoons. The off-beat motif in question is the positioning of a dog being too-carnal to well-coincide with busy escapists. In that hipster/inventor’s Broken Flowers (2005), a TV-comic-like winning sensibility having made a fortune with IT has to rein himself in to avoid laughing in the face of an old flame who claims to derive insight from wild animals, especially the instance of her now-dead dog. In Ghost Dog (1999), a connoisseur of samurai methodology is far too preoccupied with practising his underground art to notice (twice) a black mutt who would love some attention from the ascetic self-server.

The protagonist, Paterson, of our film today is, like those just mentioned, a technician of sorts (being a local bus driver and poet of rigid literalism stifling the volatility of his muse); and he’s numbingly negligent toward his English Bulldog, Marvin. The legions of reviewers holding this paragon of modesty, civilized expression and citizenship as a new-wave every man have no time for what he’d be like to a non-rational being. Clearly never having expended any time and energy on fathoming Jarmusch’s discoveries, they stumble into the axiom/meatgrinder which could be put as, “Mess with the dog and you get covered with shit.” Continue Reading »

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By J.D. Lafrance

No other filmmaker other than Charles Burnett, John Sayles or Mike Leigh excels at telling stories about real people like Victor Nunez. He has been called the working man’s auteur and with one exception, his films capture the essence of Florida culture in a refreshingly understated way that is increasingly rare at time when big budget blockbusters and quirky independent films reside at polar ends of the spectrum with very little in-between. His films are populated by protagonists that are outsiders reinventing themselves in Florida. Nunez has said that he is fascinated by “people who have somehow strayed from the world, and they’re trying to decide whether or not they’ll be able to get back in again.” This is evident in the conflicted reporter torn between two sides in A Flash of Green (1984), the grandfather protecting his family from dangerous criminals in Ulee’s Gold (1997) and this is certainly true of Ruby in Paradise (1993), which chronicles a young woman’s journey from an abusive relationship in Tennessee to her new life working in a souvenir shop in Panama City.
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