By J.D. Lafrance

Trainspotting flew out of the gates in 1996 and took the world by storm, first causing a sensation in the United Kingdom, and then moving on to the United States bolstered by a soundtrack that mixed classic rockers (Lou Reed, Iggy Pop) with contemporary ones (Blur, Primal Scream). Audiences couldn’t get enough of this gritty, often funny, sometimes harrowing tale of Scottish heroin addicts. Based on Irvine Welsh’s edgy cult novel of the same name, Trainspotting was adapted by a trio of filmmakers – director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald – who had previously collaborated on the nasty suspense thriller Shallow Grave (1994).

They chose just the right passages from the novel and proceeded to capture the spirit of what Welsh was trying to say without judging the characters. This resulted in the film getting into trouble as some critics felt it glorified drug addiction. The film takes an unflinching look at the lives of a group of drug addicts and shows why they do drugs — the highs are so unbelievably amazing. However, Trainspotting also shows the flip side: death, poverty and desperation, which lead to stealing, lying and cheating just to get more drugs. Regardless, the film was a commercial and critical success, spawning all sorts of imitators and influencing countless other U.K. filmmakers to go through the door that it kicked open.
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by Sam Juliano

I can already hear the piano billowing forth with the all-too-familiar strains of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance this evening at the Cliffside Park High School gymnasium where my middle child Danny will be graduating in an indoor venue now being utilized because of the expected heavy rain expected tonight.  Three down and two to go!

The Television countdown has really taken off in a huge way, and I for one am so thrilled at the enthusiasm from the many writers who are gearing up for the massive project set to launch now on Wednesday, June 28th, and to finish on Saturday, September 23rd.  There will be a brief hiatus from August 4th till August 12th, when my family and I will be at a Carolina seashore condo.  In order to properly administer this project I need to break for that roughly one-week juncture, but it actually will help in one sense to allow for a writing regroup, falling as it does close to the halfway point.  The results have been announced by Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., and have been released to the e mail chain of voters and writers, but will only be reported here peace meal in the traditional reverse countdown order.  Nearly all the writing assignments have been claimed to this point.  I am proud to announce that the opening essay (#80) will be written by our beloved Allan (Our Hitler), on that opening Wednesday, which will be featuring his favorite television miniseries/film of the 1980’s. Continue Reading »

Our longtime friend and site contributor Peter Lenihan’s superlative appreciation of John Ford’s Wagonmaster is up on You Tube:

 © 2017 by James Clark

      Although Song to Song (2015/ 2017) adopts the design priority of a pell-mell rout by an army of short-lived wild things being long-term softies, there does emerge, for our sense of counter-attacking against the nearly non-stop jumpiness, a pair of visitations from sagas less spasmodic. The first is the silent, black and white, white-hot film melodrama of massacre, ripping into the midst of a palatial, ultra-modern household owned by an Austin music producer, Cook, besotted by the capacity to marshal hookers to his bed and thus drive his wife, Rhonda, to suicide. Along that so-called life to the fullest, he tells himself, “I can’t take this life straight.” He goes on to ask his former-waitress, former-Kindergarten teacher wife, part of an unstable harem, “What’s your fantasy? What are you afraid of?” She tells herself and whatever else could read her thoughts, “When I was a girl I loved everything. You killed my life…” [in the course of a marriage which delivered a nice house to her destitute mother]. That wild premonition including axe-murder and flowing blood reminds us of a jaded screenwriter, Rick, in Malick’s Knight of Cups (2015), who disregards a video in the foyer of a chic office tower, a decorative production in black and white whereby several women blend into each other from their long, jet-black hair, apparel, make-up and eyes. Rick’s sidelined, spent force may not be going anywhere, but the surreal artwork along his retreat becomes part of a rescue mission which speaks to the defunct Rhonda’s once loving everything, to no avail. (The two marital casualties meet when she is his server in a diner. “I have a condition,” he quips. “I can’t be left alone…” [“Help Me, Rhonda”]. The distance between Song to Song’s death-spiral and Knight of Cups’ going swimmingly in an infinity pool (like the one Rhonda OD’d in) gives us to understand that a very different consideration has become necessary. Continue Reading »

all for one - friendship rituals in Husbands

By J.D. Lafrance

Many films have been made about men experiencing a midlife crisis, from the good (About a Boy) to the painfully awful (Wild Hogs). With Husbands (1970), John Cassavetes made what is arguably the greatest film, not just about men going through a midlife crisis, but what it means to be a man – something that seems to be missing from a lot of contemporary male-centric movies. Husbands was a labor of love for Cassavetes and his two co-stars – Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk – both of whom enjoyed working with the filmmaker so much that they appeared in more of his films. At times, Husbands is a mess of a film with scenes that go on too long and acting that sometimes comes off as indulgent, but it is also brilliant and fearless as it transcends the men behaving badly cliché (see The Hangover movies) to show how men really behave around each other and how they communicate (or don’t) with each other. It’s a film that can test your patience, but also features some of the best acting ever put on celluloid.
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by Sam Juliano

Ballots for the Top 60 Television countdown, which is set to launch at the site on Saturday, July 1st are due in this coming Thursday, June 15th at 11:00 P.M.  Results will be sent out a few days later to the participating e mail chain after tabulation by Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr.  Anyone who hasn’t yet handed in a ballot therefore can still do so over the coming days.

Our entire brood and Broadway Bob treked out to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania over the weekend as per annual tradition and we experienced a paranormal event of sorts, which a cell phone photo taken by Bob resulted in a ghostly photo over the right shoulder of Jeremy on the battlefield.  I have received all kinds of responses on social media, and can only say at this point that I am unaware of any manipulation or tampering, and believe this to be a legitimate occurrence.  That said I am not a person to fall for this sort of this remotely.  In any event, aside from some scorching weather, this was a memorable trip highlighted by an intensive battlefield excursion and the terrific late night orphanage tour.  We stayed at the “haunted” Gettysburg Inn on the famed hill off Steinwar Avenue.  Returning from Gettysburg Sunday morning we stopped briefly in the Amish country -again as per our normal routine- to have our lunch at the “Good and Plenty,” a popular family style eatery in the heart of Lancaster.

In another unspeakably busy week, I attended (some with Lucille and Sammy and some alone) eight (8) screenings at the Quad this past week of 70’s films as part of two festivals -the end of the Frank Perry retrospective and the “Shadow Cinema of the American 70’s.”  While some of the films are of course on DVD and/or blu ray, several have not been released either way and it is always a special thrill to watch films in the magnificent Quad on the big screen, providing my pocket can sustain such indulgence.  Anyway we saw: Continue Reading »

The Hustler


By J.D. Lafrance

The Hustler (1961) is a crucial film in Paul Newman’s career. It launched him into the Hollywood stratosphere and marked the beginning of an incredible run in the 1960s, with movies like Hud (1963), Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Newman became a movie star but acted like a character actor, creating one memorable character after another. Arguably, The Hustler is where he really came into his own, delivering a powerful performance as small-time pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson. The film takes place in dingy pool halls, lonely bus terminals and low-rent apartments. It’s a world populated by confident grifters, streetwise bartenders and small-time gamblers. In other words, The Hustler is about people living on the margins, refusing to live the humdrum, 9-to-5 lives that most of us lead.
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