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turandot

turandot 2

by Sam Juliano

Football fans were treated to a defensive match between the favored Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, who triumphed in an error prone Super Bowl game that wasn’t always pretty to watch.  Still for those of us who traveled to the homes of relatives, where betting pools were run, or stood home to watch the big contest, it offered up a measure of entertainment to close out the nearly six-month football season.

The DGA (Director’s Guild Association) award this past week was handed out for the second year in a row to Alejandro Innaritu, whose The Revenant must now be seen a strong candidate for the Best Picture Oscar, in what is apparently a close race with The Big Short (PGA) and Spotlight. (SAG).  The Academy Awards as always are a shameless rat race with building insignificance, but it gives Lucille and I the opportunity to stage our annual awards bash, which this year like last will happen at Fairview’s Tiger Hose Firehouse, with catering again from Dante’s.  The affair is an open house.

This past week we attended two movie theater presentations, one the new Coens’ brothers film HAIL CAESAR, and the other the encore HD broadcast of Giacomo Puccini’s TURANDOT, seen at a local multiplex.  Lucille and I had seen TURANDOT live at the Met three times prior over the years during our season ticket days.   Remarkably, this is the same lavish Franco Zeffirelli production that has been there for over 20 years. Continue Reading »

harold-bloom

by Barry Germansky

Given his tendency to prize a writer’s capacity for influence above all other evaluative considerations, it may seem unlikely for Harold Bloom to serve as a source of overt originality. But Bloom is a man of profound contradictions, and he is profoundly original in his unoriginality.

He has spent his career as a Yale English professor presenting idiosyncratic views on canonical writers, creating a paradoxical lens of criticism, one that employs its originality in the service of maintaining the traditional Western canon of literary respectability. Bloom’s personal canon bears a strong resemblance to the widespread canon.  When Bloom talks of one author influencing another, he is essentially validating one author for inheriting the genius of another (and, of course, whenever he does this, both writers are invariably part of the traditional canon). Accordingly, when Bloom asserts his personal literary rankings in terms of influence, the contradictory nature of his preservation of the canon through what may now appear to some as being “outmoded” objective absolutism is revealed. Even if he refers to his opinions as the products of “deep subjectivity,” many would argue that “influence” is, in many cases, an impossible quality to prove and is, whether one believes in objectivity or not, an unconvincing litmus test for canonization. Accordingly, Bloom’s reliance on influence and its associated universality as literary guides makes his rhetoric sound objective. This leads to yet another paradox: Bloom, with his maintenance of the traditional canon (no matter how he maintains it), is a refreshing singular voice in an academic critical environment dedicated to dismantling the canon through a conformist standardization of knowledge that functions by absorbing and disintegrating individual works through the corrosive surface gloss of umbrella paradigms, such as overemphasized versions of postcolonialism and posthumanism. Bloom, now 85, created yet another antidote to such trends with last year’s The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime. Continue Reading »

hateful-8-1

© 2016 by James Clark

      The Hateful Eight (2015) is suffused with such a dazzling and challenging vein of cinematic bounty as to momentarily stop us in our tracks when setting out to convey it in all its bushwhacker severity. Tarantino’s work here is indeed a delicious entertainment; but it is also a cornucopia wherein very little is in fact what it seems to be.

Proceeding on that premise, we’ll tap the film’s vital signs by way of two scenes seemingly miles apart. The first has to do with a factor eclipsed here by the movie’s more disconcerting virtues, namely, that of our host’s comedic genius. In the wake of our accompanying four characters on a stagecoach ride through a snowbound Wyoming countryside a few years after the official end of the Civil War—a quartet revealing themselves therewith to be steeped in murderous violence of various kinds—they reach a stopover point just as a blizzard hits. That ride had been marked by a bounty hunter, John Ruth, having handcuffed to himself his prisoner, Daisy Domergue, en route to the regional hangman, repeatedly smashing her face and head while the bloodied captive persistently referred to another bounty hunter on board, Major Marquis Warren, as a nigger who should not be in the coach, and defiantly ridiculed her captor. His penchant for beating up Daisy, notwithstanding, Ruth, as his name rather quaintly telegrams, is a mainstream, rather doctrinal, John Locke liberal (referring to Warren as “Black fella”), whose well-known (to Warren, for instance) nickname, “The Hangman,” pertains to his eschewing the “dead” part of the “wanted dead or alive” prescription. Warren’s three frozen corpses on the stage’s roof declare that he is all for the “dead” clause. His referring to himself as “a servant of the Court” introduces a touch of chivalry which might be lingering in his kindly eyes and resonant voice. Daisy, a Southern girl, to judge from her accent, blows a nostril full of snot in Warren’s direction and spits on his letter from Abraham Lincoln which has left Ruth deeply touched (“That gets me”). In smashing her for that latter impudence, he brings both of them crashing outward into the snow. When he catches up with her and his letter, Warren spits on Daisy, smashes her and then she remarks, “That nigger like to bust my jaw… Is that the way niggers treat their ladies?” A fourth member of the party, the son of a notorious leader of a rebel, post-War vigilante gang, “Mannix’s Marauders,” enters into a heated quarrel with Warren—each citing lurid, well-known details of slaughter perpetrated by the other, with firmly anti-slaver Ruth siding with the dishonourably discharged Black fella and putative friend of Lincoln. Continue Reading »

paris-2

by Allan Fish

Note:  This review by Allan Fish considers a seminal work of the late Jacques Rivette.  Though it was previously published, it reappears to pay homage to the great director, and will be followed by a few others in the coming weeks.

(France 1961 140m) DVD2

Aka. Paris Belongs to Us

The star Absinthe approaches earth

p  Roland Nonia  d  Jacques Rivette  w  Jacques Rivette, Jean Gruault  ph  Charles Bitsch  ed  Denise de Casablanca  m  Philippe Arthuys

Betty Schneider (Anne Goupil), Gianni Esposito (Gerard Lenz), Françoise Prévost (Terry Yordan), Daniel Crohem (Philip Kaufman), François Maistre (Pierre Goupil), Jean-Claude Brialy (Jean-Marc), Jean-Marie Rohain (De Georges), Jean-Luc Godard, Brigitte Juslin, Jacques Demy,

It was only a few weeks ago.  The 11th Doctor crash-landed on earth, David Tennant had finally turned into Matt Smith.  The latter had promised a little girl he’d be back in five minutes but it turns out to be twelve years.  He comes back only to bashed over the head with a cricket bat, handcuffed to a radiator and come round to find the first thing he sees is Amy Pond’s endless legs.  She doubts his existence; four psychiatrists in twelve years have told her he can’t exist.  Then he asks her a question.  “On this floor, how many rooms?”  She’s incredulous but finally responds “five.”  After all, she should know; she’s lived there for over a decade.  The Doctor replies “six”, Amy is even more incredulous, and then the Doctor tells her to look where she’s never wanted to look, in the corner of her eye.  There, slowly looking back over her shoulder, she sees it.  “How is that possible?” she protests.  “Perception filter”, the Doctor says, of an entire room she never knew existed. Continue Reading »

 

Mustang

knight-of-cups-photo-549006492899d

by Sam Juliano

The ferocious blizzard of last week has been followed up with some moderate temperatures, which have enabled much of the snow on the ground to melt away.  We now move to February, another winter month with a nasty track record, so we can’t be too complacent. The science-fiction countdown at the site draws closer, and all prospective voters are urged to give the venture some thought, if not some re-viewings.  Several weeks down the line I plan to send out an announcement to our e mail chain.  Pretty much similar to the last five genre polls all readers are urged to cast ballots, even if they are unable to write any of the essays.  January has been an awful moths for passings, the latest of whom is French New Wave master Jacques Rivette, a long-time favorites of this site’s writers and associates.

Our great friend and site countdown writer Stephen Mullen (Weeping Sam) has waxed lyrical on Rivette at The Listening Ear and it is well worth re-printing here at WitD:  “Jacques Rivette has died. He was 87, and apparently has been suffering from Alzheimers disease for the past few years – I had heard he was ill, and so am not surprised. Still; saddened. The news come the day after I finally finished paying my 88 pounds for the new Out 1 collection – unfortunately, before this object crossed the ocean to my front door, so I can’t spend the next week watching it… But it is coming…

He is One of the Great Ones. I haven’t posted any kind of list of favorite directors lately, but if I did, he would be up there – top 10 somewhere. I came to him late – most of my favorites I discovered in the mid and late 90s, when I started watching films obsessively. I saw some Rivette in that period, but didn’t see enough until 2007, when I saw a whole series – that immediately elevated him to his place among the greats. I do remember when I first heard about him – when La Belle Noiseuse came out – that was before I was an obsessive filmgoer, and the main thing I remember about it is that it was a very French film about a painter that had some actress naked for 3 hours. Some time after that, probably around 1998 or 99, I finally saw a Rivette – Haut Bas Fragile – by that time I had become an obsessive filmgoer, I knew who Jacques Rivette was, in a general sense (historically), and had seen some films obviously influenced by him – Pascal Bonitzer’s Encore, possibly, or some of the Assayas or Desplechins films that call Rivette to mind… I liked it – quite a bit in fact, though I don’t know if I could have explained it at the time. Later, Va Savoir got a bit of an American release, and I saw that in the theaters. And I tried renting the Story of Marie and Julian, though the DVD copy I got was damaged and I missed the opening 15 minutes or so of the film – which made it even more incomprehensible… Though still enjoyable. I liked Va Savoir very much – liked The Story of Marie and Julian well enough. It meant that Rivette had gone into that pile of directors whose films are just too hard to see – so you have to wait for your chance and take it. Continue Reading »

minor 1

by Sam Juliano

This past week world famous theoretical physicist and renowned university professor Stephen Hawking issued a dire warning that if the human race were not careful they could bring about their demise before one-hundred years have eclipsed.  He specified three major fears -nuclear war, climate change and genetically engineered viruses as potentially lethal to the continuation of the human race, but sustained abuse of our resources and the planet we live on remains in the view of most scientists as our primary concern.   Hawking warned that we were at least a hundred years from having the ability to live elsewhere in space, so the next century will tell if we will still be around to to enact that relocation.  The picture book authors Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander in a newly published work pointedly titled This is the Earth, have also asserted that man is responsible for the plundering of our natural assets because of greed and gross carelessness, but also because our designs have been so notoriously self-serving and our claims excessive and unnecessary.  Yet, Shore and Alexander have not thrown in the towel, nor have they opined that we are past the point of no return, indeed their environmental plea, couched in verse patterned after The House That Jack Built, is meant to keep our alarming rate of pollution and contamination in check by adapting the practice of recycling, riding bicycles and maintaining gardens, even in urban areas.  While young readers may well be unnerved by the confessional aspects of a race prone to overindulgence, they are nonetheless invited to make their own individual donations towards an ecological equilibrium too often knocked out of whack by unrestrained narcissism. Continue Reading »

20160123_161618

20160123_161729 (1)

by Sam Juliano

One of the worst snow storms to ever regale the northern New Jersey/New York City region dropped at least twenty-six inches of snow, effectively paralyzing the area, and forcing the shutdown of roads and crossings.  Needless to say Broadway dimmed its lights and many movie theaters closed.  Schools in my own hometown have cancelled classes on Monday, which is two days after the storm, and the roads, though slowly making a comeback, are still in some spots impossible to pass through.  The coming of the storm and matters connected with making copies of films have occupied me all week, and have prevented any theatricals film viewings, though I have re-watched many 2015 films at home during this week of madness.  What with digging out cars and shoveling sidewalks in the cards for the coming days, I’m sure this will be another difficult week, with responsibilities likely to trump entertainment.  19 new links are to follow here:

Continue Reading »

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