Archive for February, 2009


by Allan Fish

Let’s be honest, it didn’t sound promising.  A TV reworking of a failed movie that even its writer had disowned.  The 1992 film with Kristy Swanson was a benchmark in mediocrity, so who would want to watch it all over again, played out in weekly instalments?  Amazingly enough, creator Joss Whedon got the Warner Bros network to listen and, when one show was cancelled mid run, Whedon’s baby was put in its place.  Needless to say it was somewhat rushed, and Whedon only ever expected to be making one season.  It lasted only 12 episodes, and few Buffy alumni would not admit it was the weakest series of the seven that would ensue, and yet there’s something faintly nostalgic about it.  Now, over a decade on, it seems impossible to think anyone other than Sarah Michelle Gellar would play the heroine.  Yet she wasn’t first choice – Katie Holmes turned it down and Gellar originally went for the role of Cordelia.  Thankfully, it worked out OK in the end.  And if Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon and Charisma Carpenter were way too old to play 16 year olds (22, 25 and 26 respectively when the show was first filmed), we forgave them.  We even forgave Anthony Head – a Stewart was placed in the middle of his name in the series due to a US Equity clash – the man from the Gold Blend ads, who likewise became a cult figure. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1955 31m) DVD1/2

Aka. Night and Fog

Who is responsible then?

d  Alain Resnais  Jean Cayrol  ph  Ghislain Cloquet, Sacha Vierny  ed  Alain Resnais  narrated by  Michel Bouquet

Nuit et Brouillard is a film that should be preserved for all time above nearly every other.  Just as the hell on earth of Nazi death camps stand as a ghostly memoriam of the atrocities committed under the Nazi regime, so does Resnais’ superbly subtle documentary.  Indeed, everyone who has understandably cried with horror and shame through Schindler’s List or, for those of braver constitutions, Shoah or the BBC’s Auschwitz, they should also see this film.  I’m sure Messieurs Spielberg and Lanzmann have. (more…)

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Sam Juliano’s Choices: For Best Director Nominees:

Best Director Nominees:

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk

The five Best Director nominees match up exactly with the films they directed in the Best Picture race, and this is relatively unusual, as there is normally at least one director whose film fails to get nominated. Four of the five directors here are most deserving, even if my own personal top pick, Andrew Stanton for Wall-E, missed this shortlist. Only Ron Howard, seems like a “filler” choice for his competent if unimaginative direction of the Broadway adaptation he helmed.

Gus Van Sant, a celebrated art house director, whose Paranoid Park, also from 2008, was even more impressive than the very good biopic he won his nomination for, will surely draw votes from the serious cinema lovers in the Academy, as well as perhaps from a number of people who are still hurting over the fiasco of 2005, when the year’s best film, Brokeback Mountain, was upended by Crash for the top prize, even as Ang Lee won the director prize. Van Sant is an ever thoughtful and dazzling craftsman.

David Fincher,who startled many by moving away from the dark thrillers that have commanded his attention throughout his career, is surely a creative guiding force behind the moving The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which leads in total nominations with 13. Fincher’s direction of the film divides those who loved the film, and others who had issues with it, but he’s respected and could win if the film should pull a major upset, much as Van Sant could be carried in if his film should win.

The British director Steven Daldry, has had success with literary and theatre adaptations with The Hours and Billy Elliot, two rich, emotional films where he guided actors to exceptional performances. Again here, he achieves much the same, especially with Kate Winslet. Not everyone connects to The Reader, but for me it’s the finest film of the five nominated, edging ahead of Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Daldry’s long-shot hopes would rest with a surprise with The Reader in the Best Picture race.

This brings us to Danny Boyle,whose direction of the year’s popular feel-good movie Slumdog Millionaire is a prohibitive favorite. In fact, at this point it’s considered even more of a lock than Heath Ledger in the supporting race according to some pundits. Boyle’s visceral, dazzling and eclectic filmmaking of a film that showcases an operatic intensity. Years back he impressed many with Trainspotting, and he’s had some other fairly-good films after that. At this point, everyone’s speculating what Boyle will be saying for his acceptance speech.

(Sam Juliano’s Personal Choice: Stephen Daldry, The Reader)
(Sam Juliano’s Prediction to Win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire)

Alexander Coleman…from Coleman Corner in Cineman: Prediction For Best Director:

Danny Boyle, will win for Best Director come Oscar night, as David Fincher, Ron Howard, Gus Van Sant and Stephen Daldry have yet to gain much momentum in this category. Boyle won the LAFCA, Critics Choice Award, National Society of Film Critics Award and Directors Guild Award. The Best Director Oscar is always the least surprising winner of the evening, and there is no reason to believe Boyle will go home without a Best Director Oscar with him.

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by Allan Fish

(France/West Germany 1955 110m) DVD1

Not so frivolous Lola

p  Ralph Baum, Albert Caraco  d  Max Ophuls  w  Max Ophuls, Jacques Natanson, Frank Geigar, Annette Wademant  novel  “La Vie Extraordinaire de Lola Montes” by Cecil Saint-Laurent  ph  Christian Matras  ed  Madeleine Gug  m  Georges Auric  art  Jean d’Eaubonne, Willy Schatz  cos  Georges Annenkov, Marcel Escoffier

Martine Carol (Lola Montes), Peter Ustinov (Ringmaster), Anton Walbrook (Ludwig I of Bavaria), Oskar Werner (student), Ivan Desny (Lt.James), Will Quadfleig (Franz Liszt), Lise Delamare, Henri Guisol, Paulette Dubost, Helena Manson,

It may almost seem a sin to remotely associate Ophuls’ gorgeous masterpiece with that piece of artless smut from the talentless Tinto Brass, but I can only crave the reader’s forgiveness as I just couldn’t resist it.  It’s a film that Andrew Sarris memorably hailed as the greatest ever made, and one which several major critics have similarly praised to kingdom come.  In truth it does have some flaws, and the original 140m version is seen as often as Hale Bopp comet, so one has to take what one has.  Likewise we must put up with a very bleached print of the film on video and DVD in the States, as it has yet to receive the digital remastering it so needs and deserves.  Though it may not be quite as perfect as his Letter from an Unknown Woman or quite as elegant as his Madame de…, it’s his most ambitious film by far. 

            The film begins with Lola now approaching middle age, penniless and relying on virtually token appearances in the New Orleans circus of an unnamed ringmaster.  There we see pageants and recreations of her famous love affairs (including with Liszt and Ludwig of Bavaria) that scandalised the courts of Europe.  Over the course of this, Lola looks back herself at her life as a courtesan, from her teenage marriage to an English aide de camp, through numerous affairs to her ultimate poverty.   (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1952 7m) DVD1/2

Accelerati Incredibilus vs Carnivorous Vulgaris

p  Edward Selzer  d  Chuck Jones  w  Michael Maltese  m  Carl Stalling

Artificial Rock, Atom-Re-Arranger, Building Disintegrators, Clue Collector, Dehydrated Boulders, Do It Yourself Tornado Kit, Earthquake Pills, Elephant Bullets, Giant Rubber Band (comes in various sizes and strengths), Hitch-Hiker’s Thumb, Indestructo Steel Ball, Instant Girl (handy!), Invisible Paint, Iron Bird Seed, Jet Propelled Pogo Stick, Junior Explosive Kit, Paper Clips No. 4 (not sure what happened to numbers 1, 2 and 3), Rocket Powered Roller Skates, Smokescreen Bomb, Triple Strength Battleship Steel Armour Plate, let’s face it, you could easily go on forever.  You’ll have guessed they’re not the sort of thing you’ll find in your local Target or Asda, but rather the weird and not so wonderful products of the world famous Acme Incorporated, used by the indefatigable Wile E.Coyote in the numerous cartoons where he consistently failed to catch Road Runner.  You might well ask why, if the coyote could afford to buy out Acme’s entire back catalogue he couldn’t just get himself some other food than his elusive quarry, but that’s bringing logic into a world where logic not only doesn’t exist but hasn’t even been thought of.  When in Buffy Xander Harris made a typical quip that “I was going to walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but it seemed kinda cartoony“, it was this partnership he was referencing and Beep Beep, their first outing, remains arguably their best, a truly anarchic descent into failure for one of the most beloved characters in cartoons and inspiration for everyone from Professor Fate to Dick Dastardly, Wile E.Coyote.  (more…)

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by Jennifer Boulden

Note: In forming my top 10 list, I decided to define it as my 10 favorites list. There are some films that may technically be “better” than some of my choices, but these are the movies I will take from 2008 and hold closest to my heart, for whatever reasons that they connected with me. It is also, though late, terribly premature as there are a great many films listed at the bottom of this post I have yet to see. Still, I’m happy with it.

It is an entirely subjective list, except for all the places where I am unequivocally right.


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by Sam Juliano

1939 was a landmark year in American culture, arts and politics.  The depression was ending and the country was seemingly infused with fresh optimism, even as Europe was darkened by the invasion of Poland by Hitler on September 1st of that year.  Undaunted, Americans vowed to stay focused to domestic concerns, having had their fill of being pulled into overseas conflicts.  The famous 1939 World’s Fair, which promised a bright, modern future, showcased it’s “World of Tomorrow,” built atop a wasteland in Flushing Meadows, Queens.  American literature had a stellar year with Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, du Maurier’s Rebecca, Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider, and Chandler’s The Big Sleep, while classical composers like Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson reached their zenith at during this period.  American musical theatre blossomed too, with the pre-eminence of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and George Gershwin.  Kern wrote what is widely considered his greatest song “All The Things You Are” for a show released in spring of that year.     

But there is no art form more connected to 1939 in it’s definitive excellence than that of the cinema.  The year is widely considered the greatest of all-time, and timeless classics like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Stagecoach, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, and Babes in Arms, among others, remain ensconced in our national consciousness, as part of an output which will probably never be equaled.       (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Argentina 1957 73m) not on DVD

Aka. La Casa del Angel

Sin is death for the soul and body

p  Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson  d  Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson  w  Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson, Beatriz Guido, Martin Rodrigues Rodriguez Mentatti  novel  Beatriz Guido  ph  Anibal Gonzalez Paz  m  Juan Carlos Paz  art  Emilio Rodrigues Mentasti

Elsa Daniel (Anna Castro), Lautaro Murua (Pablo Aguirre), Guillermo Battaglia (Dr.Castro), Berta Ortegosa (Señora Castro), Yordana Fain (Naná), Bárbara Mujica (Vicenta), Lili Gacel (Julieta), Alejandro Rey (Julian),

At the turn of the sixties the star of Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson burned brightly both at home and abroad.  His films were compared to those of Orson Welles, particularly in their visual style, and helped bring his nation’s cinema to the attention of the whole, not just the Hispanic, world.  So what exactly went wrong?  Why is he so forgotten today?  Why is the Halliwell Guide the only annual to even include this or his other films within its pages?  One would think that he had gone seriously out of vogue, and one would be absolutely right.  But again I ask, why?

            It seems this is rather down to circumstances outside of his control.  But for a director once called, admittedly as valedictory following his early death at fifty three in 1978, “Argentina’s foremost director“, why is it that none of his great works are even on DVD in his homeland, let alone with English subtitles to allow us to savour of them?  Why are his films now so rarely glimpsed that every sighting would be a cause for rejoicing, were not so many critics unaware of his very existence?  It would be fair to say that his later films were more overtly political, and even occasionally sexual (especially Piedra Libre), both factors that hardly endeared him to the authorities in his homeland.  But his early works, filled with what Edgardo Cozaninsky called “a fondness for Gothic households and perverse children“, are delicate works indeed, almost as delicate as the female protagonist at the heart of the film that surely remains his masterpiece. (more…)

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31 Days of Oscar@….Alexander Coleman’s…Prediction(s) From Coleman’s Corner in Cinema

Alexander Coleman’s Best Supporting Actress Predictions:

Doubt’s remarkable ensemble was duly rewarded by the Academy in nominations, and this category illustrates just how captivating each member of the quadrant was. Viola Davis, has received understandably gushing acclaim for her small but searing turn, but Amy Adams, has been, if anything, underappreciated. Adams has a difficult part, with a character that serves as a check to Meryl Streep’s Sister Aloysius and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Father Flynn.
Playing a fairly mousy milquetoast, Adams could have been blown away by her peers but she makes her part as fascinating as it should be–since she also serves as vicarious audience barometer for the respective camps. However, as remarkable as Davis and Adams are, their shared nominations may result in “vote-splitting,” not unlike The Godfather’s Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and James Caan each receiving Best Supporting Actor nominations split “the Godfather vote,” according to conventional wisdom.
Taraji P. Henson, is probably the category’s biggest surprise–playing Benjamin Button’s adoptive mother in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, she is a fountain of emotive gestures and affectations but as solid as she was, she seems the weakest contender.

Marisa Tomei, is terrific in The Wrestler, making a part that could easily have fallen to ruinous cliche into a full-bodied performance of charming personality. As good as Tomei is, her very command of verisimilitude is probably ultimately a liability when it comes to Oscar–they usually like their Oscar-winning performances at least reasonably “showy.”

Yet in many ways the stand-out here, and likely winner, is Penelope Cruz,for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Easily the film’s greatest asset, Cruz dazzles in an uneven film, and makes the viewer wish it was her story being told. She is voluptuous in every sense of the word, and leaves an impression that lingers. The Academy has proven they love supporting actress turns in Woody Allen films with Dianne Wiest winning two statues for performances in his Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway, and Mira Sorvino taking home an Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite the year after Wiest’s second win. Beautiful women have also fared quite well throughout Academy history and the exotic Cruz fulfills this unofficial requirement.

Alexander Coleman’s Best Actor Predictions:

Actor Brad Pitt’s nomination for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…” is unlikely to register as anything more than a pat on the back for his recent string of accomplished work, which is ironically least apparent in Benjamin Button where he plays a cipher largely defined by his Curious condition.

Richard Jenkins makes “The Visitor”… worth seeing, and he gave a fine performance–but the part is so (intentionally) nuanced and staid, and the film so small, it is, in Academy terms, just an honor to be nominated.

Frank Langella’s… nomination seems to partly represent the triumph of hype and the sedated biting on “Oscar bait,” and there is little momentum in his direction.

The battle here is between Sean Penn, as the 1970s homosexual San Francisco City Councilman Harvey Milk and Mickey Rourke, as 1980s professional wrestling superstar, turned circa 2008 faded gymnasium main-eventer Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Penn already has an Oscar, for Mystic River, a wildcard factor that could either help or hurt him. Rourke has the Cinderella story backdrop of an accomplished actor rediscovering himself after a time period marked by ignominy–“The Ram” is in many ways a mirror image of himself. It seems as though Penn is considered the frontrunner, which would further heighten the experience of Rourke “upsetting” with a win. There are also political–both personal and civic–considerations in this category that may have a hand in deciding the winner. Penn’s victory for Milk could be interpreted as making amends for the loss of Brokeback Mountain (which was considered a major motion picture for homosexuals) in the Best Picture category to Crash a few years back, and some observers believe Rourke’s antics at the Golden Globes and other awards showsould select Rourke; as it currently stands, however, I must admit that Penn is the probable victor come February 22.

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by Allan Fish

(India 1959 105m) DVD1/2

Aka. Apur Sansur

End of the road

p  Satyajit Ray  d/w  Satyajit Ray  novel  “Aparajita” by Bibhutibhusan Bandopodhaya  ph  Subrata Mitra  ed  Dulal Dutta  m  Ravi Shankar  art  Bansi Chandragupta

Soumitra Chatterjee (Apu), Sharmila Tagore (Aparna), Alok Chakravarti (Kajal), Swapan Mukherjee (Pulu), Dhiresh Majumdar (Sasinaryan, Aparna’s father), Sefalika Devi (Aparna’s mother), Dhires Ghosh (landlord),

Not too long before her death, the great British critic Dilys Powell compiled her list of the greatest ten directors of all time.  Amongst them she included Satyajit Ray, for his Apu trilogy alone.  When one watches the heartrending climax to this monumental triptych, one can see exactly why.  The greatest trilogy in world cinema history climaxes with what is, arguably, its summit.  While it may have been influenced by the not too dissimilar Maxim Gorki trilogy of Mark Donskoi, this is very much its own animal.  

            We find our hero Apu now spending his days dreaming of becoming a novelist but failing to put his thoughts into words.  One day he attends a wedding only to find out that the arranged marriage is a trick as the bridegroom is out of his mind.  Apu agrees to marry the otherwise disgraced bride Aparna and, gradually, they begin to fall for each other.  But while he’s away, his brother-in-law comes to tell him that, though he now has a son, his beloved Aparna has died in childbirth.  Unable to cope with his grief, Apu tears up his manuscripts.  (more…)

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