Archive for November 9th, 2009



Fall 2009 043

Actor Hal Holbrook with Lucille at Cinema 1 on Friday night after screening of 'That Evening Sun'

La Danse 001

Building line for Sunday afternoon showing of superlative Frederick Wiseman documentary 'La Danse' at Film Forum


by Sam Juliano

     Congratulations to the New York Yankees for winning their 27th World Championship, and to clutch DH Hideki Matsui for being named MVP.  Condolences to David Schleicher and the Phillies fans, but you can be sure they will be in the think of it next year again, as they are a great team, and had an outstanding playoff and World Series run.  Kudos to Dave Hicks and his Cincinnati Bengals, who are now 6-2 in NFL play, and to Joel Bocko, whose New England Pats are also 6-2.  The Giants are now 5-4, after starting the season at 5-0.

     In New Jersey, we elected a new Governor, Republican Chris Christie.  As a liberal Democrat I backed Jon Corzine, but let’s see if the new resident of the state house can do something for the dire economy and taxes here in the Garden State.

    I am deeply saddened at the announcement by Jon Lanthier that The Powerstrip may be no more, but let’s see where he surfaces next.  He’s much too good to go anywhere.  Jon is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet anywhere.

     I managed to channel some deep emotional (and physical scars) into some torrid movie going, which began on the evening of Election Day – Tuesday – with a screening of the new Peter Greenaway documentary at the Film Forum.  I went into high gear over the weekend.
     Here is what I saw in theatres this past week:
     Rembrandt’s J’Accuse  **** 1/2  (Tuesday night; Film Forum)
     That Evening Sun  ****       (Friday night; Cinema 1)
     A Christmas Carol  ***         (Friday afternoon; Paramus multiplex)
     The Men Who Stare at Goats  *    (Friday afternoon; Paramus multiplex)
     The Fourth Kind  *             (Saturday morning; Edgewater multiplex)
     Precious   *** 1/2             (Saturday night; Union Square Cinemas)
     La Danse  **** 1/2           (Sunday afternoon; Film Forum)
     Metropolitan Opera HD simulcast of ‘Turandot’   (Saturday afternoon, Edgewater multiplex)
     The year’s two best documentaries (by luminaries Peter Greenaway and Frederick Wiseman) played in the same week at the Film Forum, and I was thrilled to immerse myself in the artsitic sensibilities of art history and dance on the highest level of sophistication and appreciation.  Greenaway’s film calls for an open investigation of Rembrandt’s famed cryptic painting (the fourth most famous of all-time, as he says at the outset, behind Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and The Sistine Chapel.  The film will appeal to far more than art lovers, as hopefully will Mr. Wiseman’s stunning look behind the scenes at the Paris Opera Ballet, and some of the most sublime moments the form can ever yield.  Wiseman, perhaps the country’s greatest documentarian has crafted one of his greatest works here.
      A Sordid study of a grossly obese Harlem teenager, who is sexually and physically abused, and bears two children by her father (one with down syndrome) Precious is often a harrowing film, even if it rather overplays its cards at times.  As the girl’s mother, the actress Monique is extraordinary.  The film really impressed Lucille and Broadway Bob, but my reaction, while favorable, is a bit more measured.
      Lucille and I hit the jackpot on Friday night when we got to chat with actor Hal Holbrook after the screening of That Evening Sun, in which Holbrook gave a superlative performance as an uncompromising old man who refuses to give up his property and his past in a rural setting.  I took a picture of Lucille with Holbrook. The film is often beautiful to look at, but the burst of compassion at the end rings false, and some of his psychological insights are rather predictable.  Still a reasonably affecting independent film, which received a fantastic review weeks back from Jenny Bee Boulten.
      Jim Carrey, fine CGI effects and better-than-average 3 D digital work elevate A Christmas Carol to passable status, but I don’t think I’ll need to see it a second time.  The kids seemed to like it well enough.
      Both The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Fourth Kind were a waste of time and rank among the worst films of the year, easily.  The Clooney film was largely imbecillic, a poorly-written and conceived intended farce which is set (in large measure) in Iraq, while The Fourth Kind, which attempts to cash in on the success of Paranormal Activity is amateurish, preposterous and most unconvincing.  My son Danny thought it was pretty good though!  Ha!
      The HD broadcast of Puccini’s Turandot was riddled with serious pixel and audio problems throughout, yet this final opera from the most popular of all opera composers is always for so many reasons an electrifying experience.  I plan to have a review up this week.
Around the blogosphere some excellent work is on display.  Here’s some of it:
European traveller and good guy extraordinaire Troy Olson has a full report up on his trip to Italy at his site “The Life and Times of Troy.”  Please enage him as this was the trip of a lifetime.  He has several links up to the cities he visited.  Here’s the first one on Florence, but the others can be easily acessed:

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beauty and the beast 1

(USA 1991/2001 95m) DVD1/2

Tale as old as time

p  Don Hahn  d  Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise  w  Linda Woolverton  story  Mme.le Prince de Beaumont  ed  John Carnochan  m/ly  Alan Menken, Howard Ashman  art  Brian McEntee

VOICES BY:- Paige O’Hara (Belle), Robby Benson (Beast), Jerry Orbach (Lumière), Angela Lansbury (Mrs Potts), Richard White (Gaston), David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth/ Narrator), Jesse Corti (Lefou), Rex Everhart (Maurice), Bradley Michael Pierce (Chip), Jo Anne Worley (wardrobe),

When conducting the heroine round a tour of the enchanted castle, pompous clock Cogsworth attempts to make a little joke with his immortal line “if it’s not baroque, don’t fix it.”  The very line could read as a diagnosis of the problems Disney’s animation output at the time Beauty and the Beast was green-lighted.  Long gone the halcyon days of Snow White through Bambi, though Cinderella, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and One Hundred and One Dalmations were good, they were far from great.  Yet they were masterworks compared to the drivel of the seventies and eighties, where they plumbed truly new depths.  By the late eighties, computer animation was coming into vogue – one recalls a magnificent shot of a chandelier and ornate staircase in Oliver and Company that was a sign of things to come – and in 1989 The Little Mermaid was released to rapturous audience and some critical acclaim.  It was the first in a new line of Disney animations, equal parts cartoon and musical.  Yet it was two years later when that combination hit the jackpot with this third classic adaptation of Mme.le Prince de Beaumont’s ‘tale as old as time.’ (more…)

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