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Archive for November 16th, 2009

Wes Anderson's 'Fantastic, Mr. Fox' based on book by Roald Dahl

by Sam Juliano

The upsurge in comments at Wonders over the past week can be solely attributed to the diverging opinions of Allan’s placements of some popular 90’s films in the countdown: Good Fellas, American Beauty, Pulp Fiction and Schindler’s List.  While the majority of internet voters and pollsters have named any or all of these in their own Top 5 or Top 10, Allan raises some eyebrows with his much lower rankings, though he still acknowledged they are great films, even masterpieces.  The result of the discourse brought in some of the site’s traditional heavy-hitters, including Joel Bocko, Tony d’Ambra, John Greco, Dave Hicks, Bobby J., David H. Schleicher, Troy Olson, Kevin J. Olson, Qalandar, Mad Hatter, Jon Lanthier, Samuel Wilson, Judy, Dee Dee, Jamie Uhrer, Just Another Film Buff, Shubhajit, Margaret, Dennis, R. D. Finch, Film Dr, Andrew Wyatt, Joe, Frank Gallo, Peter, David Noack and others.  The Schindler thread was one of the site’s Hall of Fame entries, attracting 110 comments, so many most brilliant.

I managed to see four films theatrically this week, as well as an American Opera, which I saw at the New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center on Sunday afternoon.  The opera, Hugo Weisgel’s Esther, was a torturous atonal work that recalled Schoenberg, a crushing melody-less grinding bore that is basically an encore of the 1993 staging.  The venture gives opera  a bad name, and only elitist masochists seem poised to withstands this sonic assault of discordance.  I have always supported City Opera, and am pleased with the resurgence in sales for the 2009-10 season, (and appreciated famed soprano Lauren Flanagan in the lead) but I hope this one doesn’t reappear anytime soon.  What sane person would listen to this drivel and come out singing its praises?

On the movie front here is what I saw:

The Box  ***  (Wednesday night; Edgewater multiplex)
2012  *    (Friday evening; Edgewater multiplex)
Uncertainty ** 1/2  (Saturday night; IFC Film Center)
Fantastic Mr. Fox  **** (Sunday morning/afternoon; Sony Lincoln S

Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) directed this film based on a Richard Matheson short story, and it devolves into a narrative mess, but the main deceit – the “choice” – in an intriguing plot hook, and there are enough ideas to make the film intermittenly interesting.

2012 is another Roland Emmerich disaster opus that is overlong, ludicrously implausible even for this genre, poorly written and in the end a film that is forgettable within an hour after leaving the theatre.  I convinced myself beforehand that I’d still have a good time, but there was nothing but laughable tedium here.

It was nice to have the engaging Q & A with actor Joseph Gordon Levitt (The Lookout) and the film’s director at the IFC, but the film Uncertainty wore out it’s welcome, and the two story threads dis not quite come together.  There were some fine individual chase scenes on the streets of Manhattan, and the location shooting was eye-catching, but there was really no story to tell here.

The extraordinary children’s writer Roald Dahl, whose sardonic and sometimes sadistic humor turned some potentially ordinary stories into work’s of great philosophical insight and irreverance, was the sourse of Wes Anderson’s mostly ingenious animated stop-motion film that is only marred by the “Americanization” of some of the material and a dead patch in the middle.  The visual innovation and voice work by actors like George Clooney and Meryl Streep is outstanding.

Around the blogosphere there’s some great stuff:

John Greco is winning all kinds of praise (people are saying it’s his best piece ever!) for his new review of Scorsese’s Mean Streets at “Twenty-Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/mean-streets-1973-martin-scorsese/

That splendid guy from Oregon, Troy Olson, references Wonders several times in a two-part post (here’s the second) on the films that he feels are contending for his soon-to-be-submitted Top 25 list:

http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2009/11/best-of-90s-marathon-continuation-1.html

Our new friend “Just Another Film Buff” is far more than a film buff–he’s a film scholar in fact, and his newest essay on Andre Bazin deserves wide exposure: http://theseventhart.info/2009/11/15/book-nook-what-is-cinema-vol-ii/

Our great friend Dave Hicks continues on with his annual countdown with City of God as his top choice for 2002 at his place: http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2009/11/2002-city-of-god-fernando-meirelles-and.html

Our man from Sydney, Tony d’Ambra continues his Film Noir “Cities” series with a look at Chicago at FilmsNoir.net:

http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/cinematic-cities-chicago-city-noir.html

Dee Dee is still featuring a great post on author Eric Beetner at her place: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2009/11/overrated-vs-underrated-cutting-through.html

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satantango 1

(Hungary 1994 452m) DVD1/2

Aka. Satan’s Tango

The sound of bells

p  György Feher, Ruth Waldburger, Joachim von Wietinghoff  d/w  Béla Tarr  novel  László Krasznahorkai  ph  Gábor Medvigy  ed  Agnes Hranitsky  m  Mihály Vig  art/cos  Janus Breckl, Béla Tarr, Gyula Pauer

Mihály Vig (Irimiás), Putya Horvath (Petrina), Lászlo Lugossy (Schmidt), Éva Almássy Albert (Mrs Schmidt), János Derzsi (Kranér), Irén Sjajki (Mrs Kranér), Alfréd Járai (Halics), Miklós Székely B. ( Futaki), Erszébet Gaál (Mrs Halics), Erika Bók (Estika),

If ever a film demanded to be called indescribable, this is it.  If ever the term ‘not to everyone’s taste’ meant anything, it is here.  If ever a film carried a warning ‘not for cat lovers’, it is also here (well, along with Bill Douglas’ trilogy and Bad Boy Bubby).  Yet in addition to all these statements, another one might just as easily add is ‘all true cineastes, stop right here.’  Béla Tarr’s film is, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the greatest masterpieces of nineties cinema, a film of incredible scope within its truly unique structure.  A film that challenges you to believe that the cinema is capable of more than had hitherto been thought possible.  It’s a film that has been called “a masterpiece from this decade” and “one of the biggest experiences you can have in a cinema”, and that’s only from reviewers on the IMDB, where it still attains an average rating of over 9.0. 

            In the years following the fall of communism, an old communal collective farm and surrounding village is on its last legs.  The villagers wait patiently for their wages for the previous year, with the intention of then moving on.  Yet they are wary of the return of one of the villagers, a con-artist who will likely tempt them to give him their money in the promise of trying to keep the farm going.  (more…)

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