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Archive for November 23rd, 2009

by Sam Juliano

This morning’s installment of the Monday Morning Diary is the last before the Thanksgiving weekend, which traditionally is a time for family interaction, turkey dinners (some ravioli or lasagna too if you’re Italian-American) NFL football (of the Cowboys and Lions variety) and a late night trip to the multiplex.  This year, The Road, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, would seem to be an excellent choice.

Action at Wonders was again most impressive, with a thread on the classic TV series Thriller, Allan’s countdown review of Fargo, and another on composer Bernard Hermmann, all attracting great traffic and hefty comment totals.

On Friday night I attended a wedding of a young female teaching colleague, but rallied to pack six movies on Saturday and Sunday, half of which were seen with the entire family and one on this past Monday for a total of seven:

The Sun (Sokurov) **** 1/2   Sunday 1:00 P.M. – Film Forum
Broken Embraces (Almodovar)  ****  Sunday 10:30 A.M. – Landmark Cinemas
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call  (Herzog)  **** 1/2   Saturday night – Chelsea Cinemas
Twilight: New Moon  (Weitz)  *    Saturday afternoon – Edgewater Multiplex
The Blind Side (Hancock)   **    Saturday afternoon  – Edgewater Multiplex
Planet 51  (Blanco)   *        Sunday evening  – Edgewater Multiplex
Pirate Radio (Curtis) *** 1/2  Monday evening – Edgewater Multiplex
Sokurov’s claustrophobic, meticulously observed study of Emperor Hirohito during the closing moments of World War II, The Sun humanizes the monarch, but neither passes judgement on him nor shows him as undeserving of his fate.  The  central performance of Issy Ogata is brilliant, and the film, which opened in 2005 at the New York Film Festival, just now received a USA theatrical release.  The Russian helmer’s spare, brooding, almost surrealistic style shows some stunning prosaic segments of the devastation of war.
Almodovar’s Broken Embraces isn’t one of the great director’s best movies, but it’s nonetheless a passionate, tragic and satiric film that despite some narrative contrivances and convolutions, still manages some fascinating characters and some superlative individual scenes that recall the most mature Almodovar.  Cruz again leaves a strong impression.
Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call makes excellent use of the Katrina-ravaged environs of New Orleans, and some surrealistic touches involving iguanas is wed to a mesmerizing noirish tale that provides Nicholas cage to deliver his best performances in years as a drug-addicted corrupt cop.  The film recalls Aguire the Wrath of God.
The new installment of the “Twilight Saga,” New Moon is tedious, vapid, and inane and those might  be its better points.  My daughter 13 year-old Melanie, however, has been waiting for this for a long time and she and the other kids were not at all disappointed.  Lucille thinks I’m being too harsh, but I just haven’t the patience for this.
Sandra Bullock is as good as she’s ever been in The Blind Side, but that’s not really saying all that much.  The film is formulaic and it plays shamelessly for the big emotional moments.  The film does contain some intermittant humor too, but a day later it’s completely forgotten.
The derivitive Planet 51 is trite, inert and derivative, and after just a few minutes it’s clear it’s low-grade stuff.
     Pirate Radio wasn’t always fun to watch, but it’s still hard to resist and the music of course is simply to die for.
     I was hoping to see John Woo’s Red Cliff, but I couldn’t do any better than I did, so perhaps during the week.
     As always there’s a treasure chest of riches aroung the blogosphere:
At “The Life and Times of Troy” our very good friend, Troy Olson (no Kevin, we have not forgotten about you!) has a superlative round-up of 90’s films he recently saw in preparation for casting a ballot:
Two of Wonders in the Dark’s most-revered friends, have posts up on classical Universal horror.  John Greco has a superb piece on display at his place for The Raven:
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Lone Star (no 13)

lone star 1

(USA 1996 134m) DVD1

A sixty room hotel with bars on the windows

p  Maggie Renzi, Paul Miller  d/w  John Sayles  ph  Stuart Dryburgh  ed  John Sayles  m  Mason Daring  art  Dan Bishop  cos  Shay Cunliffe

Chris Cooper (Sam Deeds), Elizabeth Peña (Pilar Cruz), Joe Morton (Col.Delmore Payne), Miriam Colon (Mercedes Cruz), Ron Canada (Otis Payne), Clifton James (Hollis Pogue), Kris Kristofferson (Charlie Wade), Frances McDormand (Bunny), Matthew McConaughey (Buddy Deeds), Eddie Robinson (Chet Payne), Stephen Mendillo (Cliff), Stephen J.Lang (Mickey), Joe Stevens (Deputy Travis), Richard Coca (Enrique), Jeff Monahan (young Hollis), Latanya Richardson (Priscilla Worth),

Welcome to the world of John Sayles, the modern master of cinema’s small town community autopsies.  To be more accurate, welcome to Mexican border town Frontera, in Rio County, Texas, a veritable melange of culture clashes, bitter resentment and racial tension (or, as Chris Cooper’s sheriff sarcastically calls it, “gateway to inexpensive pussy”).    Though Sayles has made other superb studies of small town communities in crisis (Matewan, the brilliant City of Hope and Sunshine State in particular), Lone Star is his finest work, a film that shows how the shadow of the past can linger and darken a community years on. (more…)

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