by Sam Juliano
It’s everybody’s favorite time of the year, but it’s taxing in so many ways, and for many it’s time to relax and uncoil. With Christmas now behind us, preparations are being made by many for a big New Year’s Eve celebration. In the New York area, a rainstorm just about washed away the remnants of last week’s snow, and temperatures went up a bit. It’s cold, but not frigidly.
At Wonders in the Dark, Allan’s silent poll countdown went into full gear, and although the holiday has reduced the kind of hands on involvement we’ve had for poll after poll, it’s expected that after January 1, there will be some serious action. As it is the review for James Cameron’s Avatar has attracted a bushel load of comments, most quite perceptive. Joel Bocko’s Boston Examiner reviews continue to post here and all always receive impressive responses. The newest one is appropriately, the French import A Christmas Tale by Arnold Despletchan.
I’ll let Dave Hicks, Joe and perhaps Joel fill us in on the NFL, though I did see that the Jets pulled a shocking upset over previously-undefeated Indianapolis, which actually kept their playoff hopes alive.
As expected, with the year-end releases opening on Christmas Day and before, I was busy in movie theatres, and even got to see Avatar a second time (this time in 3D) with Dennis Polifroni on Tuesday in Edgewater, and again it was enrapturing. The 3 D enhanced the visual perspective, but the overall experience was the same as the first viewing, methinks.
In addition to the repeat of Avatar, here is what I saw in theatres:
Police, Adjective **** 1/2 IFC Film Center – Wednesday night
Sherlock Holmes ** Edgewater multiplex – Friday afternoon
Crazy Heart **** Angelika Film Center – Friday night
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassas *** 1/2 Sony – Sunday afternoon
The Romanian Police, Adjective was a minimalist police procedural, that was so meticulously observed, and so fascinating in detail, that it hardly mattered that nothing was really going on. The last 15 minutes, which features a police director’s lecture on the difference between “conscience” and “justice” ranks as one of the greatets single sequences in any film this year, certainly the equal of the restaurant scene in 35 Shots of Rum, the lyrical “prologue” of Antichrist and the scrapbook segment near the beginning of Pixar’s Up.
The new Sherlock Holmes film by Guy Ritchie was loud, tedious, and ludicrously-plotted, and there were pyrotechnics galore, but there’s no denying that Robert Downey Jr. gives a flamboyant and charismatic reading, which holds the stage, regardless of the weak script he has to negotiate. Our good friend Judy at Movie Classics, seems to have had a generally positive reaction though.
Jeff Bridges may well have won the Oscar for his extraordinary performance in Crazy Heart, and despite a few very minor quibbles, this is quite the vehicle for his big artistic comeback, following in the footsteps of 1983’s Tender Mercies, where Robert Duvall, who plays a supporting role in this new film, portrays a character with a number of similarities to the one Bridges plays. The country music by T. Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton is infectious, too.
As far as Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassas, sure it’ds uneven and it often makes no sense, and sure there’s a lot of indulgence on display, but I’ll still take much of this any day as it’s a dazzling fun-ride, Ledger, Depp, Law and Christopher Plummer aboard to populate some wonderous, mysterious and exquisite tapestries, which do have Gilliam’s stamp all over them.
I am close to completing both my ‘Best Films of 2009′ list, and am also working on my decade ‘Best of’ too.’ I will have elaborate picture and essay spreads on this soon.
Around the blogosphere, many have taken a short sabatical, both some others have posted religiously:
Tony d’Ambra has a fantastic roundup of his best posts of 2009 up at FilmsNoir.net, and I can vouch for the choices myself. For anyone who hasn’t yet seen them they are in the links after you link here to the lead piece:
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