Archive for December 7th, 2009

Paulette Godard and the Little Tramp in Chaplin’s masterpiece “Modern Times” (1936) shown Saturday night at Loew’s Jersey City movie palace.
by Sam Juliano    
     As the holiday season moves into high gear, many will find refuge in movie theatres, perhaps in between shopping ventures, and as always, December promises a number of year-end prestige pictures that are positioned for awards recognition.  Sad to say this is shaping up to be the worst year in memory in that regard, as even the film that many see as the favorite to win the Best Picture Oscar, Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, turned out to be a major bust.  Still, with imminent opening scheduled for Eastwood’s Invictus, Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, and Ford’s A Single Man, as well as two key foreign-language titles, Henecke’s The White Ribbon and Audiard’s A Prophet, it is hoped we will at least be affored a diamond in the ruff.  With the National Board of Review naming their choices this week (they went with the Reitman film as their “best” film, and Eastwood as their best director) it seems liek everyone is puting together their own ‘best lists’ including this writer.

     At Wonders in the Dark we enjoyed one of our banner weeks, as several threads boasted some of our most fascinating comment threads and heftiest totals.  At the top was the review for Von Trier’s Antichrist, but superlative response was also affored the countdown reviews for The Truman Show and The Double Life of Veronique, as well as reviews of Campion’s Bright Star and an opera, Janacek’s From the House of the Dead, the latter of which received a delightfully surprising and exhilarating response.

     The two biggest “events” for me this week were the Wednesday evening opera (Janacek’s From the House of the Dead, –based on Dostoyevsky-directed by film and opera luminary Patrice Chereau) at the Met (reviewed on Friday here at WitD) which was a shattering experience, and a magnificent Saturday night showing of Chaplin’s  masterpiece, Modern Times, with Lucille and all the kids at the Loews Jersey City movie palace and their gigantic screen and werlitzer organ, which navigated a pre-film Christmas carol session with the movie patrons, many of whom -surprisingly – were teenagers.  When my own kids admitted to me that they liked Modern Times, it really warmed my heart, as this, City Lights and The Gold Rush are three of my favorite films of all-time, as is the case with many other film fans.  As a number of you will remember our pal Dave Hicks chose the film as his best of 1936 in his completed annual countdown at GoodFellas, and he penned a fabulous essay here:                                               http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2009/06/1936-modern-times-charles-chaplin.html

     I saw three new releases in the theatres:

Up in the Air (Reitman) **   Friday night; Union Square Cinemas
Brothers  (Sheridan)  *** 1/2   Saturday afternoon; Edgewater multiplex
Everybody’s Fine (Jones)   ****  Sunday afternoon; Edgewater multiplex

     UP IN THE AIR is the is the year’s biggest bust, a classic example of a film that is grossly overrated, and seemingly is headed for the Best Picture Oscar, in a decision that will mark it as the worst choice in Academy history.  This is a smug, emotionally distancing film that attempts to impart some existential substance on what is a slender and tedious premise, and George Clooney plays George Clooney is a situation that putters out after a half hour, and never segues into that level of melancholy which would give this romantic comedy any level of real significance.  It’s passable at best, but the recognition it is receiving is kind of appalling.

    BROTHERS, a Jim Sheridan re-make of Suzanne Blier’s superior film from a few years back, is a decent enough effort, a bit better than I expected, though it doesn’t have any resonance beyond it’s narrow focus.  Still, it grips on the strength of it’s performances, and competant direction, even if those flashback sequences are rather predictable.  It’s worth a look.

    EVERYBODY’S FINE.  The weekend’s best film is the one that was almost guaranteed to be the worst one.  The trailers were abysmal and appeared to make the film look trite and formulaic in the worst sense, yet Kirk Jones has surprisingly fashioned a nuanced, probing and truthful look at a dysfunctional family, that has been compared to ABOUT SCHMIDT, but also with some distant kinship to Ozu’s TOKYO STORY, but with a dash of lies and secrets.  As Bob Clark reminded me online today, it’s based on a 1990 Tornatore film I didn’t see, but it’s Robert DeNiro’s unexpected subtlety in a role that could have inspired saccharine overload, that really fueled this deeply-affected dramedy, that is rather a trap for snobs. This film had particular emotional resonance for me in my personal life as of late, as one sub-plot involved a situation I am most familiar with, and continue to mourn.

     Anyway, as I am not yet aware of how the sports teams have fared, I’ll let Dave Hicks and Joel talk about the Bengals and Pats.  The Olson family though is rightly thrilled about the Ducks and their upcoming Rose Bowl appearance! (more…)

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