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Archive for January 4th, 2010

by Sam Juliano

Happy New Year’s to All Wonders in the Dark staff and readers!  Here’s hoping 2010 will bring mutual health, happiness and the attainment of all that is sought out.  As expected many bloggers took some time off, as well they should have to spend with family and to enjoy a modest block of time away from work.  Others, yours truly included, spent time in movie theatres to catch the final wave of releases before the expected lull for the next three months.  But that’s areprieve that isn’t such a bad thing.  Allan’s silent poll countdown has faithfully proceded, and as always more than a few have left impressive responses.  With year end lists beginning to appear, the one at Wonders may go up on Tuesday morning, complete with capsule assessments and screen grabs.  So far, Ari, Just Another Film Buff, Andrew Wyatt and Matt Lucas have published their lists at links provided in a recent post.  Craig Kennedy at Living in Cinema is nearing his own elaborate post as well.   At GoodFellas, Dave Hicks has announced a January 11 launching of his gleefully-anticipated noir countdown.  Best Regards always to our dear friend Down Under Tony d’Ambra, who has been a friend to us in so many ways.

I saw three films in theatres this week:

It’s Complicated  *** 1/2   (Wednesday night)   Edgewater multiplex
The Lovely Bones ****    (Friday night)       Village East Cinemas
The Messenger ***  1/2 (Saturday night)           Cinema Village
     IT’S COMPLICATED showcased yet another accomplished performance by Meryl Streep in a film that wasn’t anything new (yes Chuck Bowen, Nancy Myers is hardly Orson Welles!) but was still reasonably entertaining.  Not the most probing of films, but oddly engaging with a few uproarious moments.  No problem with Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin either.  Just don’t expect all that much in psychological depth.
    The castigation of Peter Jackson over his direction of THE LOVELY BONES has been an unfortunate backlash against his prior work, but truth be said THE LOVELY BONES isn’t such a bad film at all.  Yeah, it’s use of computer-generated effects may be excessive, but underneath everything there’s a deep sense of humanity that at times makes the film a deeply-moving experience.  Not every idea works, but there’s enough imagination in the astral passages and some wrenching observation of family grief that makes it a valid adaptations.  And Ms. Ronan is wonderful in the lead.  I think Jackson is in the doghouse these days, but this film doesn’t deserve the drubbing it took by the majority of critics.
     THE MESSENGER is a well-acted military drama that centers around soldiers who are assigned the unenviable task of telling families of soldiers killed in action that their loved ones are gone, but it’s late attempts at romance are awkward an dunconvincing.  Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton (as well as the distinguished actors of the victims’ families) give convincing performances, and the first two-thirds of the film is compelling, but then it loses steam when it stops following the vital linear thread.  Still, a reasonable accomplishment.
    I also saw three works from Allan’s backlog, inluding a nine-hour LITTLE DORRIT BBC production directed by Andrew Davies, the multi-hour THE THICK OF IT, upon which the theatrical film IN THE LOOP was based, as the superlative Film Museum DVD of Pabst’s silent masterpiece THE JOYLESS STREET.
So what did you people see, listen to or experience?  Perhaps Dave or Joel can keep us abreast on the football, and Troy on the college and professional hoop scene.
There is some great stuff around the blogosphere:
***One of the nicest and most gifted people anywhere is Jon Lanthier, and he has posted some most interesting ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ at The Aspiring Sellout:
***Craig Kennedy exceedingly popular Watercooler thread, upon which the ‘Monday Morning Diary’ was patterned on, is up and running at Living in Cinema:
***’Just Another Film Buff’ has posted a ten-best list at his place that is simply brilliant in taste and intelligence.  It’s one of the very best I’ve yet seen, and I haven’t seen a few of the choices either:

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by Allan Fish

(France 1921 350m) DVD2 (France only, no Eng subs)

Aka. The Three Musketeers

All for one and one for all time

p  Henri Diamant-Berger  d  Henri Diamant-Berger  w  Auguste Maquet  novel  Alexandre Dumas, père  ph  Maurice Desfassiaux  art/cos  Robert Mallet-Stevens

Aimé Simon-Girard (d’Artagnan), Henri Rollan (Athos), Charles Martinelli (Porthos), Pierre de Guingand (Aramis), Pierrette Madd (Constance), Jean Joffre (Bonancieux), Jeanne Desclos (Queen Anne), Édouard de Max (Richelieu), Claude Mérelle (Milady de Winter), Charles Dullin (La Père Joseph), Henri Baudin (Rochefort), Maxime Desjardins (Treville), Armand Bernard (Planchet), Louis Pré, fils (Grimaud), Antoine Stacquet (Bazin), Marcel Vallée (Mousqueton), Gaston Jacquet (Lord de Winter), Germaine Larbaudrière (Duchesse de Chevreuse),

Hands up those among you who know the name of Henri Diamant-Berger?  Those who do, give yourselves a pat on the back as you won’t find him listed in many film books.   He’s very much a forgotten figure in cinema history, at least outside of France.  He became known as much as a producer and film critic and theorist as a director, and had an obsession with France’s cultural heritage.  To sum him up is not easy, but I would say that he is the perfect mixture of Louis Feuillade and Raymond Bernard.  That is to say a director who was most at home in the instalment narrative form of the serial, and who, rather than tell modern crime stories like his predecessor Feuillade, wanted rather to tell classic tales of yore.  His favourite, for he later filmed it again in the early thirties with largely the same cast, was Dumas’ cherished tale of romance, derring-do and friendship. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

     Wonders in the Dark friends and affiliates, Ari, Just Another Film Buff, Andrew Wyatt and Matt Lucas have recently posted their “Top Films of 2009” lists, and it appears that in combining the four, that Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds has done better than any other single film, placing #1 on ‘Just Another Film Buff’s’ superlative list, #2 on Ari’s, and among Andrew Wyatt’s five-film log jam at the top.  The Wonders in the Dark Ten Best List (actually I always have a tie for #10, so it’s a list of 11) may post on tuesday, but for those wanting to get an advanced look at some blogger/critics’s lists, I recommend you go over to these sites:

http://theaspectratio.net/bestof2009.htm   (Ari)

http://theseventhart.info/2010/01/03/favorite-films-of-2009/ (JAFB)

http://gatewaycinephiles.com/2009/12/31/the-best-films-of-2009/ (Andrew)

http://fromthefrontrow.blogspot.com/2009/12/top-ten-films-of-2009.html (Matt)

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