Archive for February, 2010

Oscar@ Statues
[Editor’s Note; The Poll Will Change When A Different Oscar@ Category Is Posted.]

Sam Juliano’s Sums Up Why He Predicts Sandra Bullock, Will Win…For Best Actress.
By Sam Juliano…
The ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ category is the year’s most intriguing acting category, and the one boasting in an overall sense the strongest performances.  It’s also the one category with a number of terrific performances left on the sidelines, and the one contest that isn’t quite locked up, even with a firm favorite emerging.

Three performances in films from abroad richly deserved recognition, but were left out. Yolande Moreau, who portrayed a real-life turn-of-the-century artist in southern France named ‘Seraphine’ in the film of the same name; Abbie Cornish, who delivered a deeply moving performance as John Keats’s lover in the last years of his life in Jane Campion’s ravishing Bright Star,
and Catalina Saavedra, delivered a quietly-evocative performance as a family servant in the Chilean The Maid. 

Ms. Moreau won the prestigious Best Actress from the National Society of Film Critics, while both Ms. Cornish and Ms. Saavedra have won a bevy of critical accolades for their work.  A fourth omission here also deserves mentioning, and that’s Emily Blunt, who has been widely-praised for her work in The Young Victoria. According to Sam Juliano…

…Among the actual nominees, one can’t really assert that any are undeserving, though the “favorite” at this point, Sandra Bullock…Continue Below

According to Sam Juliano,…As Sofya Tolstoy, the wife of the great Russian author of War and Peace, Helen Mirren again brings her singular classical charm to her role as a stormy partner of the eccentric writer, and the performance is charismatic and stylish in the best Mirren style. 
But having won just a few years ago for The Queen, it’s doubtful the voters would honor her again.  Still, the nomination here is richly-deserved, and for me it’s one of the best of the year.

Veteran icon Meryl Streep, who has already won the Best Actress prize from the NY Film Critics Circle and the LA Film Critics Association for this performance, was originally thought to be the clear favorite for the win as the famous cook Julia Child in Julie and Julia, where she plays opposite Stanley Tucci, in a stylish accented turn, at least until Bullock gained strong momentum. 

Streep has a record number of nominations, and has won twice for Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer, so many voters would rather cast their vote elsewhere. 
Streep’s popularity in the actor’s branch is also rather questionable, so she seems to be a poor bet at this stage to come away with a win, though it’s still possible.

As the title character in Precious, newcomer Gabourey Sidibe plays the Harlem teenger sexually and physically abused in the sordid drama, and she delivers a compelling performance.  But as her mother, the actress
Mo’Nique is a practical shoe-in, and voters won’t likely want to award the same film a second acting prize, though a long-shot upset win is still possible, as her candid work here has been critically-praised and popular with moviegoers.

Many prognosticators are still holding out for an upset by Carey Mulligan, who gives a winning performance as “Jenny” in the British hit An
set in 1960’s London. 

Jenny finds out much about her schooling and through a relationship with an older Jewish man, which certainly accentuates the meaning of the film’s title. Oscar voters have a long-standing tradition of voting for the “Babe” when a promising young actress is among the nominees, and this one’s British to boot.  With a large British contingent in AMPAS, there is a fair chance at a surprise here, especially since there won’t be in the other acting categories.

Here Goes The Nominated Roles…In Alphabetical Order…
Nominated Role

As Sofya, Helen Mirren portrays the wife of author Leo Tolstoy, in a woman locked in a battle with her husband’s admirers over the disposition of his royalties in… The Last Station.

Academy Awards History
This is the fourth Academy Award nomination for Helen Mirren. She was previously nominated for:
The Queen (2006) — Winner, Actress in a Leading Role
Gosford Park (2001) — Nominee, Actress in a Supporting Role
The Madness of King George (1994) — Nominee, Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominated Role
Carey Mulligan plays Jenny, an English schoolgirl who is seduced by the charms of an older man in…An Education.

Academy Awards History
This is the first Academy Award nomination for Carey Mulligan.

Nominated Role…
As Precious, Gabourey Sidibe, plays a pregnant teenager who struggles to overcome years of abuse at the hands of her parents in…Precious.

Academy Awards History
This is the first Academy Award nomination for Gabourey Sidibe.

Nominated Role…

Meryl Streep portrays cookbook author Julia Child, whose years in France with her husband inspire her to study the art of French cooking…in Julie and Julia.

Academy Awards History
This is the sixteenth Academy Award nomination for Meryl Streep. She was previously nominated for:
Doubt (2008) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
The Devil Wear Prada (2006) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
Adaptation (2002) — Nominee, Actress in a Supporting Role
Music of the Heart (1999) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
One True Thing (1998) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
The Bridges of Madison County (1995) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
Postcards From The Edge (1990) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
A Cry in the Dark (1988) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
Ironweed (1987) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
Out of Africa (1985) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
Silkwood (1983) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
Sophie’s Choice (1982) — Winner, Actress in a Leading Role
The French Lietieutenant’s Woman (1981) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) — Winner, Actress in a Supporting Role
The Deer Hunter (1978) — Nominee, Actress in a Supporting Role


Sam Juliano…Predicts The Winner Will Be…Actress Sandra Bullock
According to Sam Juliano…

…Among the actual nominees, one can’t really assert that any are undeserving, though the “favorite” at this point, Sandra Bullock, may well have given the most pedestrian performance of the lot. Bullock, who was always more revered for her beauty than her acting talent, plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, the wife of a wealthy Memphis couple who eventually adopt an African-American football player after taking a compassionate interest in and providing some coaching. For many this was an inspirational performance; for others it was stereotypical. But there’s little question that it’s one of Bullock’s strongest performances, and it’s wildly popular. At this point, Bullock has established herself as a firm favorite, especially after her Golden Globe and SAG, wins.

Nominated Role
Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy,
a suburban mom who takes in a homeless African-American teenager and encourages his talents as a football player in the… Blindside.
Academy Awards History
This is the first Academy Award nomination for Sandra Bullock.

Sam Juliano…Predicts The Winner Will Be: Sandra Bullock, in The Blind Side.
Sam Juliano’s Personal Choice: Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Note: My own top performance of the year was by Abbie Cornish for ‘Bright Star’ but she wasn’t nominated. And my second favorite was by Yolande Moreau, another non-nominee.

Now that Sam Juliano, have announced his prediction…Now it’s your turn to go over to the poll and vote too!
Do you agree with Sam Juliano’s prediction? If not, tell the Wonders in the Dark readers, Why not (?)…or tell them why you do agree with Sam Juliano’s prediction.
Once Again,
The images are courtesy of  Oscar@.com


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by Allan Fish

(USA 1929 6m) DVD1/2

Tonight’s the night the boney men have their picnic

p  Walt Disney  d  Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks  Carl W.Stalling

Of all the entries in this list representing the often overlooked art of the animated short or cartoon, picking a favourite would be an unenviable task.  How can one choose between the work of the incomparable Tex Avery, several of whose masterpieces are rightly included in this seclection?  Or Warners’ own maestro Chuck Jones, mastermind behind Daffy, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny and so many others?  Or the Tom and Jerry cartoons of Fred Quimby that set Hanna and Barbera on their way.  Those of a more eclectic animated taste might think of Canadian animator Norman McLaren, whose Begone Dull Care is at the very least, a masterpiece of the art.  Or early pioneer Winsor McKay.  Yet when most people think of animation milestones, they think of Disney, so it seems somehow appropriate my favourite should be a Disney short.  Yet when I think of Disney’s cartoons, it’s not Mickey (even in his immortal Steamboat Willie), Donald, Goofy and co. who come to mind, but his incredible Silly Symphonies.  Hence we turn to the wonderful tin DVD set presented by the irrepressible Leonard Maltin and take the plunge.  (more…)

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**** ½


By Bob Clark


Of the myriad twists, turns and genuine surprises to be found throughout The Ghost Writer, perhaps the biggest one is the revelation that Roman Polanski is, in fact, a colossal bookworm. This is, after all, the second thriller he’s built around, of all things, the publishing world, and the fact that he has managed to generate such suspense, charm and black humor out of the writing, reading and editing of printed words on a page must be one of the director’s signature achievements. Perhaps it shouldn’t really be that big of a shock—after all, his first name translates as “novel” in his home-language of French. Like any other filmmaker, Polanski is familiar with reading scripts, and sometimes even writing them himself, penning words both to be spoken and found between the lines that are laced with that characteristic smirking cynicism of his. Some of his defining films, like so many other directors, were based on novels both well known and underreported—how else would most people have heard of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s tale of the book-detective underworld had it not been for Polanski’s wickedly satanic The Ninth Gate? Besides, for a man who’s spent the better part of his adult life avoiding most of the civilized world in the interest of dodging extradition, it’s not as though he’s got anything better to do with his time. He may belong in prison, but at least he’s developed a jail-bird’s hobbies.


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by Allan Fish

(USA 1924 45m) DVD1/2

How to be a detective

p  Joseph M.Schenck  d/ed  Buster Keaton  w  Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph Mitchell  ph  Elgin Lessley, Byron Houck

Buster Keaton (Sherlock Jr), Kathryn McGuire (girl), Ward Crane (rival), Joseph Keaton,

Of the three great silent comedians – along with Chaplin and Lloyd – Keaton is often described as the best, the most ingenious and certainly, in the timing of his gags, one cannot argue that point.  Buster’s timing of physical gags often quite beggars belief (remember the gag with the side of the house in Steamboat Bill Jnr?) and made him beloved of an entire generation.  A master of both the comedy short and the feature (like Chaplin before him), three other films in the list, Cops, Our Hospitality and The General, will detail his genius there.  Sherlock Junior, on the other hand, though technically a feature in that it is over forty minutes in length, often gets overlooked in best film lists for falling, in length terms at least, between the devil and the deep blue sea.  However, though The General is indeed his masterpiece, Buster the gag man was at his peak here.

            The story concerns a small town projectionist at a local fleapit who is in love with a young girl.  He unfortunately has a rival for her affections, in the form of a ne’er-do-well thief who contrives to get Buster accused of stealing her father’s watch.  Returning to his job dejected, he imagines himself in the films he’s projecting, solving crimes and winning the girl at all costs.  When he wakes up, his girl comes to him and tells him the family have realised their error.

            There are gag scenes her (more…)

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Oscar@ Statues

[Editor’s Note; The Poll Will Change When A Different Oscar@ Category Is Posted.]

Sam Juliano’s Sums Up Why He Predicts Mo’Nique Will Win…For Best Supporting Actress.
By Sam Juliano…
The nominees for the 2009 Best Supporting Actress category were practically a foregone conclusion with the possible exception of the omission of veteran
Julianne Moore, who gave a moving performance as…”Charley,”…a close friend of”George” (played by Colin Firth) in A Single Man….Ms. Moore, who was a nominal favorite to land a berth, lost out to…Maggie Gyllenthal,
…who was a mild surprise for her turn in Crazy Heart. 
Hence, the final five here were in a general sense widely anticipated, and one would be hard-pressed to point to any nomination injustices outside of Moore.
Alex Goren in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, Vera Farmiga…portrays a frequent flyer opposite George Clooney, who is also a successful and confident woman who complicates Clooney’s life in more ways than one. She’s a love interest who plays by her own rules, and makes men follow her and not the other way around. 
Farmiga has won considerable critical praise for this performance, but even if this were a category without a clear favorite (which is not the case) her chances are weakened considerable by the nomination of her co-star…
…Anna Kendrick,as in such situations the votes usually split and another nominee prevails.  This is Farmiga’s first nomination as is the case with all the others in this category save for
Penelope Cruz.


 Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air’s other nominee in this category, plays Natalie Keener, an ambitious young woman who is pushing a plan to cut costs by having employees stay grounded and conduct layoffs over the internet.  Ms. Kendrick has received several critics’ organizations awards as Best Supporting Actress for her performance, but in the end she has the same problem as her co-star Vera Farmiga, in that multiple nominees from the same film usually cancel each other out.
 Maggie Gyllenthal, a talented star, plays a journalist named Jean Craddock, who has a brief affair with Bad Blake, the hard-drinking country music star, played by
Jeff Bridges, in Crazy Heart. Although Gyllenthal’s nomination was a mild surprise, as it turns out she is really the only candidate who has a long-shot chance at beating out the category’s heavy favorite,
Mo’Nique.However, with Bridges almost a sure thing to capture the Best Actor prize, it is extremely doubtful that voters will give yet another award to Crazy Heart. 
The only actress in this category to have been nominated before, the beautiful and gifted Penelope Cruz, was honored for playing “Daniel Day-Lewis’ “mistress” in the musical Nine, a film that was otherwise ignored.  Cruz earned her nomination with an impressive and diversified turn here in Rob Marshall’s glitzy flick, but this is a case where the “nomination is the prize” rather than there being any realistic expectation for Cruz to come home with the big prize.


The Nominees For Best Supporting Actress… 
Nominated Role…


Penélope Cruz portrays Carla, the passionate “mistress” of a married film director.
In The Musical Nine
Ms. Cruz…Academy Awards History

This is the third Academy Award nomination for Penélope Cruz. She was previously nominated for:
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (2008) — Winner, Actress in a Supporting Role
VOLVER (2006) — Nominee, Actress in a Leading Role

Nominated Role…


As Alex Goran, Vera Farmiga plays a business traveler who begins a no-strings-attached affair with a man she meets in a hotel bar. In “Up in the Air.”
Ms. Goran…Academy Awards History

This is the first Academy Award nomination for Vera Farmiga.

Nominated Role…


Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jean Craddock, a journalist whose love and admiration for a broken-down country-western singer may change his life…In “Crazy Heart.”
Ms. Gyllenhaal…Academy Awards History.

This is the first Academy Award nomination for Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Nominated Role…


As Natalie Keener, Anna Kendrick plays an ambitious but inexperienced young woman who is sent on an eye-opening series of trips with a veteran colleague. In “Up in the Air.”
Ms. Kendrick…Academy Awards History

This is the first Academy Award nomination for Anna Kendrick.


Sam Juliano…Predicts The Winner Will Be…
According to Sam Juliano…That leaves Mo’Nique, who played conflicted and abusive Mary, mother of a violated Harlem teenager named “Precious” (Gabourney Sidibe was nominated as Best Actress for her role here). The impression that Mo’Nique leaves is one of shock and horror, and the actress takes full advantage of this ‘feast of a role’ which won her many awards from critics’ groups as well as the vital SAG (Screen Actors Guild), the Golden Globe, and most recently the BAFTA (British Academy Award). The fact that she really knows how to speak too, having delivered moving acceptance presentations at the Globes and SAG, also endears her to many, and coupled with her electrifying performance in a showy role, her win here is really a no-brainer, and one of the night’s true “locks.”

Sam Juliano…Predicts The Winner Will Be:

Mo’Nique, in Precious

Sam Juliano…Personal Choice:

Mo’Nique, in Precious.
Note: I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film “Precious” but I’ll admit that Mo’Nique was a powerhouse.
Nominated Role:
Mo’Nique portrays Mary, an abusive mother whose cruel behavior has had a devastating effect on her pregnant teenage daughter.
Ms. Mo’Nique…Academy Awards History

This is the first Academy Award nomination for Mo’Nique.

Once again…Now that Sam Juliano, have announced his prediction…Now it’s your turn to go over to the poll and vote too!
Do you agree with Sam Juliano’s prediction? If not, tell the Wonders in the Dark readers, Why not…or tell them why you do agree with Sam Juliano’s prediction?
The images are courtesy of Oscar@.com

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by Allan Fish

(France 1915 399m) DVD1/2

Irma Vep, Irma Vep!

p/d/w/ed  Louis Feuillade  ph  Manichaux  m  Robert Israel  art  Garnier

Musidora (Irma Vep), Eduard Mathé (Philippe Guerandé), Marcel Levesque (Oscar Mazamette), Louis Leubas (Satanas), Jean Aymé (1st Grand Vampire), Fernard Hermann (Moreno), Stacia Napierkowska (Marfa Koutiloff), Edmund Bréon (Secretaire de Satanas), Moriss (Venemous), Germaine Rouer (Augustine), René Carl (L’Andalouse), Bout-de-Zan (Eustace Mazamette), Delphine Renot (Mère de Guerandé), Thalès,

Louis Feuillade’s serials have long been regarded like unicorns and the Loch Ness monster; creatures of myth and legend, rarely if ever glimpsed and talked of in hushed tones.  His masterpiece, or at least his most revered and best surviving work, is Les Vampires, a delirious nearly seven hour long melange of virtually every crime cliché in the book.  (Indeed, this film was responsible for bringing many of the clichés to life.)  Vampires has it all; double switches, mistaken identity murders, rooftop and road chases, ingenious escapes, secret passageways, code books, rival gangs, crooked cops, undercover operators, crusading reporters – you name it, this has it.

            The basic plot shows how Philippe Guerandé leads a crusade against a criminal underworld organisation known as the Vampires, who include many important figures in society (aping the Masons?) in their number and have rules and regulations like the best crime syndicates.  It takes him a while, and there is much double and triple dealing, but eventually the group are wiped out in a climactic raid. (more…)

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The company caught on camera here were under shell fire 20 minutes later - we don't know who survived

The company caught on camera here were under shell fire 20 minutes later - we don't know who survived

by Allan Fish

(UK 1916 73m) DVD2

We’re here because we’re here…

William F.Jury  d  none  ph  J.B.McDowell, Geoffrey A.Malins  ed  Geoffrey A.Malins, Charles Urban  m  Laura Rossi (DVD reissue)

Here is a unique film in this selection.  Take one look at the credits; there is no director listed.  It’s not because he wasn’t known, but rather because there was no director as such.  The real auteurs here, if tradition dictates we must have them, are the two unheard of gentlemen given photographic credit.  In the full listing of selections for this book, I list them as the directors, but if there really were directors for this film, they were the accursed brass hats who made the orders and never got within range of a field artillery gun.  History would rather call them mis-directors. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Germany 1919 75m) DVD1/2

Aka. Das Kabinet des Dr Caligari

Awake for a moment from your dark night

p  Erich Pommer  d  Robert Wiene  w  Carl Meyer, Hans Janowitz  ph  Willy Hameister  art  Hermann Warm, Walter Röhrig, Walter Reimann  cos  Walter Reimann

Werner Krauss (Caligari), Conrad Veidt (César the Somnambulist), Lil Dagover (Jane), Friedrich Feher (Francis), Hans Von Twardowski (Alan), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (criminal),

So was not only the somnambulist awoken by his master, but German cinema in general from its wartime malaise.  Caligari is a film which has gone through a rollercoaster ride of critical approval, long venerated as the first masterpiece of the seventh art’s German expressionistic era and as a milestone in the development of cinematic horror, it went through a period during the eighties and nineties where it was, if not derided, then certainly attacked as dated, faded and even archaic.  Not only were such attacks unjustified, they were not the fault of the film.  For too long it was only available in a butchered 45 minute print of second generation degenerate quality (such was it released in the UK by Redemption video) and it wasn’t until the late nineties and the advent of DVD that a proper reconstruction and restoration showcased the film as, if still a little faded (wouldn’t you be after over eighty years?), a classic of cinema.  (more…)

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by Joel Bocko

Last fall, in response to They Shoot Pictures Don’t They‘s “21st Century” canon, I launched a series exploring the most acclaimed films of the 21st century. Beginning at the top of the list, I set out to watch every film that I hadn’t seen before – and to write about each one along the way. I got through about ten films before, for a variety of reasons, I had to take a one-month break from the series. Now I’m back, and new pieces should be appearing here every week.

I waited, in part, because I knew the website would be updating its results in late January, to reflect end-of-2009 critics’ lists. The fresh list appeared at the end of January, so now I will be starting with the first film I haven’t seen on the new list, which just so happens to be a 2009 movie: The Hurt Locker. The review is planned for one week from today: Tuesday, March 2.

In the mean time, here is the updated list, preceded by my original (slightly) modified intro. From now on, this will serve as a continually updated list of my posts on each film – it will be linked at the beginning of each new review, and films which are reviewed throughout 2010 will appear in bold on this page. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Germany 1924 291m) DVD1

Aka. The Nibelungen/Siegfried’s Tod & Kriemhild’s Rache

Lang slays the dragon

p  Erich Pommer  d  Fritz Lang  w  Thea Von Harbou  ph  Carl Hoffman, Günther Rittau  ed  Fritz Lang  m  Gottfried Huppertz  art  Otto Hunte, Karl Vollbrecht, Erich Kettelhut  cos  Paul Gerd Guderian  dream sequence  Walter Ruttmann

Paul Richter (Siegfried), Margarete Schön (Kriemhild), Theodore Loos (Gunther), Hannah Ralph (Brunhilde), Rudolph Klein Rogge (Attila the Hun), Georg August Koch (Hildebrund), Bernhard Göetzke (Volker Von Alzey), Gertrud Arnold (Queen Ure), Frida Richard (Maiden of Runes), Hans Adalbart Schelettow (Hagen Tronje),

Fritz’s Lang’s epic two part adaptation of the same Germanic myths that influenced Wagner’s “Ring” cycle is undoubtedly one of the most epic pieces of cinema ever made, a true example of the cinema of wonder.  Ever since its release eighty years ago critics have eulogised over its operatic treatment, its epic conception and design and its truly awe-inspiring visuals.  If one wants to study where the cinematic journey to Jackson’s magisterial Tolkien trilogy began, it’s to Lang that you must look.  Indeed, as David Thomson has pointed out, perhaps Jackson should get around to the Germanic legends some time as he’s the only director who could remotely do them justice. (more…)

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