by Sam Juliano
The first month of the 2010 is gone, and typically, movie fans don’t have a heck of a lot to celebrate. In the New York area, only the art house showcases offer something remotely worthwhile, as the multiplexes are loaded with carry-overs from last year, and critically-trashed low-brow fodder. This is probably the time of year where at-home viewing is the panacea for all outdoor frustrations (which in the NYC area are frigid temperatures-last night the mercury plunged to 12 degrees) as you aren’t in danger of missing out on much.
Allan’s ‘almost silent film’ countdown continues in all its splendor – and that includes Tony d’Ambra’s diversely beautiful sidebar graphics, and we’re reaching the stage where some truly great stuff will be presented. Meanwhile at “Goodfellas”, Dave Hicks’s trenchant ‘Top 100 Noir countdown proceeds in to the ’70’s’ this week, and the promise of some classic noir.
Lucille, Melanie, Bob and I endured some frigid arctic weather in Manhattan on Saturday night, heading down to the ‘Wings Theatre’ on Christopher Street to take in an off-Broadway production of the popular 1990 musical hit Jekyll and Hyde, a show that Broadway Bob informed me with straight face that he saw it “53” times, including two roadshow versions in California. I had never seen it even once until last night, nor had I ever heard the music, but in both cases I am rather happy I was kept in the dark. I found the score uninspired, insipid and torturous, and light year’s from Stephen Sondheim’s melodious Sweeney Todd, upon which Jekyll and Hyde bears an uncanny thematic resemblence with. The singing ranged from mediocre (Dalles Wilie as Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde) to downright bad (Dorothy Massey as Lucy Harris) and the stage orchestration was low-volume to the point of non-existence. But Bob thought is was a decent production, Lucille liked it and my daughter Melanie enjoyed it, so who am I to say? Two of the songs “This is the Moment” and “Someone Like You” are showstoppers among a plethora of unremarkable music.
On the movie front I saw three films theatrically:
Edge of Darkness *** (Friday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex North Face *** 1/2 (Friday night) Sunshine Cinemas The Girl on the Train *** 1/2 (Sunday afternoon) IFC Film Center
Mel Gibson’s latest, EDGE OF DARKNESS, based on a 1985 British miniseries, seems to downplay what could have been a fascinating psychological context in favor of a more conventional revenge drama, but it has its moments, even if at the ed you know you’ll forget the whole thing in a matter of hours. The scenes with Danny Huston and Denis O’Hare as slimebags are the film’s best along with a horrifying murder at the beginning on the front steps of a home.
Sweeping mountain scenes abound in an intoxicating allegorical study of treacherous peak ascending a la 1936 in the throws of national socialism, but it’s clear that NORTH FACE is an unabashed, hefty dose of propaganda. The last time I saw such captivating outdoor camerawork on this topic was the documentary Touching the Void, but in a sociopolitical sense, the comparison ends there. It’s intents are painfully obvious, but it’s still a journey worth taking.
Andre Techine is one of France’s most talented contemporary directors. His best film was his first, Wild Reeds, a thinly disguised coming-of-age tale with considerable political underpinnings, and his 2008 The Witnesses again explored gay relationships to telling and moving effect. His newest film is more concerned with character than narrative and such it’s fascinating to a point. Yet, this is still Techine’s least satisfying film, as it doesn’t probe deeply enough in an incident concerning a Frenchwoman who reports an anti-Semetic incident, and then recants.
Around the blogosphere things are heating up:
Tony d’Ambra has been cooking up quite a diverse series of goodies at ‘Films Noir.net’, the latest an amusing dismissal of celebrated noir author James cain by none other than Raymond Chandler himself: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/chandler-on-cain-proust-in-greasy-overalls.html
Troy Olson’s ‘Award Time’ post, naming Wonders in the Dark, Ed Howard’s Only the Cinema and Dave’s Good Fellas blog (as well as a few others) for ‘Kreative Awards’ is still headling at Elusive as Robert Denby: The Life and Times of Troy: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2010/01/it-major-award.html
Dave Hicks is faithfully and most impressively moving forward with his Top 100 film noir countdown, and he’ at #80 with his excellent capsule appraisal of The Big Steal at “Goodfellas.”: http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2010/01/80-big-steal-don-siegel-1949.html
Dee Dee has officially announced another year of Oscar nomination discussion between Wonders in the Dark and Darkness Into Light. Last year’s discourse on the various categories inspired some excellent comment threads, and again I tip my cap to her for her promising upcoming plans: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2010/01/thursday-daily-newscountdown-to-31-days.html
Director Jeffrey Goodman combines talent, energy, and personality – an unusually potent combination – and as of late he’s been graceing the blogosphere with his good will and fantastically engaging posts – he’s a list guy and like Dave Hicks and a few others – we at Wonders live and die for lists – and his latest compilation is on Jim Jarmusch: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2010/01/favorites-of-my-favorites-9-jim.html
Few writers online are as prolific as my very good friend John Greco, and few ar as passionate bout what they write and what they post. Whether it’s insightful reviews or poster displays John is always engaging and ultra-informed and he possesses a wealth of experience. His latest is on a King Vidor feature: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/street-scene-1931-king-vidor/
J. D. at “Radiator Heaven,” writer and statesman extraordinaire, has a touching remembrance of J. D. Salinger up at his place: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2010/01/jd-salinger-1919-2010.html
It’s always ‘two for the price of one’ at that altar of cinematic reverence, “Ferdy on Films,” where midwesterner Marilyn Ferdinand collaborates with Australian Roderick Heath. Haeth’s surprising but excellent defense of Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock is currently headlining: http://ferdyonfilms.com/
Indian cinema receives it’s most profound and scholarly treatment when before the eyes of our very god friend ‘Just Another Film Buff’ who has Bollywood feature headling, which somehow makes methink of Almodovar! Ha! In any case, whether you’ve seen the film or not,thi is writing of the highest caliber: http://theseventhart.info/2010/01/30/tie-me-up-tie-me-down/
Jack-of-All-Trades David Schleicher has a book review of a Margaret Atwood novel at his place, which I need to look at ASAP: http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/a-damn-good-flood/
Daniel Getahun has the crowning finale to his five-part appraisal of the cinema of 2009, with his “ten-best” and honorable mention list. Those who really value eclectic cinema must certainly visit “Getafilm”: http://getafilm.blogspot.com/2010/01/best-of-2009-part-5.html
Craig Kennedy’s eternally popular “Watercooler” is up and running at LIC: http://livingincinema.com/2010/01/31/ye-olde-watercooler-talk-amongst-yourselves-ive-got-nothing/
Over at Movie Classics, the expert at early 30’s Hollywood Cinema, “Judy” is still headlining with an exquisite essay on Wellman’s The Purchase Price: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/the-purchase-price-
Shubhajit has posted his 300th review/feature at “Cinemascope” and congratulations are in order! Alwats quality-conscious and economically perceptive -he’s much like our own Allan Fish- his latest capsule gem is on David Fincher’s Zodiac: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2010/01/zodiac-2007.html
Sporting a spiffy new banner at Only the Cinema, the exceedingly-gifted Ed Howard, whose writing bridges the gap between the analytical and the poetic, has penned a stupendous essay on Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2010/01/white-ribbon.html
Ed’s monthly dialogue partner, the gifted Jason Bellamy, has a profound essay up on Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges at “The Cooler”: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2010/01/falling-and-flying-crazy-heart.html
At “Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies” Kevin J. Olson, who combines talent and statesmanship in a way that has attracted legions of bloggers, has written a two-year piece on blogging and ‘thoughts on film.’ http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/2009-in-film-and-some-thoughts-on-two.html
My excellent friend Pat at “Doodad Kind of Town” is headlining with a remembrance of J.D. Salinger, which is a must-read: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2010/01/j-d-salinger-1919-2010.html
Samuel Wilson is a film writer and blogger who is aways searching for the “outer reaches” and at “Mondo 70” he combines the popular (he recently reviewed Up for example) with the eclectic, with the historical, and with an eye for completism. His latest at is one Anthony Mann’s first film:http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2010/01/great-flamarion-1945.html
Always a place of lively integration of poster art, collages, poetry and adages, Michael, a.k.a. “Coffee Messiah” always has quite a cup brewing at his place, and you’re guranteed to alays leave there with a smile: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/
A renowned film professor and valued friend, the “Film Doctor” has his weekly, celebrated “Notable Media Links” post up at his place: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2010/01/notable-film-and-media-links-january-27.html
At “Gateway Cinephiles” Andrew Wyatt’s colleague “Chris” is still hradlining with this “300” capsule post: http://gatewaycinephiles.com/2010/01/21/film-diary-300-rifftrax-edition/
At The Aspect Ratio, activity has slowed a bit, but those incedibles lists are still there for those who haven’t seen them yet. Here’s Bob Clark’s ‘Top Ten of the New Millenium:” http://theaspectratio.net/newmillenniumfilm10.htm
Greg Ferrara of Cinema Styles (that lovely gentleman that honored us with a ‘Kreative Award’ has a post up announcing the upcoming TOERRIFIC discussion on Samuel Fuller’s White Dog at Joseph Campenella’s place: http://cinemastyles.blogspot.com/2010/01/toerifc-february-sam-fullers-white-dog.html
Rick Olson speakson the “Film Preservation Blogothon” passionately at his “Coosa Creek Cinema” home: http://coosacreek.org/mambo/2010/01/22/preserving-our-favorite-art/
Tony Dayoub has an excellent review up of the Mel Gibson film I saw over the weekend at “Cinema Viewfinder:” http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2010/01/movie-review-edge-of-darkness-2010.html
T. S. at “Screen Savour” will soon be having some Keaton reviews up at his place, but presently he still has an engaging series of posts up on 2009 cinema: http://www.screensavour.net/
R.D. Finch at The Movie Projector will be returning tomorrow. His announces this news here, though everyone is advised to check his site when his new essay is up: http://movieprojector.blogspot.com/2010/01/movie-projector-returns-feb-1.html
Nobody is missed in the blogosphere more than Ric Burke. All of us are hoping he will back with some kind of revised ‘Zeroes Project’ and a resurrection of the glorious ‘FilmsFrom the Soul.’: http://filmforthesoul.blogspot.com/
So what have you done or experienced? You know the subjects!