Archive for February 11th, 2010

Critical Icon James Agee

by Sam Juliano

      Over the past days there’s been a barnstorm of controversy over fellow blogger Stephen Russell-Gebbit’s dismissive review of Orson Welles’ legendary Citizen Kane, and the issue of how important serious film criticism is has never been as topical, nor as vital.  I’ve been taken to the carpet more than once over my respect and veneration of professional film criticism – at least one blogger, who’s one of the best writers among the internet fraternity – mentions regularly that any argument that implies that concensus is a decisive factor is bankrupt.  Yet, the very nature of film criticism, and it’s essence is to enlighten and to enrich one’s experience with any proposed work of art.  Any attempt to diminish or compromise serious film criticism at the expence of a vaguely defined ‘first ammendment right’ seems to me an act of narcissistic blindness, and a repudiation of ‘ladder ascendency’ that has informed year’s of critical aptitude, built on uncanny writing talent and the ability to see the worth in in any cultural entity.

    Hence when a brash 25 year-old blogger-critic (and I am not speaking here of Stephen Russell-Gebbit.  I don’t even know how old he is, I am just posing a point that has obsessed me long before Stephen’s review was published, and there are a few other instances where what I am saying here can be applied) attempts to dismiss serious intellectual film criticism written by the likes of James Agee, Andrew Sarris, Dwight MacDonald, Stanley Kauffmann, Andre Bazin, Pauline Kael, Dilys Powell, Leslie Halliwell, John Simon et al, I would like to hear more than just a comparitively facile disagreement based on taste.  I have disagreed more times than I can remember with any of the aforementioned fraternity, yet I’ve been endlessly enriched by their consistently enlightening examinations  which were founded on many years of scholarly study and extensive experience in writing and in their field.  It is all too easy for a novice, who lacks the proper skills to compete on this intellectual level to throw around arbitrary dismissals, as if their own personal “blog” was some self-annoited pillar of intellectual authority.  When I want to engage myself in a baseball game, I’ll watch the Yankees play the Red Sox.  I won’t walk up the street and take in a Little League baseball game (unless my kids are involved!  Ha!)  When I want to be ravished by a serious work of art, I may opt to view the J.M.M. Turner exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, rather than avail myself of seventh-grade art on display at my local library.  When I want to hear Mozart’s ‘Clarinet Concerto’, I’ll head over to Avery Fisher Hall and listen to the New York Philharmonic, rather than availing myself of a local classical buff’s amateur efforts, as admirable and commendable as this effort may be.  The latest revival of Roger’s and Hammerstein’s South Pacific is enjoying a glorious run at Lincoln Center, and I maintain far more serious appreciation and respect for it in an artsitic sense than for a local production that barely scratches the surface in all departments.

   I find it hypocritical that some bloggers attempt to place themselves on even ground with serious critics solely on the argument that ‘they are entitled to their own opinion.’  When such an opinion is expressed with authoritative obstinance, a marked lack of humour, zero degree of humility and complete disregard for the mass of concensus, which has spent decades in foundling principles of critical theories and extensive thesis-writing – all on a single critical rant posted at a blog –  well then I think it’s high time we reconsider our own ‘importance’ in the larger scheme of things.

    I am not posing blind adoration or even rudimentary agreement, only the knowledge that there are perhaps some people who may have worked a lot harder and more persuasively at posing their own arguments.  In the same way that professional critics make reference to literary scholars, authors and philosophers, I will make reference to these critics who have informed their work with pertinent historical, social and artistic concerns that are more-often that not set aside in favor of largely arbitrary judgement based on something as negligible as personal taste.

I am proud of what I have written at this site, and feel much of what I say is as meaningful as what the professionals have said.  But I also know there are others in this world who have gone even further in a number of ways to make far stronger cases.  I’ll always express my opinion, but alas, I also know my place.

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Oscar@ Statues


[Editor’s Note: Due To An Oversight On My Behalf…I Inadvertently, Forgot To Post Sam Juliano’s  Reason For Predicting The Reason That He Predict Actor Christoph Waltz,Will Probably Take Home Oscar@ Gold…Huh? You Know What I Mean…Well, Here Goes…]

 Best Supporting Actor… 
     The line-up for Best Supporting Actor in this year’s Academy Awards is a solid one, with only perhaps one choice a questionable one. Among the “omissions” three were glaring, though most prognosticators had given them little chance.  The eventual outcome in this category is a foregone conclusion, much like the Best Supporting Actress race, and it’s expected there won’t be any surprises, although the close examination of the category shows some impressive turns by veteran actors.
     Paul Schneider, who plays John Keats’ friend in Jane Campion’s Bright Star was a co-winner of the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Supporting Actor, but he was left off the short-list in spite of his superlative turn.  Christian McKay, who plays/impersonates Orson Welles masterfully in Richard Linklater’s charming Me and Orson Welles deserved a nomination for his commanding performance in the independent film.  

Matt Damon

I don't know


Likewise, Alfred Molina’s winning and charismatic turn in the British An Education was by passed by the voters, while popular Hollywood star Matt Damon received a questionable nod as South African rugby team captain Francois Pienaar, who bonded with President Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s Invictus.  Damon’s South African “accent” was praised by some critics, while others derided it as more of a lazy drawl.
      Damon’s nomination in the same year he received considerable praise in Stephen Soderbergh’s The Informant, is joined by Woody Harrelson in The Messenger, Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones, Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Christopher Plummer in The Last Station.  As Harrelson, Tucci, Waltz and Plummer all give excellent portrayals, one would be hard pressed to criticize this field, though Damon would appear to be the weak link.

Woody Harrelson…As Tony Stone, a military officer dispatched to the unenviable capacity of informing families of their loved ones passings, Harrelson is an onery, uncompromising veteran, who shuts out emotion, and focuses almost stoically on the task at hand.  It’s certainly the most thought-provoking performance of his career.
Woody Harrelson

in…The Messenger

Christopher Plummer…As Count Leo Tolstoy, veteran Christopher Plummer is colorfully volatile as the famed author of War and peace, whose tempestuous but loving relationship with his wife, played by Helen Mirren, is given the ultimate test in th elast few years before his death at age 82.  Plummer, as always, is masterful in historical and literary roles.
I dont know

in…The Last Station

Stanley Tucci…Plays George Harvey, a serial killer who murders a beloved [Pictured Below:14 year-old girl,] Tucci has the most unsympathetic role an actor could possibly have, but he delivers the goods in his creepy portrayal of a troubled man whose seething anger is ready to explode. 

in…The Lovely Bones.

Here Goes The Five Nominated Actors For Best Supporting Actor…Who Do You Think Will Take Home Oscar@ Gold This Year?
but most importantly, Why?
The Photographs From Top to Bottom…

I don't know
Nominated Role:Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team that becomes a surprising unifying force for a divided nation

Academy Awards History:

This is the third Academy Award nomination for Matt Damon. He was previously nominated for:
GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997) — Nominee, Actor in a Leading Role
GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997) — Winner, Writing (Original)

Nominated Role:Woody Harrelson…
As Captain Tony Stone, plays a military officer struggling to maintain his sobriety as he delivers news of soldiers’ deaths to their families.

Academy Awards History:
This is the second Academy Award nomination for Woody Harrelson. He was previously nominated for:
THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT (1996) — Nominee, Actor in a Leading Role

Christopher Plummer
Nominated Role: Actor Christopher Plummer…
portrays Tolstoy, the Great Russian writer who finds himself torn in his final years between his wife and his devoted admirers.
Academy Awards History…

This is the first Academy Award nomination for Christopher Plummer.

Nominated Role: Actor Stanley Tucci…
As George Harvey, Stanley Tucci plays a serial killer who murders his neighbors’ 14-year-old daughter.

This is the first Academy Award nomination for Stanley Tucci.



Sam Juliano’s Pick… Christoph Waltz in…

Inglourious Basterds
Nominated Role: Actor Christoph Waltz…
…plays Col. Hans Landa, a sinister Nazi officer with a talent for seeking out people in hiding
Academy Awards History:

This is the first Academy Award nomination for actor Christoph Waltz.

The Actor Sam Juliano Predict Will Take Home Oscar Gold…

Christoph Waltz, an Austrian actor, who plays Nazi Colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s World War II drama, Inglourious Basterds, has been winning every award in sight for this extraordinary performance, and he comes in as the heavy favorite to win the Best Supporting Actor trophy.  For one, he is the very best thing about Inglourious Basterds, and his opening scene in a country farmhouse  is one of the best-acted scenes in any film all year.  Waltz’ accent and control in this showcase role is perfection.
Prediction:  Waltz
Personal Choice:  Waltz (though for me the un-nominated Schneider and McKay were tops)


…Now, that  Sam Juliano’s prediction have been announced  now it’s your turn to voice your opinion and vote in the poll on the sidebar. (Once again it’s not mandatory…)

Now…The question for Wonders in the Dark’s readers…

What actor do you think will take home Oscar@ gold? and most importantly, Why?


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by Allan Fish

(USA 1922 23m) DVD1/2

Graduate of the People’s University

Joseph M.Schenck  d  Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline  Buster Keaton  ph  Elgin Lessley

Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Joe Roberts, Joseph Keaton,

Though it might not quite match Cops as Buster’s most divine short, The Electric House is arguably the most laugh-out-loud funny.  It’s a film I first saw many years ago in the mid-afternoon on Channel 4, and one I loved from the first because it moved so fast that it was over in the blink of an eye.  Literally, it was almost a laugh a second.

            Ever since that first sighting I have watched it numerous times on television, video and DVD, and each time it creases me up.  Why this is entirely I cannot quite put my finger on, as there can be very few physical comedies that remain as funny without the element of surprise, but it’s rather like it must have been for the first audiences of Buster’s – and indeed Chaplin and Lloyd’s films – who found themselves laughing in the queue before they’d even taken their seats.  One remembers gags, remembers how one laughed at them, laughs at them again, then waits for the gag to unfold on screen, and not only laugh again, but almost miss it entirely because you’re laughing at the previous gag.  That’s genius. (more…)

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