Archive for March 5th, 2010

*** ½


By Bob Clark

Late in Richard Linklater’s 1990 indie masterpiece Slacker, a couple of laid-back stoners are overheard sharing a conversation concerning the socio-political ramifications of five-decades strong Smurf franchise, with one theory bandied about being that the iconic five-apples high characters, sprung from the mind of Belgian cartoonist Peyo, were intended to help children all over the world prepare for the coming of Krishna, by growing accustomed to the sight of blue-people. Since then, we’ve had plenty of opportunities for people of all ages to wrap their head around the concept of sapphire-skinned creatures— the pious Nightcrawler and nudist Mystique from X-Men, the equally au naturel Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, the archeological-artifact mule Diva from The Fifth Element, the soft-spoken Abe Sapien from the Hellboy series, and even the live-theater troupe Blue Man Group for good measure. Throw in the range of azure-skinned characters in pop-culture, from the inflated figure of Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to the only-take-no-for-an-answer Blue Meanies of Yellow Submarine, and one imagines that particular Austinite must’ve grown rather impatient for Krishna’s impending manifestation onto our particular corner of reality (perhaps he thought better of it after all, and simply decided to stay at the bus-station).



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by Marc Bauer

Sometimes, when watching a movie, it inspires you with questions. In the best scenarios, these questions are a good thing, you are thinking about the plot, the characters, and where this is going next. In Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, these questions are there, but they are of a different nature. ‘Why did I pay nearly $15 for this?’ is one. ‘The original material was so good, why would they change it?’ is another. Tim Burton has taken a great story, one of the most recognized fantasies, and turned it into something completely different. Imagine, if you will, a 5-year old being given free reign in a kitchen; I’d venture the jellybean sandwich they created to be the culinary equivalent of this movie.

The movie is capped with two scenes in the real world, filmed in flat pastels. These scenes rely very lightly on tinkering and special effects other than some color balancing to wash away anything that resembling human flesh and expanding a few extras into a field full of followers.  Imagine if you will a “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette” inhabited by the undead and you will be able to mentally approximate the ‘warmth’ of this scene. What comes between those capping scenes is brash, colorful, and completely saccharine. These scenes are the ‘white bread’ in the aforementioned sandwich, and the entire time in Underland (more on this in a bit) are the jellybeans betwixt. (more…)

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by Joel Bocko

Every year we grumble, and then we turn our attention back to the TV screen to discover, curse, and hopefully sometimes cheer the choices of the Academy. The recent controversy over some exposed Hurt Locker e-mail should remind one to take the proceedings with a grain of salt (as if “negative campaigning” has anything to do with the merits of the film in question…). Nonetheless, the awards have real-world consequences, boosting business, dominating discussion, controlling the short term of a film’s legacy – though a roll-call of past winners should refute the notion that this hold lasts for long.

I’ve watched the Oscars every year, either live or on VHS tapes the next day, since 1991, when I was seven. I had resolved to abstain this year, the straw that broke the camel’s back being the Academy’s decision not to air the Honorary Awards. To my way of thinking, an institution which ignores its own history is worthless; besides which, this was the one category where the awards got it right! Yet again, I’ll probably submit – my excuse this time being that I’ll be hanging out with others who want to watch it. Oh, alright then…

Griping aside, as I’ve said the Oscars have some positive corollary benefits. One of them being that they often produce interesting discussions – this year is no exception, what with the groundbreaking Avatar, the widely-acclaimed Hurt Locker, and the political connotations of both. Without further ado then, let me present a round-up of the “Oscar” pieces from the Wonders in the Dark writers (both for this site and elsewhere). This will, of course, include my own recent reviews but also pieces by Bob Clark, Jamie Uhler, and Dee Dee (Allan Fish’s favorites from the year will not be revealed until he initiates his final, eagerly awaited countdown; Tony d’Ambra has focused on his noir reviews as of late). And, of course, Sam Juliano, proprieter of Wonders in the Dark, author of numerous Oscar pieces, and reviewer of many nominated films.

And of course, all of you are invited to post links to your own reviews of nominated films below.

*Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Original Score, Sound Editing, Mixing, Visual Effects.
Sam Juliano
Bob Clark

The Hurt Locker
*Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Jeremy Renner), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, Mixing.
Bob Clark

Inglourious Basterds
*Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing, Mixing.
Sam Juliano
Bob Clark
Jamie Uhler

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by Allan Fish

(Germany 1929 111m) DVD1/2

Aka. Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen

Deform school

p  Georg W.Pabst  d  Georg W.Pabst  w  Rudolph Leonhardt  novel  Margaret Böhme  ph  Sepp Allgeier, Fritz Arno Wagner  ed  uncredited  art  Ernö Metzner, Emil Hasler

Louise Brooks (Thymian Henning), Josef Ravensky (Robert Henning), Fritz Rasp (Meinert), Edith Meinhard (Erika), Franziska Kinz (Meta), Vera Pawlova (Aunt Frieda), André Roanne (Count Nicholas Osdorff), Sybille Schmitz (Elisabeth),  

The second and final collaboration between director G.W.Pabst and star Louise Brooks was for a time regarded as very much the inferior of the two.  Rumours persisted for decades that it wasn’t so much unfinished as deliberately finished early.  Writer Rudolf Leonhardt maintained his script was left half finished and the film does indeed end rather abruptly, but Diary remains a film so full of fascination, visual beauty and seedy subtexts as to beggar belief for its day.

            Thymian is the virginal daughter of pharmacist Robert Henning who is being prepared for confirmation, to celebrate which she is given a present; namely a diary.  On the self same day, her beloved housekeeper Elisabeth leaves in mysterious circumstances and she is replaced by the insidious Meta, who becomes the mistress to Thymian’s father.  Desperate to find out what happened to Elisabeth, she agrees to meet her father’s assistant Meinert, only to pass out and be carried to her room by him and raped.  Cut forward nine months and Thymian has given birth and Meta gets Thymian’s diary opened to find out the identity of the father.  Refusing to marry Meinert, after seeing her child taken to a sinister midwife, Thymian is sent to a terrible correctional institute for girls, run like a prison by a distinctly lesbian mistress and her creepy male assistant.  Soon she becomes desperate to escape. (more…)

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