by Sam Juliano
All hail Allan Fish! The sometimes onery and cantankerous Wonders in the Dark film genius will no doubt downplay his latest extended venture, but it’s frankly the most extraordinary achievement by a single person in the blogosphere since I’ve been here, and it’s something anyone will be hard pressed to match. Taking the one genre in film that few have comfortable command or even rudimentary exposure to – silent cinema – and penning one hundred masterful reviews and an astonishing follow-up list of 150 nearlies, and then presenting a numerical listing that has not been provided by the best silent film volumes out there, Mr. Fish has proven he belongs on the film shelves of bookstores, an impending possibility I believe may come to well-deserved realization. Providing stellar cast and filmmaker listings, taking into consideration films that never received any kind of DVD distibution (and securing copies and watching these films) Fish has done here what the most celebrated film critics nationwide and abroad have not done, due to some prohibitive restrictions, so to speak. It’s an achievement of unparalleled authority, and I dare say it pretty much gets it all right down the line!
The site will accept individual lists for the next nine days, with the polling ending at 11:00 P.M. on Thursday, April 8th. Those still planning on submitted a ballot under the silent film tab under the site header please do so over the next nine days. Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. will be tabulting those ballots submitted (I think we have around a dozen to this point–not bad for this most underviewed of all time periods) and the site will then move to the 2000’s poll, which will again will feature a marathon Top 100 from Allan.
Dave Hicks is down to the final 30 in his always-engrossing noir countdown, and the humble proprietor has well-earned all the fantastic comments he’s received from so many under each and every one of his threads. Likewise filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman, another internet sweetheart continues his terrific year–by-year countdown, which to this point has faithfully moved into the late 1970’s.
I went bonkers this week, catching an opera at the Met last Monday night (Verdi’s Atilla) an off-Broadway theatrical work at the St. Ann’s Playhouse in Brooklyn on Saturday night, and seven (7) films in theatres over the weekend, despite some restrictions due to my attendance at a Friday night wake and Saturday morning funeral for the father of one of my best friends, who passed on after a long illness at age 82. My determination to see all these films (Lucille was there for some, the kids for others, and Lucille and Broadway Bob for a few others) is again a showing of OCD, the disease of having to see everything out there on pain of death!
On Monday night, I witnessed a superlative staging of Giuseppi Verdi’s gorgeous Atilla, an opera that would fall methinks, in a grouping after the Big Five: La Traviata, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, Aida and Otello. I hope to pen a review later this week if time permits, but the presentation of the fabulous score, the conducting and set design were top-rank. This was not one of the operas offered this year on the HD broadcast schedule.
A first trip ever to the landmark St. Ann’s Warehouse, literally right “under” the intimidating Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side of the river provided a photo shoot session for our erstwhile cameraman Broadway Bob, who shot some photos of the bridge from point blank range as well as others involving Lucille and I. The show, the critically-praised “A Life in Three Acts” stars ‘Bette Bourne’ a drag queen activist in the 1970’s, who uses a slide show to document his upbringing in the U.K. social scene, his own biography, and an often hilarious extended monologue (playing out like a stand up comedy routine) where he is sometimes interuppted by his production colleague Mark ravenhill to pose some lead-ons or pointed questions. Christopher Isherwood’s New York Times review was extremely favorable, but you ahve to see this to really appreciate the unique approach to the material. Again, hopefully, a review will follow.
The seven films I saw this week (all over the weekend) are as follows:
The Irish film, THE ECLIPSE is well acted, and there are some striking screnes and lovely scenery, but it’s a serious misfire, as it doesn’t know what it wants to be, and it has some rhythm or flow. Even the “romance” advertised is only faintly hinted at, as the ghost story segments are completely alien to the story being played out. Some are reading way more into this than what it’s worth.
WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY, a documentary about Disney’s last rise to the top in the late 80’s and 90’s is only 68 minutes long, hence it couldn’t go as far as it might have, but it’s still a joy for the lovers of this animation, and the creative process is presented in a highly informative an dentertaining fashion. I admire the candid approach too.
Based on Clarles Perrault’s grisly fairy tale, Catherine Breillat’s sensuous BLUEBEARD is at at the same time psychologically insightful and stylistically minimalist, but it’s a morbidly intoxicating fable beautifully lensed and provocatively played out by an excellent cast. Breillat’s cinema leaves always much more than meets the eye, but as was the case with her terrific THE LAST MISTRESS a few years ago, what you see is absolutely ravishing.
DREAM BOY, one of three features in a festival, is an amateurish gay coming-of-age tale with the typical stereotypes and a jarringly unpleasant conclusion. Little chemistry between characters and a pedestrian script mitigating some minor perceptiveness.
Here are a number of great links for this week:
Dave Hicks’s enthralling noir countdown moves forward: http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2010/03/28-detour-edgar-g-ulmer-1945.html
Right on cue, Judy at Movie Classics has a report on the ’13th Annual British Silent Film Festival’ up at her place. I wonder if Allan knows of this one?: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/the-13th-british-silent-film-festival/
John Greco tackles Hitchcock’s Notorious at “Twenty-Four Frames”: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/notorious-1946-alfred-hitchcock/
At “Ferdy on Films” Marilyn Ferdinand and Roderick Heath continue to raise the tone, and both Rod’s review of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders ands Marilyn’s equally superlative assessment of Lourdes are headlining: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=3558
The esteemed Film Dr. has what appears to be a terrific essay up on The Ghost Writer at his place: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2010/03/layers-of-narrative-and-art-of.html
Troy Olson’s big trip to China is imminent, so he remains on a blogging holding pattern, with his great review of Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum still headling at his place: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2010/03/2009-35-shots-of-rum.html
Craig Kennedy has a great review up on How to train Your Dragon at his cinematic mecca “Living in Cinema”: http://livingincinema.com/2010/03/28/review-how-to-train-your-dragon-3d-2010-12/
Dee Dee is on holding pattern too at “Darkness Into Light” as she prepares for a fascinating interview with aparticipant on the Metropolis restoration: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/
Tony d’Ambra continues to do top-flight work at FilmsNoir.net, and his latest review is a comprehensive look at The Face Behind the Mask. He compares and contrasts it succintly with a trend-setting noir: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/the-face-behind-the-mask-1941-iconic-proto-noir.html
David Scheicher’s latest asture review at his cultural altar, is one on the recently-released Snakes in a Hot Tub: http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/snakes–in–a-hot–tub–on–a-time–machine–plane/
Samuel Wilson’s latest comprehensive essay is on Twilight New Moon at “Mondo 70”: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2010/03/wendigo-meets-new-moon-2009.html
Filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman is up to 1976 in his wildly popular annual countdown at “The Last Lullaby”: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/
Longman Oz has a typically excellent film review up of Between the Canals up at his place: http://noordinaryfool.com/2010/03/29/betweenthecanals/
Jake Cole is a writing machine, and his latest essay up is what appears to be a terrific one on Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. Check it out: http://armchairc.blogspot.com/2010/03/gangs-of-new-york.html
Dan Getahun has heaped some well-deserved praise on both The Prophet and Fish Tank at his enriching abode: http://getafilm.blogspot.com/2010/03/getafilm-gallimaufry-prophet-fish-tank.html
Shubhajit’s newest capsule considers an important work by a renowed Begali filmmaker. It’s here at “Cinemascope”: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2010/03/sanjhbatir-rupkathara-strokes.html
Dusan Makavejev’s stunning debut, Man is not a Bird, is the subject of Ed Howard’s latest stupendous review at the hallowed halls of “Only the Cinema”: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2010/03/man-is-not-bird.html
Jon Lanthier, quiet as of late, but always a masterly read, has a Slant essay up on Samson and Delilah at this place: http://aspiringsellout.com/
At “Radiator Heaven” J. D. has penned an exquisite DVD review on a recent George Clooney film that divided teh scribes: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2010/03/dvd-of-week-men-who-stare-at-goats.html
Donophon’s latest perceptive essay is on the original The Blob with Steve McQueen at his place: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/2010/03/blob.html
Hokahey has a most interesting essay up on The Sand Pebbles at his place, which he mentions is “Part 2.” http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2010/03/sand-pebbles-1966-part-2-river-battle.html
Jumping the gun on the Wonders polling, Kevin Olson has penned a hugely impressive and popular round-up of the decade’s best films at his place: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/top-50-films-of-decade-1-10.html
Hsaio Hsien is again under focus by Just Another Film Buff, and it’s another superlative and enriching consideration: http://theseventhart.info/2010/03/27/the-films-of-hou-hsiao-hsien-part-22/
Stephen’s screen gap gallery is receiving well-deserved acclaim and participation by a number of excellent bloggers at his place. it’s well-worth an extended look:: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2010/03/gallery-is-open-accepting-submissions.html
Adam Zanzie’s marathon on The Cinncinnati Kid looks like it’s essential reading, and I’ll be over there as soon as I can: http://iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2010/03/cincinnati-kid-1965.html
Jason Bellamy acknowledges all the writers who made his Steve McQueen blog-a-thon such a resounding success at “The Coller.” Congratulations Jason! http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2010/03/steve-mcqueen-blog-thon.html
Also contributing to the Steve McQueen blog-a-thon is Tony Dayoub, who has apparently written a terrific revisitation of Le Mans at his place: http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2010/03/seventies-cinema-revival-le-mans-1971.html
St. Louis’s finest, Andrew Wyatt has what appears to be a thought-provoking second look at the Coens’s A Serious Man that’s on display at “Gateway”: http://gatewaycinephiles.com/2010/03/25/not-doing-anything-not-doing-anything-further-thoughts-on-the-theology-of-a-serious-man/