by Sam Juliano
With the coronation of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc as the greatest film of the silent era, WitD has now turned it’s attention to the most recent period, for the final decade countdown from Allan Fish. Still, other ‘genre’ polls are being planned, even with this one standing as the final time frame project. With another massive Top 100 just underway, this latest poll will take us deep into the summer, so voters can deliberate before submitting their own Top 25 for a poll that is sure to attract the highest number of voters of any polling to date. Meanwhile, Dave Hicks’s Film Noir countdown has entered it’s final phase: the golden ten. As I now write here, Dave’s #8 choice, the American masterpiece Sunset Boulevard is leading the way. Jeffrey Goodman has now reached 1996 as of Saturday in his popular ‘Annual Countdown” as well.
Here at WitD James Clark continues with his David Lynch series, with this week’s coinsideration of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me garnering great traffic and numerous responses, Joel Bocko’s superlative Best of the 21st Century series moving ahead with a masterful review of Tropical Malady, and Bob Clark’s never-say-die Attack of the Clones review now moving closer to 200 comments, in what is now one of the three most successful posts ever at the site.
This has also been a busy week for me on the cultural scene as well, as I managed a stage play in Manhattan on Wednesday evening of Robert Anderson’s I Never Sang For My Father that was interesting if rather tepid, and in no league with the celebrated 1971 film that starred Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman. A review of course appears above the diary.
On the film scene I saw the following:
Kick Ass *** 1/2 (Friday afternoon) Edgewater Multiplex
The Secret in Their Eyes *** (Friday evening) Angelika Film Center
Death at a Funeral ** (Saturday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex
La Mission *** 1/2 (Saturday evening)
The Big Clock (Sunday afternoon) classic ‘newspaper’ film series Film Forum
Park Row (Sunday afternoon) classic ‘newspaper’ film series Film Forum
KICK ASS is a violent and vulgar ‘wannabe’ superhero movie, yet it’s entertainment quotient is high, and once the action kicks in it’s dynamic. With these kind of ‘anything goes’ movies there are flaws of course, but heck who cares? I was too busy rocking along, laughing and having a lot of fun, the that 11 year-old girl is a real hoot. All three kids who attended – the three boys – loved it too.
THE SECRET OF THEIR EYES, the Argentinian film that won the Best Foreign Language Film is a major disappointment, and in no way remotely deserved to win over the likes of Audiard’s masterwork, UN PROPHETE. Still, there are some interesting visual ideas, the acting is strong, and the flashback structure intriguing. But there are some clumsy segues too, and the narrative is rather long-winded and bloated. It’s a challenging film, and it’s no affront to world cinema at all, but I did find it problematic.
The big question is why did I bother to see DEATH AT A FUNERAL? Well, Lucille wanted to go, as we had seen the British original and thought it an adequate comedy, and we both like Peter Dinklage, who we recently saw on stage. But this African-American rehash is just that, and there’s not an iota of originality here. There are some funny moments of course, and we laughed, but it’s all been seen before in a better film.
As far as the independent drama LA MISSION goes, it’s safe to assert there are cliches, predictable turns (why does physical violence always find it’s way into such stories, when the actually instance is rather remote?) but there is a compelling portrait of intolerance, and the macho mentality that serves as the underpinning for familial discord in a San Francisco Mexican community. Conventional filmmaking for sure, but a poignant little film nonetheless.
On Sunday morning I attended my first double-feature in the Film Forum’s popular ‘Newspaper Film’ series, and both Samuel Fuller’s Park Row and John Farrow’s The Big Clock, was wonderful to see on the big screen. Fuller’s film about journalism and printing in the late 1800’s (a film dear to Fuller’s own heart) has some rather contrived ideas, but it’s still a riveting film, splendidly acted and impressively mounted. The film is presently unavailable on DVD or VHS and is sometimes shown on TCM. As far as John Farrow’s The Big Clock, this is an underatted noir about a murder and the following investigation that features Ray Milland, Charles Laughton and Elsa lancaster (in a cameo) Laughton is terrific in both physical movement and the delivery of some great deadpan dialogue, and the set design with a ‘big clock’ and elevator shaft is excellent. The DVD, of course, which I own, is part of the Universal Noir Collection, but there’s nothing to match the interactive Film Forum viewing, which negotiated the film’s ample humor. I hope to make several other doubles, including one that features an early Wellman tomorrow night.
11 year-old Danny Juliano at Film Forum on Sunday afternoon
Around the blogosphere there’s plenty of great stuff:
Judy at Movie Classics
has been slowly building a catalogue of superlative reviews on William Wellman’s cinema, including a bevy of pre-coders, the latest of which may well be the best she’s ever penned, and that’s really saying something. Her review on Wild Boys of the Road
(1933) is masterful: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/wild-boys-of-the-road-1933/
Tony d’Ambra has another fabulous post up at FilmsNoir.net
that deserves full attention. Featuring an excerpt from an essay by the esteemed James Naremore (that I’ve read, that to Tony) on the unmade but planned Orson Welles film version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
which was, according to the screenplay to be partially set around the Hudson River, which divides North Jersey from manhattan, a location I live only minutes from. http://filmsnoir.net/directors/new-york-noir-the-heart-of-darkness.html
John Greco’s diversity is always an amazement, and both his blogs show unrelenting insights and photographic awe. He has a fabulous review up of the B classic Creature from the Black Lagoon at “Twenty Four Frames” that’s a must read:
Troy Olson’s latest post, based on his incredibly prolific movie watching, takes in three films that requite that extra effort, and as usual he’s more than up to the task. His trip to China, meanwhile gets closer by the day:
The second half of film scholar “Just Another Film Buff’s” consideration of Asian film artist Jia Zhang-Ke, is just as brilliant as the first, and he talks here about what may be the director’s greatest film, Still Life,
as well as the beloved The World
and several others. It’s essential stuff!!!http://theseventhart.info/2010/04/17/the-films-of-jia-zhang-ke-part-22-2/
Film Writer Extraordinaire Jon Lanthier has a post at “Aspiring Sellout” that link sup with his superb Rumpus
review of Joseph Campanella’s Oscar-winning Argentinian film The Secret in Their Eyes,
that I read myself, and can only marvel at its insights and richness: http://aspiringsellout.com/
Roderick Heath makes quite an impassioned case for Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark
at Marilyn Ferdinand’s place, and right under it Marilyn writes up quite an essay on Van Peebles’s The Watermelon Man.
It’s essential stuff: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=4166
Kevin Olson has been on a brief sabatical as of late, but he too is preparing for the 2000’s poll, posting his own exhaustive consideration, but listing and talking here of his 50 top films of the decade. His No. 1 is startling for me, as he also says it may be one of the “ten best American films ever made!” Check it out: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/top-50-films-of-decade-1-10.html