Archive for June, 2010

by Allan Fish

(USA 2004 108m) DVD1/2

O my darlin’, o my darlin’…

p  Steve Golin, Anthony Bregman  d  Michel Gondry  w  Charlie Kaufman  ph  Ellen Kuras  ed  Valdis Oskarsdottir  m  Jon Brion  art  Dan Leigh  cos  Melissa Toth

Jim Carrey (Joel Barish), Kate Winslet (Clementine Kruczynski), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Svevo), Mark Ruffalo (Stan), Elijah Wood (Patrick), Tom Wilkinson (Dr Howard Mierzwiak), Jane Adams (Carrie), David Cross (Rob),

If asked to name the most flat out inventive film of 1999, anyone who did not pick Being John Malkovich just cannot have seen it.  The same might be said of Adaptation in 2002, another deliciously clever premise from cult author Charlie Kaufman, the one writer in movies today who could prove himself one of the greats in that capacity alone.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was lumbered with a title that hardly makes one rush to the box office, and hence it only performed moderately in takings, and like Kaufman’s earlier work, it is undoubtedly an acquired taste.  For those willing to take the plunge, however, it’s the one essential romantic comedy of the modern cinema; a romantic film for anti-romantics, one for the age of sci-fi.

            Joel Barish makes a decision not to go into work one morning and goes impulsively to Montauk, where he meets a young woman of very eccentric dress and hair sense called Clementine.  Just at the point where they are about to get together, however, the narrative switches back in time and we find Joel devastated to find that his girlfriend, the very same Clementine, has not only dumped him but gone to a specialist clinic to literally have him removed from her mind.  Hurt and distressed by this, Joel goes off to have the procedure done himself, only for him to change his mind during the procedure and try and keep Clementine’s memory sacred. (more…)


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by Allan Fish

(Taiwan 2000 173m) DVD1/2

Aka. Yi Yi

Talking to grandma

p  Shinya Kawai, Naoko Tsukeda  d/w  Edward Yang  ph  Yang Wei-Han  ed  Chen Bo-Wen  m/art  Peng Kai-Li

Wa Nien-Jen (NJ Jien), Elaine Jin (Min-Min), Issei Ogata (Mr Ota), Kelly Lee (Ting-Ting), Jonathan Chang (Yang-Yang), Adriane Lin (Li-Li), Chen Hsi-Sheng (Ah-Di), Ko So-Yun (Sherry), Hsiao Shu-shen (Hsiao Yen), Hsin-Yi Tseng (Yun Yun),

Our alphabetical journey now takes a second brief stop, for three hours at least, at the Edward Yang station.  It’s the last time we will visit here.  Had I listed the film by its original title – by which it is equally well known in the US – it would come much closer to the book’s end which, in some ways, wouldn’t be inappropriate.  Yang’s masterpiece is a film about looking back; in fact it’s about looking full stop, but especially, in the mind of the principal character, it’s a ruminative, melancholy work whose levels slowly reveal themselves upon future viewings.

            When his mother-in-law has a stroke soon after her son’s wedding and falls into a coma, NJ Jien’s life slowly begins to unravel.  His teenage daughter is experiencing love for the first time, his infant son is withdrawing more and more into himself and is only happy when he has his camera with him, while his wife cannot cope with her mother’s coma, and goes away to a mountain retreat for spiritual rest.  At around the same time, while trying to drum up business for his flagging computer firm, he meets the first love of his life whom he hasn’t seen in nearly three decades, now married and living in Chicago.  The meeting serves to put in focus thoughts about what might have been. (more…)

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Guess the pic

Courtesy of Bob Clark

The winner can submit their screen-cap to movieman0283@gmail.com. Do not include film title in file name so I can participate as well! (Give a day or two for the new picture to go up)

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Martha Hunt, Claire Trevor and Dennis O’Keefe in “Raw Deal”

by Sam Juliano

Scorching heat has greeted the official opening of summer here in the Northeast, though I’m sure the opposite scenario is unfolding down in Sydney, where Tony d’Ambra and his family are facing the onset of winter.  On a personal note, I was thrilled (and teary-eyed) to watch my eldest daughter Melanie graduate from the eighth grade, while the strains of the school song “Oh Lincoln, Dear Lincoln” and Elgar’s traditional ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ were played by the school’s music teacher, Mr. Fred Fochesato.

Soccer fans are understandably down in the dumps after the USA elemination to Ghana, and similarly the loss by the defending champions Team Italy was an unexpected development.  As of this writing England is still in the hunt, with a game against Germany set for later today. (well, England is now officially gone after losing 4-1).

Here at Wonders in the Dark, we are winding down with Allan’s 2000’s countdown, with a scant three weeks to go.  Anyone still planning to cast a ballot should do so on the tab over the site header, though an extra week will be added after the #1 pick is revealed. (as per custom)

It’s been a very busy week on the cultural scene once again, with an off-Broadway show managed on Monday (Control) and four films in the Anthony Mann Festival at the Film Forum watched on Friday and Sunday (two double features).  In addition, a few other new theatrical releases were part of the mix.  Control was an unfocused mess of a theatrical staging which was basically reliant on profanity for shock effect as it featured some psychological role-playing.

Dogtooth    * 1/2   (Saturday night)   Cinema Village

The A Team   *     (Thursday night)   Edgewater Multiplex

The Naked Spur   (Anthony Mann Festival)   Friday *****

Winchester 73   (Anthony Mann Festival)   Friday *****

Raw Deal    (Anthony Mann Festival)  Sunday *****

T Men   (Anthony Mann Festival)  Sunday ****

The Greek DOGTOOTH is one of the more disturbing films of recent years, and it doesn’t have the exquisite artistry that Von Trier imparted to Antichrist. It’s a minimalist black comedy with irrational jolts and a disjointed narrative, and in the end it adds up to very little.  Some laughs, but far more tedium and stomach-churning violence.  Thanks, but no thanks.

THE A TEAM is a strong candidate for the year’s worst film.  No plot, no meaning, nothing but gun fire and noice, and pedestrian choreography.  As unoriginal as any multiplex film, and just about as brainless.

Then there’s the glorious Anthony Mann.  Two double features over the weekend yielded two of the best Mann/Stewart collaborations with THE NAKED SPUR and WINCHESTER 73, are prime examples of the ‘psychological western’ while Mann’s arguably best film noir entries, RAW DEAL and T MEN were paired in a program of haunting narrations, expressionistic camerwork by John Alton and superb performances by Dennis O’Keefe, Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt, et al.  Three of the films are masterpieces, while the forth is solid.

The blogosphere boasts some pretty great stuff:

Ed Howard  at Only the Cinema has penned a tremendous review of the 1956 science-fiction classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and his comment section under the review is equally fantastic:                                                  http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2010/06/invasion-of-body-snatchers.html

Australian Roderick Heath (what a great name to boot!) is one of the internet’s best writers, (no surprise, as he’s an author) whether he’s considering film or literature, and two of his most recent essays bear this out.  At his English literature blog, he is featuring an extraordinary piece on the Victorian era masterpiece, Middlemarch, by George Eliot: http://englishoneoworst.blogspot.com/2010/05/aspiration-and-actuality-george-eliots.html and  his latest in a long run of film review masterpieces considers the John Lennon “bio-pic”, Nowhere Boy: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=5197

Dave Hicks’s ‘director’s series’ is one of the blogosphere’s biggest hits, and his latest impeccable post considers the man with the “touch” Ernst Lubitsch: http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2010/06/18-brian-de-palma.html


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by Allan Fish

(France 2005 115m) DVD1/2

Aka. Hidden

It is not your concern

p  Veit Heiduschka  d/w  Michael Haneke  ph  Christian Berger  ed  Michael Hudecek, Nadine Muse  m  Ralph Rieckermann  art  Emmanuel de Chauvigny, Christoph Kanter

Daniel Auteuil (Georges Laurent), Juliette Binoche (Anne Laurent), Maurice Benichou (Majid), Annie Girardot (Georges’ mother), Walid Afkir (Majid’s son), Bernard Le Coq (editor), Lester Makedonsky (Pierrot), Daniel Duval (Pierre), Natalie Richard (Mathilde),

There are few more cerebral directors in 21st century world cinema than Michael Haneke, and few more clinical directors in cinema history.  His is very much a cinema of unease, disquiet and disturbance, often punctuated by moments of extreme violence, be it physical or emotional, or, on occasion, both.  Prior to the release of his masterpiece in 2005, his films were a mixed bag, of which the horrendously cold Funny Games was probably the best of the bunch.  Caché was something else entirely, a film of more layers than one of Mrs Bridges’ wedding cakes, and enough discretely subtle nuances and barely noticeable details to satisfy the hardiest of cine-intellectuals.  It’s a film Antonioni might make were he working in the present day.

            Georges and Anne Laurent are a well-to-do upper middle-class couple living with their twelve year old son in a fashionable suburb of Paris.  He works as host on a sort of Gallic equivalent of BBC2’s Newsnight Review, while she works in a prestigious job for a famous publishing company.  One day, Anne tells Georges she was left a tape in a shopping bag, showing the outside of their house in the middle of the day and Georges’ leaving for work.  Further tapes appear, including one of the house in which Georges lived as a child, all wrapped in increasingly ghoulish childlike drawings of faces spluttering blood.  They try to get the police to help, but they see the packages as harmless.  It is then up to the couple themselves to get to the bottom of the trouble. (more…)

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the Pandorica looms

by Allan Fish

It’s been finished 180 minutes as I put keys to keyboard.  Three little hours.  What is time, though?  We’ve been counting down to it from the start, from the start of this series this is.  So has the universe if what we’re told is correct, the base code of the universe is 26062010.  Who’d have thought it, if you excuse the pun.  (Personally, I think it’s 171,072, but that’s another story.)

It was only a few months ago I wrote a piece on the rebirth of Doctor Who.  It was welcomed with the enthusiasm of a nonce entering a primary school dressed in trademark string vest, Y-fronts and spectacles.  But I expected no different, the vast majority of people on this site are Americans and they, for no fault of their own, wouldn’t know Doctor Who from Doctor Shipman.  Who?  I hear you say.  Case proved.  This is for the handful of Brits who may be passing through.    (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(New Zealand/USA 2003/2004 249m) DVD1/2

One film to end them all

p  Peter Jackson, Barrie M.Osborne, Frances Walsh  d  Peter Jackson  w  Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Frances Walsh, Stephen Sinclair  novel  J.R.R.Tolkien  ph  Andrew Lesnie  ed  Annie Collins, Jamie Selkirk  m  Howard Shore  m/ly  Annie Lennox, Frances Walsh  art  Grant Major  cos  Richard Taylor, Ngila Dickson  fight ch  Bob Anderson

Elijah Wood (Frodo), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), John Rhys Davies (Gimli/Treebeard), Sean Astin (Sam), Billy Boyd (Pippin), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Dominic Monaghan (Merry), Miranda Otto (Éowyn), Andy Serkis (Gollum), Bernard Hill (Théoden), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Liv Tyler (Arwen), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), David Wenham (Faramir), Karl Urban (Éomer), John Noble (Denethor), Ian Holm (Bilbo), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Brad Dourif (Grima Wormtongue),

Coming out of the cinema in December 2003, having watched the theatrical release of Jackson’s final Tolkien instalment, it’s fair to say that emotions were mixed.  On the one hand there was the ecstasy at having seen something beyond your wildest dreams, a film to, as many critics said, totally reinvent both fantasy and epic cinema; a film that topped the previous instalments, which had to be content with being mere masterworks of the seventh art.  And yet, through all this handing out of garlands and superlatives to its director, and hoping that he would finally win the Oscar he lost to such unworthies as A Beautiful Mind and Chicago, there was a nagging feeling.  After watching Fellowship and Towers, one didn’t feel cheated at the cinema, but when the extended versions came out they embellished the tale.  With King, you really could see the cracks, you almost imagined in your head the sequences that were transparently missing – Saruman’s death, the capture of the Black Ships, Faramir’s romance with Éowyn and the avalanche of skulls in the mountain dwelling – and yet still it was a film for which the term magnificent was unworthy.  So would the glaring omissions be worthy of the film?  Silly question; with the single exception of Sam and Frodo briefly joining the orc armies, each scene enhanced the plot and all the cracks were filled and all doubts put firmly to rest. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2003 106m) DVD1/2

So much ‘More Than This’

p  Ross Katz, Sofia Coppola  d/w  Sofia Coppola  ph  Lance Acord  ed  Sarah Flack  m  Kevin Shields  art  Anne Ross, K.K.Barrett  cos  Nancy Steiner

Bill Murray (Bob Harris), Scarlett Johansson (Charlotte), Giovanni Ribisi (John), Anna Faris (Kelly), Fumihiro Hayashi,

Sofia Coppola’s fresh and funny masterpiece is that rarest of beasts; a film that plays with convention in a witty and original way and comes up fresh every time you see it.  A film that is not merely about Japanese customs, Tokyo or indeed going to any foreign places, as these are merely the outer levels.  At its lovely heart is a story of fate and being in the right place at the wrong time.  Or just about the power of unlikely friendships and how a single night can alter your life.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2000 113m) DVD1/2

Discount Inn, room 304

p  Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd  d/w  Christopher Nolan  story  Jonathan Nolan  ph  Wally Pfister  ed  Dody Dorn  m  David Julyan  art  Patti Podesta  cos  Cindy Evans

Guy Pearce (Leonard Shelly), Carrie Anne Moss (Natalie), Joe Pantoliano (John Edward Gemmell), Mark Boone Jnr (Burt), Stephen Tobolowsky (Sammy Jankis), Callum Keith Rennie (Dodd), Harriet Sansom Harris (Mrs Jankis), Jorja Fox (Leonard’s wife), Larry Holden (Jimmy Grantz), Russ Fega (waiter),

Let’s start at the very beginning” Julie Andrews once famously sung.  Well, I never did like that film very much.  Chris Nolan, the mastermind behind this psychological tour-de-force, seems to believe the opposite might be best, starting his cult classic at the end, and literally letting his narrative run in reverse, beginning with the ending.  Sounds confusing?  In truth it often is, but on reacquaintance the film makes more sense, not just in terms of its plot, but in terms of the reason for this narrative approach.

            Leonard Shelly is a hot shot insurance claims investigator from San Francisco whose wife has been raped and murdered.  He spends his days living in and out of the same room at a shabby motel trying to trace the man he believes is responsible.  The problem he has is that he has suffered from short term memory loss ever since the murder of his wife, and thus has to write things down or have them tattooed onto his body to remember them.  Two people seem most willing to help; a mysterious girl from a bar and an over-talkative fellow who seems to follow him wherever he goes and who Leonard is generally mistrusting of. (more…)

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Shubhajit's Number 10 film of the 2000s, Michael Heneke's 'The White Ribbon'

100 Best Movies of the 2000’s

by Shubhajit Lahiri

     The 2000’s have been the most incredible time of my two and a half decades’ worth existence. These last ten years have played the most singularly important part in determining not just who I am today, but also, in all probability, in who I will be (or continue to be) in the next few decades that I hope to remain alive.
     Some of the most memorable things of my life have occurred in these last 10 years – high school, graduation in mechanical engineering, hostel life, my first job. This was also the time I made some good friends who I hope will last this lifetime, I had my first tryst with love, I learnt to appreciate good books, good music and good cinema (as opposed to their more popular equivalents), I realised my deep and lifelong love for my city Calcutta, and a lot more, not necessarily scandalous, that I rather not recount here at this blog of mine.

So, without further ado, let me present what counts in my opinion the 100 best movies of the first decade of this millennium, or more appropriately, the 100 best of what I have had the utmost pleasure of seeing till now and being immensely enriched by.

1. No Country for Old Men (US, ’06) – Joel & Ethan Coen
2. Utsab (India, ’01) – Rituparno Ghosh
3. Pan’s Labyrinth (Mexico, ’06) – Guillermo Del Toro
4. Oldboy (S. Korea, ’04) – Park Chan-Wook
5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (Romania, ’07) – Cristian Mungiu
6. A History of Violence (UK/Canada, ’05) – David Cronenberg
7. Yi Yi (Taiwan, ’00) – Edward Yang
8. Shubho Mahurat (India, ’03) – Rituparno Ghosh
9. The Diving Bell & the Butterfly (France, ’07) – Julian Schnabel
10. The White Ribbon (Austria/Germany, ’09) – Michael Haneke (more…)

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