by Sam Juliano
As the school year winds down to its final days, some us have been pre-occupied with proms, graduations and retirement dinners, and the realization that some of our friends will be going their separate ways until September. Others have made plans for summer vacations and various day trips, while still some others (like our good friends Down Under) are actually beginning their winter season.
Here at Wonders in the Dark, our final decade poll (don’t quite think we’ll be around here in ten years ya know!) has entered the home stretch, with the usual combination of surprises and expected placements spurring on some lively discussion in the comment threads. After the final results of the polling are announced, there will be a one-month break before the horror poll launches. During that ‘poll-less’ period, a number of exciting features will be posted.
Yankee fans can rejoice in the 2-1 series win over the crosstown rival Mets at Yankee Stadium, while the World Cup seems to have devolved into a series of 1-1 ties, for USA, Italy and England fans. But there is a long way to go, and our guys Maurizio and Jamie are pumped up.
I saw two stage productions and five films in movie theatres over the past week, as well as two important DVDRs sent to me by Allan. I rarely discuss on this thread what I watch on DVD at home, but this one instance is well worth discussing, as one of the films (a Japanese work from 1947) is a supreme masterpiece of world cinema.
Experiencing Hair on Broadway (at the historic Al Hirshfeld Theatre on Thursday evening, June 17) with Lucille and Melanie was pure bliss, especially in view of the Tony Award-winning musical revival’s imminent closing at the end of June after an impressive run. But this was the ultimate interactive show, which served as a reminder of what a great score served this defining work of late 60’s and early 70’s hippie sub-culture. Some other surprises in the theatre had us all smiling from ear-to-ear. (review above diary, which includes clarification of the last point).
The previous night (Wednesday, June 16) I was solo, when I embraked on a trip to the ‘Producer’s Club Theatre’ on 44th Street to take in a 90 minute off-off-Broadway staging of a show titled Dickinson, William Roetzheim’s play, which ran for three weeks, timed to align with the opening of the Emily Dickinson Garden exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. According to playwright William Roetzheim, “The myth of Emily Dickinson is that she was a prudish Victorian spinster who wrote beautiful poetry. The reality of Emily Dickinson was that she was a stunning creative intellect coping with an emotionally and sexually abusive Father, an enabling mother, surfacing lesbian feelings, raging sexual emotions, and mental breakdowns. This play brings the real Emily Dickinson to life, with all of her depth and complexities, and takes the audience on a magical journey of love and discovery.”
In DICKINSON at the Producer’s Club Grande Theater, the secret story of Emily Dickinson is told thru the one-night dream of a playwright struggling to write a play worthy of her genius. Sadly, the play was static, uninvolving and claustrophobic (the theatre it was staged in gave a new meaning to the word “seedy”) and it was pure torture to sit through. The stage featured a shabby bed with a single chest of drawers and two chairs, and while the two central performers delivered sparkling portrayals, the words they spoke were redundant and a dare for audience members to stay awake, even with the short running time.
On the movie scene I managed:
Toy Story 3 ***** (Friday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work **** (Monday night) Chelsea Cinemas
Stonewall Uprising *** (Saturday night) Film Forum
Solitary Man **** (Saturday afternoon) Montclair Claridge Cinemas
Le Amiche (Antonioni; 1955) Film Forum; Sunday night
TOY STORY 3 pushes close to a five-star rating, and I applaud the film’s unanimous positive rating from critics, which will no doubt infuriate some bloggers looking to ‘stand apart.’ But great is great, and once again the Pixar wizards have crafted an engaging story to showcase their wonderful toys, and the animation is (heck, I am changing the rating to five right now!) on the level of the best Pixars. Unlike the previous Toy Story films, this one is deeply emotional in the end, and the deft combination of action, horror and wonderment make for a soaring, wholly exhilarating experience. Say it: Pixar rocks. Again: Pixar rocks. Again: Pixar rocks. (scroll down to read Marc Bauer’s magnificent review of TOY STORY 3, posted Sunday.)
Joan Rivers is one of the most colorful personalities in show business, whether you love her or despise the ground she walks on. The new documentary about her turbulent rise to fame, ultilizes clips from her stage shows, interviews with her, her daughter and inner circle and clips of her ill-fated husband, and other show-business luminaries. JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK is the year’s best documentary and a no-holds-barred examination of one of the most fascinating and irresistible entertainment icons.
STONEWALL UPRISING gives a fine overview of one of the gay movement’s defining moments, but it doesnt quite known down the barrier in presenting the facts that precipitated the mutiny staged at an infamous gay bar in 1969 that changed gay bias forever. The long lead-in on the oppression gays faced in the 40’s and 50’s was fascinating, even though simple and well-known. It’s a passable documentary, but it could have been and should have been much stronger.
SOLITARY MAN, shows Michael Douglas in denial: he’s getting old, he’s extremely unlikeable and he’s become a complete failure. Brian Koppleman’s probing film is far better than one would think, and this could well be Douglas finest performance of his career. Against all odds, it’s a wholly riveting drama.
The two DVDRs I watched were the Japanese The Ball at Anjo’s House (a 1947 masterpiece of the cinema) and Renoir’s La Nuit du Carrefore, which is narratively flawed, but still an essential work. I’ll have more to say in the future.
As of this writing I have tentative plans to see Antonioni’s restored LE AMICHE at the Film Forum at 10:00 P.M. tonight if I finish my review of Hair. The Italian film is a masterpiece of the cinema, and I think I’ll be able to make it. (I just arrived home from my trip to the Film Forum, and I’ll have more to say about this great Antonioni film later today on this thread).
The blogosphere is sizzling, even more than the weather:
Just Another Film Buff continues to dazzle the film community with top-rank writing that raises the bar in every sense, even when he disents, as he does here with a popular Indian feature, Raavan. The review here belongs in a published volume, and teh comment section is Hall of Fame material. http://theseventhart.info/2010/06/18/ramayana-reloaded/
Judy at Movie Classics has resumed her extraordinary series on pre-Code Wellmans with an essential piece on a rarely seen film, Stingaree. Another must-read, especially for fans of early 30’s American cinema, Judy’s specialty period: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/stingaree-1934/
Kevin Olson continues to prepare for the upcoming horror poll at WitD, and here’s his latest stellar appraisal of another batch of horror essentials: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/summer-of-slash-capsule-reviews-part-3.html
Dave Hicks’s spectacularly-popular ‘Director’s Series’ yielded a major-surprise with the #21 placement of noir specialist Robert Siodmak, who nonetheless is one of the form’s most accomplished auteurs: http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2010/06/21-robert-siodmak.html
John Greco’s latest stellar review, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is showcasing at “The Twenty Four Frames”: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/they-shoot-horses-dont-they-1969-sydney-pollack/
Dee Dee’s superlative interview series with Film Noir Kingpin Tony d’Ambra is nearing its conclusion. The lastest post at Darkness into Light is a consideration of film noir icon Samuel Fuller: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2010/06/counting-down-thirty-one-film-noirs_18.html
Donophon’s excellent series on the films of Jean-Pierre Melville continues with a superb treatment of one of the director’s supreme masterpieces, Army of Shadows at his place: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/2010/06/jean-pierre-melville-larmee-des-ombres.html
Tony d’Ambra continues his incomparable scholarly work at FilmsNoir.net with an exquisite piece on a 1949 RKO work, Follow Me Quietly, that’s well worth a read: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/the-aesthetic-of-the-b-noir-follow-me-quietly-rko-1949.html
The extraordinarily prolific and ceaselessly energetic Longman Oz, of film, theatre and music fame is cutting back a bit for the summer, though it’s doubtful his overall input will be compromised all that much at his Irish osasis of culture and the arts: http://noordinaryfool.com/2010/06/18/aweekinmusic53/
Kaleem Hasan also has an excellent post up on Raavan up at his ever-prolific “Satyamshot” blogsite: http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/when-the-gods-fall-gf-on-raavan/
Still moving ahead with Peril, filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman has supplented his original annual countdown with some additions of films he has just noew gotten to, and will be commenting on them at his site sidebar. The first entry includes some timeless classics: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2010/06/upcoming-agenda.html
David Schleicher has a wildly-enthusiastic review up at The Schleicher Spin on one of the year’s bets films, Winter’s Bone, which is truly a must-read: http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/killing-kin-in-the-ozarks/
Ed Howard’s post on the 50 Greatest Albums of the 2000s may well be his most spectacular ever, and what with an exquisite layout, beautiful graphics, and splendid erudition and placements, one can’t at all be surprised with one of his greatest comment sections ever, aside from this monthly work with Jason Bellamy: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2010/06/best-albums-of-2000s-50-1.html
Craig Kennedy is fighting the flu, but this perennial trooper is hitting the Los Angeles Film festival hard this week, and he’s sure as ever to uncover a few gems: http://livingincinema.com/2010/06/17/the-2010-los-angeles-film-festival/
Michael, the enterprising ‘Coffee Messiah’ is on the couch escaping the heat and humidity in the Hoosier State, and he’s listening to Tom Jones doing Dylan: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2010/06/what-good-am-i.html
Yet more kudos (this time from Word Press) for the wonderful Terrell Welch (a.k.a. as the Creative Potager) who’s reminding all of us of the real beauty in this world: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/squishy-hug-of-thanks-wordpress/
Pat is back, and in a big way at her Doodad Kind of Town home, with excellent reviews of both Please Give and Peter Medak’s The Ruling Class. It’s great stuff!: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2010/06/in-praise-of-stealth-performers.html
Shubhajit has posted a fantastic Top 100 of the 2000’s at his place, wich coincides perfectly with the ongoing WitD polling: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2010/06/100-best-movies-of-2000s.html
Marilyn Ferdinand has a superlative review up at Ferdy-on-Films on a documentary Murder on a Sunday Morning, which is an absolutely fascinating read: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=5174
Troy Olson has been busy with work and with beautiful Madelyn as of late, but he’s still watching horror films and posting, in prep for the upcoming WitD polling, which he will help to negotiate: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2010/06/more-horror-movies-in-just-one-sentence.html
With the opening of Toy Story 3, Samuel Wilson examines his ‘Top 10′ of “thirds” and it’s fabulous post at “Mondo 70″: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2010/06/who-wants-thirds-top-ten-list.html
Jon Lanthier has a fabulous DVD review up at “Aspiring Sellout” via SLANT MAGAZINE on the Criterion Mystery Train from Jim Jarmusch: http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/mystery-train-/1749
J.D. at Radiator Heaven continues to pen long essays of superb scope and erudition, and his lastest is Frantic by Roman Polanski: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2010/06/frantic.htm
The ever-perceptive and eloquent Drew McIntosh has a top-rank essay on Linklater’s Tape up at “The Blue Vial”: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2010/06/tape-richard-linklater-2001.html
Stephen has just returned from Romania (what a great place to visit!) with a split decision on the Romanian Police Adjective at “Checking on My Sauages”: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2010/06/police-adjective.html
Back from the greatest time of his life -his wedding- Dan Getahun is slowly returning to the blogging scene, but he’s be well-advised to do it slowly: http://getafilm.blogspot.com/2010/06/white-elephant-blogathon-summerthe.html
Andrew Wyatt has a superbly-penned dismissal up of The Wolfman at “Gateway” that typically raises the tone: http://gatewaycinephiles.com/2010/06/15/late-to-the-game-the-wolfman/
Dave Van Poppel’s excellent review of the widely praised documentary Exit Through the Gift House still headlines at his Visions of Non-Fiction blogsite: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com/2010/06/exit-through-gift-shop.html
Film Dr.’s popular ‘Things I Like’ series continues with an intriguing examination of Josh Brolin’s Jonah Hex that’s well-worth a look-see: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2010/06/hellhounds-of-damned-15-things-i-liked.html
Ric Burke, at the resurrected “Films from the Soul” site has a review up on the second part of Soderbergh’s Che that continues where he left off: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2010/06/hellhounds-of-damned-15-things-i-liked.html
Tony Dayoub at “Cinema Viewfinder” promotes a DVD A Star is Born giveaway: http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2010/06/star-is-born-deluxe-edition-dvd.html
Alexander Coleman has resurfaced after a long absense at his place for a terrific and exhautive consideration of Scorsese’s Shutter Island: http://colemancornerincinema.blogspot.com/2010/06/shutter–island–2010.html
Adam Zanzie’s much-anticipated John Huston Blogathon is set for August 5th at “Icebox Movies”: http://iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2010/06/announcing-john-huston-blogathon.html
Jeopardy Girl speaks of the elusive ideals of friendship and compassion at her intimate and always thoughful blog: http://jeopardygirl.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/how-bout-next-time-i-just-ignore-you/
R.D. Finch at “The Movie Projector” has penned another very fine review on a noir semi-classic: http://movieprojector.blogspot.com/2010/06/house-of-strangers-1949.html