Archive for October 25th, 2010

(Bob Clark, 1974)

(essay by Kevin)

Ever since I was a kid I can remember the coverbox to Bob Clark’s Black Christmas. It wasn’t just the simplicity of the title and its juxtaposition of those two words or the fact that it was directed by the man who gave us A Christmas Story and Porky’s, but it was the image on the front: a woman screaming with a plastic bag over her head, and the image of this woman was inside of a wreath. I remember that I needed to see this movie. However it wasn’t until I was much older that I finally got a chance to visit Black Christmas, and I was shocked to not just find a really terrifying and intense stalker film, but to also find one of the earliest examples of what would later be known as the “slasher film”.

With hindsight we can clearly say that the plot – a bunch of girls in a sorority house are being harassed by obscene phone calls that are…COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE! – is as banal as any slasher film’s plot. However, Clark’s film predates Halloween by four years, and Friday the 13th – the film responsible for making the slasher profitable – by six years; however, none of that seems relevant if we’re discussing who came up with the template first because despite the Canadian’s having a four year edge on the American’s they were all behind the Italian’s, where Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood predates Black Christmas by three years. (more…)

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Screen capture from Clint Eastwood’s ‘Hereafter’ playing wide

by Sam Juliano

The World Series match-up has been decided, and the Yankees and Phils are inexplicably MIA.  The last thing any baseball fan expected (aside from those living in the Bay City and Arlington) was a Texas Rangers-San Francisco Giants final.  Yet, with two Cinderella teams locking horns, it’s sure to be a Fall Classic for the ages.  As a die-hard lifelong Yankee fan I almost always root for the AL respresentative, but I’m not so sure this time around who I’ll be rooting for.  Seems like the Giants know how to win one-run games, and that’s a major factor.  Meanwhile Big Apple football fans are having a grand old time with the area football teams playing to top capacity, though the Jets had lady luck on their side at the end of their narrow victory.

Marilyn Ferdinand has completed her outstanding coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival, a project that has brought out a plethora of praise from all quarters, as well as exciting many awaiting theatrical release dates.  Her final round-up has resulted in one of the most spectacular threads ever at Ferdy-on-Films. Jason Marshall continues his amazing project at Movies Over Matter the whole scope of cinematic achievement from the 30’s forward, while two gifted writers, Jake Cole and Adam Zanzie have penned extraordinary reviews of Empire of the Sun and To Kill A Mockingbird at their respective homes. (linked below)  Brest wishes always to our dear friends Dee Dee and Longman Oz, who are temporaily tending to other matters of importance. Their sites will return for sure.

The Wonders in the Dark horror countdown has reached the final stretch run with the monumental one-month project scheduled to end (appropriately) enough on Halloween – Sunday the 31st.  Jamie Uhler, Kevin and Troy Olson and Robert Taylor have given the site their blood, sweat and tears, and have collaborated to attract distinguished visitors and the usual site loyalists, all of whom have penned impressive responses day after day.

This week, I wasn’t as busy on the movie front as usual, as off-Broadway plays and a concert (with a film screening included) dominated the completed itinerary.  I did see Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter and this week’s Ozu gem, and it was a special thrill to participate in a “sing-a-long” of the musical landmark West Side Story as part of the Leonard Bernstein tribute concert at Symphony Space on the upper West Side.  I did watch the three-hour This is England ’86 on Region 2 DVD, and I must say it took the story and characters of the original theatrical film much further.

I saw these films in a theatre:

Hereafter **       (Sunday evening) Edgewater Multiplex

Late Autumn  **** 1/2  (Sunday morning)  IFC Film Center

Wednesday evening’s off-Broadway show Kimberly Akimbo, which was staged at the Spoon Theatre on West 38th Street, was a well-intentioned work that is billed as  “a hilarious and heartrending play about a teenager with a rare condition causing her body to age faster than it should. When she and her family flee Secaucus under dubious circumstances, Kimberly is forced to reevaluate her life while contending with a hypochondriac mother, a rarely sober father, a scam artist aunt, her own mortality and, most terrifying of all, the possibility of first love.”  Sadly, the work’s threadbare minimalism, staged in a tiny (and seedy) theatre with scarcely 24 seats was dramatically unconvincing due to pedestrian staging and tedious narrative progression, accentuated by mediocre performances.  The play failed to engage from the opening minutes, yet one could easily surmise the material has promise in more capable hands.

On Friday night, Melanie and Broadway Bob accompanied me to Symphony Space on Broadway and 95th Street to take in a unique tribute to a great American composer titled Leonard Bernstein: A Celebration, which featured a choir and musicians performing “A Simple Song” from his 1971 Mass, his beloved “Chichester Psalms” (1965), a piano rendition of West Side Story’s “Somewhere” and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide. An eleven-year old singer, Richard Pittsinger was marvelous in his solo segment, and the appearance on stage of 80 year-old soprano Marni Nixon (who provided the dubbed voice for Natalie Wood in West Side Story) brought thunderous applause from the packed audience in the packed auditorium as she ascended the steps to the stage.  Nixon engaged in some nostalgic anecdotes with other celebrities and tribute coordinators, before yielding to a mega-screen presentation of the complete West Side Story which including English subtitles for the song segments.  Although I have never been ashamed to sing these operatic treasures in my own home, I was reluctant to do so in public.  I must say though it was quite a treat to hear Broadway Bob singing “I Feel Pretty” in particular!  Melanie had a great time too!

And then there was Play Dead, an interactive off-Broadway staging at the Player’s Theatre on MacDougal Street, (experienced on Saturday night)which featured Todd Robbins as a macabre illusionist who pulled crusty naked women out of coffin replicas, poured “hydrochloric acid” over living specimens (turning them into skeletons) and helped to orchestrate a completely darkened theatre with some jolting noises and a some imaginitive stage props (including white blankets).  Lucille, Bob and I sat in the front row and were splashed with water (filling in for visual stage blood in a scene where the multi-talented Robbins feigned eating the head of a live rat) and were part of a pre-play questionnaire by an usher who asked us to identify someone we know that recently died.  It was the one aspect of the production I disliked intensely.  All in all a respectable Halloween show, though at times the extended “darkness” grew rather tedious.

Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter was ponderous, ludicrous and poorly paced.  With the exception of a stunning tidal wave sequence that appeared at the beginning, the film was a torture to sit through.  Damon was wasted. (more…)

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