by Sam Juliano
The harshness of winter continues to exert all kinds of practical adversity to those in the Northeast, but others in the midwest and the south have fared little better in this most infamously memorable of seasons. While framing the events of a blog which are experienced and enacted in a largely ‘indoor’ venue with outdoor conditions might be a bit inconsequential, it does affect those who are busy making their way to theatres and concert halls, much less to their daily jobs. In any event, another old-fashioned blizzard is tentatively scheduled for mid-week in the NYC area, so the old warnings are still in place.
With the PGA, DGA and SAG well in hand it’s clear now that the British period piece The King’s Speech is well on it’s way to big-time Oscar glory. As I consider it one of the year’s best films, I am smiling at this development, especially since it appeared for two months that The Social Network had this all wrapped up.
Here at Wonders in the Dark, a number of posts have been very well-received by readers, continuing an excellent tradition of the site moving in a number of artistic directions. Jamie Uhler penned his ninth installment in his seminal “Getting Over the Beatles” series, while his near-namesake young Chilean Jaime Grijalba presented his Top 20 of the Year, a list to rank with the best of them. Again, this marvelous young scholar has written with great authority, erudition and taste in making a stellar contribution to the WitD and his own place, Exodus: 8:2. Boldly, and with singular passion, Grijalba named Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan the best film of 2010. Bob Clark has penned two more superb marathon essays on science-fiction and animine, while Allan Fish’s landmark ‘Fish Obscuro’ series continues forward with splendid essays on films by Jean Epstein and Marcel Pagnol. Maurizio Roca’s ‘film noir’ countdown draws nearer, while Bob Clark’s promised ‘weekend’ consideration of science fiction is also one the verge of fruition. The film noir accent of the site, graphically engineered by Dee Dee, coincides with both the Film Noir preservation blogothon launching at Ferdy-on-Films and the ‘Fritz Lang in Hollywood’ Festival running at the Film Forum until February 10. Tony d’Ambra’s 11 line poem on Black Swan has again raised the bar for creativity in an area where he has frankly been untouchable.
This week I saw one ‘new’ release (with Kaleem Hasan) and four noir classics in the Fritz Lang in Hollywood Festival at the Film Forum with Lucille and Robert McCartney. I also took in the new stage production at the Irish Repetory Theatre, Molly Sweeney, on Saturday night with Lucille and Broadway Bob Eagleson.
Biutiful **** 1/2 (Sunday morning) Chelsea Cinemas
The Big Heat ***** (Friday night) Film Forum
Human Desire **** (Friday night) Film Forum
Scarlet Street **** 1/2 (Sunday night) Film Forum
The Woman in the Window **** (Sunday night) Film Forum
Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT is one of film noir’s defining moments, a perfect wedding of 40’s noir with the hard-hitting expose films of the 50’s. Ford has never been better, and the ‘corruption of a good man’s soul’ is it’s most fascinating ingredient. Film is about paranoia, power and fatalism, and the violence is ferocious. The film represents Gloria Graham’s finest screen portrayal, and one of noir’s most brilliant scripts by Sidney Boehm, and moody photography by Charles Lang. Paired off with this popular masterwork is another Lang-Ford-Grahame collaboration, HUMAN DESIRE, a fatalistic drama based on Jean Renoir’s LA BETE HUMAINE, which in turn was a based on a novel by Emile Zola. In Renoir’s film, Ford’s character is played by Jean Gabin, who as a sexual psychopath makes a much more interesting character than Ford’s confused war veteran. Still, HUMAN DESIRE is taut, gripping and well-acted, timed and written. Based on Jean Renoir’s LA CHIENNE, the dark and nihilist SCARLET STREET is one of noir’s most celebrated features. Edward G. Robinson as a reserved ice pick killer and Joan Bennett as a scheming femme fatale are top-notch, and the film builds to some well-placed shocks. But there’s so much more to say on this one. WOMAN IN THE WINDOW again teams Robinson and Bennett in a take of psychoanalysis and dreams. Pairing these too is a no-brainer for a number of reasons. In any case both are superior Lang.
Javier Bardem’s extraordinary performance in BIUTIFUL anchors another impressive effort by the talented Innaritu, who brings some raw ugliness to a film, aptly described by some as a tone poem, but a juxtoposition of themes he broached in previous work. It’s a bit uneven, but all things considered it’s a searing work that takes it’s place among the best films of the year.
Brian Thiel’s MOLLY SWEENEY at the Irish Repetory Theatre (directed by Charlotte Moore) is really a non-play, which is comprised of non-stop monologues by three thespians for it’s two hour running time. Stage minimalism to the extreme and the lack of interaction will turn off many, by the noted Irish playright, who has been up for Tony Awards for some other works, hits the mark a number of times in this story of blindness and remembrance. I hope to have a full review very soon, but what with the frantic activity this weekend I couldn’t negotiate it. Lucille, Broadway Bob and I saw the Saturday evening show.
And now for our enthralling weekend tour around the blogosphere:
In conjunction with the Film Forum’s Fritz Lang Festival, WitD is thrilled to offer up the superlative capsule review by Tony d’Ambra on The Big Heat in the FilmsNoir.net archives, which examines the film in a ‘social’ context: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/the-big-heat-as-social-critique.html
John Greco continues to pen some of the finest reviews online, and he’s as prolific as anyone out there. His Twenty Four Frames review of the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup is a sure model of it’s kind: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/duck-soup-1933–leo-mccarey/
Longman Oz is back! And this is meaningful news for all bloggers who like wit, occasional caustic humor, and artistic diversity in their tea. The resilient Irishman (a favorite in these parts) is back at a place called SmiledYawnedNodded, where he continues his highbrow coverage of the Dublin stage, film and progressive music. His most recent review is of a play titled, As You Are Now So Once Were We: http://smiledyawnednodded.com/
Dee Dee at Darkness Into Light is also back, though she never really left, with a dazzling post appraising the Castro Film Festival, the Fundraiser blogothons at Ferdy-on-Films and Cinema Styles and the just-launched Fritz Lang Festival at the Film Forum. Her rotating newspaper is a gem!http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2011/01/extra-extrataking-look-at-twelve-films.html
Drew McIntosh has a dazzling showcase of five incredible stills from Val Lewton’s masterpiece I Walked With a Zombie up at The Blue Vial. A visit wil insure a re-visit of this timeless horror classic: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2011/01/five-from-favorite-i-walked-with-zombie.html
Stephen Russell-Gebbett has again gone the creative route with an exceedingly thoughtful piece on the ‘acting’ in the Coens’ True Grit: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2011/01/true-grit-good-and-bad-acting.html
One of the most original and witty pieces offered up this year is over at The Schleicher Spin, where the eternally-enterprising David S. presents for your approval, Somewhere Out There I Write A Letter to Sophia Coppola. David also asks readers to rate Ms. Coppola’s career so far: http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/01/28/somewhere-out-there-i-write-a-letter-to-sofia-coppola/
Judy Geater has authored yet another review you can take to the bank, and she claims she was eager to see the film, knowing the influence it had on William Wellman’s A Star is Born. Anyway, the review of George Cukor’s What Price Hollywood? at Movie Classics is a sure Hall of Famer: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/what-price-hollywood-george-cukor-1932/
From all around the world readers are responding to Michael Harford’s marvelous ‘Mail Art Call’ at the revered Coffee Messiah blogsite: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2010/12/mail-art-call.html
Jason Marshall moves on magnificently with his discussion of 1938 cinema, with an exquisite essay on his #4 film of that year: the Russian The Childhood of Maxim Gorky at Movies Over Matter: http://moviesovermatter.com/2011/01/28/the-childhood-of-maxim-gorky-best-pictures-of-1938-4/
Adam Zanzie is reporting with passion and precision at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah! The young man is having the time of his life!: http://iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/
Roderick Heath is heading up at Ferdy-on-Films with an exceedingly brilliant examination (allow yourself to be ensnared by that fascinating historical leadin!) of an Australian feature titled Van Nieman’s Land: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=8124
Meanwhile, down at This Island Rod, the double-duty Mr. Heath sustains the same kind of writing expertise with a striking essay on the rarely seen Malpertuis: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2011/01/belgian-director-harry-kumel-having.html
Marilyn Ferdinand just updated with her fantastic review of Dennis Potter’s television work Cream in my Coffee: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=8164
Kevin Olson has posted his ‘Year in Review’ for 2010. It’s a grand post indeed at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/year-in-review-images-from-my-favorite.html
Troy Olson has authored a brilliant entry in his Robert Bresson series at Elusive as Robert Denby: The Life and Times of Troy with a scholarly treatment of Les Anges du Peche: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2011/01/robert-bresson-les-anges-du-peche.html
Jaime Grijalba has named Groupies at the ‘worst film of 2010′ in a splendidly-penned assessment at Exodus 8:2: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2011/01/la-peor-pelicula-del-2010-groupie-2010.html
Again, the ever-reliable Samuel Wilson has penned an intricate appraisal of a film that few have taken on: Phil Karlson’s The Brothers Rico at Mondo 70: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2011/01/brothers-rico-1957.html
Laurie Buchanan is up to “Life Path 5″ on her journey to size up the traits and notable characteristics of those who fall by way of bithdate under some telling sub-headings. The fascinating ramifications are up there at Speaking From the Heart: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/life-path-5/
Greg Ferrara at Cinema Styles honors the passing today of one of the titans of film music, the incomparable genius John Barry: http://cinemastyles.blogspot.com/2011/01/john-barry-1933-2011.html
‘Michael Wood on True Grit’ is featured over at Satyamshot: http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/michael-wood-on-true-grit/
Jon Lanthier offers up a penetrating capsule from his Slant Magazine review of Johnny Mad Dog, a French-Liberian look at excessive violence and children toting guns and terrorizing natives in this thinly-veiled but still ambiguous polemic. It’s over at Aspiring Sellout: http://aspiringsellout.com/2011/01/johnny-mad-dog-2008/
Craig Kennedy at Living in Cinema reports on the incredible choice of Tom Hooper as Best Director for The King’s Speech from the DGA, a result that has sent shock waves through Hollywood: http://livingincinema.com/2011/01/30/dga-picks-kings-speech-do-i-stutter/
Dan Getahun at Getafilm has posted a great essay titled “Playing With the Truth: Film in 2010 at his place: http://getafilm.blogspot.com/2011/01/playing-with-truth-film-in-2010.html
Terrill Welch, the distinguished ‘Creativepotager’ and artist extraordinaire has a dazzling new oil painting up at her place, showcasing the ‘orange sea.’ It’s another feast for the eyes from Mayne Island in the Pacific Northwest: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/new-oil-painting-orange-sea/
Just Another Film Buff takes a look at 2010 through some defining images at The Seventh Art: http://theseventhart.info/2011/01/29/2010-at-a-glance/
Filmmaker/critic Jeffrey Goodman has devoted a few posts at The Last Lullaby on the Sundance Film Festival, which is still going in Utah. Goodman offers up a recent article on ‘Sundance Sales’ which is most interesting: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2011/01/sundance-sales-2.html
Shubhajit at Cinemascope has composed one of his very best pieces ever on the once-neglected noir The Big Combo: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2011/01/big-combo-1955.html
Over at Vermillion and One Nights, our friend in Tokyo, “Murderous Ink” continues his incomparable analytical dissection of one of the greatest of all films: Ozu’s There Was A Father. There really has never been anything like this anywhere, not even from the published film scholars!: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2011/01/analysis-of-there-was-father-003000.html
Ed Howard’s latest essay is a very fine one on Ben Affleck’s The Town at Only the Cinema: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2011/01/town.html
At The Continuing Saga of Jeopardy Girl, JG broaches a number of subjects, including her happiness at hearing of Christian Bale’s Oscar nomination: http://jeopardygirl.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/newsofda/
As part of a Hitchcock blogothon, R.D. Finch has penned a very fine review of The Wrong Man at The Movie Projector: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2011/01/cmba-hitchcock-blogathon-wrong-man-1956.html
Our very good friend Pat has a brand new piece up at Doodad Kind of Town, a loving tribute to fallen director Blake Edwards: http://doodadkindoftown.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/farewell-blake-edwards/
J.D.’s latest excellent essay is on the James Spader-starring Jack’s Back. It’s up at that hallowed hall of cinematic reverence, Radiator Heaven: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2011/01/jacks-back.html
Sachin at Scribbles and Ramblings lists and discusses the 2010 Foreign Film Candidates for the Oscar, and specifies which of these he has seen to this point. There is some great stuff there: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2011/01/2010-foreign-language-film-oscar.html
Anu, at The Confidential Report has posted a spectacular Top 10 list that again shows why and how he’s an ultimate cineaste: –2010/http://theconfidentialreport.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/top-ten-of\
Dave Van Poppel has written a superlative review of Derek Cianfrance’s extraordinary Blue Valentine at his place that’s essential reading: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com/2011/01/realist-cinema-blue-valentine.html
Hokahey has what appears to be an excellent piece up at Little Worlds on the new Anthony Hopkins horror film, The Rite: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2011/01/hannibal-lecter-meets-exorcist-rite.html
Ryan Kelly has posted a uniquely fascinating ‘Best Movies of 2010′ list at Medfly Quarantine: http://medflyquarantine.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-2010-movies.html
Jason Bellamy has a superlative review of How to Train Your Dragon up at The Cooler: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2011/01/lesssons-in-looking-up-how-to-train.html
Jack Cole’s newest mega-essay is on Tony Scott’s Man on Fire. It’s over at Not Just Movies: http://armchairc.blogspot.com/2011/01/man-on-fire.html
Film Doctor leads up with a post on ‘augmented links’ at his place: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2011/01/augmented-links.html