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Archive for January, 2011

Cap from Romanian prison drama "If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle"

by Sam Juliano

The Golden Globes, the American Library Association and the National Football League were heard from in a very big way over the past week, and some of the results were most unexpected.  Sure, the Globes handed out their top awards to The Social Network, David Fincher, Natalie Portman and Colin Firth, but with only the Oscars left to report in, every group in America has been pushing the same buttons.  On the other fronts, some surprises materialized.  For one, the New York Jets eliminated the high-flying New England Patriots from the playoffs up in Foxboro, leaving the heart-stopping Gang Green a victory from the Super Bowl.  At least one WitD alumni has good reason to be disappointed with this 28-21 result, which catapults the Jets into the AFC title game with the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.

The Caldecott and Newbery Medals were announced last Monday morning by the American Library Association at their mid-Winter meeting in San Diego, and at least three illustrators on the Caldecott front must surely be seeing red.  David Weisner’s Art & Max, Sarah Birdsong and Matt Phaeger’s Flora’s Windy Day and Bill Thomson’s Chalk were snobbed, though Phillip and Erin Stead’s A Sick Day For Amos McGee was a rightly popular choice for the Caldecott Gold.  The “honor” books were limited to two: David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken and Bryan Collier’s Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, while the Newbery Gold went to Claire Vanderpool’s Moon Over Manifest.  Four honor books were named as well.  I plan to cover the awards soon in a future post, as this has been much of a lifetime obsession in acquiring all the winners for use in my classes, as well as to collect the great art and stories. (more…)

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Bob’s 2010 Top Ten

Making a top-ten list for the films of any given decade is always a fairly tricky affair, for any number of reasons. Do you wait until you’ve seen all the critically acclaimed films out in release, even the ones you’re sure to be as diametrically opposed to as much as everyone else is enthusiastically in favor of? Do you include late releases from one or two years ago, those international films which are sometimes slow to reach the art-house circuit, which is nowadays so busy with relatively mainstream fare? Do you even limit yourself to a mere count of ten, or perhaps try to find some more personal frame of reference that doesn’t rely on the metric system so much? In the end, the only answers worth anything are the films you decide to list above all others, even if they aren’t popular, up-to-date or neat and tidy. For what it’s worth, here are the releases from the past year that I was most struck by.

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by Allan Fish

(France 1976 144m) DVD2 (France only, no Eng subs)

Aka. Northwest Wind; Noroit (une vengeance)

The Judas of the hours

p  Stéphane Tchalgadjieff  d  Jacques Rivette  w  Jacques Rivette, Marilu Parolini, Eduardo de Gregorio  play  “The Revengers Tragedy” by Cecil Tourneur  ph  William Lubtchansky  ed  Nicole Lubtchansky  m  Daniel Ponsard, Jean Cohen-Solal, Robert Cohen-Solal  art  Eric Simon  cos  Renée Renard

Geraldine Chaplin (Morag), Kika Markham (Erika), Bernadette Lafont (Giula), Babette Lamy (Regina), Élisabeth Lafont (Elisa), Danièle Rosencranz (Celia), Carole Faurenty (Charlotte), Anne-Marie Fijal (Fiao), Humbert Balsan (Jacob),

A woman is grieving over the body of her lifeless brother.  He’s washed up ashore on a beach across the bay from a peninsular at the end of which stands a castle.  She turns in the direction of the castle, barely visible through the dusky light, and invokes a curse in clipped English; “O thou goddess of the palace, mistress of mistresses, to whom the costly perfumed people pray, strike down my forehead unto undaunted marble, mine eyes into steady sapphires, turn my visage and, if I needs must glow, let me blush inward.”  The very opaque inscrutability of such a curse sums up Noroit’s appeal. 

            Essentially what we have is a series of vignettes, of almost tableaux, acted out much as if in a dream state, like a cinematic flipside to a Poussin painting entitled ‘A Dance to the Music of Death’.  There is a plot, of said grieving sister getting revenge on those who killed her brother, yet this is somewhat incidental to the events that take place.  This is the cinema of make believe, the acting is deliberately overstated and when death does strike it does much as it may in a school play, with an almost hypnotic sense of the surreal.  Nothing can be taken for granted; even the cause of vengeance is blurred, for though she intones as if over her brother, he may actually be her lover, or even both, as when she cries out later in the piece “O hour of incest”.  (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

Once again I part from my literature endeavours to talk about something that you must watch and take under consideration as one of the best movies or audiovisual projects of the year. The biggest problem this time, in comparison to my earlier ‘installment’ is that this work is from 2010, and that year has just passed, we are in 2011, a new year, a year we look at with optimism and joy, expecting it to be a better year than that dreadful (for me) 2010. But I don’t care, if this is a work from 2010, you still can see it and make a last minute ammendment to your top 10-20-25-30-50-100 movies of 2010, it even counts if you put it as a special or honorable mention, even better if you’re like me and do your top 10 around February, but I think that’s just me and my attempt to make a list as complete as possible, complete meaning after seeing every movie I was interested in seeing at the start of the year.

Ah, but there’s another thing to be worried about. This is a short film, almost 6 minutes long, and sometimes people don’t consider short films in their lists, yet they don’t have trouble considering ‘L’Àge D’Or’ one of the best films on 1930, even if it’s 60 minutes long, same thing goes to the other Buñuel short ‘Un chien andalou’. On this site we had not so long ago an overload of short films in the splendid animation countdown, and nobody complained (I was the happiest with this selections, specially with ‘Destino’), so I think that if you see a short film of the year you are in (well… kinda), it  should have a shot at being in your list as much as the latest european religious drama, an english minimalist BBC miniseries or the usual big budget action Hollywood movie. At least, that’s what I do.

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When I decided to make my top-ten for 2010’s best films, I was struck by how many movies I either wasn’t holding in common with other critics, or how many of my own little-loved favorites I could even find space for in my highest estimation. Sometimes you don’t love the same things that everybody else does, and sometimes you don’t love something quite enough to recommend it as highly as everything else. Still, both things are just as worthy of some short consideration as even the most personal of favorites, so here are my immediate runners up for the past year’s most interesting fare.

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by Allan Fish

(France 1969 250m) not on DVD

Aka. Forbidden Love

Why must you, cruel one, inflame my wounds?

p  Georges de Beauregard  d  Jacques Rivette  w  Jacques Rivette, Marilu Parolini  ph  Alain Levant, Etienne Becker  ed  Nicole Lubtchansky  m  Jean-Claude Eloy

Bulle Ogier (Claire), Jean-Pierre Kalfon (Sebastien), Josée Destoop (Marta), Michèle Moretti (Michèle), Dennis Berry (Dennis), Yves Beneyton (Yves),

There’s something almost sado-masochistic at work here.  Ostensibly it’s a film about a marriage, and about that marriage’s disintegration, but as with so much of Rivette it’s a lot more besides.  This was truly the pivotal film in his career.  It was the film that turned him from the meticulous director of Paris Nous Appartient and the rigorous La Religieuse into the intelligentsia darling of the seventies.  It all really began here.

            Claire and Sebastien are a married couple working on a production of Racine’s ‘Andromaque’ when Claire, cast in the role of Hermione, stops and walks off the stage mid-rehearsal complaining at the invasion of the modish TV cameras there to record the creative process.  Sebastien is thus left with wondering how to keep the production alive, and how to deal with the gradual crumbling of his marriage, during which time Claire undergoes a form of equal parts breakdown and epiphany. (more…)

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Exquiste, enigmatic 'Lourdes' is the best film of 2010

by Sam Juliano

     The prevailing opinion expressed by a fair number of bloggers is that the just-expired year was not particularly memorable in the world of movies.  Some compiled lists in the spirit of ‘the best of the least’ and seemed to have little to be excited about.  Still, while just about as many were far more favorable in their summary assessment, it appears that most of the lingering euphoria surrounds a plethora of foreign-language releases, which arrived on these shores steadily over the twelve month period, with some carry-overs from 2009, when they opened in their respective countries.  Any ten-best list that fails to acknowledge cinema from board, though still artistically valid, can be seen as lazy in construction and predicated on a paucity of available contenders.  The most dedicated and enthusiastic bloggers can be relied on to seek out as much of the newer crop as is physically negotiable, this invariably leads to the most informed and interesting year-end wrap.  2010 was no better or no worse than the years immediately preceeding it, and in all probability won’t be eclipsed by the coming years.  For those adventurous souls with the hankering and the wherewithal to put in the needed investments, there are always between 30 and 40 films each and every year that will reward cineastes with a bevy of accomplished works by world-class directors, and some notable independents and documentaries, in large measure by artists trying to make their marks.  Hence, for those throwing up their hands, I pose that they must seek out and not wait for the films to come to them. (more…)

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