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Archive for February 21st, 2011

Director: Jules Dassin

Producer: Mark Hellinger

Screenwriter: Richard Brooks

Cinematographer: William Daniels

Music: Miklos Rozsa

Studio: Universal 1947

Main Acting: Burt Lancaster and Hume Cronyn

Many people might vote for Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption as the greatest American prison drama film. Me, I’ll stick with this 1947 Jules Dassin picture. Bleak, somber, and with more than its fair share of suffocating gloominess, the relentless despair is served on a cold plate like the rancid food the convicts are forced to eat. Inside the jail house walls, Captain Munsey (played brilliantly with reptilian grace by Hume Cronyn) presides over the proceedings with an obsessed dictator’s calculated preciseness: nothing exceeds his grip without his approval and know-how. For Dassin, the prison is a place where morals vanish, or at the least, get trampled on. Absolute power over the incarcerated is the ultimate ambition for the corrupt authority figures. Rehabilitation is not a concern, only the ability to exert one’s supremacy over the hapless many. As Warden A. J. Barnes (played by the future blacklisted actor Roman Bohnen) says near the beginning of the movie, “You know what this prison is, one big human bomb. You say kick it and it will be quiet, smash it and it won’t explode.” A dire warning unheeded. Continuous oppression will only result in an uprising, a deadly revolt. (more…)

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By refusing to broadcast Honorary Awards for the second year running, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is blowing a raspberry at the luminaries of film history. Perhaps we should return the favor.

by Joel Bocko

This is not a clever “Top 10” list of reasons why not to watch the popular broadcast this Sunday. There are many reasons to ignore, criticize, or make fun of the Academy Awards, but right now I’m only interested in one. That said, a brief bit of background may be in order.

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Gripping and emotional documentary feature "The Last Lions"

by Sam Juliano

Film noir is the subject of choice these days.  While the wildly popular ‘Film Preservation Fundraiser’ continues on with the exceptional leadership of Marilyn Ferdinand, Greg Ferrara and the Self-Styled Siren has focused in on this quintessentially American film style, here at Wonders in the Dark, fecund and impassioned Brooklynite Maurizio Roca has just launched his Top 50 countdown, focusing in exclusively on the classic cycle from 1941 to 1958.  The decision has won the approval of none other than noir authority Tony dAmbra, who feels a wider range may be counterproductive for this kind of polling.  Needless to say, both ventures are attracting tons of attention by bloggers, many of whom have been showcasing their own film noir reviews in support of the fundraising blogothon.  John Greco and Ed Howard have been offering up new essays just about every day in fact.  Behind the scenes, Dee Dee continues to provide tireless support for the blogothon and for Wonders in the Dark’s own contribution to the venture as she links up to numerous posts here at the site that have attracted remarkable traffic and all kinds of comments.  Simultaneously, the incomparable blogger and artist has also focused on the upcoming Oscar broadcast, offering up various polls and calls for predictions in category breakdowns.

This past week saw several of Mr. Roca’s posts making a big showing, while site regulars Jim Clark, Jamie Uhler, Bob Clark and of course Allan Fish have authored their own exceptional essays.

With the classic film festivals completed, I spent the larger part of the past week at home, though I came to life again over the weekend, and also saw a Wednesday night staging of Tennessee Williams’s Small Craft Warnings on Theatre Row (42nd Street) with Lucille and Broadway Bob, and then five films over the weekend to play catch up on some of the recent releases. (more…)

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