Archive for March 21st, 2011

Paul Giamatti with first-time actor Alex Shaffer in Tom McCarthy's superlative suburban drama "Win Win"

by Sam Juliano

     Tom McCarthy has won the trifecta after his third turn at directing, and he’s done so in impressive ascending order.  To boot he’s proven he’s exceedingly gifted with actors.  After the New Jersey native made a star out of dwarf thespian Peter Dinklage in the off-beat The Station Agent, he took on more audacious subject matter in his moving immigration saga, The Visitor, which yielded the finest performance in veteran Richard Jenkins’ career.  Now, with the aptly titled Win Win McCarthy gets two chemistry-fueled top-flight performances from Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan and a star-making turn from a high school wrestler named Alex Shaffer who was found in a talent search.  But performances and deft direction are only a part of the equation as to why this seemingly modestly conceived drama makes a fair claim as the best film of 2011.

     A major hit at the Sundance Film Festival, McCarthy’s film is a winning entertainment that weds acute and perceptive social issues with the big emotions that are mostly flubbed in the big-studio fare.  It’s the kind of film that is all-too-rare in its consummate artistry, as it is in its feat of making familiar issues fresh and engaging.  Win Win is the answer one should pose to those who find all kinds of reasons why they believe American movies lag behind other national cinemas, and it’s a textbook example of how seemingly modest concerns played out on a small stage can yield results so dynamic that the film leaves many more intricate films in the dust as a fully realized emotional experience. (more…)

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Director: John Brahm

Producer: Robert Bassler

Screenwriter: Barre Lyndon

Cinematographer: Joseph LaShalle

Music: Bernard Herrmann

Studio: 20th Century Fox 1945

Main Acting: Laird Cregar and Linda Darnell

John Brahm had a big hit with 1944’s The Lodger. Starring up-and-coming character actor Laird Cregar in the role of Jack The Ripper, the film was a successful remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent version in 1926. The popularity of the newer version directly led Twentieth Century Fox to team up Brahm and Cregar again and make another feature together. This time they were entrusted with the adaptation of the novel, Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton. With screenwriter Barre Lyndon also returning to his role, the movie went through some interesting changes from the book. The most important difference, as far as film noir is concerned, had to do with altering the time period in which the novel was placed. A contemporary setting was discarded in favor of a turn-of-the-century period piece that was closer in spirit to The Lodger (if a formula isn’t broken why fix it, must have been Zanuck’s view). The Victorian era so critical to the earlier film was again highlighted to help make Hangover Square a repeat box office sensation. This critical change has led many to: a.) View Hangover Square as something other than noir. And b.) Consider it basically a remake of Brahm’s own The Lodger. (more…)

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Martijn Lakemeir as Michiel in exceptional Dutch film "Winter in Wartime" (Oorlogswinter)

by Sam Juliano

The developments in Japan continue to have us cringing, yet maintaining our confidence that the worst part of this global calamity is now behind us, and that workers are getting the situation under reasonable control.  The mass exodus of course is telling, and our hearts go out to those adversely affected by the disaster and particularly to our friend “Murderous Ink,” in Tokyo, who has heartwrenchingly reported first-hand on the terrible arc of the tragedy that has befallen his countrymen.  It’s always difficult to come up with words at such a time, and so many of us are occupied with our state of affairs, with quite a bit of guilt and helplessness.  We remain very moved at your plight, my friend, and ask if there is anything we can do in your behalf.  As Dee Dee has reported this week, the International Red Cross and other organizations welcome any show of generosity in behalf of the Japanese people directly affected by the terrible events of the past two weeks.  (post script) Marilyn Ferdinand has suggested a worthwhile charity in her comment below.

Back in our hedonist environs, many of us continue to entertain ourselves in the spirit of “life must go on” mode, though certainly with more than a little guilt, a sentiment well express by our dear Longman Oz last week from his Dublin abode.  Maurizio Roca is now approaching the half-way point of his exceedingly popular ‘Film Noir Countdown’ and his last half-dozen essays have showcased some quality writing and some welcome surprises.  Noir fans -or better yet movie fans gleefully await the unveiling of the creme de la creme over the coming weeks.  Allan Fish’s “Fish Obscuro” series, Bob Clark’s animation coverage, Jamie Uhler’s ‘Getting Over the Beatles” series and Jim Clark’s stellar review of Lourdes all made a splash over the past seven days at the sites.  Dee Dee again graced these pages with the results of her latest noir contest and giveaway but I am loathe to discuss the results.  Ha! (more…)

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