by Sam Juliano
The musical countdown has reached the exact half-way point with Sunday’s posting of the South Pacific essay. The venture has proven a rousing success to this point, and appreciation must be expressed to those who have supported the project day in and day out with their superlative commentary and glowing support. The comment and hit totals have been mind-blowing. That miracle worker named “Dee Dee” continues to post sidebar updates with click poster you tubes to enhance the show.
Two major horror film ventures are slated for Exodus 8:2 and Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies over the coming weeks leading up to Halloween. Your crypt keepers will be Jaime Grijalba and Kevin Olson, and their frightful business will soon be posted on sidebar posters. As always these guys know their stuff, and we look forward to their upcoming projects.
Yankee and Phillie fans are surely excited at their teams’ prospect after opening round victories in the baseball playoffs. Weather-wise it feels and looks like Halloween, and temperatures in Manhattan dipped into the high 40’s.
A busy weekend redeemed a week that was spent writing essays for the musical countdown. Lucille and I saw three films in theatres (one a great American classic) and an off-Broadway play. It was a strong week quality-wise, especially.
The hero of Chad Beckim’s touching new play, After, performing at the Wild Project, is Monty (Alfredo Narciso) who isn’t a kid, but a quiet man in his mid-30s. He didn’t have a chance to learn the tricks of adulthood: Falsely accused of rape when he was a teenager, he spent 17 years in jail before being cleared by DNA evidence and released. As the cutain rises, Monty is back at home, living with his younger sister, Liz (Maria-Christina Oliveras), and he’s got a lot to catch up on. This often uproarious but still moving work is superlby directed by Stephen Brackett, who gives this explosive material a lighter touch and who emplys some creative and economical ideas for the staging. It’s the best ‘small venue’ work I’ve seen in Manhattan since Unnatural Acts many months back.
In movie theatres we saw:
50/50 **** 1/2 (Sunday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex
Take Shelter **** 1/2 (Sunday night) Angelika Film Center
The Last Picture Show 1971 ***** (Friday night) Film Forum
1971’s THE LAST PICTURE SHOW is an American masterpiece and one of my personal favorite films of all-time. It’s my No. 1 film of the 1970’s. I have promoted this film for 40 years, seeing it for the first time as a teenager, and being overwhelmed by it’s powerful emotional drama, stunning black and white atmospherics, it’s brilliant performances by Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman, Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms and Ben Johnson are master class, and Peter Bogdonovich’s direction is transcendent. A beautiful print again showcased a work that leaves you drained and breathless. I’d really love to do a full review at some point.
50/50 turns out to be a major surprise. Yes it has received largely spectacular reviews. But that won’t stop me from saying that it’s one of the best American films of the year. It handles the tenuous task of incorporating belly-laugh humor into the fabric of a serious health crisis, and of balancing the two elements as deftly as I’ve yet seen in a film. Pitch-perfect performances, observant writing, and the remarkable avoidance of saccharine resolutions this is that rarest of films that has you guffawing while moving you to tears. The use of medicinal marajuana in the story was a hoot too, and a scene involving a painting was classic. Terrific film, and a likely Top Ten finisher I would have to think.
TAKE SHELTER is powerful stuff. Just got in and I must say I liked it even more than 50/50. Mike Shannon gives an extraordinary performance. Will have more to say tomorrow.
Here’s what’s going on in the blogosphere this week, and a WitD staffer took on the task of updating the links!!!!!!!!!!!!! My lips are sealed!
At Darkness Into Light Dee Dee celebrates Lizabeth Scott’s 87th birthday: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2011/09/happy-birthday-to-actress-lizabeth.html
Jon Warner delves into the troubling Pontecorvo film “Kapo”, which Jacques Rivette famously despised, at Films Worth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2011/09/kapo-1959-directed-by-gillo-pontecorvo.html
John Greco visits “Bad Day at Black Rock” and playfully notes that “Spencer Tracy can act better than most others with one arm tied behind his back!” on Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/bad-day-at-black-rock-1955-john-sturges/
Part 14 of his film round-up series has found Filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman in top form with capsule reviews on four gems of the cinema: “Poetry,” “Fitzcaraldo,” “Gattaca” and “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge” It’s over at The Last Lullaby: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2011/09/favorite-four-part-fourteen.html
Analyzing anger, Laurie Buchanan asks “How do you cool the flames?” at Speaking From The Heart: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/slow-burn/
R. D. Finch has penned a marvelous review of the popular 1948 Cary Grant feature “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” at The Movie Projector: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2011/09/mr-blandings-build-his-dream-house-1948.html
Tony d’Ambra at FilmsNoir.net posts a moody frames gallery for the 1933 proto-noir “Private Detective 62″: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/film-noir-origins-private-detective-62-1933.html
On Mondo 70, Samuel Wilson astutely assesses the weaknesses of early Keaton short “Convict 13″, noting that “complacent acceptance of superficiality is a theme of the picture”: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2011/10/buster-keaton-in-convict-13-1920.html
Murderous Ink in Tokyo has penned a brilliant historical and political essay on two celebrated Kinoshita featues, “Army” and “Twenty-Four Eyes” at Vermillion and One Nights: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2011/09/apron-as-weapon.html
Aided by word, image, and video, Sachin Gandhi of Scribbles and Ramblings investigates Claire Denis’ use of visuals and sound, including in “White Material” whose viewing at Venice Sachin declares “the best cinematic experience of my life”: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2011/09/claire-denis-x-5.html
Judy Geater continues her look at pre-Codes with with “Broken Lullaby” by Lubitsch, at Movie Classics: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/broken-lullaby-ernst-lubitsch-1932/
Terrill Welch displays her Mayne Island artworks, going for a bargain, at Creativepotager: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/first-salish-sea-sunday-savings/
Qalandar reviews the Hindi gangster flick “Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster” at Satyamshot: http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/qalandar-reviews-saheb-biwi-aur-gangster-hindi-2011/
Shubhajit Leheri offers a capsule of Kubrick’s “bleak, austere and minimalist” “Paths of Glory,” which he contrasts with Kubricks other two antiwar films at Cinemascope: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2011/10/paths-of-glory-1957.html
Craig Kennedy takes a harder line than his co-hosts on “Straw Dogs” and “Moneyball” with his latest Living in Cinema podcast: http://livingincinema.com/2011/10/01/ye-olde-3-way-moviegasm-podcast-strawmoneydogballs/
Patricia looks back on “The Camel Dances” from Arnold Lobel’s beloved children’s book “Fables” on Patricia’s Wisdom: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2011/09/camel-pirouette/
Stephen Russell-Gebbett has penned a fecund takedown of Pixar’s “Toy Story 3″ at Checking on my Sausages: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2011/09/toy-story-3.html
David Schleicher takes a stroll down “Boardwalk Empire”‘s season 2 premiere on The Schleicher Spin: http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/09/25/boardwalk-empire-21-season-two-premier/
At Exodus 8:2 Jaime Grijalba takes a ride in “The Phantom Carriage”, which was just released on the Criteiron Collection. This kicks off his “31 Days of Terror” series in which he watches a horror movie every day in honor of Halloween: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2011/10/1-korkarlen-1921.html
Pat Perry has posted an excllent review on “Something Borrowed,” a ‘chick’ flick that’s worth something at Doodad Kind of Town: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-home-screen-something-borrowed.html
Michael Harford has a new collage up and he shares the news at Coffee Messiah: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2011/10/to-power-of-n.html
Jason Bellamy has a fascinating review of “Catching Hell”, about the Chicago fan who dashed the Cubs’ World Series chances by reaching for a baseball in 2003, something he has never been able to live down. The review is called “Ticket to the Dark Side” and has sparked a sterling discussion on The Cooler: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2011/09/ticket-to-dark-side-catching-hell.html
Marilyn Ferdinand reports from the Chicago International Film Festival to review a fascinating documentary on Yugoslavia’s Tito, “the number one film fan who ever lived”. It’s all at Ferdy-on-Films: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=11660
Ed Howard has a link to this month’s Record Club discussion on the Manic Street Preachers, conducted by Wonders’ very own Jamie Uhler, at Only The Cinema. Keep the conversation going!: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2011/09/record-club-5-manic-street-preachers.html
In a set of links, the Film Doctor explores a number of economic and political topics, from Google & Facebook as Big Brother, to the illusion behind the “creative industry” myth: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2011/10/reactionary-links.html
At Movies Over Matter Jason Marshall names “The Apple” as one of his favorite “bad” movies: http://moviesovermatter.com/2011/09/17/hes-so-eager-to-believe-and-so-easily-deceived-like-a-baby-watching-magic-hes-so-gullible-its-tragic-the-apple-my–favorite-bad-movies/
James Hansen has written an outstanding essay in defense of “Drive” at Out One Film Journal: http://www.out1filmjournal.com/2011/09/shadowing-spotlight-nicolas-winding.html
At Radiator Heaven J.D. reviews “A Scanner Darkly” which he considers the first accurate translation of Philip K. Dick from page to screen: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2011/09/scanner-darkly.html
Srikanth (Just Another Film Buff) offers up a fascinating capsule on Wim Wenders’s “Pina” at The Seventh Art: http://theseventhart.info/2011/09/24/ellipsis-47/
Roderick Heath at This Island Rod has penned a towering essay on “Thor”: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2011/09/thor-2011.html
TCM’s Greg Ferrara rescues rare clips of Christopher Lee telling ghost stories from a defunct CD-ROM on Cinema Styles: http://cinemastyles.blogspot.com/2011/10/christopher-lee-tells-stories-and-gives.html
At Cinema Viewfinder, Tony Dayoub kicks of New York Film Festival coverage with a thoughtful review of “George Harrison: Living in the Material World,” Martin Scorsese’s latest music documentary: http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2011/10/nyff11-movie-review-george-harrison.html
Steven Morton talks about Bob Dylan’s “Ring them Bells,” which he notes is his favorite song at Petrified Fountain of Thought: http://petrifiedfountainofthought.blogspot.com/2011/09/ring-them-bells.html
Craig at The Man From Porlock analyzes the faults of Moneyball, and wonders why sports films keep raising the position of their “underdog” heroes: http://themanfromporlock.blogspot.com/2011/09/off-field-moneyball.html
Hokahey at Little Worlds marvels at the formal prowess of the Oregon Trail film “Meek’s Cutoff”, praising its “magnificent dissolves” and “real-time realism”: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2011/10/oregon-trail-verite-meeks-cutoff-2011.html
At Not Just Movies Jake Cole discusses “The Blue Angel” and wonders why the Germans – kings of the silents – made such a strong transition into sound: http://armchairc.blogspot.com/2011/10/blue-angel-josef-von-sternberg-1930.html
Record Club #4 – The Dirty South” is leading the way at Elusive as Robert Denby, and proctor Troy Olson has quite a comment thread to show: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2011/08/record-club-4-drive-by-truckers-dirty.html
Kevin J. Olson announces the return of his Italian Horror blog-a-thon at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/italian-horror-blog-thon-returns.html
The saddest of times for Jeopardy Girl as she movingly relates at The Continuing Story of Jeopardy Girl. Wonders in the Dark extends it’s deepest condolences to our friend up north: http://jeopardygirl.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/gone/
Adam Zanzie continues his recap of the book “War Horse” on Icebox Movies in anticipation of the upcoming Spielberg film: http://iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2011/09/war-horse-1982-chapters-6-10.html
Dave Van Poppel at Visions of Non-Fiction has posted a terrific review of the documentary “Project Nim”: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com/2011/08/project-nim.html
Andrew Wyatt defends the 80s monster movie “Q” at Gateway Cinephiles: http://gatewaycinephiles.com/2011/09/30/looklisten-q-at-the-wufs/