by Sam Juliano
The musical countdown ended this week, leaving in its wake a reference archive that stands as practically definitive in the genre. Many writers did some of their finest work in massive and fecund essays, and for three months swarms of commentators enriched the threads with astonishing analysis and personal experience in astounding prolific runs. Dee Dee’s work on the sidebar was spectacular and a large group of regular readers were there either every day or close to every day to impart their special breath of insight and taste – people like Judy Geater, Jon Warner, Pat Perry, R. D. Finch, Dennis Polifroni, Frank Gallo, Joel Bocko, Maurizio Roca, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pierre de Plume, Tony d’Ambra, Jim Clark, Frederick O., Peter M., David Noack, Samuel Wilson, Jamie Uhler, Jaime Grijalba, Laurie Buchanan, Terrill Welch, Murderous Ink, Patricia, Bob Clark, Sachin Gandhi, Stepen Morton, Mark Smith, Stephen Russell-Gebbet, Shubhajit Laheri, David Schleicher, Craig Kennedy, Broadway Bob, Ricky Chinigo, John R., Greg Ferrara and numerous others. The venture was time-consuming and exhaustive, yet in overwhelming measure it brought out the best in everyone. The next-to-last essay on The Wizard of Oz brought the largest number of comments (nearly 250 in fact) of the entire countdown, and by far the most contentiousness. But as always it is admirable how well just about everyone weathered the storm, and in true WitD fashion we have survived to fight the next battle. A special thanks again to Mr. Finch for bringing the blogger’s association and wonderful young writers like Brandie Ashe, Brian the Classic Film Boy and Kevin Deaney among others into the fold.
Ideas have begun for the planned “comedy countdown,” which will begin sometime in the Spring, with more voters and writers yet aboard. In the interim some other projects courtesy of Joel Bocko and Maurizio Roca are nearing fruition. Dennis Polifroni has indicated a Stanley Kubrick series is soon forthcoming as well.
The site’s regular series’ writers continue to offer up high quality prose: Jamie Uhler’s latest addition to his “Getting Over the Beatles” series, Bob Clark’s work with animation and superheros, and Jim Clark’s bi monthly essays on cinematic gems. Allan’s work on the Fish Obscuro series and on new releases continues to lead the way.
I was greatly honored to give the keynote speech at the wedding reception for Broadway Bob and his husband Jo Ramos, held appropriately enough at The Dish on 8th Avenue in Manhattan on Friday night, our Saturday night kitchen in front of 30 guests. Lucille, Broadway Bob and I regularly convene just about every Saturday for a film or theatrical staging, and Bob is my teaching colleague and close friend. A great night of food, remembrances and humor was enjoyed by all and the cameras were flashing all night. As all WitD readers have surely noticed Broadway Bob is always mentioned as a participant in our weekend cultural excursions, and even for other ventures during the week.
On the movie front Lucille and I mustered up three visits to theatres:
Melancholia **** 1/2 (Saturday afternoon) Angelika Film Center
J. Edgar ** 1/2 (Saturday evening) Chelsea Cinemas
West Side Story ***** (Wednesday evening) Edgewater multiplex
Seeing WEST SIDE STORY on the big screen with a documentary featuring the whereabouts of the stars who are still living and an interview with Producer Walter Mirasch, actor George Chakiris and singer Marni Nixon brought back priceless memories. The print and the sound were stunning as expected. The 50th Anniversary screening coincided with the final days of the musical countdown, where the film finished among the Top Five. Of course, it is my own #1 musical film of all time, and Wednesday’s viewing with Lucille, Dennis and three of the kids enhanced that opinion. The film boasts the greatest score ever written for a show or film by Bernstein and Sondheim and Jerome Robbins’s electrifying dancing. But Marilyn Ferdinand’s countdown review says it all.
Lars Von Trier’s haunting, sublime and symbolic MELANCHOLIA holds the viewer at bay with the usual combination of angst, depression and mental illness, but Von Trier brings the indellible images into proper context, particularly a magnificent opening that defies description. The director’s use of the prelude from Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” is nearly revelatory, and the whole experiences comes together like a fevered dream with sensory overload. Dunst is exceptional. It’s unquestionably one of the year’s best films.
J EDGAR is often lifeless, with a poor focus, and a script that dosen’t even scratch the surface of this enigmatic figure. To say the film concerns itself with all the surface anecdotes and biographical information would be an understatement. The old age makeup is ghastly and the film grows wearisome as it goes along. Clint Eastwood seems too conservative to put any teeth into Hoover’s hidden life, and the entire Lindberg/Bruno Hauptman section is rushed. Only Leonardo Di Caprio can be applauded for his work here.
Now a family emergency blocks me from the updates tonight. All is well but I must leave the house now. I will update piece meal tomorrow. I know some are thinking the practice has fizzled out, but I assure you it has most definitely not.
John Greco’s second part of his interview with Peter Winkler – who penned a volume on actor Dennis Hopper – is a riveting read! it’s at Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/interview-with-author-peter-l-winkler-part-two/
Judy Geater has unearthed another desirable curiosity at Movie Classics with a superb review of “Laughter” starring Nancy Carroll, Frederick March and Frank Morgan: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/laughter-harry-d%e2%80%99abbadie-d%e2%80%99arrast-1930/
The ever brilliant writer and commentator R.D. Finch of The Movie Projector concludes his four-post series on Ken Russell with “Ken Russell at the BBC: Part 4, Song of Summer” http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2011/10/ken-russell-at-bbc-part-3-dantes.html
Murderous Ink offers a fascinating description of the chaos that was early Japanese film screening at Vermillion and One Nights: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2011/10/frames-per-second.html
Jaime Grijalba’s October countdown to Halloween has been a joy for fans, and he continues his progression through the history of horror with “Halloween H20″ at Exodus 8:2: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2011/10/23-freddy-vs-jason-2003.html
Jon Warner offers his positive take on the love-it/hate-it minimalist western “Meek’s Cutoff” Films Worth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2011/10/naked-spur-1953-directed-by-anthony.html
Pat Perry has authored a fantastic double review of two highly-regarded multiplexers (50/50 and The Help) of recent weeks at Doodad Kind of Town: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2011/10/5050-and-help-diary-of-friday-afternoon.html
Filmmaker and blogger extraordinaire Jeffrey Goodman offers up an extraordinary list of La Novelle Vague titles that are essential for cineastes at The Last Lullaby: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/satsang-sacred-listening/
Laurie Buchanan asks her readers to ponder “What Do You Do With Fear” at Speaking From The Heart: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/what-do-you-do-with-fear/
Tony d’Ambra’s newest post at FilmsNoir.net in his marvelous ‘Film Origins’ series features 1940′s “Angels Over Broadway”: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/film-noir-origins-angels-over-broadway-1940.html
At Mondo 70, Samuel Wilson has penned an utterly fascinating review of the Spanish language “Dracula”: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2011/10/wendigo-cumpla-dracula-1931.html
Roderick Heath has authored a master class review at Ferdy-on-Films of Spielberg’s “Jaws”: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=11979
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
Sachin Gandhi of Scribbles and Ramblings has a fascinating, glowing report up at his place on the Calgary International Film Festival: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2011/10/ciff-2011-all-about-mavericks.html
Terrill Welch reports on the success of her second “Salish Sea Sunday Savings” sale at the Creativepotager’s blogsite: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/second-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 Laheri has penned a superlative capsule review of “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” at Cinemascope: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2011/10/pat-garrett-and-billy-kid-1973.html
Craig Kennedy’s “Movie Quote of the Day” at Living in Cinema is from Brian de Palma’s “Carrie” based on Stephen King’s novel: http://livingincinema.com/2011/10/23/movie-quote-of-the-day-carrie-1976/
Patricia examines a book “You are Not So Smart” by David McRaney at Patricia’s Wisdom: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2011/10/you-are-not-so-smart-david-mcraney/
Stephen Russell-Gebbett has penned an utterly brilliant review of Von Trier’s “Melancholia” at Checking on my Sausages: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2011/10/melancholia-lars-von-trier.html
David Schleicher takes on Von Trier’s “Melancholia” brilliantly at The Schleicher Spin: http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/10/10/melancholia-marriage-and-the-end-of-the-world/
Srikanth (Just Another Film Buff) featues Chuck Workman’s “Precious Images” at The Seventh Art, making a comparison to Joel Bocko’s brilliant montage series: http://theseventhart.info/2011/10/23/short-films-13/
Michael Harford has a new collage up at the venerable Coffee Messiah’s place on “Coffee and Seuss”: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2011/10/dont-give-up-i-believe-in-you-all.html
Again Ed Howard and Jason Bellamy have produced a towering installment in their monumental “Conversations” series with a brilliant discussion on Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon”: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2011/10/conversations-28-barry-lyndon.html
Jason Bellamy has penned an exceptional essay on “The Ides of March” at The Cooler: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2011/10/men-behind-curtain-ides-of-march.html
Ed Howard has a terrific new piece in his “Films That I Love” series on Ernst Lubitsch’s “The Shop Around the Corner” at Only The Cinema: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2011/10/films-i-love-55-shop-around-corner.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 a fascinating review of Kevin MacDonald’s “A Life in the Day” at The Seventh Art: http://theseventhart.info/2011/10/16/ellipsis-49/
Roderick Heath at This Island Rod has penned a towering essay on 1968′s “The Lost Continent”: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2011/10/lost-continent-1968.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’s “First Thoughts on Tree of Life” are up at Petrified Fountain of Thought: http://petrifiedfountainofthought.blogspot.com/2011/10/first-thoughts-on-tree-of-life.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