by Sam Juliano
America’s turkey population was greatly diminished in the past week, but alas, life goes on, and next it’s the evergreens that will take a hit as the holiday season is officially underway. Dee Dee’s Thanksgiving greetings represented the site’s spirit for November 24, and hopefully all had a wonderful and relaxing day, most of all our peerless friend.
It appears that the site is seriously considering a John Ford retrospective for early in the new year, and the director’s most distinguished on line adherent, Peter Lenihan, a long time friend of WitD, who is presently on assignment in the Far East, may be aboard for some definitive analysis of the directing titan. Perhaps in late February, Stanley Kubrick will be getting the spotlight, courtesy of Dennis Polifroni, who has volunteered to chair the project. Stay tuned on both the Ford and Kubrick projects!
In the meantime it has been business as usual at the site, with Jamie Uhler’s 51st installment of his “Getting Over the Beatles” series yielding what may well be the masterpiece essay, Jim Clark’s fantastic analysis of Bunuel’s Viridiana, Bob Clark’s superb essay on A History of Violence on page and screen, and two more buffo entries in the Fish Obscuro series, include one of the highly-regarded pre-coder The Bowery. The great “Fixing a Hole” series, posting on Sunday, also offered up some fantastic writing.
The prestige movie season offered up what may well be the most distinguished week of the season, and by and large the results were most impressive. Two of the films seen (HUGO and A DANGEROUS METHOD) are likely Top 10 finishers, while at least two others are well regarded and can still place with a change of heart) and the silent Monday series at the Film Forum featured the classic BEN-HUR from 1925 with piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner.
Lucille and I (and some of the kids for most of the screenings) watched:
Hugo **** 1/2 (Wednesday evening) Edgewater multiplex
A Dangerous Method **** 1/2 (Thursday night) Landmark Sunshine Cinemas
The Artist **** (Friday evening) Angelika Film Center
My Week with Marilyn *** 1/2 (Friday evening) Angelika Film Center
House of Pleasures **** (Saturday night) IFC Film Center
Ben-Hur (1925) **** 1/2 (Monday night) Film Forum
The Muppets **** (Sunday night) Edgewater Multiplex
Note: Will return late tonight with report on “Muppets”
David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD defty weaves cerebral, literary and historical elements in a lushly-set and attractive film that takes full advantage of some excellent performances by Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortenson and Keira Knightley, while establishing a fascinating look at the relationship between Jun and Freud, in a film unlike anything the director has ever done, but not at all in a bad sense.
George Melies was a French pioneer in the development of moving pictures and was a centerpiece in Brian Selznick’s Caldecott Medal winning “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” a book that begged for the attention of director Martin Scorsese, who brings all kinds of wonderments and a loving homage to HUGO, a beautifully shot and adorned film about rediscovery. It’s an emotional powerhouse that opens spectacularly (much like Vidor’s THE CROWD’s famed early sequence) by having the camera race in through snow to capture the Eiffel Tower and then up the center standing dock between two trains to a large railway station and an overhead clock, finally to the face of a young boy behind it. Sure, midway through it is slightly padded, but overwhelmingly this is a film that celebrates childhood, resilience, and the power of love and acceptance, with the adult appreciation of silent cinema and the creative mind. It’s a triumph for Martin Scorsese.
It would be hard to imagine that there is a better-trained dog than the one that appears in the French black and white “silent” film THE ARTIST, but that’s only one of many delights in what is mainly a charming and exhilarating film. True, it’s all surface glitz, and it never probes deeper in the silent movie phenomenon, but it’s a stylish, original work that may well be enhanced by repeat viewings. It will make stars out of Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejon.
Michelle Williams may not bring that voluptuous look to Marilyn Monroe, but she’s marvelous in the role in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN. Kenneth Branagh as Olivier is admittedly mean-spirited, but he’s engaging still, and Eddie Redmayne is endearing. One might have hoped for more, but it’s still as entertaining and solid enough film.
The French HOUSE OF PLEASURES enters the world of turn-of-the-century brothels, with some stark imagery, but it’s progressive too with split screens and a modern soundtrack, and narratively there are some arresting sequences in painting this phenomenon is wholly explicit terms.
THE MUPPETS was a spirited and infectious homage to the children’s phenomenon.
The silent BEN-HUR does not match the 1959 version for a host of reasons, but it’s still a landmark for the sets, lead performances and celebrated sequences. Having Steve Sterner provide the piano accompaniment was a real treat for this Monday series.
Here are the blogosphere links:
After his towering contributions to the musical countdown in every capacity the gifted R.D. Finch offers up his own musical list at The Movie Projector: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2011/11/my-favorite-musicals.html
John Greco has penned a terrific review of John Frankenheimer’s “Seconds” at Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/seconds-1966-john-frankenheimer-2/
Tony d’Ambra evokes Cream in his latest poetic post at FilmsNoir.net that considers the film “Devil in A Blue Dress”: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/femme-noir-in-her-own-mad-mind-shes-in-love-with-you.html
Laurie Buchanan, reaching a blogging milestone at Speaking From The Heart, has announced a resumption of a series covered earlier in the year, promising even deeper examination. Her new post it titled “Zodiacally Speaking”: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/zodiacally-speaking/
Dee Dee has posted a wonderfully informative and engaging piece on the origin of lobby cards at Darkness Into Light: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2011/11/holding-auctiontaking-look-at-eleven.html
Jon Warner has authored a brilliant essay of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert” at Films Worth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2011/11/red-desert-1964-directed-by.html
At Ferdy-on-Films Roderick Heath has penned an exquisite takedown of Stephen Soderbergh’s “Contagion” that is a must-read whether you are a fan of the film or not: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=12311
At Roderick Heath’s literature blog, English-One-O-Worst, the great writer takes on the Bard’s “King Lear” and the result is a scholarly masterpiece: http://englishoneoworst.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-he-rightly-is-king-lear-as-king.html
Pat Perry evokes Woody Allen and Central Park in her poetic and picturesque post at Doodad Kind of Town, wishing her readers a Happy Thanksgiving: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2011/11/i-recall-central-park-in-fall.html
Jaime Grijalba, greatly valued friend and colleague, has posted a trailer for the new “Girl With the Dragon Tatoo” movie at Exodus: 8:2: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2011/11/noticias-de-girl-with-dragon-tattoo.html
Murderous Ink, in Tokyo examines 1920’s cinema ia a brilliant new post titled “Going Berserk” at Vermillion and One Nights: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2011/11/going-berserk.html
At Patricia’s Wisdom, our friend and proctor of the same name has penned her first film review, and it’s a terric one on the HBO gem “Temple Grandin”: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2011/11/temple-grandin-a-movie-review/
At Scribbles and Ramblings Sachin Gandhi has penned a thought-provoking comparative essays on three recent works of Greek cinema, including the highly-regarded “Dogtooth”: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2011/11/greece-by-way-of-lanthimos-tsangari.html
At the always-spectacular Creativepotager’s blog, artist Terrill Welch asks “I Wonder What She Wants?” and then offers up some stunning photos: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/i-wonder-what-she-wants/
Writer extraordinaire Samuel Wilson, has penned a fascinating comparison between his featured film “A Very Private Affair” by Louie Malle, with the Jean Harlow starrer “Bombshell” at Mondo 70: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2011/11/very-private-affair-vie-privee-1962.html
Srikanth (Just Another Film Buff) offers up a brilliantly creative post at The Seventh Art titled “The Scarves of Grey Gardens”: http://theseventhart.info/2011/11/26/the-scarves-of-grey-gardens/
At The Long Voyage Home, Peter Lenihan features 103 year-old director Manuoel de Oliveira’s “The Strange Case of Angelica”: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/2011/11/moving-beyond-materialism-manoel-de.html
The gifted and always brilliant Jason Bellamy takes a fascinating and perceptive look at “J Edgar” that in some measure differs from the majority stand. It’s at The Cooler: http://coolercinema.blogspot.com/2011/11/solid-weight-j-edgar.html
Jeffrey Goodman, filmmaker, blogger, statesman and discerning cineaste, maintains The Last Lullaby, an altar for the scrutizing movie goer and those following latest developments on his latest project: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/
Again Stephen Russell-Gebbett expands the boundaries of blog posts by offering up some cogent ideas as what makes a film work in a tremendous piece titled “Film and Musicality: The Importance of Tempo, Rhythm, Length and Timing” at Checking On My Sausages: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2011/11/film-and-musicality-importance-of-tempo.html
At The Schleicher Spin David asks writers to name the ten people from the past they’d most want to have a conversation with: http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/11/23/elizabeth-r-you-free-for-dinner/
At Cinemascope Shubajit Laheri has penned a terrific capsule of the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup”: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2011/11/duck-soup-1933.html
Craig Kennedy’s always-popular “Watercooler” post is up and running at Living in Cinema: http://livingincinema.com/2011/11/27/movin-right-along/
At This Island Rod, Roderick Heath stays the course with another stupendous review, this one on 1971’s “When Eight Bells Toll: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2011/11/when-eight-bells-toll-1971.html
Michael Harford, the erstwhile ‘Coffee Messiah’ offers up an engaging video about the beverage’s worldwide popularity: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2011/11/coffee-break.html
Troy Olson announces plans to commence with his Robert Bresson project at Elusive as Robert Denby: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/2011/11/argh.html
Jason Marshall explains why he feels that “Anonymous” is the worst film he has seen in 2011 thus far at Movies Over Matter: http://moviesovermatter.com/2011/11/10/why-anonymous-is-the-worst-movie-ive-seen-in-2011-so-far/
At Petrified Fountain of Thought Stephen Morton offers up three terrific capsules on “50/50″, “Moneyball” and “Ides of March”: http://petrifiedfountainofthought.blogspot.com/2011/11/recent-movies-5050-moneyball-ides-of.html
Fritz Lang, Joseph Losey and Jean-Luc Godard all figure in Drew McIntosh’s latest post “I’ll Be Damned” at The Blue Vial: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2011/11/ill-be-damned.html
Kevin Olson offers up a postscript to his recent Horror Blogothon at Hugo Stigliz Makes Movies: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/italian-horror-blogathon-postscript.html
Tony Dayoub at Cinema Viewfinder offers up an interview with the Self-Styled Siren: http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2011/11/gone-to-earth-conversation-with-self.html
Hokahey has penned an impressive review of “The Immortals” at Little Worlds: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2011/11/immortal-imagery-immortals.html
Dave Van Poppel is gearing for some updates at Visions of Non Fiction, but presently is still leading up with his very fine review of “Project Nim”: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com/2011/08/project-nim.html
At The Reluctant Bloger Jeff Stroud has offered up some stunning beautiful images in a post titled “Autumn Leaves”: http://jeffstroud.wordpress.com/