Archive for April, 2012

by Allan Fish

And again, straight to it…

Best Picture The Bride of Frankenstein, US (7 votes)

Best Director James Whale, The Bride of Frankenstein (7 votes)

Best Short The Band Concert, US, Wilfrid Jackson (3 votes)

Best Actor Robert Donat, The 39 Steps & Charles Laughton, Ruggles of Red Gap (3 votes each)**

Best Actress Katharine Hepburn, Alice Adams & Ginger Rogers, Top Hat (3 votes each, TIE)

Best Supp Actor Ernest Thesiger, The Bride of Frankenstein (9 votes)

Best Supp Actress Blanche Yurka, A Tale of Two Cities (7 votes)

Best Score Max Steiner, The Informer (4 votes)

** PLEASE can I ask people to NOT just stick surnames as votes.  Both Laughton and Donat had TWO films up for consideration that year and not choosing means BOTH have to be counted as votes. 

and my choices…


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By Bob Clark

The first time I watched Wim Wenders’ science-fiction epic Until the End of the World, it was under both the worst circumstances possible, but also some of the most interesting ones imaginable. Though the 1991 film has never been released on DVD in the United States, much less ever been given a stateside release of its full 280 minute cut that expands upon the truncated “Reader’s Digest” version that the director was forced to put together for its original run, it was long ago given a run in the now charmingly defunct medium of VHS. From there, somehow, it made the leap to digital downloads almost 20 years later when I found it while perusing through the video pages of the Playstation Network store, where I’d already picked up a digital copy of another such mind-bending sci-fi feature starring William Hurt, Altered States. As such, there was a kind of quaint thrill about the prospect of watching a movie about the one-time not-too-distant-future, now the increasingly more-distant past, through a means which would’ve been more or less inconceivable to the dated retro-futurist minds that cobbled together that film’s vision of days to come. It’s one thing to imagine the world put on the brink of annihilation by a falling nuclear satelite, the possibility of a camera that takes videos blind people can see, or a computer that can record and play back a sleeper’s dreams, but somehow it’s just a leap too far to imagine that we’ll outgrow physical digital discs or glass television and computer monitors.

That thrill was enough to make the experience of Until the End of the World just somewhat more bearable than it ought to have been, in that form. Oh, to be sure the movie was a joy to rediscover later on once I’d invested in a multi-region DVD player and picked up a German box-set of the director’s-cut “Trilogy” version of the film, which allowed the film and its early-90’s art-house idiosyncrasies to play out a little more loosely,  but at the length it was originally released in it was something of a chore to sit through. There are times when, due to cramped editing and an over-reliance on the narrative crutch that is voice-over narration, a two-and-a-half hour movie can feel much, much longer than one which spans over four hours, especially when one is dealing in the heady brand of near-future science-fiction, where the blend of face-value realism and elaborate exposition can make a story that’s supposed to be set only a week or two from today feel as infuriating and impenetrable as the densest of alternate-history tomes. And there are no better examples of this kind of genre-crisis filmmaking, or no worse experiences of it, than the 2007 high-concept sophomore slump that is Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales.


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by Allan Fish

Under the entry for Jacques Becker’s look at post-war Parisian youth Rendezvous de Juillet, Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide tells the reader to “watch closely for an unbilled 18 year old Capucine.”  He’s not wrong to do so, for she’s there, amongst the students at a gathering, but I might venture to say that the real pearl was not Capucine at all.  While nominated female stars Nicole Courcel and Brigitte Auber (later the thief in To Catch a Thief) were fine, too, it was rather another girl, only 17 at the time of filming who is also to be glimpsed, briefly going into and equally briefly during an acting rehearsal, probably as an extra. (more…)

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By Peter Lenihan

Finding Ford is a biweekly series on the films of John Ford. The next installment will be on The Long Voyage Home.

Here’s the thing about Will Rogers, the quarter-Cherokee vaudeville cowboy who could only play himself and was a better man for it—while hardly a dominating presence in a conventional sense, his improvisatory style tended to shape the film’s around him, whether or not he played the lead. Take State Fair, a lovely bit of Americana directed by Henry King in 1933. This isn’t Rogers’ movie, and while his children spend the majority of the movie finding (or not finding) romance at the annual state fair, the actor spends the bulk of the running time hanging around the pig pen. And although King applies some nice lyrical interludes to Gaynor’s courtship (a couple rollercoaster moments recall The Crowd), it’s Rogers and that damn pig he keeps returning to, and it’s with this pair that the emotional catharsis of the climax resides. (more…)

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Win This

by the Wonders staff
We here at Wonders in the Dark would like to unveil a new contest feature that will find the winner being given an original Wonders in the Dark boutique dvd release. Inspired by the wave of independent film restoration houses like Britain’s Masters of Cinema and America’s Criterion Collection, we will be holding a contest every 6 months (give or take obviously) where the winner is mailed a region free coded playable dvd* of a film that we’ve selected for inclusion due to what we feel is impressive artistic merit or originality and that the film in question doesn’t currently have official dvd release status. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1940 18m) DVD1/2

This has gotta end some place

p  Jules White  Del Lord  w  Elwood Ullman

Moe Howard (Moe), Larry Fine (Larry), Curly Howard (Curly), Dudley Dickerson (cook),

Imagine a real nightmare scenario, where in a dream you imagine there’s a leak coming through the roof.  You finger your way through the Yellow Pages for local plumbers but those listed are all great comedy teams.  You see Keaton and Hardwicke Ltd. listed, scratch your head and then remember Forever and a Day.  You see Marx Bros. Ltd., but shake your head in disbelief; plumbing didn’t seem their kind of racket.  Abbott and Costello?  Costello would be doing all the work, Abbott would be barking orders, nothing would get done.  Laurel and Hardy?  If you’ve seen Busy Bodies and the chaos they caused in a saw mill, that’s a no-no.  Hay, Moffatt and Marriott?  You wonder if they even had water pipes when Harbottle was born and you wouldn’t let Hay run a bath, let alone fix one.  Wheeler and Woolsey?  Nope, can’t see them in overalls, where would Woolsey hold his cigar?  The Crazy Gang?  Six of them?  God, no, six times the mess.  And in this dream state, where logic enters out of the window, you give up going through them one by one and just pick one by blindly pointing like you’re finding a horse for the Grand National.  An hour later – okay, minutes later, we’re in a dream after all – three fellas stand at your door.  You tell them there’s a leak in the basement (cellar if you’re British).  “Where’s the basement?” one asks.  “Upstairs”, says another.  “Up to the basement” says the third, charging like Teddy Brewster up the stairs.  You just know this cannot end well.  (more…)

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Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso as Moe, Larry and Curly in new film on The Three Stooges

by Sam Juliano

Purveyors of unadulterated slapstick and a defining anarchy, The Three Stooges were initially seen in movie theatres in the late 30’s and early 40’s in short films that ran before features.  While competition in comedic circles was spirited at a time when Laurel & Hardy, Our Gang, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Will Hay, Wheeler & Woolsey, Abbott and Costello and the great Chaplin himself were all working to critical and audience acclaim, the Stooges make their mark specializing in physical farce and extreme slapstick.  With it’s eventual members all veterans of vaudeville, the group took hold when “Curly Howard” joined his older brother “Moe” and a friend Larry Fine, after the oldest Howard brother Shemp left to pursue a solo career in music.  (Shemp would later return to the act after Curly suffered a debilitating stroke, at a time when the groups very best shorts were behind them during the Curly years)  Some of the finest two reeler comedies ever made – A-Plumbing We Will Go, Micro-Phonies, Violent is the Word For Curly, An Ache in Every Stake and several others are among the 190 short films the comedy troupe produced – after Shemp died in 1955 suddenly, he was replaced by Curly Joe DeRita and Joe Besser – and the films enjoyed a major revival in the late 50’s in syndication.  On New York City’s WPIX a new generation grew up with the Stooges on “Officer” Joe Bolton’s “Three Stooges Funhouse” which ran for twelve years, beginning in 1958 on weekdays at 5:30 P.M.  Numerous times during the show’s impressionable tenure, Moe Howard spoke by phone to Officer Joe in conversations that were heard on air, and the Stooges underwent a renaissance for youngsters who has just then come upon their unique chemistry and incomparable brand of humor. (more…)

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Screen cap from moving Canadian drama "Monsieur Lazhar"

by Sam Juliano

Spring break for most is over, and the month of April  is at the mid-way point.  The weather has been glorious, the baseball season is now in full swing (Yankee fans are rejoicing the team’s comeback) and others continue to map out vacation plans.  In the Big Apple, movie fans are gearing up for this week’s opening of the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, and Wonders in the Dark has been awarded two permanent passes for the entire festival as a result in large measure because of Dennis Polifroni’s friendship with one of the schedule coordinators.  It will be a very busy week and a half of film going, and a comprehensive report will be posted at the event’s conclusion.

Our good friend R.D. Finch at The Movie Projector will be hosting a William Wyler blogothon in early June, and yours truly will be contributing an essay.  It is hoped that readers will be checking on the daily postings in what is sure to be an enriching event.  As a result of Finchy’s exciting venture (his first blogothon as a host) I have decided to hold back the planned start of the Comedy Countdown until a week after R.D’s blogothon concludes.  I will be sending out a group e mail with specifics by the end of the month.

Lucille and I (and the kids for some) were again busy on the movie front.  We saw:

Habemus Papam   ****      (Tuesday night)     IFC Film Center

Keyhole    * 1/2            (Tuesday night)             IFC Film Center

The Cabin in the Woods ****         (Friday afternoon)   Secaucus multiplex

Monsieur Lazhar  **** 1/2                  (Friday night)        Angelika Film Center

The Three Stooges  *** 1/2             (Saturday night)      Chelsea Cinemas

Footnote  **** 1/2      (Friday night)        Angelika Film Center (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Winners for 1934…

Best Picture L’Atalante, France (6 votes)

Best Director Jean Vigo, L’Atalante (7 votes)

Best Short The Mascot, France, Wladyslaw Starewicz (5 votes)

Best Actor John Barrymore, Twentieth Century (7 votes)

Best Actress Bette Davis, Of Human Bondage & Ruan Lingyu, The Goddess (3 votes each, TIE)

Best Supp Actor Michel Simon, L’Atalante (8 votes)

Best Supp Actress Louise Beavers, Imitation of Life (4 votes)

Best Score Arthur Honegger, Les Misérables, Maurice Jaubert, L’Atalante & Alfred Newman, The Count of Monte Cristo (3 votes each, TIE)


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by Jaime Grijalba.

You know who would loose both the Battle Royale and the Hunger Games? Bob Clark… because he’s sick. And now, like a victorious warrior I’ve taken over his place to talk about the two most discussed films of the past weeks, to give my own pespective and look about these science fiction movies that have taken over the imagination of most of the youngsters and adults that try to see some message about our society in film, a wrong place to look if you want a barren future, you just need to turn on your television and watch a bit of reality shows or most of the gossip tables to see the way we are going: the bottom of the barrel. And while ‘The Hunger Games’ (2012) tries to give a commentary on reality shows and all kind of television shows, the thing just doesn’t seem exploited enough, it doesn’t give commentary on it as much as tries to imitate the style of this shows, trying to go beyond, but failing when we don’t see the counterpart of that: the audience, which is the main thing that keeps these kind of tv going on, but besides some scarce shots towards the end of the film, it doesn’t give you the proper experience of fascination towards the violence, the gossip, the opportunity to know the deepest feelings of a real human being (at least that’s what they’re trying to sell us, and the fakeness of the reality shows do play a part in the ending of the most succesful film of 2012 so far, it doesn’t have any real consecuence), someone that maybe some day we may get to know, or… hell, even someone we do know from our daily life! That’s what reality television does to us, it puts ourselves on the screen, or so it says, and it’s not a good image the one we are looking at right now. And while ‘Battle Royale’ (2000) doesn’t have the same element of reality TV, it feels closer to us and to what young people of today are: they are human people, not just token bad guys or token weak links, they’re not characters from a reality show, they are kids from today, kids with obvious tropes and clichés attached to them, but that morally go beyond the good/bad categories, and they become people with shades of grey, there’s good and bad in each one of us, and sometimes we need both sides, specially if we are in a situation in which they require of us to kill each and everyone of the people we go to school with, of course some would cherish the opportunity, but this distopia, where this kind of things can happen and do happen, I’m guessing that it’s more important an issue when we see this film in the wake of school shootings that predated the film as well as those who continue to happen all over the world, or when we hear about teachers getting revenge on bad students, or students getting revenge on teachers in general, I guess that is most a needy portrait than one of how we see ourselves in the media, as much as I like the concept, I think that this new japanese classic is even more current and important than the other film we’re going to talk about, so that’s why I’m saying it’s the superior film… besides, it’s a lot of more fun. (more…)

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