Archive for May, 2012

by Jaime Grijalba.

a.k.a. Wonderful Radio

(South Korea, 120 min)

Pop music. Loved and hated by (I think) equal parts of the population. Those who love it think that a music and some lyrics that you can follow and sing-along, and specially, get repeated to death without any sign of tiredness, is the perfection for any artist to accomplish, and no, no heavy themes nor heavy instruments, please, just go and make a song that makes me want to dance or sing. The people who hate pop music, hate it for the exact same reasons: because it is that and nothing else, these guys usually hate it so much that they just cringe at the mere mention of some artist or the public listening of that kind of music, they abominate what it means and what it stands for either in their political or just philosophical point of view. Well, if you are one of the last kind of people, you’ll just hate this film, because it celebrates singles, pop charts, celebration, industry and all the rest; au contraire, if you are the first kind of people, you may end up liking it quite a lot… but if you’re like me, you’ll be ‘meh’-ing all the way through, because even if I do hate pop music as a stance and majority, sometimes I can’t help but notice how many of these popular songs I actually know and how much value they actually have in my memory and in the memory of others, that I can’t help but look at them with some kind of respect, there is a craft and actual skill in the making of these… of course there’s much more skill, in my opinion, to make a great rock song, but whatever, there is some talent there. (more…)


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by Sam Juliano

When a freak accident claimed the life of Polish composer and jazz pianist Krzysztof Komeda at the age of 38 in 1969, the film community lost an invaluable talent at the peak of his artistic powers and a young man was cut short well before his time.  Indeed, director Roman Polanski, in the liner notes to a 1997 Komeda tribute album wrote: “Krzysztof Komeda was not only a valued professional collaborator but a close and dear friend, and it is my abiding regret that his untimely death robbed me of him in both those capacities.”  Komeda developed a personal style that brought the jazz form a new prominence in a communist country that frowned on what was seen as an American creation.  Komeda expanded the jazz parameters by injected a generous dose of ‘slavic lyricism’ and poetic atmosphere that eventually gained the young composer a following in his native country and abroad.  One of Komeda’s most enthusiastic fans was none other than Polanski himself, who courted the fellow Pole to score his first film, Knife in the Water, after engaging the composer on his student film, after many months of attending him on the nightclub circuit.  By that time the composer had received a few other offers (which he accepted) and he came through for Polanski with a low-key jazz score to serve as a counterpoint to the mounting tensions in Knife, employing saxophone and a string-bass driven sound.  The mournful romanticism of the main theme is what most remember most compellingly from the score, but the music throughout is exceptionally applied.  Polanski again called on Komeda for his 1963 Cul-de-Sac, allowing the composer to again write a nifty  jazzy composition, with a dominant use of the moog, bongo and warbling horns.  At around that time Komeda was also composing for the Danish director Henning Carlsen, contributing scores to Kattorna, People Meet and Sweet Music Fills the Heart and the director’s masterpiece, Salt (Hunger), for which a provocative chamber music design was written.  Komeda’s most famous album to this day remains his landmark jazz work “Astigmatic” (1965) which is noted for it’s extraordinarily sublime coordination of piano harmonies and rhythms.  Komeda also worked with Polish titan Andrzej Wajda, penning the score to Innocent Sorcerers, which exhibited the experimentation of form and dark tonalities typical of some of his earlier film music. (more…)

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Exceptionally talented lead player, Norwegian Anders Danielsen Lie in Joachim Trier’s masterpiece ‘Oslo, August 31st’

by Sam Juliano

Wonders in the Dark reached another plateau this past Saturday when the nearly four year-old blog passed the two million mark in page views.  Congratulations are in order to the many writers and loyal friends who have helped boost and sustain this place of ceaseless activities.  As I prepare this diary on the evening of a very hot Memorial Day Monday in the New York City area, I join with other WitD staffers in wishing Allan Fish a Happy 39th birthday!  As always with a new week we inch closer to some upcoming projects, including Richard (R.D.) Finch’s “William Wyler blogothon” at The Movie Projector and WitD’s own “Comedy Countdown” which will move into high gear on July 1st, the day final ‘Top 50’ ballots are due.

At Manhattan’s Film Forum, an Erich Von Stroheim Festival kicked off on Monday with an evening screening of Greed with piano accompaniment.  Upcoming festivals on spaghetti westerns and the 100th Anniversary of Universal at the same theatre are offering some great classics, many double and even triple features for the price of one.

Lucille and I were quiet for much of the week, until the four-day weekend when we saw three films in theatres and a high-profile Harold Pinter stage play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Broadway Bob attended the play and one of the three film screenings.  By way of sheer quality, this was the strongest week of 2012, with a masterpiece, a near-masterpiece, a film pushing that level, and a memorable night at the theatre. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1969-1970 452m) DVD2

What did you expect, wit? 

p  David Croft, Sydney Lotterby  d  David Croft  w  Talbot Rothwell, Sid Colin

Frankie Howerd (Lurcio), Elizabeth Larner (Ammonia), Kerry Gardner (Nausius), Jeanne Mockford (Senna the soothsayer), Max Adrian (Ludicrus Sextus), Wallas Eaton (Ludicrus Sextus), Georgina Moon (Erotica), William Rushton (Plautus), Valerie Leon, John Cater, Lindsay Duncan, Barbara Windsor, Mollie Sugden, George Baker, Jean Kent,

Borne out of many different sources, it’s believed that Up Pompeii was a direct result of Frankie Howerd’s star turn replacing Zero Mostel for the London run of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  There’s Plautus in there, too, the legendary Roman farceur of the 2nd century BC.  It’s now forty years since it first aired, in the form of a Comedy Playhouse pilot in late 1969.  There were a few changes prior to its first series early the following year, and it was quickly followed by another before the year was out, but with Max Adrian replaced by Wallas Eaton (who’d played a small part in the first series) as Ludicrus Sextus.  It’s also easy to forget, in light of the much more frequently seen film version, how much superior the TV series were.  Indeed, who would have thought Dad’s Army and Porridge were up to much if judged by their movie spin-offs.  The film of Up Pompeii was a shambles, relishing the added opportunities for nudity but completely lacking in humour.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

OK, straight into the results…

Best Picture  The Grapes of Wrath, US (9 votes)

Best Director  John Ford, The Grapes of Wrath (11 votes)

Best Short  A-Plumbing We Will Go, US, Del Lord (8 votes)

Best Actor  Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath (15 votes)

Best Actress  Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday (7 votes)

Best Supp Actor  Frank Morgan, The Shop Around the Corner (8 votes)

Best Supp Actress  Judith Anderson, Rebecca (12 votes)

Best Score  Franz Waxman, Rebecca (8 votes)

and my own choices…


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   Wonders in the Dark has reached it’s second monumental milestone in the past months that warrants announcing on these pages.  In fact this newest achievement trumps the past one, which was an acknowledgement of the number of posts the site has published since it’s inception In August of 2008.

Today (Saturday, May 26, 2012) the site surpassed two million page views (hits), a statistic that we are all extremely proud of.  So many people are responsible for this staggering figure, one that kept the site on a favored list of places to stop on a regular basis.  Above all it’s the writers and organizers who deserve the most acknowledgement and praise:  Dee Dee, Allan, Jamie Uhler, Maurizio Roca, Jim Clark, Bob Clark,  Jaime Grijalba, Tony d’Ambra, Joel Bocko, Dennis Polifroni and the many close friends, who I have mentioned previously on the thread that honored the total number of posts at Wonders in the Dark.

Thanks to all for enabling us to smile for the second time in three months.

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By Bob Clark

Though it’s been more and more infrequent in the past fifteen years or more, there used to be a fairly common occurrence of half-hour animated specials produced from American comic-strips, usually centering around some kind of holiday-related special occasion, the gold standard being the classic Charlie Brown Christmas. Those and other Peanuts specials from creator Charles Schulz and director Bill Melendez managed to translate the peculiar mannerisms of the cartoonist’s celebrated comic-strip so successfully into animation that for decades they managed to serve as the first introduction many children had to characters like Snoopy, Linus and the like. It helped having actual kids supply the voices for the young characters, of course (with Melendez himself providing grunts and howls rich in personality for Snoopy), and especially the accompaniment of Vince Guaraldi’s now standard jazz compositions. But as permanent as that special, the ones that succeeded it, and even the features and series that followed in their wake all marked themselves into the consciousness of whole generations’ worth of children, the animated form of Peanuts never quite outstepped the influence of the original home Schulz found on the comics page, where his work served as an inspiration to countless cartoonists and artists of every stripe (even Godard called him one of the best writers in America) until his death in early 2000.

The same can’t quite be said for some of the other comic-strips to have succeeded in animated form. Some easily outpaced their comics-page counterparts, only serving to remind just how superficial some of those comics were to begin with– the various Garfield cartoons came to life on television in a way that Jim Davis’ strip never approaches thanks to the addition of Lou Rawl’s music and most especially the charmingly deadpan voice of the late Lorenzo Music, such to the point that not even Bill Murray himself could follow in those horrible live-action movies. Aaron McGrudder’s anime-influenced Boondocks series has long-since outpaced the original strip that sired it, at least in terms of his own involvement. Others managed to remain true to their printed sources, but never really reach people on the same level of impact– Berke Breathed’s Bloom County made an honestly charming special centered around Opus the Penguin in A Wish for Wings That Work, but it’s strictly for die-hard fans of the strip, and Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse translated well enough into an animated version that’s sure to please anybody who still remembers the long-running Canadian strip even exists. Plenty of high profile strips have never been turned into animated forms of any kind (Bill Waterson would turn in his grave before he was even buried should Calvin and Hobbes be licensed in any way), and plenty more have been brought to television with so little fanfare it’s a wonder anybody knows about them at all (remember Tales From the Far Side? Or that Dilbert series with Daniel Stern and Kathy Griffin? I didn’t think so).


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by Allan Fish

(UK 1999/2001 350m) DVD1/2

Skip to the end

p  Nira Park, Gareth Edwards  d  Edgar Wright  w  Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson  ph  Andy Hollis  ed  Chris Dickens (and others)

Simon Pegg (Tim Bisley), Jessica Stevenson/Hynes (Daisy Steiner), Julia Deakin (Marsha Klein), Nick Frost (Mike Watt), Mark Heap (Brian Topp), Katy Carmichael (Twist Morgan), Lucy Akhurst (Sophie), Anna Wilson-Jones (Sarah), Peter Serafinowicz (Duane Benzie), Clive Russell (Damien Knox), Bill Bailey (Bilbo Bagshot), Michael Smiley (Tyres O’Flaherty), Reece Shearsmith (Dexter), Charles Dale (security guard), John Simm, Claire Rushbrook, Ricky Gervais, Mark Gatiss, Paul Kaye, David Walliams,

A long time ago – well, a few years ago – on a channel far, far away – well, Channel 4 – there was a tale told of two people…  It seems appropriate to thus introduce one of the most truly unique sitcoms of recent memory.  Here was a series that so revelled in spoofs and homages to other films, TV series, and other media that it even had a DVD release that featured a ‘homage-o-meter’ as an extra.  Not only did it include these spoofs, but it paid respect to them, and even integrated them not just into the plot but into the visual texture of the episode.  It was a comedy for the Empire and Q magazine generation, the Generation X who worshipped Star Wars, junk TV, comics, and general slackerdom but did something that the works of, say, Kevin Smith didn’t; made it oh so believable.  (more…)

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© 2012 by James Clark

For a long while now, we’ve been sifting through quite recent films affording the spectacle of rather unusual figures coming to grips with turning a tide threatening to reduce their lives to painfully grotesque smallness. That gravitational crisis, moreover, reveals itself to operate along two theatres of war: an occupation of active sensibility whereby an individual coagulates and concomitantly asserts inflationary, self-destructive motives; and an occupation of the world at large by ideals (and their incorporations) spawned by that misstep (and compounding the personal dilemma).

In face of this disorienting reversal, which conspicuously (even if confusedly) entices artists often referred to as “Surrealists,” various filmmakers have deployed the resources of cinema with a view to measuring the leeway for sustained sufficiency in its context of horrific devastation. What we must not lose sight of here is that, for all their disaster-rife exertions, those films have, with one exception, fervently maintained the possibility of integral action, that is, histories burning with the prospect (however violently daunting) of coherent procedures enlivened by harmonics “out of this world” (“surreal”), since never welcomed in this world. The great irony of the reception of such films thus driven is that while most vehicles are repulsed as preposterously morbid, the most implacably negative entry—that of Robert Bresson—is generally accorded hushed reverence. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(the first entry in the British TV top 100 countdown)

(UK 1972 270m) not on DVD

Absolution by return

p/d  Michael Mills  w  Ray Galton, Alan Simpson  novel  Gabriel Chavallier  ph  James Balfour  m  Alan Roper  art  Spencer Chapman  cos  Valerie Spooner

Cyril Cusack (Mayor Barthelemy Piechut), Roy Dotrice (Abbé Ponosse), Kenneth Griffith (Ernest Tafardel), Wendy Hiller (Justine Putet), Micheline Presle (Baroness Courtebiche), Bernard Bresslaw (Nicholas the Beadle), Cyd Hayman (Adele Torbayon), Catherine Rouvel (Judith Toumignon), Freddie Earlle (François Toumignon), John Barrett (Poipanel), Hugh Griffith (Alexandre Bourdillat), Madeline Smith (Hortense Girodot), Nigel Green (Captain Tardinaux), Dennis Price (Alexis Luvelat), Peter Madden (Doctor Mouraille), Georgina Moon (Rose Bivaque), Gordon Rollings (Blazot), Aubrey Woods (Aristide Focart), Peter Ustinov (narrator),

During one of the hiatuses between the later series of Steptoe and Son, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson worked on a comedy that couldn’t have been further from Oil Drum Lane in Shepherds Bush if it tried.  Old Albert had always been going on about how he caused scandals across the fields of Flanders, but move south a couple of hundred kilometres into the hills near Lyon and you’ll find the sleepy community of Clochemerle, where life is devoted to the growing, making and consumption of wine.

In this little village in the mid 1920s, the local Mayor Piechut is looking to try and curry favour with the locals in the vain attempt to eventually become a senator.  He hits on the vote-winning idea of a public urinal in the village square, in front of the church, by the memorial to the honoured dead of 1914-18.  Dignitaries are invited for its official inauguration and a politician christens the urinal by being the first to avail himself of the chance to relieve himself.  Everyone seems happy…everyone except the local religious nut Justine Putet, who sees it as the devil’s work, and when a young innocent girl, Rose, is found to be pregnant, she blames the urinal as a corrupting force.  (more…)

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