by Sam Juliano
All good things must come to an end? Well, I’m not so sure this adage can be taken with much more than a grain of salt, but it does seem applicable for a long-standing practice here at Wonders in the Dark that, after nearly three years has run it’s course. While other site regulars have continued to hammer away in e mails at the practice of providing weekly links under the Monday Morning Diary proper because of the prohibitive time it takes to negotiate it, I have held steadfast to the practice, essentially because I am a sentimentalist who is loathe to part with tradition. But after almost three years of burning hours each and every Sunday (true as of late I have sputtered) I no longer can see the mitigating value of putting everything aside, including spending time with the family and watching stuff at home and in the theatres to accomplish this task. The maintenance of the diary has also taken it’s toll on my weekly Sunday night visits to see my 82 year-old father with the family, and has severely compromised my lifestyle. The returns from this on-going project do not seem to justify the investment, as rarely are links below the first four ever even clicked on, as per site statistics. True, the first and second links attract excellent traffic for the most part, but this doesn’t justify an extended blog scroll of 50 or more links. The site continues to attract impressive numbers by way of page views, followers and comments, but the majority of the link scroll remains unexplored, a fact that is unacceptable when the hours of work involved is figured in. I maintained it for as long as I logistically could but now it is time to move on.
Still, and this is really what counts the most methinks, I will continue my visitations to other sites to leave comments and show support, and I will surely make references in the diary proper every week of a few sites that are displaying unmissable reviews or posts. I will continue to support the blogosphere and my fellow bloggers as much as I can, without being tied down. I do realize that a number of blogger friends have urged me to discontinue the practice for some time, but I have doggedly resisted. I will find alternate methods of honoring our friends, and as I say I will point out some great reviews every week within the Diary itself. All will be well here and the spirit in still in place, just the method has been altered. Note: After pondering the matter over the past two days I have decided to institute a new weekly routine as of this week. I will choose five (5) links every week based on my perception of what I see as special posts. Naturally this will mean that some people may feel left out, or that I may have by limitation left out a number of worthy posts. I will admit this is the pitfall, but it also will allow for some acute appreciation for some worthy essays, providing readers click on the links. I will make every effort to rotate the sites chosen each and every week, but there may be instances where there are repeats. I trust everyone will understand my strategy and beg your indulgence. The only undeniable advantage with going with five links every week is that they will always be fresh and new. In any event, the WitD blogroll on the sidebar is there to access all our friends and worthwhile places.
This past week Ford scholar Tag Gallagher left a comment under Peter Lenihan’s exceptional review of The Long Voyage Home. Gallagher, who is the author of John Ford, is one of the world’s pre-emminent scholars on the director, and his appearance at the site was a major honor, especially for Peter and for blogger Stephen Morton. Otherwise it has been business as usual with some terrific pieces by Allan Fish on screen icons, Jamie Grijalba on Asian cinema and Bob Clark on comic and screen The Avengers.
Lucille and I saw four films in theatres since Monday after the great Tribeca bonanza of the previous weeks:
The Avengers ** (Saturday afternoon) Secaucus multiplex
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel *** (Saturday evening) Angelika
Goodbye First Love **** (Friday evening) IFC Film Center
Bonjour Tristesse (1958) ***** (Saturday evening) Film Forum
As I intimated briefly in Bob Clark’s essay THE AVENGERS (page and screen) which is one of his most successful pieces ever, I completely agree with Judy Geater and Maurizio Roca that the new film is forgettable. It is long, thunderous and without emotional resonance or character development, even though it is true we knew this would be the case before going in. Like Judy I was bored out of my mind, but also like Judy I attended with family members who loved it. Judy’s husband and son were big fans, as were my three boys, Sammy, Danny and Jeremy and my youngest daughter Jillian. Only my oldest child, 16 year-old Melanie chose to stay back. Danny thought the Hulk sequences were buffo, and loved the humerous quips. Ah well, maybe I need to lighten up, but I’ll admit aside from “The Dark Knight” and the original “Spider Man” movie I was not much of a superhero guy, nor of the Marvel comics they are based on.
Then there’s Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkerson and Dev Patel et al in John Madden’s THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, an uneven film with a fair share of funny lines and Enchanting April styled traveling to a far away place – India – to allow their retirement some serious delay. They find their lives again and the film exudes a fair degree of charm, though it can’t be denied much of it is forced, and the humor of Maggie Smith’s lines is strictly of the bigot variety. Still it’s passable and worth a look if you aren’t expecting something on the level of Merchant-Ivory. We watched the film in the row in front of once New York Mayor Ed Koch, now in his mid 80’s, who has doubled as a film critic for many years.
The week’s best new release is actually a film that opened a few weeks ago – Mia Hanson-Love’s French language GOODBYE FIRST LOVE, which is one of the most telling and resonate films about adolescent first love as has ever been filmed. The bliss, the pain, the anguish, the resignation all woven into an engrossing narrative acted with conviction by the two impressive leads, Sebastian Urzendowsky and Lola Creton.
The week’s supreme masterpiece is Otto Preminger’s 1958 BONJOUR TRISTESSE, a salacious Sirkian styled film about the domination of women and the moral decay of it’s characters. The film builds to a tragic crescendo, and Preminger’s framing is breathtaking, as is the spectacular mouth-watering print on display at the Film Forum in a held-over run that every serious cineaste should go out of their way to attend. I am so smitten with it that I may be seeing it again this week in a double feature with Rivette’s CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING, also playing at the Film Forum. Jean-Luc Godard was the first to regard Preminger’s film as a masterpiece, and he later used the actress Jean Seberg, (who is extraordinary as Cecile). The film is enveloping and intoxicating and in the end deeply felt, and it may be Preminger’s greatest work of all. Our friend Ed Howard at Only the Cinema wrote a brilliant short essay on the film in his celebrated “Films That I Love” series on September 7, 2008:
Here, now are the this week’s featured five links. Please remember my friends, that I will attempt to rotate this short list every week, and that non-presence should be seen only as a result of the curtailment:
Judy Geater at Movie Classics again writes with engaging scholarship and enthusiasm in her fascinating review of the 30’s Hollywood film based on Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/mystery-of-edwin-drood-stuart-walker-1935/
Phil Karlson’s esteemed noir 99 River Street is heading up at John Greco’s Twenty Four Frames in a splendid essay: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/99-river-street-1953-john-payne/
Lunch with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama? Yes indeed. Laurie Buchanan talks all about it in her celebratory new post at Speaking From The Heart: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/lunch-with-his-holiness-the-dalai-lama/
Samuel Wilson has penned a stupendous new essay on The Avengers at Mondo 70, which methinks is a must-read: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2012/05/on-big-screen-marvels-avengers-2012.html
In Joseph H. Lewis’ So Dark the Night noir specialist Tony d’Ambra talks about the ‘split personality’ that’s part of the equation in a brilliant short essay at FilmsNoir.net: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/so-dark-the-night-1946-the-split-personality.html
What’s that? Five isn’t quite enough. Well I’ll give you all fourteen more for a special bonus for this week only:
R.D. Finch astutely examines Fred Zinemann’s The Men at The Movie Projector in a wholly masterful essay by the gifted writer: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2012/04/men-1950.html
More on The Avengers courtesy of writer extraordinaire Roderick Heath at Ferdy-on-Films: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2012/04/men-1950.html
And the superheroes get more prime space from our own Jaime Grijalba down in Chile at Exodus 8:2: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2012/05/avengers-2012.html
In Tokyo, the ever-insightful Murderous Ink again writes with fascination and authority on the employment of music and the presence of the piano in classic Japanese cinema: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2012/05/88-keys.html
At The Last Lullaby, the ever delightful filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman takes a look at part sixteen of his long running quartet series: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2012/04/favorite-four-part-sixteen.html
The energetic and utterly wonderful Sachin Gandhi at Scribbles and Ramblings takes a look at Dutch cinema in ‘Euro 2012’ and the line-up includes the excellent “Winter in Wartime”: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2012/05/dutch-films.html
Jon Warner again writes with exceptional insight in his latest piece at Films Worth Watching on A Woman Under the Influence: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2012/05/dutch-films.html
Shubhajit Laheri superbly reviews the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera at Cinemascope: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2012/05/night-at-opera-1935.html
Mayne Island “Super Moon” photos and reflections, courtesy of Terrill Welch at the Creativepotager’s blog takes you to a new dimension of beauty: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/mayne-island-super-moon-on-may-5-2012/
Ed Howard breathes more life into one of the cinema’s most beloved works: Charles Chaplin’s City Lights at Only the Cinema: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2012/05/city-lights.html
J. D. at Radiator Heaven chimes into “The Avengers” discussion with a magnificent essay of his own: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2012/05/avengers.html
Patricia at Patricia’s Wisdom offers up a fascinating discussion on “Satisfying Conversation”: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2012/05/satisfying-conversation/
Pat Perry’s last post at Doodad Kind of Town was a very good one for those still playing catch up, and it’s one good actresses who make bad movies: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2012/03/when-good-actresses-make-bad-movies.html
Craig Kennedy has received quite a bit of action of those debating The Avengers under his superb piece at Living in Cinema: http://livingincinema.com/2012/05/01/the-avengers-2012/
So even with 19 we are still way down from previous weeks,and many of our best friends are still not represented. As I say in the future I’ll be juggling a small group around.