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Archive for May, 2012

by Sam Juliano

Air conditioners are now in regular use as Northern Hemisphere inhabitants are officially planning for the fast-approach summer.  Heck, even I just submitted my ‘summer 2012’ intent form for the program I have worked in for the past 18 years consecutively.  It was during some computer time back in the summer of 2005 that I first met Allan during an e bay transaction and subsequent e mail conversations from the Lincoln School annex, so the practice has widened the personal and social horizons, to say the least.  It seems our own vacation plans will again be focused on the beachfront resort, Wildwood, in Cape May County, New Jersey, a place of many fond memories that we have visited endless times over the years.  It’s a place of multiple boardwalks, roller coasters, ferris wheels, beach sand, and a quaint colonial town of older well-kept structures dating back to the colonial era.  It’s also a place that boasts the famed ‘Lobster House’ and it’s succulent New England clam chowder.  But August is a long time away, and before then us devout bloggers are thinking of R.D. Finch’s William Wyler blogothon in late June, and the launching of the long-awaited  ‘Comedy Countdown’ on July 1st.  For the latter venture, it has been decided that each voter will be submitting their own Top 50 comedies, which can be any combination of features and/or shorts by July 1st.  A final countdown list of 60 films will be tabulated and revealed to those who have cast ballots, and assignments will be divided among the voters who also want to write, and a few others who only want to write.

Marilyn Ferdinand, Roderick Heath, the Self-Styled Siren and Greg Ferrara have just completed yet another hugely-successful and popular Film Preservation blogothon, and a salute in in order to them all for their peerless commitment and tireless energy towards this most worthy cause.  Throughout the blogosphere, many took up the call to arms, and some top-drawer prose was highlighted.  Ed Howard of Only the Cinema was on a rampage the last two weeks offering up one early Hitchcock review after the other in an incredible run.  But the effort came in from all quarters, and as I say it was quite a venture.  I also want to thank Marilyn and Rod for their exceedingly kind words in appraisal of the posts that appeared at WitD from Allan and myself.  I also want to yet again acknowledge Dee Dee, who kept the sidebar active and updated in enthusiastic support of the blogothon.

Peter Lenihan has contributed his final entry in his superlative “Finding Ford” series, his tenth to be exact, and everyone at Wonders is that much richer for the postings.  Peter is swamped with work at the present time, and what with his taking up residence overseas, it is never a certainty when he can even get on-line as he’s admitted.  What Peter has done has expanded the Ford literature, and his writings will be cherished.  Peter has indicated there is a possibility he may return down the line, but though that would be fantastic, what he has done over the past months is deeply appreciated.  Thank you my friend! (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Straight into it as always…

Best Picture La Règle du Jeu, France (9 votes)

Best Director Jean Renoir, La Règle du Jeu (11 votes)

Best Short The Ugly Duckling, Bill Roberts, Jack Cutting, US (4 votes)

Best Actor Robert Donat, Goodbye Mr Chips (9 votes)

Best Actress Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind (16 votes)

Best Supp Actor Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach (6 votes – very close – himself for Only Angel Have Wings

Best Supp Actress Hattie McDaniel, Gone with the Wind (8 votes)

Best Score Max Steiner, Gone With the Wind (8 votes)

Thank the Lord the cinematic Oz luddities were overthrown at the last minute.  Now my own choices, all the same bar one…

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By Bob Clark

Among the chief architects of my early imagination as far as pop-cultural influences go, there are artists of many disciplines, as befitting a childhood spent in the burgeoning multi-media landscape of the late 80’s and early 90’s. There are predictable entries like Lucas and Spielberg, each of them inventing cinematic experiences out of special-effects assisted whole cloth. There are figures like Jim Henson and the various puppeteers who went into creating the various Muppet productions on film and television. There are Stan Lee and the armies of artists and writers under his Marvel banner helping to weave the pen and ink tapestries of all manner of superheroes. There are Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira Toriyama, Peter Chung and the creators of all manner of other anime I watched during the wee hours, for the sheer pleasure of watching something obviously mature and forbidden. There are newspaper cartoonists like Charles Shultz, Bill Waterson, and even Bill Breathed and Gary Trudeau, even if most of their jokes went over my head until I was almost out of elementary school.

Perhaps most tellingly from the specific time and place I come from, however, there is Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the storied Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda franchises over at Nintendo. What sets his work apart from all the various other creators of film and print media is the interactive quality of his medium– as a game designer, Miyamoto and others like him have crafted not only characters and narratives for audiences to vicariously attach themselves to over the years, but whole experiences to devour first-hand, even if on a limited basis. The adventures that players have shared in the decades’ worth of Mario and Zelda titles allow for a particular kind of generational bond that’s hard to explain fully to anyone who grew up without them, just as I’m sure it’ll be next to impossible for children growing up in the vast labyrinth of cross-media chatter to fully relate to anyone who came of age at the same pace as the technology they use to communicate on a daily, hourly or even minute-by-minute basis.  We don’t just remember these stories, these characters, these places– we were there and lived them together and apart in ways that are analogous only to sharing in a great, communal dream.

It helps that Miyamoto was one of the first artists whose identity I was able to latch onto, at an early age, and invest myself with as a man whose creative process was worthy of paying close attention to, if only to better appreciate his work and get that much closer to actually finishing one of his games. Just as I grew up discovering filmmakers like Kurosawa or Godard through reading interviews with Lucas, I learned more about the personal experiences of the artist and how they can affect their work by soaking up everything I could read about Miyamoto in magazine articles. There were the stories he shared about how his childhood spent exploring the mountainous countryside of his family home  led to the maze-like dungeons and overworlds of the Zelda games, or the discovery of obscure artifacts of Japanese folklore and mythology through power-ups in Super Mario Bros. 3. Maybe most curiously, there was the way that he spoke with curiosity and energy about the way other creative forms worked, and how he wished he could approximate some of their habits. In particular, I recall reading about his fondness for comics, and how he wished that a video-game screen could change shape or size at times, in the way that a manga-panel could. This wasn’t just a talking point on games, or even something that dealt only with comics– this was an introduction to thinking about art in the scale and scope of its production, of thinking about aspect-ratios, and it’s something that I could relate to immediately by thinking of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

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by Allan Fish

(France 1988-1998 276m) DVD1/2

Aka. Tales of the Cinema

A margin of indefiniteness

d/w  Jean-Luc Godard  ph  Pierre Binggeli, Herve Duhamel  m  Belá Bártok, Bernard Herrmann, Dimitri Sostokovich, Arvo Pärt, Franz Schubert, Arthur Honegger, Ludwig van Beethoven, J.S.Bach, Leonard Cohen, etc

narrated by Jean-Luc Godard, with Julie Delpy, Juliette Binoche

Think back to that magnificent opening to Zemeckis’ otherwise tepid Contact, in which, the further we retreat back from Earth, the older the sounds we hear, mirroring how long it takes these sounds to travel through space, from the Spice Girls, through the Dallas theme, Nixon, Neil Armstrong, Martin Luther King, the Kennedy assassination, Dean Martin, the McCarthy witch hunts, Glenn Miller, Roosevelt, to Hitler and ‘We’re in the Money’ as we pass out of the edge of the galaxy.

Around the same time as the effects boffins were working on that piece in sunny Hollywood, Jean-Luc Godard was finishing off an enterprise he had begun a decade earlier.  If the sound bites of the first part of Godard’s piece, shot in 1988, were part of that audio track back through the cosmos, they would have been heard just before Mars came into view.  And Godard’s film holds something in common with the sequence discussed, in that it encourages the viewer to juxtapose various images and sounds and even words together that may not, at first, seem to have direct meaning.  In the opening instalment, for example, Godard is sat in front of his electronic typewriter, thinking about where to even begin this journey through film history.  Films come to mind, and are spoken aloud, but it’s not images of these films that we see accompanying them.  So La Règle du Jeu is uttered, but it’s images of Chaplin we see.  Cries and Whispers follows, and pictures of Ida Lupino illustrate… (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

This post is a contribution to the third annual For the Love of Film blogathon and fundraiser, which will be running from May 13-18. This year, hosts Marilyn Ferdinand, Farran Smith Nehme and Roderick Heath have dedicated the week to Alfred Hitchcock, whose early (non-directorial) work “The White Shadow” will be the beneficiary of any money earned during the event.  The film preservation theme of course is at the center of this cinematic lament.  We can certainly hope for  a miracle. Be sure to donate!]

Printed prominently on the CD artwork and in the elaborate booklets included in the “Brigham University Film Music Archive Collection” launched in 1995 and still running series of film music releases is this specification: All proceeds from this limited edition compact disc go towards the acquisition and preservation of film music elements.  The series now includes a relatively-scant 14 releases, each a miracle of production, in almost all instances produced from master tapes and manuscripts that were donated to the university, and are presently managed by the curator, James D’Arc, who has sereved as producer for each of the releases.  The published “mission statement” of the project reads:

The Film Music Archives (BYU/FMA) exists to acquire, preserve, catalog, and make 
available to scholars and other interested parties original motion picture music manuscripts and recordings that document the history of music composed and recorded for motion pictures. (more…)

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By Peter Lenihan

Finding Ford is a biweekly series on the films of John Ford.

Apologies for the EXTREME tardiness of this week’s post—as some of you may or may not know, I live and work at a small provincial college in a fairly remote area on the border of Thailand and Burma, where power outages, not to mention internet disconnections, are a daily reality. Ideally I would have my pieces scheduled here at WitD well in advance, but that rarely happens, and when the power is out the power is out.

I have found in the past few weeks that I have less and less time to dedicate to these entries, and that I find myself repeating the same ideas from essay to essay. It’s for these reasons that I’m deciding to suspend the Finding Ford series for the time being—it may very well be resuscitated some time in the future, but for now I think it has run its course, and it’s unclear to me where it has left to go. (And if anyone feels like continuing the series themselves, perhaps offering fresh perspectives on the films I haven’t yet covered, they absolutely have my blessing; just throw Sam or me an email).

The Searchers has been written on twice before at Wonders in the Dark. Here Allan Fish called it the ninth best film of the fifties. And here Maurizio Roca contrasted it unfavorably with Michael Cimino’s striking Heaven’s Gate—I don’t agree with a word of the latter piece but there’s no denying it stakes out a position that many today agree with, and does so in a way that is far more palatable (and less self-centered) than the Stephen Metcalfs of this world are capable of. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

A bit of a blast from left field, this is what I hope will be the first in a series of pieces on WitD contributors greatest sporting moments from their lifetime.  I say from their lifetime in that these events must have taken place while you yourself were breathing and not before.  In my case, this rules out anything pre 1973, from Pele’s Brazil to Arkle in full flow to Jim Laker’s 19 wickets in a test to Roger Bannister’s four minute mile.  This list will doubtless be radically different to anyone else’s.  Baseball, American Football and Basketball are completely absent and ice hockey only gets one mention – and that hardly needs an introduction.  So let’s get that out of the way first.

30 – USA beat USSR, Olympic Ice hockey final, 1980, Lake Placid

Better and more knowledgeable writers than yours truly have already waxed lyrical about this, but I remember watching this at the age of 6 or 7, cheering on the States against the Russians and not really being old enough to take in the ramifications.  You don’t need reminding, but here…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuBcvNmsVvs

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by Allan Fish

This post is a contribution to the third annual For the Love of Film blogathon and fundraiser, which will be running from May 13-18. This year, hosts Marilyn Ferdinand, Farran Smith Nehme and Roderick Heath have dedicated the week to Alfred Hitchcock, whose early (non-directorial) work “The White Shadow” will be the beneficiary of any money earned during the event.  The film preservation theme of course is at the center of this cinematic lament.  We can certainly hope for  a miracle. Be sure to donate!]

Network For Good

In discussions regarding film preservation, what often gets lost in the mélée is at what cost our slowly awakening ourselves to the problem has come.  Lost films are a source of anguish to film connoisseurs and historians.  A read through the timelines on this site’s right menus will showcase just what treasures have been lost to us.  The degree of loss varies, of course.  In most cases the entire film is lost.  In others it’s only a portion that’s lost, in a few we have snippets surviving, from the 10 seconds or so of the Theda Bara Cleopatra (1917) to the one or two scenes of The Way of All Flesh (1927) – with the only lost Academy Award winning performance, by Emil Jannings – to films whose trailers survive and whose films do not.   The documentary Fragments (2011), financed by TCM, showcased many of these lost films and what footage we have of them.  In the spirit of that programme, I present a personal choice of 25 lost films most mourned by this writer.  I leave aside the legendary lost cuts of Foolish Wives (1921), Greed (1924), The River (1929), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Red Badge of Courage (1951) and the original six hour Cleopatra (1962) as we at least have them in butchered versions through to their conclusions.  These 25 were not so fortunate.

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Kids in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘I Wish’

by Sam Juliano

With spring weather upon us in full flower, outdoor activity has allowed many to do things that have long been sitting on the back burner.  Hope all those Moms out there had the best Mother’s Day ever on Sunday!  Thanks again to Dee Dee for her heart-felt attention to the special day on the sidebar and in the forwarding of cards by e mail.   Meanwhile, concrete steps have now been taken to launch the upcoming Comedy Countdown at Wonders in the Dark when a group e mail was sent this past week to all prospective participants, who have been urged to hand in a ballot with pointed specifications by July 1st.  It is currently planned and anticipated that the countdown will begin in late July and will feature a Top 60, to be posted Monday through Fridays.  Obviously if these plans come to pass as expected, the countdown will run until late October.

The For the Love of Film blogothon is officially underway at Ferdy on Films and at the sites of Roderick Heath and The Self-Styled Siren and will run through this coming Friday, May 18.  Allan Fish’s stupendous post on lost films captures the spirit of this venture in every sense imaginable, and is presently sitting above the MMD today.  My own contribution will be posted this coming Thursday, in a switch with Allan’s post, which was supposed to go up that day, but which has been moved ahead.  It should be quite a week for Marilyn and all the others here in their glorious annual venture.

Elsewhere, R.D. Finch’s William Wyler blogothon at The Movie Projector has drawn a week closer.  I will be contributing an essay on Ben-Hur, but over at The Dancing Image our dear friend Joel Bocko has written his own piece on the film:

http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2012/05/ben-hur.html

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by Allan Fish

Again, results first…

Best Picture Bringing up Baby, US (5 votes)

Best Director Sergei M.Eisenstein, Alexander Nevsky & Alfred Hitchcock, The Lady Vanishes (6 votes each, TIE)

Best Short Violent is the Word for Curly, Charley Chase, US (4 votes)

Best Actor Cary Grant, Bringing up Baby (3 votes – gives you an idea how the vote was split)

Best Actress Katharine Hepburn, Bringing up Baby (6 votes)

Best Supp.Actor Basil Rathbone, The Adventures of Robin Hood (5 votes)

Best Supp.Actress May Whitty, The Lady Vanishes (11 votes)

Best Score Sergei Prokofiev, Alexander Nevsky (7 votes)

And my choices…

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