by Sam Juliano
This week’s Monday Morning Diary is sitting atop this morning’s comedy countdown post for the first and last time during the project due to the strong desire to headline a family road trip to the mid-west that won’t be forgotten. The fact that the countdown review today is my own made this decision an easy one. Anyone looking for Number 85 need only to scroll below the Diary post.
The road trip began on Sunday evening August 20 at 10:00 P.M. when we left our Bergen County, New Jersey home in our Honda Odyssey, heading west on Route 80 for nearly fourteen hours until we stopped off the highway in Gary, Indiana to visit Michael Jackson’s childhood home in an economically blighted area that was once a bustling steel industry city. The kids, Jacko fans all, signed their names to the board in front of the tiny house, and took pictures in front of the plaque that was placed there after the King of pop’s death. (Lucille has subsequently reminded me that the stop in Gary, Indiana was on the way back from Chicago on Wednesday morning not as I state here on the way in! Ah well, I am losing it!) Next stop was the great city of Chicago, arriving at approximately 1:00 P.M. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites, sleeping two nights until Wednesday morning. Like any trip that is ultimately unforgettable it’s the people you meet who make all the difference, and the precious time we spent with the likes of three blogging friends and associates provided Lucille and I and all the kids with some splendid conversation, and stories that gave everyone some pointed laughter and some sage advice on shared points on shared intersts. First off was my Wonders in the Dark friend and colleague Jamie Uhler, a person I have wanted to meet for a very long time, and one who has been part of a regular daily e mail chain since the time when he joined the writing staff of the site. My friend, who is not a ‘picture taking kind of guy’ took the full day off from his workplace to make clearance for spending time with all of us. It certainly for me was an emotional moment when I first laid eyes on Jamie after he met me in the Holiday Inn lobby after subwaying from his home on the other side of the city. Jamie accompanied me on the elevator up to our rooms where he met Lucille and all the kids, who were preparing for an early supper. With Jamie as our guide we rode around the city checking out downtown buildings, prominent movie houses and Wrigley Field, before settling on the Lincoln Restaurant for decent food and great conversation.
While the kids hung around the hotel rooms and pool, Lucille, Jamie and I then drove to the landmark Music Box Theater to attend the institution’s annual ‘Noir Festival’ and meet Ferdy-on-Film’s indomitable Marilyn Ferdinand, who used some of her season passes and gave us a tour of this atmospheric paradise for cinephiles. The rarity Shakedown was on the schedule, and though my own viewing was tainted by some serious ‘staying awake” issues after the long over night drive, I had a fabulous time. Brooklyn College’s own Prof. Foster Hirsch, who is a regular at the Jersey City Loews, delivered the introduction. Lucille and I spoke a while longer afterwards with Jamie as we further toured the city, and after dropping my colleague off we returned to the Holiday Inn courtesy of our ever-reliable cell phone direction finder.
On Tuesday morning after breakfast we took in the gorgeous Millenium Park and Navy Pier, and toured the shopping areas near the Sears Tower before setting our sites on the affluent Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, where Shane and Marilyn Ferdinand waited at their home to treat us to a wonderful lunch and priceless conversation. The kids had a great time interacting with the charming Shane and the ever-spirited Marilyn, both of whom took an immediate liking to the family. Marilyn, who originally hailed from the city, and is editor-in-chief of a school publication (she was the subject of one of the most memorable installments in the WitD blogger appreciation series) is a real Chicago lady through and through. It was an awesome experience listening to her express her passion for the culture and history of the city, and in sharing so many humorous and engaging stories. A short tour of Skokie with Marilyn afterwards further enriched the visit. Heck to boot, I even placed an order on amazon.com when I returned home after hearing Shane’s boxed CD set of ‘Tati Sonorama,’ a compendium of movie scores from the films of the French comedy icon. Anyway, one of the unquestioned highlights of the trip.
We departed to Crystal Lake, Illinois a short while later. Awaiting us at their home in this beautiful rural town about 45 miles northwest of Chicago in McHenry County, were Len and Laurie Buchanan, two lovely people who proved to be extraordinary hosts. Laurie earned the affection of the kids after showng a real interest in their present and future lives and in engaging them in all kinds of worthwhile discussion. Len is a true gentleman and a perfect conversation mate. I also found out to my delight that he’s a huge fan of Golden Age Japanese cinema, and plan to further keep the flame burning to that end. Laurie, a real natural, whose “Speaking From The Heart” blogsite is a stop for many people the world over, is a holistic practitioner, who’s gifted in dealing with kids. After seeing her in action the other night, well, tell me I’m not surprised. The Buchanans were everything I expected and then some, and the Crystal Lake visit was one of the real highlights of the trip. Incidentally, Laurie’s new book will soon be published, and I’ll be keeping readers updated on this fantastic development. Laurie was the subject of a popular blogger’s appreciation feature at WitD.
I again met with Jamie after returning to the city later that night, and we both shared more conversation about Wonders in the Dark, future plans, mutual appreciations and life in Chicago. We returned to the hotel for a while, then I drove my friend back to his home after he set my direction finder back to the hotel. After breakfast on Wednesday morning we gave a sad goodbye to this great city and hit the road for the six-and-a-half hour ride to Cleveland, which was pretty much heading back our way. Setting up again in a Holiday Inn on Euclid Avenue that purportedly was the city’s first tall building, we then drove a few blocks to the banks of Lake Erie and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, where we remained till 9:00 closing time. We all enjoyed this tourist landmark, taking in some short films, the inductees section and a remarkable music gift shop. It’s a place that can never be given full justice on a single visit, and the kids are already hinting they’d like to return again within the next year during our membership period. Cleveland is a beautiful city, clean and ordered, but for me nowhere near Chicago in cultural scope and worthwhile places to visit. But then again, how many cities in the US can compare with Chicago? A friend of mine who is incredibly well-traveled refers to Cleveland as “the mistake on the lake.” While I think that summary judgement is too harsh, I can at least see where he is coming from based on my short time there. We had a late dinner at a ‘Chocolate Bar’ restaurant chain located a block from the hotel, and after a Thursday morning session on the PC we set our direction finder to the Cleveland house where the movie A Christmas Story was filmed, took a few pictures with the kids, and started our eight-hour ride back to Fairview, New Jersey. Everything went so fast, images blurred and the voices were stilled, but our family will forever hold this trip with exceeding fondness. The reward for all those hours in the van was priceless. The sole misgiving surrounding the trip was the admittedly bizarre decision I made to begin at night. It resulted in some severe exhaution problems and burning eyes that at one point required me to hold a moistened paper towel over one eye while driving. Oh and then there was the matter (ha!) of the Chicago White Sox beating the New York Yankees three nights in a row at Cellular Field, the stadium previously known as Commiskey Park that sits right off the Dan Ryan Expressway, and was the first landmark we saw entering the city.
On the movie front this past week we saw:
Shakedown *** 1/2 (Monday evening) Music Box Theatre – Chicago, Illinois
Une Partie de Campagne ***** (Thursday evening) Film Forum
Toni **** (Thursday evening) Film Forum
Le Plaisir **** (Saturday night) Film Forum
La Ronde **** 1/2 (Saturday night) Film Forum
I’ll have more to say about the films I saw on a later thread, but for now the subject is really the trip. Obviously, Renoir’s UNE PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE was the one irrefutable masterpiece in the lot (a position I know Allan shares) and it’s practically a textbook definition of the cinematic tone poems, and a film to sit with GRAND ILLUSION, RULES OF THE GAME and LA CHIENNE among the finest works of the genius Jean Renoir, one of the greatest of all directors. Lucille and the kids also attended PARANORMAN over the weekend (I did not myself) and everyone seems to have liked it.
As to the links, I re-printed last week’s scroll exactly as it was an changed some of the links closest to the top. That was the best I could do under the circumstanmces:
Judy Geater has penned a superlative review of the 1935 Hollywood version of “David Copperfield” at Movie Classics: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/david-copperfield-george-cukor-1935/
Th ever-effervescent Laurie Buchanan, whose book nears publication, talks about oversize collection in her latest post “I’m a Basket Case” at Speaking From The Heart: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/im-a-basket-case/
At FilmsNoir.net Tony d’Ambra makes a terrific case for James Wong Howe’s shadowy cinematography as a vital component in the classic Dashiel Hammet sourced screwball noir comedy “The Thin Man”: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/the-thin-man-1934-james-wong-howes-noir-counterpoint.html
At the Film Noir Festival at the historic Music Box Theatre in Chicago, Marilyn Ferdinand reviews “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” in yet another one of her exceptional essays, penned after a big screen viewing: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2012/slaughter-on-tenth-avenue-1957/15686/
Jon Warner has again written an extraordinary review, this time on Nick Ray’s celebrated “Rebel Without A Cause” at Films Worth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2012/08/rebel-without-cause-1955-directed-by.html
John Greco has re-posted is fantastic review of “Singin in the Rain” at Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/singin-in-the-rain-1952-stanley-donen-and-gene-kelly/
R.D. Finch has once again offered moviegoers a top-drawer review at The Movie Projector for a musical submission of “On the Town” for a blogothon: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2012/08/on-town-1949.html
Samuel Wilson has penned a fascinating piece in the Pre-Code Parade series on Kay Francis at Mondo 70: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2012/08/pre-code-parade-kay-francis-medical.html
Shubhajit Lahiri has posted a tremendous capsule on Dreyer’s “Gertrud” at Cinemascope: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2012/08/gertrud-1964.html
At Scribbles and Ramblings Sachin Gandhi features a terrific report on the showing of Indian cinema in the Sight and Sound poll: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2012/08/indian-films-in-sight-sound.html
David Lawrence, thjat erudite and personal educator from the U.K. features a poster of a Hammer classic at his new site Musings and Meanderings: http://1mouth2ears.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/movie-posters-1-dracula-has-risen-from-the-grave-1968/
David Schleicher has posted a splendid new piece at The Schleicher Spin, one that offers telling comparisonson between Andrey Zvyaginstev’s “Elena” and William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe”: http://theschleicherspin.com/2012/08/10/white-trash-melodrama-in-elena-and-killer-joe/
At Exodus 8:2 Jaimie Grijalba continues with his “100 Days of Terror” with recent reviews of the 1934 “The Black Cat,” another Poe Corman, and a film by the great Japanese experimental director Sion Sono, the last of which is featured here: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2012/08/100-dias-de-terror-n20-tsumetai.html
At the Creativepotager’s blogsite “The Artist Studio Floor Show” again brings the beauty of Terrill Welch’s paintings in glorious focus: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/3890/
Roderick Heath has written another one of his remarkable massive pieces on “The Dark Night Rises” at Ferdy-on-Films: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2012/the-dark-knight-rises-2012/15505/
At Darkness Into Light Dee Dee is featuring the work of the esteemed writer Andrew Katsis, who takes a penetrating look at the 1940 Hawks screwball classic “This Girl Friday”: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-word-according-to-my-writer-andrew.html#.UB8tyU2PXW4
In Tokyo, the exceedingly talented ‘Murderous Ink’ turns his scrutinizing focus on a Miziguchi classic “The Lady of Musashino” at Vermillion and One Nights: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2012/08/musashino-landscape-that-never-was-part.html
Brandie Ashe happily announces a “Singin in the Rain” giveaway at True Classics: http://trueclassics.net/2012/08/10/singin-again-plus-a-giveaway/
Joel Bocko has a lovely presentation up at The Dancing Image entitled ‘Art on the March…a visual mixtape”: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2012/07/arton-march-visual-mixtape.html
Craig Kennedy features the actress Jane Wyatt in his ‘birthday series’ at Living in Cinema in her beloved role as Spock’s mother Amanda in “The Long Voyage Home”: http://livingincinema.com/2012/08/12/star-trek-iv-the-voyage-home-1986-jane-wyatts-100th-birthday/
Food for thought on the nature of friendship by Mark Twain leads up at the always creative Coffee Messiah’s blog: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2012/08/click-to-enlarge-keep-away-from-those.html
Ed Howard has penned a fantastic piece on Jean Rollins’s “Requiem For A Vampire” at Only The Cinema: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2012/08/requiem-for-vampire.html
Terrill Welch talks about the significance of blog writing and reading at the Creativepotager’s blog, where she again features another magnificent painting she completed: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/does-anyone-read-blogs-and-does-it-matter-that-you-write/
Sachin Gandhi offers up a terrific review of James Sallis’s “Driven” (the sequel to “Drive”) at Scribbles and Ramblings: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2012/08/driven.html
Just Another Film Buff offers up a lovely “remembrance” via his work of recently deceased famed filmmaker Chris Marker at The Seventh Art:http://theseventhart.info/2012/08/12/remembrance-of-things-to-come/
Roderick Heath has posted a terrific new review on “Chronicle” at This Island Rod: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2012/07/chronicle-2012.html
At Patricia’s Wisdom, our very good friend has penned a superb book review on “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye”: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2012/07/the-unlikely-pilgrimage-of-harold-fry-rachel-joyce/
J. D. LaFrance offers an expanded version of his superlative comedy countdown “Slap Shot” review at Radiator Heaven: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2012/08/slap-shot.html
The esteemed Film Doctor takes a scholarly look at the new “Total Recall” movie: http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-fall-enslaves-us-all-film-doctors.html
Adam Zanzie has posted a terrific “alternative Sight and Sound list at Icebox Movies: http://www.iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2012/08/my-alternative-sight-sound-list.html
Jason Marshall has continued his superb coverage of 1942 at Movies Over Matter with a wonderful post on his Best Actor choice for that year: Chishu Ryu: http://moviesovermatter.com/2012/08/09/chishu-ryu-in-there-was-a-father-best-actor-of-1942/
Peter Lenihan has posted an arresting screen cap display of Murnau’s “Phantom” at The Long Voyage Home: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/
At Doodad Kind of Town Pat Perry’s splendid contribution to the For the Love of Film Preservation blogothon is on Hitch’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”:http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2012/05/hitch-does-rom-com-for-love-of-film.html
At The Blue Vial Drew McIntosh leads up with “off the Wall” which brings “Silver Load” and the great John Alton into focus: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2012/06/off-wall.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
Stephen Russell-Gebbett at Checking on my Sausages again offers up a brillinatly-creative feature on ‘Sport as the Perfect Fiction”: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2012/08/sport-is-perfect-fiction.html
Tony Dayoub takes a look at the summer’s Barnes and Noble 50% off sale for Criterion collectots at Cinema Viewfinder: http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2012/07/criterion-summer.html
Greg Ferrara at Cinema Styles talks about the Colorado shootings in a moving feature: http://cinemastyles.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-dark-knight-shooting-in-colorado.html
Jeopardy Girl talks about social changes of movie watching in her latest posting at The Continuing Saga of Jeopardy Girl: http://jeopardygirl.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/social/
Hokahey takes a fascinating look at both “Total Recall” films at Little Worlds: http://hokahey-littleworlds.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-two-worlds-of-total-recall_5.html
Dave Van Poppel has a tremendous batch of short reviews up at Visions of Non Fiction on the Toronto Film Festival: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com