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Archive for January, 2013

By Bob Clark

It’s been fine year of proclaiming the death knell of cinema and the end of its relevancy as the dominant mode of popular art and entertainment. Most of this high talk and hot air has been ballied about online, but a fair amount of it has made its way into ink through publications like the New Yorker and the Village Voice and subsequently in books from the same authors, who read doom for art-cinema in the tea-leaves of blockbuster franchises, a steady rise in the quality of the rival medium of television, and a steep decline in the readership and employment of their own traditional print critics as online reviews become the norm. But the movies and their connoisseurship have been under these same threats and competitions for decades, or even the better part of half a century by now in some form or another, and the silver screen hasn’t been tarnished beyond the pale of public sight just yet. If there has been anything that’s fallen into some kind of danger over the past year, or several years, it’s been the idea of “the movies” as a public theatrical event, something witnessed in a crowd of patrons on a screen at least as tall as a basketball net, in lieu of shorter and shorter waiting periods between a film’s initial debut and its eventual home-video release in the various formats of DVD, Blu Ray, download and on-demand streaming. Though it’s routine to mix cinema and television freely on this blog and countless other sites, I’ve made sure to only include 2 works created for the small screen on this final personal top-ten for the year, and one of them was seen in part on the big screen, anyway. So let’s get to it.

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1978 90m) not on DVD

It’s nothing to do with us

p  Tony Garnett  d  Roland Joffé  w  Jim Allen  ph  Nat Crosby  ed  Bill Shapter

Christine Hargreaves (Pauline Crosby), Bernard Hill (Sullivan), Peter Kerrigan (Peter), Paula McDonagh (Paula), Gertie Almond (Gertie), Elaine Lindsay (Mrs Johnson),

As I write it’s only a month or two after the riots that spread from London to other British cities, in which people saw the chance to loot and pillage in the way they flock to a cash machine once news gets out that it’s overpaying those who stand in line.  The copycat acts that took place were shameful, and yet opened up that old cancer at the heart of modern Britain.  Watching The Spongers now in the aftermath of these events only makes any piece one can write about it seem like Anton Walbrook in Colonel Blimp when he teaches about the lessons not being learned and the school fees coming round again.  And you’d better pay those debts, or else you may lose your furniture. 

            Pauline is a single mother, abandoned by her husband, with four children, her eldest, Paula, suffering from Down’s Syndrome and attending a special care centre.  She owes over £250 rent and the bailiffs have come round with an order to take her furniture for non-payment.  She gets a week’s delay while she tries desperately for a contingency one off payment from social services, but they and the council are only interested in making their budget deficits and to hell with the consequences. (more…)

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JaimesWorstOf2012

by Jaime Grijalba.

I said in an earlier post last year that I didn’t actually like to do reviews on bad movies, mainly because it was so easy to go all funny and mocking towards it, and that’s not a positive attitude, but sometimes we feel in the mood to just condemn and find a way to just vent out our views on the negative side of life, and as always, the movies aren’t always the holy place where all’s good and nice. So, I decided to do this brief list for you to comment on and list your own choices for the worst movies of what you saw in 2012, and don’t worry, no matter what you think, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is not even near this list. I shall list 5 movies, because that’s all the respect that I can have for these movies and all the space I want to give them. I’d like to thank Bob Clark once again for the great header image, as always welcome for this top 10’s-20’s-5’s. Oh, and before you go into my list to find the greatest sins to the cinematic form of this year, I’d like to ask you for suggestions on what to write next in these weekly columns, I’ve been finding myself struggling a bit to find something to write about, a short series of essays, reviews, views, recollections, writings, fictions, whatever you’d want me to tackle, whatever the subject, I’m open for it, and I’ll do it, I promise. Anyway, onto the badness. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

One of the running jokes the last few weeks is how many times I have watched Les Miserables on the big screen.  I have kept this big secret from circulating, as I would surely be seen as someone with more than a few screws loose if I divulged the truth.  I have always regarded a musical film as more imminently condusive to re-viewings if for no other reason than to revel in the songs in much the same way someone would listen to a CD album at home.  The theatre’s booming speakers and the big screen visualization of course make it much too tempting if the theatre is just minutes from your home.  Alas, in the spirit of full divulgence I hereby provide the evidence for the loss of my sanity, if indeed I ever had any when it comes to movies on the outside.

After what seemed like an eternity for the Christmas Day opening, I escorted my family to attend a sneak preview on Christmas Eve at 10:00 P.M. a day ahead of the planned viewing.  The problem with this strategy is that we uniformly refused to forfeit our original itinerary, and went ahead with the holiday viewing, seeing Les Miz a second time, albeit two hours earlier at 8.  What does one do after watching the same film on two successive days, much less days few would ever venture out to a multiplex?  The answer is bonafide lunacy.  See it again on the day after Christmas, and then a fourth time the following night after that.  So there you have it.  Four nights consecutively.  The first two were with the full family contingent, the third with my wife and two daughters, and the fourth with two cousins.  After that four-peat I stayed clear of screens showing the cinematic transcription of one of the most successful musical theater phenomenons in history, content to that point to listen to the CD score in my computer room. (more…)

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the-war-game-001

by Allan Fish

(UK 1965 49m) DVD1/2

Your protection against nuclear attack

d/w  Peter Watkins  ph  Peter Bartlett

narrated by  Michael Aspel, Dick Graham

A film that became a by-word for the BBC’s wranglings with those in the corridors of power, The War Game was green-lighted solely due to the critical success of Watkins’ revolutionary – in more ways than one – film Culloden, made the previous year.  It hypothesises and goes into considerable detail, what would happen in the case of a thermonuclear attack from the Soviet Union.  Philip Purser wrote that it was shelved because BBC director-general Sir Hugh Greene (brother of Graham) thought that “it might seriously harm the old, the simple or the out of touch who lit upon it without prior warning.”  It makes one think he feared a television equivalent of the infamous Orson Welles The War of the Worlds radio broadcast of 1938 which so went down in infamy.  In truth, however, it’s open to question how much of the decision was down to Greene’s own judgement.  He himself was one of the more lenient director-generals the BBC had, and upon his retirement, was replaced by some severely right-wing censorial types who were to set the Corporation back many years.  The decision was probably reached as high up as the government, many prominent members of who, along with several prominent critics from all aspects of the arts media, were allowed to see the film behind closed doors.  The fact was that the BBC would not be allowed by the Home Office or the Ministry of Defence to put out a film which went against the wonderfully acronymed Mutually Assured Destruction policy employed against the Communist foe.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Oscar nominations were announced on Thursday morning, and true to form there were some outrageous snubs courtesy of the Director’s branch, that again have us questioning the legitimacy and worth of an annual spectacle that has little to do with the art of film, and much to do with politics and timing.  While some of us always have fun in discussing the various possibilities and inherent drama, none one in our fraternity has ever believed the awards were worth remembering even days after the late February telecast.  It has always been a guilty pleasure, but this year with the snub of Kathryn Bigelow – who may well have achieved the best directing of any other person this past year for the film Zero Dark Thirty – the voters have embarrassed themselves and have attracted scathing editorials in the news sections of papers from both the left and right.  A further snub of Argo’s Ben Affleck (who was touted for weeks as a “lock” by prognosticators) had many others crying foul, and the dubious nomination of director David O. Russell of Silver Linings Playbook has many convinced that studio mogul Harvey Weinstein had once again wined and dined voters to win political support for the films his company produced.  Likewise, some acting omissions and the complete shut out of some worthy films made the 2012 award listing as predictably lacking, even with the deserved naming of a number of worthy pictures and artists.  Dennis Polifroni and I may well do our annual talk for the site in the coming weeks, where we will elaborate on our complaints.  In any case, AMPAS did make some excellent choices – heck, every awards groups gets some of it right annually – by showering attention on the foreign made Amour by Michael Haneke in five categories including Picture, Director and Actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and by handing 11 nominations to Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi, 8 to Les Misérables, 6 to Zero Dark Thirty and 12 to Lincoln.  I have not reached the stage of Oscar nihilism that some at this site have approached (one where even alluded to it is a sacrilege) but let’s just say I am not pleased with so much of this annual sideshow. (more…)

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1973

by Allan Fish

Best Picture The Spirit of the Beehive, Spain (3 votes)

Best Director Victor Erice, The Spirit of the Beehive, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, World on a Wire TV & Martin Scorsese, Mean Streets (3 votes each, TIE)

Best Actor Robert Mitchum, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (5 votes)

Best Actress Liv Ullmann, Scenes from a Marriage TV (9 votes)

Best Supp Actor Robert de Niro, Mean Streets (9 votes)

Best Supp Actress Ana Torrent, The Spirit of the Beehive (7 votes)

Best Cinematography Tak Fujimoto, Stevan Larner, Brian Probyn, Badlands (5 votes)

Best Score Bob Dylan, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (6 votes)

Best Short H is for House, UK, Peter Greenaway (2 votes)

on to…

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By Bob Clark

Last week I posted my favorite retrospective screenings of 2012, showcasing the kinds of rereleases unique to the New York art-house circuit, along with the occasional wide or touring release that allows audiences of any generation to experience a film in its natural theatrical habitat long after its debut has passed. And though it’s a great experience to go back and devote significant time to gems by the likes of Godard, Miyazaki, Moretti and the like, there is one natural disadvantage it has– it eats up a lot of the rest of the movie-going time you have throughout the year. As a consequence I didn’t see nearly as many late releases as I would’ve liked to last year, and even fewer that I liked enough to actually put on a list like this. Therefore, this is something of a compromised entry, with at least one film that doesn’t belong by any measure of “late release” definition, one that’s questionable, and one that fits but is something of a recycle from the year of its initial release. But who cares? There’s a superflu terrorizing the East Coast and I’ve got to try and get a shot in before heading out to another Godard retrospective screening (screw this new junk anyway), so let’s get to it.

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This is a one off topping of my own post, but reading will explain why…

by Allan Fish

(UK 1964/1970/1977/1985/1991/1998/2005 715m) DVD1/2

Aka: 7 Up, 7 Plus 7, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, 49 Up

Give me the child for seven years and I shall show you the man

p   Michael Apted, Derek Granger, Margaret Bottomley, Steve Morrison, Ruth Pitt, Clair Lewis, Bill Jones, Stephen Lambert  d  Paul Almond, Michael Apted  narrated by Derek Cooper, Wilfrid Thomas, Michael Apted,

Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Simon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Suzanne Lusk, Tony Walker, John Brisby, Peter Davies, Susan Davis, Charles Furneaux, Nicholas Hitchon,

The beginnings were humble, a programme in the weekly TV current affairs show World in Action which wanted to take a look at the executives and shop stewards of the year 2000 by looking at a group of seven year olds.  They were taken from a vast range of backgrounds, from highly upper class prep schools to urban primary schools in London and Liverpool, and even to a one room school in the Yorkshire Dales.  There was only meant to be one film, but through Michael Apted it became a life’s commitment for both him and his subjects.  Every seven years Apted would take a few months out to catch up with them, and filming those who agreed to be filmed.  (more…)

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JaimeTop202012

by Jaime Grijalba.

2012 was a very interesting year. For some people it was worse than the plague, and for others it was filled with satisfactions and personal goals reached, for me it was something in the middle, with good and bad moments, days of sadness and joy were mixing every month that passed, and while it’s far from being my favorite year of my still short existence, I can say that I learned a lot about life and its many ways and paths that it can go through. I also finished my career at university, and even if the paper that says that I’m an Audiovisual Director (Film Director to put it simple) won’t be in my hands until November 2013, I don’t have any assignatures left, I directed a short film that was decently received among the people I know (and the teachers, more importantly), as well as I wrote a feature length script, the first I’ve ever written, that was also presented and was my theses, it was also received quite well among the teachers and filmmakers who had the chance to read it completely. Right now I’m in my internship (the second I’ve done) in a magazine for men that requires videos and a making-of for their big launch in March; the experience has been good so far and I hope that it continues to go that way, I’m also waiting for the decission on a government fee to work on my feature-length screenplay in the year 2013, it will be a lot of money for me so I hope I win it so I can work at my house so I can finally make my debut sooner than later. (more…)

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