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Archive for May, 2013

vlcsnap-2012-04-17-07h48m11s228

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1951 123m) not on DVD

Aka. Genji Monogatari

Be happy

p  Masaichi Nagata  d  Kozaburo Yoshimura  w  Kaneto Shindo  book  Murasaki Shikibu  ph  Kohei Sugiyama  m  Akira Ifukube  art  Hiroshi Mizutani

Kazuo Hasegawa (Prince Genji Hikaru), Machiko Kyo (Lady Awaji), Michiyo Kogure (Lady Fujitsubo), Nobuko Otowa (Lady Murasaki), Mitsuko Mito Lady Aoi), Denjiro Okochi (The Harima Priest), Yuji Hori (Yoshinari), Chieko Soma (Lady Kiritsuba), Chieko Higashiyama (Concubine Kokiden), Eitaro Shindo (Minister of the Right), Ichiro Sugai (Minister of the Left), Sakae Ozawa (Emperor), Yuriko Hanabusa (Kuritsubo’s mother), Osamu Takizawa (Kiritsubo gomon), Kentaro Horima (Kashira), Yumiko Hasegawa (Oborozukiyo no kimi),

It’s hard to over-estimate the importance of Murasaki Shikibu’s book in Japanese culture.  It’s often seen as the first Japanese novel, indeed pretty much the world’s first novel.  It was written in the early 11th century, in which time Shikibu lived and worked as a lady in waiting at court.  Its story is one known by everyone in Japan from their childhood, but is virtually unknown to most westerners.

Set in the Heian period (the same period it was written in), Lady Kiritsuba is the favourite mistress of the then Emperor, but falls foul of the machinations of the bitter old favourite Kokiden.  The Emperor is forced to give her up and, though she gives him a son, Genji Hikaru, he’s superfluous to needs when Kokiden is preparing her son to succeed as crown prince.  Kiritsuba dies when Genji is a boy but when he’s grown to manhood the Emperor invites him to court as a minister, but still Kokiden will not bear to have him around.  Genji falls in love with a young girl, Fujitsubo, only to find that she’s destined to become the latest wife to his father.  Unable to be with her, he takes solace in the love of two other women; Murasaki, who loves him deeply, and the frivolous Awaji, who also flirts with her former beau, Yoshinari.  (more…)

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cliffside park high school

Cliffside Park High School symphonic band, including back row trumpet player Sammy Juliano at ‘Crescendo’ Spring Concert on Wednesday, May 15 (Sammy’s birthday!)

by Sam Juliano

With the end of the school year either completed in the institutions of higher learning or winding up in area grammar, middle and high schools, many have been attending year-end events in support of their children, relatives or friends.  This past week was memorable for two wonderful venues, attended by the entire family on Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon.  The first, a mid-week spring concert titled “Crescendo” features the school’s symphonic band, advanced band, chorus and ensemble, under the guidance of director Derek Nelson for band and chorus and Leslie Auslin for ensemble.  My son Sammy played trumpet for the symphonic band, which negotiated Highlights from the Star Wars Saga, Selections from The Lord of the Rings-The Return of the King, Moussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev, a Beatles medley of “Yesterday,” “Michelle,” and “Eleanor Rigby” and John Philip Sousa’s El Capitan.  The Advanced band continued the program with highlights from West Side Story, an excerpt from Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven, and selections from The Prince of Egypt.  After the chorus put their distinguished mark on the “Riversong,” “Beautiful Day,” “Turn Turn Turn,” “As Long As We Got Each other,” “I Won’t Give Up,” “Put A Little Love in Your Heart,” “Viva La Vida,” and “Go Ye Now in Peace” an impressive ensemble contingent gave rousing treatments to ‘Choral Highlights from Jersey Boys,’ and ten selections from Les Miserables including a solo from former Fairview Public School student Ernest Barzaga of “Stars” that sent the packed auditorium audience into frenzied applause.  Cliffside Park High School (my old alma mater, graduating class of 1972) should be proud of their musical chargers and the terrific work of their teachers. (more…)

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1991

by Allan Fish

Best Picture La Belle Noiseuse, France, The Double Life of Veronique, France/Poland, JFK, US & Raise the Red Lantern, China (3 votes each, four-way TIE!)

Best Director Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Double Life of Veronique (5 votes)

Best Actor Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs (8 votes)

Best Actress Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs (7 votes)

Best Supp Actor John Goodman, Barton Fink (8 votes)

Best Supp Actress Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear (4 votes)

Best Cinematography Zhao Fei, Raise the Red Lantern (6 votes)

Best Score Zbigniew Preisner, The Double Life of Veronique (5 votes)

Best Short Bedhead, US, Robert Rodriguez & The Comb, UK, Stephen & Timothy Quay (2 votes each, TIE!)

(more…)

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By Bob Clark

Though it began and broke new conceptual and thematic ground on television, and wound up thriving in spin-off after spin-off years later, the Star Trek franchise only really took hold and proved itself as something viable once it channeled its creative energy onto the big screen. That’s not to say that The Motion Picture was a resounding success– despite the talent and pedigree of director Robert Wise, special-effects guru Douglass Trumbull and of course the entire returning cast of the television series, that first film venture proved itself just a little too remote for most audiences. Amounting to something of a high-concept, somewhat more linear cousin of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie has quite a lot going for it if you want a piece of hard science-fiction that could stand tall with any of the speculative episodes that came before it on television (its script began as a pilot for a return to the small-screen, which wouldn’t happen until The Next Generation). But it was a little too slow for the mainstream crowd, and even a little trying on the patience of fans, who missed the adventurous, swashbuckling style that William Shatner cut on television as Captain Kirk, and that’s what they got in droves in The Wrath of Khan, perhaps the one movie perhaps that lives up to its reputation as a sequel that doesn’t just match the original, but handily outpaces it.

Since then, it seems that nearly every succeeding Star Trek theatrical venture has tried to imbue itself with at least some of the swaggering manner of Khan, or even pattern itself after its basic structure of space warfare and revenge storylines, this in a series that began as a vision of mankind coming together from all differences to reach a better society, free of hatred or conflict of any kind. In a sense, it’s only natural that the franchise should rely upon it as a standard narrative, as it provides a very nice way to contrast the high-minded social themes and concerns inherent in Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful look into the future with more personal motives, allowing an audience to better appreciate the sometimes more distant utopian aspects. The fact that the film also married this with the killer sci-fi MacGuffin of the Genesis device, capable of bringing life to a dead planet or wiping out the existing natural order of an inhabited world, and was moreover willing to take real chances with the status-quo of the series and add legitimate life-or-death stakes to the mix helps it stand above even the better imitators in the franchise. First Contact places a worthy, if distant second, mostly thanks to Patrick Stewart’s commanding lead and the genuine menace of the Borg, as well as a nifty inversion of the Captain Ahab tropes, but it’s by no means the only Trek film that attempts to resurrect the vengeance-themed goalpost of Khan, most of which have been middling affairs. But none have been so direct in their appropriation or as epic in their failure as Star Trek Into Darkness.

(more…)

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MastersOfHorrorMurnauby Jaime Grijalba.

File #6 – F.W. Murnau

Hey! What do you know? Another well known director for this installment of Masters of Horror! I’m glad that as we move forward in time the names get more recognizable, yet at the same time maybe we will still find some unearthed treasures around here, so we might as well have some discussion here on the merits of certain ‘masters’ (there was a nice comment from Allan Fish on one of the earlier pieces, in it he questioned the qualification of the director written up as a master), or even if you have certain complaints regarding other directors that may have been forgotten as we move ahead, please go ahead and point them out, I’m following some shady guidelines, and I might miss some if they don’t meet them, but they might as well be worth writing about, specially if they are truly masters of the horror genre, or of the craft, whatever. So, continuing to divert from what meets us here, I have to say that there’s another idea that is making the rounds in my head: there are certain filmmakers that have a great ouvre, a nice group of films in their filmography, but there’s one spot where they continued (or not) their explorations in cinema with a film of the horror genre, and that is the only one they make (easy examples are Stanley Kubrick and John Huston), so I’m putting this forward if anyone else wants to write on the One Hit Horror films of the history of cinema, I’d be so glad to lend this space once a month so people can write about it, it’s an open call! So, back to the subject, Murnau, one of the most known german directors after Fritz Lang and Werner Herzog, easily one of the masters of the silent cinema in terms of how they perfected the narrative and the visuals that were needed at that time, he also knew that horror was one of the most powerful feelings that a human being could be affected by, making more than 5 pictures inside those realms, nevertheless, when one takes a look at the visual style of certain specific films, specially his horror ones, makes one think about german expressionism, and as I’ve said before this clasification is wrong in most cases regarding german filmmakers of that era, expressionism was mostly expressed through painting and only a few times it went ahead and made the jump to the movie territory, Murnau expresses what a romanticist style would be in the realm of filmmaking, with lustrous visuals, but a style nearer to what the emotions portray over any effect the visual flamboyance of painted shadows would make on the viewer Lamentably many of them are lost forever in the seas of memory and film, and that is a sad thought, that maybe one of the greatest artists of the image has lost some of his films (and most of his horror films while following that thought), and with that sour note, we take a look at Murnau at one of his strongest suits, shall you dwelve with me into the dark corridors of his mind, where the moral and squeamish shall cry? Go on. (more…)

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lemans-1

©2013 James Clark

 

While working on a probe of Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man, my attention would sometimes drift over to the Steve McQueen film which I had puzzled over for a long time, namely Le Mans (1971). There was about the dignified isolation of the protagonists of both films, as introduced by a brand of cinematography vastly out of step with movie commerce, the oddest and thereby most compelling of kinships. McQueen, sometimes referred to as, “the King of Cool,” was in fact as much an athlete as an entertainer; and, as we know, Rodriguez in his prime did a lot more digging than being digged. McQueen’s sporting efforts were in the area of car and motorcycle racing, a far more spectacular and homage-attracting dynamic than that of cleaning out basements.

That much said, in lining up a case for seeing these disparate figures as teammates, we should draw up logo designs for each, consisting of paths that, in being reverse-images, amount to equivalency. We have, on one hand, a characteristically American embodiment of kinetics in public display, in sharp contrast to the European predilection for letting rip the warp and woof of mobility in private endeavors. (Though operating at the home of renowned motor racing extravaganzas, major European filmmakers—not to be confused with those behind the dreadful soap, A Man and a Woman—had no time for such souped-up events.) While set in Europe, Le Mans, concerning the 24-hour car race in the French town of that name, is a very American film, in its adopting the priorities of its Hollywood star, who was also, with indeterminate input from others, the general producer, director and writer. Thus we have McQueen covered by camerawork at the Le Mans site, heavily immersed in explosive speed, seamlessly dovetailing with actual footage of the 1970 Grand Prix splash, and thereby launching avant-garde proportions and problems under cover of the misleading bluntness of kick-ass prize-winning. Sugar Man, on the other hand, though largely set in America, has been seen (by me) to be a Euro-centric revelation, an avant-garde exposure of fantastic creative intimacy under cover of the misleading overtures involved in recovery of a stolen career. Whereas Le Mans was a commercial disaster, bankrupting its guiding light, and the beginning of the end of McQueen’s shot at bringing to the world something special, Sugar Man was, though also a sort of swansong (for the protagonist), an amazing popular success and the launch of a new auteur of exciting potential. (more…)

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The iconic silhouette from the opening credits

The iconic silhouette from the opening credits

by Allan Fish

(UK 1964 1,040m) DVD2

This business may last a long time

p  Tony Essex, Gordon Watkins  w  John Terraine, Corelli Barnett, Anthony Jay, Ed Collins  ph  various  ed  Barry Toovey  m  Wilfred Josephs  narrated by  Michael Redgrave (with Ralph Richardson (Field Marshal Haig), Emlyn Williams (Lloyd George), Marius Goring, Sebastian Shaw, Cyril Luckham)

The Great War is the sort of television event that truly deserves the epithet milestone.  It’s the first truly great documentary series produced not only by the BBC but arguably anywhere in the world.  It really has, the best part of half a century later, stood the test of time.  And time itself is very much to the forefront here; the achievement all the greater for contriving to remain in the British public consciousness for the forty years it was unseen on TV after its first broadcast.  It was the template from which such later documentaries as The World at War and even Ken Burns’ The Civil War took their cue, but it was more than that.  The most remarkable thing about it is that, for all the black and white interviews with the survivors of the calamity, it’s an incredibly modern achievement.  (more…)

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washington 2013 044

Danny Juliano with dad Sam at JFK’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

by Sam Juliano

To all those loving and resilient Moms and Mums out there, I hope you all had a beautiful Sunday in honor of your incomparable legacy.  I want to thank our very dear friend Dee Dee for remembering Mother’s Day on the sidebar, much as she acknowledges the year’s most celebrating moments on a regular basis.  She remains our own Rock of Gibraltar and loving friend.

Half of this past week was spent preparing for and attending an eighth-grade school trip to Washington D.C.  I served as one of the seven chaperons on the annual venture, which this year included the attendance of my son Danny, who graduates the eighth grade next month.  Although there was a period in my teaching career when I regularly made the trip, this is the first time I have done so in about 19 years.  Still overall I have participated about nine times, both as an educator and as a trustee on Fairview’s Board of Education (prior to my teaching career.)

I honestly can’t remember the last time I managed so much walking over a three-day period, and even now as I pen this report my legs, feet and hips are exceedingly sore.  The two buses left Fairview at around 6:30 A.M. on Wednesday morning, stopping first at Fort McHenry in Baltimore to tour the grounds and watch a video on Francis Scott Key and the advent of the “Star Spangled Banner.”  From there we arrived at Union Station in D.C., where the 66 kids and seven chaperons were given meal vouchers to negotiate at an over packed food court.  I sat at a table near an escalator and waited a while, only to find out later that the principal and a few other teachers were “looking” for me.  Getting lost on this trip on the very first day will be a humorous anecdote well into the future, as I have been reminded a few times already!  Ha!  In any case at this stage of the trip the kids were energetic, excited and having a great time.  Next up was an extended marathon visit to Arlington National Cemetery, which included a three mile walk to and from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and J.F.K’s eternal flame.  Although we absorbed a few rain showers during the three days, the time in Arlington was marked by gorgeous blue skies and sun.  The emotional Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier included the laying of the wreath by four Lincoln School soldiers, an act that was announced to the large gathering by one of the cadets. (more…)

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1990

by Allan Fish

Best Picture GoodFellas, US (12 votes)

Best Director Martin Scorsese, GoodFellas (12 votes)

Best Actor Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune & Paul Newman, Mr & Mrs Bridge (4 votes each, TIE!)

Best Actress Joanne Woodward, Mr & Mrs Bridge (5 votes)

Best Supp Actor Joe Pesci, GoodFellas (14 votes)

Best Supp Actress Annette Bening, The Grifters (6 votes)

Best Cinematography Pierre Lhomme, Cyrano de Bergerac (4 votes)

Best Score John Barry, Dances With Wolves & Danny Elfman, Edward Scissorhands (4 votes each, TIE!)

Best Short The Cow, USSR, Aleksandr Petrov (3 votes)

(more…)

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By Bob Clark

1933’s King Kong may very well ought to be noted as one of the most important and influential films of all time, and not just for the myriad of obvious ways in which it’s shaped the course of movie history by its most direct methods. As a pioneering feat of action-adventure storytelling and marrying live-action to all manner of special-effects, from matte paintings to stop-motion, it more or less invented a kind of American blockbuster that has come to dominate world box-office, for better or worse. Countless directors have counted the film and its innovations as crucial to their inspiration to become movie-makers, and have even called back directly to the movie when formulating the vocabulary of their own FX-enhanced set-pieces– it’s easy to see traces of Merian C. Cooper’s work in everything from Lucas & Spielberg to Cameron & Jackson, but likewise it’s impossible to look at a movie like The Prestige, with all those grand acts of magic performed on the curtained stage with full proscenium arch, and not think of the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Plenty of big-screen monsters have competed for Kong’s first-place spot on the stage of world attention, and a few have even matched it (Isihiro Honda’s Godzilla and other kaiju creations, even meriting a showdown with the great one himself), but for the most part any attempt to out-do or even place with the work that animator Willis O’Brien did here in bringing the Empire State’s aplha ape have been at best forgettable (if only the same could be said of Dino de Laurientiis’ or Peter Jackson’s dismal remakes). But if in all the years since there have been any movie-monsters that have had any real chance of outshining the great Khan of Kongs and O’Brien’s efforts to tame the savage beast one stop-motion frame at a time, then they can only be due to the efforts of a man who gladly claimed Kong and O’Brien as crucial inspirations to his own start as an animator, and who very well stands as the greatest gift that 1933 film has indirectly bestowed upon the culture of popcorn cinema. Without Kong, there wouldn’t have been a Ray Harryhausen, and without him, nothing would’ve been the same.

(more…)

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