Archive for September, 2013

soj 3

by Allan Fish

(UK 2013 300m) DVD2

Paranoia confirmed by history

p/d  Ella Bahaire, Tim Kirby  w  Simon Schama  ed  Sean Mackenzie  m  Arvshalom Caspi

presented by  Simon Schama

One may think, in this so-called enlightened age of ours, that there may be no need for a historical overview of the children of Yahweh.  We know of the Holocaust, of the horror of its conception and execution and the neglect of its being allowed to happen by Allies who could summon up no more than quiet sympathy for their plight.  Yet when it was announced, I remember thinking to myself that this series would set the cat amongst the faux liberal pigeons.  We like to think that we have learned from the calamity, constantly reminded by countless books, the great documentary works of Claude Lanzmann and Laurence Rees, and in the still physical form of the ghostly death camps by the Sola river.

A couple of episodes into the series and I looked at the rating for the show on that reliable gauge of opinion of pre-judged opinion, the IMDb.  Sure enough, the average rating was 4.7 out of 10.  Give that some context; Caligula gets 5.1!  So into the individual voting we go, and what comes up; ratings of 8, 9 and 10, a couple at 6, but then a whopping near 50% at 1.  Depressing does not begin to cover it. (more…)


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dra 2

by Allan Fish

(USA 1939 94m) DVD1/2

Little Joe, Little Joe

p  Joe Pasternak  d  George Marshall  w  Felix Jackson, Gertrude Purcell, Henry Myers  novel  Max Brand  ph  Hal Mohr  ed  Milton Carruth  m  Frank Skinner  m/ly  Frederick Hollander, Frank Loesser  art  Jack Otterson  cos  Vera West

James Stewart (Thomas Jefferson Destry), Marlene Dietrich (Frenchy), Brian Donlevy (Kent), Charles Winninger (Washington Dimsdale), Samuel S.Hinds (Mayor Hiram J.Slade), Irene Harvey (Janice Tyndall), Mischa Auer (Boris Callahan), Una Merkel (Lily Belle Callahan), Allen Jenkins (Gyp Watson), Warren Hymer (Bugs Watson), Jack Carson (Tyndall), Billy Gilbert (Loupgerou),

Destry Rides Again is one of those films enshrined in cinema history, a film so wrapped up in western and Hollywood myth as to often prove problematic to discuss.  Firstly on account of the fact that it was directed by George Marshall, a man not without talent but to whom the term journeyman was generally conceived, and secondly because so much attention is given to Marlene Dietrich’s truly renowned Frenchy and her immortal rendition of “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have” that it’s often forgotten that Destry is great on so many other counts.  Perhaps the most important factor in retrospect, though, is just how much of a curiosity it must have seemed at the time.  After all, its studio, Universal, pretty much divided its time equally between cheap horror sequels and Deanna Durbin musicals at the time of its release, and the western, though about to be resurrected thanks to the success of both this and the concurrently shot Stagecoach, was considered very much a cheap B movie genre.  Most interestingly there was the casting, as in 1939 Marlene Dietrich (then pretty much box-office poison) and James Stewart were the least likely western couple you could have named, which in Stewart’s case is suffused with irony, when one considers the series of classics with Anthony Mann that placed him in the genre’s hall of fame.  Dietrich meanwhile delighted in reinventing herself or, as Leslie Halliwell once said, enjoyed being a legend.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The long-awaited Western Countdown kicks off today with Allan Fish’s review of the Number 50 film Destry Rides Again.  The project will run into December, with essays scheduled Monday through Friday of every week until completion.  This is the third communal countdown in three years for WitD after similar ventures into the film musical and the film comedy.  Readers as ever are strongly encouraged to participate in the comment sections, though as always this will depend on everyone’s busy schedules.  I would like to thank all those who have injected enthusiasm into the project with special kudos to Jon Warner, Sachin Gandhi and Shubhajit Lahiri for going above and beyond over the past months in stocking their sites with western reviews and talking up a storm in the project’s behalf.

WitD would also like to thank Dee Dee for her continued maintenance of the site sidebar, and the posting of relevant links and some vital itinerary concerning the film noir community. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture Let the Right One In, Sweden & WALL-E, US (4 votes each, TIE!)

Best Director Mike Leigh, Happy Go Lucky and Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In (3 votes each, TIE!)

Best Actor Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (8 votes)

Best Actress Sally Hawkins, Happy Go Lucky (5 votes)

Best Supp Actor Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (10 votes)

Best Supp Actress Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona & Viola Davis, Doubt (3 votes each, TIE!)

Best Cinematography Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & Steven Soderbergh, Ché (4 votes each, TIE!)

Best Score Thomas Newman, WALL-E (5 votes)

Best Short I’m So Proud of You (Don Hertzfeldt, US, 3 votes)


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W.C. Fields and Freddie Bartholemew as Micawber and young David in 1935 Hollywood masterpiece “David Copperfield” based on Dickens and directed by George Cukor, shown on Sunday as part of ‘Film Forum Jr.’ series.


by Sam Juliano

The Western Countdown is slated to commence a week from today, with Number 50 scheduled to be written by none other than Allan Fish.  As announced several times during the project’s earliest stages, essays will be published Monday through Friday until the very last piece is posted on Friday, December 6.  There will not be essays posted on Saturdays and Sundays, as there weren’t for previous pollings.  It is much anticipated that excitement will build as we moved through the upcoming week for this long-awaited project, and the right authors are in place.

Though I stayed back from work this past week to allow for full recuperation from the procedure of September 13, I managed to see some films over the weekend, and completed the fifth and final season of THE WIRE at home.  Lucille attended all three theatrical showings, while young Jeremy came along for the weekly Film Forum Jr.

David Copperfield (1935)      *****     (Sunday)    Film Forum

Blue Caprice                             ****       (Sat. afternoon)  Montclair

Enough Said                              ****       (Sat. night)    Angelika Film Center (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture There Will Be Blood, US (4 votes)

Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood (7 votes)

Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (16 votes)

Best Actress Anamaria Marinca, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (6 votes)

Best Supp Actor Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men (11 votes)

Best Supp Actress Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (10 votes)

Best Cinematography Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (8 votes)

Best Score Jonny Greenwood, There Will Be Blood (9 votes)

Best Short Peter and the Wolf, US (4 votes)


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top 2

by Allan Fish

(Australia/UK 2013 342m) DVD1/2

Operation Wildbird

p  Philippa Campbell  d  Jane Campion, Garth Davis  w  Jane Campion, Gerard Lee  ph  Adam Arkapaw  ed  Scott Gray, Alexandre de Franchesci  m  Mark Bradshaw  art  Fiona Crombie

Elisabeth Moss (Robin Griffin), Thomas M.Wright (Johnno), Peter Mullan (Matt Mitcham), David Wenham (Al), Skye Wansey (Grishina), Genevieve Lemon (Bunny), Robyn Malcolm (Anita), Holly Hunter (GJ), Lucy Lawless (Caroline Platt),

Can we call Jane Campion’s return to TV a return from the wilderness?  Twenty years after The Piano, still her signature work, she returned to New Zealand to make a series that may on the surface seem familiar.  There are essences of works as disparate as The Sweet Hereafter, The Silence of the Lambs, Red Riding, Twin Peaks and the Millennium trilogy.  There were some bleak, soul-destroying landscapes on offer in all of those, but this is New Zealand’s South Island.  This is not the New Zealand of Middle Earth that has so well served their tourist board since Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies.  It’s beautiful, but it’s horrific, it’s savage, primeval.  And the locals have moulded to their landscape.

The town of Lake Top is a close-knit community and the home of detective Robin Griffin’s youth, and where she returns to visit her mother, dying of cancer, while trying to summon up the courage to make a decision on her five year engagement to a man back in Australia.  While there she is called up to act as a consultant in the case of Tui, a 12 year old girl who is found by her teachers to be pregnant.  Robin tries to find out who the father is and, against her wishes, Tui is returned to her father’s home from where she disappears.  Her father believes she’s gone into the mountains to take care of herself, while others think fouler play is afoot.      (more…)

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© 2013 by James Clark


 Kim Nguyen’s War Witch (2012) may be too easy to love and too hard to understand. That concern is not meant as a dismissal, but instead as part and parcel of a brilliant and daring Surrealist filmic campaign.

    The enormously engaging dilemma at the center of this project can be introduced with regard to the very first episode. Amidst arid desolation, a squalid seaside village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is quickly overrun by automatic-weapons-bearing militants arriving in boats. Their objective, it soon becomes obvious (but at the same time confusing) is to acquire adolescents to replenish the staff of their army. Even twenty-somethings apparently won’t do, as we see several of that ilk gunned down on the dusty street. On the assailants’ snagging their prey, those other villagers having till then avoided being murdered are summarily slaughtered (for the sake of sustaining maximum elusiveness). The figure we have followed from the first moment and whose perspective we adopt, a twelve-year-old girl, Komona—this film being structured by three chapters (12, 13, and 14) regarding Komona’s peculiar three-year progression—is immediately thrust into a most demanding boot camp. An officer hands her an automatic firearm, and orders her to shoot her (young) parents. “If you don’t kill them [by way of instant death], I will—with my machete. They’ll suffer a lot.” Her father says, “Komona, do what he says.” She fires away and then she cries, in a thin, smokey way. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2013 187m) DVD1/2

Not that sort of place

p  Derrin Schlesinger, Peter Carlton  d  Sean Durkin  w  Tony Grisoni  ph  Mátyás Erdély  ed  Daniel Greenway  art  Tom Bowyer

Sean Harris (Stephen Morton), Rory Kinnear (David Whitehead), Shirley Henderson (Louise Salter), Eddie Marsan (Andrew Salter), Anatol Yusef (Paul Gould), Joe Dempsie (Chris Cooper), Kaya Scodelario (Ann Salter), Al Weaver (Anthony),

Broadchurch and Southcliffe; the two series that will likely be held up as the best British TV drama had to offer in 2013.  Both titles refer to sleepy close-knit communities.  Both communities suffer tragedy and have to come to terms with it.  Broadchurch was equal parts whodunit and whydunit and a post mortem on the healing process.  It’s a very fine drama in its own right, but Southcliffe seems to me the greater achievement, perhaps because it leaves so much unanswered.

It was in 1987 that Michael Ryan went round the sleepy town of Hungerford with a gun and shot sixteen people, including his mother, before turning the gun on himself.  Southcliffe is partially based on those events, though set very much in the present day.  The killer here is Stephen Morton, an ex-serviceman mockingly called ‘The Commander’ by locals and getting what money he can by doing odd-jobs for people who generally pay him a pittance.  In addition he has a bedridden old mother who he takes care of single-handedly, refusing care worker Claire Salter’s requests to get the DLA he’s entitled to.  (more…)

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ah the pain

by Allan Fish

As Ralph Fiennes once said in Schindler’s List; “today is history.”  After several years of devoted red-carpeting beyond the call of anyone’s duty, this weekend marks the first time since it was established that the Monday Morning Diary was not completed by our beloved Führer, Phooey Sam.  Even when recently in the UK terrorising the oxygen supply of Blighty’s fair capital, he still managed to haul his sore ass to the hotel PC or my own PC to write a brief piece.

While the picture may make one think that Sam has been hospitalised, inconsolable at the loss of his The Wizard of Oz Blu Ray box set – more than any grizzly bear can think to overcome – it’s rather those stones.  Dem stones, dem stones, dem dry (expletive deleted) stones.  After weeks of prevarication from the medical establishment that always it seems are out to make an extra buck, he was finally admitted into hospital for what they called a ‘procedure’.  One has to admit, it’s one of the great euphemisms, procedure; makes it sound like a series of items to do when baking a cake.   Said procedure took place on Friday 13th September (yup, only Sam could get booked in for an operation on Friday 13th).


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