Archive for September, 2013

Trip to Blighty August 2013

As promised, here’s the video expertly edited by Sam’s daughter Melanie of the trip in London, Kendal, Liverpool et al.  I’m trying to persuade her to do a director’s cut down the line.  But this is perfect as it is.

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture The Lives of Others, Germany (5 votes)

Best Director Darren Aronofsky, The Fountain (3 votes)

Best Actor Ulrich Mühe, The Lives of Others (8 votes) (This may be our first posthumous award, as Mühe was dying of cancer during its filming)

Best Actress Laura Dern, Inland Empire (11 votes)

Best Supp Actor Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine & Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children (4 votes each, TIE!)

Best Supp Actress Rinko Kikuchi, Babel (5 votes)

Best Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki, Children of Men (7 votes)

Best Score Clint Mansell, The Fountain (8 votes)

Best Short La Morte Rouge, Spain, Victor Erice (4 votes)


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horse a

by Allan Fish

(China 1986 88m) not on DVD

Aka. Dao ma zei

Carrion for the vultures are we…

Wu Tiang-Ming  d  Tian Zhuangzhuang  w  Zhang Rui  ph  Hou Yong, Zhao Fei  ed  Li Jingzhong  m  Qu Xiaosong  art  Huo Jianqi

Tseshang Rigzin (Norbu), Dan Jiji (Dolma, his wife), Jayang Jamco (Tashi, his son), Gaobe (Nowre), Daiba (granny), Drashi (grandfather),

Voting on the greatest film of the 1980s, two different critical groups named Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull the greatest film of that decade.  Sadly many critical groups are an insular lot, racist by omission as Mark Cousins referred to conventional film histories that largely ignore whole swathes and cultures of world cinema.  There are two ironies to that acclamation, however.  The first, and perhaps most contentious, is that Raging Bull isn’t even the greatest American film of the 1980s – I’d place Once Upon a Time in America, Heaven’s Gate and Blue Velvet ahead of it at least – let alone world cinema.  The more interesting irony is that Martin Scorsese himself, while doubtless sincerely flattered by the acclaim, would I’m sure feel slightly embarrassed by it.  He more than any other director knows of the breadth of world cinema and of its mighty reach, and putting the entire American cinema aside, would doubtless be a trifle embarrassed to see his admittedly great film placed ahead of the masterpieces by Fassbinder, Bergman, Kieslowski and Reitz, to name but a few, in that decade.  Yet when asked about favourite films of the decade by Roger Ebert, Scorsese himself nominated Horse Thief…but as best film of the 1990s.  It took that long to find any audience in the US.  (more…)

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harvest 2

by Allan Fish

(France 1937 127m) not on DVD

Aka. Regain

And Then There Were None…

d/w  Marcel Pagnol  novel  Jean Giono  ph  Willy Faktorovich  ed  Jeannette Ginestet, Suzanne de Troeye  m  Arthur Honegger  art  Marius Brouquier

Fernandel (Urbain Gedemus), Orane Demazis (Arsule), Gabriel Gabrio (Panturle), Margurite Moreno (Mameche), Robert le Vigan (Sergeant), Edouard Delmont  (Gaubert), Henri Poupon (L’Amoureux), Milly Mathis (Belline), Charles Blavette (Jasmin),

Of all the accepted French masters of the 1930s, Marcel Pagnol has always been the most problematic.  Like all of them, with the exception of Renoir, he has gone through peaks and troughs of interest from critics, but while one can certainly claim Renoir, Carné, Vigo and Duvivier, at least, to be his superiors, did any of them conjure up such an instantly recognisable landscape.  Watch a minute or two of a Duvivier and a signature isn’t always clear to see.  With Pagnol, it’s obvious; Provencal/Riviera locations, bucolic characters, humour, tragedy, pathos.  It was all there.  (more…)

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Screen cap from extraordinary “Short Term 12,” a strong contender for film of the year honors

by Sam Juliano

The Western Countdown will officially commence on Monday, September 30, but the two weeks prior may still feature a few essays on runner ups or western-related topics.  In any case, if none or only part of that materializes we will still wait for the 30th, as it will give the current writers more time to complete their assignments.  As stated on previous MMD’s the countdown will run Monday through Friday, and will conclude early in December.  Group e mails have been distributed to the writers, who now now the dates their respective reviews will appear.

A video produced by 17 year-old High School senior Melanie Juliano of the U.K. trip is completed, and is planned for link up to the site in the coming weeks.

Typically, the past week was hectic in these parts, what will school starting.  But for those with year round jobs without the seasonal chapter markers, it’s business as usual.  At home I worked my way to the conclusion of THE WIRE Season 4, and now have only the final season left.  In theaters Lucille and I saw two films, the latter the first screening in the new season of Film Forum Jr.: (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture The New World, US (9 votes)

Best Director Terrence Malick, The New World (11 votes)

Best Actor Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain (8 votes)

Best Actress Juliette Binoche, Caché (7 votes)

Best Supp Actor Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man & Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain (4 votes each, TIE!)

Best Supp Actress Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain (6 votes)

Best Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki, The New World (15 votes)

Best Score James Horner, The New World & Gustavo Santaolalla, Brokeback Mountain (6 votes each, TIE!)

Best Short The Moon and The Son: An Imagined Conversation, US (3 votes)


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Faraon 1

by Allan Fish

(Poland 1966 183m) DVD2

Aka. Faraon

Sovereign of the two worlds

p  Ludwik Hager  d  Jerzy Kawalerowicz  w  Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Tadeusz Konwicki  novel  Boleslaw Prus  ph  Jerzy Wojcik  ed  Stanislaw Piotrowski, Witold Sobocinski  m  Adam Walacinski   art  Jerzy Skrzepinski  cos  Teresa Taraszewska, Wieslava Otocka

George Zelnik (Rameses XIII), Barbara Brylska (Kama), Krystyna Mikolajewska (Sarah), Piotr Pawloski (Herhor), Leszek Herdegen (Pentuer), Jerzy Buczacki (Thutmosis),

Let us make one thing clear before we start; Pharaoh’s rating as one of the classics of Polish cinema rests upon which version you see.  The version released briefly on DVD by Eureka in the UK is 139m and, worse still, dubbed.  It may be in full letterbox ratio, but it’s like watching any great film minus nearly three quarters of an hour of footage.  Sadly, however, it’s the only version now available.  Even in Poland, the original cut is rarely seen, and the only chance one has to see it with English subtitles, as I write in 2008, is to get hold of the early 1990s VHS version from Polart.  Needless to say, the colour is terrible, bleached and totally washed out.  The ratio is stretched vertically from the 2.35 ‘Scope ratio to standard 1.85, and the English subtitling, though okay, badly needed to be run through a spellchecker.  It’s a miracle, then, that it survives at all, but if you can look through the discomfort of watching any visual epic like this in such a bastardised state, one can, especially on repeat viewings, see the greatness of the thing. (more…)

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© 2013 by James Clark

Our title phrase comes to the heart of this, generally dismissed as heartless, film from 2013. It does so in two ways, which can go a considerable distance toward disarming the claim that it is not only sickening but stupid. The first way, far more easily comprehended, has to do with the speaker, Billy, an American drug dealer in Bangkok, handing over a pittance to a successful Thai kick boxer at the gym he and his brother operate as a front for the exchange of real money. (As with the small-time athletics between the Clippers and the Raptors at the outset of Refn’s previous film, Drive [2011], this smallness implies a form of bigness. In presenting the money, Billy remarks, “My brother was right. You’re a great fighter…” Apparently, then, it is that second American expatriate, Julian, who pays much more attention to the front—thereby introducing his more generous range than that of Billy. It is well to touch upon this matter here, because discovering where the bigness is to be found in Only God Forgives is a considerably more daunting task than it was regarding Drive.) Billy’s crack about not getting reckless with a bit of small change thinly conceals his contempt for someone he regards as a nonentity in contradistinction to his own high-impact superiority as confirmed by his far larger cash flow. Rapidly moving on to demonstrate the extent of his disdain for those without deep pockets, Billy visits a brothel and puts on display the dimensions of an appetite that could graze to the heart’s content. He starts by declaring, “I want to fuck a fourteen-year-old.” On being given no satisfaction along those lines by the impresario, he offers him 15,000 for his daughter (“Bring her in…”); and again his progress is undone. Thereby, he smashes into the glass, floor-to-ceiling confection display case where a number of women recline (beating up the owner en route) and he proceeds to wreak havoc, savagely kicking and punching the girls (in a dismal parody of the winner/loser actions in the gym, seen at the outset) and topping off his Alpha chagrin by raping one of them and killing her with a handgun, leaving the tasty nook awash in gore.
As it happens, young Billy is not the only irresistible force in town. The middle-aged leader of a uniformed corps of security servicemen (a SWAT team without the heavy hardware) grimly surveys the carnage and soon after calmly delivers a sermon to the father of the dead girl. “How could you do it?” he remonstrates, his face set in a mixture of incredulity and déjà vu. “You could have protected her,” he adds, introducing traces of chivalry. The dad on the spot mutters something about “making ends meet;” and, as if finding in that metaphor more provocation, the cop goes on to remind him that now the point is “about your three daughters still alive.” Drawing a sword from the nape of his collar he chops off one of the careless man’s hands; and while the latter howls in pain we have to get past that disconcerting antiquity and recall that, before giving him a permanent disability, the chieftain also gave him some marching orders—“Now’s your chance to do something.” Though we are diverted here by a scene where Billy’s brother shows us how difficult it is for some players to get from point A to point B, we soon come to a disclosure of where the cue to “do something” (as augmented by, “Do what you want”) leads—namely, to Billy as mutilated and dead as the girl he savaged. (more…)

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plac 1

by Allan Fish

(Spain 1961 87m) DVD2 (Spain only, no English subs)

Seat a poor man at your table

p  Alfredo Matas  d  Luis Garcia Berlanga  w  Luis Garcia Berlanga, Rafael Azcona, José Luis Colina, José Luis Font  ph  Francisco Sempere  ed  José Antonio Rojo  m  Miguel Asins Arbó

Cassen (Plácido Alonso), José Luiz López Vázquez (Don Cabino), Elvira Quintilla (Emilia), Manuel Alexandre (Julian Alonso), Mari Carmen Yepes (Martita), Jesus Puche (Don Arturo), José Maria Caffarel (Zapater), Xan de Bolas (Rivas), Amelia de la Torre (Doña Encarna de Galán), Laura Granados (Erika), Lepe (Emilia’s father), José Orjas (notary), Agustin Gonzalez (Alvaro Gil), Carmen Contreras (Vivian), Julia Delgado Caro (Maria Helguera), Antonio Gandia (Pascual), Julia Caba Alba (Concheta), Maria Francès,

As I write I am moving into my eighth year of writing pieces for this work.  I’ve just come off the back of the worst sickness I can remember which spoiled the traditional Christmas and New Year festivities.  During this time I haven’t written a single piece, stopped dead by a lethargy and insomnia one step short of a coma.  Appropriate it is then that the first piece I should write after this malaise is about Luis Garcia Berlanga’s typically savage satirical farce.  For this is the spirit of Christmas, as dreamt up by Niccolo Machiavelli, a time of giving, yes, but at a price; always at a price. (more…)

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Screen capture from critically-praised coming-of-age film “The Spectacular Now”

by Sam Juliano

London and Kendal are now memories, and the summer is on it’s death throes, with today’s Labor Day holiday the final off day before work starts for many. Tomorrow is the first day of school in our district, with a teacher’s meeting scheduled for today, and the first day for students set for Wednesday.

The western countdown proper will commence on Monday, September 30, though the two weeks prior (starting on September 16) are reserved for the possible writing of some runner-up and feature western pieces yet to be determined.  If no posts materialized (or even if a few do) the remaining days will be left blank, allowing for the writers to have more time to complete their reviews.  In an e mail sent out to the full group of writers and voters, a tentative schedule grip has neared full completion, with only three or fours essays still unclaimed.

Once again, the site thanks the incomparable Dee Dee for her work on the sidebar and her posting of the Labor Day icon.  Australian Tony d’Ambra, another longtime friend and associate also helped out WitD big-time last week by reversing an ill-advised font change, using his knowledge and skills to overcome the difficulties in negating the change. (more…)

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