by Sam Juliano
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
-William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 97”
Every state in the nation has been visited by the ultimate barometer of winter -that once welcome, but now tiring and meddlesome white marauder- over the past week, except for Florida. In the now beleaguered northeast it has been a conveyor belt of storms and frigid temperatures, and the latest word is that we may not yet be done. Certainly our dear Midwestern brethren have suffered through the darkest season in many a year, and there has been some catastrophic weather in parts of the United Kingdom. March inches closer, but can anyone feel safe until April Fool’s Day or even then in this season of uncertainty and vulnerability. Amidst all the mayhem, some school districts -including our own in Fairview- are closed for President’s Week, allowing for some recovery and/or meditative time.
The e mail chain for the Romantic Film Countdown polling will be sent out to all e mail members this coming Wednesday, February 19. Those casting ballots will have until April 1st to vote and send on to the network. While it has admittedly taken quite a bit of time to get this project off the ground for various diversions and considerations, I am (personally) ready to move forward and am very excited. Hopefully a good number of friends and readers are of the same mind-set.
One of the most incredible and most comprehensive Film Festivals ever staged anywhere or anytime will be commencing at the Film Forum on Friday, February 21st, and will continue for five full weeks. The Festival has been titled The Complete Hitchcock and the schedule will include every feature length film the prolific Hitch ever made, including the ultra-rare German-language MARY (1930) and his nine surviving silents, all restored by the BFI. Lucille, young Sammy and Danny and I will be on hand for a fair number of these screenings, including a few attractively-paired double features for the price of one. A more glorious tribute to Hitch than this one? I doubt it. Here is the link to the full Film Forum schedule:
In any case, after the Complete Hitchcock concludes on March 27, the Film Forum will then stage a complete festival on Francois Truffaut and a 60th Anniversary restoration of Godzilla. Happy times for movie lovers in New York City for the upcoming months. Presently, Godard’s Alphaville and Resnais’s Je T’Aime Je T’Aime are playing on separate screens until Thursday.
Dennis Polifroni, young Sammy and Yours Truly will be recording our annual Oscar Predictions video at the local Boulevard Diner on Monday evening, February 24th. The you tube video will be the first time be filmed and edited by the talented Miss Melanie Juliano, though the wily Oscar veteran Jason Giampietro may be on hand with a second camera. The finished product will be posted at the site on either Wednesday or Thursday of that pre-Oscar week.
While the beginning and middle of this past week was spent watching the multiple storms unfold from home and shoveling out from the aftermath, Lucille and I (and young Sammy as well) still manged to take in three movie presentations in theaters over the weekend, somehow negotiating the challenging road conditions. We took in:
Gloria **** (Friday night) Montclair Bow-Tie Cinemas
Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) ***** (Sunday) Film Forum
Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts ***** (Saturday) Bow-Tie
Sebastian Lelio’s focused Chilean drama GLORIA about mid-life crisis and eventual rejuvenation owes some thematic debt to the character Gena Rowlands played for Cassevettes, but the film has a naturalist spontaneity and honesty that forges its own path, bolstered by an absolutely extraordinary performance by Paulina Garcia, who pulls away from mid-life crisis doldrums to finally celebrate life for a new found vitality. Jaimie Grijalba wrote a fantastic review of it at Overlook’s Corridor, which I have linked here:
This year’s crop of Oscar-nominated Animated shorts is the strongest for any year I can remember, and I am presently unable to select a favorite – all are excellent, and the three others that were shown that apparently “just missed” have complicated the issue further as all of those are terrific as well. One of those three that missed the cut – the often hysterical French A La Francaise about a gaggle of chickens running King Louie’s court matches the best of the best here. The American Feral, a lush and entrancing tale about a child raised by wolves and later found in the wilderness to be domesticated, has the look of a moving oil painting, and the color is both stark and vibrant. Emotionally it is unquestionably the most resonant of the lot. Simon Pegg’s utterly winning narration for the British Room on the Broom, based on the children’s book of the same name establishes added heft to this oddly engaging story of a witch who assembles a group of animals to fly the skies with her. At about 30 minutes this is the longest short, and the one that may snare the Oscar in the end. The way I am seeing it now the race is neck and neck between Room and the Pixaresque story Mr. Hublot, about a robot and a dog in a machine city. As to the other two nominees, Get A Horse is a Disney homage to the classic “Mickey saves Minnie” and the Japanese Possessions, (the favorite of my son Sammy) tells a story of a fix-it man who chances upon a temple during a storm. The amime style here is the real allure.
John Ford’s masterful 1939 classic Young Mr. Lincoln was screened on Sunday morning at 11:00 as part of it’s popular “Film Forum Jr.” series, and a very special treat awaited those who attended. The esteemed screenwriter and playwright Tony Kushner (who penned the screenplay to last year’s Lincoln) was on hand to introduce the film, which he identified as one of his favorite by the director he referred to as “America’s all-time greatest.” One can never tire of Young Mr. Lincoln, and every new viewing will invariably set one off on yet another study of the most studied of all historical figures. It was great introducing Sammy to the film -he loved it as expected- and to again revel in the superlative craftsmanship and rhythm and in one of the greatest of performances by Henry Fonda as a youthful Abe. The best reference point ever on this great film is the now-famous and incomparably passionate statement from Sergei Eisenstein:
Suppose some truant good fairy were to ask me, “As I’m not employed just now, perhaps there’s some small magic job I could do for you, Sergei Mikhailovich? Is there some American film that you’d like me to make you the author of – with a wave of my wand?”
I would not hesitate to accept the offer, and I would at once name the film that I wish I had made. It would be ‘Young Mr. Lincoln’ directed by John Ford. There are films that are richer and more effective. There are films that are presented with more entertainment and charm. Ford himself has made more extraordinary films than this one. Connoisseurs might well prefer ‘The Informer’ (1935). Audiences would probably vote for ‘Stagecoach’ (1939) and sociologists for ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (1940). ‘Young Mr. Lincoln’ didn’t even get one of those bronze Oscars. Nevertheless, of all American films made up to now, this is the film that I would wish, most of all, to have made. What is there in it that makes me love it so? It has a quality, a quality that every work of art must have – an astonishing harmony of all its component parts, a really amazing harmony as a whole………..I saw this film on the eve of the world war. It immediately enthralled me with the perfection of its harmony and the rare skill with which it employed all the expressive means at its disposal. And most of all for the solution of Lincoln’s image. My love for this film has neither cooled nor been forgotten. It grows stronger and the film itself grows more and more dear to me.
I am happy to have links up for this week:
At Tuesdays with Laurie, the indomitable Ms. Buchanan is the subject of another great and deserving honor: http://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2014/02/12/words-of-wisdom-from-laurie-buchanan/
At Noirish the exceedingly gifted and prolific author John Grant has penned an especially excellent review of the little seen Stanley Kramer debut film “Not as a Stranger”: http://noirencyclopedia.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/morton-thompsons-not-as-a-stranger-1955/
Stephen Mullen (Weeping Sam) has declared “Inside Llewyn Davis” as the best film of 2013 and one of the Coens’ most formidable works at The Listening Ear: http://listeningear.blogspot.com/2014/02/inside-llewyn-davis.html
Dean Treadway continues his fabulous annual cinematic coverage with an in-depth look at 1927 at Filmacability: http://filmicability.blogspot.com/2014/02/1927-year-in-review.html
Judy Geater has launched her new series on Douglas Sirk at Movie Classics with a terrific essays on “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?”: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/has-anybody-seen-my-gal-douglas-sirk-1952/
John Greco has written a superb review of Luchino Visconti’s extraordinary “Bellissima” at Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/belissima-1952-visconti-luchino/
At Scribbles and Ramblings Sachin Gandhi has the South American Movie World Cup pairings up for your perusal: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2014/01/south-american-films.html
At Overlook’s Corridor Jaimie Grijalba is up to “screenplays” in the continuing examination of his annual ‘Frank Awards’ given to the best films and components: http://overlookhotelfilm.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/frank-awards-2013-screenplays/
Pat Perry’s latest post at Doodad Kind of Town superbly addresses “Philomena” and “Inside Llewyn Davis”: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2014/01/surprise-surprise.html
At Dee Dee’s ‘Ning’ network site she has posted some spectacular and rare Hitchcock posters in honor of the Film Forum’s great Festival on the prolific icon: http://filmnoire.ning.com/forum/topics/darkness-before-dawn-takes-a-peek-at-foreign-posters-and
Jon Warner has posted a fantastic essay on the documentary masterwork “The Act of Killing” at Films Worth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-act-of-killing-2012-directed-by.html
At FilmsNoir.net Allan Fassions has written a superb essay on 1955’s “Dementia” for the site’s erstwhile proprietor Tony d’Ambra: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/alan-fassioms-on-dementia-1955-beatnik-noir.html
And speaking of Fassions, his site is now the latest inclusion on the WitD sidebar. It is called “Stranger on the 3rd Floor” and it looks like a fabulous place to visit: http://strangeronthe3rdfloor.wordpress.com/
At The Last Lullaby filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman is leading up with his 12 Best Films of 2013: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2014/01/my-top-twelve-films-of-2013.html
The great Canadian artist Terrill Welch is leading up at her sublime Creativepotager’s blog with a post titled “One Brush Stroke After Another”: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/one-brushstroke-after-another/
As ever, Samuel Wilson is posting superb reviews that may have esaped the radar. His latest great piece to that end at Mondo 70 is an essay on “Greed in the Sun”: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2014/02/greed-inthe-sun-cent-mille-dollars-au.html
Patricia Hamilton has written a tremendous book review on Anish Majumdar’s “The Isolation Door” at Patricia’s Wisdom, and the author chimed in: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2014/02/the-isolation-door-a-novel-anish-majumdar/
Shubhajit Lahiri has penned a provocative capsule on the Argentinian film “Wake Up Love” at Cinemascope: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2014/02/wake-up-love-despabilate-amor-1996.html
David Schleicher has penned a fabulous review of the Iranian “The Past” at The Schleicher Spin: http://theschleicherspin.com/2014/02/09/secrets-and-lies-in-the-past/
Brandie Ashe has posted a wonderful post on Shirley Temple at True Classics: http://trueclassics.net/2014/02/11/remembering-shirley-temple/
Mike Norton has penned some superlative pieces on Hip Hop at Enter the Screen: http://enterthescreen.wordpress.com/
Joel Bocko posts about the screen-capping he’s managed over the past year at The Dancing Image: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-final-watchlistscreencap-some-notes.html
Roderick Heath brings unprecedented scholarship to Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” at Ferdy-on-Films: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2014/ghostbusters-1984/21071/
J.D. LaFrance leads up with a terrific review on “Neuromancer” at Radiator Heaven: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2014/02/neuromancer.html
Drew McIntosh has again offered up a fascinating post at The Blue Vial, showcasing works by Walerian Borowczyk and David Lynch: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2014/01/end-of-road.html