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Archive for June, 2014

ODG_-_1_an_early_role_for_Nita_Talbot

by John Grant

US / 82 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Nicholas Ray Pr: John Houseman Scr: A.I. Bezzerides Story: Mad with Much Heart (1946) by Gerald Butler, adapted by A.I. Bezzerides, Nicholas Ray Cine: George E. Diskant Cast: Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Anthony Ross, Ed Begley, Ian Wolfe, Sumner Williams, Gus Schilling, Frank Ferguson, Cleo Moore, Olive Carey, Richard Irving, Pat Prest, Nita Talbot, Joan Taylor.

A film noir that’s in its way more of an anti-noir, in that its protagonist is rescued from the noir abyss—and from the concrete and plate glass tunnels of the crowded city—through interaction in a rural environment with a femme who’s the opposite of fatale. A fairly early outing from Nick Ray—with a few scenes directed by Ida Lupino when illness, perhaps related to his substance abuse, required that Ray take a break—this is one of those members of the noir canon that somehow almost always gets forgotten. Yet, despite its oddness of narrative construction, On Dangerous Ground is a significant piece of moviemaking, and one that deserves far wider attention. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

“If ‘The Artist’ revels in gimmickry and occasionally oversells its charm, it also understands the deep and durable fascination of the art it embraces…”

-A.O. Scott, The New York Times

After Michel Hazanavicius’s romantic homage to silent cinema, The Artist charmed audiences at Cannes, and won dozens of critical accolades from numerous film critical organizations, it went one to win the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.  From coast to coast (New York and Los Angeles) to the other side of the pond (London and Paris) The Artist captivated scribes and dominated like no other film had done for many years.  In a year when Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation released to spectacular reviews, the vast majority of critics stood solidly by the black and white French charmer derided by it’s few detractors as “lightweight.”  Oscar voters were so smitten that they also followed the Cannes jury’s lead by awarding Jean Dujardin the Best Actor prize.  He was the first French thespian in history to win that honor.  But there were even more ‘firsts’:  The Artist was the first French film to win the Best Picture Oscar, it was the first completely black and white film to win since The Apartment in 1960, and the firs silent film to win since Wings in 1927.  In addition, it was the most honored film by the Ceasars in French history and it took Britain by storm, dominating the London Film Critics Awards and the BAFTAs. (more…)

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http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/two-for-the-road-1967

 

 

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by Sam Juliano

There is a fresh spontaneity present throughout the gay-themed romance Beautiful Thing that leaves the viewer fully exhilarated.  There is a certain sense of triumph when the two lovers are fully outed (one recalls many similarities to the Swedish lesbian drama Show Me Love  directed by Lukas Moodyson – that opened two years later) and have finally built up support and acceptance among those who were originally hostile to such a proposition.  To be sure, the unforgettable final scene of the British film, when the two teenagers lovingly slow-dance in the courtyard of their council flats to Mama Cass Elliot’s “Dream a Little Dream of Me”  as the one boy’s feisty mom defiantly cavorts alongside them, provokes as much shock as bliss among the on-lookers.  But the fact that some have accepted what was once unconscionable in these working class, housing project environs provides the film with its own silver lining, while major changes lie on the horizon.

Beautiful Thing stands apart from other gay romances because it depicts the budding relationship as an outgrowth of the same yearnings that define heterosexual love.  There are the usual hurdles to negotiate, and guilt, embarrassment and self-loathing are all experienced before true love conquers all.  Hattie McDonald, directing an intelligent script written by Jonathan Harvey from his long-running play demonstrates remarkable emotional restraint in documenting how two teenage boys who reside next door to each other in a South East London housing project come face to face with their emerging homosexuality.  In fact the film essentially plays out largely  in three connecting apartments which house the characters who display their various difficulties in coping with their siblings, acceptance in school and dysfunctional self-identity. (more…)

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Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley in “The Fault in Our Stars”

Screen capture from British satire masterpiece “Kind Hearts and coronets” shown as part of Alec Guinness Festival at Film Forum

by Sam Juliano

In quick succession Father’s Day, the longest day of the year (June 21st) and the ending date of school signal the Dog Days of Summer are ahead.  Indeed weather forecasters are predicted number in the low 90’s for the coming week in the New York City area, and other friends living elsewhere are reporting much the same.  The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will be staging their own annual film festival next week, and included on the itinerary is a new short film by our longtime friend Jason Giampietro, and our Film Forum pal Kyle Molzan who is making his debut with For the Plasma.  Richard Body in this past week’s The New Yorker has some very nice things to say about Kyle’s film.  Lucille and I (and probably Sammy and Danny) will be on hand for both screenings.  Our darling daughter Melanie graduates high school next week and we have a party set for the 28th. (more…)

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925__life_and_death_of_colonel_blimp_blu-ray_04_

by Allan Fish

A few years ago, in response to requests from various people I caved in an did a top 3,000 films list.  Despite the success of countdowns on this site, I’m not really one for ordering film or any art for that matter.  Having set levels – ratings, whatever you want to call them – is fine, but ordering those that fall between one rung on the ladder and the one above or below seems increasingly like an insane act of a world champion ADD hair-splitter.  Almost immediately after it went up as a page on the top bar, I wanted to take it down, but I have always been of the belief that one cannot remove without an act of replacement.  And I could think of nothing to replace it.  So I let it stay, getting increasingly out of date as masses of rarities I’d never expected to see or, in some cases, even heard of, suddenly came into my clammy mitts.  Until now.

The book which I have laboured over long and hard for over 10 years now should be ready for Kindle publication by the end of the year, so it’s only partially connected to that.  But throughout the internet we have best lists of everything, so why not go the extra hog?  3,000?  Child’s play.  How about 5,000?  To one who has seen as many films as yours truly has, even 5,000 is insufficient, there are still films left circling the perimeter that I mourn, but this isn’t strictly just a best 5,000 films.  For one thing, as in the book, TV is included, too.  While there are also films that I may not be a fan of but which have many critical fans out there and/or which are just too important in film history to ignore.  There are also films I have not yet seen including a selection of 2013 and 2014 films still to come to Blighty and a selection of lost films (one can dream…).  A week or two from now I shall remove the top 3,000 page and replace it with a copy of this list, which I feel is the most important I have ever posted at Wonders.  Each year I hope to update it, but if the fates ordain otherwise as that’s still in the balance, then Sam will have to, at least with additions if not exclusions.

The list is in chronological order.  At the end is a sort of directorial scorecard, showing all directors with multiple entries.  Titles followed by an asterisk (*) are those I don’t possess copies of, though some I have seen.  Those followed by an x (x) are foreign films I have copies of, but without English subtitles.

(more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2003 106m) DVD1/2

So much ‘More Than This’

p  Ross Katz, Sofia Coppola  d/w  Sofia Coppola  ph  Lance Acord  ed  Sarah Flack  m  Kevin Shields  art  Anne Ross, K.K.Barrett  cos  Nancy Steiner

Bill Murray (Bob Harris), Scarlett Johansson (Charlotte), Giovanni Ribisi (John), Anna Faris (Kelly), Fumihiro Hayashi,

Sofia Coppola’s fresh and funny masterpiece is that rarest of beasts; a film that plays with convention in a witty and original way and comes up fresh every time you see it.  A film that is not merely about Japanese customs, Tokyo or indeed going to any foreign places, as these are merely the outer levels.  At its lovely heart is a story of fate and being in the right place at the wrong time.  Or just about the power of unlikely friendships and how a single night can alter your life.  (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

I just recently finished re-watching this movie. I am in complete awe. For most of the film I was wondering and trying to remember the reasoning that I had and that I think everyone else had to put this movie in their own lists. I mean, this is a romantic/romance countdown and I’ve been two for two when it comes to the percentage of the element of romance in the final film. But then, after an hour and twenty minutes had passed, the first elements and bits of romance appear here and there, as the composer and the ballerina start talking in a balcony with an incredible landscape behind them, it may be a cliché, but the fact that those moments are played so grounded in terms of dialogue and advancement of the romance, that it seems as if every other element of the frame is screaming love, but it’s not yet really developed in the characters yet. It’s a clue, a mystery, because the whereabouts of when it really started, how it started or how deep their love is is also a hidden element of us, as we shift our focus to the one of the administration of the ballet company, specially under the strict and caring eyes of Lermontov.

It is not much a movie about the romance of the composer, Julian, and the dancer, Vicky, because you could compile every scene with the two of them together and it won’t really amount to more than twenty minutes, though it is their love that drives most of the last hour of the film, once Lermontov realizes the affair that is going between the two of them. The film is more interesting because it represents the themes of the ballet into the life of Vicky, as the girl with the red shoes can’t fight the urge of dancing that will lead her to death, and at the same time can’t love her own boyfriend, because she can’t stop dancing. In the end the film is a struggle of those two loves, the love of dancing by Vicky and the love she feels for Julian, and Lermontov knows that she struggles, he knows the character and the attitude of her, he knows that she needs to dance, she even told him that it was what made her live. That’s when the other interesting concept of the film comes through: how the jealous love of Lermontov is what practically makes this movie a complete romantic film in terms that it creates a love triangle. A strange and tragic love triangle. (more…)

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by Sachin Gandhi

On the surface, Fellini’s La Strada does not appear to exhibit characteristics of what is mostly associated with romantic films. There is no display of love, no passionate embrace or kiss or even a discussion of a relationship. The only thing on display from the first frame to the last is tragedy! The film starts and ends with death but these two events are crucial to the film’s passage of love. The first news of death kick-starts the journey of the two lead characters. The second death gives meaning to the relationship of the two characters and gives a face to the feelings of love that lingered underneath the surface. Death is a critical element in the journey of true love as evident in many romantic tragedies over the centuries. From Shakespeare to Urdu literature, death goes hand in hand with love. In fact, in the seven stages of Love (Attraction, Attachment, Love, Trust/Reverence, Worship, Obsession/Madness, Death) in Urdu language, death marks the seventh and final stage of Love. La Strada doesn’t depict all these stages in order but manages to incorporate them in one form or another. The film manages to hide all its emotions beneath a cold indifferent surface but by the end, all the emotions spill over like the waves that wash up on shore in the final scene.

(more…)

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under-the-skin-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

      Under the Skin (2013) fires toward us a maelstrom of visual and aural stimuli. Much of it pertains to electrodynamic frontiers vastly complicating the human component of such motion. Thus we have an introductory passage wherein startling confluences of astronomical light in blue, gold and red play out upon the infinite darkness of a cescendoing cosmos. A musical accompaniment of lacerating and seductive pulsating ringing, clatter, grinding and thundering presses the tension and makes very clear we have come to a history having forever turned its back on the venerable and sedate gratifications of the music of the spheres.

In the orientation just described, there come to view geometric features playing out to a cylinder of sorts that could be a vehicle or a scanner (an MRI, perhaps). Drifting over this incursion are voices calling out, in a blurred way, what sounds like, “…food, feed…cell… cell…” Then the iris of one eye fills the screen, several of its elements pulsing, like a city seen from a great distance. The dark, reddish brown of that organ gives way to a dark landscape with coursing rivulets and a dusting of snow. There’s a winding road seen from far away and from some kind of promontory, and grinding sounds and dangerous speeds recommence. The ominous thrust and noise stop, the motorcycle rider plunges purposefully down a nearly pitch black slope with city lights spreading across the horizon. Soon the rider, with tempered skeletal touches on his leather uniform, re-emerges with the corpse of a woman slung over his shoulder. She is all in black, with net stockings. The narrative moves on to a brightly lit, shimmering space, bringing to mind an operating theatre. But what appears to be the dead girl (or subject of some kind of [genetic?] surgery) is on the glowing floor and another woman—all in silhouette—busies herself with removing from the corpse and putting on her own body the dead young woman’s clothes. Heavy high-heeled shoes going on create a reverberation. And then the newly-outfitted figure gives us reason to wonder what else she has taken from that all-too-mortal victim whom the biker had found as by some advanced technology (or, on the other hand, had he killed her some time before?). The stranger with someone else’s clothes—her tall, vibrantly-toned body being one of great beauty, evident even in the compromised light—reaches down to the recumbent woman with her finger to sample something not factored into the transplant, namely, a trace of vaginal fluid. From the bush where she was accessed, the dead body reveals another curiosity-seeker, a tiny ant, treading through the liquid on the lovely woman’s finger. That iris has readily come into her outfitting. The other area would be part of a work in progress, for a most unusual piece of work. (more…)

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