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Archive for January, 2016

minor 1

by Sam Juliano

This past week world famous theoretical physicist and renowned university professor Stephen Hawking issued a dire warning that if the human race were not careful they could bring about their demise before one-hundred years have eclipsed.  He specified three major fears -nuclear war, climate change and genetically engineered viruses as potentially lethal to the continuation of the human race, but sustained abuse of our resources and the planet we live on remains in the view of most scientists as our primary concern.   Hawking warned that we were at least a hundred years from having the ability to live elsewhere in space, so the next century will tell if we will still be around to to enact that relocation.  The picture book authors Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander in a newly published work pointedly titled This is the Earth, have also asserted that man is responsible for the plundering of our natural assets because of greed and gross carelessness, but also because our designs have been so notoriously self-serving and our claims excessive and unnecessary.  Yet, Shore and Alexander have not thrown in the towel, nor have they opined that we are past the point of no return, indeed their environmental plea, couched in verse patterned after The House That Jack Built, is meant to keep our alarming rate of pollution and contamination in check by adapting the practice of recycling, riding bicycles and maintaining gardens, even in urban areas.  While young readers may well be unnerved by the confessional aspects of a race prone to overindulgence, they are nonetheless invited to make their own individual donations towards an ecological equilibrium too often knocked out of whack by unrestrained narcissism. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

One of the worst snow storms to ever regale the northern New Jersey/New York City region dropped at least twenty-six inches of snow, effectively paralyzing the area, and forcing the shutdown of roads and crossings.  Needless to say Broadway dimmed its lights and many movie theaters closed.  Schools in my own hometown have cancelled classes on Monday, which is two days after the storm, and the roads, though slowly making a comeback, are still in some spots impossible to pass through.  The coming of the storm and matters connected with making copies of films have occupied me all week, and have prevented any theatricals film viewings, though I have re-watched many 2015 films at home during this week of madness.  What with digging out cars and shoveling sidewalks in the cards for the coming days, I’m sure this will be another difficult week, with responsibilities likely to trump entertainment.  19 new links are to follow here:

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Welcome to the wonderful world of what was cinema for me this 2015. It was a year of discoveries, wonderful insights and a change of pace in terms of how I react and write about the movies that I see. I won’t start saying that my list has more or less authority, or personality than any of the others around the world, specially since it comes in the middle of January, when most people have already done their lists and have already been revered, feared or mocked because of them. So, without much further ado, I present to you what I consider to be the best 20 films of 2015.

For this list I consider only audiovisual projects that were originally released in 2015, whether they be in festivals, commercial theaters, online, secret screenings, online leaks, or whatever it is that I ended up seeing them, but only screened or published for the first time in the calendar year of 2015. Beyond that, anything goes, here you could end up seeing short films, TV movies, music videos, Mini-series, Web videos and many feature-length films, watched in theaters, festivals or online. This is the 21st century, welcome to it. My list might not be the most original or even the most eclectic, but I can say that these 20 films defined my 2015.

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youth-1

 © 2016 by James Clark

      There are many breathtaking turns in the film, Youth (2015). The one which I can’t forget transpires during the protagonist’s conducting one of his musical compositions in a concert by request of Queen Elizabeth. A beautiful young soprano is singing and body and soul, wrapped up in a scarlet gown, are somehow so right. The conductor regards her excellence and there flashes before him a moment we saw sometime before, his wife’s corpse propped upon the window of her hospital room as he was heedlessly regaling her with their superior depths and heroic sacrifices as compared with the actions of young people in general and their daughter in particular. The lovely mouth of the both sexy and angelic professional singer becomes briefly superimposed (by means of the quick cut) upon the loyal retainer’s grotesque maw.

Its palpable harshness and incisiveness are all the more stunning in view of the film’s wanton discharge of the composer/ conductor’s paltry range of perception in all the actions which preceded that shock, actions taking place at an exclusive Swiss spa. Paolo Sorrentino, the body and soul bringing to us this puzzling treasure had, in his previous coup, The Great Beauty (2013), dished out (among other virtues) a pleasing reprise of Federico Fellini’s spotlighting Italian-Miracle oligarchs at self-indulgent play. Especially impressive in that venerable motif was the unfailing well-rounded inclusion of self-injury and confrontation of an elusive verve amidst expensive and pretentious diversions. This time, however, we are notably in the domain of clockwork mechanisms, ticking along without serious need to question the exercise. Verve’s elusiveness is indeed salient in the presumably bracing mountain air being breathed by the guests. But unlike the films based in Italy, a Vichy-like denial of outrage has come to stay. (more…)

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brooklyn

wolf hall

phoenix

by Sam Juliano

My Top 10 Films of 2015 (and the runners-up)

I saw nearly 170 movies in theaters over the past year, though 36 were at Tribeca. My list of 10 is really a list of 12 as I have an-impossible-to-break three-way tie for Number 10. My runners-up list includes films I really liked a lot as well. I have seen every last awards contender, so the ones that are missing are films I just didn’t care for or were indifferent towards. 2015 marks the first time I have ever included a TV mini-series since I started making lists in 1970, but I felt I had good reason to this time

Top Ten:

1. Brooklyn (Ireland/UK)
2. Wolf Hall (UK; mini-series)
3. Phoenix (Germany)
4. Carol (USA)
5. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden)
6. 45 Years (UK)
7. Son of Saul (Hungary)
8. The Revenant (USA)
9. Youth (Italy/UK/USA)
10. The Tribe (Ukraine)
The Hateful Eight (USA)
The Assassin (Taiwan) -three way tie-

Runners-Up:

Room
A Woman in Gold
Anomalisa
Bridge of Spies
The Clouds of Sils Maria
It’s Me Marlon
The Lady in the Van
Sicario
Slow West
Spotlight
The Danish Girl

Lucille and I saw one film in the theaters this past week – In the Shadow of Women, a French film by Phillip Gerrel at the IFC:

In the Shadow of Women     ***      (Saturday night)   IFC

New links will go up next Monday.  With the completion of the Caldecotts and the composition of the list I was unable to do anything with them today.  But next week they will definitely return.

ROONEY MARA and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

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by Allan Fish
Falling Leaves – 1912, France, Alice Guy-Blaché
Suspense – 1913, US, Lois Weber
The Smiling Madame Beudet – 1923, France, Germaine Dulac
The Adventures of Prince Achmed – 1926, Germany, Lotte Reiniger
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty – 1927, USSR, Esfir Shub
Women of Ryazan – 1928, USSR, Olga Preobrazhenskaya
The Seashell and the Clergyman – 1928, France, Germaine Dulac
Mädchen in Uniform – 1931, Germany, Leontine Sagan
The Blue Light – 1932, Germany, Leni Riefenstahl
Triumph of the Wall – 1935, Germany, Leni Riefenstahl
Dada – 1936, US, Mary Ellen Bute
Olympische Spiele: Parts I & II – 1938, Germany, Leni Riefenstahl
Dance, Girl, Dance – 1940, US, Dorothy Arzner
Meshes of the Afternoon – 1943, US, Maya Deren
Ritual in Transfigured Time – 1946, US, Maya Deren
The Last Stage – 1947, Poland, Wanda Jakubowska
Paris 1900 – 1947, France, Nicole Védrès
Those Blasted Kids – 1947, Denmark, Astrid Henning-Jansen
Death is a Caress – 1949, Norway, Edith Carlmar
Olivia – 1951, France, Jacqueline Audry
A Portrait of Ga – 1952, UK, Margaret Tait
The Stranger Left no Card – 1952, UK, Wendy Toye
The Hitch-Hiker – 1953, US, Ida Lupino
The Moon Has Risen – 1955, Japan, Kinuyo Tanaka
Araya – 1959, Venezuela, Margot Benaceraf
Poem of the Sea – 1959, USSR, Julia Solntseva
Ung Flukt – 1959, Norway, Edith Carlmar
The Story of the Flaming Years – 1961, USSR, Julia Solntseva
The Connection – 1961, US, Shirley Clarke
Cleo from 5 to 7 – 1962, France, Agnès Varda
The Cool World – 1963, US, Shirley Clarke
The House is Black – 1963, Iran Farough Farrokzhad

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waterfall

by Sam Juliano

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.   -Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire

Environmental philosopher and activist John Muir dedicated much of his life toward the preservation of the western forests, and today is referred to as the “Father of the National Parks.”  From both a political and recreational sphere of interest this master of many pursuits has also been dubbed “one of the patron saints of twentieth century American environmental activity.”  Such a rich and diverse life would no doubt yield some specific events that in and of themselves would yield the basis for promising books.  John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall by Julie Danneberg and Jamie Hogan is the outgrowth of a very close brush Muir had with death during his acute immersion with nature during the time he spent at Yosemite Valley.  Certainly this is not the kind of defining life event that is brought up when the author and naturalist’s name is broached as it would be in the life of Civil War politician Charles Sumner, who was nearly caned to death in the congressional chambers by a furious southerner, but ironically enough the Sumner incident was condemned by famed transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson who visited with Muir at Yosemite, and was deeply impressed with his oneness with nature that he tried to convinced him to travel east.  Muir declined but twenty years later, he met Emerson in Concord, Massachusetts.

John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall employs the same kind of two prorogued narrative presentation as last year’s Winter Bees.   Muir’s activity is chronicled in free-spirited prose, while on at the bottom of each right side panel  the historical and biographical context enriches one’s understanding of Muir and his daily wilderness investigations.  Muir was ravished by Yosemite’s expansive soulful sublimity, and the only surefire way to become immersed in the nature experience, to take it in by experiencing it and living in a simple solitary cabin with equipped with observational capacities.  The central object of his fascination and appreciation was a springtime waterfall, where as described by Danneberg it “cascaded, crashed and careened over the side of the mountain.”  In the hang-nest room at the sawmill  he maintained journals, sketches and books, and saw the heavens and Yosemite Falls through window roofs. (more…)

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