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Archive for March, 2016

bladerunner-1

 © 2016 by James Clark

      Blade Runner (1982) is one of a very small handful of films that can be truly described as “haunting.” What makes its power doubly remarkable is that it derives from an auteur who does not originate the bare bones of his works but depends upon pre-made literature by which he can deliver impacts at cinematically optimal force. The writer behind Scott’s scenario here, Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), was an exponent of science fiction with a view to the question, “What constitutes the authentic human being?” His novel, Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? (1968), cites a planet Earth largely abandoned by old-line Homo sapiens and populated by androids in relation to which a bounty hunter reaps rewards of sorts. Dick, who died four months before the film’s release (to a tepid response), had declared that Scott’s running with those initiatives “justified” his “life and creative work…” But before we party with the overwhelming visual-sensual drama on tap, let’s show some apt amazement brought to our attention by those literary roots. “The world we actually have does not meet my standards,” Dick has remarked; and before we get into personality disfigurement it would be wise to recognize that the sense of “more real,” flourished by that venerable insurrection, Surrealism, has been heavily criss-crossed by the history of philosophy and science for the past 150 years. Scott has no qualms about the input of others because he recognizes that the waves he’s intent on making are part of a much wider effort. (His renowned earlier and now parallel TV ads also derive from serendipity events, upon which he expends graphic design magic, and something more.) That’s why he also brings on board the fading candle light of that Jacques Demy who loved color saturating his streetscapes, had a thing about umbrellas and black cars and a thing about Catherine Deneuve in Camelot outfits—Scott’s leading lady, Sean Young, being a dead ringer for that exquisite bone-china presence. (more…)

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my golden 1

eye in the sky

by Sam Juliano

After a week of soul-searching that originally had me concluding that various domestic responsibilities and a marathon writing project would prevent me from proceeding on with the long planned science fiction countdown (the sixth year in a row such a demanding project was being posed) I have decided to move forward with it.  I will be sending a  group e mail out later this week to the expected participants. On that correspondence I will ask that anyone not wanting to be part of this venture for whatever legitimate reason should e mail me separately so I can remove that person’s name from the master e mail.  I am projecting that all final ballots should be submitted on that chain by the first week of June.  The middle of the month should see the countdown begin, with a modest Top 50 in place.

The Tribeca Film Festival is now two and a half weeks away, and Lucille and I will again be attending many of the films being offered there in the annual event.  As always, I’ll be reporting back here at Wonders in the Dark.   The past week has been an unconscionable one on the world stage, and the American political process has gone beyond embarrassment. (more…)

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clinton-trump-comp

by Sam Juliano

Presidential election madness continues, and like so many stateside I have immersed myself into the process by way of a close eye on the evolving news cycles, the day to day analysis online and of course the actual results and post mortem.  A special treat has been offered on CNN – “the race to the White House” – which superbly examines past presidential races by way of news footage and re-enactments.  Lincoln’s first election in 1860, and JFK’s one hundred years later were especially fascinating in the manner the shows were crafted.  We history buffs have long known the contents, but still appreciate the craftsmanship and execution.  As to the current election it is clear enough that Hillary has won the nomination, but that Sanders will still pursue the contest to the convention.  On the Republican side it appears it will be Trump, but it may well go to an open convention, where the anti Trump forces are determined to undermine him.

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alien-1

© 2016 by James Clark

I think it’s a big mistake to suppose that the film title, Alien (1979), pertains solely with regard to the ugly killer of most of the crew of a spaceship. To opt for that simplism is to underestimate the sensibility of helmsman, Ridley Scott. Not that seeing Scott at his best is an easy task, however. Fortunately, he sprays about quite a lot of trailblazing self-characterization—often wildly self-contradictory—ample enough to allow those of us, who have been assured that he’s got the right stuff, to wade past a façade of “professionalism” which brazens out an homage to all the journeymen involved in cash-flow (and nothing much else), on the order of The Martian (2015). Scott generously shares with us not only his life-long commitment to design craft but also his recognition that such a field is very crowded with brilliant practitioners, necessitating relentless and ruthless competitive assertions—assertions (he hearkening to his ongoing TV ad work as in the spirit of Mad Men) not above outrageous bullshit. One of his unforgettable remarks is, “I try to hit the truth.” Another of his unforgettable remarks is that, whereas when he began his film career (Alien being near the beginning) there was a 50/50 confrontation between the watchable and the unwatchable, now it’s down to watchable 3%. (Can you imagine he’d include The Martian in the league of 3%?) A third declaration of importance to us here is, “I’m more intrigued by human relations” [than typical suspense yarns].

Getting back to the good old days of 50/50, after a long winning streak of unprecedented, dazzling Super Bowl commercials (the pilot of the craft in Alien being outfitted with that magic NFL word, Dallas; Dallas also being an assassination site) and the like, our guide was brought aboard a vehicle stemming from screenwriter, Dan O’Bannon and Surrealist painter, H.R. Giger, who met during the abortive Alejandro Jodorovsky run-up to the sci-fi property, Dune. Among those considered for directorial duties for Alien was Robert Aldrich who, with screenwriter, A.I. Bezzerides, had briefly, during the output of Kiss Me Deadly, showed a penchant for “human relations” (or was the real work there that of Bezzerides?). But, elbows in play no doubt, it was Scott who convinced everyone who mattered that he could do the job, a job considerably more complex than giving customers a good scare. (more…)

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zootopia

10-cloverfield-lane-image-1

by Sam Juliano

Because I have been caught with the once-every-four-years Presidential election bug, I’ve been away from the site and other blogs the last several weeks.  For both parties the moment of truth has arrived with five crucial state primaries tomorrow that will pretty much define the race.  I am expecting Bernie Sanders to prevail in Illinois and perhaps even Ohio, though I see Hillary Clinton winning a narrow contest in Missouri and much bigger wins in North Carolina and Florida.  The results will insure that Sanders will continue on till the convention.  On the Republican side Donald Trump will win the vital vote in Florida by a big margin, and will also triumph in North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri, though he will almost surely lose in Ohio to John Kasich.  Watching the debates, the daily election cycle and the primary results has been quite a sobering experience to say the least.  Similarly I’ve kept up with all the various commentaries, many quite fascinating.

Lucille and the three boys accompanied me to Mount Holly, New Jersey on Saturday afternoon to take in our friend Jeff Stroud’s art exhibition in a quaint home in the community on the outskirts of Philadelphia.  We picked up one of the artist’s sublime creations too.

I have not given up on the links, but have been forced to take a short break because of the time-consuming nature of this feature at this time. (more…)

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cemeterycemetery 2cemetery 3

by Sam Juliano

Americans have been amply regaled by the presidential election over the past weeks, and things will only get more intense as wee move through March and April.  I have already committed to Bernie Sanders in the New Jersey June Democratic primary, but I recognize his chances are remote.  Still the man is giving it his all, and the debates and news cycles have been fascinating to witness.  The same could be said about the Republican primary where the perverse Donald Trump is raising all kinds of hell, and making this the most irresistible campaign in my lifetime.  I predicted Trump would win many months ago against the clueless early prediction of NY Times guru Nate Silver, but right now it is very hard to say how it will end up, even with a modest likelihood of a Trump victory.  At the present time it looks like Hillary Clinton in November.  Huge primaries are set for tomorrow in Michigan and Mississippi, where Trump and Clinton hold wide leads in polls.  Then comes the real day of reckoning on March 15th when voters will be casting ballots in Florida (winner takes all), North Carolina, Missouri, Illinois and Ohio (winner takes all).

With retirement dinners, family responsibilities revolving around the college attendance of my two oldest, and dealing with my improving lower back pain, Lucille and I have been pretty much spoken for over the past week.  We did see one new release, which is the first masterpiece of 2016.  I did manage to see a few blu rays at home, one a recent Criterion release of an Italian film I thought quite good. (more…)

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hail-caesar-1 (1)

 © 2016 by James Clark

      While it is indubitable that the new film by the Coens, Hail. Caesar! (2016), runs past us a tale impacting as a slice of the early 1950s, it is just as palpable that the thrust of the work is not a nostalgic homage to Hollywood productions of that era. Failing to do justice to that latter gust of skepticism known by gut if not by gab, opens a spigot parading the slight that the film is lower-drawer fluff, released in February because it could never be considered as festival- or prize-worthy. Quite a poke in the eye to greet the lads as if they’d lost it!

Maybe a sense that festivals and prizes are not in the offing does factor here. But maybe the crisis is not about not being good enough but, in an onrush, being too good for a film industry now on track as a very comprehensive juggernaut of lowest-common-denominator escape, availing itself of cutting-edge marketing intent, as a prevailing science, to wipe out the competition. Anyone having made an effort to attend to the dramatic motives and carnal assaults of the work of the Coens could never imagine that they’d settle for geriatric pap. (more…)

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