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Archive for October 9th, 2017

by Sam Juliano

He’s so fine
(Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang)
Wish he were mine
(Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang)
That handsome boy over there
(Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang)
The one with the wavy hair
(Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang)      -The Chiffons, 1963

The last time a crown was part and parcel to a picture book, there was a resulting Caldecott Medal celebration.  Javaka Steptoe’s electrifying 2016 biographical Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat won the American Library Association’s highest annual award for a picture book and by extension a glowing acknowledgement for the symbol that represented power, strength and a sign of respect.  The meaning of this triumphant representation has hardly changed in the recently released Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, in fact the connotation in this work is more intimate and scene-specific.  This anti-Kafka tale of a young boy’s cathartic experience after a visit to the barber is a study of building confidence, and a full embrace of the belief that when people believe in themselves they can accomplish just about anything.  In a rebuff to those who consider a haircut as annoying as getting their teeth cleaned, Barnes suggests there is so much more than exiting the storefront with the helical striped pole than just the sudden ability to feel a breeze around your ears.  Indeed the seemingly innocuous twenty-minute duration under the care of a hair stylist can result in a life-changing experience, one that eradicates low self-esteem, and creates one ready to go out and conquer the world.  A fresh cut performed by an expert hair stylist can convert uncertainty to aplomb, timidity to assertiveness, melancholy to unbridled glee.  The crown of the title is synonymous with its root connotation.  While reading through this celebratory esteem builder one may recall Greer Garson’s advice to her Latin teacher husband Robert Donat, who is up for headmaster at the English Brookfield School:  “Never be afraid, Chips, that you can’t do anything you’ve made up your mind to. As long as you believe in yourself, you can go as far as you dream.” (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Summer temperatures are back as we approach mid-October, but I can hardly attribute this to any kind of climate change, right?  After all, our ever-insightful Chief Executive has told us as much!  This is the month of horror movies and festivals, as Halloween approaches.  I’d like to share Jamie Uhler’s excellent capsule on the 1938 Dracula’s Daughter to get in the proper spirit here:

The film is a wonderfully concise and poetic bit of classic Universal Horror filmmaking; perhaps for the first time ever I saw beyond the gloomy, death atmospherics and saw the ‘other’ film resting within in. It’s a dark film to be sure, long I’ve been reminded of some of The Seventh Victim’s suicidal yearnings, but here I saw the clear playfulness ode to The Thin Man between Otto Kruger’s Dr. Jeffrey Garth and Marguerite Churchill’s Janet. A particularly tense scene, for example, is undercut by Janet pranking Jeffrey on the telephone midway through, with their mixture of light to heavy ribbing gleefully reminding me of Myrna Low and William Powell’s antics from two years prior. It also adds a dollop of sincerity to the films close, when Jeffrey is quickly willing to trade his life for Janet’s. Another sly bit of subverting of the traditional Dracula template is pitting our usual hero, Professor Von Helsing in Scotland Yard’s custody at the beginning of the film for the murder of Dracula. It’s a fresh way to set the plot in motion; it springs the titular daughter of the slain Dracula, Countess Marya Zaleska (the alluringly gothic Gloria Holden, giving Siouxsie Sioux a template to work off of 40 years later) into action. If you’ve been made a vampire by a vampire that has just died, you can break its hold over you, thus Marya dreams of being a normal, living breathing human, complete with the realities that that brings with it. Essentially, she wants to love again and be desired, making her eventual fall, and the entirety of the film itself, fated to a sad, tender end.
It’s often deemed a flawed film coming near the end of the run of original Universal masterpieces, but for my money it’s right there, and in many ways a perfect bridge from the Universal Monsters to the rapidly approaching, atmospheric, literate masterpieces of Val Lewton and company. For Horror this is obviously tremendously important, and when you add that contemporarily it’s been given a new reading for its homosexual (or perhaps better put, bisexual) subtext, (Marya is draw to young females throughout the film) you see that this is a film that, like Marya herself, deserves a much better fate.  
 
The Caldecott Medal Contender series is underway and will continue into early February.  The Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 has been pushed back two months for a number of reasons, one of which is I simply will not be able to write for two projects at the same time.  The launch date for Part 2 will be Wednesday, February 14th.  Obviously this means the second annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival will be later, but it will happen, and just a few days after the end of the television venture.

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