Archive for February 5th, 2018

by Jared Dec

Himala (Philippines 1982…Ishmael Bernal) 124m

DVD 2 (unrestored only), 3 (2012 restoration, Philippines only)

Aka: Miracle

Do you believe?

The Philippines is not one of the foremost countries for cinema. In fact, largely only Lino Brocka and more recently, Lav Diaz are discussed when the topic comes up for this much-troubled country’s films. In my opinion however, the Philippines is one of the most underrated countries for film. Aside from a mere handful of films, most of the films described as major works by Filippino cineastes are unavailable on DVD, and so I feel it is my duty here to give some exposure to perhaps the greatest Filippino film of them all. Himala is not an easy film, a deep, brooding meditation on the nature of faith and fraud that is deeply rooted in the Philippines’ history of Catholicism and traditional superstition. Those however who are willing to brave some cultural barriers and dig through this film’s many layers will find a masterpiece that more than earns its place in the ever-growing canon.

Elsa, is a young, unmarried woman who was abandoned in her childhood but adopted by a poor woman. Elsa has few work prospects, even fewer marriage prospects, and little hope for her future. She seems to be doomed to a life as an old maid in a poor, rural village, when suddenly she claims to have seen the Virgin Mary herself and begins preaching her message and healing the sick. Many are skeptical at first, but soon the whole area becomes caught up in a feverish bought of religiousness and hailing Elsa as a prophet. However with her claimed divine powers comes a plethora of problems. The local Catholic church doubts her claims of miracles, brothels open up in the town to service the many tourists, crime skyrockets in the small town, and perhaps most devastating of all, people begin putting all their faith in her miracles which starts to have horrifying consequences. Elsa is forced to confront these consequences while many of her followers reveal their true fickle nature, leading to a conclusion that is equal parts brilliant and unpleasant. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

That Mississippi sound, that Delta sound is in them old records. You can hear it all the way through.  -Muddy Waters

His renowned guitar playing was once said to “launch a thousand bands.”  The Rolling Stones named themselves after his 1950 song “Rollin Stone” and the most famous of rock publication, Rolling Stone Magazine similarly decided on their own name based on that same number.  He was one of the most influential musicians in the nation’s history with some like Eric Clapton, who later served as best man at his wedding, counting him as the poll position occupant in that regard.  His rise to prominence and fame from the red earth and cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta to the blues clubs and recording studios of the Windy City was a defining moment in music and perhaps the culture at large, but taken in intimate terms the ascendancy of McKinley Morganfield, much better known as Muddy Waters is the kind of things dreams are made of.  Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters By Michael Mahin is indeed a fever dream of a biography, one pictorially fueled by Evan Turk’s electrifying abstract watercolor art, which also utilizes oil pastels, china marker, printing ink and newspaper collage.  This melting pot of forms results in tapestries of exceeding emotional power and pictorial complexity, interpreting Waters’ music in purely visceral terms.

Turk’s dynamic visual style was first seen in his critically acclaimed collaboration with Bethany Hegedus and Arum Gandhi, titled Grandfather Gandhi, and subsequently in a sequel with Hegedus, Be the Change, before the young Colorado born illustrator went solo on The Storyteller, a mind-blowing, labyrinthine picture book combining traditional images with a those one might encounter in a stream of consciousness.  While fervent art fans might reach the conclusion that Turk’s art is too auspicious and advanced for a picture book for the youngest readers the truth is that his kaleidoscopic tapestries shimmer with movement, invariably poised to capture the attention of early grade students attracted to visceral design.  No matter how one sizes up the prime audience for his work the irrefutable fact is that he is one of the most exciting talents out there today, and the release of every new book showcasing his art is cause for celebration. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

A week from hell has mercifully concluded.  Lucille spent four full days in Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck with pneumonia, and simultaneously my daughter Jillian and I caught the dreaded flu as part of this year’s epidemic.  To make a long story short, Lucille is back home and is feeling a heck of a lot better and my daughter and I are well past the ravages of this rotten malady.  In any event I have managed to resume my regular responsibilities and will be attending school today.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series will continue until next weekend, where the last post will probably published on Sunday.  The American Library Association will make their announcements on Monday morning the 12th.  The Greatest Television Series Part 2 will begin on March 7th.  Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans for winning a very exciting Super Bowl (their first) on Sunday.  The DGA Award was won this week by Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water. (more…)

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