Archive for April, 2018

A still from SMUGGLING HENDRIX. ©AMP Filmworks.

by Sam Juliano

The Greatest Television Series countdown will resume tomorrow after an eleven day break for the just-completed 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.  It will break for a second time in late May to pave the way for the second annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival which so far has recruited over a dozen writers.

Lucille and I managed to watch thirty-three films in the festival and all things considered it was quality-wise the best I’m ever attended.  Later in the week I will post a comprehensive “Best of” presentation as per normal practice.  Brief capsules of the day-to-day activity engineered in the 23rd Street Cineopolis and SVA Theater are as follows:

Tribeca Day #1

Lucille and I saw two films on the annual Tribeca Film Festival’s opening night, an Australian zombie horror film “Cargo” and a real life bank heist narrative featuring Ethan Hawk, “Stockholm.” Neither film was particularly memorable, but we”ll be back tonight hoping for better success.

Stockhom **
Cargo ** 1/2

Tribeca Day #2

Lucille and I saw two feature films at the Tribeca Film Festival last night. One was an excellent comedy-drama and the other a disturbing but well-made death row drama:

Jellyfish **** 1/2

Dead Women Walking *** 1/2

Tribeca Day #3

The haunting documentary “Island of the Hungry Ghosts” highlighted yesterday’s four film all-day session at the Cineopolis on 23rd Street on Day #3 of the Tribeca Film Festival as WONDERS IN THE DARK correspondent. The ratings of the four films are as follows (one doc, three narrative features)

Island of the Hungry Ghosts *****
Slut in a Good Way ****
Daughter of Mine **
Duck Butter ***


Day #4 Tribeca Film Festival

Saw FOUR (4) films yesterday, including the masterful doscumentary HOUSE TWO about the US marines brought up charges for the murder of Iraqi women and children and a moving doc on the great Disney songwriter Howard Ashman who died of AIDS in the early 90’s.

Howard ****
House Two **** 1/2
Little Woods ***
O.G. ***

Saw FOUR (4) films yesterday, including the masterful doscumentary HOUSE TWO about the US marines brought up charges for the murder of Iraqi women and children and a deeply moving doc on the great Disney songwriter Howard Ashman who died of AIDS in the early 90’s.

Day #5 Tribeca Film Festival

If anyone would have told me that one of the masterworks of this year’s festival would turn out to be a flesh eating zombie film, I would have advised them to seek professional help. Yet here we are. The brooding, melancholic, metaphorical art house French movie “The Night Eats the World” (La nuit a dévoré le monde) joins “House Two” as one of the two five star Tribeca films so far. The choral score is magnificent and the superb Norwegian actor Anders Danielson Lie delivers one of the best performances of the festival. “Roll Red Roll” and “All About Nina” were solid entries making Monday’s three film attendance quite memorable.

The Night Eats the World (France) *****
All About Nina *** 1/2
Roll Red Roll (documentary) ****

Day #6 Tribeca Film Festival

Broadway Bob Eagleson and I saw two films at the festival last night. I found “We the Animals” narratively disjointed and emotionally distancing, but give high marks to the film’s visual style in an almost experimental mode, with special kudos to visual effects supervisor Dorian West, son-in-law of friend and Fairview teaching colleague Diane Basile. The lesbian conversion therapy coming-of-age drama “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” a huge Sundance hit, was an alternately harrowing and funny drama, fueled by impressive performances and perceptive writing in large measure.

We the Animals ***
The Miseducation of Cameron Post ****

Day #7 Tribeca Film Festival

The odds were long. All three films seen last night were documentaries and perhaps even more startling every one was of the absolute first-rank. One on the cultural phenomenon roller-skating, another on an iconic jazz record label, and the third on a musical marriage for the ages between a young Caucasian and a Harlem blues artist that redefined the term ‘chemistry.’ All three are among the best films this year at the festival!

United Skates **** 1/2
Blue Note Records ****
Adam and Satan **** 1/2

Day #8 Tribeca Film Festival

The documentary “The Gospel According to Andre” about flamboyant fashion expert Andre Talley is wholly irresistible and surely one of the highlights of the festival. Against all odds the French “The Elephant and the Butterfly” (Drole de Pere), which was produced by the Dardennes and Martin Scorsese, was slight and listless despite some pretty film making.

The Gospel According to Andre **** 1/2
The Elephant and the Butterfly (France) ***

Day #9 Tribeca Film Festival

An exceptional Friday at the 23rd Street Cineopolis yielded a narrative masterwork and one of the best docs of the festival. Faith and sexuality clash in a story of forbidden love (“Disobedience) between two women (Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams) in a London orthodox hamlet where some wrenching emotional scenes are played out when choice trumps long-held beliefs and tradition. A stirring lacrosse documentary about young students who respond to tutorial inspiration and an acute if disturbing Romanian immigration drama rounded out the impressive line-up:

Disobedience *****
Crossroads **** 1/2
Lemonade *** 1/2

Day #10 Tribeca Film Festival

We saw three films on the next-to-last-day of the Tribeca Film Festival with one of the three, “Jonathan” an impressive and riveting mind bender with a superb dual performance by Ansel Elgort the big winner. The Spanish narrative “Sunday’s Illness” and the romantic drama “Song of Back and Neck” rounded out the day’s schedule. TODAY (Sunday) we plan to see five including a few award winners on the final day of the fest.

Jonathan **** 1/2
Sunday’s Illness *** 1/2
Song of Back and Neck ***

Day #11 Tribeca Film Festival

The final day of the Tribeca Film Festival allowed us to watch five (5) features, bringing our final total to 33 for the eleven day Manhattan movie celebration. Our Sunday viewings with corresponding ratings. A comprehesive Best Of post is forthcoming at WONDERS IN THE DARK:

Smuggling Hendrix (Greek/Turkish/English) **** 1/2
To Dust ****
Diane ****
Mary Shelley **** 1/2 (seriously underrated)
Momentum Generation *** 1/2



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by Jared Dec

Evolution of a Filipino Family (Philippines 2004…Lav Diaz) 625m

Oh s**t, it’s just Lino Brocka again

p Lav Diaz, Eric Tanedo, Paul Tanedo  d Lav Diaz w Lav Diaz photo Paul Tanedo, Richard C. DeGuzman edit Lav Diaz

Elryan de Vera (Raynaldo), Angie Furro (Puring), Pen Medino (Kadyo), Marife Necesito (Hilda), Ronnie Lazaro (Fernando)

Cinema has always been filled with auteur outsiders who dare to break free from the conventions that most film-making remains bound to. However, no matter how unconventional a film is, whether in arthouse circles or made on opposite sides of the globe, all films tends to have some general similarities across all times and cultural barriers. For instance, most films have a runtime between 90 and 150 minutes. Most generally since the 1970’s have been made in color outside of the most impoverished areas of the world. However, today we are going to talk about perhaps the most truly unique auteur ever to show his face in the history of world cinema. A director who so completely defies essentially every pretense one has about how a narrative film is structured that one could pick his films out of a line-up in a second even with just a vague familiarity. I am talking of course, of none other than Lav Diaz. Lav Diaz is a filmmaker that usually only the most hardcore of film buffs embrace. His films have unimaginably long runtimes and the pace of his films is so incredibly slow at times, that to the uninitiated, are almost intolerable to sit through. I myself remember my first experience with his style vividly. Allan had mailed me a box of 15 or so movies while I was in high school and included was none other than Diaz’s Melancholia on no less than 4 DVD-R’s. I was excited when I began my first viewing, eager to embrace a director Allan had so highly praised. Imagine my shock at the soporific pace, and a narrative so deeply dense with layers that one could barely remain engaged even if one was not turned off by the 30-minute shots of conversations all in black-and-white. I was totally unprepared and quit about 3 hours in, feeling I had put a good effort in. A few weeks later, I tried again and began to understand the appeal. Slowly, I began to understand in my adolescent mind, that this was a truly unique film experience, one I could get nowhere else. I became a Diaz fanatic, tracking down his films to try and understand perhaps the most unique film-maker of my lifetime.

Emerging from the Philippines in the late 90’s with some films which, to put it politely, do not bear remembering, Diaz broke through with his 2001 film Batang West Side. A well-crafted mystery that lasted just over 5 hours and has some of the most unique dialogue yet encountered by myself (who can forget when a drug dealer equates selling meth to being a Maoist revolutionary), Diaz began to slowly develop a group of rabid fans. His films remained underground and until his breakthrough success with Norte, the End of History, not a single one of his films was available on DVD anywhere save for ridiculously expensive DVD-R’s that people tried to sell on dodgy websites. Diaz though was unfazed and began making more works of unusual lengths. Over the next few years, Diaz completed this film, to date his longest and most intense, using a mix of digital, film, and archival footage. The result is a passion project in the truest sense. Diaz entered the industry with the hope of making films that reflect the true state of the Filipino people. He was inarguably more successful in this attempt than in any of his previous or following films. Evolution of a Filipino Family is a cross-section of the history of the Filipino people and manages to capture the nuances of its native culture so completely that few works in any other time and place can compare.

Like many great films, Evolution is a film of almost foolhardy ambition for the inexperienced film-maker that Diaz was at this time. The film attempts to describe the history of the Marcos regime in the Philippines from the perspective of a small farming clan in the jungle. Like all Diaz films, it is a slow boil, one could create more bubbles by holding a cigarette lighter under an Olympic swimming pool. Our protagonist is mainly Raynaldo, a boy who is found abandoned in a trash heap and raised by the farming family. Like the Philippines itself, he is initially raised well by his adoptive family but then a few hours in, completely loses his innocence by witnessing horrific war crimes and even committing murder himself. Raynaldo grows up to be exploited by a mining company, only to escape and run away with his family searching for him for the remainder of the film, in a sense becoming an elusive Godot-esque figure. All the while, we observe the Philippines’ transformation and simultaneous loss of innocence as people become addicted to radio dramas which serve as escapism from rural poverty and political instability. In the meantime, Marcos enacts martial law and murders his political rival, Benigno Aquino.

It is difficult to criticize Lav Diaz, because his films are filled with such unbridled ambition and inspiration. Even when his shoestring budgets and nonprofessional actors threaten to hold him back, Diaz makes such a valiant effort to have his voice heard that his shortcomings are all forgivable. In an industry where studios are afraid to step even one toe out of line for fear of losing money, it is refreshing to see a director who breaks all the rules of studio filmmaking so consistently and so thoroughly. Diaz is making art, and he is making it his way. Diaz is a true auteur and a true rebel, but also a philosopher whose ambition is only matched for his passion for his country and his efforts to express to the world at large the reality of life for his people. For all of the merits of his later, more mature works, this film to me represents his most impassioned moment. Everything since has been more restrained and focused on a smaller subject. Norte is arguably his most-accessible work to date which is likely why it has been more embraced and seen than any other. Evolution though is a film that tries do no less than be a definitive statement of a generation at over 11 hours (supposedly there is a print this long, the run time I list is the duration of my personal copy) with essentially no budget. Somehow it succeeds, though I can understand why Allan himself favored other Diaz films over this one. This one is less artsy, less obtuse. As a cerebral critic there is perhaps less here to figure out for oneself and it can be seen as less complex than Melancholia or Death in the Land of Encantos. Yet, the ending of this film alone remains burned in to my memory. Raynaldo’s fate is perhaps Diaz’s opinion of the fate of his country in the modern world, a fact that both haunts me and crosses my mind whenever I hear of disorder in the developing world in the news. Lav Diaz and this film in particular are a sort of motivation to not give up seeking great, unknown films. For all the ignored films that deserve to be forgotten, there are true titans of their time that I have yet to experience for myself. When films get overly formulaic for me and I grow jaded of cinema as an art form, I reflect on the unconventional and impassioned film-making of Diaz. One can argue he is overly pretentious. One can argue his films are as digestible as Ayers Rock. But none of that changes the fact after thousands of films seen, his films are truly one-of-a-kind and never forgettable in any sense of the word.


Writer’s note: Hey everyone, sorry I have been gone so long. Real life caught up with me, and even though I survived a pretty intense time, finals are in two weeks so I can’t get cocky yet. Perhaps weekly Obscuros on top of the podcast was a bit too much as far as a workload goes, but I want to keep producing content as much as I can. More reviews will come certainly as time allows. I have tons of material I really want to cover. However, Trevor and I are always in search of more material to cover for both the podcast and these Obscuro reviews. However, I mentioned in one of my reviews that I was seeking a very rare film that had been a holy grail for some time and lo and behold, someone contacted me and sent it. From now on, I will be listing five films we are seeking that you can drop a line to us if you have the film and want to share it. As I mentioned we have plenty of content but there are always obscurities that if we have access to earlier, mean we can cover that director earlier or can get mentioned in an Obscuro earlier. If you don’t have any of these five films and/or you have another film or director you think we should cover in some way, feel free to shoot me an email anyway and we can look into it and will watch movies if you send them via cloud transfer or whatever. Remember though, if we don’t have every film by a director we will usually hold off covering them. Regardless thank you all for your positive comments i speak for both Trevor and myself when I say we will really appreciate it.

The Five Most Wanted (watch the comments, I will comment if one of these gets sent in):

-Blood Is Dry (Yoshida ) one of two Yoshidas we are missing

-He Fengming (Wang)

-Hometown (Mizoguchi)

-Kisapmata (DeLeon)

-A Promise (Yoshida) the other one

If you have and want to share, send an email to: ikiruugetsu@gmail.com

Thanks again for reading and/or listening! More content is coming, we promise.


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by Duane Porter

Art is art regardless of where you find it, in an art gallery or in the street, in a theater or on television. Art does not have to be didactic, edifying, decorative, or entertaining. As Marcel Duchamp demonstrated over a century ago, it doesn’t have to be anything at all. Embracing this uncertainty, it’s possible to think of art as research, inquiry into the unknown and perhaps the unknowable. It is also possible to think of looking at art as research. Looking can be an end in itself and a means to an end. Looking thus becomes a dynamic synthesis of perception and consciousness. Being aware of perception and conscious of consciousness, transcending the day-to-day habit of only seeing what we expect to see, an encounter with art can be an encounter with illumination. Illumination, an emergent property of the act of looking, serves self-knowledge enabling one to construct a more comprehensive worldview and with it, a more meaningful life.


1. Twin Peaks: The Return directed by David Lynch

01_Twin Peaks

FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is careening through the space-time continuum. A vertiginous freefall as depicted in Scotty’s nightmare in Vertigo (1958). Cooper’s face blurred and shaken fills the screen accompanied by a violent whooshing sound. The light from a myriad of stars streaks through the void. A roiling cloud forms amid violet-colored vapors. Cooper passes through and lands in a heap on the balcony of a massive metal structure rising out of a purple-tinted sea. Hearing the sound of the waves, feeling lost and confused, he stands and looks out over this never-ending otherworldly ocean. Looking around, there is a window he is able to enter. The inside vibrates with a dense electronic hum broken by random glitches, zszczch! A woman with no eyes (Nae Yuuki) wearing a red velvet dress is sitting on a couch in front of a fireplace. She turns toward him and nods. The room reverberates strangely as if time is stuttering, zszczch, zszczch! Everything seems to be moving forward and backward at the same time. He reaches out and takes the hand of the woman, he hears music and looks around the room. He asks, “Where is this? Where are we?” She pulls him down beside her, running her hands up his sleeves, she begins to feel his face. She tries to speak but is unable to form words. He is startled by a loud banging. She shushes him, putting a finger to her lips. The banging continues, the walls shake. She becomes frantic. The banging is deafening. She leads him away through a door to a small room with a ladder. They go up the ladder, pass through a trap door, and step onto the top of a metal box floating in space, stars twinkling all around them. He sees a bell-shaped structure there equipped with pressure guages and a lever. The banging continues. The woman tries to tell Cooper something but he is unable to understand her. Sidling close to the edge, she reaches for the lever and pulls it down. Electricity crackles and runs through her body. She is shaken and thrown into space. Cooper reaches for her but can only watch helplessly as she disappears. The banging has stopped. He goes back inside. Another woman (Phoebe Augustine) in a red dress sits before the fire. He begins to move toward the woman, she turns her head to look at him and then checks her watch. A lamp switches on next to an electric panel set in the wall. Moving closer to the panel he feels an electrical force field and hesitates. The woman tells him, “When you get there you will already be there.” The banging begins again. The woman says, “You’d better hurry, my mother’s coming.” The electric panel has a large outlet at it’s center. As Cooper moves closer, he appears to dematerialize and is drawn into the outlet, all except for his shoes which fall to the floor.

July 16, 1945, White Sands, New Mexico, 5:29 AM (MWT) a countdown begins, 10, 9 . . .3, 2, 1. The discordant strains of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1960) accompany a blindingly bright flash of light that obliterates the landscape. An ominous cloud shaped like a mushroom grows up from the desert floor. Great clouds of dust and debris ride the radiating shock-wave. The shrieking screaming of the Threnody builds as inside the growing mushroom swirling vapors of black and white intertwine. Fiery flashes give way to chaotic particles dancing in darkness. The Threnody becomes a droning as the particles begin to swarm like a plague of locusts. Momentarily resuming their dance, the particles increase to a frantic infinitude of bright dots and streaks resembling a film by Brakhage. As the Threnody reaches a crescendo billowing whorls of fire coalesce into explosians of color, red, green, blue, violet and yellow. Then, out of black and white clouds, appears a convenience store with two gas pumps out front. In the darkness, a steamy vapor rises amid sputtering dimensional glitches of static and bright flashes of light inside the store. A group of men converge in front of the store and seem to be pacing about in random patterns as the static and bright flashes continue. They gather inside as the flashes of light intensify and the store and the ground it sits on begin to disruptively shake. All grows dark and a calmness descends. A figure (Erica Eynon) in the darkness spews from its mouth a stream of foam and bubbles looking much like a latex sculpture by Eva Hesse. From within this gooey fecund mass a black bubble comes to the surface containing BOB (Frank Silva), the embodiment of evil let loose in the world by the deeds of men. The Threnody bursts forth again as a conflagration of fire and dark energy erupts with fiery explosions. From the heart of this inferno comes forth a golden seed, closer and closer, until it fills the entire screen. On the strains of the Threnody, a vision of hurtling through the space-time continuum recalls the stargate sequence in Kubrick’s 2001 (1968), coming again to a vast purple sea, the sound of wind and waves all around, a modernist castle, like something out of the films of Fritz Lang, rests atop a towering pinnacle of rock. Inside, a woman named Dido (Joy Nash) sits listening to a gramophone. A very tall gaunt-looking man (Carel Struycken) slowly climbs a carpeted stairway and enters into a large auditorium that contains a movie screen but no seats. On the screen, he is shown the events that led up to the birth of BOB. With an expression of disquiet on his face, he floats toward the ceiling. Dido comes into the room and watches in wonder as a stream of golden particles issue from the top of his head forming a cloud out of which a golden orb floats down into Dido’s reaching hands. Looking into the orb, she sees the angelic face of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), she kisses it and sends it out into the world.

It’s nightfall as Agent Cooper and Carrie Page (Sheryl Lee) pull out of Odessa. The headlights probing into the darkness illuminate the white lines of the lost highway. Two lights appear in the rear window and seem to hover there. Sensing dread, Carrie turns her head and looks back. The lights continue to hover there. After a few long minutes, Carrie looks back again, anxiety showing in her face. Cooper glances in the rearview mirror but keeps his attention on the road ahead. Carrie looks back a third time and asks, “Is someone following us?” Cooper looks in the rearview mirror again but says nothing. Time passes slowly until, at last, the lights overtake them and a car passes and moves on ahead. Carrie, breathing a sigh of relief, leans back in her seat and closes her eyes. On and on they drive, the white lines flashing by in the dark induce a sense of interdimensional uncertainty. Crossing a bridge, they pull into Twin Peaks. It is late at night, everything is closed and no one is out on the street. Driving through town, Cooper looks over at Carrie and asks, “Do you recognize anything?” He parks across the street in front of the Palmer house and shuts off the engine. “Do you recognize that house?” She says, “no.” He takes her by the hand and leads her up to the front door. He asks for Sarah Palmer but the people living in the house know no one by that name. Cooper and Carrie walk slowly toward their car. Stopping in the middle of the street, they both turn around and look back at the house. Cooper, looking for a clue and straining to understand asks himself, “What year is this?” Carrie looks up at the house again, recognition gradually seeping into her consciousness, she faintly hears someone call out, “Laura!” Suddenly she is overcome by a shattering hysteria, erupting in shrieking anguish. The lights on the street glitch and splutter, zszczch! zszczch! and all goes dark.

A memory of something I once heard long ago comes into my head, “. . . the feeling of something half remembered . . . the face in the misty light, footsteps that you hear down the hall, the laugh that floats on a summer night . . . that was Laura but she’s only a dream.”


David Lynch is in his studio working on a painting, the paint is thickly textured on the canvas. The image is dark, almost black. Putting his brush aside, he sits back in his chair, lights a cigarette, a cloud of smoke gathering above his head, and he looks at the painting. There is a suggestion of a figure in the darkness, blurry and indistinct, an organic body inhabiting a physical space, reminiscent of the distressed bodies in the paintings of Francis Bacon. Looking at the painting he begins to wonder what it might be like if the wind were blowing through it. Dreamlike the images on the canvas begin to move swaying to and fro reflecting the uncertainty of the physical world. Attempting to grasp an image rising from perceptions passing through the nervous system into consciousness, he picks up the brush and begins moving the paint, his gestural brushstrokes leave tracks on the thick impasto surface, pressing harder he uses his fingers to manipulate the textures and spaces, openly experimenting to see what happens, where it will go. Lynch explains, “The more you throw black into a colour, the more dreamy it gets. . . Black is depth. It’s like a little egress; you can go into it, and because it keeps on continuing to be dark, the mind kicks in, and a lot of things that are going on in there become manifest. And you start seeing what you’re afraid of. You start seeing what you love, and it becomes like a dream.” In the years since Inland Empire (2006), his paintings have admitted more color and light while continuing to look into a resolute darkness. His art is one of philosophical and personal inquiry using language, light, motion, sound, and texture to explore the ungraspable nature of reality. For years, he has practiced a systematic meditation seeking a sort of hyperconsciousness, working toward a connection with the universal consciousness of ultimate reality. In his view, it is for this that we exist.

During the late 1960s David Lynch was an art student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia. It was here, David Lynch: the Unified Field, 2014, the first major U.S. exhibition of his artworks was held. An extensive retrospective selection of paintings, assemblage, photography, and graphic works, as well as the multi-media Six Men Getting Sick (1967). Also included were several of his early short films that were made in Philadelphia. Less than two miles away from the Academy, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage (1946-66) can be found. In a half-lit alcove there is a door made of ancient darkened rough-hewn wood set into an arched brick border, many visitors pass it by with only a cursory glance, but behind the door is a room-size diorama, a scene of pastoral eroticism rendered with a disturbingly provocative naturalism, a hole in a brick wall reveals the life-size figure of a nude woman lying on a bed of twigs holding in her upraised arm a gas lamp that illuminates a scenic landscape containing a running waterfall. Stepping up close to the door and pressing one’s eyes to a pair of peepholes, the disconcerted viewer has become the voyeur. The Philadelphia Museum holds the largest collection of Duchamp’s work to be found anywhere and the spirit of Dada and Surrealism pervades the cultural atmosphere of the city. Even though David Lynch claims to not have been much of a museum goer, he was much affected by the time he spent in Philadelphia. Twin Peaks: The Return can be seen as an extension of his greater body of work referencing the early films, The Grandmother (1970) and Eraserhead (1977), many of the paintings and drawings such as Woman with Screaming Head (1968), So This is Love (1992), and Pete Goes to His Girlfriend’s House (2009), as well as the feature films Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Dr. (2001). If the value of art, and I believe it is, is to alter consciousness, to allow us to see the world differently than we saw it before, then David Lynch is indeed one of the major artists of our time.


2. On the Beach at Night Alone directed by Hong Sangsoo

02_On a Beach at Night Alone Kim Min-hee

Younghee (Kim Minhee) visiting her friend, Jeeyoung (Seo Younghwa), in Hamburg, sits on the living room sofa amusing herself with a small electric keyboard on her lap. Clear soft light from a window brightens a bouquet of purple flowers standing in a jar on a low table at her feet. Going out, Younghee and Jeeyoung walk under an overpass as a train goes by overhead. Looking up, a large leafless tree is silhouetted against the overcast sky. Walking side by side with hands in coatpockets through the green expanse of the city park, they pass others, a boy on a bicycle, a woman with a stroller, someone has a large black dog. A man in a dark coat and knit cap stops them to ask the time, they look at each other and don’t answer, he goes on. Across the park stands the Hamburg Planetarium with its domed rooftop symmetrically framed by a grove of trees to each side. Jeeyoung walks by with Younghee a few steps behind her, figures passing through the frame. Approaching a small footbridge with slightly arched mossy wood railings, Jeeyoung proceeds directly across but Younghee hesitates. She stops, Jeeyoung looks back at her but continues on across, stopping to look back again from the other side. As Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major fills the air, Younghee falls to her knees and bows down, her head nearly touching the ground. Jeeyoung stands and waits, turns away and looks at the ground. A few moments pass, Younghee rises and walks across the bridge. (more…)

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© 2018 by James Clark

      One of the consequences of infinite digital connectivity is awakening to the certainty that one’s endeavors, protestations notwithstanding, mean nothing to the more or less vivid raucousness out there. True, some close-range attention flickers, but a quite startling void forever opens. It goes without saying that reciprocal success shines upon the various political (including religious) and scientific assemblies to meet objectives of material well-being. Also self-evident are the slides (from shoring up social abysses) becoming sites of fanatical violence toward those not sharing a presumed virtue. World history, now, with the world-wide-web, having become types of blast-furnaces, convenes missions of overt and covert religious ultimacy. Belief in a menu of total satisfaction presents a variety of armies, each member of which purporting to know about his or her payoff. The chaotic feebleness of these protestations does nothing so much as demonstrate that the dark saga of personal securement is a fraud, a fraud by dint of throttling those energies of sensibility by which a person is not a small business intent on personal fortune but an integral productive partner of the cosmos, on behalf of a split-dividend. Humankind has definitively ruled out that phenomenon. But endeavors on behalf of those not routed do obtain, as with, for instance, the films of Kelly Reichardt.

Our task today is to center upon what is fresh and playable about the film, Night Moves (2013), which brings to our attention not so much three underwhelming and viciously presumptuous environmentalists of various stripes, but how their hard-core myopia impinges upon sensuous resources their betters can derive traction from. This is, then, neither premium ecological disclosure, nor suspense and crime cinema, despite brushing upon such eventuation. This is, instead, an instance of players lethally ignorant of the ways of the world and demonstrating facile recourses in lieu of the hardness of that “environment” they are embarrassed by, and as such pose a test for us as to how to manage, in their presence, traces of fruitfulness, which, rather surprisingly, is enough.

Before getting into the hidden delights of what many would regard a minor effort, I want to introduce a thread, to be taken up in later spring and summer, which quite amazingly speaks to the work of Reichardt—in particular, Night Moves. You’d be on pretty solid grounds dismissing the idea that Ingmar Bergman’s, Through a Glass Darkly (1961), has something to do with Night Moves. The former focuses upon a schizophrenic (split-dividend) woman, who comes to the conclusion, “I have seen God, and he is a spider…” We must hasten to add that, though her reasoning could be better, it also could be quite a bit worse, for instance, leaving creatures out of the money. The thrilling developments of Reichardt’s work must be seen to be part of a long, large-scale, though effectively buried, commitment. Hopefully we can now proceed with a vehicle having very little to do with the entertainment industry but having a lot to do with high-spiritedness.

The protagonist, Karin, in Through a Glass Darkly, sees herself as floundering between two worlds “that don’t fit together.” Her response is to return to the asylum and bury herself in self-satisfying mysticism.  Dena, owner of a sauna by way of her family’s deep pockets (sounding quite a lot like Kurt, the West- Coast oracle [and self-styled quantum physics genius] along with being a junky and predator, in our guide’s Old Joy [2006]), opines that she needed only her Freshman year to ace the matter of nature’s collapse [and apportion blame], a far better thing than graduating and ending up in media work in New York City. (At one point she makes clear that she’s from Connecticut but needs the simplism-friendly simplicity of the Northwest.) Her questionable self-confidence induces her to step beyond her spa/ asylum in order to put into action her instincts for perfection. (more…)

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by Jared Dec and Trevor D. Nigg

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by Adam Ferenz

I am going to try my hardest not to spoil this series but it is nearly impossible to talk in depth about this series without some spoilers, so be warned.

Until Babylon 5 came around, Science Fiction Television in the United States was usually one of two things-at least when it was good-and that is either Star Trek or Twilight Zone. Otherwise, you had Captain Video, Battlestar Galactica or dozens of other cheap, forgettable and uninspired series. In 1993, Joseph Michael Strackzynski, a writer and editor with extensive background in both children’s programming, such as Ghostbusters (based on the film) and adult hits like Murder, She Wrote, launched a series that would change everything about the television science fiction landscape.

For one  thing, this series would be plotted out in full before the first episodes was shot, though the vagaries of television production necessitated the adjusting of portions of that plot-what JMS, the acronym the fans used for him-had created, called trapdoors. These allowed, say, Kodath to vanish after a single episode and be replaced by Na’Toth, who in turn was able to exit and be assumed dead for much of the series. Or, in the series most memorable examples, to have Commander Sinclair replaced after the first season, to have Ivanova replaced after the fourth season and indeed, for Ivanova to become 1st officer in the first place, replacing the original character of Laurel Takashima, after the troubled pilot film, The Gathering. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The annual Tribeca Film Festival is set to launch mid-week and Lucille, some friends and I will be attending on Thursday onward through Sunday the 29th.  During this period the Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 will be temporarily suspended but will resume on Monday, April 30th.  Many thanks to all the writers (which a particular shout out to the tireless television specialist Adam Ferenz) who have again risen to the challenge with this project extension.

The second annual Allan Fish Online Festival will also be underway late in May, and we already have around a dozen volunteers including Adam, whose name was accidentally left off last week’s scroll.  Again we are expecting another inspired enterprise in tribute to our beloved film expert.

With the movie bonanza of 2018 facing us square on, we decided to rest up on the theatrical movie front this past week, though in any event it seems this was a release lull.

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Acclaimed author Jonah Winter discusses the difficulties—and necessities—of introducing picture-book readers to tough topics.

Jonah Winter’s career as a children’s author began with Diego, a 1991 picture-book biography of the famed Mexican painter. Since then, Winter’s penned more than 30 titles, including The Secret World of Hildegard (2007), Jazz Age Josephine (2012), and Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (2015).

There’s no doubt: with his signature style, sometimes spare, sometimes exuberant, Winter has a knack for converting challenging subjects into compulsively readable, eye-opening texts for young readers. We last spoke with Winter following the publication of Peaceful Heroes (2009), a tribute to peace activists around the world. Here Winter offers insight into his more recent works, particularly The Secret Project (2017), as well as the ever-changing landscape of kidlit.

SHEMROSKE:  The Manhattan Project—and the havoc it wreaked—is difficult enough for adults to grapple with. Yet, in   The Secret Project    (2017), you deftly translate the subject for children. Can you talk a bit about your writing process? How do you decide which parts of a story to keep and which to leave out?
 WINTER: Your question gets to the heart of writing picture-book nonfiction. Due to the constraints of the genre, a nonfiction-picture-book author always has to pick and choose what elements to include and what to leave out. With the best subjects, there is an obvious story that is begging to be told.

I will admit that the story I chose to tell in The Secret Project is not what most authors would consider an obvious picture-book story. First of all, it doesn’t have a happy ending. In fact, the ending is about as devastating as anything I can imagine. Second, it’s about what most people consider to be an incredibly complex topic—nuclear physics, and specifically, the invention of the atom bomb commissioned by the U.S. government during WWII.

I happen to believe that children can and do, constantly, handle a lot more than most adults give them credit for. They don’t need everything to be sugar-coated. They don’t need to be lied to. Sometimes they need to be challenged. Sometimes they need books that broach, head-on, their worst fears. They need adults to talk to them and treat them like the smart, brave, curious beings that they are. And so, I wrote a picture book about the atom bomb.

In terms of how I made decisions on what to keep and discard in this complex topic, the age level of my readers helped determine much of that. And the story I wanted to tell, after my visit to the Bradbury Science Museum, in Los Alamos, was essentially a very simple story. In fact, I immediately saw the picture-book format as the perfect format for the story I wanted to tell.

I’m not a nuclear scientist, and I’m not exactly what you would call a huge fan of the American government as reflected in American foreign policy. So: American government takes over boys’ school in an incredibly beautiful, peaceful part of the world—and then they hire some scientists to build, in total secret, the most evil, powerful weapon ever created. Then—kaboom—they blow it up.

“Brought a quick end to the war” is propaganda, and ever since I was a little kid, I never believed it. The “saved lives” argument has always struck me as even more ludicrous. My goal in writing this very simple story about a very complex topic was to remove the story from the usual context in which it is usually safely placed in American history books (one that promotes a positive image of America and presents the bomb as a necessary evil) and put it in the context that I believe is the real context: a beautiful world, full of life, art, peace, Katsina dolls. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

There are two ways to frame The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The first is to categorize it as an extension of sorts to the seven-season Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which it immediately followed.  the other is to count it as a standalone show with many distinct contrasts, including the obvious running time, temperament and general disavowal of the patented twist ending that was common with its celebrated predecessor.  It could be argued that the three season Hour had a more persuasive kinship with Boris Karloff’s Thriller, which ran in 1960-61, even if Gothic horror is only part of the Hitchcock equation in this sadly underrated and under aired television property.  In addition to dual categorization there is a similar disagreement among television fans about the quality of the final product.  Some prefer the taut, economical and more pointed Presents while others see the successor as the opportunity to expand material and develop stories more comprehensively.  While I do appreciate Presents greatly, and consider it one of anthology television’s finest entries, I am with those who find that at its very best Hour eclipses Presents, but there is as there would be with the daunting challenging of maintaining quality every week in a one-hour shows far more duds and shows that simply do not work.  To be sure the scripts are generally more complex, and the production values more elaborate and interesting, not to mention character development obviously a stronger thrust with extended duration.

Yet writers for the most part were partial to Presents.  Says Henry Slesar:  “There was always the possibility of doing what I call ‘gems.’  The half-hours were compact and full of sharp point-making, bringing the audience in at the middle, and then hitting them with the climax.  Very clean.  This got a little difficult to achieve in the hour shows, which  were more like features except that they weren’t, not really.  They were actually more like extended half-hours.  More was told about the same thing.  I think the show suffered because of it, and I think the Hitchcock people felt so too.”  Still there were some that disagreed.  Gilbert Seldes in TV Guide opined “When Alfred Hitchcock decided to extend his show to a full hour, he ended one of the best series in television history and brilliantly began another which is even better.  With more time at his disposal, Hitchcock adds a new dimension to his work.  You may call it depth and you may also say that to the mystery of action, of which he is a great master, he now adds to the mystery of human beings.” (more…)

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by Adam Ferenz

When, following the success of Winds of War, Dan Curtis met with ABC executives to discuss also bringing War & Remembrance to the screen, he told them in no uncertain terms that he would agree to it only if he was given carte blanche to present the history as starkly as he could. Despite worries about FCC interference, the eventual series came off beautifully, and won the Emmy for best miniseries. That sort of dedication is apparent for the entire nearly 40 hour run time of this series. Curtis had been uncertain if he wanted to do the sequel-Winds of War had exhausted him-and was eventually convinced by those around him to speak with ABC, a development that often makes for less than enthusiastic film-making. Not here.

Why is such an often emotionally overwrought and soapy story placed on this list? Because of the Holocaust sequences. Period. These are etched in the memory as holding a special power because of their honesty, stripped of sensationalism. The sequence (spoilers) in which a character we have watched for 38 hours, is taken from a ghetto, loaded onto a train, hauled hundreds of miles to Auschwitz, unloaded, herded into a line, forced into a building, stripped of his clothing, and then gassed, before being cremated and his ashes poured into a river, is a sequence few will forget once they’ve seen it.

The casting of the two sides of this epic is something of legend. Robert Mitchum came in as Pug Henry, the head of the Henry family. In “Winds of War” his son, Byron, was played by Jan Michael Vincent, while Natalie Jastrow, Byron’s Jewish girlfriend, was played by Ali McGraw. All three were too old for the roles. Only Mitchum survived. Hart Bochner and Jane Seymour took over the parts for “War and Remembrance” and it is Seymour’s face, the horrors of living through the Holocaust etched on her face, that is among the final and most powerful images in the saga. Oh, and the series also cast John Houseman as her uncle, Aaron. Houseman was replaced in War and Remembrance by Sir John Gielgud, who, like Seymour, made the character his own. His passion and pain during the sequences set in the Theresiendat ghetto, is another in a long line of unforgettable moments linked to the Holocaust in this one.

There’s the White House Cottage gassings sequence, and the Babi Yar massacre, too. The later saw German officers and their wives lining up on the hillside of a ravine to watch Jews and others be mowed down by machine gun fire. There is also, of course, Pacific and Atlantic war footage, including some tense moments when the fleet Pug is in charge of is attacked, and a brilliant remounting of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in which Curtis seamlessly blends footage from Tora! Tora! Tora! Unfortunately, the series is not all about the historical events. (more…)

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