Archive for May, 2018


By Roderick Heath

This essay is offered as part of the Allan Fish Online Film Festival, a festival founded by Jamie Uhler and hosted by Wonders in the Dark, held to honor the memory of the late cineaste extraordinaire Allan Fish.

Rudolph Valentino. Over ninety years since he died aged 31, his name is still familiar to people who have never watched any of his movies. As the first great heartthrob of Hollywood film, his impact lingers like background radiation in pop culture. Valentino was the defining archetype of the Latin Lover and icon of silent film’s budding cosmopolitan promise, and is still the subject of legend and feverish speculation, particularly in regards to off-screen escapades and omnivorous sexual tastes. Young Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguella acted out the essential myth of early Hollywood. He arrived in America as an eighteen-year-old immigrant, struggling in his early days in New York and skirting the outer edges of a scandalous tragedy before taking to the road as a travelling actor. Valentino took the advice of movie actor Norman Kerry to go to Hollywood and try his luck there, but found himself initially typecast as a villain for his dark, exotic looks. Then he was cast in the lead of Rex Ingram’s adaptation of Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s bestseller, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, produced by Metro Pictures and released in 1921. Valentino was catapulted to stardom, and in spite of the film’s seriousness as a World War I drama, what everyone remembered afterwards was Valentino’s tango scene.

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Screen capture from French gem “The Guardians.”

by Sam Juliano

The second annual Allan Fish Online Festival is  underway as of this morning with a fabulous post from project founder Jamie Uhler on a satiric 1989 Italian film.  The endeavor will run through June 8th with daily posts resuming tomorrow.  The television countdown will follow-up for its final leg in the weeks after the AFOFF is completed.  Many thanks to all who have come on board for what will surely be another memorable chapter for the ten-year old Wonders in the Dark.

For those living in and around Manhattan, I would like to alert you to the upcoming ten-film Ruth Prawer Jhabvala/Merchant-Ivory retrospective at the Quad in June. The big highlights will be the Q & A by 90 year-old James Ivory himself after the screenings of “A Room with a View” (June 14th) and “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge.” (June 11th). He will also introduce “The Golden Bowl” and “The Guru.”

Lucille and I saw two films in theaters this past week:

The Guardians    *****     (Sunday afternoon)     Quad Cinemas

Summer 1993     ****      (Saturday evening)       Eleanor Bunin Theater, Lincoln Center

One extraordinary French drama set in the lush countryside (The Guardians) and one very fine and observant Spanish film (Summer 1993) set in the Catalan countryside seen in Manhattan this weekend. (more…)

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The Allan Fish Online Film Festival was conjured up as a way to remember the passion of Allan’s fervent cinephilia, and the online tie that bound so much of us to him like flies to a glowing lightbulb, and then built this community at large. So let me begin by saying to everyone: thanks for participating and following along for a second straight year. We’re truly keeping the flickering image alive!

As I did last year with Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen, György Pálfi’s 2012 collage romp through film history, I’ve tried to again imbue my pick with Allan’s love for cinema, pick a film very much about films. (more…)

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by Aaron White

(the brevity of this review perhaps reflects the sketch-like nature of the gags in the series)

In March of 2018 Matt Stone and Trey Parker were invited to receive the Freedom of Expression award from a group headed by Norman Lear. The award is generally considered to be a prestigious artistic award for liberal artists and thinkers. While Stone and Parker were accepting the award they said “we’re Republicans.” The group laughed uproariously. They said, “no, seriously.” They fact that this was news, and that we still don’t know whether it’s true or not, or to what extent it is true is one of the reason’s that their South Park is one of the greatest television satires ever made. For a show to be coming into it’s 22nd season and for it to feel as fresh and vital as it ever has speaks to their abilities as writers and performers. Of course, their famous 6 days to air (a deadline that they have only missed once as of this writing) philosophy helps keep things fresh, but it also shows the immense amount of work Matt and Trey put into their art and the dedication that they have to bringing fresh, topical political and social satire to the screen 10 times a year…forever? Well, for now anyways.

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Starting Monday, May 28th Wonders in the Dark will be hosting a 12 day Allan Fish Online Film Festival (Allan Fish OFF 2018). The rules are simple; each day will see a new chairman host the festivities and select a film that is available to be watched by anyone, online for free from a popular streaming site (youtube, vimeo, dailymotion, etc.). The host for that day will decide how the film they chose will be presented; an essay, a sparse teaser introduction, or ‘other’ (the creativity seen on the blogosphere for film commentary knows no bounds as we all know). Thus, conceivably the film festival could be nearly real; people anywhere on the globe watching the same film, at roundabout the same time. It’s named in honor of our dear friend and film scholar Allan Fish, whose birthday was May 28th, and will be an annual event, with this years being the second one. He found so many of his treasured Obscuro’s doing just what we’re setting out to do with this Festival, so it seemed the most fitting way to remember him. 


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by Adam Ferenz

A simple premise, this. In the first half of an episode, the police investigate a crime and in the second, the courts sort out the mess. In Dick Wolf’s legendary series, which is currently tied with Gunsmoke as the longest running dramatic series in US primetime history-it will be equaled by the spinoff, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit-this is a formula that held up, as did the idea of “ripping the stories from the headlines” and frequently rotating the cast. Lawyers and police come and go, and New York City is always there, a backdrop that is never quite a character but certainly felt.

The cast is likely what most people will remember, aside from the formula. Audiences will think of Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy, or Steven Hill as his boss at the DA’s office. They will think of Jerry Orbach, as Detective Lennie Briscoe, and maybe also Chris Noth as Mike Logan, Benjamin Bratt as Rey Curtis and Jesse L. Martin as Ed Green. They might recall S.Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Anita Van Buren. These are just a few of the-longer tenured-faces to pass through the halls of justice on NBC’s venerable offering.

The show could be prone to gimmicks-stunt casting, crossovers, though the ones with Homicide: Life on the Street worked-and, prior to a late run creative rebirth, recycling stories and beats. That last cast, with Merkerson still there as Van Buren, Waterson now in the big chair at the DA’s office, aided by Linus Roache and Alana De Le Garza’s Michael Cutter and Connie Rubirosa, helped the show regain the luster lost during a good half decade in the wilderness. They were joined by Anthony Anderson’s Kevin Bernard and Jeremy Sisto’s Cyrus Lupo. It was good to see the series close out the final three years without any turnover, and to regain a creative high it had not achieved in over a decade. Alas, it was not enough to save the series and, once it tied Gunsmoke as the longest lived US dramatic series in primetime, NBC pulled the plug. (more…)

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