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Archive for March, 2019

Posting this for absolute verification!!  I am co-founder and editor of the site.

 

-Sam

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by J.D. Lafrance

“The most valuable commodity I know is information.” – Gordon Gekko

These words, said in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987), are more relevant now than they were back then, especially in this increasingly digital age where information is power. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg or Julian Assange or Edward Snowden. Back when Wall Street came out it was about stock trading and getting inside information that could potentially make one a lot of money. Stone’s film examines the nature of acquiring sensitive information and then how it is used albeit filtered through a coming-of-age story.

When he made Wall Street, the filmmaker was riding high from the commercial and critical success of Platoon (1986). His father, Lou Stone, had been a stockbroker on Wall Street in New York City and this film was a son’s way of paying tribute to his father. More than thirty years later, it is one of the quintessential snapshots of the financial scene in the United States, epitomizing the essence of capitalism, greed, and materialism that was so prevalent in the 1980s and is prevalent again.

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by Sam Juliano

Lucille is home after her same-day spinal disc surgery and all is well even with some pain to negotiate through medication.  Many thanks to all who sent on their well wishes at the site and on social media.  The current plans are for her to remain home for about two weeks before returning to her Principal’s position.  This past week has been hectic in preparation and then at hospital.  This was the second time this school calendar year Lucille had surgery.  The first was a partial knee replacement, which like this week’s procedure was necessitated by arthritis.  Thanks again to all!

This past week James Clark published a stupendous essay in his ongoing Ingmar Bergman series on The Magician.  J.D. Lafrance contributed a splendid piece on Stephen Soderburgh’s Out of Sight.  

We did see two current films this past week, one in theaters and the other on netflix where it debuted.  I have the ratings, but will have more to say on both soon.  Us is a stylistically superior horror film by Justin Peale, and Girl is a Belgian film about a transgender girl who seeks SRS surgery and success as a ballerina.  (more…)

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 © 2019 by James Clark

      This is a film so dependent upon its sense for Bergman’s previous output, and even for Bergman’s subsequent work, that it sustains the adage, “Go full out, or forget about it entirely.” But adages can be wrong; and here we welcome one and all to a breathtaking tone poem, which we hope can benefit from a few suggestions.

On the face of it, The Magician (1958), features an intense protagonist, leading a crew so heterogeneous as to wonder how their objectives can succeed. They first come to us in the countryside, at a pause in their horse-driven coach. The vehicle is affixed with the sign, “Vogler’s Magic Health Theatre.” The black and white optics induce silhouette along a ridge, the virtual trademark of the film, The Seventh Seal (1957), where a couple, Jof and Marie ply the far-flung roads in a caravan advertising their circus musicale.Those two carniesmanage to transcend the deadliness of the ridge (the seduction of death and its happy ending), by virtue of Jof’s blessing of his baby boy, to be a great acrobat and a juggler capable ofan impossible trick.Although Jof and Marie made their breakaway in the 12th century, those traces of magic lean heavily upon Vogler, in Sweden, in the 19th century.Therefore, while far from playful banter disturbs the “Health Theatre,” the opportunity to see deeply into the nature of conflictnever flags. (more…)

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By J.D. Lafrance

“It’s like seeing someone for the first time. You can be passing on the street and you look at each other and for a few seconds there’s this kind of recognition. Like you both know something, and the next moment the person’s gone. And it’s too late to do anything about it. And you always remember it because it was there and you let it go. And you think to yourself, what if I stopped? What if I said something? What if?” – Jack Foley

This bit of dialogue from Out of Sight (1998) perfectly captures the essence of the relationships between the characters in this film. It is about the what ifs and the what could have beens. What the characters do and, more importantly, what they don’t do that directly determines their fate.

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by Sam Juliano

On Thursday, March 21st Lucille will be at Engelwood Hospital for a procedure to replace a disc above her spine that has deteriorated due to arthritis.  This is the second time this school year she will be under general anesthesia after the partial knee replacement completed back in September.  Though I am sure all will be well, I am still of course on edge like the rest of my family.  I anticipate speaking to some of my friends by e mail late on Thursday.  On a very sad note the dear mother of my lifelong friend Larry Weise, (Bernice) suddenly passed away on Sunday morning of kidney failure connected to severe diabetes.  Bernice was 81.

The 1978 winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar and the National Society of Film Critics choice as Best Film, “Get Out Your Handkerchiefs” is running as the centerpiece of the Bertrand Blier Film Festival. Lucille and I attended Sunday morning’s 11:00 A.M. showing, which showcased a beautiful new print of the courageous film about a menage a trois formed to cure a woman who is the center of the man-woman-man trio of her continued depression. The woman, Solange is highly erotic and her alternating needs are addressed with uncompromising ardor by her husband (Gerard Depardieu) and the man her husband enlists to help her get pregnant. Her relationship with a 13 year-old boy elevates the film into narrative controversy, but this often hysterical farce is unlike any film before or since and its a gem and Blier’s masterpiece. (more…)

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High Fidelity

By J.D. Lafrance

Have you ever spent hours organizing your record collection in chronological order and by genre? Have you ever had heated debates with your friends about the merits of a band who lost one of its founding members? Or argued about your top five favorite B-sides? If so, chances are you will love High Fidelity (2000), a film for and about characters obsessed with their favorite bands and music. What Free Enterprise (1999) did for film geeks; High Fidelity does for music geeks. Based on the British novel of the same name by Nick Hornby, it is a film made by and for the kind of people who collect vintage vinyl and read musician and band biographies in their spare time yet is still accessible to people who like smart, witty romantic comedies.

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Screen cap from Icelandic “Woman at War”

by Sam Juliano

By George it does appear that Spring is doing her best to expel Winter’s dogged hold on the outdoor temperatures, but as is the case at this distinctly bi-polar time of the year we quickly fall back into coldness.  In any case this weekend we turned our clocks ahead (Daylight Savings Time) and lost an hour of sleep, but on the positive side the light of day will last longer moving forward.  Here at Wonders in the Dark, my co-editor James Clark and his Canadian colleague J.D. Lafrance have maintained our high standard of film reviewing with a splendid assortment of art house, American indes and some seemingly forgotten commercial fare.  This past week Jim brought us the 2018 French import Let the Sunshine In starring Juliette Binoche and J.D. featured the cult favorite Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with Johnny Depp and Benecio Del Toro.  Great stuff!

A largely riveting Icelandic comedy-thriller Woman at War is currently playing at Manhattan’s IFC Film Center, where Lucille and I caught the 7:35 showing this past Monday (3/4) evening.  Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir in a superlative, often acrobatic performance) plays a woman on a mission, sabotaging aluminum plant power supplies in the island country, guided by the ideals of her two heroes, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and aided by her “alleged” cousin and muses, a small band of musicians who seem to be following her on her principled journey. Surely unlike anything one is likely to see, and stylishly directed by Benedikt Erlingsson. (This is a 2019 film for all of us in the US as it opened this week stateside for the first time). (more…)

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By J.D. Lafrance

After more than twenty years of failed attempts and missed opportunities, Terry Gilliam did what many thought impossible — he transformed Hunter S. Thompson’s classic novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, into the cinematic equivalent of a having sledgehammer whacked across your frontal lobes. The book had finally been fully realized and brought to the big screen in all of its demented glory. The film crashed and burned in theaters, infamously debuting at the Cannes Film Festival where it was roasted by critics, but it has aged very well, attracting a devoted cult film following that quote from its numerous memorable scenes.

Gilliam’s film faithfully adapts journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo’s (Benicio Del Toro) trip to Las Vegas to cover the 1971 Mint 400 motorcycle race for Sports Illustrated magazine. The competition, however, is merely an excuse for the duo to abuse their expense account and indulge in a galaxy of drugs. What was initially a simple journey to cover a motorcycle race mutates into a bizarre search for the American Dream.

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Screen cap from German “Transit”

by Sam Juliano

A late night wintry mix and snowfall brought on the cancellation of area schools for Monday morning, though the appearance of the sun at around 10:00 A.M. and the meltdown made this decision seem foolhardy.  In any event an unexpected and welcome day off for a number of us.

Last week’s Oscar telecast ended too late for me to include it in the previous Monday morning Diary, but I will list my general thoughts here:  Nothing in last night’s surprisingly breezy and well managed Oscar ceremony was as moving as Olivia Colman’s adorable, charming, humble and earthy acceptance speech for her stunning Best Actress win. Certainly this mighty great actress gave as titanic a performance by a female lead as any other thespian this year -including Glenn Close’s turn – but few of us thought this marvelous woman would prevail after she was passed over by SAG. Yay for Olivia Colman! THE FAVORITE is one of my “favorite” films of 2018. I am sad for Glenn Close of course, but who can contest Colman’s glorious win, really?  Todd Sherman must be smiling this morning as well he should!  Also: Loved Spike Lee’s screenplay win and his rowdy speech.  I wasn’t a fan of “A Star is Born” but Gaga and Cooper were electrifying as they crooned “Shallow.”  Rami Malek’s win was a celebratory moment (my own fave was Dafoe, but I still loved the Egyptian-American’s epic turn as Freddy Mercury.  Yay to Regina King, Mahershala Ali (I was rooting for Richard Grant, but fair enough) and the stellar showing by African-Americans across the board.  Yes Roma was absolutely the very best film of the eight nominated for Best Picture (and one of my own Top 5 or 6 films of the year), (The Favourite was the only other MASTERPIECE of the 8) and yes I was surprised it didn’t win the Best Picture award, but it did win those three major prizes for Alfonso Cuaron including Best Foreign Film and Best Director. As to Green Book winning Best Picture, I do like the film, and have it in my Top 20 of the year, so I will say I do not and will not criticize the win, even if I liked a good number of other films more. I suppose Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s brilliant takedown of the criticism hit home with AMPAS members. Don Haumant my friend, you knew all along Roma would not win in the prize. Take a bow.  No I did not ever imagine Bohemian Rhapsody would end up the night’s top winner in number of awards with four. Amazing.  “Skin” was one of the most brilliant and disturbing short films I’ve ever seen, and the bold win in Live Action short should be applauded.  I preferred the masterpieces NEVER LOOK AWAY or COLD WAR in foreign and also would have gone with the stupendous CAPERNAUM or THE SHOPLIFTERS but I still love Roma and fully expected it to win in that category.   Thinking of my Chicago-area friend and movie fan Brian Wilson, who sponsored Free Solo all year. Brian no doubt was very pleased this superb documentary triumphed.  The show itself? Yeah I know some are saying it was a bore until the last quarter, but you can’t have everything. No host means a streamlined show, and largely it all worked quite well and ended at an acceptable time. I doubt we’ll ever have a single host again!

Photos of our Oscar party are at bottom:  So fantastic to have John Grant head in from Hewitt with his wife Pam for the third consecutive year and Adam Ferenz from Flint, Michigan for his maiden appearance.  The showing of 54 was the highest ever for any of our annual parties!!

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