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Archive for December 1st, 2019

by Sam Juliano

I would not be just a muffin’,
My head all full of stuffin’,
My heart all full of pain           -E.Y. Harburg, Harold Arlen, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The inveterate bird-scarer known as the scarecrow has been a boon to farmers around the world dating back over 2,500 years to ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece.  In feudal Japan they were front line protection for the rice fields, affording security for both newly-planted seeds and the maturing crop.  Inevitably over the years the scarecrow has been the prime protagonist in horror films, where its frightful visage has induced writers to re-imagine this rural symbol as a purveyor of supernatural terror.  Yes children today and those from past generations have a far more benign perception, one based exclusively on the beloved character played by Ray Bolger in the 1939 American film classic The Wizard of Oz.  Based on the first in a children’s series by L. Frank Baum the scarecrow is a good-hearted and intelligent character who wishes he had a brain in a plot where his quick-thinking is vital to the success of the trip to the city where the titular character rules over. In Baum’s book, the famed film version and practically all personifications the scarecrow is initially perceived as one of the loneliest of guardians.  Like Trent in the original Outer Limits’ most celebrated episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” where the robotic creation of mankind must stand watch over the earth’s population who are stored on a glass hand as electrical impulses, he is seemingly doomed to seclusion.  In the poetic new picture book masterwork The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry this all-weather mannequin constructed with straw and work clothes is virtually programmed with one purpose, unencumbered by dual-tasking and unchallenged by anyone or anything looking to complicate his sole mode of existence. (more…)

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Screen cap from fabulously stylish murder-mystery “Knives Out”

by Sam Juliano

I trust that everyone stateside had a fabulous Thanksgiving Day as we did in a grand gathering in Butler, New Jersey on Thursday.  Now we move fast steam ahead to the “Happy Holidays” time of the year and all the frantic preparation with a keen eye for what Mother Nature may throw our way.

Lucille, Sammy, Jeremy and I saw four films in theaters over the past two weeks, and aside from the mediocre, though reasonably engaging “Frozen 2” it was a solid batch methinks. Not a single five star movie, but three receive the excellent 4.5 rating, one received the very good 4.0 and one a fine 3.5. “Knives Out” is a stylish murder mystery with mostly terrific performances and red herrings aplenty that is one of the best in its genre in quite a while; “Queen and Slim” is a powerful drama of prejudice, police brutality and betrayal; “Dark Waters” directed by Todd Haynes is for the most part a searing legal drama about the Dupont chemical fiasco that caused the death of numerous people and contaminated the environment, and it features Mark Ruffalo and an impressive cast; “Ford vs. Ferrari” is rather a lightweight affair, but the leads are captivating and film is an undeniably entertaining sports-themed race car movie; “Frozen 2” is a far cry from its beloved predecessor, but still captures some of the general appeal even with a weaker plot.

We visited theaters in northern New Jersey and Manhattan to access this impressive batch:

Knives Out **** 1/2   (Wednesday, Secaucus multiplex)
Queen and Slim **** 1/2  (Friday, Teaneck multiplex)
Dark Waters ****   (Saturday, Cineopolis)
Frozen 2 ****  (Saturday afternoon, Secaucus multiplex)

Jamie Uhler offers up two more superlative entries in his gloriously ongoing 2019 Horror Fest series of capsule reviews: (more…)

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