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Archive for April, 2021

By J.D. Lafrance

Anticipation was high when it was announced that Oliver Stone would be filming a biopic about the popular rock band the Doors. With Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), he was gaining a reputation for being the premiere chronicler of America in the 1960s so it made sense that he would tackle that decade’s most famous (and infamous) musical acts. The question remained, what kind of approach would Stone take on the material? Many books had been written by journalists, people that knew him and even by members of the band itself, all with their own perspective and opinion on what the Doors meant to them and to popular culture. The world found out what Stone’s take was on March 1, 1991 when The Doors was released to wildly mixed reviews and strong box office. While many critics felt that Val Kilmer delivered an excellent performance as the band’s lead singer Jim Morrison, they felt that the film dwelled too much on his darker aspects and excesses and that Stone played fast and loose with the facts.

One should look at The Doors much like Stone’s subsequent film JFK (1991), as a mythical take on historical figures and events and not as documentary-like authenticity. I find The Doors to be a big, bloated, fascinating mess of a film that reflects the tumultuous times of the ‘60s. Despite the miscasting of a few roles and the rather one-sided view we get of Morrison, Stone’s film is a beautifully-shot acid trip through the ‘60s with some of the best choreographed live concert sequences every recreated on film. Best of all, it brought the Doors’ music back into the mainstream, reminded everyone what a brilliant band they were, and how much they influenced and reflected their times.

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 © 2021 by James Clark

      Having tested the waters of the mysterious Andrei Tarkovsky, by way of his film, Solaris (1972), I feel obliged to settle matters that could test the patience of those seriously intent upon appreciating processes of great merit. Braced by the sophisticated genius of the work of Ingmar Bergman, Tarkovsky has chosen to maintain a mysticism—far from supernatural—but clinging to (perhaps confusing) tinctures of mainstream devotion. In the film, Solaris, he takes his directions from Bergman’s films, The Devil’s Eye (1960) and All These Women (1964), where the force of nature pertains to pathos. Not satisfied to contest the weakness at several points of science, Tarkovsky, by way of a form of sleight of hand, installs dead victims of a violence becoming life-like to those now-touched by guilt. A perhaps questionable (though intense) means of challenging the brutality of wayward captains of a small planet. An unbalanced touch in the service of deep pathos should not become a song and dance. Bergman, the kudos notwithstanding, would not be a fan.

Our second selection, here, namely, The Sacrifice (1986), mercifully desists from fantasy, though its cast of players tends to whimsy. (I’ve chosen this film, being Tarkovsky’s final work, a work by way of the young maestro’s  being stricken by fatal cancer, because this film administers most effectively the artist’s campaign, leaving the other films to supplement the rigors. Our study today recalls all those pedantic, bourgeois targets whom Bergman regarded as travesties. Whereas being “educated” appears to virtually everyone’s sense of virtue, Bergman [and now Tarkovsky] want us to see a very different form of action, and thereby a form of problematic reflection never being saliant, because the educational history of the planet has throttled a crucial aspect.) (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The site will again be staging the Allan Fish Online Film Festival in observance of our late master’s May 28th birthday.  Remarkably this will be the fifth consecutive year we will be moving forward with a project tribute that has yielded some of the finest writing we’ve ever exhibited.  Founded by Chicago native and staffer Jamie Uhler in 2017 nine months after Allan’s tragic passing, the idea was to continue as long as physically possible and as long as the site continues to exist and add new material.  Alas, we have no intentions in the immediate future to close our doors and we’d like to think our lifespan here has a ways to go, what with yeoman contributions continuing from our exceedingly talented writers, led by site Co-Editor James Clark and by his fellow Canadian veteran film writer J.D. Lafrance.  A very dear and brilliant Australian friend will be back for this project, and several others may well follow-up on their past postings for this endeavor, the one more than any other that is dearest to our hearts.  The festival will launch on Friday, May 28th and will continue until the line-up is completed.  I will be sending out an e mail next week to the past participants to alert them of our intentions.  Thanks to all for your anticipated cooperation.

Next Sunday night the 2021 Oscar show will be broadcast.  The date will mark the only time of the past forty-three years that Yours Truly and Lucille will not be hosting our annual party as a result of COVID-19.  Our family, however, are expecting two special guests at our home, one of whom will be armed with his trademark video camera.  This past week J.D. Lafrance published a superlative essay on 1969’s wildly popular 1969 western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.   (more…)

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by J.D. Lafrance

In 1969, two important westerns came out examining the end of the Wild West in very different ways. Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch was a blood-soaked elegy to its aging protagonists who found themselves increasingly marginalized in a world that was passing them by. George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid also featured bank robbers finding it increasingly harder to ply their trade albeit in a lighter vein, emphasizing the undeniable chemistry between its two lead actors, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Hill helped create a classic buddy action film that would shape and influence the genre for years to come.

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by Sam Juliano

As expected the Director’s Guild handed out their prize for this past year’s films to the talented Chinese-American woman Chloe Zhao for the masterful Nomadland.  The BAFTA’s will be announced late Sunday night so I will revise this post Monday morning.  Our wonderful friends and co-editor Jim and Valerie Clark have informed us that things are going well now for them in the wake of the recent lockdown in the Toronto area where they reside.  We are so relieved to hear that.  Jim’s superlative essay on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris published at the site this past week.

Lucille, young Sammy and I watched the remaining three Best Animated Feature nominees over the past two days on Netflix and Disney.. (We had already seen Soul and Wolfwalkers) All of us still feel WOLFWALKERS is handily the best of the five and for me it finishes in the Top 5 of year-end “best” list overall! Nonetheless, we enjoyed Onward, Over the Moon and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmegeddon and thought them creatively memorable, though none of the trio can be described as masterful. Still, somewhat better than we expected.   We also watched the downer (but very well made) teen drama Fourteen.  Star ratings for all are below: (more…)

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© 2021 by James Clark

Ingmar Bergman, not widely known to praise other filmmakers, was, however, on one occasion, drawn to remark: “My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film [Ivan’s Childhood, 1962] was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt as if I was entering and encountering a range of stimulation. Someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, as a dream.”

With Bergman, however, being a tricky hand-to-hand brawler, you have to look carefully about such a homage. Yes, Tarkovsky comes on the field as remarkably brilliant. His instinct for dynamics and mis en scene is truly inventive and revolutionary. But where do you think that new genius learned his chops as an exhaustive challenger of world history as it has enjoyed total and disastrous power since societies on earth began? Tarkovsky’s film today, namely, Solaris (1972), is about space discovery, the wonder of the “new,” in the bright solar awakening. But the solar, if you look at it, is a fury, a visitation of intensity (emotion) having been censored from the entirety of life, of nature; while religion and science have carved up everything in sight, despite being possibly, however, having much to do with the new. The protagonist, Kris Kelvin (a surname redolent of “hard” science and control of heat), does not, at first blush, present any hope of becoming a paragon of emotive innovation. His father, on the eve of Kris’s departure—to a Soviet space craft having encountered disarray, and which he seemed to be the right man to straighten it out—far from a radical but aware that there is more in life than science, remarks, “He reminds me of a bookkeeper, preparing his accounts… It’s dangerous to send people like you into space. Everything is fragile. Yes, fragile. The Earth has somehow become disgusting to people like you, although at what sacrifice!  The Earth has somehow become adjusted to people like you. What, are you jealous that [someone else] will be the one to bury me, and not you?” (more…)

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A “stone cold” masterpiece in both senses! Charlie Kaufman’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a five star film and places in my Top 3 of this past year!

by Sam Juliano

It was an earlier-than-usual Easter Sunday but here we are enjoying the one week break that comes after with a return to work set for almost half way through the month.  We remain in a kind of functional limbo, what with the COVID-19 numbers still rising in some areas including my home state.  Our dear friends and site co-editor Jim and Valerie Clark are in the Toronto, Canada area that went into lock down a few days ago.  We are concerned deeply for their security and continued well-being.

Tribeca programmers are thrilled to announce that the 20th-anniversary edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, will take place in New York City from June 9 through June 20, 2021 — new dates to ensure the Festival moves forward in the safest environment.  Lucille and I are figuring we will again be attending but as to the volume we can’t say with any certainty just yet.  It is far off enough to be able to sort things out in tune with the health situation.  The Major League Baseball season is underway as well.

This past week has been a torrid one for us on the film scene as we have managed to watch seven (7) films, which is the most “new” releases we’ve seen in one week since maybe 16 months ago, though it could be even longer than that. (more…)

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