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Archive for May, 2021

The Fifth Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival 2021

Directors: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton

Screenwriters: Al Boasberg, Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton, Charles Henry Smith, Paul Gerard Smith

By Roderick Heath

Long after most of the continent of silent cinema split away and became the rarefied preserve for a sector of movie lovers, silent comedy has retained its impudent life, its heroes still recognisable. The works of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Max Linder, Mabel Normand, the Keystone Kops, and even the ill-fated Fatty Arbuckle still have the ability to charm and wow any given audience. Think of how many pastiches of it you’ve seen over the years, automatically making the connection between farce and the stylistics of silent cinema, a language unto itself. Silent comedy survives because the emerging art form and style were uniquely well-suited. Slapstick, loud and crude and personal on the stage, became a weightless ballet of pure movement without sound and the ancient traditions of mime and farceur suddenly found a new and perfect venue, cutting across all conceivable boundaries of cultural and linguistic tradition. Despite an intervening century of argument about the two actor-directors, Chaplin and Keaton merely offered distinct takes on the basic comic concept, of a man fighting both other humans and the random impositions of life in a rapidly modernising world for their share of dignity.

Chaplin’s Little Tramp, trapped eternally on the wrong side of the glass from acceptance into the world, had a least a certain degree of roguish freedom, a capacity to pick himself up and move on after calamity, to compensate for his eternal exile. Keaton’s characters were trapped within the world, surrounded by bullies and blowhards as well as ornery if not downright malignant machinery, more able to play the romantic lead but always obliged to prove himself, never given the option of failure or surrender. Keaton, blessed with the real first name of Joseph as five previous generations of Keaton men had been before him, emerged from his mother in the town of Piqua, Kansas in 1895, a pure happenstance as his parents were vaudevillians and that was where they happened to be at the time. Keaton’s father was in business with Harry Houdini with a travelling stage show that sold patent medicine on the side. Keaton supposedly gained his stage name when he weathered a tumble down a flight of stairs at 18 months of age, and Keaton himself said it was Houdini who so anointed him. Contrary to his later persona as impassive and unflappable, Keaton’s initial persona in his performances with his parents was a temperamental brat who would fight with them and hurl furniture about. (more…)

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Written by Jon Warner in honor of the 5th Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival

“Your future is metal”.

“We can mutate the whole world into metal”.

“We can rust the world into the dust of the universe”.

From the ominous industrial drum machine thuds and metallic clangs that open the film, Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) is a thunderous and bludgeoning all-out assault on the senses. Maybe it’s because of all the Covid waves, death tolls, quarantines, mask wearing, and vaccines, but for some reason I’ve done some binge watching of the body-horror genre this past year. There’s something about our own mortality, our aging, our sicknesses and diseases that finds a logical conclusion in the curiosity and repulsion of the imagery in the genre that provides for some dangerous, yet somehow cathartic film viewing. Tetsuo: The Iron Man struck me a few months ago when I watched it for the first time after stumbling across a countdown of the greatest body horror films. I thought to myself, “how have I never heard of this film?” It is one of the most intense entries in the genre and is one of the great obscure classics in cinema history. It has flown under the radar for decades and is long overdue for discovery.

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by Sachin Gandhi

That car’s dirty.
It’s dirty..black as pitch

Yasuzô Masumura’s Black Test Car is a brilliant industrial espionage film about two rival car manufacturers who are racing to get their sports car first to the market. The film shows that the car manufacturers will spy, lie, cheat and go to any extreme lengths to get ahead regardless of ethics or their car’s quality. This hot intense race to be first puts immense pressure on all the individuals involved forcing some of them to cross moral and ethical boundaries. The film is packed with many memorial dialogues especially around the ethical dilemma facing the characters, with this one being one of my favourite:

“You can’t get hung up on morals, you’ll just feel remorse.
Remorse?
I want to live like a decent human being”

This 1962 film is even more relevant today because industrial espionage has increased substantially over the last few decades and launching one’s product in the market first is even more intense now.

I don’t want to give away any other details about the film because I want all of you to experience this film with as limited knowledge as possible in the hope that you can experience some of the giddy delight I had in watching this recently. I was familiar with a few of Yasuzô Masumura’s films such as his 1966 movie Irezumi. However, I hadn’t heard about Black Test Car until I came across the new Arrow edition along with that of Black Report. Watching both these movies was an exhilarating experience from a cinematic perspective and helped me to forget the state of things in the world outside. (more…)

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The kick off post is by Jamie Uhler

We opened last year’s Allan Fish Online Film Festival with a pointing out of the obvious: how being under lockdown in a pandemic would necessitate the exact modus operandi of the Festival idea, watching movies and shows via streaming platforms (or, if you’re still like me, physical media as well). This year is still little different, perhaps with a bit of the uncertainty eased via a full scale vaccine rollout (at least for those of us in the States, I don’t want to speak for anyone else), but still very much living in a nervous year, now stretched to another.  

So my picks begin with that still very much in mind. To ease my mind during the endless work from home hours and emotional strain of the pandemic, I found myself, almost like a zombie, subconsciously drawn to my past loves without even really thinking. The pieces of art that had been an emotional balm for me my entire life, the things I loved unconditionally that had shaped much of my tastes and psychological concerns during my younger years. Days started with spinning of 45s from a pool of my top favorites, the types of songs I’ll never tire of, ones that instantly charge you up to face the day. Days then wound down with movies, much of which would be derided as ‘low art’–car chase films, B- or C-level action, Charles Bronson vigilant pictures, forgotten studio genre pictures, gore and classic Horror, Hong Kong fight movies and 1950’s American technicolor epics. In between was reading of course, which saw me get back to reading literature and poetry again, after a few years away spent mostly reading nonfiction. All things to reclaim something that had been taken from me—as I understood it, live culture—but realizing they’d never gone anywhere, I’d just drifted elsewhere, sought different joys. I suppose this wasn’t much different from what most would do, anything to ease their minds and find little pockets of distraction in an otherwise chaotic, turbulent year. And, along with a pandemic, being in Chicago, I spent many of the warmer months trying to bike as often as possible. Not only a great reliever of stress, I quickly found this particular mode of transportation greatly conducive to easily transporting me to points of protest in the city, a near weekly occurrence during 2020 as the Black Lives Matter movement gained steam across the globe. COVID wasn’t enough, we had to heap even more onto our plates. 

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by Sam Juliano

I’d like to express my deepest appreciation to all who have offered support and congratulations for the imminent publication of my first novel, Paradise Atop the Hudson.  It is nearly complete, but the formidable task of proofreading and arranging the chapters -almost 40- will mean a few more weeks.  I am seriously thinking of publishing on Amazon to get it out there, and then sending out to other publishers.  I am well aware of the enormous difficulties in getting a traditional publisher (and that’s an understatement) but as I say I may get the ball rolling with amazon, an option that many authors have spoken of highly.  I began this journey in early January, and have worked morning to night, at school and at home hitting letter keys till my hands hurt.  I believe it will fall just short of 80,000 words when all is said and done.  I also need to firm up an artist willing to do the cover, which I will request include an amusement park Wild Mouse roller coaster, and the depiction of two boys, one eighteen and one seventeen, the older a strong and heavy bully-type, the other a slight, five foot seven delicate boy.  Valerie and Jim Clark, your undying support has been astounding.

This past week J.D. Lafrance penned an extraordinary review on 1958’s The Lineup.

The Fifth Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival will launch this coming Friday, Allan’s birthday with the opening post as always by project founder Jamie Uhler.  We have a nine-person lineup that will take the venture to June 5th.  Greatly looking forward to what will surely be another fantastic showcase of film scholarship. (more…)

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by J.D. Lafrance

Coming early on in his career, The Lineup (1958) is the kind of no-nonsense crime film that director Don Siegel excelled at and, in some ways, anticipated the same approach he took to his remake of The Killers (1964) years later. He wastes no time as The Lineup starts off with an exciting chase as a taxi cab driver tries to get away from a pier full of disembarking passengers with a stolen suitcase, runs over a cop and is shot and killed. Inside the case is a statuette containing $100,000 worth of heroin. The two detectives investigating the case – Lt. Ben Guthrie (Warner Anderson) and Inspector Al Quine (Emile Meyer) – return the case to its owner in the hopes that he’ll lead them to a narcotics ring.

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Screen capture from Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” reviewed magnificently this past week by co-Editor Jim Clatk

by Sam Juliano

We are inching closer to the Fifth Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival, launching on May 28th.  The turnout for this year’s installment is the best ever, and a glowing answer to the idea that blogsites are losing momentum.  As always one presentation will be posted a day until completion.  We at Wonders in the Dark are greatly excited about the venture which was founded by Jamie Uhler.  He will as per tradition, be writing the first entry.

This past week, Jim Clark penned a spectcular essay on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Russian masterwork, Stalker.

I am very thrilled to announce the imminent completion of my fiction novel “Paradise Atop the Hudson,” a 70,000 word plus young adult work about two friends on opposite sides of the tracks growing up in Fairview from 1965 to 1971.  There is humor, heartbreak and intricate family dynamics and some unexpected narrative events in the pointedly set work incorporating real people, places and occurrences, but played out in purely fictional terms.  The novel is nearly complete, with only two weeks or so remaining to wind things up.  I am presently exploring all my publishing options.

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© 2021 by James Clark

Our protagonist, early on in this mammoth undertaking, and en route to a client, protests to an imaginary companion, “My dear, the world is so utterly boring. There’s no telepathy, no ghosts, no flying saucers… They can’t exist. The world is ruled by cast-iron laws. These laws are not broken. They just can’t be broken…” On reaching his customer, there is also a woman, in furs and with a cool sports car. He continues his rant, now addressing her. “Don’t hope for flying saucers. That would be too interesting…”She retorts, “But what about the Bermuda Triangle?” This annoys him. “You’re not going to contradict…” And she quickly declares, “Yes, I am.”/ “There is no Bermuda Triangle,” he insists. “There is Triangle ABC which equals Triangle A prime, B prime, C prime.” She yawns, “It’s all so tedious, so very tedious.” She might have added that it’s all very pedantic. It’s all very pushy, in a thrust that doesn’t yield power. Pedantic, to the point of desperation. Shifting back to his whimsy, he tells her, “In the Middle Ages, life was interesting. Every house had its goblin, each Church a God. People were young. Now every fourth person is old…” The client had placed his hat on her car; and, in the woman’s resenting the protagonist being so adamant, she races away from them, leaving his hat on the roof. That dogmatic display had been mitigated in several ways. Surrealism had landed with the hat. The triad of the Bermuda Triangle was also a breath of fresh air, a visit from a source to be seen soon. Telepathy, ghosts, flying saucers, all in the mix, somehow.

Beginning as we did, there requires now a more complete sense of the crisis. His career of being known as a “Stalker”—a term implying harsh measures—focuses down to his being a sort of pilgrimage tour guide. Whereas such a calling could be lucrative, one look toward our protagonist’s home makes very clear that money is scarce there. His bedroom and kitchen have been reinforced by a living room operating as a public bar. Could that polyglot become a manifestation of the passionate innovator himself? Whereas those typically doing pilgrimages rush to prove how old-fashioned they are, our Stalker finds a market (obviously not numerous) for those with a hankering of the rebellious. The saga of the missing hat would be a case of a lady’s man, a popular, wealthy writer purveying the chic and solid classical rational thought from many centuries ago. That he’s fond of “risk” is one thing; that he’s bought into the ways of the Stalker is a very different thing. The first visitor seen at that surrealist bar is the other client of the adventure, a scientist. Curiosity being smiled upon in that realm, where standard curiosity does not have a hope. Not about smidgens, but a new cosmos. Both would be proud to call themselves skeptics. Both would be impostors. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

As this post is going up on Sunday morning I’d like to wish all those irreplaceable moms and their adoring families the happiest of Mother’s Days!  The weather is certainly beautiful in the Tri-State region, and hoping the same for all our friends around the country and the world.

Project founder Jamie Uhler has again outdone himself with a magnificent teaser for the upcoming Allan Fish Online Film Festival, the fifth annual in the tribute series staged near the end of every May.  We are pleased to announce that pending any last minute additions -which would happily extend it further- nine (9) writers have come forward to participate with posts that will begin on Friday, May 28th, the day that would have been Allan’s 48th birthday.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

A group e mail will be sent out on Tuesday morning, soliciting involvement for the upcoming Allan Fish Online Film Festival.  A few have already pledged a post, and it is anticipated several others will soon be coming forward.  The project will launch on May 28th and will run as long as it must to accomodate those who are participating.  Many thanks.  This should be another banner installment of the festival that means so much to those affiliated with the site.

This past week we received two more stupendous essays.  Jim Clark’s profoud piece on Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice and J.D. Lafrance’s fascinating review of Oliver Stone’s The Doors debuted on Wednesday and Thursday.

More shops, theaters and restaurants are moving forward, cutting back restrictions as the summer is looking better and better moving forward.  I will be teaching the summer school program again this year but unlike last year it will in person.

Last year’s big Oscar surprises – Anthony Hopkins and Frances McDormand continue to inspire discussion online.

Lucille and I saw two films this past week: (more…)

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