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Street3

”Everywhere….in every town….in every street….we pass, unknowing, human souls made great through love and adversity.”

 

One of Allan’s greatest gifts was sharing his passion for films long forgotten or never fully appreciated. In keeping with that theme, my review highlights a film never before posted to this site. Certainly not made for cynical audiences, Borzage represents a style of filmmaking that has mostly fallen out of favor. Here we have a director who pulls together themes of love and hardship, complete with expressive use of atmosphere: streets, apartments, rooftops filmed with scintillating panache. Then, throw all this together with heavy doses of melodramatic plot twists that are simply too crazy to believe. Melodrama, in the hands of Sirk or Fassbinder, tends to be something that modern audiences have welcomed. Their use of color and symbolism adds a layer of subversive commentary that Borzage lacks. But, Borzage excels at a certain kind of irony-free, old-fashioned story-telling that to my mind is worth championing for its propellant emotional energy.

 

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Although 7th Heaven gets most of the attention, and Lucky Star is a hidden gem, Street Angel is my favorite Borzage film and is a romantic masterpiece of the highest order, provided you’re willing to suspend disbelief. It is the story of Angela (Janet Gaynor), who in need of some money to purchase medicine for her mother, attempts to prostitute herself on the street. She winds up getting arrested for robbery and sentenced to a year in a work house. She runs off before being imprisoned, escaping to find her mother dead at home. She avoids the cops and runs off to join the circus, where she meets a painter named Gino. They strike up an awkward friendship but soon bond and fall in love. Their blossoming love and impending marriage is threatened when the police find her again. She is taken to prison while Gino is unaware. He thinks she is lost forever, and things get really interesting when she is released from prison a year later. (more…)

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The newly refurbished Quad on 13th Street may well have taken over poll position of the most discerning Big Apple cineastes.

by Sam Juliano

The Allan Fish Online Film Festival has proven a great success, and special kudos are in order for the impassioned writers who have brought creativity and film scholarship to the highest levels of appreciation.  Allan is no doubt watching down with pride.  The noble venture -conceived, scheduled and designed by Jamie Uhler- will continue until next weekend, when Yours Truly will compose the wind up post.  I have since received a request from a treasured U.K. blogger to add on, so it appears we will be running over a day or so.  I will discuss this later today with Jamie.  To all those who have read and placed comments the site’s inner circle offers up its deepest appreciation.  God willing we will move forward next year with the second installment of this enriching enterprise.

Meanwhile, the Top 60 Greatest Television series countdown project is now officially underway with the opening group e mail sent out earlier in the week.  At least eight ballots have been sent back in with a good many more before the deadline of June 15th, at which point Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. will tabulate.  The countdown will then launch on July 1st and will run everyday until the planned end of August unveiling of the #1 selection.

Lucille and I saw three films in theaters this past week.  Included was our first appearance at the newly renovated and refurbished Quad Cinemas on 13th Street, which is truly the dream establishment for discerning cineastes, and a mandatory stop from here on in for Big Apple tourists.  I dare say it may have surpassed the Film Forum now in programming, special events and diversity, and the entire experience is state-of-the-art. (more…)

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by Adam Ferenz

As my contribution to the festival, I will be presenting a pair of animated films. I will be making this simple, as I want you to enjoy them with as little direct preamble as possible. The first is When the Wind Blows, a film about an imminent nuclear attack, while the second will be Plague Dogs, based on the novel by Richard “Watership Down” Adams. Both films are British, though When the Wind Blows has an American director. This, I think, is the sort of international flavor Allan may have appreciated, though-in his own words, as I would imagine them-the films are all the better for being British rather than strictly American. Such were his views. I do not believe they came from any sort of deep hatred or xenophobia, but rather from his own sense of boredom, tedium and impatience with what he regarded as Hollywood commercialism. When it came to animation, The Unwashed Public had Disney and little else, or so it appeared, and Allan was quite disappointed-though resigned-to this being how people view things on this side of The Pond.

Both films were aimed at adult audiences, and both dealt directly with socio-political issues, with one being about Nuclear war and the eroding conditions of international relations, while the other was about animal experimentation.

When the Wind Blows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVq76YvTPMs

The Plague Dogs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKHQuaaZovs&t=201s

 

Before I continue with discussion of the films, I want to digress to tell my story about Allan, and what he has meant to me. I first met him on Facebook, on the FB Film Forum, where I am an administrator. I had noticed this highly opinionated fellow, with an avatar of what seemed to be a man with what I took as a very smug expression, in a Santa Claus cap, being more than merely bellicose with the other members of the site. So, after a few weeks of observation, and what I initially perceived as a bad attitude, I booted him for excessive rudeness. Sammy Juliano came to his defense and brokered a peace. Allan and I soon became FB friends and many long hours of discussion on politics, art, literature and history, but especially film and television, ensued. (more…)

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And on the 8th day, God created rudimentary film language.

THIEF forehead number

by Robert Hornak

To my regret I never spoke, online or live, to Mr. Fish, so I never had the pleasure or benefit of the conversation or guidance or iron-sharpening-iron experience that so many here have spoken of. But I can guess what he might’ve thought of me. I’m woefully uneducated in world cinema, past or present – though I’m trying – but I think I may still be well above average for the general population. See how I just threw the general population under the bus? Point is, I don’t have much of a gauge for what he may or may not like or dislike among the several options I laid out for myself as a contribution to the festival christened in his honor. I’ve been afraid I’d stir some brand of offence, vis-à-vis his sensibilities, with almost anything I’ve looked to put up, so why not, I thought, just go ahead and stray far afield and help ensure a minor blasphemy by putting up a piece of overwrought and possibly irredeemable docu-fiction masquerading as mid-century Christian propaganda? My great hope is that despite its failings on several easily discernable levels, my choice is taken in the spirit of sharing niche-y artifacts, whether its passion and value aren’t quite so quickly discernable.

Thing is, I’ve been fascinated by this relic of apocalyptic fear-mongering since the day I first laid eyes on it at the age of 12 at a church camp in Louisiana, and I’ve needed to write about it ever since. Full disclosure: I was and am a church-goer, born and bred in the drawling (if not drooling) buckle of the Bible belt, at once a product of my evangelical upbringing and an expert post-indoctrination chronicler of it. I need not be the one to point out, there was and is a strain of religion in our country that rivals the worst of any enemy with whom we’ve courted Armageddon, and it plagues us to this day in ways insidious, fracturing, hilarious, and sad, depending on which way you’re letting the light of reason and decorum hit it.

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by Pat Perry

I am humbled to be part of this festival honoring Allan Fish.  Although I have been a frequent commenter and an occasional contributor to this site, I never got to know Allan very well.  Truth be told, I was mostly intimidated by him, by both his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and his ability to capture the essence of any film in  just a few incisive, brilliantly written paragraphs.  And – since I’m telling the truth here – I was also intimidated by his mercurial temper and gruffness, although I always understood those were tied up with his exacting standards for both the films he watched and what was written about them. He wanted cinema to be exceptional, and he wanted us to be exceptionally smart in discerning what was art and what was junk. Only after his passing did I learn from the reminisces of fellow bloggers of his extreme generosity in sharing his films and his knowledge with those who reached out to him.  All too late, I wished I had made more of an effort to connect with him myself.

I’m not sure what Allan would have thought of my choice here, but I hope he would recognize my own similar, if considerably less educated, passion to tell people “This film is good! This film is important! You should watch this!”

With the Trump presidency has come a resurgence of interest in classic dystopian fiction such as 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale. But there is yet another, lesser-known work that begs to be revisited as well: Wallace Shawn’s 1996 play The Designated Mourner.  Set in an unnamed country at an unspecified time , the play unfolds as a series of reminisces by three characters – a cynical, vulgarian journalist, his estranged wife and his left-wing intellectual father-in-law – their individual stories coalescing into a chilling oral history of a society gone mad, its most erudite and learned members pitilessly slaughtered by government decree. (more…)

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By Bob Clark

The careers of most celebrated anime directors, generally speaking, begin on television, and one might say that if they’re lucky, they remain there. Sure, filmmakers like Miyazaki and Takahata are renowned and beloved the world over for their feature works, but there’s a liveliness and spontaneity to the workmanlike stuff they did for Japanese television in the early parts of their careers that often matches, sometimes even exceeds their most critically acclaimed (or to put it more honestly, critically approved) works. Like many, they did time producing adaptations of long running manga series where they first got a chance to sharpen their skills as directors. Miyazaki’s first feature film “Castle of Cagliostro” was an extension of his highly entertaining years on the action-packed thief comedy series “Lupin the 3rd”, and plenty of other directors have followed suit beginning their career translating comics to the small and big screen. Occasionally, you’ll even get somebody who began on original work retreating into existing material, like Hideaki Anno did after the emotionally exhausting double-header of “Nadia” and “Evangelion”, turning on a dime away from existential sci-fi to adrenaline-injected high school rom-com in “His and Her Circumstances”. There, having already sharpened his skillset and developed his authorial voice, he inevitably wound up butting heads with the original mangaka and eventually had to quit and cede control to his collaborator Kazuya Tsurumaki, a turn of events that Mamoru Oshii would face after his second directorial feature, “Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer”.

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Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson in staggering Terence Davies masterpiece “A Quiet Passion”

by Sam Juliano

The Allan Fish Online Film Festival is cruising along to its fifth day with a scheduled, though as usual secret piece due up on Monday.  So far Jamie Uhler, Sachin Gandhi, Dean Treadway and Roderick Heath have presented spectacular pieces, fully attuned to Allan’s method of discovery and bringing some fabulous works to the site’s readers.  The project will continue on until May 26th.  One again writing quality reigns supreme at Wonders in the Dark.

Once again I served as a chaperone for the Lincoln School 8th grade Washington D.C. class trip, and this year we fell victim to an all day driving rain on the second day (Thursday) that necessitated rain gear in awkward mode.  Our kids laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and visited the usual spots: the memorials for Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, Martin Luther King, World War II Veterans, Koean and Viet Nam, Air Force and Iwo Jima.  We partook in the Capital Tour, the outside of the White House, two Smithsonians, a full guided tour of the Pentagon and on the way down a stop in Philadelphia to tout the First Continental Congress Building and the Liberty Bell.  The lodging at the Marriott in Bethesda, Maryland was impressive.

A fabulous children’s book author/illustrator panel event was staged at Books of Wonder in Manhattan on Saturday afternoon, where an impressive gathering braved a driving rain to take in a presentation that included our very good friends Wendell Minor, Florence Friedmann Minor and Jerry Pinkney, who talked about their new magnificent 2017 releases. Lucille and Jeremy joined me for this fascinating show: (more…)

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