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Trainspotting

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By J.D. Lafrance

Trainspotting flew out of the gates in 1996 and took the world by storm, first causing a sensation in the United Kingdom, and then moving on to the United States bolstered by a soundtrack that mixed classic rockers (Lou Reed, Iggy Pop) with contemporary ones (Blur, Primal Scream). Audiences couldn’t get enough of this gritty, often funny, sometimes harrowing tale of Scottish heroin addicts. Based on Irvine Welsh’s edgy cult novel of the same name, Trainspotting was adapted by a trio of filmmakers – director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald – who had previously collaborated on the nasty suspense thriller Shallow Grave (1994).

They chose just the right passages from the novel and proceeded to capture the spirit of what Welsh was trying to say without judging the characters. This resulted in the film getting into trouble as some critics felt it glorified drug addiction. The film takes an unflinching look at the lives of a group of drug addicts and shows why they do drugs — the highs are so unbelievably amazing. However, Trainspotting also shows the flip side: death, poverty and desperation, which lead to stealing, lying and cheating just to get more drugs. Regardless, the film was a commercial and critical success, spawning all sorts of imitators and influencing countless other U.K. filmmakers to go through the door that it kicked open.
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by Sam Juliano

I can already hear the piano billowing forth with the all-too-familiar strains of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance this evening at the Cliffside Park High School gymnasium where my middle child Danny will be graduating in an indoor venue now being utilized because of the expected heavy rain expected tonight.  Three down and two to go!

The Television countdown has really taken off in a huge way, and I for one am so thrilled at the enthusiasm from the many writers who are gearing up for the massive project set to launch now on Wednesday, June 28th, and to finish on Saturday, September 23rd.  There will be a brief hiatus from August 4th till August 12th, when my family and I will be at a Carolina seashore condo.  In order to properly administer this project I need to break for that roughly one-week juncture, but it actually will help in one sense to allow for a writing regroup, falling as it does close to the halfway point.  The results have been announced by Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., and have been released to the e mail chain of voters and writers, but will only be reported here peace meal in the traditional reverse countdown order.  Nearly all the writing assignments have been claimed to this point.  I am proud to announce that the opening essay (#80) will be written by our beloved Allan (Our Hitler), on that opening Wednesday, which will be featuring his favorite television miniseries/film of the 1980’s. (more…)

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Our longtime friend and site contributor Peter Lenihan’s superlative appreciation of John Ford’s Wagonmaster is up on You Tube:

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by Sam Juliano

Ballots for the Top 60 Television countdown, which is set to launch at the site on Saturday, July 1st are due in this coming Thursday, June 15th at 11:00 P.M.  Results will be sent out a few days later to the participating e mail chain after tabulation by Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr.  Anyone who hasn’t yet handed in a ballot therefore can still do so over the coming days.

Our entire brood and Broadway Bob treked out to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania over the weekend as per annual tradition and we experienced a paranormal event of sorts, which a cell phone photo taken by Bob resulted in a ghostly photo over the right shoulder of Jeremy on the battlefield.  I have received all kinds of responses on social media, and can only say at this point that I am unaware of any manipulation or tampering, and believe this to be a legitimate occurrence.  That said I am not a person to fall for this sort of this remotely.  In any event, aside from some scorching weather, this was a memorable trip highlighted by an intensive battlefield excursion and the terrific late night orphanage tour.  We stayed at the “haunted” Gettysburg Inn on the famed hill off Steinwar Avenue.  Returning from Gettysburg Sunday morning we stopped briefly in the Amish country -again as per our normal routine- to have our lunch at the “Good and Plenty,” a popular family style eatery in the heart of Lancaster.

In another unspeakably busy week, I attended (some with Lucille and Sammy and some alone) eight (8) screenings at the Quad this past week of 70’s films as part of two festivals -the end of the Frank Perry retrospective and the “Shadow Cinema of the American 70’s.”  While some of the films are of course on DVD and/or blu ray, several have not been released either way and it is always a special thrill to watch films in the magnificent Quad on the big screen, providing my pocket can sustain such indulgence.  Anyway we saw: (more…)

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Carrie Snodgress gives an extraordinary Oscar nominated performance in the tragically underrated/forgotten 1971 masterpiece “Diary of a Mad Housewife” by Frank Perry

by Sam Juliano

Ballots continue to be turned in for the Top 60 Television Show/Program countdown that remains set to launch on July 1st.  The last day for ballot submission draws closer, on Thursday, June 15th.  Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. has announced that we have reached around 30 handed in to this point.

Lucille and I attended several feature films in the Frank and Eleanor Perry Film Festival held this past week at the newly refurbished Quad Cinemas in Manhattan.  On second though we engaged in a weekend marathon actually.  The Festival continues over the next few days, and we will again be in attendance for three more features.  The Perrys made some provocative works in the 60’s and 70’s, several of which remain high on any list of underrated works ripe for reassessment.

We saw:

Diary of a Mad Housewife (1971)   *****         Quad Cinemas/Saturday

Compromising Positions  (1985)    *** 1/2      Quad Cinemas/Sunday

The Swimmer (1968)                        **** 1/2     Quad Cinemas/Sunday

Last Summer (1969)                         **** 1/2      Quad Cinemas/Sunday

Mommie Dearest (1981)                  ***                Quad Cinemas/Sunday

Churchill                                              ***                Edgewater/Friday (more…)

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Elia Kazan’s most overrated film? I think so. Saw it at the Quad on Sunday in a fabulous print, but the film itself was insufferable. I’m speaking here of his 1963 epic “America America” which was nominated for Best Picture.

by Sam Juliano

The seventeen day Allan Fish Online Film Festival, of inaugural vintage is complete, and the results indicate a smashing success.  It was exciting for all of us to wake up to all the new posts, since even those at the site including myself hadn’t any knowledge what would be appearing, with only two exceptions.  The venture joins the Musical and Comedy genre countdowns and a number of Allan’s own decade projects as the most undeniably successful in the nearly nine year history of the site.  This was a remarkable tribute to all Allan has meant to so many, and doubtless he is looking down from above quite pleased and grateful.  Many thanks to all those who read, left comments and likes and of course generated these extraordinary posts.  Those, like Marilyn Ferdinand, Jon Warner, Frank Gallo, John Grant, Sachin Gandhi and Peter M., I want to give a special thanks for being on top of the postings day in and day out.  But the thanks are really to all with kudos to Jamie for conceiving, designing and scheduling the festival.  The festival will live on as many will slowly avail themselves of all the fabulous suggestions sponsored in the individual postings as well.  Once again a project at this site has featured some truly spectacular writing across the board.

The upcoming Greatest Television Show/mini series project is moving forward with unexpected excitement and enthusiasm, as ballots have been flying in daily.  Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. is keeping abreast of the situation, and has set a deadline of June 15th for ballots to be submitted.  The plans are to actually begin the Top 60 on July 1st.  As always Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance has kept the ball rolling along with their own measure of exceeding film scholarship with mid week postings.

Lucille and I were thrilled to meet up with Maurizio Roca, Joel Bocko and Bob Clark on Monday evening, May 22nd to take in a screening of Alien:  Covenant at the Union Square Regal Cinemas and then a wonderful time at the The Dish afterwards.  A scheduling mix up forced me to miss the first forty minutes of the film, so my rating here is really negligible until I re-see the film in its entirety.  I also saw the newly-released Israeli comedy The Woman’s Balcony at the Quad and the 1963 Elian Kazan epic America America (1963) at the theater.  I must say I found the Kazan film (and I do love the director’s work despite his reprehensible stool pigeon maneuverings) rather insufferable and vastly overrated.  It was the one Kazan movie I hadn’t ever seen until this week.

I was never a big Allman Brothers fan, but the untimely passing of icon Gregg Allman this week is another dreadful loss for the arts.  R.I.P Gregg.

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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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