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turandot

turandot 2

by Sam Juliano

Football fans were treated to a defensive match between the favored Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, who triumphed in an error prone Super Bowl game that wasn’t always pretty to watch.  Still for those of us who traveled to the homes of relatives, where betting pools were run, or stood home to watch the big contest, it offered up a measure of entertainment to close out the nearly six-month football season.

The DGA (Director’s Guild Association) award this past week was handed out for the second year in a row to Alejandro Innaritu, whose The Revenant must now be seen a strong candidate for the Best Picture Oscar, in what is apparently a close race with The Big Short (PGA) and Spotlight. (SAG).  The Academy Awards as always are a shameless rat race with building insignificance, but it gives Lucille and I the opportunity to stage our annual awards bash, which this year like last will happen at Fairview’s Tiger Hose Firehouse, with catering again from Dante’s.  The affair is an open house.

This past week we attended two movie theater presentations, one the new Coens’ brothers film HAIL CAESAR, and the other the encore HD broadcast of Giacomo Puccini’s TURANDOT, seen at a local multiplex.  Lucille and I had seen TURANDOT live at the Met three times prior over the years during our season ticket days.   Remarkably, this is the same lavish Franco Zeffirelli production that has been there for over 20 years. (more…)

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harold-bloom

by Barry Germansky

Given his tendency to prize a writer’s capacity for influence above all other evaluative considerations, it may seem unlikely for Harold Bloom to serve as a source of overt originality. But Bloom is a man of profound contradictions, and he is profoundly original in his unoriginality.

He has spent his career as a Yale English professor presenting idiosyncratic views on canonical writers, creating a paradoxical lens of criticism, one that employs its originality in the service of maintaining the traditional Western canon of literary respectability. Bloom’s personal canon bears a strong resemblance to the widespread canon.  When Bloom talks of one author influencing another, he is essentially validating one author for inheriting the genius of another (and, of course, whenever he does this, both writers are invariably part of the traditional canon). Accordingly, when Bloom asserts his personal literary rankings in terms of influence, the contradictory nature of his preservation of the canon through what may now appear to some as being “outmoded” objective absolutism is revealed. Even if he refers to his opinions as the products of “deep subjectivity,” many would argue that “influence” is, in many cases, an impossible quality to prove and is, whether one believes in objectivity or not, an unconvincing litmus test for canonization. Accordingly, Bloom’s reliance on influence and its associated universality as literary guides makes his rhetoric sound objective. This leads to yet another paradox: Bloom, with his maintenance of the traditional canon (no matter how he maintains it), is a refreshing singular voice in an academic critical environment dedicated to dismantling the canon through a conformist standardization of knowledge that functions by absorbing and disintegrating individual works through the corrosive surface gloss of umbrella paradigms, such as overemphasized versions of postcolonialism and posthumanism. Bloom, now 85, created yet another antidote to such trends with last year’s The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime. (more…)

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Mustang

knight-of-cups-photo-549006492899d

by Sam Juliano

The ferocious blizzard of last week has been followed up with some moderate temperatures, which have enabled much of the snow on the ground to melt away.  We now move to February, another winter month with a nasty track record, so we can’t be too complacent. The science-fiction countdown at the site draws closer, and all prospective voters are urged to give the venture some thought, if not some re-viewings.  Several weeks down the line I plan to send out an announcement to our e mail chain.  Pretty much similar to the last five genre polls all readers are urged to cast ballots, even if they are unable to write any of the essays.  January has been an awful moths for passings, the latest of whom is French New Wave master Jacques Rivette, a long-time favorites of this site’s writers and associates.

Our great friend and site countdown writer Stephen Mullen (Weeping Sam) has waxed lyrical on Rivette at The Listening Ear and it is well worth re-printing here at WitD:  “Jacques Rivette has died. He was 87, and apparently has been suffering from Alzheimers disease for the past few years – I had heard he was ill, and so am not surprised. Still; saddened. The news come the day after I finally finished paying my 88 pounds for the new Out 1 collection – unfortunately, before this object crossed the ocean to my front door, so I can’t spend the next week watching it… But it is coming…

He is One of the Great Ones. I haven’t posted any kind of list of favorite directors lately, but if I did, he would be up there – top 10 somewhere. I came to him late – most of my favorites I discovered in the mid and late 90s, when I started watching films obsessively. I saw some Rivette in that period, but didn’t see enough until 2007, when I saw a whole series – that immediately elevated him to his place among the greats. I do remember when I first heard about him – when La Belle Noiseuse came out – that was before I was an obsessive filmgoer, and the main thing I remember about it is that it was a very French film about a painter that had some actress naked for 3 hours. Some time after that, probably around 1998 or 99, I finally saw a Rivette – Haut Bas Fragile – by that time I had become an obsessive filmgoer, I knew who Jacques Rivette was, in a general sense (historically), and had seen some films obviously influenced by him – Pascal Bonitzer’s Encore, possibly, or some of the Assayas or Desplechins films that call Rivette to mind… I liked it – quite a bit in fact, though I don’t know if I could have explained it at the time. Later, Va Savoir got a bit of an American release, and I saw that in the theaters. And I tried renting the Story of Marie and Julian, though the DVD copy I got was damaged and I missed the opening 15 minutes or so of the film – which made it even more incomprehensible… Though still enjoyable. I liked Va Savoir very much – liked The Story of Marie and Julian well enough. It meant that Rivette had gone into that pile of directors whose films are just too hard to see – so you have to wait for your chance and take it. (more…)

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20160123_161618

20160123_161729 (1)

by Sam Juliano

One of the worst snow storms to ever regale the northern New Jersey/New York City region dropped at least twenty-six inches of snow, effectively paralyzing the area, and forcing the shutdown of roads and crossings.  Needless to say Broadway dimmed its lights and many movie theaters closed.  Schools in my own hometown have cancelled classes on Monday, which is two days after the storm, and the roads, though slowly making a comeback, are still in some spots impossible to pass through.  The coming of the storm and matters connected with making copies of films have occupied me all week, and have prevented any theatricals film viewings, though I have re-watched many 2015 films at home during this week of madness.  What with digging out cars and shoveling sidewalks in the cards for the coming days, I’m sure this will be another difficult week, with responsibilities likely to trump entertainment.  19 new links are to follow here:

(more…)

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divers-640x346

Welcome to the wonderful world of what was cinema for me this 2015. It was a year of discoveries, wonderful insights and a change of pace in terms of how I react and write about the movies that I see. I won’t start saying that my list has more or less authority, or personality than any of the others around the world, specially since it comes in the middle of January, when most people have already done their lists and have already been revered, feared or mocked because of them. So, without much further ado, I present to you what I consider to be the best 20 films of 2015.

For this list I consider only audiovisual projects that were originally released in 2015, whether they be in festivals, commercial theaters, online, secret screenings, online leaks, or whatever it is that I ended up seeing them, but only screened or published for the first time in the calendar year of 2015. Beyond that, anything goes, here you could end up seeing short films, TV movies, music videos, Mini-series, Web videos and many feature-length films, watched in theaters, festivals or online. This is the 21st century, welcome to it. My list might not be the most original or even the most eclectic, but I can say that these 20 films defined my 2015.

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brooklyn

wolf hall

phoenix

by Sam Juliano

My Top 10 Films of 2015 (and the runners-up)

I saw nearly 170 movies in theaters over the past year, though 36 were at Tribeca. My list of 10 is really a list of 12 as I have an-impossible-to-break three-way tie for Number 10. My runners-up list includes films I really liked a lot as well. I have seen every last awards contender, so the ones that are missing are films I just didn’t care for or were indifferent towards. 2015 marks the first time I have ever included a TV mini-series since I started making lists in 1970, but I felt I had good reason to this time

Top Ten:

1. Brooklyn (Ireland/UK)
2. Wolf Hall (UK; mini-series)
3. Phoenix (Germany)
4. Carol (USA)
5. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden)
6. 45 Years (UK)
7. Son of Saul (Hungary)
8. The Revenant (USA)
9. Youth (Italy/UK/USA)
10. The Tribe (Ukraine)
The Hateful Eight (USA)
The Assassin (Taiwan) -three way tie-

Runners-Up:

Room
A Woman in Gold
Anomalisa
Bridge of Spies
The Clouds of Sils Maria
It’s Me Marlon
The Lady in the Van
Sicario
Slow West
Spotlight
The Danish Girl

Lucille and I saw one film in the theaters this past week – In the Shadow of Women, a French film by Phillip Gerrel at the IFC:

In the Shadow of Women     ***      (Saturday night)   IFC

New links will go up next Monday.  With the completion of the Caldecotts and the composition of the list I was unable to do anything with them today.  But next week they will definitely return.

ROONEY MARA and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

pigeon-sat-on-branch-reflecting-existence

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by Allan Fish
Falling Leaves – 1912, France, Alice Guy-Blaché
Suspense – 1913, US, Lois Weber
The Smiling Madame Beudet – 1923, France, Germaine Dulac
The Adventures of Prince Achmed – 1926, Germany, Lotte Reiniger
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty – 1927, USSR, Esfir Shub
Women of Ryazan – 1928, USSR, Olga Preobrazhenskaya
The Seashell and the Clergyman – 1928, France, Germaine Dulac
Mädchen in Uniform – 1931, Germany, Leontine Sagan
The Blue Light – 1932, Germany, Leni Riefenstahl
Triumph of the Wall – 1935, Germany, Leni Riefenstahl
Dada – 1936, US, Mary Ellen Bute
Olympische Spiele: Parts I & II – 1938, Germany, Leni Riefenstahl
Dance, Girl, Dance – 1940, US, Dorothy Arzner
Meshes of the Afternoon – 1943, US, Maya Deren
Ritual in Transfigured Time – 1946, US, Maya Deren
The Last Stage – 1947, Poland, Wanda Jakubowska
Paris 1900 – 1947, France, Nicole Védrès
Those Blasted Kids – 1947, Denmark, Astrid Henning-Jansen
Death is a Caress – 1949, Norway, Edith Carlmar
Olivia – 1951, France, Jacqueline Audry
A Portrait of Ga – 1952, UK, Margaret Tait
The Stranger Left no Card – 1952, UK, Wendy Toye
The Hitch-Hiker – 1953, US, Ida Lupino
The Moon Has Risen – 1955, Japan, Kinuyo Tanaka
Araya – 1959, Venezuela, Margot Benaceraf
Poem of the Sea – 1959, USSR, Julia Solntseva
Ung Flukt – 1959, Norway, Edith Carlmar
The Story of the Flaming Years – 1961, USSR, Julia Solntseva
The Connection – 1961, US, Shirley Clarke
Cleo from 5 to 7 – 1962, France, Agnès Varda
The Cool World – 1963, US, Shirley Clarke
The House is Black – 1963, Iran Farough Farrokzhad

(more…)

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