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by Duane Porter

There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few months concerning the state of cinema in 2014. Many seem to feel that it was a decidedly mediocre year for movies. I can agree, there have been years when it seemed that something wonderful opened every week during October, November, and especially, December. This was not one of those years. But, when all is said and done, 2014 has been a truly fabulous year. Living far from New York, L.A., and any of the major film festivals, It has taken a lot longer this year for me to have an opportunity to see the ten films that comprise this list, but, they were there all along.

1. Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson01_Inherent Vice, 2014, WitD

“She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to. Doc hadn’t seen her for over a year. Nobody had. Back then it was always sandals, bottom half of a flower-print bikini, faded Country Joe & the Fish T-shirt. Tonight she was all in flatland gear, hair a lot shorter than he remembered, looking just like she swore she’d never look.”

“That you, Shasta?”

“Need your help, Doc.”

Disguised as a detective story, riffing on The Big Sleep or The Long Goodbye, it’s really a picaresque whimsy on which to hang a poem about the passage of time and the sense of loss. What’s it all about? It doesn’t matter any more than it did in The Big Sleep. Often obliquely funny but drenched in a soul-numbing sadness, Inherent Vice is a metaphor for the built-in unavoidable fleeting nature of all things human.

All things human and and all the things humans strive for, just when we think we’ve caught sight of nirvana it always seems to slip away as if there is some dark force holding us back. “Was it possible, that at every gathering — concert, peace rally, love-in, be-in, and freak-in, here, up north, back East, wherever — those dark crews had been busy all along, reclaiming the music, the resistance to power, the sexual desire from epic to everyday, all they could sweep up, for the ancient forces of greed and fear?”

As Doc and Shasta drive into the fog, the glow of headlights passing over their faces, Shasta says, “Being with you is like being under the sea, where the whole world ceases to matter.” Doc says, “But it doesn’t mean we’re back together.” She replies, “Of course not.” (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Childhood Films countdown has reached the end of first phase, after the deadline for Top 60 submissions ended on Sunday night at 11:00 P.M. EST.  The grand total of 35 ballots is a record for the site’s genre polls, and spells a Herculean task for Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. who will be sorting out the votes over the coming days.  After the results are sent out to an e mail chain affiliated with the process, writing assignments will be settled upon with about fifteen writers sharing the work load.  Mid-June is the target days for launching.

The last of our brood of five, 13 year-old Jeremy received his confirmation on Sunday afternoon at Fairview’s Our Lady of Grace Church.  His “sponsor” was his older brother Sammy, and his confirmation name was John.  We enjoyed a terrific meal afterwards at a favored eatery in Monclair.

On Saturday night, Lucille, Sammy and Jeremy and I met up with a few friends to hear the rock group Nemyses at the Oak Dale House in Maywood.

I watched some DVD/blu rays (the Italian film, 1860 and the British The Lost Prince.  In theaters, Lucille and I had a very light week, seeing only:

The Farewell Party               ****    (Friday night)   Angelica Film Center

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woman in gold

Screen cap from underrated WOMAN IN GOLD with Helen Mirren

by Sam Juliano

Memorial Day 2015.  Barbecues, backyard swimming pools and relaxation are on most of the personal itineraries, as the weather in these parts cooperates gloriously.  Around the corner are proms and graduations, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Here at Wonders in the Dark, the resident cineastes are gearing up for the Greatest Childhood Films Countdown, which is projected to launch sometime around June 15th.  Ballots have been flying in all week (well over 20 to this point) and will be accepted until May 31st at 11:00 P.M.  Any WitD reader is welcome to submit their Top 60 at TheFountain26@aol.com.

Lucille and I took in young Sammy’s final high school Spring concert at Cliffside Park High School on Wednesday night.  Sammy plays the baritone, and after the instrumental numbers we stayed on for the chorus and ensemble.  A great night in music.

You really have to question what is going on in the professional film critics’ ranks these days. Granted print media is on the decline, but when nearly 100% of the fraternity rates a movie like MAD MAX -utter trash that is surely one of the WORST films I’ve seen in years -good for those who are action and loud noise addicts, but no redeeming value whatsover- among the highest of the year, and issues divided reviews on WOMAN IN GOLD, a lovely film with Helen Mirren that is far better than many of these people give it credit for, you know something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Why engage in a thoughtful film, when we can sit and have our brains fried with meaningless drivel? Right. Of course. Makes perfect sense. But we know many of these publicans need ad revenue, so the ratings are inflated. Sad.

 

Mad Max   *     (Friday night)     Secaucus Multiplex

Woman in Gold   **** 1/2  (Saturday night)   Montclair

 

 

 

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We’ve got the totals and the winners of the prizes.
We raised $1,700. The prize winners are as follows:
Choice of Betty Jo Tucker’s print book CONFESSIONS OF A MOVIE ADDICT or Kindle version of her autobiography IT HAD TO BE US: Aesha Williams
Winners of a DVD set of NFPF’s Treasure of the New Zealand Film Archive: Lynnette Fuller, Buckey Grimm, and Lois Palmer
Winner of autographed copy of Farran Smith Nehme’s MISSING REELS: Mike Smith
Winner of hardbound copy of Mike Smith’s FLICKERING EMPIRE: Rachel Herman
Winner of Flicker Alley’s DVD set 3-D Rarities: Susan Reynolds
Winner of Milestone’s DVD Land of the Head Hungers: Bob Fergusson
Winner of script for Jerry Lewis’ film THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED: Gail Sonnefeld.
I’ll put up a short post on FonF tomorrow and on FB. You might want to do the same.
Thanks, fellas!
Marilyn

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cinema of childhood

by Sam Juliano

For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon has officially concluded, but latecomers are more than welcome to avail themselves of both the donation links under every submission, and can still send on science-fiction film reviews for the rest of the week.  I will diligently post any received under the home post, which presently sports 21 reviews.  I don’t know the final figures, but I do know that both Marilyn Ferdinand and Roderick Heath were delighted by the manner in which the five-day venture proceeded and like myself have evinced the philosophy that the assets will help towards the goal of restoring the 1918 silent Cupid in Quarantine.  Speaking for myself I must say I had a whale of a time serving as host for the final official day (Sunday) and was astonished at the high-quality of each and every submission.   Needless to say the posts sent on from both Ms. Ferdinand and the renowned writer and critic Farren Smith Nehme were to put it mildly – stupendous.  But so were all the others, including a late entry on the politics of Doctor Who by the guest writer Varem Mehta at Andrew Hartmann’s US Intellectual History blogsite.  The numbers recorded at Wonders in the Dark were the highest in about two years.  The home post attracted 401 page views yesterday, while overall the 1,700 plus total for the day was similarly the most impressive over the same period.  Just today another 112 page views are registered under the home post, meaning well over 500 for a two day period of live activity.  I don’t mean to boast, but I’m just saying…..To repeat: It ain’t over till its over, and anyone still wishing to help out the cause with donations or reviews (right now the former is begging for some serious attention!) get on the bandwagon!  A great big thank you to all those who made this project such a resounding success!!!

Venture Number 2 is also moving forward.  Best Films About Childhood polling and countdown is officially in gear today, when Top 60 ballots will be accepted and sent on to the e  mail chain during the course of the day.  The window for accepting ballots will run till Sunday evening, May 31st at 11:00 P.M.  At that point the results will be in the hands of Voting Tabulator extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., who will spend a week with them, announcing the figures on or around June 6th.  After that assignments will be gobbled up by the writers, and the countdown will launch at Wonders in the Dark on Monday June 15th.  The Top 60 Greatest Childhood Films Countdown will run Monday through Friday for twelve (12) weeks, meaning it will conclude sometime in the middle of September.  So far ballots have been received from Allan Fish, Shubhajit Lahiri and Pat Perry.  Allan’s was sent out to the chain two months ago, while the latter two will go out to the group today.  My own ballot will also be sent out tonight to said fraternity.

Lucille, young Sammy, Jeremy and I spent Friday night at Joey’s Restaurant in scenic Hewitt, New Jersey listening to the incomparable guitarist/soloist Gene Focarelli do his thing on the occasion of Sammy’s 18th Birthday.  We wanted to celebrate that watershed in some manner of style and in the company of good friends, and we managed both with much room to spare.  Gene even performed his own song “Five Minutes More” which frankly has long deserved release in the professional circuits.  Focarelli’s guest musicians did a fabulous job as well, but nothing to match his soulful virtuoso work. (more…)

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For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon is nearing its five day conclusion, but here at Wonders in the Dark – final day host site, we still think there is plenty of time to both make your voice heard and add to the growing total of financial proceeds aimed at restoring the silent film Cupid in Quarantine.  At the time of this post’s publication it is almost 10:30 P.M. EST, but the blogathon won’t actually end until 1:00 A.M. (CST), meaning we still have two-and-a-half hours left folks.  This is the time to step up to the plate, and help bring a long lost gem to resurrection.

This is the time.

Donation link:

https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/1397805?code=Blogathon%202015

 

 

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by Sam Juliano

For the first time ever, the much admired and successful Film Preservation Blogathon -the brainchild of Ferdy-on-Film’s Marilyn Ferdinand- has set up camp here at Wonders in the Dark, a few months after this astounding honor was set in place after a series of e mail exchanges with my dear friend from the Windy City, Ms. Ferdinand.  Our site replaces the previous third position occupied by the venerated Farren Smith Nehme, “the Self-Styled Siren,” a New York Post film critic, who has written numerous essays for Criterion’s DVD booklets, and has delighted the film community with her lovely personality and incomparable erudition.  Those are shoes impossible to fill, but the very idea that we at this six-year-old cinematic outpost have been selected to serve as host for the final day provides us with one of the greatest honors we’ve ever been graced with.  The previous four days of the renowned venture were staged at Ferdy and at This Island Rod (with the redoubtable Roderick Heath as host)  for two days each.  Many banner science-fiction film reviews were linked up on the home posts at both sites, and here at Wonders in the Dark we are really hoping to maintain the torrid pace.  Please remember to link up the donation icon (to be found on the sidebar here) at the end of your reviews.

Marilyn Ferdinand beautifully offers these specs:  “Our film is Cupid in Quarantine (1918), a one-reel Strand Comedy that tells the story of a young couple conspiring to stay together by staging a smallpox outbreak. The amount we’re shooting for is $10,000 to go to the National Film Preservation Foundation to cover laboratory costs for the film’s preservation as well as a new score for the film’s web premiere. The streaming film will be available free of charge to everyone online at the NFPF website. (more…)

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