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by Sam Juliano

The funeral service on Monday in Kendal (U.K.) for Allan Fish included an exceedingly beautiful celebration of his life at the Cathedral-like Kendal Parish Church. It was lovingly moderated by the Rev. Jo Hurst, I was beyond deeply honored to deliver a eulogy for my dear friend, -along with Allan’s uncle Dave Fish- and my daughters and I spent our time during the brief two and a half day stay with Allan’s saintly mum Sue and devoted aunt Anne Cafferkey, who once again served as incomparable hosts at the worst time in anyone’s life.  We were also stunned to be told we would be included in the main limousine with Sue, Anne and Allan’s Dad Michael.  Allan chose the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” “The Rains of Castamere” from Game of Thrones and the shattering “When I Am Lain in Earth” from Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell. It was so deeply moving to see Allan’s former Kendal College workers standing at attention as the procession passed by. Allan’s final resting place is under a tree in Parkside Cemetery, but this extraordinarily talented writer’s legacy is only just beginning.


Here is the eulogy I delivered at the Kendal Parish Church in the U.K.’s stunningly beautiful Lake District hamlet about 90 miles south of the Scottish border:


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(39) THX 1138


Bob Clark

This episode focuses on George Lucas’ debut masterpiece THX 1138, number 39 on the Wonders in the Dark sci fi countdown, but also takes some time to look back with appreciation to the recently departed Alan Fish, co-founder of the Wonders site and one of the greatest undiscovered cinematic critics of this generation.



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40. Brazil (1985)


By Dean Treadway

Looking back now, given the film’s anti-authoritarian stance, Brazil had the perfect release strategy, even if it came about by accident.

It was very much in character for Hollywood—and particularly, the meddlesome 70s/80s-era brass at Universal, who cynically impeded the progress of much gentler titles like Raggedy Man and Mask—to hold Terry Gilliam’s raucous movie away from the masses. Completed in mid-1985, Brazil was first unspooled for the studio bosses in an infamous screening that resulted in their abject anger; one wonders what they thought they were going to get, since we have to assume they at least thumbed through the incendiary, ultimately Oscar-nominated script by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and playwright Tom Stoppard (from an uncredited idea by Jabberwocky screenwriter and former Help! Magazine writer Chuck Alverson). Or, hell, maybe they DIDN’T read it; maybe they just didn’t have the time, darn it. At any rate, Universal’s confidence evaded Brazil early on. Their complaints: the film was too long, and incredibly depressing, while also falling very much on the bizarre side. So they demanded the film be recut and the convoluted ending be gussied up before they’d devote a penny for distribution and marketing. In the spirit of collaboration, Gilliam did retire to the editing room, excising twenty minutes from its running time. But he flat out refused to alter its stark, heartbreaking ending, which he rightfully felt was integral to the story’s aim.

So the film sat on the shelf, a victim of spite. And it sat and it sat until Gilliam decided to take unprecedented action. First came a lawsuit against Universal. Then Gilliam started commissioning embarrassing ads in the trade papers asking short-sighted studio honcho Sid Sheinberg (the villain of this story) when, exactly, he was going to release Brazil. This infuriated Sheinberg, who dug his heels in for a long-haul ruckus. “It happens with every film,” Gilliam later said. “There comes a moment where the money and the creative elements all come crashing together. Everybody’s under a lot of pressure, and everybody is panicking about what works and what doesn’t. And the studios and the money always have one perspective and the creative people have another one, and usually what happens is a lot of compromises get made.” Sounds like a familiar nightmare…



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41. Under the Skin (2013)


by Pedro Camolas

“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddle strings and harps, drums and tambourines I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony. “- Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet.

An old proverb says “The eyes are the window to the soul”. The opening shot of Under the Skin shows an infinite void thru an artificial human eye, giving us an early clue to the film’s theme. Masterfully done in Kubrick’s 2001 style.

Under the Skin, or The girl who fell to earth as Allan Fish would call it, follows the emotional journey of an alien invader. Jonathan Glazer brings Abbas Kiarostami style into the science fiction genre.

The main character, Laura (Scarlett Johansson), is a soulless alien. Disguised with a woman’s body, she introduces herself anonymously in our planet. A dead body tell us it’s an ongoing process, they are constantly present among us and this story is not an isolated event. Ants and flies appear has symbolic elements to give us a glance of how human beings are seen by those alien creatures. Laura meant to be a sort of black widow, attracting lonely men for dubious reasons, on the service of their civilization. In a recurrent scene, inside a house, those men get trapped on the spiders net, a mysterious black fluid. We also see a man on a motorbike, played by Jeremy McWilliams, a professional rider who delivers some wonderful images driving on Scottish wet roads. His character is a kind of foremen, who examines Laura’s eyes constantly, looking for the threatening awakening of a soul. It happened before with other girls, and with it comes rebellion.

At first is not easy to connect with the film, events unfold slowly and ambiguously. Wonderment only emerge when we start to put our attention where the action in fact relies, the eyes of the alien girl, where a soul tries to breakthrough. (more…)

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by Duane Porter
“The present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead.” — Sylvia Plath

Considering science fiction as a genre with it’s own codes and conventions, among the many well-worn themes it might focus on is what will the future be like. Dare we hope for utopia or is the opposite more likely? Science fiction often presents a cautionary tale concerning the potential consequences of our relationship with technology, playing on our fear of the unknown, foreseeing a technological dystopia where artificial intelligence has come into conflict with humanity (man-versus-machine). At it’s best, science fiction can offer a speculation using ideas derived from scientific research to shed light on the problem of our awareness of mortality (the human condition) and the withering indifference of the universe (space, time and infinity). On the basis of these criteria, Her surely qualifies as a science fiction film. It begins as a look at the future with an uncertain concern over the relationship between people and their mobile devices and how this affects social behavior. Then, at it’s center, Her becomes an uncommonly perceptive account of falling in love. Ultimately, it ends up being about something else, a reflection on the nature of consciousness and the mysteries of existence.



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 © 2016 by James Clark

      Many of the best and the brightest exponents of cutting-edge films approach us from out of formidable cinematographic, optical skills. Several—like David Lynch, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Ridley Scott, Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Jacques Demy, Spike Jonze, Wong Kar Wai, Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Glaser, Robert Bresson and Abbas Kiarostami—began their transaction as producers of paintings, graphic design, architecture, photography and fashion. As such their evocation of energies not appropriately recognized in mainstream history tend to unleash virtuoso visual impact (infused with aural complement). Jim Jarmusch, quite to the contrary—describable, I think, as Antonioni for extroverts—though far from inept as to visual and sonic excitement, has a playwright’s appetite for the revelatory range of dialogue and its precinct of interpersonal situations.

Near the outset of his second film, Down by Law (1986), we are treated to a piercing clash of bristling verbiage between a DJ, Zack (all but silent), and his girlfriend, Laurette (quickly living up to her born-to-lose name in the born-to-lose city of New Orleans, where nothing is new and the aura of being burned at the stake carries a lot of weight). As the episode catches fire, we have Zack in the Maid’s role and Laurette adding fuel to the fire in the form of pelting him with swatches of his CD and vinyl collection. “It’s just you… You don’t take care of me!” she declares. “I’m ashamed of you, Zack… I’m finished with you! I’m completely finished with you… I’ve had it with you and your fuckin’ stupid radio show” [with its myriad voices]. Then she skids into a zone where a recognition of glories notwithstanding have to be given some due. Laurette, an avatar of keeping the faith, comes down on her knees to reason with a beau sitting on the mattress on the floor but also thousands of miles away in his own (far less demonstrative) dilemma. “OK… Everything’s OK,” she whispers with tears forming in her eyes. “Why can’t you stay with one station? Why are you fuckin’ your own future? [He looks away] … What are you so afraid of, Zack?” By way of explaining himself, the music man offers, “Yeah, well that’s alright, Laurette… We can’t live in the present forever…” She, taking his in fact possibly complicated consideration to be a sign of welcome simplicity, points out that he could reapply to stations in the far-flung cities which he walked away from. “There’s nothing wrong with asking somebody for somethin’… [Frustration rising] Why is it always so fuckin’ hard for you?” The camera angle has her standing looking our way while Zack crouches on the floor, looking away. From out of this seeming channel of compromise she bids: “You’re a good DJ, Zack. All you gotta do is jerk people off a little… That’s all they really want, you know…” How wrong her hope was, however, is not long in blowing up in his face. He nods, in assenting to her awareness that to get ahead (and thereby take care of her sentimental priorities) you have to be comfortable (as she is) being a peasant. Then he explodes this mismatch by quietly and painfully wheezing, “Well, I never jerk people off… And you fuckin’ know it, Laurette…” Her reaction, predictably, involves more noise and violence. But, this being the work of a film aristocrat, she shows us much more than that. In the first seconds of this clash, she races about tossing those little black flying saucers, and her visage is as much a smile as a grimace. From out of that shaky passion she challenges his interpersonal pedigree. “I’m not talkin’ to you anymore… because you don’t want to fuckin’ be here! I hate you and I’m an idiot for being with you… You’ve made me embarrassed of my own time.” The final step of this honky-tonk refinement comprises her attempting to throw his Louboutin-vintage steel-toe Paris buckaroo boots over their wrought-iron balcony and into a desolate street of dreams. “Not the shoes!” he uncharacteristically yells. Her retort—“No? Go on, hit me, motherfucker! Hit me!” The full thrust of this strangely civilized freak-out involves a cut to that gutter and the wall setting it off with its torn beverage poster saying, “And don’t forget to bring Granddad…” Sitting on the curb, as he does, Zack momentarily seems a letdown. But then he tosses away the loafers he had put on to go downstairs and he slowly puts on the kickers Laurette did manage to violate, brushing them off with a rag. (more…)

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