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by Bill Gibron

16 Nov 2010

In a literary catalog that contains such brilliant masterworks as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, Charles Dickens remains best known for his early novella A Christmas Carol. A standard morality tale about mending one’s ways and enjoying the true pleasures in life, the famed author used the brief book as a means of doing what he did best - commenting on class, championing the poor, and deconstructing the severe social stigmas of his viable Victorian age. Though he would come up with far more complicated expressions of his views, A Christmas Carol‘s seemingly simplistic message continues to resonate, even 160 years after it was originally written.

Of course, it helps that Dickens created a classic antagonist/protagonist with the character of miserly moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the author forged a part so palpable that, immediately upon publication, actors were lining up to play the role. A Christmas Carol was such a huge hit that stage adaptations and other theatrical versions immediately sprang up - each with its own unique interpretation of the main role. In fact, Scrooge has become such a symbol of the holiday ‘spirit’ that we seemingly get new versions of the tale every year. From female-ccentric takes to radical rethinkings, A Christmas Carol always manages to maintain its timelessness.

by Bill Gibron

11 Nov 2010

We’ve had killer klowns, pod people, and replicants. Earth has been overrun by predators, robots, and some manner of interstellar “vampire”.  Ever since cavemen noticed unexplained lights in the sky and marveled at where they could possibly come from, folklore (and their modern equivalent, films) have speculated on the very stars above, wondering if they are inhabited and the intentions of said unseen space dwellers. Sadly, most of our narratives have focused on evil ETs, beings and their advanced technologies bent on taking over the entire galaxy - with our planet directly in their path. While we have had the occasional visionary variation, most of the time its saucers, lasers, and lots and lots of carnage.

The latest version of this cosmic campfire tale - the unscreened for critics Skyline - arrives in theaters on 12 November, and in celebration of said end of the world scenario, SE&L has decided to fashion a Top 10 list of the Alien Invasion Films. Of course, this is a matter of opinion, not rote reality, and your mileage/choices/appreciation will - and definitely should - vary. In a genre overrun with middling to mediocre examples, our picks are not necessarily endemic.  Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on those films which tried something different - and on occasion, failed fabulously. We’ve also decided against numbering said entries, since position is a tangential issue at best.

by Bill Gibron

11 Nov 2010

In regards to film, 2010 will probably be noted for a great many things: the increased use of that seemingly indestructible cinematic gimmick, 3D; the continuing decline in RomCom quality; the sudden increase in worthwhile CG family films (outside of the Pixar imprint); further proof that Christopher Nolan is a mainstream auteur worth paying attention to; the lack - at least as of this date - of serious end of the year awards season contenders. A few months ago, we scoffed at the suggestion that 2010 was one of the worst years ever for film, from the lack of compelling summer blockbusters to the dearth of definite Oscar fodder. But there is actually a better description of this unusual 12 months. If it goes down as anything, 2010 will be seen as the year of the misunderstood movie, an artistic anomaly which saw at least four fine films fall by the commercial wayside.

Now, cash is never an accurate measure of quality, and in at least one instance we will discuss, there was never a question of the title’s true box office viability. It really wasn’t made for such shilling. But the others were, and in that regard, what is shockingly clear is that films made for and marketed to a supposedly solid demographic came and went without much financial fanfare. While nothing in this crazy business called show is certain, it’s hard to imagine that a rock ‘em, sock ‘em crowd-pleasing actioner, a reinvented post-modern RomCom, a moody and atmospheric horror film, and a subtle, sophisticated science fiction effort would all disappoint come bottom line time.

by Bill Gibron

19 Oct 2010

What happens when we lose a Wes Craven? Who will take the place of a Sam Raimi or a Dario Argento? Is there a talent bank of horror maestros waiting around somewhere, their penchant for terror untapped and underutilized? It’s an intriguing question, especially for those of us who worship at the vault of evil’s baroque doors. As we move into the next decade of the new millennium, it looks like there are less and less genius genre filmmakers around. Go back 30 years and you can argue over the impressive oeuvre of creepshow kingpins like George Romero, John Carpenter, and Lucio Fulci. Fast forward to 2010 and…the void is frightening - more frightening than some of the macabre titles coming out of the sloppy cinematic machine known as Hollywood.

Granted, we have lost some of the mavericks through categorical attrition. While one assumes he would go back tomorrow and deliver another devastating operatic bio-dread masterpiece as he did with The Fly, David Cronenberg has found much more success (and consistent work) as a manufacturer of more mainstream fare. Similarly, Peter Jackson’s love of all things splatter got sidetracked with a stint in Middle Earth - and with his return there more than likely, we won’t be seeing his gore-laden laughfests anytime soon. Indeed, it seems that many of the new experts of eerie are walking a fine line between their roots and career reality. Many want to champion the films they loved as fans. The problem is, finding an available outlet for such shivers.

by Bill Gibron

12 Oct 2010

Last week, it was announced that Zack Snyder, the famed director of the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, and Watchmen, was given the reigns of one of Warner Brothers most troubled franchises - Superman. Selected by none other than Batman guru Christopher Nolan and gifted with the almost impossible task of resurrecting the Man of Steel after the less than successful attempt by former comic book messiah Bryan Singer, Messageboard Nation has, naturally, been abuzz about the selection. Some see it as an assault to the sensibilities of superhero fans everywhere. Others suggest that Snyder just might be the one to revive the character’s failing film fortunes.

It’s a nice thought - but before we leap to commercial conclusions, let’s see what Snyder has to offer. He’s definitely had some hits - Dawn and 300 were huge for their type - and he’s proven he can tackle the genre (Watchmen had to be one of the toughest cinematic challenges ever). While his recent family film The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole was a technical masterpiece, it definitely had some narrative flaws. Luckily, the trailer and advanced word on next year’s Sucker Punch is that the director has once again delivers the combination of eye candy and excitement that made his reputation in the first place.

//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

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