Merry Christmas!

I hope your holidays are joyous and that Santa Baby showered you with lovely gifts and rapt attention. Here are a few film favorites of the season. Enjoy!

“Holiday Affair” from 1949 stars Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. It’s not film noir but Mitchum lends his bad-boy charm nonetheless. Don Hartman directs.

James Stewart co-stars with the enchanting Kim Novak in 1958’s “Bell, Book and Candle,” directed by Richard Quine. Of course, they both bow to the real star, Siamese kitty Pyewacket.

Film Noir Blonde reveals Pyewacket’s offscreen capers here.

The dark dream sequence in Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” is pure film noir.

Michael Wilmington reviews “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

And, in case you missed it earlier this month, FNB wrote about “Lady in the Lake,” an experimental film noir with a Christmas setting.

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FNB writer Michael Wilmington wins Golden Ciupaga award

From left: Sebastian Jankowski, director of the Polish Film Festival in Madison, Wis., Michael Wilmington and the Polish Film Festival in America’s Anna Maria Gliszczynska.

Exciting news from Chicago: the Polish Film Festival in America has honored contributing FNB writer Michael Wilmington with the Golden Ciupaga award for his contribution to the promotion of Polish film in the United States. Also honored was fellow film critic Zbigniew Banas. The awards were presented Nov. 20.

Now in its 23rd year under founder/director Christopher Kamyszew, the two-week festival typically features more than 70 features, documentaries and shorts, and draws Polish filmmakers from around the world. The fest attracts an audience of 35,000. Previous award winners include Roger Ebert; Piers Handling, head of the Toronto International Film Festival and Milos Stehlik, founder and director of Facets Multi-Media in Chicago.

Said Wilmington: “The Polish festival is a wonderful event. It opens up whole new worlds for its audience. This year, they brought one of 2011’s best movies, Agnieszka Holland’s brilliant ‘In Darkness’ and they brought Agnieszka too! I’m proud and very happy to accept this award.”

The intense-looking ciupaga signifies trailblazing achievement. “In Darkness,” a World War Two-era suspense drama set in Lvov, a German-occupied city in Poland, opens in the U.S. Dec. 9.

From left: Beata Banas, Michael Wilmington, Iwona Korzeniowska and Anna Maria Gliszczynska.

Holland received Academy Award nominations for “Angry Harvest” and “Europa, Europa.” The latter film won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

She received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for the pilot of the HBO series “Treme,” and got critical praise for her work on “The Wire.”

Besides Chicago, a city with more than 1 million inhabitants of Polish descent, the PFFA hosts satellite screenings in Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Boston, Minneapolis and Rochester, N.Y.

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FNB writer Wilmington wins Chicago journalism award

Michael Wilmington

I’m very pleased to share some exciting news. Contributing FNB writer Michael Wilmington has won a Peter Lisagor award for exemplary journalism from the Chicago Headline Club. Wilmington won in the arts reporting and criticism category for a non-daily publication, circulation less than 20,000. His “Front Row” DVD column runs in the Chicago Jewish Star, which is owned and operated by Doug and Gila Wertheimer.

“Thanks to the Headline Club and thanks to the Star – I love writing for them,” Wilmington told FNB. He also won a 1993 Lisagor as an individual critic for the Chicago Tribune and was part of a Tribune critics’ project that won a 2007 Lisagor.

Roger Ebert

Additionally, three veteran journalists received lifetime achievement awards. They are: Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967; Richard C. Longworth, who spent nearly 30 years at the Chicago Tribune as an economics reporter, business editor, chief European correspondent and senior writer; and Elizabeth Brackett, correspondent and substitute host for WTTW’s flagship public-affairs program Chicago Tonight.

The Chicago Headline Club is the country’s largest chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The club announced the winners of the 34th annual Lisagor awards Friday at Chicago’s Hotel Allegro.

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Noir City 9 memorial reel honors movie greats

At the recent Noir City 9 in San Francisco, besides the marvelous movies, audiences got to see a memorial reel for talent who died in 2010, created by Richard Hildreth, Noir City showrunner.

Peter Graves in "The Night of the Hunter"

The reel honored: Blake Edwards (“Experiment in Terror”), Gloria Stuart (“The Old Dark House”), Peter Graves (“The Night of the Hunter”), John Forsythe (“In Cold Blood”), Anne Francis (“Rogue Cop”), Kevin McCarthy (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), Patricia Neal (“The Breaking Point”) and Tony Curtis (“Sweet Smell of Success”).

Seeing Graves’ name and the clip from “The Night of the Hunter” (recently re-released by Criterion) reminded me to feature this movie on my site and I’m lucky to have a review to share from critic Michael Wilmington.

MW rightly praises Robert Mitchum’s performance. But for me it is the child actors, Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce, who make the film so moving and resonant.

Peter Graves image from
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