Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In The Realm Of The Senses

A film about a couple of people who like to Do It. My favorite storyline! Although the drama escalates alongside a period of government imperialism, not much of that came through onscreen.

Maybe because this was a deprecated version checked out from the Seattle Public Library, rather than the recent Criterion reissue? The cover of SPL's copy says it runs 104 minutes; the DVD player says it's 97. Criterion says their version is 102 minutes... hmmm. Either way, it sounds like someone forgot to include five to seven minutes worth of government imperialism in the version I watched.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

High Fidelity

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

A must-see for obsessive collectors and list-makers. Directed by Stephen Frears.

All I know is, it was on the rack during Hollywood Video's death watch. I took it home and watched it, not even knowing that it was almost exactly the tenth anniversary of its original release.

Let's see what the Scarecrow Movie Guide has to say:

"This film is most appropriate for boys who are obsessed with something (records, movies, comics, ex-girlfriends) and spend most of their time drinking and masturbating."




Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seven Samurai

Now HERE's what can happen when Criterion takes a noteworthy film and upgrades the barebones initial release. I picked up this expanded three-disc set at Barnes & Noble's half-price Criterion sale, and waited until the 100th anniversary of Akira Kurosawa taking his first breath to soak it in again.

Um. A day late. Because on March 23, AK's 100th birthday, I worked hellish long hours and would have fallen asleep watching a three-hour film afterward, even one that doesn't drag. So I watched it on March 24 instead. Despite that, it remained a three-hour joyride that doesn't drag. And now I have several discs worth of commentary and extras to work my way through. Because I have lots of spare time to do that, haha! Maybe I'll finish up those discs for his bicentennial....

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Naked Kiss

This disc needs an upgrade!

Samuel Fuller, who began his career by depicting the useless horror of war in "The Steel Helmet" and ended it by depicting the useless horror of war in "The Big Red One," here depicts the useless horror of daily life as seen by a former prostitute. Gotta love a film that starts with a woman beating the crap out of a man, then he pulls off her wig revealing her bald head, then she rifles through his wallet, taking only the $75 she is owed and leaving him with the rest. All the while, a wild jazz score is playing like these two are the second stage at a nightclub.

In non-anamorphic, no-extras, you'll-watch-this-movie-and-like-it style, a disc as bare-bones as Criterion has ever made.

Wait a sec ... there's a trailer ... woo-hoo!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


If you love caper flicks, this is where it's at. I had run my course through the "Italian Neo-realism" genre and didn't know where to go next, until a bunch of French gangster movies starting coming my way. So long and thanks for all the cheap discs, Hollywood Video. You'll live on forever, as long as no one tells the Web 2.0 geniuses otherwise.

The centerpiece of this film, and the reason why you love caper flicks, is the half-hour, dialogue-free jewel heist. No music soundtrack either (a point of contention during the production). Just some perfectly timed sound effects which, when stripped of words and music, tell their own story better than words or music could have.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Children Are Watching Us

A classic of Italian neo-realism, the genre which dealt with real life after wartime, this one from the perspective of a child who learns that adults are not who they seem to be. Just as we always suspected.

Did I watch this film because it was restored as best as could be? Possibly, but... no. Because I nabbed it for only a few bucks at Hollywood Video's Death Watch sale? Good idea, but... meh.

Because it's from Italy? Directed by Vittorio de Sica? No.

No, I watched it because it was 10:15 PM, and I had to wake up at 7 the next morning for work. It's a classic, but also it is brief. 84 minutes brief, not 110 or 129 or 142 minutes like SOME of those films... [rolls eyeballs, goes to sleep]

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bright Star

A film I very much wanted to see last year from the moment it was released, but it wasn't able to get to a theater near me, and I wasn't able to get to a theater further away. Fortunately or not, Hollywood Video is sucking the gas pipe, so I was able to pick up a "new" copy of this disc (hmmm, without insert or original case...) for a pittance plus sales tax.

The penniless poet John Keats falls for the girl next door: the upperclass (compared to him anyway) Fanny Brawne. Whereupon her family casts a stern glance, possibly even arching an eyebrow. Then he falls gravely ill, as foreshadowed by the death of his brother. You've probably seen enough films to know where this is headed. Except, when you see the gender roles reversed, you'll think about it differently.

I didn't want to see it for a surprise ending or anything. I just wanted to see it because Jane Campion knows a thing or two about making movies worth watching. And if there was bonus footage of Rome, so much the better. Turns out, not so much footage of Rome except for one minute at the very end. Fitting indeed.

And yea, that's Kerry Fox, heroine from many Campion films ago, appearing here as Fanny Brawne's mum, and eventually coming around to her daughter's side. Good for you, mum.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Variety Lights

Long out of print, I found this Criterion disc at Hollywood Video's Death Watch liquidation for about seven bucks. No extras, no commentary, no insert, no original case, no dignity. Just the disc, please. Oooh, with Hollywood Video stickers all over it?! Thank you sir!

Federico Fellini's directoral debut, with co-direction from Alberto Lattuada. After Fellini established his career and hit the inevitable roadblocks, he made a film about a director who doesn't know how to make his next film, which he called "8 1/2." Because that's how many films he had made up to that point: "Variety Lights" is the one-half of "8 1/2."

A band of lowbrow stagemongers make their way across the map, with some guy in charge who might know what he's doing ... or, maybe not. He is pretty good at picking out talent, even if he doesn't have the ability to hang on to it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Passenger

A double feature -- after coming home from "Crazy Heart" at the CCC, I put in this disc from the Seattle Public Library. Maybe Michelangelo Antonioni's best, most accessible film. And defintely an understated performance from Jack Nicholson, if you're wondering whether he ever did that sort of thing.

Antonioni's MO was to use landscape to separate his characters and emphasize their isolation, usually to the general derision of moviegoers but not necessarily critics. Here, most of the landscape turns out to be run-down hotel rooms, and long single takes seeing what happens in them, and looking outside their windows. At last, something we all can relate to?

Crazy Heart

My first trip this year to the Columbia City Cinema, the day after the Academy Awards, to soak up Best Actor Jeff Bridges.

Completely unrecognized by the politico-industrial-awards machine were Robert Duvall as a small-town bar owner, and Colin Farrell as a country music superstar. Maybe because they were each playing a role you might expect from the other? And maybe that's how they were able to make the character work for them.

I just watched this other film recently and couldn't help but notice the parallels.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Now, Voyager

I wanted to use the Friday night KCTS flick to give Harrison a little primer in mid-20th Century studio classics. He was skeptical and started to doze off about halfway through. Can't say that I blame him -- many times I will rent or buy something, begin watching it, and just before the final reel ... I wake up, and it's over already.

So Harrison trudged off to bed while I watched Bette Davis go from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. Just as she's turning that corner, with about 20 minutes left ... I woke up and the credits were running. I hate when that happens.