Monday, November 30, 2015

Films That I Saw: November 2015

The year is almost coming to an end and honestly, I’m starting to be glad it’s coming to an end. It was kind of tough as I was dealing with all sorts of things as I’m now trying to look ahead into the new year. Even as I’ve been slowing things down lately as I’ve spent much of my time writing almost non-stop until last December where I was ill and spent much of 2015 not writing almost every day. I think it’s now because I just need some time where I don’t want to write anything as it does become a chore where I’m in need to want to do other things for the time being. Another thing that’s been bothering me is that I haven’t gone out very much often due to lack of funds or not having the access to go to places. The only thing I’m looking forward is whatever films are coming out in the final month and finish whatever projects I have left.

In the month of November, I saw a total of 40 films in 26 first-timers and 14 re-watches. Surprisingly up from last month as one of the big highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Here are the top 10 First-Timers I saw for November 2015:

1. Cleo from 5 to 7

2. A Woman is a Woman

3. The Decline of Western Civilization III

4. Pierrot Le Fou

5. Camp X-Ray

6. The Crowd

7. The Decline of Western Civilization

8. Le Bonheur


10. Red Army

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

Another of DC Comics’ animated films is definitely one of the more entertaining entries in the series. This time around, it revolves around Lex Luthor being the President of the United States of America who plots in having the public turn against Superman and Batman. With the aid of Power Girl and a computer nerd, the two do whatever it takes to save the world from Luthor and a Kryptonite meteorite from destroying Earth. It’s a film that is quite adventurous but also is very funny.

Kareem: Minority of One

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is unquestionably one of the greatest names to play basketball as HBO made a documentary about the man and his career from his early days playing in the schools of New York City and his illustrious run with UCLA, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Los Angeles Lakers. It also shows a man who is also very sensitive as well as express his disdain for the press while finding ways to deconstruct the often-complicated public image he has as this brooding man. Featuring interviews from the likes of Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Pat Riley, and Arsenio Hall. The documentary isn’t just one of the finest profiles one of the greatest athletes in sports but also a man that is really one of the great human beings to walk on the face of the Earth.

The Latin Explosion: A New America

It is believed that the second largest Spanish-speaking country around the world is the United States of America and maybe that is true. Another documentary from HBO chronicles the rise of the Latino culture from post-war era to the 21st Century with interviews from entertainers like Rita Moreno, Jose Feliciano, Cheech Marin, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, George Lopez, and many others. It plays into the impact the world of music and film would have on American culture from Desi Arnaz to new stars like Pitbull and Romeo Santos. While I don’t exactly identify myself as a Latin American due to my own taste in films and music, I do applaud the impact it has on American culture no matter what that Fascist Asshole is saying.

McFarland, USA

Another film that relates to the world of Latin Americans yet it is actually a pretty good film despite the white savior cliché. Still, Kevin Costner delivers a very solid performance as a former football coach who moves from Iowa to the predominantly Mexican-American small town of McFarland, California where he would become the school’s cross-country coach. It’s a role that has Costner be humbled but also display some humor in how he interacts with these young kids who seemed to not have a future outside of McFarland but he shows them there is a future. Even as it gives this town that is largely Mexican-American not just hope but also pride to be Americans as it features some amazing filmmaking from director Niki Caro.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

I’ll admit, I did like the first one because it was funny and it wasn’t trying to be anything but a simple family comedy about a mall cop trying to take down the bad guys. This film however is just fucking shit. Not only is it lazy but it has no heart nor is it funny at all. Plus, it’s largely set in Las Vegas where it features some of the worst cinematography that I had ever seen as it makes the look of the city worse than it already is. Kevin James really tries too hard to be funny and such but it doesn’t work as this is just another piece of shit from the people of Happy Madison and confirmation that Andy Fickman just plainly fucking sucks as a filmmaker.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Grand Illusion

2. Bull Durham

3. The Deer Hunter

4. The Wedding Singer

5. The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years

6. Slither

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

8. The UCLA Dynasty

9. Mannequin

10. White Nights

Well, that is it for November. For December aside from whatever holiday-themed films or specials that come across my way. There will be reviews of films by Sam Peckinpah, Brian de Palma, David Lean, and some releases of films that came out in the past few years. Aside from The Force Awakens, I’m not sure what theatrical releases I’ll be doing. There will not be any list of what films will come out in 2016 as I’m just not interested in doing one. Other than my final Blind Spot assignment in Scarface as well as the final touches on my Auteurs piece on David Lynch and announcements for what is to come for the new year. That is all that is going to happen. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Criterion Wishlist III

With the holiday season approaching, it’s obvious that what film buffs want are DVD/Blu-Rays from the Criterion Collection since they always offer film lovers exactly what they want and more. Especially in November where Barnes & Nobles sell those DVD/Blu-Rays at half-price so that they can broaden their collection and make the un-cultured swines look pathetic. In the past few years, I’ve made a list about what I wanted and another one two years later. I was supposed to have one set this past July but other things got in the way as well as trying to figure out what films should go into Criterion. This list represents not just the films that I want to see in Criterion but also what kind of films and filmmakers that should be exposed to a wider audience. Here are the list of films that I think should go into the Criterion Collection in no particular order:

1. The General

Buster Keaton is a must in the world of film as he is considered one of the finest actors and filmmakers in the world of silent comedies. With Charles Chaplin and Harold Lloyd already have some of their films on Criterion, Keaton should be next on the list as his 1926 film would be the best place for his first release on Criterion. It should include audio commentary by historians of Keaton’s work as well as documentaries about the film and Keaton himself. The set should also include some short films of his to display his work as part of a series of releases to come for the comedy legend.

2. Frantic

Roman Polanski is already a staple for the Criterion Collection as much of his work from the 60s and a few from the 1970s are already part of Criterion. Yet, there isn’t much to cover about his work in the 1980s yet this film is often considered one of his most underrated. Not only should there be a remastered version of the film supervised by Polanski but also with an assortment of extras including interviews with Polanski, Harrison Ford, and Emmanuelle Seigner. Making-of footage as well as some possible deleted scenes and as an extra, Polanski’s much-maligned 1986 film Pirates in a remastered print with a new introduction by Polanski.

3. Mr. Jealousy

While it might be a minor film from Noah Baumbach in comparison to some of his recent films. It is still an interesting film that explores Baumbach’s fascination with growing up. The film set should feature extras that related to the film with interviews from cast members and Baumbach along with some deleted scenes. Another major extra is the film Highball that Baumbach made during production with a new introduction from Baumbach and his explanation into why he thinks it is his worst film.

4. Melancholia

Lars von Trier already has a few films on Criterion as it is obvious that more should come and what better film to be part of that than his 2011 film about the end of the world and how two different women react to it. The set shouldn’t just feature interviews with von Trier and his stars in Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg but also interviews with several cast and crew members as well as some insight into what von Trier wanted. Another special feature that should be added is a piece about depression with interviews with von Trier and Dunst talking about their own personal experiences with depression.

5. Possession

Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 horror film is definitely one of the finest and certainly scariest films of the genre though it’s really a dramatic interpretation of a couple coming apart. It’s a film that isn’t seen by a lot of people though horror has been a genre Criterion has been profiling as they would unveil cult horror films. The set should include interviews with Zulawski as well as stars Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill along with interviews with feminist film historians about the film.

6. American Gigolo

Paul Schrader’s 1980 film isn’t just a breakthrough for the filmmaker but also would be the film to make Richard Gere into a major film star in his role as a gigolo who sleeps with women for money. The DVD/Blu-Ray should feature a new remastered print supervised by Paul Schrader as well as commentary by Schrader and new interviews with Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton about the film. A special featurette on the film’s music to feature interviews with Giorgio Moroder and Debbie Harry of Blondie on the song Call Me.

7. Wendy and Lucy

Kelly Reichardt is one of the finest filmmakers working in American cinema though she is not really known to mainstream audiences due to the neo-realist approach to her films. Her third film that marked her first collaboration with Michelle Williams is certainly her crowning achievement as it plays into a young woman trying to find work with her dog. The extras should feature an audio commentary track from Reichardt, Williams, and the dog Lucy along with new interviews on the film and remastered versions of Reichardt’s short films.

8. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Michael Cimino is definitely one of the most controversial figures in American cinema during the New Hollywood era yet he is a filmmaker that is lauded by many. His first film as a director showcases his love for large landscapes as it plays into an unlikely partnership between two men on the road trying to find some stolen money. The extras should feature new interviews with Cimino and his stars Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges about the film as well as an audio commentary piece by film critic F.X. Feeney who some might know for his appearance in the documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.

9. Blow-Up

There’s no question that Michelangelo Antonioni’s work in the 1960s are among some of the best films that are ever made as all three films of his alienation trilogy along with Red Desert have been released on Criterion. Yet, there’s one other film from that decade that isn’t there as it’s his 1966 Palme d’Or-award winning film that captured Swinging London as well as being an intriguing murder mystery. A release on DVD/Blu-Ray is badly needed in not just a new transfer but also a remixed audio as the Warner Brothers DVD is horrible with its audio. Along with archival interviews with Antonioni, the film should feature new interviews with Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Birkin who appeared in the film along with musicians Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page about their appearances as well as Herbie Hancock who did the score. As an extra, the film should feature Il Provino which is a segment that Antonioni did for the 1965 omnibus film The Three Faces.

10. Adaptation

Spike Jonze already has one film in the Criterion Collection in Being John Malkovich as it’s time for another of his films to be included in his second film as it explores a screenwriter’s attempt to adapt Susan Orleans’ book The Orchid Thief. The film is need of a new DVD/Blu-Ray release that should include an abundance of extras including new interviews with Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper, a commentary track from Jonze and the film’s screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, some short films by Jonze, and an interview with Robert McKee about the film and Brian Cox’s portrayal on McKee.

11. Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 film is definitely a sci-fi film like no other as it’s it plays into many of ideas of what an alien would encounter if it landed on Earth. While it is a film that many critics and film buffs have been praising, it’s definitely a film that deserves a wider exposure. For its DVD/Blu-Ray release, the extras should include an audio commentary track from Glazer and co-screenwriter Walter Campbell as well as interviews with composer Mica Levi, and several others about the film along with a making-of documentary. Yet, the big feature should be an interview with Scarlett Johansson about the film and her performance.

12. The Knack... and How to Get It

Richard Lester’s 1965 film is considered one of the finest films in British cinema as it plays into the idea of sex as well as a young man’s attempt to attract the opposite sex. It’s among the many films of the new wave of 1960s British cinema that needs to more attention as the set should include new interviews with Rita Tushingham, Michael Crawford, and other cast members. An interview with Lester conducted by Steven Soderbergh about the film. Archival footage of the film’s 1965 premiere at Cannes where it would win the Palme d’Or.

13. Hard Eight

There’s no question that Paul Thomas Anderson is among one of the finest filmmakers working today as there is no excuse into why any of his films should be included in the Criterion Collection. His first film is one that anyone who isn’t a fan of his work probably hadn’t seen much of as it hadn’t appeared on TV unlike most of his other films. The set should include a new transfer supervised by Anderson of his final cut as well as the re-edited version by Rysher studios that Anderson rejected. The extras should feature new interviews with Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, and Anderson as well as some deleted footage and some early shorts including Cigarettes and Coffee.

14. Love and Basketball

If there anything about Criterion that should be praised for is its emphasis to expose audiences to such talented women filmmakers from icons like Jane Campion, Agnes Varda, and the late Chantal Akerman to emerging filmmakers like Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold, and Lucrecia Martel. Yet, there hasn’t been a lot of representation on African-American filmmakers but more especially on African-American filmmakers. That should change with probably one of the finest films of the 2000s helmed by Gina Prince-Bythewood as her film explores two people and their love for each other and basketball. The extras should include interviews with Prince-Bythewood, actors Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, and several other cast and crew members plus making-of footage, and the film’s impact on women’s basketball.

15. The Others

Alejandro Amenabar’s 2001 film was definitely a major international breakthrough for the filmmaker as well as being one of the finest haunted house films that had created. It’s a film that is pretty much essential into what Criterion has done for horror as the set should feature new interviews Amenabar and the film’s star Nicole Kidman as well as making-of footage and other cast/crew interviews. The film should also feature a conversation piece between Amenabar and another famed horror filmmaker in Guillermo del Toro about the film.

16. El Sur

Victor Erice’s 1983 film is definitely one of the most overlooked films of the 20th Century though it wasn’t the version Erice had intended since he only filmed half of the novel. It’s a film that needs more exposure as does Erice who is considered the Spanish equivalent to Terrence Malick as both filmmakers don’t make films frequently. For the extras, new interviews with cast and crew members about the film and why only half of it was it made. The DVD/Blu-Ray set should also feature the shorts that Erice has done in his career for those that want to see his entire body of work with short films.

17. Blood Simple

With Inside Llewyn Davis set to be released on Criterion, it is clear that the Coen Brothers need to have more films out as what better film to be included than their first. It’s not just one of the finest noir films ever made but also a key example of what the Coen Brothers were able to do with their first film. The set shouldn’t just include a remastered print but also extras to feature interviews with the Coen Brothers, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmet Walsh as well as collaborators like cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, sound editor Skip Lievsay, and music composer Carter Burwell about the film.

18. The Piano Teacher

Michael Haneke is one of the great filmmakers working today as it’s obvious the man needs to be profiled more through Criterion as one of his films just got released recently. His 2001 film that explore a piano teacher’s infatuation with sadomasochism and her growing feelings towards a young student is certainly one of his most chilling films of his career. The DVD/Blu-Ray set should feature an assortment of extras including new interviews with Haneke and the film’s star Isabelle Huppert, some deleted scenes, featurettes on the themes of the film and its music, and a remastered transfer of one of Haneke’s early TV films with a new introduction by Haneke.

19. The Elephant Man

With two of David Lynch’s films already on Criterion, it’s time for another of his films to be part of the collection in his 1980 sophomore feature about Joseph Merrick. It’s definitely one of Lynch’s finest films as a DVD/Blu-Ray release is definitely needed as extras should include new interviews with Lynch, actors John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins, producer Mel Brooks, an archival interview with the late Anne Bancroft, a documentary film about Merrick, and excerpts of the different variations of the stage plays with performances by David Bowie and Bradley Cooper.

20. I Stand Alone

Gaspar Noe is definitely a very controversial figure in the world of cinema as he is also one of its most polarizing. Yet, there are no questions that he is one of the most interesting figures out there as what film should be included into the collection than his first film. The DVD/Blu-Ray set should feature not just a new transfer supervised by Noe but also interviews with Noe and those involved in the film. Other extras should include the prequel Carne in a remastered print as well as several of his early short films made before and around the time of his first film.

21. The Headless Woman

Lucrecia Martel is definitely a filmmaker that has been discussed in recent years though she’s only made three films so far with another one on the way as her first film La Cienaga has just been released on Criterion. Her 2008 film isn’t just one of her most acclaimed but also a unique character study of a woman dealing with grief and the consequences of her actions. Extras should feature not just remastered prints of Martel’s short films but also interviews with the director and star Maria Onetto as well as discussions about Martel and her impact for Argentine cinema.

22. Nine Queens

Another Argentine film that made an impact for the country is considered one of the finest crime films of sorts as it plays into two men trying to con a man into buying a prestigious stamp. It’s a film that is unlike anything as well as give exposure to the late Fabian Bielensky. The DVD/Blu-Ray set should include archival interviews with Bielensky as well as new interviews with cast members including Ricardo Darin. Other special features should include interviews with scholars on the Argentine New Wave and an interview with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh about the film and the script he wrote for its remake Criminal.

23. Carnal Knowledge

Mike Nichols is definitely one of the key figures of New Hollywood while being someone that manages to succeed with mainstream audiences. One of his finest films from the early 70s play into the world of marriage and love affairs as well as what men want in women sexually and such. Though Nichols had recently passed away, that doesn’t mean he could still contribute as the extras should include archival interviews with Nichols and Jack Nicholson on the film as well as new interviews with Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, and Ann-Margaret about the film and Nichols.

24. Memories of Murder

While there have been a few Korean films that have been released from Criterion, the time has come for one of its key figures in the Korean New Wave to get wider exposure in Bong Joon-Ho. His sophomore film that explores the real-life events of South Korea’s first serial killer is among one of the finest thrillers in cinema. The extras should feature interviews with Joon-Ho as well as actors Song Kang-ho and Kim Sang-kyung about the film as well as a documentary about the real-life events in the film.

25. Laurence Anyways

One of the great things about Criterion is the fact that they’re willing to create exposure for gay/lesbian cinema as well as emerging filmmakers. Yet, there is no filmmaker that is as hot as Xavier Dolan as his third film is definitely the right film at the right time just as the world of transgender is becoming public. The special features for the film should feature an introduction from Gus Van Sant and Xavier Dolan as well as new interviews from Dolan and actors Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement. Other extras should discuss transgender in cinema as well as Dolan’s contribution to cinema and music videos directed by Dolan.

26. The Portrait of a Lady

Jane Campion is definitely an iconic figure for feminist cinema as she’s had two films released from Criterion and maybe more to come soon. One film that is in definite need of a DVD/Blu-Ray release is her adaptation of the Henry James novel that stars Nicole Kidman. It’s a film that doesn’t just play into a woman torn between two worlds but also cope with the decisions that she made. The extras should include new interviews Campion and Kidman as well as some making-of footage and possibly new interviews with John Malkovich and Christian Bale about their roles in the film. Another special feature should focus on the work of Henry James and the novel.

27. Scarecrow

Jerry Schatzberg’s 1973 film is among one of the more overlooked films in New Hollywood as it was a co-winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival that starred Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. It’s a road film of sorts that doesn’t play by the rules as it is often considered a lost classic as the film definitely needs some exposure. The extras should feature new interviews with Schatzberg and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond about the film plus some archival interviews with Pacino and Hackman as the latter is currently retired.

28. The Limey

Steven Soderbergh’s 1999 film is definitely one of the most interesting character studies set in the world of crime where a former criminal travels to Los Angeles to avenge the murder of his estranged daughter. It’s a film that is in definite need of a new DVD/Blu-Ray release as it would be supervised by Soderbergh as the set should include an interview with the filmmaker and several cast members including Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, and Luis Guzman about the film. Other extras should include some making-of footage and excerpts from the Ken Loach film Poor Cow that includes commentary by Soderbergh and Loach.

29. The Spy in Black

The duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are staples in the world of Criterion as their first collaboration together that revolves around a plot by German spies and a U-boat captain to attack the British fleet during World War I. Yet, it’s a film that is sorely in need of a new, highly-restored digital transfer as the look of it is terrible. The extras should feature a new introduction by Powell-Pressburger fan Martin Scorsese as well as interviews with Powell’s widow Thelma Schoonmaker, and interviews with British scholars on producer Alexander Korda and the formation of the Archers production company that Powell and Pressburger was a part of.

30. Basquiat

Julian Schnabel’s bio-pic on the famed street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the most unconventional yet realistic portrait of an artist and the environment he is in. Especially as it also showcases the world of 1980s New York City art and the craziness of the culture. The extras should feature interviews with Schnabel and Jeffrey Wright as the latter talks about his performance as Basquiat. Documentaries about the 1980s New York City art and an archival interview with David Bowie about Andy Warhol and his performance as Warhol.

5 Film Sets for the Criterion Collection

1. Robert Altman in the 80s Eclipse Series

While there’s no question that the 1970s was Robert Altman’s golden period yet his work in the 1980s doing intimate film versions of stories that he did on the stage feature gems that many people haven’t seen. Among these films include Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Streamers, O.C. and Stiggs, Fool for Love, Beyond Therapy, and a couple of segments for omnibus films that he did in the 1980s. It’s a collection that fans of Altman should have and definitely need with some essays about those films including contributions from Sam Shepard and Paul Thomas Anderson.

2. Early Brian de Palma Eclipse Series

Brian de Palma is definitely one of the revered filmmakers in American cinema as he is lauded by many despite some of the bad films he has made. While his first film Murder a la Mod is already on Criterion as an extra special feature for the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Blow Out. There’s several of his early work that isn’t available as films like Greetings, The Wedding Party, Dionysus in ‘69, Hi, Mom!, and Get to Know Your Rabbit to a wide audience as a box set for these films in the Eclipse series is needed with some contributions by fans like Quentin Tarantino and Noah Baumbach providing essays on these films.

3. Abbas Kiarostami’s Koker Trilogy

There’s no question that Abbas Kiarostami is one of cinema’s great voices internationally as he makes films not just in his native Iran but also in other countries. While there’s been rumors about a possible release for all three films of the Koker Trilogy in Where Is the Friend’s Home?, And Life Goes On, and Through the Olive Tree which all explores stories in Northern Iran. These are three films that haven’t widely been seen by Western audiences as it’s the chance for these three films to be seen with loads of special features that relates to the trilogy as well as some short films by the filmmaker.

4. Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy

Gregg Araki is definitely one of the key figures of New Queer Cinema in the 1990s as the time has come for three of his most controversial releases to be given a new life and more. Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation, and Nowhere were films for anyone who was a teenager in the 1990s must’ve seen as it played into that idea of how shitty the world was in those times as it still resonates with audiences as well as teenagers whether they’re gay or straight. The set should include audio commentary tracks by Gregg Araki plus interview with cast members from all three films as well as some making-of footage and interviews with some of the acts that contributed music to the three films.

5. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita

There’s no question that the novel isn’t just one of the most controversial books ever created but also one that challenged the ideas of what could be written in fiction. While it’s no question that Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 adaptation was quite controversial, a DVD/Blu-Ray release for the film alone isn’t enough as there is also the 1997 adaptation by Adrian Lyne that some considered to be superior than Kubrick’s version. A dual release for both film versions should come together with not just many special features about both films but also the novel with interviews from the cast of both films and as a big extra. The novel itself.

Well, that is it for another wish list for the Criterion Collection. The holidays are approaching as I’m sure many film buffs want Criterion DVD/Blu-Rays for Christmas and nothing more. Until then, let’s hope Santa gets us these DVD/Blu-Rays.

© thevoid99 2015