A Criterion Adventure (2019)


SETTING THE STAGE


For film enthusiasts everywhere, especially those, myself included, who live for the underappreciated masters and the nooks and crannies of cinema history, November 29, 2018 was a dark day, the day FilmStruck died. FilmStruck had been the all-too-short-lived streaming home for the revered Criterion Collection and their streaming partners, notably Janus Films. FilmStruck had also recently partnered with Turner Classic Movies (TCM) to provide access to an abundance of classic American cinema. Altogether, in addition to offering a large selection of films released on the Criterion label, the service had also provided its subscriber base with a wealth of ever-shifting selections, both foreign and domestic, from across the many decades of film history.

FilmStruck ad post-TCM partnership

After having experienced the Criterion Collection in past years as merely happenstance as I explored various acclaimed films that happened to be on their discs, 2018 marked a shift of intentionality as I purposely began seeking out films associated with the label, especially once I finally made the decision to dive into FilmStruck. Fortunately, I’m a huge proponent of physical media, especially Blu-ray, and so that already represented the majority of my watching, but I quickly discovered many titles on the channel didn’t have Blu-ray releases. Nevertheless, come January 1, the start of my 2019 adventure with the label, discs were now pretty much my only source when it came to anything Criterion-related. That’s not to say I didn’t stop making astonishing, thrilling, and awe-inspiring discoveries on disc. In fact, the majority of my top 10 Criterion-related discoveries in 2019 were from discs in the Collection. But there’s a lot to be said for the convenience and depth of streaming.

Fortunately, the darkness and despair was short lived, as soon after FlimStruck closed, it came to light that Criterion itself would be providing a streaming service. Finally, after much anticipation, on April 8, the Criterion Channel launched, and I began to discover just how deep the rabbit hole would go. The channel’s extensive partnerships would enable them to provide an even more diverse array of films than FilmStruck had. Right off the bat, I experienced one of the new channel’s most ingenious means of helping its viewers to discover films we may never have otherwise seen. Curated collections. 

columbia noir
Criterion Channel home page on launch day

Day one, the first major collection was right there on top of the screen, Columbia Noir. If this was the launching point, a whole group of compelling Columbia Studios films, the vast majority of which had no Criterion ownership, along with a whole host of other films, in and out of the Collection, I knew I was in good hands.  So now, with a full arsenal of available Criterion Collection Blu-ray releases and Criterion Channel possibilities I was ready to dive into all sorts of new territory. By the end of 2019, I had experienced 134 of them for the very first time with representation from every decade from the 1920s through the 2010s. 

Here’s the full list of Criterion-related titles I watched in chronological order by release date.

 


CRITERION COLLECTIONS


I wish I could tell you about all the great films I watched throughout 2019, but instead I’ll have to stick to the highlights. Without going into detail, I am particularly happy with 3 box sets I began and will finish in 2020, not a bad film in the bunch and two genuine masterpieces–The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Playtime. Those sets features the talents of filmmakers Jacques Demy, Jacques Tati, and the collaborations of Marlene Dietrich and her frequent director Josef Von Sternberg. Along the same lines, many of my channel experiences came via the aforementioned curated collections, which focus on either a specific filmmaker, actor, creative theme or a combination of those. The one and only collection I completed beginning to end, though not for lack of trying, was Pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck, in which she played a wide variety of characters, from a long-suffering mother to promiscuous lover to faith healer to a mail order bride fighting for the love of her husband. That last character is found in The Purchase Price, one of the least appreciated films in the collection that was in fact my favorite of the group. 

Rosalind Russell & John Boles in Craig’s Wife (1936), dir. Dorothy Arzner

There was plenty I enjoyed from the other collections I partook from, whether I saw many as in the launch day Columbia Noir collection or merely a couple as in the Fred and Ginger grouping that featured who else but Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, a pair that can’t help but put a smile on your face with their chemistry, dancing talent, and synchronicity. The noir set gave me the opportunity to finally discover Fritz Lang’s genre masterpiece The Big Heat as well as his also outstanding, though underrated Human Desire. I was additionally grateful for the opportunity to explore the contributions of women in early cinema through a trio of Dorothy Arzner films, one of the pioneering women directors, headlined by Craig’s Wife, as well as a pair of George Cukor films that put a spotlight on his complex, unforgettable heroines. Both The Women, which features the unique casting of 130 female speaking parts and not one male on camera, and A Woman’s Face made for rich and heartfelt viewing.

My other big push came at the very end of the year as I simultaneously gobbled down soon-to-be-expired entries from the Val Lewton and MGM Musicals collections wherein I found some fun, some thrills, and three new favorites, from an ultra dark classic horror mystery featuring Satan worshipers and suicide, to emotional romantic drama in musical form provided by the likes of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, to a film of pure joy, silliness, and dreams of romance with the sunny Debbie Reynolds being pursued by the awkwardly charming Donald O’Connor. Those films are The 7th Victim, For Me and My Gal, and I Love Melvin, in that order.

Yasujirō Ozu

About mid-year, after having seeing there were a massive number of Yasujirō Ozu films on the channel, a master director I had discovered the previous year and whose work intrigued me, I was inspired to try something truly ambitious, my biggest film-watching project to date. I would begin a chronological deep dive through every Ozu film I could access. By year’s end, I had journeyed through his first 10 films, though a couple only exist in part. It’s been an immensely rewarding experience watching them in order to see the growth of his film-making skills, the types of stories he tells, and to see his style progress over time. In the few short years these first films have covered, I’ve been able to pick up on subtle shifts in direction such as his heavily Hollywood influenced beginnings to him starting to develop his own distinct style. My favorite of these early years, Tokyo Chorus, is a deeply emotional family drama where a man loses his job trying to stand up for a coworker, which throws his family into hardship. Those who look ahead know emotional family drama would become a mainstay in Ozu’s work.

 


TOP 10 CRITERION DISCOVERIES


Now we come to the main event, the best of the best, where I highlight my top 10 Criterion-related discoveries of 2019, plus an honorable mention. These were the films that grabbed the whole of my heart, mind, and spirit, showcasing complete package film making, from script to cinematography to acting to direction to music.

Note, these titles were extracted from my overall list of my top 20 first-time watches during 2019.


Honorable Mention:
La Jetée

Year: 1962
Director: Chris Marker
Genre: Short, Drama, Romance
Cast: Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich, Jacques Ledoux, André Heinrich, Jacques Branchu, Pierre Joffroy, Étienne Becker, Philbert von Lifchitz, Ligia Branice

A 28-minute genius work of art. The time travel plot, as mind bending as it is, is simply window dressing to the meditation on love, memory, and the attempt to attain the unattainable or regain what is forever lost that lies beneath. Rarely has so much been accomplished with so little. Through [almost] nothing but a set of still pictures and narration, Marker sets our imaginations alight, and we ourselves become captivated with this entrancing woman once frozen in a snapshot of memory.

Upon the prisoner’s re-entering the past, the juxtaposition of music and image creates a transportive experience that makes you want nothing but to rest in those peacetime moments indefinitely all the while knowing the apocalypse is just around the corner. Likewise when the time-traveling prisoner and the woman he was seeking are together. There is so much life in the still images that you can almost sense them moving but in the way that life moves when you’re sitting quietly with someone you adore simply adoring their presence, and time just fades away. And then comes a look. Just briefly, but one that you will never forget. But these moments are fleeting, and time in fact does go on and that moment is forever gone.

 


#10 – Arsenic and Old Lace

Year: 1944
Director: Frank Capra
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Thriller
Cast: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Jack Carson, Edward Everett Horton Peter Lorre, James Gleason, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, John Alexander, Grant Mitchell

Who knew a movie featuring serial killer sisters that’s directed by the guy who made such moving slices of melodrama like It’s A Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington could be so freaking funny? Cary Grant kills it as the just-married and utterly flummoxed Mortimer Brewster who is simply trying to get ready for his honeymoon at his family home when he stumbles across a corpse upon which his aunts happily reveal to him that they’ve been killing lonely bachelors as a service to them. As if this wasn’t wild enough, Mortimer’s brother Teddy thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and his other brother, Jonathan is himself a murderer on the run with his own dark intentions. But murder turns to farce as the comedy of errors and miscommunication pile up. The plot is beautifully orchestrated, but the sheer incredulity alone that Grant hilariously shows at the ever increasing madness around him is alone worth the price of admission.

 


#9 – Solaris

Year: 1972
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi
Cast: Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk, Jüri Järvet, Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Nikolay Grinko, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Georgiy Teykh, Sos Sargsyan, Olga Barnet

Even more than the main character Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) and despite her not showing up for some time, Solaris thrives on Natalya Bondarchuk’s magnetic portrayal of Hari, Kelvin’s long-dead wife who has suddenly appeared again… and again… and again. Kelvin himself represents a relatable everyman, and it is through him we are transported from what remained of his life and relationships on Earth into a surreal, contemplative, and ever more disturbing experience on a nearly empty space station in growing disarray. The station is hovering over an alien ocean world full of fog and mystery. Through Kelvin, our attention is ever drawn to Hari, and it is the intimacy her present manifestation shares with him, an intimacy defined by their past relationship, through which Tarkovsky provides the core of his exploration into what it means to be human.

Clearly, human individuals are unique in a way that other creatures are not, a distinct nature that even a carbon copy cannot emulate, try as they might. Another side of our humanity is our attachment to one another, none more so than in that unifying relationship of marriage, where two become one flesh. The longing that comes from the loss of that relationship can be so intense that perhaps one would consider a carbon copy substitute, even knowing it’s not the same person?

 


#8 – The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Year: 1943
Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Genre: Drama, Romance, War
Cast: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr, Adolf Wohlbrück, Roland Culver, James McKechnie, Arthur Wontner, David Hutcheson, Ursula Jeans, John Laurie, Harry Welchman, Robert Harris

An epic rivaling the indomitable Lawrence of Arabia that gives flesh and meaning to what had seemed a mere caricature of a man. The viewer is faced with such human complexity in this study of the fictitious General Clive Candy (Roger Livesey) that he is himself forced to contemplate the whole of his own past, how it has affected his present, and what the impact will be on his future and the future of those who will come after him.

The depth and weight Powell and Pressburger were able to instill into the film is even more profound when one considers it having been made in wartime, when the fate of the world was yet unknown. They also demonstrate an attempt to understand the nature of that present war and how it came to be that all of Britain (and the world) was fighting for its very existence against the disastrous threat of Nazism. The acting is chock full of so many delightful subtleties and the dialogue is incredibly well written, detailed with emotion and color and memory. I also must give special attention to Deborah Kerr’s extraordinary multi-role performance, no doubt helped by the costuming and makeup talent.

 


#7 – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Year: 1964
Director: Jacques Demy
Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Mireille Perrey, Marc Michel, Ellen Farner, Jean Champion, Pierre Caden, Jean-Pierre Dorat, Bernard Fradet, Michel Benoist

Jacques Demy is a master manipulator of the heartstrings and intimately familiar with the intense passions and longing that come with young love. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg left me with bittersweet tears and a tight ball of conflicted emotions as sadness and joy fought against one another within my soul. But it’s not only emotions Demy demonstrates artistry over. The frame throughout explodes with bright, bold colors and he collaborates with composer Michel Legrand to provide a soul-stirring musical score with powerful songs. Though this is no Hollywood musical as every word of dialogue is sung, often in a subdued, melancholy manner due to the ever-present conflict even amidst joy, which plays in subtle ways against the colorful backdrops.

While Catherine Deneuve’s character Geneviève takes center stage through much of the film, every romantic relationship and desire, whether given short or significant attention, is fueled with earnest intention and truthfulness. There is absolutely nothing casual about any of the romance. But speaking of Deneuve, the pained longing and desperation expressed in her face and eyes broke me. Through her and Guy’s (Nino Castelnuovo) forced separation, we are made to feel the misery of the not knowing and the consequences of the impossible choices that life and our own actions force us to make when we’re desperate not to have to make them.

 


#6 – Wild Strawberries

Year: 1957
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genre: Drama, Romance
Cast: Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Jullan Kindahl, Gunnar Sjöberg, Max von Sydow, Åke Fridell, Ann-Marie Wiman, Gunnel Broström

A deeply introspective tone makes Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries immensely relatable, despite the often surreal quality of the film and the vast age difference between 78-year old doctor and widower Isak Borg and the average viewer, especially when we discover he and his much younger estranged son Evald suffer from a similar darkness of the soul that has brought each to their own crisis point. Victor Sjöström plays Isak with such sensitivity that he makes us care about his inner turmoil all the while he’s showing himself to have become an insensitive and grumpy old man to those he should be closest to.

The film opens with a surreal nightmare, which sets Isak face to face with the immediacy of his mortality with vivid symbolism. This begins a literal and figurative journey, the former a shared road trip with his pregnant daughter-in-law battling her own demons and with those they pick up along the way, including a girl named Sara, played by Bibi Andersson, who reminds him of the Sara he thought he would marry as a young man (also played by Bibi Andersson). These encounters on his literal journey propel Isak into a deep inner journey of sentiment, regret, and hope that serves to change how he sees himself and the world around him.

 


#5 – The Big Heat

Year: 1953
Director: Fritz Lang
Genre: Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller
Cast: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando, Alexander Scourby, Lee Marvin, Jeanette Nolan, Peter Whitney, Willis Bouchey, Robert Burton, Adam Williams, Carolyn Jones

Never has so much tension been wrought out of a boiling pot of coffee and rarely does a final line land with such foreboding potency. WIth a screenplay written by actual former crime reporter Sydney Boehm, Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat unleashed upon the world one of the most brutal film noirs of the classic era. With no holds barred, Lang unhesitatingly reveals the world as a place that feels cold, hopeless, vicious, and full of infidelity. It’s a world populated by the mafia, dirty cops, and promiscuous women, and by making it clear that no one is safe, good or bad alike or anywhere in between, Lang establishes an environment loaded with tension, both for physical danger as well as moral compromise.

Glenn Ford is ideally cast as the good guy homicide detective Sergeant Bannion who starts out a positive well-intentioned family man but soon finds himself caught up in mob brutality while trying to solve a case. In his anger and frustration, the cracks in his good-guy persona quickly develop and he starts to look and more like the criminals he’s pursuing. Gloria Grahame is also outstanding as Debby Marsh, girlfriend to Vince Stone, second-in-command to the local mob boss. Despite the company she keeps, she demonstrates an awareness and intelligence and an appreciation of moral uprightness in Bannion when he stands up to a nightclub singer who Vince abuses. It seems to be the spark she needs to seek a way out of the only lifestyle she’s known. So while one character is on the descent, the other is rising up.

 


#4 – The Elephant Man

Year: 1980
Director: David Lynch
Genre: Biography, Drama
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Freddie Jones, Michael Elphick, Hannah Gordon, Helen Ryan, John Standing, Dexter Fletcher

Carrying on the torch of early 20th century filmmakers like Tod Browning (Freaks) who want to inspire us to care for those society has rejected and abused, David Lynch’s The Elephant Man eschews the distortion of surrealism for the distortion of humanity and a trumpets a desperate call for empathy and kindness. Lynch’s most important choice is to unmask John Merrick (the eponymous character’s real name) early on. The more he shows us John’s (John Hurt) intelligence, faith, ability to create and appreciate beauty, and his longing for human connection, the more monstrous those who would be cruel and take advantage of him appear. By the point he’s crying out that he’s a human being, not an animal, he’s the only one present who isn’t acting like one.

Hurt’s performance is one for the ages, both in physically presenting himself as this horribly disfigured man as well as from the soul that pours out of his eyes. Anthony Hopkins is likewise terrific as Dr. Treves. We sense his deep compassion for John and yet he’s hardly perfect as he comes to realize about himself. Despite his good intentions, he realizes he and his hospital staff are treating John with the same lack of humanity as John had endured in the circus. I loved seeing the pure care and affection that Mrs. Kendal (Anne Bancroft) had for John. She is wholly unaffected by his outward appearance, seeing straight into the soulful kindness and goodness of the man’s heart. And she’s proud to show him honor in public as well. What an inspiration!

 


#3 – Autumn Sonata

Year: 1978
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genre: Drama, Music
Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullmann, Lena Nyman, Halvar Björk, Marianne Aminoff, Arne Bang-Hansen, Gunnar Björnstrand, Erland Josephson, Linn Ullmann

After several previous attempts to fully appreciate the morally, philosophically, and artistically dense films of Ingmar Bergman, this one was the key to finally unlocking my ability to love one of them. I adore movies that make me feel, and let’s just say that if you ever wanted to know what the emotional equivalent of going 12 rounds with a prize fighter would be, my suggestion would be to watch the pulse-pounding bout herein between Bergman regular, Liv Ullmann and the incomparable Ingrid Bergman, who play a daughter and her estranged mother respectively. That daughter, named Eva, is the troubled wife of the village pastor, and her mother Charlotte is a highly accomplished and well-traveled pianist. Both have to face the disappointment and frustration that has come with choices that were long ago made, especially those due to Charlotte’s career pursuits.

If we’re honest, emotional baggage is always going to be a factor between mothers and their daughters. Ingmar takes advantage of this reality by heaping insult onto injury and creating deeply complex individuals whose fully fleshed out characters and rich histories bear scars that run incredibly deep. Reconciliation is the unstated desire, but as long-held secrets, selfish desires, and bottled up trauma are dredged up even the possibility of achieving that reconciliation is going to unleash all kinds of misery, frustration, rage, and despair. For 90 minutes, Ingrid and Liv are this mother daughter pair. With exacting performances that never once cross the line into overacting, they are taken to the limit as emotion pours out of each of them in a mesmerizing, soul-crushing plea for understanding and appreciation. By the end, the viewer feels as exhausted as the couple on the screen.

 


#2 – Barry Lyndon

Year: 1975
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Adventure, Drama, History
Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Krüger, Diana Körner, Gay Hamilton, Frank Middlemass, Arthur O’Sullivan, Godfrey Quigley, Leonard Rossiter, Philip Stone

It amazes me how Kubrick could seemingly take any genre and make a masterpiece out of it. This is his take on a 1700s period film. The sumptuous beauty of the cinematography presents an experience akin to a relaxing stroll through a gallery of richly detailed paintings, complete with narration and a gorgeous classical music compositions, except in the rare moment when the calm is unceremoniously broken and even the camera is set loose in the ensuing chaos. In contrast to the beauty of the camerawork is the only sometimes sympathetic man at its center, Redmond Barry, played to subtle perfection by Ryan O’Neal.

Barry is repeatedly given opportunities to put his past bad choices behind him and start anew, often in even better shape than he was before, but he keeps failing to overcome the lusts that drive him leading him to spurn those opportunities. He finds pleasures for a time, but those pleasures, those choices to act evilly towards not only strangers but eventually even his own wife and stepchild come at a severe cost. The defining duel of the film is masterfully filmed with immaculate detail and taking what had been a mostly relaxing viewing up to that point and ever so slowly infusing ounce upon ounce of suspense, creating intense discomfort for the characters on screen and the viewer alike.

 


And my #1 favorite Criterion discovery of 2019 is…

 

Bicycle Thieves

Year: 1948
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Genre: Drama
Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda, Vittorio Antonucci, Giulio Chiari, Elena Altieri, Carlo Jachino, Michele Sakara, Fausto Guerzoni

Such a simple premise–a man’s search for his stolen bicycle through the streets of post World War II Rome, an ancient, endlessly fascinating city of contrasts. Shot on location (no sets) with only untrained actors (though you’d never know it), this prime example of Italian neorealist cinema blurs the line between fly-on-the-wall documentary and fictional narrative. Director Vittorio De Sica demonstrates how such an event that would seem a mere inconvenience to many feels like a life and death predicament to the impoverished Antonio Ricci and his family. Through Antonio’s desperate urgency, he being played by the remarkable Lamberto Maggiorani, a factory worker by trade, we understand that failure is not an option. He must recover his bike, or he won’t be able to work, and his family will starve. Along for the search comes his son Bruno played by Enzo Staiola, equally photogenic and adept at showing a range of emotion as he watches his father’s growing desperation.

De Sica expertly fuels our empathy for the Riccis right away as the film opens with a bit of tragic irony. Antonio, desperate for work is informed there’s a job available for him. The catch, he must have a bicycle. The irony is he had one and had to pawn it to put food on the table. His wife Maria (Lianella Carell) takes charge and decides they can live without their bedsheets and pawns them–because there’s nothing else of significance left to pawn–to get Antonio his bicycle back. With such a precious possession back in hand, we are in suspense every moment the bicycle is not under Antonio’s watchful eye. Later, at times as the needle-in-a-haystack search continues, we are further enlightened to Antonio’s miserable condition as he is surrounded by hordes of bicycles, the very thing he needs, but not one is his. We also see how Antonio’s desperate condition and the decisions it leads him to make affect young Bruno.


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

Minisode 052: A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Interview with Mark O’Connell

For this September Donor Pick episode we are sticking with our 2018 #SciFiSeptember theme and covering the Steven Spielberg science fiction film our listeners chose. We’re joined by Mark O’Connell, author of Watching Skies: Star Wars, Spielberg, and Us, both for our discussion of the film and for an insightful interview about his written work.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence Review  0:01:05

Interview with Mark1:04:10


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You Should Be Watching: September 6-12

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


The Game

Year: 1997

Director: David Fincher

Genre: Mystery, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Spike Jonze, Anna Katarina, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Carroll Baker, Scott Hunter McGuire, Elizabeth Dennehy, Daniel Schorr, John Aprea, Charles Martinet, Caroline Barclay, Peter Donat, Florentine Mocanu, Kimberly Russell, Gerry Becker

As is common with David Fincher’s films, The Game works on multiple levels. At its surface, it’s a Kafkaesque thriller about a rich investment banker, Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a man who has everything. Van Orton receives a unique, well-meaning gift from his estranged brother Conrad (Sean Penn). The gift is access to a new type of personalized game that would integrate into his everyday life and activities, hopefully adding some excitement to it all. But very quickly, Van Orton finds himself trapped in an inescapable nightmare where fiction increasingly becomes his reality.

At a deeper level, Van Orton is a real character. He’s a man who at a young age saw his father commit suicide, which has forever haunted him and overshadowed the choices he would make in life. Now as a middle-aged man, wealthy and estranged from everyone he’s ever loved, he must step up to the mirror of his father and evaluate his life. This reality–the pain, the cynicism, the independent nature along with the fear when his life teeters out of control–affects every nuance of Douglas’ performance.


David and Lisa

Year: 1962

Director: Frank Perry

Genre: Drama, Romance

Cast: Keir Dullea, Janet Margolin, Howard Da Silva, Neva Patterson, Clifton James, Richard McMurray, Nancy Nutter, Mathew Anden, Jaime Sánchez, Coni Hudak, Karen Lynn Gorney, Janet Lee Parker

Famous for playing astronaut Dave Bowman in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, here in only his 2nd film appearance, Keir Dullea as the titular teenager David along with Janet Margolin as Lisa star in this unique, brilliantly acted romantic drama that exemplifies the realities, complications, and horrors of living with mental disorders. Key to making the drama compelling is the detailed character development and compassion shown in Eleanor Perry’s script, and director Frank Perry’s skill in dialing up the tension by taking us into the experience.

David has a genius-level intellect and a strict concept of how things must be ordered, which has made him arrogant and difficult to control, but the threat of a single touch causes him intense fear as he’s convinced it might kill him. He also has terrible recurring nightmares of killing people in surreal ways. Lisa, of much lower IQ, is in a constant battle between herself and an alternate, darker, much more self-assured personality, who can only be kept at bay by rhyming, both by her and by those talking to her. Both find themselves in the care of a mental institution and find themselves drawn to each other, but they have to battle to both understand each other’s difficulties as well as learn to cope with their own if they’re going to make it work.

 


The Thief of Bagdad

    — Expires September 14

Year: 1924

Director: Raoul Walsh

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Family, Romance

Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Snitz Edwards, Charles Belcher, Julanne Johnston, Sôjin, Anna May Wong, Brandon Hurst, Tote Du Crow, Noble Johnson, Sam Baker, Winter Blossom, Etta Lee, Mathilde Comont, Charles Stevens, Eugene Jackson, Jesse Lasky Jr., David Sharpe, Paul Malvern, Scotty Mattraw, Jess Weldon, K. Nambu

Don’t let the nearly two and a half hour run time of this classic silent adventure fantasy scare you off. This surprisingly fast-paced adaptation of several of the ancient Arabian Nights tales, which was remade for the sound era in 1940, was made by the prolific director Raoul Walsh, whose filmmaking career spanned 51 years and is regarded as Douglas Fairbanks‘ favorite of his performances. It entertains with its variety of locations, exotic set design, colorful characters, delightful special effects, and the creative and intriguing story elements.

Fairbanks plays the lead character Ahmed, a common thief who finds himself on the run from the palace guards after he sees and becomes infatuated with the unnamed princess, played by Julanne Johnston. Stop me if this sounds familiar. Ahmed disguises himself as a prince in an attempt to win her heart and soon finds everything coming up roses, despite the existence of other suitors. That is, until the princess’ Mongol slave, played by oriental siren Anna May Wong discovers Ahmed’s identity, leading to the princess having to beg for his life. It goes on from there with a competitive quest and a flying carpet, a cloak of invisibility, a giant underwater spider, and so on. Douglas Fairbanks is a fun, charismatic actor to watch, and the special effects are impressive, especially for a film that’s nearly 100 years old.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

September 13
Pete’s Dragon (2016)

September 14
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Half Nelson (2006)

September 15
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

September 27
The Imitation Game (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

September 15
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

September 17
The Witch (2016)

FILMSTRUCK

September 7
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
The Band Wagon (1953)
Giant (1956)
Grand Illusion (1937)
Home from the Hill (1960)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Slacker (1990)
Some Came Running (1958)
Steamboat Round the Bend (1935)
Tea and Sympathy (1956)
The Thin Man Series (1934 – 1947)
Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)

September 14
Advise & Consent (1962)
Easy Rider (1969)
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Fruit of Paradise (1970)
The Night of the Iguana (1964)
A Patch of Blue (1965)
Queen Christina (1933)
Seven Days in May (1964)
Splendor in the Grass (1961)
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

September 21
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)
Mean Streets (197
Night Moves (1975)

HULU

September 30
American Psycho (2000)
Angel Heart (1987)
Babel (2006)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Bound (1996)
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Hoosiers (1986)
The Ladies Man (1961)
Miami Blues (1990)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
The Rock (1996)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Black Panther (2018)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Bruce Almighty (2003)
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Groundhog Day (1993)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
King Kong (2005)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Nacho Libre (2006)
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Scarface (1983)
Unforgiven (1992)

AMAZON PRIME

Chinatown (1974)
Blow Out (1981)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
Hustle & Flow (2005)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Miami Vice (2006)
Primal Fear (1996)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Testament (1983)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

FILMSTRUCK

Cul-de-sac (1966)
Dead Man (1985)
Kes (1969)

HULU

13 Going On 30 (2004)
Adaptation. (2002)
Blow Out (1981)
City of God (2002)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
The English Patient (1996)
Field of Dreams (1989)
The Fly (1986)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Primal Fear (1996)
Rushmore (1998)
Signs (2002)
Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
The Terminator (1984)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Unbreakable (2000)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

September 7
Next Gen–NETFLIX FILM (2018)
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

September 11
The Resistance Banker–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

September 12
On My Skin–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

September 8
Stronger (2017)

HULU

September 8
Stronger (2017)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

You Should Be Watching: June 14-20

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found. This week I’m recommending an epic wartime trilogy about a man striving to live up to his pacifist ideals in 1940s Japan, an award-winning film about a mother and her son whose entire world is the room they live in, expiring from Amazon Prime soon, and lastly a fascinating documentary detailing the exploits of the man who famously walked a wire between the Twin Towers of Manhattan. Also, this week is  your last chance to catch Captain America: Civil War on Netflix.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


 

The Human Condition Trilogy

Year: 1959, 1960, 1961

Director: Masaki Kobayashi

Genre: Drama, History, War

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Chikage Awashima, Ineko Arima, Sô Yamamura, Akira Ishihama, Kôji Nanbara, Seiji Miyaguchi, Tôru Abe, Masao Mishima, Eitarô Ozawa, Kôji Mitsui, Akitake Kôno, Nobuo Nakamura, 山茶花 究, Eijirō Tōno, Shinsuke Ashida, Keiji Sada, Yasushi Nagata, Yoshio Kosugi, Toshiko Kobayashi, Taiji Tonoyama, Akira Tani, Junji Masuda, Torahiko Hamada, Teruko Kishi, Takamaru Sasaki, Akio Isono, Jun Ôtomo

 

The Human Condition, Masaki Kobayashi’s epic wartime trilogy is set in Japan during World War II. It represents one man’s complete journey to balance his drive to care for and protect the woman he loves against risking everything to live according to his idealistic principles. From technical details like his perfect blocking and shot construction to the universal concepts of romantic love, sacrifice, and the desire of all mankind to be treated with dignity, Kobayashi’s directorial and storytelling expertise shines through every frame, and his influence on future filmmakers is readily apparent, especially the threads between Part II and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket as our hero experiences firsthand the brutality of the Japanese army.

Kobayashi centers our viewpoint firmly on Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai) and his humble compassion right from the introduction, where we meet him and Michiko (Michiyo Aratama), the woman he loves. Kaji is a pacifist with socialist ideals, so despite them wanting to marry, he wants to protect her from the hardship a life with him would surely provide. At one point, Michiko fights to convince him to stand by and let injustice happen so that he won’t surely be killed for treason, and it’s one of the most powerful and heartrending scenes in cinema.

Throughout the trilogy, as Kaji goes from a metaphorical to a grueling literal journey, he continues to face internal conflict over his beliefs and his compassion for his fellow man. But between the utter exhaustion and delirium of himself and his companions, presented in the most visceral of ways, his growing inability to stop the cruelty around him slowly breaks down his resolve and his character. In this, his most broken down and desperate state, we see what is at his core that will drive him to hold on to his humanity.

EXPIRING: Last day to watch on FilmStruck channel is June 22. Will remain on Criterion channel


 

Room

Year: 2015

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Tom McCamus, Amanda Brugel, Joe Pingue, Cas Anvar, Wendy Crewson, Kate Drummond, Randal Edwards, Jack Fulton, Justin Mader, Zarrin Darnell-Martin, Jee-Yun Lee, Ola Sturik, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Rory O’Shea, Matt Gordon, Sandy McMaster, Chantelle Chung, Brad Wietersen, Derek Herd

 

For those few of you who have yet to see it, Room is an amazing film that will fill your heart with emotion, remind you of the powerful bond between mother and child, and challenge your perspective of the world around you. Brie Larson as Ma gives an Oscar-winning performance, and Jacob Tremblay as Ma’s son Jack gives an Oscar-deserving one. The premise is simple. Jack has lived his whole life in a small room with Ma. They receive a visitor every once in a while who gets them what they need to survive in exchange for sleeping with Ma while Jack goes and sleeps in the closet. Having given up hope of ever leaving the room and for the sake of Jack’s happiness, Ma has embraced the fiction the room is the world.

Their experience is grieving, the horror practically unimaginable. This is Larson at her most vulnerable, completely owning the reality of Ma’s wretched state and its effect on her body and mind. And Tremblay is a revelation. Even as a child actor, he makes it easy to believe the life experiences of Jack, his innocence, wonder, hurt, and anger are his own. This story presents a  fearful yet heavy reality of similar and even worse events occurring all around the world.

But It turns out to be a deeply layered film that sticks with you long after it’s over. Jack’s perspective relate to all of us in a philosophical, big picture, life-changing sense. But so did Ma’s in the sense of our day-to-day reality and how we bear the weight of our past. It’s not easy to take an all-too-common yet tragic story like this and have it say so much about life and death, good and evil, family, depression, perspective, burdens, sacrifice, the media, innocence, and wonder. But the combined efforts of both writer Emma Donoghue and director Lenny Abrahamson masterfully provided just that.

EXPIRING: Last day to watch is June 23


 

Man on Wire

Year: 2008

Director: James Marsh 

Genre: Documentary, History, Crime, Thriller

Cast: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, Annie Allix, David Forman, Alan Welner, Barry Greenhouse, Jim Moore

 

There’s a phenomenon that occurs now and then in the film world where the subject matter of an acclaimed documentary is sooner or later created as a narrative film. We see that currently with the movies about the life of Fred Rogers. But previously, this occurred with the awe-inspiring documentary I’m recommending, Man on Wire, which details the exploits of Phillippe Petit, a daredevil French high-wire walker who had an inner compulsion to perform increasingly dangerous feats of wirewalking. His ultimate obsession, as dramatized in Robert Zemeckis‘ 4th-wall-breaking film The Walk, was to attach a wire between the Twin Towers of Manhattan and walk from one side to the other.

What makes this film so fascinating and makes the aforementioned dramatization unnecessary, is its intercutting of interviews, archival footage, and re-enactments to clearly tell the compelling story of this strange yet entertaining showman who was driven to do the impossible and the band of friends and accomplices he compiled who would help him do so. As far Petit was concerned, the illegality of the feats he was compelled to perform meant nothing more than another obstacle. Nearly as much as danger itself, It is the forbidden, illegal nature of his plan to walk between the towers that infuses the film with tension and excitement. It plays very much like a heist film with all the detailed planning, setbacks, and specific windows of opportunity you’d expect, even though nothing is being stolen but an experience.


 

COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

June 15
Super (2010)

June 18
Theeb (2014)

June 24
Captain America: Civil War (2016)

June 29
On Golden Pond (1981)

 

AMAZON PRIME

June 15
Anomalisa (2015)

June 23
Room (2013)

 

FILMSTRUCK

June 15
City Lights (1931) *
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Metropolis (1927)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Wag the Dog (1997)

June 22
An American in Paris (1951)
An Angel at My Table (1990) *
The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959) *
The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity (1960) *
The Human Condition III: A Soldier’s Prayer (1961) *
The Piano (1993)

June 29
Dogville (2003) **
The Five Obstructions (2003)
The Italian Connection (1972)
The Music Man (1962)

June 30
Caliber 9 (1972)
It Happened One Night (1934)
The Ladykillers (1955)

*  Remaining on the Criterion channel
** Remaining on the FilmStruck channel

 

HULU

June 30
Zodiac (2007)
Stories We Tell (2012)
A Simple Plan (1998)
Project Nim (2011)
Marathon Man (1976)
A League of Their Own (1992)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Ali’s Wedding – NETFLIX FILM (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Precious (2009)
Red River (1948)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Arthur (1981)
Baby Doll (1956)
Cabaret (1972)
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968)
Moses and Aaron (1975)
Of Mice and Men (1939)
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

 

HULU

Precious (2009)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

June 16
In Bruges (2008)

 

HULU

June 15
Middle of Nowhere (2012)
The Second Mother (2015)
Smoke (1995)
Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak (2009)

 


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

Episode 95.1: Full Metal Jacket Diary with Matthew Modine & Adam Rackoff

After recording Episode 95: Full Metal Jacket, we found ourselves eagerly seeking out even more information about the film. This led to the discovery of Full Metal Jacket Diary, a collection of star Matthew Modine’s journal entries and pictures that had been not only printed in book form and recorded as an audiobook, but developed into a one-of-a-kind immersive iPad app experience. We found Modine’s stories of his time on the set and insight into the mind of Stanley Kubrick to be fascinating.

In this special episode, we sit down with both Matthew Modine and short film producer/iPad app developer Adam Rackoff for conversations about the book, the app, and Matthew’s experiences filming Full Metal Jacket.

** Get Full Metal Jacket Diary Here **

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Download this Episode


Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

Episode 095: Full Metal Jacket

Our final week of Kubrick Month has arrived and we wrap things up by having a conversation about the movie that gave us the great director’s take on the Vietnam War. Full Metal Jacket is extremely tense, often funny, and incredibly shot, but it is more than just a war movie. It’s also a commentary about humanity and with that provides us plenty to talk through. It’s been an awesome month of celebrating Stanley Kubrick and we’re glad to go out with a bang. 


What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:26

(Aaron – Maze Runner: The Death Cure)
(Patrick – Electric Dreams)

Full Metal Jacket Review – 0:12:53

The Connecting Point – 2:00:37

Guest Appearances:


Contact


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Download this Episode


Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

Episode 094: Dr. Strangelove

It’s Week 3 of Kubrick Month and we turn our attention to the director’s version of comedy. Dark, satirical comedy as it may be. Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb isn’t just a movie with one of the longest titles in cinema history, but is a masterful look at how nuclear weapons have shaped the world, and the potential dangers that come with them. For the first time this month we aren’t left scratching our heads and trying to figure out what the film means. Enjoy this conversation about another classic from Stanley Kubrick.


What We’ve Been Up To -0:01:19 

(Aaron – 12 Strong)
(Patrick – The Prince of Egypt, Secret Hitler)

Dr. Strangelove Review – 0:17:49

The Connecting Point – 1:04:09

Guest Appearances:

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Download this Episode


Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

Episode 093: 2001: A Space Odyssey

This week we continue Kubrick Month by looking at the director’s science fiction masterpiece. Is 2001: A Space Odyssey just an artistic marvel or is it also a genuinely entertaining story? We discuss the possibilities while talking plenty about HAL-9000 and Kubrick’s deliberately ambiguous ending. Join us for this conversation and let us know what you think about the film, theories and all.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:16

(Aaron – Warrior, Phantom Thread)
(Patrick – 24-Hour Comic)

2001: A Space Odyssey Review – 0:14:28

The Connecting Point – 0:59:42

Contact


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Download this Episode 


Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

Episode 092: The Shining

Happy kick-off to Kubrick Month, listeners. In this first episode of 2018 we begin our celebration of the director by discussing his masterful horror film, The Shining. Also on this episode are reviews of Insidious: The Last KeyPaddington 2 and The Wolf Children.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:04:53

(Aaron – Insidious: The Last Key & Paddington 2)
(Patrick – The Wolf Children)

The Shining Review – 0:29:51

The Connecting Point – 1:30:15

Contact


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Download this Episode


Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!