|FRESH FROM THE THEATERS|
Sin City. (2005).
What's black and white and red all over? It's Sin City and it's "like no other movie you have ever seen, and will most certainly go down as [Robert] Rodriguez's best film to date," wrote Greg Wilson in Film Threat. "It is bare, and bold, and necessary. In the end, Rodriguez shows us [comic artist Frank] Miller's Sin City dream world and creates something new and disturbingly exciting in the process."
With Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Benecio Del Toro, Jessica Alba and a host of other stars in supporting roles and featuring an extended scene guest-directed by Quentin Tarantino.
The Brown Bunny (2003).
Yes, yes, this is the film by Vincent Gallo that caused such a stir in Cannes back in 2003, the one that set off a feud between Gallo and Roger Ebert (they eventually made up, sort of), the one that culminates with that infamous scene with Chloë Sevigny. "The question remains though," noted Filmbrain in a review that set off another lively debate, "is The Brown Bunny any good?" It takes him a while to get there, but he does eventually conclude that it "isn't a masterpiece, nor is it even a great film, but it is a powerful, hypnotic, haunting, and yes, brave piece that is as much about cinema as it is about Vincent Gallo, and easily one of the best films of 2004."
By the way, whatever you think of the film, you don't want to miss Caveh Zahedi's interview with Gallo, which ran last September.
The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2004).
Rebecca Miller directs real-life hubby Daniel Day-Lewis as Jack (as well as Camilla Belle as Rose, Jack's daughter, and Catherine Keener as Jack's possible love interest).
"Visually, The Ballad of Jack and Rose is a lolling, luxuriant experience," wrote Andrew O'Hehir in Salon.
"One of the richest films of the past decade," wrote J Hoberman in the Village Voice when it hit US theaters in 2003. "Platform looks like a documentary, but it's Pop Art as history." It was also in the 2003 edition of the Voice's annual massive critics poll that Platform ranked highest on the "Passiondex"; if you're into breaking down critical evaluations by the numbers, you can read Hoberman explain what that means exactly here; in general, though, it means that critics who value Platform value it very, very highly indeed.
What's important, though, is that Jia Zhang-ke's vital work is becoming available outside China (though they're rather hard to come by inside China as well). Unknown Pleasures, his follow-up to Platform, is here; The World is just now wrapping up a limited theatrical run. The twist? These films brilliantly address the changes in China and in the world that make this availability possible.
Flic Story (1975).
Little wonder there are so few reviews to be found of this policier starring Alain Delon. As Kino writes at their site, "Jacques Deray follows in the footsteps of French crime film master Jean-Pierre Melville by bringing unsentimental verve, intelligent pacing, and refreshing honesty to Flic Story. Featuring multi-layered performances by Delon and [Jean-Louis] Trintignant, this classic of 70s French film noir is now available for the first time ever in the US."
Two Men in Town (1973).
Harry Knowles: "Fantastic Alain Delon crime film about a bank robber let out of jail after time served - seeking help - but is tormented by a cop and things just get really really unfair. This film is just badass. This really is a great film about the downward spiral one can go on after making one mistake and how life sometimes just never gives you that second chance, even if you are a good person. Great little film that hardly anybody has seen."
With Jean Gabin.
Funny Ha Ha (2003).
The few people who initially caught Andrew Bujalski's subtly perceptive debut feature at festivals have tended to become evangelists for the modest filmmaker. Bujalski was helped by the Independent Spirit Awards which, in 2004, named him "Someone to Watch." He was helped by Amy Taubin, who interviewed him and sang Funny Ha Ha's praises very early on at Film Comment's site. And he's been helped by a private investor who's funding the film's current theatrical distribution even as, obviously, it's now out on DVD.
Little wonder. As Reverse Shot editor Michael Koresky wrote at indieWIRE, "like early Linklater or Jarmusch, its aesthetics are perfectly wedded to its characters' lack of spatial self-awareness. To invoke those names may seem a bit heady for an unpretentious 16mm charmer focused on the unthreatening romantic travails of a rootless recent college graduate named Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer), but then why does Bujalski's film, in tone and in spirit, feel like something of a revelation?"
Top Hat (1935).
Along with Chaplin vs. Keaton, one of the greatest and longest-running debates among cinephiles is Gene Kelly vs. Fred Astaire. As far as we're concerned, Kelly's got the power, but Astaire's got the pure movie magic. For far too long, though, his greatest performances, both as a dancer and a singer, have gone unreleased on DVD. Now come four made in rapid succession when Astaire was in his prime; and working with his greatest partner, Ginger Rogers.
To begin with, there's Top Hat, not only one of the best musicals to come out of Hollywood, but also "the apotheosis of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers," writes Alan Vanneman in Bright Lights Film Journal. "It has five dances, a total they matched in only one other film (Follow the Fleet). All five are first-rate, and several are among the best that Fred and Ginger ever did. Irving Berlin's score is one of the most famous in film history... 'Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails' is the song most closely associated with Astaire throughout his career, while 'Cheek to Cheek' has become a symbol of the Astaire/Rogers relationship as a whole (their onscreen relationship, at least). Top Hat inflated every device of the previous three Astaire/Rogers picture to the bursting point. With each film, the icing on the cake got thicker and thicker. Top Hat was pure butter-cream. Cake this rich was never baked again."
Follow the Fleet (1936). "'Let's Face the Music and Dance' [is] one of the most elegant performances ever put on film." (Vanneman)
Swing Time (1936). "The last Fred & Ginger musical to have it all." (Vanneman)
Shall We Dance (1937). "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" features Fred & Ginger on roller skates.
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). Fred & Ginger reunite after a ten-year break; features the Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me."
Pom Poko (1994).
"With the international attention and praise heaped upon Hayao Miyazaki in recent years, one would almost forget that there is another genius at work in the offices of Studio Ghibli," wrote Tom Mes at Midnight Eye. What's more, he finds Isao Takahata "the more interesting director... Pom Poko is a delightful, often uproariously funny film, at once childishly irreverent and thoughtfully mature. Being a Ghibli work, it is beautifully rendered and technically impeccable, with a great number of memorable set pieces."
My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999). "Visually striking and quite unique... somewhere between My Neighbor Totoro and the collective works of animator Bill Plympton." (Anime News Network)
Little Britain (2003).
Here's how the BBC recently introduced one of its most wildly successful comedies to the US: "Based on the highly successful BBC Radio-4 series, Matt Lucas and David Walliams take viewers on a unique tour of the UK. From the rolling hills of England to the Scottish highlands and green valleys of Wales, Little Britain delights in all that is mad, bad, quirky, and generally eccentric about the people and places of Britain.
"All of modern Britain is here. Daffyd is 'the only gay in the village' (and that's the way he wants to keep it). Marjorie Dawes is a terrifying FatFighters, group leader while Emily Howard is a totally unconvincing Victorian transvestite. The series also features Bernard Chumley, the aging theater actor with a suspicious need to rid himself of his sister, Kitty. There's romance novelist Dame Sally, who has no idea how to write romantic novels and Des Kaye, a former kids' TV star and now a bitter employee of that most British of British institutions, the DIY shop."
The Simpsons Sixth Season (1994).
And the episodes, 25 in all, are: "Bart of Darkness," "Lisa's Rival," "Another Simpsons Clip Show," "Itchy and Scratchy Land," "Sideshow Bob Roberts," "Treehouse of Horror V," "Bart's Girlfriend," "Lisa on Ice," "Homer Bad Man," "Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy," "Fear of Flying," "Homer the Great," "And Maggie Makes Three," "Bart's Comet," "Homie the Clown," "Bart vs. Australia," "Homer vs. Patty and Selma," "A Star is Burns," "Lisa's Wedding," "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds," "The PTA Disbands," "Round Springfield," "The Springfield Connection," "Lemon of Troy, "Who Shot Mr. Burns?"
What's more, Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith and others take part in the commentaries.