Gimme Shelter

Little Edie in  Grey Gardens

I am mostly against the critical valuation of real people in documentaries. I’ve written about this in the past, specifically in response to the reviews of The Imposter that judged subject Frederic Bourdin more than the film itself. I also wondered last fall whether it is okay to highlight the “best” characters of a given year in the form of the Cinema Eye Honors recognition of “The Unforgettables.” On that, I eventually came around to agreeing that memorable documentary characters deserve recognition if not a competitive prize that puts one above the rest (and the CEH don’t mean for them to be “the best,” just unforgettable). Even calling them characters makes me conflicted at times, but within the film space and narrative, that is what they are. Ranking these characters, though, or calling them “best” or “worst,” isn’t something I feel comfortable doing. However, it is more acceptable to discuss a documentary character positively than negatively. Calling someone inspiring is fair, but calling someone despicable is not. Unless their deeds are horrible enough that calling a subject such is about considering them beyond the personality they exhibit on screen (think Hitler in Triumph of the Will, Anwar Congo in The Act of Killing and really any other genocidal leader). We can think anything we want of these people privately and even discuss them amongst ourselves as part of the audience, but there’s no place for it in film criticism. So this list, which is inspired by my ongoing consideration of the Up Series for its 50th anniversary, is not intended to be a critique of any of these people (or […]

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Shout! Factory

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Hill Street Blues: The Complete Collection Capt. Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) heads up an inner city police precinct with smarts, heart and determination, but even with the best officers at his command the job can be a constant struggle. Of course not all of his cops are quite at that level, and the various dramas they endure and sometimes cause keep the station constantly in flux. One of the most acclaimed TV series of the ’80s, this Steven Bochco-created cop show is the clear precursor to ones like NYPD Blue in its mix of police dramas and personal story lines. Its epic ensemble allows for season-long arcs across multiple characters, and the show does a fantastic job of ensuring that each of the characters get their own moments and episodes to shine. Shout! Factory’s box set includes all 144 episodes (seven seasons, each in their own snapcase) as well as multiple special features offering insight into the show’s creation and talents. [DVD extras: Featurettes, interviews, gag reel, commentaries]

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Gimme Shelter

It is entirely possible, wholly feasible, and ridiculously strange that chubby-cheeked tweens who first became aware of Vanessa Hudgens thanks to the wholesome charms of the High School Musical franchise are now able to catch her burning up the big screen in any one of her numerous wannabe-gritty new roles. Children (children! Actual children!) that first saw her dancing across their television screens as a fresh-faced Disney high schooler can now purchase tickets to see her going gritty in a big way at their local multiplex. (This, of course, assumes that your local multiplex is playing Harmony Korine films, which does sound sort of cool.) The first High School Musical hit the small screen back in 2006, a Disney Channel production filled with new talents (Zac Efron), poppy songs, and a saccarhine love story. Hudgens starred as new girl in school Gabriella Montez, a smarty pants sweetheart who had spent her entire childhood moving around and was thrilled to be able to close out her last two years of high school in just one location (sadly, this location was Albquruque, New Mexico). Falling in love with Efron’s Big Man on Campus Troy Bolton was just icing on the cake. And then, well, we suppose the revelation that the pair were both skilled singers, dancers, and actors (along with all their friends!) who could dominate their school’s theater program was the equaivalnt of sprinkles. The costumes might as well have been candles.

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Medium Cool

Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool is a film whose immediacy and docu-realism was all too fitting for an America that could, for the first time, see its wars on television. Shot during the protests and riots that accompanied the Democratic National Convention in August 1968, Wexler’s film seamlessly mixed narrative storytelling and documentary – Medium Cool is a Hollywood-made document of America in ’68 if there ever was one, a stunning portrait of the chaotic state of politics and its relationship to media in one of the most tumultuous years in American (or, perhaps, world) history. But Criterion’s long-anticipated release of Medium Cool isn’t the only A/V flashback to ’68 occurring this summer. Olivier Assays’s Something in the Air reflects on the student protests surrounding the similarly turbulent demonstrations in France in May of that year, while Season 6 of Mad Men has just entered the sweltering summer that will climax in the events in Chicago that August. Maybe it’s Congress’s seemingly eternal bottleneck, or the government’s paranoia-inducing surveillance of the press, or a general aura of well-justified cynicism, but the simultaneously dark and potentially revolutionary years of ’68 seem to demand contemporary reflection, even if it only results in pop culture nostalgia. That said, here’s The Criterion Collection’s archive of films that captured the spirit of the revolutionary times of the ‘60s around the world, all fitting comrades of the brilliant Medium Cool.

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fountain08

After taking a weekend off, the Reject Recap returns with another look at the best movie news and features of the past week. As usual, we’ve got a mix of our own content and favorite stories from around the web. If you wrote or know of something posted that’s potentially deserving of being showcased here, please email me. Even if it’s not chosen for the top ten, if I like it I’ll give it a mention of some kind. While this Saturday morning sees yet another slot filled by Star Wars and obviously devotes another to SXSW before the fest has hardly even begun, there are some other good picks for both the movie geeks (features involving The Fountain and Big Trouble in Little China, for example) and the more academically minded cinephiles (a look at Romanian cinema and a few considerations of the best music docs ever made). Also, there’s two funny mash-up videos for your enjoyment. Start your weekend right after the jump.

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Criterion Files

Warning: some spoilers ahead. For a company known for its arthouse fare, The Criterion Collection is not short on great horror films. From early oddities like Haxan to silent classics like Vampyr to classic B-movies like Corridors of Blood to cult classics like House to newer visions like Antichrist to the just-released Rosemary’s Baby, The Criterion Collection can provide a unique encyclopedia of the development of the horror genre across nations and decades. But while the horror genre specializes in fear, tension, and disturbing visions, it doesn’t have a monopoly on any of these categories. Violent revenge films, psychosexual dramas, depictions of real-life political struggle, documentaries that capture terrible moments in history, and movies that depict the quick dismantling of social structures all employ devices and emotional effects similar to that of the horror film, most notably dread, disturbing imagery, shocking juxtapositions, and perhaps the major defining component of the horror film: the tense anticipation of a horrible event. Here are ten terrifying non-horror films from The Criterion Collection.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. Dawning a huge Uncle Sam top hat, Mick Jagger welcomes everyone to the breakfast show and sets into the vocals of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Thus starts an insane journey into the free concert the band gave for 300,000 people in which mayhem ruled, people were born, and people died. It’s a brilliant documentary that goes beyond the usual concert film, and the trailer gives hints to how chilling and exciting the movie really is. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Criterion Files

I had the privilege of seeing the surviving Maysles brother, Albert, do a Q&A after a public screening of Grey Gardens (1976). During the discussion, somebody asked him the inevitable question regarding how the presence of the camera changed the very subject he was documenting. It’s an interesting and essential question for any documentary filmmaker to consider, especially when one is engaging in the direct verite style rather than a traditional retrospective style, because it’s simplistic for the filmmaker to consider themselves “objective” or “invisible” when putting a camera on their subject: the presence of the camera changes things. Albert Maylsles responded with an amusing story about how the conversations the brothers heard between “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” outside the house when not filming were exactly the same as when they were inside. While this is no doubt the case as the eccentric Beales would certainly “be themselves” no matter the occasion or circumstance, with all due respect Mr. Maysles’s assessment of the question was a bit too narrow. Putting cameras within the aging walls of Grey Gardens did, in fact, change everything.

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Culture Warrior

This time last month, critics across the web and in print were compiling their mandatory best-of lists. While I often get annoyed when some lists with grander goals are given a degree of resonance they don’t in fact deserve (I’m looking at you, AFI), I do see the fun of the end-of year list ritual and honestly enjoy reading and writing such lists myself. But the thing is, I’m not primarily a critic for FSR, I’m a columnist. Thus, it’s nowhere near mandatory that I see everything released in a given year. I’ve been generously given the privileged position here of seeing what I want to see and writing about what I find interesting to write about week-in and week-out. While I receive occasional screeners for indie flicks and docs, I no longer live in a town that holds press screenings, so any new releases I choose to write about come into fruition because I, like your average cinephile (take note, Kevin Smith), have paid to see a movie that I think deserves my time, words, and money. This long digression is to ultimately say that my critical opinion of a given year at the end of that calendar year doesn’t ultimately mean all that much. My annual Top 5 contributions are based on comparatively few films seen by December 31. It’s typically not until sometime in February that I have anything resembling a top 10 list of my own that I can stand by, having finally seen former limited […]

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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