Weekend

Year in Review: Best Criterion

It seems like every year we have to begin this particular article with the disclaimer that we aren’t necessarily talking about the best releases Criterion put upon us this calendar year. If one made a list of top 10 home releases in a given year one could conceivably litter that list with nothing but Criterion releases, and still find themselves in the same predicament. Here, our approach to this article has, more often than not, been based on a wow factor in one of many different areas. Either a wow for the presentation of the release, a wow for the personal discovery of something previously unknown, a wow for the collective power of a set, or, occasionally the most fun, a wow for the “I can’t believe Criterion released that….I’m really happy Criterion decided to release that…but seriously can you believe they released that?” This year was no different in any of those respects for Criterion as they continue to put out some of the most impressive releases month in and month out with films that have been in dire need of the Criterion treatment for a long time (Purple Noon), notoriously maligned and controversial artworks that deserve a second chance (Heaven’s Gate), their continuous support for the unique voices of the next generation of filmmakers (Tiny Furniture) while trying to also include the early works of some of modern cinema’s most exciting visionaries (The Game, Being John Malkovich, Shallow Grave); which, on that note, brings us to our first […]

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Criterion Files

Over the years, we’ve been more than just a little interested in the work of The Criterion Collection. Their mission since 1984, has simply been “gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements.” Their focus has been on important films, both classic and contemporary. And they are so good at it that we have dedicated a regular feature to it, this thing known as Criterion Files. A column that I’m hijacking this week because I wanted to talk about a few things. Notably a slew of recent Blu-ray releases, perfect examples of the ongoing work that Criterion is doing to preserve, highlight, celebrate and archive some of the most significant accomplishments in film history. Today we take a look at some of these things that Criterion does very well, in the context of their recent Blu-ray release. All of these are available in stores now and are certainly recommended. All that’s left is to talk about why.

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Searching for Sonny Elliot reluctantly heads home for his ten-year high school reunion, but instead of the expected disappointments he discovers a missing friend, a murder and a mystery. Writer/director Andrew Disney’s feature debut is an indie rarity in that it’s as funny as any big screen comedy. The laughs come in part due to Disney’s sharp and witty script, but credit should also go to the main cast of Jason Dohring, Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney. The trio has a smooth and perfectly timed chemistry together, and they help make the film a joy to watch. The lovely Minka Kelly helps in that department as well. [Extras: Commentary, additional scenes, bloopers, featurettes] Also available on Blu-ray.

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Criterion Files

The Criterion Collection’s motto makes explicit its devotion to “important classic and contemporary films,” but it’s also clear that the Collection has dedicated itself to the careers of a select group of important classic and contemporary directors. Several prestigious directors have a prominent portion of their careers represented by the collection. Between the Criterion spine numbers and Eclipse box sets, 21 Ingmar Bergman films are represented (and multiple versions of two of these films), ranging from his 1940s work to Fanny and Alexander (and 3 documentaries about him). 26 Akira Kurosawa films have been given the Criterion/Eclipse treatment, and Yashujiro Ozu has 17 films in the collection. Though many factors go into forming the collection, including the ever-shifting issue of rights and ownership over certain titles, it’s hard to argue against the criticism (or, perhaps more accurately, obvious observation) that the films in the Collection represent certain preferences of taste which makes its omissions suspect and its occasionally-puzzling choices fodder for investigation or too predictable to be interesting (two Kurosawa Eclipse sets?). And while the Collection has recently upped its game on the “contemporary” portion of its claim by highlighting modern-day masterpieces like Olivier Assayas’s Carlos and Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, for the most part attempts at forming a complete directorial filmography via within the Collection has typically been reserved for directors whose filmographies have completed. Except, of course, for the case of Wes Anderson.

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Culture Warrior

For the first time in recent memory, I’m going into Oscar Sunday having no idea who is likely to take home many of the major awards. I’m sure there are entire websites out there devoted to an accurate prediction of who and what will take home the gold on Sunday, but there seems something a bit different about this year. Of the nine films nominated, I don’t have a clear sense of what would be the top five had AMPAS not changed the number of entries in the top category. While The Artist may clearly have more of a chance than, say, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, there’s no grand battle between likely leads like there was between The King’s Speech and The Social Network last year. And I don’t think I’m alone in stating that this year’s uninspiring list of nominees seems to reflect a growing indifference against the ceremony itself. Sure, on Sunday, like I have every year since I was eleven years old, I’ll watch the entire ceremony from beginning to end. And, like every year since I was twenty-one years old, I’ll make fun of the pompous and excessive self-congratulatory nature of the proceedings. But while in most years I have had some skin in the game, besides the two nominations afforded to the excellent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the presence of the transcendentally excellent Pina in the Best Documentary Feature category, this year I didn’t even get a sense that the Academy was awarding […]

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Over Under - Large

Brokeback Mountain had the highest opening weekend per screen average in 2005, and it went from opening in only five theaters to playing wide all over the world by the end of its run. Then, when award season rolled around, it garnered all sorts of acclaim, getting awards for best picture from multiple outlets, Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director, and it even got recognition from GLAAD for being the year’s most outstanding film. Pretty much it was embraced by everyone as being groundbreaking and important, and it saved Ang Lee’s butt after he pissed everyone off by making The Hulk. Weekend came out just this last September, but you might not remember it because not many people ended up checking it out. By the time it left theaters it had only made a domestic gross of  $484,592. Ouch. And while this movie also got some love from GLAAD, it was ignored by all of the mainstream awards shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes. A cultural phenomenon it wasn’t.

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SXSW 2011 may be coming to a close, but we’ll be sharing more interviews and reviews as the week rolls on. All of which will have barbecue stains. It’s a big night tonight. Neil is standing in line for Hobo With a Shotgun, cleverly putting his hat out and asking for money to buy a lawnmower. Rob has been lured into a vegan screening of a low-budget Asian pink film. Brian is wandering around town trying to figure out just how much he loved Attack the Block. Luke and Adam are luring people into Asian pink film screenings, and Jack hasn’t been seen since last Thursday. We’ll be earning a few awards for our coverage, no doubt, but SXSW has crowned a few winners this evening – the most awarded being the Rachel Harris comedy Natural Selection. You thought for a second they were posthumously celebrating Charles Darwin, didn’t you? Congratulations to all the winners, and to all the films at SXSW. Here are the winners as listed in the official press release:

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published: 10.30.2014
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published: 10.29.2014
D+
published: 10.27.2014
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published: 10.24.2014
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