Volume CCCXXXIII- 2012: The Year the World Ends (According to Very, Very Gullible People)
For the Week of 1/3/11
Videoport says thanks to everyone who supported us in 2011. Now let’s kick 2012 in the butt! (In a movie-renting sense…)
Middle Aisle Monday. (Get one free rental from the Sci-Fi, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation or Staff Picks sections with your paid rental.)
>>>April suggests April suggests Clue (in Mystery/Thriller.) Because it’s fun. No, really. I swear to you that it’s an entertaining film. I mean it’s got Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, and Martin Mull, how could it not be fun? Sure it’s based on a board game. Okay. I know! People running around screaming and killing each other. None of the three possible endings make any sense. And why does it need three endings anyway? It’s a silly movie but I really love it. Was it the butler in the kitchen with the candlestick? I’m not bothered. “Well, it’s a matter of life after death. Now that he’s dead, I have a life.”
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests Once Upon a Time in the West(in Action/Adventure.) By this point in the life
of the ‘spaghetti Western’ genre, the idea of the American Old West had mutated into something utterly its own. Sure, the reality of the Old West were already magnified, distorted, and myth-ified by decades upon decades of American Westerns, but when the Italians got a hold of it, that place might as well have been on Mars. I’m not complaining- I imagine the real Old West (like most of all reality) would make for very dull movies unless it was suitably jazzed up with gunfights and saloon girls and such, and, through the eyes of lunatic directors in a country thousands of miles away who really only knew about the West from our already-goofy version of it , that place became delightfully-goofy. (Watch the documentary The Spaghetti West in Videoport’s Documentary Arts section to see how out there the genre became.) But no one ever made better use of this odd little genre than Sergio Leone, who introduced Clint Eastwood to the world (in A Fistful of Dollars, etc), but it’s in his later Once Upon a Time in the West, that Leone created the purest example of the mythological Spaghetti West. Just look at the opening scene, a bravura, wordless sequence of three impossibly-grizzled hitmen (including genre icons Woody Strode
and Jack Elam) impassively passing time waiting for a train to arrive; it’s an audacious, witty beginning, leading to the arrival of the legendary Charles Bronson (who may be the most-grizzled man in human history.) He’s a nearly-silent gunfighter in town to exact some mythic revenge against Henry Fonda’s mythically-evil criminal mastermind, and he teams up, reluctantly, with beardily-grizzled Jason Robards, a cynical older gunfighter. Claudia Cardinale is in there too, with her mythically-not-grizzled boobs seemingly the only soft objects in the gritty, pointy West. Streets are wind-swept and seemingly a football field wide. Closeups reveal grime-encrusted pores like dirty thimbles. It’s the apotheosis of the traditional movie Western- really, they should have just shut the genre down after this…
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental…OR…get 4 movies for 7 days for 7 bucks!) >>>Dennis suggests Gate of Flesh (in Foreign Language/the Criterion Collection.) Seijun Suzuki is the very model of a cult director. 1. Just look at his titles: Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter, Youth of the Beast, Pistol Opera, Tattooed Life, Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards, Fighting Elegy, and of course, Gate of Flesh. They’re so lurid, your eye practically transforms them into pulp novels or comic books as you read them, but also so evocative that you can’t but pick them up. 2. As his titles suggest, Suzuki worked almost exclusively in ‘genre films’ which is a genteel term people use when they don’t want to admit that they like watching sleaze, violence, and, you know, titillating stuff like that. 3. He worked repeatedly with a stable of actors, most recognizably chipmunk-cheeked leading man Jo Shishido (whose catcher’s mitt-style face was, as Videoport’s Jackie and Andy schooled me recently, the result of his intentional attempt to surgically make himself seem more “western”, and makes me question his judgement and/or sanity.) 4. Like the best cult directors, Suzuki’s sex and violence-ful thrillers often act as stealth delivery devices for surprisingly-resonant themes; it’s like his titles-you’re lured in by the attention-grabbing promise of sleaze, and then you realize there music in them. Gate of Flesh is a perfect example of the Suzuki package. You don’t have to be Freud to connect the title to the film’s quartet of prostitute protagonists. Likewise, the action of the film, centering on the daily grind (so to speak) of four women banding together to stay alive in the lawless, wanton chaos of post-war Japan is shot with an eye towards making absolutely everything and everyone as earthy, and physically-animalistic as possible. The four women helpfully dress in the same day-glo-colored dresses as they ply their trade, and everyone is covered in a slick sheen (of makeup, of sweat, occasionally of blood) that
you can practically see dripping off onto each other. As the quartet, squatting in the ruins of a bombed out house, screw, cheat, steal, and bully their way through each day’s ordeal of sex, and food, and danger, they seem to embody the spirit of hustling, amoral, post-war Japan, and the arrival of Shishedo, a piggish balck-marketeer, only serves to amp up the sex, violence, and betrayal. And sweat. Rarely seen without a mouthful of food, booze, or woman parts, Shishedo’s hunky (if chupmunk-y) drifter explains that, after the war, all he’s interested in is food and sex, appetites he indulges lustily, whether it’s with one (or more) of the ladies, or with a purloined cow (brutally and graphically slaughtered and consumed onscreen.) Practically the embodiment of earthy, uncomplicated want, Shishedo’s drifter throws the prostitutes’ solidarity all out of whack, turning them against each other and turning their formerly-united contempt of the world (and men) unnervingly against each other (I’m especially terrified by the little, heavy-set one, with the girly giggles and crazy eyes.) It’s a lurid little melodrama, sure, but it’s also gorgeously, and thoughtfully, shot, with Suzuki alternating weird little flights of fancy with the grime or reality. Plus, it’s very interesting, and sobering, to see how a Japanese director, shooting just 19 years after the end of WWII, portrays the American victors. Apart from the fact that the Japanese people, in the aftermath of crushing defeat, are shown a as desperate, degraded ruin of a civilization, the American occupiers are portrayed as much, much worse. Callously-indifferent (or even hostile) to the Japanese, American servicemen, in Gate of Flesh, are a casually-cruel army of exploiters, buying women (or raping them), and, in one especially, telling (and gag-inducing) scene, seasoning the vats of free stew they ship tot he ghetto with used rubbers. I was especially tickled by hearing the Americans’ dialogue sound exactly as dubbed and tossed-off sounding as “foreigners” often sound in American movies of the period. It’s all just a crude jabber of come-ons, expletives, and abuse, with the American flag flapping into frame every once in a while to remind us that , in the hands of a “cult director”, anger is pretty potent.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.) >>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Six Feet Under (in Feature Drama.) Your faithful editor and I been re-watching “Six Feet Under”from the beginning and it. is. SO GOOD, YOU GUYS. The show takes
place in and around Fisher & Sons Funeral Home, where the Fisher family works and lives; turns out it’s called a funeral home for a reason. Obviously, it grapples daily and deeply with loss and grief, but the lives of the Fishers, their colleagues, and friends weave a poignant, sad, hilarious tapestry of drama. And it’s so much fun to watch these powerhouse actors all mesh together. Check it out, y’all: Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”), Frances Conroy (who was nominated for four Emmys and won a Golden Globe and three SAG awards), Richard Jenkins (a classic “That Guy!” whom you’ll recognize immediately), Peter Krause (“Sports Night,” “Dirty Sexy Money”), Lauren Ambrose (“Torchwood”), Mathew St. Patrick (whose powerful, sensitive performance on SFU should get him more attention and roles than his IMDb page suggests), Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror, “Chaos”), and Rachel Griffiths (Muriel’s Wedding, “Brothers and Sisters”), and Jeremy Sisto (May, “Kidnapped”). Phew! And that’s just the main characters! Secondary characters and guest stars tend to be classic actors’-actors, including Ed Begley, Jr., Particia Clarkson, Ben Foster, Lili Taylor, Rainn Wilson, Kathy Bates, James Cromwell, Chris Messina, and Justin Theroux.
>>>April suggests ‘Wonders of the Universe’(in the Documentary section,) while Videoport
customer Bob H. suggests that you definitely do NOT watch ‘Wonders of the Universe’ (in the Documentary section.) April says: “I’m so excited that we have this! Presented by Professor Brian Cox who is the most handsome scientist on TV! Tell people to watch it!” Bob rebuts, “This documentary is so hideously unwatchable, it’s the visual equivalent of one of William Slavick’s “Letters to the editor.” I would rather sit in my basement listening to Kurt Cobain and polishing my shotgun after drinking a fifth of tequila than ever see more than six seconds of this video ever again. It should come with an IV drip of RedBull, and some adrenochrome. Like being tied to a chair and ticked with a brick by angry midgets bad.” So whom should you listen to? Well, I think the only rational response is to rent the series and make up your own mind. Which means, of course, that we get paid. I love film-geek fights… Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary). >>>You get a free kids movie every Friday and you don’t have to rent anything else to get it. So we like kids, so what?
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.) >>>For Saturday, April suggests Harold and Maude (in Comedy) Because it’s time for you to watch it again. Or watch it for the first time. Sorry we keep name dropping John Waters but we’re just still super excited that we got to meet him and gee he’s a swell guy, but anyway, he mentioned gerontophilia (google’d it) which is the sexual attraction to the elderly and it made me think of this film. Ruth Gordon is one sexy old lady. Bud Cort being all emo before emo was a thing. Yeah, you really should rent it. “Harold, everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves.” >>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Greg the Bunny (in Comedy.) What is with the puppet marginalization on TV? Plenty of child-oriented programming embraces the philosophy of diversity and mutual tolerance, mingling cultures on “Sesame Street,” “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and “The Muppet Show.” If only more adult shows upheld the same standards of of equality. Enter IFC original series “Greg the Bunny,” which — make no mistake! — is most definitely adult. “Greg the Bunny” follows the exploits of (take a guess?) Greg the Bunny, an actor and singer who stars on children’s program “Sweetknuckle Junction.” Greg and his fellow performers of Fabricated-American descent find themselves often find themselves at odds with their human colleagues (including Seth Green, Eugene Levy, and Sarah Silverman), and with good reason: the puppets Fabricated Americans are disenfranchised, alienated, and systematically discriminated against and condescended to by their meat-and-bone colleagues.
New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Justified’- Season 2(Timothy Olyphant brings his
trademark growly voice and manly squint to this continuing tale of a modern-day cowboy sheriff in the coal mountain country of Kentucky), Contagion (Steven Soderbergh directs this edge-of-your-seat-type thriller about the outbreak of one of those serious, gonna kill everybody, diseases; celebrity snifflers include Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow), I Am (Tom Shadyac, director of the likes of Bruce Almighty, documents his decision to drop out of the Hollywood scene and search for spiritual enlightenment; does the guy responsible for Patch Adams have anything to teach you? Rent it and see…), I Don’t Know How She Does It (Sarah Jessica Parker plays a rich, white wife and mother whose attempts to balance her perfect family with her high-paying new job makes her a hero somehow…), The Guard(ever-cool guys Brendan Gleeson and
Don Cheadle pair up in this Irish cop thriller about a gruff Galway cop and a no-nonsense FBI agent vs. drug-smugglers), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (I don’t want to argue with producer Gullermo Del Toro, but I’d suggest that the title of this nifty horror remake is baaaad advice…), Mildred Pierce (Kate Winslet takes over from Joan Crawford as the titular self-sacrificing mom whose scrambling attempts to ensure her family’s illusion of wealth turn her sheltered daughter into a snobby monster; HBO miniseries was directed by Todd Haynes [I’m Not There, Velvet Goldmine, Poison, Safe]), Shark Night (at least when they remade Piranha, they had the good taste to raunch it up; this PG13 ‘horror’ flick about shark eating no one of any consequence begs the question, ‘why bother?’)
Videoporters’ The Best/Worst DVDs of 2011 (2nd edition)
Former Videoporter Dennis2/The Rage’s Best of 2011
9. Super 8
8. Tree of Life
7. Another Year
6. 13 Assassins
5. Get Low
4. Let Me In
2. ‘Luther’- season 2
Dennis2/The Rage’s Worst of 2011
The Adjustment Bureau
Battle: Los Angeles
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