VideoReport #433

Volume CDXXXIII- O Little Town of DEATH-lehem!

For the Week of 12/3/13

Videoport gives you a free movie every day. And to answer your follow-up questions: 1. Yes, every single day. 2. No, we’re not kidding. 3. Yes, we agree that that’s very generous. 4. Yup, and nice, too.

Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Popular Music, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>>Emily S. Customer gives you What Not to Spectate When You’re Expecting: a list of movies for pregnant viewers to avoid

Alien

Rosemary’s Baby

Inside (A l’interieur)

It’s Alive!

Eraserhead

Prometheus

Cronenberg’s The Fly

The Brood

Splice

Possession

Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>>Dennis gives you the artsy-farsty movie checklist you’ve been waiting for! The British Film Institute puts out their Best 50 Films Of All Time lists every once in a while. And as far as best of lists go, none is more artsy—and only a few more fartsy. And since I am both of those things to varying degrees, I’m gonna rank their rankings—take that Britishers!

1. Vertigo. (This Hitchcock flick knocked #2 out of the top spot for the first time ever last year. I don’t get it—a fine, dark film, but I’ve never been on team Vertigo. Verdict: overrated by British people)

2. Citizen Kane. (Now we’re talkin’—it’s a cliche, but some cliches get that way because they’re true. Sure, I might not pick this one as #1 on the list from Dennis World [might get to that someday…], but its historical significance alone makes it hard to argue with—especially since it’s still so damned entertaining. Verdict: Underrated by British people)

3. Tokyo Story. (If there’s a more delicately beautiful and heartbreaking film than this tale of aging parents dealing with their place in their growing children’s lives then, well, no there isn’t, so forget I said anything. The exquisitely sad, minutely observed drama’s of legendary Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu aren’t everyone’s cup of perfectly-steeped tea [you know—dumb people], but I can’t argue with this one. Verdict: Resists all rating in its perfect stillness.)

4. The Rules Of The Game. (A perennial on such lists, Jean Renoir’s 1939 tragicomedy about the mix of classes at a lavish country home is what it is—it’s reputation unassailable, I’ve always more admired than loved it. But hey, that’s what these artsy film lists reward. Verdict: Sure, why not…)

5. Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans. (Seen it. Admired it. Was ultimately bored by it. Apologies, Britishers, but I plead ear-prejudice here—my brain just can’t rate silent films properly. I turn in half my fartsy points… Verdict: N/A)

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey. (The artsiest, and perhaps fartsiest of all sci fi films, this is another undisputed classic I admire rather than enjoy. I’ve watched it a half dozen times and come away feeling as enriched as after reading a very difficult book for a college course. Sound thrilling? Well… Verdict: Overrated. So sue me.)

7. The Searchers. (By far the most thematically complex and dark of John Wayne’s Westerns, this one, which I finally saw last year [again, sue me] is nonetheless overrated. Sez me. No offense to Portland’s legendary John Ford, but there about a dozen Ford films I’d rather watch again—The Searchers has an odd structure, some silly humor, and, for a legendarily epic Western, it relies on a surprising number of very offputting soundstage sets. Great movie but Verdict: overrated.)

8. Man With A Movie Camera. (Ah yes—Dziga Vertov’s groundbreaking 1939 Contructivist silent Soviet examination of the use of montage and—yeah, I haven’t seen it. Verdict: Rent it from Videoport’s foreign section and become the artsiest, fartsiest in all the land!)

9. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc. (Ask Videoport’s April about this 1927 Carl Dreyer silent masterpiece, filmed almost entirely in closeup, about the final fate of the titular religious martyr. I admire the heck out of, but April loooooves it. Verdict: Ask April.)

10. 8 ½. (Not my favorite Fellini film, but still one of the most insightful portrayals of the creative mind. Plus, weirdness and huge-breasted women—it is a Fellini film. Verdict: Watch it in the Criterion section and come argue with me.)

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>> Dennis suggests workplace comedies! Workplaces are great for comedy because that’s where you spend as much time (or more) with a random collection of people than you do with your families or people you actually like. Not that you don’t like you coworkers—I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve come to love everybody I currently work with at Videoport—but you don’t choose to interact with them for 40+hours every week in close, often stressful/boring quarters. You’re stuck with them and make the best of it. The best workplace comedies understand that, and mine that inherently friction-fulled contradiction for big yuks. On the more idealized side of the workplace, there’s Sports Night. (Which I always recommend and you people never take because you hate being entertained and moved, I guess.) The staff of the titular low-rated sports news show are all principled, great at their jobs—and, to a greater or lesser degree, isolated from their real families/personal lives. And so they create a family composed of similarly driven, damaged people whose mutual respect forms the bond their real families often don’t. Plus, the show is hilarious and brilliant—just rent it already, you…people!! Ahem. Anyway, in the middle, we’ve got The Office and Parks & Recreation, where the vibe is more of the “our job is frequently dumb and pointless, so lets band together out of necessity and begrudging affection” variety. Anchored by two all-time classic TV characters (Steve Carell’s Michael Scott and Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope), the show’s are tonally different (Leslie’s love for her ass-backwards town is touchingly optimistic, while Michael’s well-meaning incompetence is more a source of cringe comedy), but they both derive most of their resonance, and laughs, from the spectacle of an office full of people who would never spend five minutes together forced to spend all their time together. And then there’s Party Down. Another unjustly short-lived workplace comedy, this brilliant, inventively rude sitcom follows the work-only relationship of a group of Hollywood caterers as they, in the service of their second-tier company, hilariously fail to maintain professionalism as they work a variety of events. There’s nothing but workplace in the show—each episode takes the form of that week’s catering gig, with no sidetrips to the characters’ outside lives. These are people who, apart from the workplace romance between the great Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan, are simply not going to hang out outside of the job that they—frustrated “something elses” all—justifiably hate. And so they just get through the multiple, incessant humiliations involved in working the service industry, defending their dignity with the time honored strategy of “not giving a sh*t.” As one who’s worked retail for—all the years—let’s just say that Party Down— above all other such shows—rings a freaking bell.

Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>>Dennis suggests writing for The VideoReport! Yup—if you’re tired of hearing the same old jerks (me) give their same old opinions (mine), then send in your very own reviews to us here. They’ll be on the internet and everything! (Send ‘em to denmn@hotmail.com or our Facebook page Videoport Jones!)

Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!

>>> Emily S. Customer says It’s Free Family Friday! Make it a double feature, with one movie for the whole family and another for after you tuck the kids into bed. This week, a haute cuisine duo: Ratatouille, the heartwarming tale of Remy the rat (Patton Oswalt) who dreams of becoming a world-class chef, brought to you in rich Pixar animation, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover, Peter Greenaway’s graphic, vividly colored masterpiece in which a swinish gangster (Michael Gambon) and his reserved wife (Helen Mirren) pursue their separate pleasures at the swankiest restaurant in London.

Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!

>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests The Hobbit (in Animation.) Because I saw this before the reading the book, and the horrifying, misshaped character models of everyone (especially Bilbo, especially Gollum) were burned into my young brain and freaked me out for years to come. Fun!

>>>For Sunday, Emily S. Customer suggests Compliance (in Feature Drama.) [I’m trying to walk a line here: I don’t want to tell you as much about this film as, well, every single major reviewer has. But I also don’t want to send anyone into this divisive, potentially triggering film without warning. Maybe telling you it is “divisive” and “potentially triggering” is enough.] The ChickWich hasn’t even opened yet and Sandra, the manager, is already having a rough day. Someone left the freezer door open overnight, spoiling $1500 worth of food and leaving the franchise short of bacon and pickles for the weekend; a front-line worker called in sick; a secret shopper is expected to check out their quality of service. And then the police call with a complaint about Becky (Dreama Walker), a perky and reliable worker who is now accused of stealing from a customer. With pressure coming from every side, Sandra makes several unwise decisions, and we can see how each decision feeds the next one. We can also see how the police officer on the phone uses a combination of explicit authority (“I’m going to need you to call me ‘Sir’ or ‘Officer’ when you speak to me”) and implicit threats to coerce and shape Sandra’s actions… and how easily she gives in to it. Compliance is a dark little story about the power of officialdom, no matter how ill-advised their orders seem to be, and the small comfort of just giving in: abdicating control, yielding to authority, freeing oneself from the complicated act of choice in an uncertain world. But we wouldn’t capitulate like that, right? We’re too smart. We’re too assured and confident to cave to pressure from authority. And gosh, I hope that’s true. But for too many of us, it isn’t true. Too many of us buckle to authority, for any number of reasons: because we earnestly believe that the authorities know best, because we fear the consequences if we don’t comply, because we want to be good citizens, because compliance seems like the fastest way out of a mess, because we believe that only criminals resist, because the authorities are asking us something that secretly we want to do, or — most chilling — because acting as the tool of someone in authority lets us arrogate a glimmer of that power for ourselves. This is where Compliance is most assured: it creates a complete and uncomfortably small world of characters already tied up in their own concerns, pushed a little too hard by daily life and ready to smooth over any extra trouble that comes along. It also makes a point of seeing all trying hard to stay on balance in an off-balance situation. Over and over, the co-workers make small gestures of capitulation, nervous ingratiating laughs and smiles… and over and over, the voice of authority implies that this — this small violation only incrementally worse than all the previous violations — will end this sordid business and let everyone get back to their lives. By the time that disembodied voice of authority starts making truly outrageous requests, he’s carefully curated his proxies and positioned them so that they may secretly want to comply with his demands.

New Releases this week at Videoport: The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman is back, ditching his X-Men pals for another solo adventure; this time he’s in Japan, searching for a way to, I don’t know, not be Wolverine anymore? I mean, he’d still have that cool hair, but…), The Smurfs 2 (well, this exists—there’s nothing we can do about it, but Videoport felt obliged to carry it; may God have mercy on our souls…), The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (A young girl discovers that she descends from a race of angelic guardian people fighting demons and whatnot in another film based on a young adult book series that is in no way good+ol'+freda+postershamelessly trying to be the next Twilight, or The Hunger Games; not at all—I’d like to stress that…), The Simpsons- season 16 (was this the season when everyone finally turned on The Simpsons? Well, it might be the season when all the incessant whining from “fans” who have nothing better to do than complain about a classic TV show became insufferable…), Good Ol’ Freda (documentary about the shy Liverpool teenager who took a gig as the secretary for a little rock band called…The Beatles!), The To-Do List (everybody’s favorite snarky girl Aubrey Plaza [Parks & Recreation] stars in this sexy comedy about a young woman deciding that she needs to check sex acts off the titular checklist before heading off to college; costarring Bill Hader, Donald Glover, Andy Samberg, Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, McLovin, and all the other cool people), The Lifeguard (another cool indie starring another cool indie actress, this one’s about Kristen Bell [Veronica Mars, Party Down] who flees to her hometown to recover from personal and professional problems, only to find herself regressing to her irresponsible teenage hometown ways; costarring Martin Starr [also from Party Down—you should really watch Party Down, by the way…]), Smash & Grab: The Story Of The Pink Panthers (thrilling real crime documentary about the titular gang of Balkan jewel thieves whose daring heists have taken place all over the world and netted them over $100 million in diamonds and other sparkly things), Mile…Mile And A Half (attention outdoorsy types! Cool new documentary about a group of friends who set out to hike the 211-mile John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mount Whitney, learning and growing, and all that jazz along the way), The Future (Rutger Hauer stars in this Italian drama about a pair of bored siblings whose aimless lives get more exciting when they befriend a bling, again former Mr. Universe), Spiral- season 1 (Videoport brings you this acclaimed, intense, innovative French crime thriller TV series which follows criminal cases from several different points-of-view simultaneously), IP Man 4: Final Fight (the continuing martial arts biopic series about the legendary master who taught Bruce Lee),

New Arrivals at Videoport: Chet Baker: Let’s Get Lost (finally on DVD for the first time, this long-awaited documentary about the titular legendary jazz trumpeter, drug addict, and all-round tragic figure can be found in Videoport’s Documentary Arts section),

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray at Videoport: The Untold History Of The United States (director Oliver Stone brings his filmmaking talent, and passion for sometimes nutso conspiracy theories, to this interesting 12-part documentary series chronicling some of the shadier aspects of US History usually left out of those Texas-manufactured, right-wing history textbooks [see the documentary The Revisionaries for details…), The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, Treme- season 3, Breaking Bad- season 5, part 2.

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