5 posts categorized "Streaming"

January 30, 2018

FEBRUARY PROGRAMMING ON THE CRITERION CHANNEL ON FILMSTRUCK!

       
 
Includes 100 years of Olympic Glory, Night of the Living Dead,
Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, and Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday!
 
Thursday, February 1st
The Great Escape*
Based on the true story of an elaborately coordinated attempt to break out of a Nazi POW camp, John Sturges's The Great Escape is one of the most rousing adventure films of all time, anchored by Steve McQueen's rebellious turn as "Cooler King" Captain Virgil Hilts. Featuring a powerful ensemble that includes Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, the film pulses with the humor of the prisoners' camaraderie and the relentless suspense of their plan. Never released on DVD or Blu-ray, this 1993 Criterion laserdisc edition includes a long-unavailable commentary featuring Sturges, composer Elmer Bernstein, production manager and second-unit director Robert E. Relyea, stuntman Bud Ekins, and film historian Bruce Eder.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, February 2nd
Friday Night Double Feature: The Front Page* and His Girl Friday

These two whiplash-fast newsroom comedies are based on Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur's 1928 stage hit The Front Page. Lewis Milestone scooped the story in 1931, directing a faithful adaptation that stars Adolphe Menjou as the cutthroat editor Walter Burns and Pat O'Brien as Hildy Johnson, his star reporter. The film is presented in its recently restored American version, Milestone's preferred cut. Nearly a decade later, Howard Hawks turned the play inside-out: in 1940's His Girl Friday, Hildy Johnson became a woman (Rosalind Russell), and Cary Grant's Burns is not only her editor but her ex-husband-making the film one of Hollywood's most irresistible comedies of remarriage.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, February 2nd
Olympic Glory*

Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of the Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912-2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. This selection gathers eleven films from the box set, offering a sampler of the history of the Games across continents and decades. Among the highlights in the program are landmark documentaries by some of the world's greatest filmmakers, including Leni Riefenstahl (Olympia); Kon Ichikawa (Tokyo Olympiad); Milos Forman, Claude Lelouch, Arthur Penn, and John Schlesinger (Visions of Eight); and Carlos Saura (Marathon).

Monday, February 5th
Eclipse Series 45: Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France

Spurned first by the French New Wave iconoclasts as belonging to the "tradition of quality" and later for the extremist political views their director embraced as a member of the right-wing National Front, Claude Autant-Lara's wartime films are rarely seen today. These four romances, produced during the dark days of the German occupation, are fueled by a slyly subversive voice and exquisite visual sense, and showcase the formidable talents of two of his closest collaborators. The charmingly impetuous Odette Joyeux sparkles at the height of her stardom in a quartet of protofeminist roles, crafted by screenwriter Jean Aurenche, who injects a strain of progressive social criticism that managed to evade the Nazi censors. Also noteworthy is the first screen appearance of Jacques Tati, in Autant-Lara's most popular and technically innovative success, Sylvie et le fantôme. These long unavailable gems deserve to be better known, if only as a record of some of the most talented film artists in France, working at the height of their powers during one of the most perilous periods in twentieth-century history.

Tuesday, February 6th
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Five Miles Out* and Life Is Sweet

Andrew Haigh and Mike Leigh, two of British cinema's sharpest observers of character, turn their attention to the close and sometimes painful bonds of sisterhood. Haigh's 2009 short reveals the volcanic emotions that lurk beneath everyday scenes, centering on a girl who is sent on vacation with her cousins but remains preoccupied with her hospital-bound sister back home. An international breakthrough for Leigh, Life Is Sweet is an intimate portrait of a working-class family with twin daughters who couldn't be more different: the bookish plumber Natalie (Claire Skinner) and the bulimic, ill-tempered Nicola (Jane Horrocks). Jim Broadbent and Alison Steadman exude warmth as the girls' parents, and Stephen Rea, David Thewlis, and Timothy Spall deliver winning performances as the eccentrics who orbit the family unit. The edition of Life Is Sweet is accompanied by an audio commentary by Leigh.
 
Wednesday, February 7th
Sweet Smell of Success: Edition #555

In this swift, cynical film by Alexander Mackendrick, Burt Lancaster stars as the vicious Broadway gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco, the unprincipled press agent Hunsecker ropes into smearing the up-and-coming jazz musician romancing his beloved sister. Featuring deliciously unsavory dialogue, in an acid, brilliantly structured script by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, and noirish neon cityscapes from Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe, Sweet Smell of Success is a cracklingly cruel dispatch from the kill-or-be-killed wilds of 1950s Manhattan. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a 1986 documentary about Mackendrick, a 1973 documentary about Howe, a video interview with film critic and historian Neal Gabler, and more.

Friday, February 9th
Friday Night Double Feature: The Misfits and The Harder They Fall

These two swan songs herald the end of the Hollywood star system with a nearly mythical sense of finality. John Huston's The Misfits features the last performances of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and their costar Montgomery Clift would only appear in three more movies before dying at forty-five. Scripted by Monroe's husband Arthur Miller, the Nevada-set film sets the actress's inimitable mix of sensuality and vulnerability against the world-weary alienation of three hardened men, played by Gable, Clift, and Eli Wallach. Humphrey Bogart's last film, The Harder They Fall, stars the legendary actor as a down-on-his-luck sportswriter who gets roped into a scam by a fast-talking promoter (Rod Steiger) lining up fixed fights for a talentless (and clueless) Argentine heavyweight. Bogart would die less than a year after the film's premiere, and his understated portrayal of a reluctant hustler makes for a rich contrast with Steiger's Method-informed bluster, marking a shift in the tides of American film acting.
 
Tuesday, February 13
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist and The Emperor Jones

Courageously outspoken and wildly talented, Paul Robeson was one of the most commanding performers of his time. As a singer, actor, athlete, and activist, he broke barriers in Jim Crow-era America, campaigning for social justice and striving to reshape the public's idea of who a black man could be. Saul J. Turell's Oscar-winning documentary short, narrated by Sidney Poitier, traces the evolution of Robeson's career using a series of his performances of "Ol' Man River," a song that took on layers of meaning over time. That booming voice made its first appearance in sound cinema in The Emperor Jones, a 1933 adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's play about a Pullman porter who muscles his way to power on a Caribbean island. Though the fearsome Brutus Jones may not have been the type of stereotype-busting role that Robeson hoped to bring to the screen, the character made him the first African-American leading man in mainstream cinema.

Tuesday, February 13th
Night of the Living Dead*: Edition #909

Shot outside Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget by a band of self-taught filmmakers, horror master George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead is a great story of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time. A deceptively simple tale of a group of strangers trapped in a farmhouse who find themselves fending off a horde of recently dead, flesh-eating ghouls, Romero's claustrophobic vision of a late-1960s America literally tearing itself apart rewrote the rules of the horror genre, combined gruesome gore with acute social commentary, and quietly broke ground by casting a black actor (Duane Jones) in its lead role. Stark, haunting, and more relevant than ever, Night of the Living Dead is back. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Night of Anubis, a never-before-presented work-print edit of the film; a program featuring filmmakers Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, and Robert Rodriguez; a never-before-seen 16 mm dailies reel; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, February 14th
In the Mood for Love: Edition #147

At once delicately mannered and visually extravagant, Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Loveis a masterful evocation of romantic longing and fleeting moments. In 1960s Hong Kong, Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) move into neighboring apartments on the same day. Their encounters are formal and polite-until a discovery about their spouses creates an intimate bond between them. With its aching musical soundtrack and exquisitely abstract cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin, this film has been a major stylistic influence on the past decade of cinema, and is a milestone in Wong's redoubtable career. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary on the making of the film; Hua yang de nian hua (2000), a short film by Wong; Toronto International Film Festival press conference from 2000, with Cheung and Leung; and more.

Thursday, February 15th
The Red Balloon and The Black Balloon

Floating from midcentury Paris to contemporary Manhattan, these two portraits of urban life breathe a whimsical sensibility into a particular inanimate item. In Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon (1956), a boy embarks on a series of adventures with an inflatable-yet sentient-companion. A gritty variation on that beloved classic, Josh and Benny Safdie's The Black Balloon (2012) follows the stray object of the title on an odyssey through the streets of the filmmakers' native New York City.
 
Friday, February 16th
Friday Night Double Feature: A Slave of Love and Knight Without Armor

The Russian Civil War provides the roiling backdrop for these two sweeping romantic adventures. Nikita Mikhalkov's A Slave of Love (1976) tells the tale of a silent-film star who falls for a Bolshevik on set. Jacques Feyder's Knight Without Armor (1937) revolves around a British spy posing as a revolutionary (Robert Donat) and the countess whom he loves and seeks to save (Marlene Dietrich).
 
Tuesday, February 20th
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Bluebeard* and Bluebeard

A classic fairy tale, read two ways. With his colorful claymation short Bluebeard (1938), Jean Painlevé departed from the nature filmmaking that was his specialty, giving a playful charge to the dark story of a young wife and her murderous new husband. For her 2009 adaptation of Charles Perrault's classic fable, French director Catherine Breillat keyed into the material's more provocative elements, using the fable to explore her perennial themes of sex, power, and sisterhood.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, February 21
Frances Ha*: Edition #681

A leading contender for this year's best director Oscar, Greta Gerwig delivered one of her most enchanting performances as Frances, a woman in her late twenties in contemporary New York trying to sort out her ambitions, her finances, and, above all, her intimate but shifting bond with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Meticulously directed by Noah Baumbach with a free-and-easy vibe reminiscent of the French New Wave's most spirited films, and written by Baumbach and Gerwig with an effortless combination of sweetness and wit, Frances Ha gets at both the frustrations and the joys of being young and unsure of where to go next. This wry and sparkling city romance is a testament to the ongoing vitality of independent American cinema. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a conversation between filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and Baumbach; a conversation between actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley and the film's cowriter and star, Greta Gerwig; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.

Wednesday, February 21st
Festival*: Edition #892

Before Woodstock and Monterey Pop, there was Festival. From 1963 through 1966, Murray Lerner visited the annual Newport Folk Festival to document a thriving, idealistic musical movement as it reached its peak as a popular phenomenon. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, the Staple Singers, Pete Seeger, Son House, and Peter, Paul and Mary were just a few of the legends who shared the stage at Newport, treating audiences to a range of folk music that encompassed the genre's roots in blues, country, and gospel as well as its newer flirtations with rock and roll. Shooting in gorgeous black and white, Lerner juxtaposes performances with snapshot interviews with artists and their fans, weaving footage from four years of the festival into an intimate record of a pivotal time in music-and in American culture at large. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary about the making of the film; a selection of unreleased performances by Clarence Ashley, Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Cotten, John Lee Hooker, Odetta, and Tom Paxton; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Thursday, February 22nd
Four Luis Buñuel Editions

One of cinema's great subversives, Luis Buñuel spent nearly half a century taking aim at a number of humankind's most cherished orthodoxies. This month, we're presenting editions of four of his late-career French films, which plunge into the surreal and satirical. A ribald deconstruction of contemporary and traditional views on Catholicism, 1969's The Milky Way(Criterion Collection Edition #402) inaugurated what Buñuel saw as a trilogy about "the search for truth." That cycle's next two films, the absurdist masterpieces The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (#102) and The Phantom of Liberty (#290), take place at high-society gatherings disrupted by absurd occurrences, revealing the hypocrisy of conventional morality and the arbitrariness of social arrangements. Buñuel's final film, 1977's That Obscure Object of Desire (#143), is a dizzying game of sexual politics that brings full circle the director's lifelong preoccupation with the darker side of desire. Supplements in this program include a documentary about Buñuel's life and work, and a video with Jean-Claude Carrière.

Friday, February 23rd
Friday Night Double Feature: Birdman of Alcatraz and Down by Law

Get a glimpse of life behind bars in John Frankenheimer's 1962 drama Birdman of Alcatraz and Jim Jarmusch's 1986 misfit "neo-Beat noir comedy" Down by Law. Featuring a powerful performance by Burt Lancaster, Frankenheimer's film is one of the blueprints of the prison movie, telling the story of a convicted murderer who, after developing an affinity for birds while in prison, goes on to become a distinguished ornithologist. Jarmusch's sophomore feature turns that blueprint on its head, bringing together Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni for an idiosyncratic tale about a Louisiana prison break that leads to a dreamlike adventure.

Monday, February 26
Observations on Film Art No. 16: The Darkness of War in Wooden Crosses

Raymond Bernard's 1932 masterpiece Wooden Crosses, often referred to as France's All Quiet on the Western Front, is one of the most poignant films to envision the horrors of combat during World War I. Widely celebrated for its lavishly expensive and realistic reconstruction of life in the trenches, the film is also remarkable for the subtlety of Bernard's techniques. For this month's episode of Observations on Film Art, a Channel-exclusive series that takes a look at how great filmmakers use cinematic devices and conventions, film-studies scholar Kristin Thompson explores how Wooden Crosses combines the brutality of other war dramas of its era with a lyricism all its own, achieved largely through the film's exquisite use of lighting.

Tuesday, February 27
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Nadja in Paris and Breathless

Two French New Wave titans find inspiration in the experiences of young American women studying abroad in Paris. In his 1964 short Nadja in Paris, Rohmer teams up for the first time with the great cinematographer Néstor Almendros, observing the everyday comings and goings of an exchange student discovering the city while writing her thesis on Marcel Proust. In his landmark 1960 debut feature, Breathless, Godard pays tribute to American gangster movies with a jazzy tale of a criminal who becomes romantically involved with an American student (the incandescent Jean Seberg) living in Paris.
 
Tuesday, February 27
4 by Agnès Varda: Edition #418

Agnès Varda used the skills she honed early in her career as a photographer to create some of the most nuanced, thought-provoking films of the past fifty years. She is widely believed to have presaged the French New Wave with her first film, La Pointe Courte, long before creating one of the movement's benchmarks, Cléo from 5 to 7. Later, with Le bonheur and Vagabond, Varda further shook up art-house audiences, challenging bourgeois codes with her inscrutable characters and offering effortlessly beautiful compositions and editing. Now working largely as a documentarian, Varda remains one of the essential cinematic poets of our time and a true visionary. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: video interviews with Varda; excerpts from a 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps, in which Varda discusses her early career; a documentary about the making of Cléo from 5 to 7; and more.
 
Wednesday, February 28
Adventures in Moviegoing with Megan Abbott

An award-winning novelist and a writer for David Simon's HBO drama The Deuce, Megan Abbott joins film critic Michael Sragow to talk about her precocious filmgoing life, beginning with her family trips to the revival house in her hometown of Grosse Point, Michigan, where she first fell in love with the speed, grit, and thump of crime films like The Public Enemy. She also remembers her epiphany seeing Blue Velvet, which revealed a hidden world and new dimensions to an American suburb like her own. For the program that accompanies the interview, Abbott has picked a slate of films that echo that revelation in different ways, including Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Samuel Fuller's The Naked Kiss, as well as movies like Blood Simple, which reflects her ongoing obsessions with film noir, and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which she regards as a breakthrough treatment of female adolescence.
 
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Complete list of films premiering on the Criterion Channel this month:

February 1
Tropical Malady, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2005
Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010
Cemetery of Splendor, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015
The Great Escape, John Sturges, 1963
 
February 2
Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations, Leni Riefenstahl, 1938
Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty, Leni Riefenstahl, 1938
Tokyo Olympiad, Kon Ichikawa, 1965
13 Days in France, Claude Lelouch, 1968
Visions of Eight, Milos Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Yuri Ozerov, Arthur Penn, Michael Pfleghar, John Schlesinger, Mai Zetterling, 1973
White Rock, Tony Maylam, 1977
16 Days of Glory, Bud Greenspan, 1986
Marathon, Carlos Saura, 1993
The Front Page, Lewis Milestone, 1931 
The Games of the V Olympiad Stockholm, 1912, Adrian Wood, 2016 
White Vertigo, Giorgio Ferroni, 1956
February 5
Lettres d'amour, Claude Autant-Lara, 1942
 
February 6
Five Miles Out, Andrew Haigh, 2009
 
February 13
Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero, 1968
 
February 20
Bluebeard, Jean Painlevé, 1938
 
February 21
Festival, Murray Lerner, 1967
Francis Ha, Noah Baumbach, 2013
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ABOUT THE CRITERION CHANNEL
 
The Criterion Channel offers the largest streaming collection of Criterion films available, including classic and contemporary films from around the world, interviews and conversations with filmmakers and never-before-seen programming. The channel's weekly calendar features complete Criterion editions, thematic retrospectives, live events, short films, and select contemporary features, along with exclusive original programming that aims to enhance the Criterion experience for the brand's dedicated fans as well as expanding its reach to new audiences. Other recent additions to the programming include MEET THE FILMMAKER: ATHINA RACHEL TSANGARI and ADVENTURES IN MOVIEGOING WITH BILL HADER.

ABOUT FILMSTRUCK

FilmStruck is a new subscription on-demand service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films. Developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in collaboration with the Criterion Collection, FilmStruck will be the new exclusive streaming home for the critically acclaimed and award-winning Criterion Collection, including the Criterion Channel, a new premium service programmed and curated by the Criterion team.  FilmStruck is Turner's first domestic direct-to-consumer offering launched in November 2016.

ABOUT THE CRITERION COLLECTION

Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has been dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. No matter the medium-from laserdisc to DVD and Blu-ray to FilmStruck, the streaming service developed in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies - Criterion has maintained its pioneering commitment to presenting each film as its maker would want it seen, in state-of-the-art restorations with special features designed to encourage repeated watching and deepen the viewer's appreciation of the art of film.

January 29, 2018

Coming to NETFLIX in February 2018

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 4.27.13 PM

Feb. 1

3000 Miles to Graceland
42 Grams
Aeon Flux
American Pie
American Pie 2
American Pie Presents: Band Camp
American Pie Presents: The Book of Love
American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile
Ella Enchanted
Extract
GoodFellas
Forgotten
How the Beatles Changed the World
John Mellencamp: Plain Spoken
Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Kill Bill: Vol. 2
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution
Lovesick
Meet the Fockers
Meet the Parents
Men in Black
National Parks Adventure
Ocean’s Eleven
Ocean’s Twelve
Ocean’s Thirteen
Paint It Black
Scream 3
The Hurt Locker
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Z Nation: Season 4

Feb. 2 to Feb. 10

6 Days
Altered Carbon: Season 1
Cabin Fever
Coach Snoop: Season 1
Fate/Apocrypha: Part 2
Fred Armisen: Standup For Drummers
Imposters: Season 1
Kavin Jay: Everybody Calm Down!
Luna Petunia: Return to Amazia: Season 1
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: George Clooney
On Body and Soul
Queer Eye: Season 1
Seeing Allred
The Emoji Movie
The Ritual

Feb. 11 to Feb. 20

Bates Motel: Season 5
Blood Money
Deep Undercover Collection: Collection 2
Dismissed
DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the Edge: Season 6
Everything Sucks!: Season 1
First Team: Juventus: Season 1
FullMetal Alchemist
Greenhouse Academy: Season 2
Evan Almighty
Irreplaceable You
Love Per Square Foot
Re:Mind: Season 1
The Frankenstein Chronicles: Season 1 and Season 2
The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

Feb. 21 to Feb. 28

Atomic Puppet: Season 1
Derren Brown: The Push
El Vato: Season 2
Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards
Jeepers Creepers 3
Lincoln
Marlon Wayans: Woke-ish
Marseille: Season 2
Mute
People You May Know
Seven Seconds: Season 1
Sin Senos sí Hay Paraíso: Season 2
The Bachelors
Ugly Delicious: Season 1
Winnie

January 28, 2018

THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD

The-end-of-the-fucking-world-posterBased on Charles Forsman’s brilliant minicomics, “The End of the F***ing World” is an expertly crafted black comedy series similar in tone and delivery to “Twin Peaks,” but with a more approachable sense of humor.

If casting is nine-tenths of the battle, then co-directors Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak were destined for success from the start. Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden are the exquisite young British actors who transform into a would-be serial killer and a the kind of girl you don’t take home to meet the parents.

Alex Lawther

James (Lawther) is a 17-year-old oddball who witnessed his mother’s suicide (by driving her car into a lake) when he was 10. He’s a depressed kid who asks his goofy single dad for a machete for his birthday, but settles for a hunting knife. James once put his hand in boiling hot oil so he could “feel something.” He has a recent history of killing gradually larger animals. James is working up to killing a person. His first girlfriend (Alyssa — Jessica Barden) could be an ideal victim.

With each episode clocking in around 20-minutes, this Netflix-produced series is a bingeable treat akin to eating just the right amount of snacks so you don’t feel guilty for having two or three.

Garden Party

On Alyssa’s prompting, the teenaged duo run away from their respective homes to go on a road trip adventure through the underbelly of England’s hollow social shell. After her mom’s boyfriend flirts with her, Alyssa looks down on a garden party that her parental figures are hosting at her oh-so-perfect suburban home and takes inventory. “Fuck this shit,” is her final analysis. Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” takes care of the musical counterpoint.

Jessica Barden

Teenaged angst, and lust, are put through a bloody blender before the first series’ eight episodes come to a satisfying stopping place. Thankfully, season 2 is already in the works.

Funny, frightening, naughty, and packed with chuckle inducing bits of scathing satire, “The End of the F****ing World” might just be better than “Twin Peaks” and “Fargo.”

Series (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!

PATREON BUTTON

Groupthink doesn't live here.

January 09, 2018

COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE

Comedians-in-cars-getting-coffeeConan O’Brien isn’t funny because he isn’t a comedian; he’s a talk show host. Chris Rock’s pithy explanation of the problem with Conan O’Brien’s lame attempts at being funny is just one tiny example of the granular level of Jerry Seinfeld’s popular, and deceptively informative, web series. Currently streaming on Netflix, the eminently bingeable “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” goes down like a root beer float with a surprise at the bottom of every glass.

If ever there was a crash course in what it takes to be a comedian, from a to z, this is it. Why isn’t Judd Apatow funny as a stand-up comedian? Clearly, it’s because he hasn’t paid his dues of honing his “material” on stage for the years that it takes to get good at it.

Jerry Seinfeld

Comedians or actors? Easy. Comedians portray themselves, whereas actors desperately want to inhabit anyone but themselves. Thus, comedians can act, but actors can’t become comedians. Mind blown.

Why is Barak Obama a terrible person? Because he’s a blow-hard bully. Obama’s transparent attempts to big-dog Jerry Seinfeld backfire noticeably during the episode where Seinfeld visits the President at the White House. Obama chides Seinfeld for leaving a once-bitten apple on a table in the Oval Office before trying way too hard to seem cool by draping his limp hand over the steering wheel of the 1963 Corvette that Seinfeld has brought for the occasion. The kicker comes when Obama insists on plugging Obamacare only to have Seinfeld emphasize the faux pas with a withering direct-to-camera pitch that slays. There’s also the fact of Seinfeld’s monetary success eclipsing Obama’s in rough comparison of Jupiter to the Earth’s moon.  

Julia-louis-dreyfus

You get to judge for yourself which comedians Jerry gets along with better than others. Seinfeld’s chemistry is much stronger with comedians such as Jimmy Fallon, and Chris Rock than it is with David Letterman, Howard Stern, or Ali Wentworth, three distinctly uncomfortable human beings whose unpleasantness may make you want to reach for an Alka Seltzer.

Jerry chooses a car he thinks best aligns with the personality of the comedian with whom he’ll imbibe coffee while chatting. For example, a 1965 SAAB MONTE CARLO 850 in olive green is the car of choice to go for a drive around Portland, Oregon with Fred Armisen. An onscreen clock (the WAIT-O-METER) registers the seven minutes it takes for Hipster Service at a local roastery to hand over two cups of “delicious” coffee for our comedian pals to chew over the definition of art.  

Garry Shandling

You can tell a lot about Jerry’s guest by the car he chooses. The 1976 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon Jerry picks out for his coffee-attended chat with Sarah Jessica Parker signals that this might be an episode to skip. Episodes you don’t want to miss include: Michael Richards, Alec Baldwin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Hart, Trevor Noah, Garry Shandling, and Lorne Michaels.  

In its open-faced simplicity “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” holds a charm and candidness about the comedic process unavailable in any other setting. Five stars isn’t a high enough grade for this brilliant series where even the episodes with the worst guests show you something valuable about what makes the true greats (Don Rickles, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Robert Klein) all the more memorable. 

58 (12  to 20 minute) episodes.  (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!

PATREON BUTTON

Groupthink doesn't live here.

January 26, 2017

UNDERMINING THE NAZIS ON FILMSTRUCK STREAMING WITH COLE SMITHEY

Elem Klimov's communist parents constructed his first name as an acronym taken from Engels, Lenin, and Marx. During his 70 years, Elem Klimov made only five films: "Welcome, or No Trespassing" (1964), "The Adventures of a Dentist" (1965), "Agony" (1975) and "Farewell" (1981). "Come and See" was his astounding final picture that would finally establish Klimov as a storyteller of untold narrative depth and intuitive filmic sensitivity.

For the film, Klimov fashioned a detailed visual vernacular of dialectic form. His original, rigorous narrative format compresses the overwhelming heartbreak of Hitler's War. We experience its many jolts, shocks, and horrors. By the film's end, we witness a young boy's soul so terribly ravaged by the war's horrors that he resembles an old man.

Objectively, "Come and See" is Elem Klimov's brave attempt to cinematically compartmentalize and contextualize his own wartime experiences as a child escaping the battle of Stalingrad, in the company of his mother and younger brother, by raft across the Volga while the city burned to the ground behind them. Klimov said of the indelible event, in relation to "Come and See," "Had I included everything I knew, and shown the whole truth, even I could not have watched it."

Francois Truffaut’s third to last film, "The Lat Metro," draws on his childhood experiences growing up in Paris during the Nazi occupation between 1940 and 1944. Truffaut was born in 1932. Both his uncle and grandfather were active in the French Resistance.

THE LAST METRO

For the most popular of his later films (“The Last Metro” won 10 César Awards), Truffaut spent years piecing together the script with details taken from newspaper stories or anecdotal experiences. The passive resistance of his characters exudes a confidence of purpose that they discreetly understate, and yet astutely pronounce with their clandestine actions, hidden in plain sight. That Truffaut wrote the film’s leading role of Marion specifically for Catherine Deneuve is transparent as it is rewarding.

Much like “Casablanca,” “The Last Metro” (1980) is a wartime romantic drama guided by the magnificent charisma of their similarly exquisite onscreen couplings. The ideal pairing of Gerard Depardieu (working at the height of his powers) with Catherine Deneuve is a cinematic treat every bit as enticing and fulfilling as seeing Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman fulfill their characters' ethical obligations. If Truffaut owes a great debt to “Casablanca,” he couldn’t have paid it back with any more style, integrity, wit, authenticity, and nostalgic romance as he creates with "The Last Metro."

The Marriage of Maria Braun

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s bold depiction of postwar Germany in “The Marriage of Maria Braun” shares a theme of womanly independence to that of Barbara Stanwyck’s implacable character in the pre-code classic “Baby Face” (Alfred E. Green, 1933). Guided by his frequent muse Hanna Schygulla (“The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”), Fassbinder takes a dryly neo-realist approach that combines documentary techniques with formal compositions to underpin the drama. Michael Ballhaus’s brilliant cinematography is two parts raw and refined.

As Maria partners with a wealthy industrialist, to whom she also serves as his mistress, she accumulates the wealth she seeks to provide for her Nazi soldier husband upon his release from prison. The war has transmogrifies her heart into a ball of repressed emotion. Maria and her husband are victims of a war whose effects will continue to be passed for many generations to come. The economics of war is always a lose/lose proposition; regardless of how much money it drives.

The Night Porter

It has taken decades for the shocks of controversy surrounding Liliana Cavani’s magnificent picture “The Night Porter” (1974) to catch up with the uncomfortable intimate truths that Cavani illuminates. Liliana Cavani was 40 years ahead of her time.

If the plot sounds like a pure sexploitation picture along the lines of “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS,” it proves every bit as transgressive, but all the more political in its provocations.

Charlotte Rampling is Lucia, a leftist (non-Jewish) Holocaust survivor who carried on a BDSM relationship with one of her Nazi guards during her time spent starving in the concentration camps. Lucia played the part of a submissive who received protection in return from her SS dom lover Max (Dirk Bogard).

It is 1957 when Lucia, now married to an American orchestra conductor, discovers her former SS master working as a night porter in the Vienna hotel where she and her husband stay. Soon the former lovers are up to their old games of master-and-slave.

Cavani doesn’t merely flirt with the taboo subject matter of a prisoner and guard carrying out their roles within the context of obsessive fetishized sex, she grabs it by the throat and listens to the body gasping for air. Sex allows Max and Lucia to breathe.

People will always find ways to express themselves regardless of the physical or mental restraints placed on them. If those expressions take on an intrinsically dark and primal reflection then you know you have hit the animal nerve that sex brings out in all of us. Freedom is a construct of the mind that allows the body to follow down any hallway, no matter how dark.

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