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Entries from Cinecultist tagged with 'DVD'

Death and Despair in the Netflix Queue

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We hate to admit it, but it's sort of been stagnant city on the Cinecultist Netflix queue lately. Do you ever do this? Put a movie you know you should see in the queue, move it down the list as long as you can, and then once it comes in the mail, leave it to sit, unwatched, for weeks on end? That was CC with The Seventh Seal and Cranes Are Flying which have been at our house for nearly three months. But in a fit of mid-winter cleaning, we watched both of them this week. It was a real triumph over laziness.

The two films don't really have much in common, in terms of country of origin or story line, but Cinecultist was struck by their use of stunning black and white photography. Even without color, there's so much richness in each image. Check out that still above from Cranes, as our tortured Veronica contemplates throwing herself Anna Karenina style in front of a rushing train because she's betrayed her soldier lover Boris. It's a really evocative and intense moment. You can practically feel yourself rushing headlong down the snowy street with Veronica, the camera work is that good.

Both discs are out on Criterion Collection so you know the transfer looks great too. 1957 was obviously a good year for international cinema. Although if CC had to choose a painful ye olde era we had to live through, the plague in Sweden seems to have been much worse than World War II Russia. Whenever you see production stills from The Seventh Seal, it's always of that iconic tableau of Max Von Sydow playing chess with Death. But we found the images of self-flagellators parading their desiccated bodies past the fearful kneeling villagers equally as memorable. To live in a world without the security of logical science explaining most things would be really scary.

Also, on a less serious note we'd like to mention that young Max Von Sydow was h-o-t-t, in a freakishly tall, Nordic sort of way. We used to just know him from his middle-aged The Exorcist or Hannah and her Sisters days, when he'd already become a kind of parody of the pretentious Swede. But as an intense young man struggling with issues of love and faith, he's just great. We've already added a bunch more of his films made with Ingmar Bergman in the '60s to the queue. Hopefully, we'll still be inspired to watch them when they move to the top of the Netflix list.

Just Be Glad You Don't Live in L.A.

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There aren't a lot of movies that Cinecultist has walked out of, but Robert Altman's Short Cuts is one of them. Our Dad took us, and our sister, to see it when it came out in the theaters in 1993 because it was playing at the local art house theater and M.A.S.H. was one of his favorites. But Short Cuts's a meandering 189 minute movie about a bunch of vaguely interconnected, dysfunctional people in Los Angeles, and understandably we were all bored. But as CC learned more about cinema, we'd always felt bad that we never appreciated this supposedly great Altman flick, so we put the Criterion version in the Netflix queue and finally watched it this weekend.

Fourteen years later, and with an arguably more worldly perspective, CC can see both sides of the story. Granted, it's still a long, convoluted movie. Plus with a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old in tow, it was pretty racy material for our movie going group. CC even remembers being shocked then by Jennifer Jason Leigh's bored housewife/phone sex operator dialog. No wonder our Dad was willing to leave. Then as the movie grinds on, you begin to wonder if any of these sad souls captured on screen are redeeming. They all seem so lost, depressed and mere moments from doing something immoral or illegal.

But then again, CC can see why it garnered Altman his fourth Oscar nomination for best director and won the cast a special ensemble award at that year's Golden Globes. To have that many distinct characters running around and for them all to seem like real people, not mere sketches, is quite a feat. It takes a real master like Altman was to orchestrate that much modern day malaise on screen, and you can understand why later directors like Paul Thomas Anderson so blatantly stole from his model. (Though PTA's raining Biblical frogs are obviously not as cool as RA's med flies and 7.4 earthquake.)

Maybe you have to be a certain age before "bleak" is an adjective that you can enjoy in a movie watching experience. Certainly some of our favorites from this year's roster, like No Country For Old Men, The Savages and There Will Be Blood, are decidedly unhappy films filled with unhappy characters. Or maybe CC just has more patience now at 30 for a 3 hour movie to unfold slowly and with little obvious purpose, than we had at 16. At 16 it's tough to understand why you'd want to spend 3 hours watching sad people live sad little lives in Los Angeles. At 30, it starts to look a little more like art.

These Guys Make CC Laugh Out Loud

Last week Benten Films, a new DVD distribution company based in Brooklyn, put out their first title, Joe Swanberg's LOL. Cinecultist touted it as our DVD pick of the week on Gothamist and also conducted a little interview with Benten's founders and fellow NYC film critics Aaron Hillis and Andrew Grant.*

Hopefully our playful connections between Grant and Hillis's impressive critical abilities and their new endeavors in DVD production doesn't come across like a bitter hater. CC is honestly super impressed by anyone who finds time to keep their apartment clean and live their life in addition to seeing as many movies as these dudes do, let alone found a new company. Kudos! We're psyched to see the rest of their up coming releases and promise to no longer mention the "m word" in association with them.

* It's official: coming up to Cinecultist in a crowded indie film industry party and announcing "you should interview us for Gothamist" can actually get you an interview. CC is that easy to pitch (sometimes)! We're like the slutty cheerleader of NYC movie interviewers.

A Few Thursday Afternoon Links

* Bizarre, Anna Nicole Smith died. We'll probably need a whole miniseries to understand what happened in that woman's media saturated life.

* The Chinese Communist Party says in an editorial Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower is too excessive. Morality, shmorality, this movie is just bad. Is it too much to ask that Party officials just object to the badness?

* This week in New York movie going is officially East German Secret Police themed. All Stasi, all the time. J. Ho liked The Lives of Others (as did CC) as well as the Film Forum docu, The Decomposition of the Soul. Make it a double feature! Then rejoice that we don't live in a totalitarian regime! Yet.

* Ian Buruma's great essay in The New York Review of Books reminded CC that we still need to see Flags Of Our Fathers, since we loved Letters From Iwo Jima so much. Maybe when we're not watching Stasi movies this weekend. It is on DVD now.