Sunday, May 31, 2009

Screengrab in Exile

All of the world's Screengrab fans were saddened Friday by the shuttering of your favorite movie site and mine, The Screengrab. I know I was- I liked having a writing job that was a little more visible than this one, plus the paychecks didn't hurt either.

But for all of you who want to keep tabs on the rest of the Screengrab gang, I've added a new blog in the "Other Hats I Wear" section of my sidebar called Screengrab in Exile. In addition to linking to new work on the blogs of the different writers, Screengrab in Exile will also contain some new blog-specific content- perhaps even some from me.

I've been touched over the past month over the outpouring of sympathy from the Screengrab readers over the closing of the site. I know that our fanbase wasn't as large or as vocal as that of The Onion AV Club or The House Next Door, but they were certainly passionate. It's enough to make me wonder if we should have tried to elicit donations, D'Angelo-style. Too late for that now, I suppose...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Famous Last Words Returns to Silly Hats Only!

Hey hey, folks! Glad you all could swing by here to check out what’s going on. And to all of you former Screengrab readers who were curious to read my work in this more personal, less formal setting, welcome! As a means of encouraging you folks to stick around while, I’ve decided to move my popular Famous Last Words game to my blog, since it’s not like Screengrab will be doing anything with it now.

For this round, which I’ve decided to call Famous Last Words: Resurrection (shut up, it was either that or Famous Last Words IV: The Quest for Peace), I’ll mostly be using the same rules I always have, with a handful of exceptions. Here are the rules and procedures:

1. Every Thursday at 3 PM Eastern Time, we will post a line or a short dialogue exchange from a movie. You, in turn, will e-Mail us your guesses as to what movie we took the dialogue from. Guesses must be submitted to me in e-Mail form, to the following e-Mail address:

2. All quotes will be the final spoken lines of the film, delivered by an onscreen character or narrator. Likewise, the words must be audible. In other words, no silent films, and no onscreen text that isn't read aloud.

3. All quotes will be the final lines of the film proper. Any lines spoken in "credit cookies" or post-credits scenes won't be used. For example, the final lines of Ferris Bueller's Day Off would be "Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it," rather than "You're still here? It's over. Go home."

4. The films selected may be in any language, but I’ll post the quotations translated into English whenever applicable.

5. Participants may only submit one guess per week of the game. If more than one guess is submitted, no points will be given for the week even if one of the guesses is correct.

6. Submissions must be made to the e-Mail address I will be turning off comments to each week's quiz to avoid confusion.

7. All entries must be received by the following Wednesday night at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. Entries received after this time will be considered ineligible.

8. Each correct submission will be worth one point, each incorrect submission worth zero points. At the end of twelve weeks, the competitor with the highest number points will win a $25 gift certificate from The Criterion Store. Yes, I realize that I gave away three per round at Screengrab, but it’s coming out of my pocket now, and with the wintry economic climate we’re facing today, that’ll just have to do.

9. If there is a tie for first place between more than three contestants, we will run tie-breaker rounds until the winners have been whittled down to three.

10. Have fun!

I’ll be starting up the game in one week’s time and will continue every Thursday for 12 weeks, at which point I hope a winner will emerge. Until then, take a look around the blog. I hope you’ll stay awhile.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Criterion Watch, August 2009

Next month begins my quest to watch all of the movies included in the Criterion Collection that I've never seen and to review them, which you'll be able to follow right here. But before we get to that, there'll be a few more titles to add to the list.

First, August's Blu-Ray releases:

I don't have a Blu-Ray player, but both of these are sweet choices, even though I realize the Kurosawa is kind of a compromise pick after the folks at Criterion weren't able to do the Ran Blu-Ray they'd promised. Play Time should be pretty great on Blu-Ray, with more of those wonderful Tati details now legible. And the colors of Kagemusha should really pop in the new format.

This could be a fun set for those looking to watch Japanese action (or "aku-shon") movies that involve handguns instead of samurai swords. I've seen one of these (A Colt Is My Passport), and while it's not great by any means, it's pretty entertaining, especially with Joe Shishido in the lead. Plus how can you not love a box set that includes a Seijun Suzuki film entitled Take Aim at the Police Van?

I've never been a big Stillman fan, and this is probably my least favorite of his three films to date. Still, nice to see Criterion staying committed to the indie stars of the nineties. Maybe one day they'll get around to releasing some Hal Hartley.

Finally, there's no cover for this one yet, but it's nonetheless the best DVD news I've read in a while. Hard to say how this will play on DVD for first-timers, but I can't wait.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Self-serving linkage

Because I've made myself scarce these past few months, I hope you can forgive me for my desire to make up for lost time, as it were. Anyway, I recently contributed to something that's going on at my pal James Frazier's blog, a recent series called "Play It Again" about movies we've seen dozens of times in our lives, and why. I won't spoil the fun by divulging my selection, except to say that it's not Belle de Jour. Check it out at James' blog, along with other interesting pieces including my bud Steven Carlson's essay on Rejected, a movie which as many of you know is close to my heart.

Also, lest you folks think I'm some lone crank in complaining about the camera work in Star Trek, Jim Emerson's with me. So that's reassuring.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Settle down, nerds... or should I say, non-nerds.

Superficially speaking, Star Trek seems to have everything one could ask for from a summer blockbuster: likable stars, snazzy effects, and lots of explosions, all given a high-gloss sheen. And in this respect, the movie delivers what it promises- the response so far has been almost totally positive (its current Metacritic score is 84), and it should prove to be a big hit. Yet despite all this, Star Trek left me strangely cold. As a fan of the original series and the majority of the movies it spawned, I’m no doubt biased toward the first incarnation of Trek, and judging by the enthusiasm that many non-fans have for the film, my response is hardly typical. But I suppose that this is part of my problem with the movie- that Paramount and director JJ Abrams have made such an effort to appeal to non-Trek fans that they’ve lost some of what made the original series really feel like Star Trek to me.

Click here for the complete review.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A look ahead

Now that the cat is out of the bag regarding the upcoming shutdown of Screengrab (*sniff*), it seems like I’ll have some more time on my hands to devote to this site. But how to spend it? Of course, my first priority will be to post reviews and remarks on recent movies- something I’ve gotten away from since the Muriels wrapped up back in February. But I also want to devote more space here to reviewing older fare, much as I did over at Screengrab.

Two things that are going to carry over from that gig to this one are the Famous Last Words contests (to begin the first week of June as a way of striking while the proverbial iron is hot), and the Reviews by Request posts. I always enjoyed the RBR reviews, especially since these allowed me to open up more of a dialogue with the reader than the other regular columns I would write. So for the foreseeable future anyway, I’ll be continuing putting RBR up every other week.

Another idea for a regular thing came to me a week or so ago. For a long time, I’ve had a goal of watching every title represented by the Criterion Collection, and it occurred to me that if I didn’t set about to watch and write about every Criterion title I haven’t seen, I’ll never do it. And while it’s not the most original goal for a cinephile, I’d say it’s a worthy one all the same.

To this end, and also to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to make a list of all the Criterions, to see how many I’ve got ahead of me. Turn out I’ve seen roughly a third of the titles. Likewise, looking at the list has always thrown into sharp relief some blind spots I have in my viewing. It looks like I’ve missed out on a lot of classic Italian and Japanese cinema (including plenty of non-Kurosawa samurai epics), along with a good number of documentaries and old-school British films. And while I’ve always considered myself a fan of classic crime dramas, making a list has shown me that I still have a long way to go. I can’t wait.

For your reference, here’s my list. The underlined titles denote box sets, which I don’t plan to watch in full unless I haven’t seen any of the films in them. I only plan to watch single films, which are denoted in boldface.

1. Grand Illusion
2. The Seven Samurai
3. The Lady Vanishes
4. Fellini Amarcord
5. The 400 Blows
6. La Belle et la Bête
7. A Night to Remember
8. The Killer
9. Hard Boiled
10. Walkabout
11. The Seventh Seal
12. This Is Spinal Tap
13. The Silence of the Lambs
14. Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
15. Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
16. Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island
17. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom
18. The Naked Kiss
19. Shock Corridor
20. Sid and Nancy
21. Dead Ringers
22. Summertime
23. RoboCop
24. High and Low
25. Alphaville
26. The Long Good Friday
27. Flesh for Frankenstein
28. Blood for Dracula
29. Picnic at Hanging Rock
30. M
31. Great Expectations
32. Oliver Twist
33. Nanook of the North
34. Andrei Rublev
35. Les Diaboliques
36. The Wages of Fear
37. Time Bandits
38. Branded to Kill
39. Tokyo Drifter
40. Armageddon
41. Henry V
42. Fishing With John
43. Lord of the Flies
44. The Red Shoes
45. A Taste of Cherry
46. The Most Dangerous Game
47. Insomnia
48. Black Orpheus
49. Nights of Cabiria
50. And the Ship Sails On
51. Brazil
52. Yojimbo
53. Sanjuro
54. For All Mankind
55. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
56. The 39 Steps
57. Charade
58. Peeping Tom
59. The Night Porter
60. Autumn Sonata
61. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
62. The Passion of Joan of Arc
63. Carnival of Souls
64. The Third Man
65. Rushmore
66. The Orphic Trilogy
67. Blood of a Poet
68. Orpheus
69. The Testament of Orpheus
70. The Last Temptation of Christ
71. The Magic Flute
72. Le Million
73. Cleo from 5 to 7
74. Vagabond
75. Chasing Amy
76. Brief Encounter
77. …And God Created Woman
78. The Bank Dick
79. W.C. Fields: Six Short Films
80. The Element of Crime
81. Variety Lights
82. Hamlet
83. The Harder They Come
84. Good Morning
85. Pygmalion
86. Eisenstein: The Sound Years
87. Alexander Nevsky
88. Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II
89. Sisters
90. Kwaidan
91. The Blob
92. Fiend Without a Face
93. Black Narcissus
94. I Know Where I’m Going!
95. All That Heaven Allows
96. Written on the Wind
97. Do the Right Thing
98. L’Avventura
99. Gimme Shelter
100. Beastie Boys Video Anthology
101. Cries and Whispers
102. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
103. The Lady Eve
104. Double Suicide
105. Spartacus
106. Coup de Torchon
107. Mona Lisa
108. The Rock
109. The Scarlet Empress
110. M. Hulot’s Holiday
111. Mon Oncle
112. Playtime
113. Big Deal on Madonna Street
114. My Man Godfrey
115. Rififi
116. The Hidden Fortress
117. Diary of a Chambermaid
118. Sullivan’s Travels
119. Withnail & I
120. How to Get Ahead in Advertising
121. Billy Liar
122. Salesman
123. Grey Gardens
124. Carl Theodor Dreyer Box Set
125. Day of Wrath
126. Ordet
127. Gertrud
128. Carl Th. Dreyer: My Metier
129. Le Trou
130. The Shop on Main Street
131. Closely Watched Trains
132. The Ruling Class
133. The Vanishing
134. Häxan
135. Rebecca
136. Spellbound
137. Notorious
138. Rashomon
139. Wild Strawberries
140. 8 ½
141. Children of Paradise
142. The Last Wave
143. The Obscure Object of Desire
144. Loves of a Blonde
145. The Fireman’s Ball
146. The Cranes Are Flying
147. In the Mood for Love
148. Ballad of a Soldier
149. Juliet of the Spirits
150. Bob le Flambeur
151. Traffic
152. George Washington
153. General Idi Amin Dada
154. The Horse’s Mouth
155. Tokyo Olympiad
156. Hearts and Minds
157. The Royal Tenenbaums
158. The Importance of Being Earnest
159. Red Beard
160. À Nous la Liberté
161. Under the Roofs of Paris
162. Ratcatcher
163. Hopscotch
164. Solaris
165. Man Bites Dog
166. Down by Law
167. The Complete Monterey Pop Festival
168. Monterey Pop
169. Jimi Plays Monterey / Shake! Otis at Monterey
170. Trouble in Paradise
171. Contempt
172. Pepe le Moko
173. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
174. Band of Outsiders
175. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
176. The Killers Double Feature
177. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
178. My Life As a Dog
179. I Am Curious…
180. I Am Curious (Yellow)
181. I Am Curious (Blue)
182. Straw Dogs
183. Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
184. by Brakhage: An Anthology
185. The Adventures of Antoine Doinel
186. Stolen Kisses
187. Bed and Board
188. Love on the Run
189. The White Sheik
190. Throne of Blood
191. Jubilee
192. Coup de Grâce
193. Quai des Orfevres
194. Il Posto
195. I Fidanzati
196. Hiroshima Mon Amour
197. Night and Fog
198. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
199. Schizopolis
200. The Honeymoon Killers
201. Umberto D.
202. Terminal Station / Indiscretion of an American Wife
203. Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy
204. The Marriage of Maria Braun
205. Veronika Voss
206. Lola
207. The Pornographers
208. A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman
209. Through a Glass Darkly
210. Winter Light
211. The Silence
212. Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie
213. Richard III
214. The Devil and Daniel Webster
215. Knife in the Water
216. Rules of the Game
217. Tokyo Story
218. Le Cercle Rouge
219. La Strada
220. Naked Lunch
221. Ikiru
222. Diary of a Country Priest
223. Maîtresse
224. Pickup on South Street
225. Tunes of Glory
226. Onibaba
227. Le Corbeau
228. Salvatore Giuliano
229. Scenes From a Marriage
230. 3 Women
231. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
232. A Story of Floating Weeds / Floating Weeds
233. Stray Dog
234. The Tin Drum
235. The Leopard
236. Mamma Roma
237. Smiles of a Summer Night
238. A Woman Is a Woman
239. The Lower Depths: Double Feature
240. Early Summer
241. Stage and Spectacle: 3 Films by Jean Renoir
242. The Golden Coach
243. French Cancan
244. Elena and Her Men
245. Port of Shadows
246. I Vitelloni
247. Slacker
248. Videodrome
249. Battle of Algiers
250. John Cassavetes: Five Films
251. Shadows
252. Faces
253. A Woman Under the Influence
254. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
255. Opening Night
256. A Constant Forge
257. Secret Honor
258. Tanner ‘88
259. Fat Girl
260. Eyes Without a Face
261. Fanny and Alexander Box Set
262. Fanny and Alexander (TV)
263. Fanny and Alexander (theatrical)
264. The Making of Fanny and Alexander
265. Short Cuts
266. King of Kings
267. Kagemusha
268. Youth of the Beast
269. Fighting Elegy
270. Casque d’Or
271. Touchez Pas au Grisbi
272. La commare secca
273. Thieves’ Highway
274. Night and the City
275. Tout Va Bien
276. The River
277. My Own Private Idaho
278. L’Eclisse
279. Young Törless
280. Sword of Doom
281. Jules et Jim
282. Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films
283. A Generation
284. Kanal
285. Ashes and Diamonds
286. Divorce, Italian Style
287. Burden of Dreams
288. F for Fake
289. Hoop Dreams
290. The Phantom of Liberty
291. Heaven Can Wait
292. Unfaithfully Yours
293. The Flowers of St. Francis
294. The Browning Version
295. Crazed Fruit
296. La notti bianche
297. Au Hasard Balthasar
298. Gate of Flesh
299. Story of a Prostitute
300. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
301. An Angel at My Table
302. Harakiri
303. Bad Timing
304. The Man Who Fell to Earth
305. Boudu Saved From Drowning
306. Le Samouraï
307. Naked
308. Masculin, Feminin
309. Ugetsu
310. Samurai Rebellion
311. Sword of the Beast
312. Samurai Spy
313. Kill!
314. Pickpocket
315. Shoot the Piano Player
316. Ran
317. Tales of Hoffmann
318. Forbidden Games
319. The Bad Sleep Well
320. Young Mr. Lincoln
321. The Virgin Spring
322. The Complete Mr. Arkadin
323. The Children Are Watching Us
324. La Bête Humaine
325. Kind Hearts and Coronets
326. Metropolitan
327. 3 Films by Louis Malle
328. Murmur of the Heart
329. Lacombe, Lucien
330. Au Revoir les Enfants
331. Late Spring
332. Viridiana
333. Fists in the Pocket
334. Harlan County USA
335. Elevator to the Gallows
336. Dazed and Confused
337. À Nos Amours
338. Equinox
339. Yi Yi
340. Koko: A Talking Gorilla
341. A Canterbury Tale
342. Six Moral Tales Box set
343. The Bakery Girl of Monceau
344. Suzanne’s Career
345. My Night at Maud’s
346. La Collectionneuse
347. Claire’s Knee
348. Love in the Afternoon
349. Kicking and Screaming
350. Seduced and Abandoned
351. The Spirit of the Beehive
352. Jigoku
353. Solo con tu pareja
354. Clean, Shaven
355. Hands Over the City
356. Sweetie
357. The Fallen Idol
358. Pandora’s Box
359. The Double Life of Veronique
360. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes
361. The Beales of Grey Gardens
362. Border Radio
363. Mouchette
364. Monsters and Madmen
365. First Man Into Space
366. The Atomic Submarine
367. The Haunted Stranglers
368. Corridors of Blood
369. Paul Robeson: Portraits of an Artist
370. The Emperor Jones / Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist
371. Body and Soul / Borderline
372. Sanders of the River / Jericho
373. The Proud Valley / Native Land
374. Bicycle Thieves
375. Green For Danger
376. 49th Parallel
377. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs
378. Fires on the Plain
379. The Burmese Harp
380. The Naked City
381. La Haine
382. Overlord
383. Brute Force
384. Vengeance Is Mine
385. Army of Shadows
386. Sansho the Bailiff
387. La Jetee / Sans Soleil
388. The Two of Us
389. WR: Mysteries of the Orga(ni)sm
390. Sweet Movie
391. if…
392. 3 Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara
393. Pitfall
394. Woman in the Dunes
395. The Face of Another
396. Ace in the Hole
397. Ivan’s Childhood
398. Les Enfants Terribles
399. House of Games
400. Stranger Than Paradise
401. Night on Earth
402. The Milky Way
403. Cria Cuervos
404. Robinson Crusoe on Mars
405. The Threepenny Opera
406. Martha Graham: Dance on Film
407. Mala Noche
408. Breathless
409. Days of Heaven
410. Under the Volcano
411. Berlin Alexanderplatz
412. Sawdust and Tinsel
413. Drunken Angel
414. Two-Lane Blacktop
415. The Naked Prey
416. Miss Julie
417. This Sporting Life
418. 4 x Agnes Varda
419. La Pointe Courte
420. Le Bonheur
421. Pierrot le fou
422. The Last Emperor
423. Walker
424. Mafioso
425. Antonio Gaudi
426. The Ice Storm
427. Death of a Cyclist
428. Blast of Silence
429. The Lovers
430. The Fire Within
431. The Thief of Bagdad
432. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
433. Patriotism
434. Classe Tous Risques
435. The Furies
436. Before the Rain
437. Vampyr
438. Mon Oncle Antoine
439. Trafic
440. Brand Upon the Brain!
441. The Small Back Room
442. Twenty-Four Eyes
443. La Ronde
444. Le Plaisir
445. The Earrings of Madame Dr…
446. An Autumn Afternoon
447. Le Doulos
448. Le Deuxieme Souffle
449. Missing
450. Bottle Rocket
451. Fanfan la Tulipe
452. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold
453. Chung King Express
454. Europa
455. White Dog
456. The Taking of Power by Louis XIV
457. Magnificent Obsession
458. El Norte
459. The Exterminating Angel
460. Simon of the Desert
461. Hobson’s Choice
462. The Last Metro
463. Il Generale Delle Rovere
464. Danton
465. Dodes’ka-den
466. Empire of Passion
467. In the Realm of the Senses
468. Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé
469. The Hit
470. Wise Blood
471. Pigs, Pimps and Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura
472. Intention of Murder
473. Pigs and Battleships
474. The Insect Woman
475. The Friends of Eddie Coyle
476. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
477. Bergman Island
478. Last Year at Marienbad
479. My Dinner With Andre
480. The Human Condition
481. Made in U.S.A.
482. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
483. Repulsion

Look for occasional reviews of my unseen Criterion selections, to be viewed and reviewed in no particular order other than the order which suits my personal whims. Until that happens, feel free to chime in with possible names for this column, as well as the inevitable “wait, you haven’t seen Hard Boiled / Kwaidan / Fishing With John yet?”-style remarks in the comments section below.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Criterion Watch, July 2009

Okay, okay- here’s the real Criterion Watch as promised. After all, while I’m sure we all would love to walk up to the Criterion section at our local DVD rental emporium (what, you mean yours doesn’t have a Criterion section?) and see the screaming Bale cover for American Psycho or the gorgeous image on the fake Crash DVD, for now we have to accept what Criterion gives us. Thankfully, they’re still coming through with fascinating new releases. Per longtime Hats friend Adam Villani's request, you can click the images to link to the Criterion site.
For me, this is the biggie, being a Deneuve fan of long standing and all. I practically wore out my old VHS tape, so I’d be more than happy to trade up to this. And for those of you with Blu-Ray players, this is one of Criterion’s Blu-Ray releases for July, so that’s cool too.

And here’s their other Blu-Ray for the month, which will also get rereleased in standard-definition for those of us who are feeling the current economic crunch. I haven’t seen this one yet, so maybe this new pressing will give me an excuse to finally do so.

A Godard double-feature is always good news, especially when there’s one I haven’t seen in the mix. I’ve always been curious about Made in USA, so this will finally give me a chance to check it out. And while Two or Three Things isn’t my favorite sixties Godard, it’s still sixties Godard- in other words, awesome.

Of the July release slate, this is probably the most interesting of the bunch, a massive Japanese epic that’s being released for the first time on DVD. This is another one I haven’t seen yet, and while I don’t know if I’ll have time to sit down and watch the whole thing as I might have done in the past, I’m sure I’ll find time to watch it sooner rather than later. But then, I said the same thing about Berlin Alexanderplatz
Finally, here’s the latest in the Essential Art House line that Criterion introduced a year or so ago. I’m of two minds about these sets, since while the DVDs are mostly bare-bones versions of pre-existing Criterion titles, it’s good to have these movies out there. Still, the titles they’ve chosen for this one (Variety Lights, The Hidden Fortress, Richard III, Ashes and Diamonds, Forbidden Games, and the Queen Latifah-less version of Last Holiday), don’t seen particularly “essential”, aside from Kurosawa’s film, which I already own. So I’m guessing that I’ll skip this one in favor of spending my limited amount of incidental cash on the Polanski. But if you’re aching to buy this, don’t let me stop you.