8 items from 2015
All week long our writers will debate: Which was the greatest film year of the past half century. Click here for a complete list of our essays. How to decide in the grand scheme of things which film year stands above all others? History gives us no clear methodology to unravel this thorny but extremely important question. Is it the year with the highest average score of movies? So a year that averages out to a B + might be the winner over a field strewn with B’s, despite a few A +’s. Or do a few masterpieces lift up a year so far that whatever else happened beyond those three or four films is of no consequence? Both measures are worthy, and the winner by either of those would certainly be a year not to be sneezed at. But I contend the only true measure of a year’s »
- Richard Rushfield
Long before he developed the still controversial cinematic technique of utilizing reenactments in The Thin Blue Line or his confessional-esque straight-to-lens Interrotron which was used for the first time in Fast, Cheap and Out of Control and continues to employ in works like his recent It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports series for Espn, Errol Morris was struck by the absurdities found within the average American. Superbly paired together in their first HD home releases by the Criterion Collection, Morris’s first two features, Gates of Heaven and Vernon, Florida, simply observe the expressive outpourings of rural folk, the lens taking in their unaccountably amusing opinions, worries and musings on life and local events with local, unadorn color featuring above all.
- Jordan M. Smith
This week sees the release of wonderful new Criterion editions of three of the greatest documentaries of all time: Errol Morris’s first three films, Gates of Heaven, Vernon, Florida, and The Thin Blue Line. Re-watching these films, it’s at times odd to think that the same man made them: Gates of Heaven is the deadpan, deliberate tale of pet cemeteries in California; Vernon, Florida is a weirdly meditative, austere portrait of the offbeat personalities in a rural southern town. And The Thin Blue Line, one of the most influential documentaries of all time, is a gripping investigation into a cop killing in Texas — complete with an evocatively tense Philip Glass score, stylized cinematography, and detailed, cinematic slow-motion reenactments. (The film was famously instrumental in the eventual release of Randall Dale Adams, who had been wrongfully convicted of the murder and condemned to die in the electric chair.) But »
- Bilge Ebiri
A pet cemetery in California, two Secretaries of Defense, and numerous Ronald McDonalds lauding the cuisine of Taco Bell are among the sundry subjects in Errol Morris’ body of work. This Academy Award-winning filmmaker has been working steadily since 1978, crafting a number of invigorating documentaries that examine the way people orate, and what it reveals about themselves and the world around them. He gives special attention not just to how people say the things they do, but also to the things they don’t say. The Criterion Collection has graciously decided to shine a light on Morris’s first three films: “Gates of Heaven,” which chronicles the transportation of hundreds of dead animals from one pet cemetery to another; “Vernon, Florida,” a portrait of various residents of the titular town; and the game-changing “The Thin Blue Line,” which made reenactments a viable asset to documentarians, and more importantly, set a wrongfully convicted man free. »
- Christopher Bell
Welcome back to This Week In Discs! We were off last week due to SXSW 2015, so new releases from March 17th *and* March 24th are covered below. If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Sure Thing Walter (John Cusack) is only in his first year of college, but he already realizes that he’s flunking at life’s most important subject — love. Well, maybe that’s overstating things a bit, but he is lacking in the romance department, so when a friend on the West coast invites him for a visit with the promise of a sure thing in the form of a hot California girl jonesing to hook up Walter sets off on a cross-country drive. The one catch is the forced presence of Alison (Daphne Zuniga) on the road trip, but Walter’s willing to risk this hellish drive for a shot at female perfection. Surprise »
- Rob Hunter
This week’s new Blu-ray releases include a trio of big films that opened in theaters this past December, a groundbreaking documentary classic on Criterion, and more. Click on the links below to purchase: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Combo Pack) - $27.99 (38% off) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack) - $24.96 (44% off) Into the Woods (Blu-ray + Digital HD) - $19.99 (50% off) Unbroken (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD with UltraViolet) - $19.99 (43% off) Song One [Blu-ray] - $13.59 (32% off) The Thin Blue Line [Blu-ray] (Criterion Collection) - $22.99 (42% off) Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida [Blu-ray] (Criterion Collection) - $27.59 (31% off)
- Adam Chitwood
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies We know this won't be the last we hear of The Hobbit as there will have to be the release of the extended edition and then there are box sets to consider, but we are getting closer to the end of our association with Middle Earth and it actually reminds me, what is Peter Jackson going to do nowc
Unbroken It's amazing to think that about a year ago we all thought this one had the best chance at winning Best Picture and now here we are, a year later and no one could really care less.
Into the Woods I really disliked this movie, but Mike, our resident lover of musicals, loved it. It's a story that cares nothing for its characters and feels like two movies smushed together to form a Frankenstein of a musical, and wow, the songs, I'm »
- Brad Brevet
Possibly the cheekiest and most life-affirming documentary on the concept of death and dying since Errol Morris’ “Gates of Heaven,” “Tender” is a valentine to the can-do spirit of Australians in general and local governments, known as councils, in particular. Artist and filmmaker Lynette Wallworth’s nonfiction debut is a compassionate and often gently funny tale of one such council determined to go into the not-for-profit funeral business, only to be challenged by the terminal cancer diagnosis of one of its own. Recent winner of the TV documentary prize at the Australian Academy of Cinema, Television Arts awards, the film is being distributed Stateside by Documentary Educational Resources and will make a fine addition to any cabler’s library.
“We won’t be keeping bodies at the community center,” someone explains helpfully during an informational meeting of the council in Port Kembla, the seaside industrial town in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. »
- Eddie Cockrell
8 items from 2015
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