CHICAGO – When faced with adversity, the best way around it is to somehow break into song. That is the feeling behind the Brown Paper Box Co.’s “Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret,” running April 7th and 8th at Mary’s Attic in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The event features company member Kristi Szczepanek as host, and presents song stylings by other company members, including Anna Schutz, plus some special guests. For details and ticket information, click here.
The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection continues to impress through the remarkable range of what it offers cineastes on a monthly basis. Look at the highlights of their May 2014 Blu-ray offerings, all currently available in stores and for online order. What on Earth do “Overlord,” “Like Someone in Love,” and “Red River” have in common?
CHICAGO – With the recent popularity of road trip movies in both mainstream films and the art house, it is a fitting pleasure that the Criterion Collection has released Dino Risi’s “Il Sorpasso,” a jazzy road trip movie that takes the story structure to its basics. Two opposing types meet unexpectedly, travel to random exotic locations, and interact with people who are rest stops in themselves.
It’s hard to overstate the shock waves that Lars Von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves” made when it was released in 1996. It’s not as if LVT was a completely unknown commodity but this was a new level for the filmmaker in the way he both played with his form and embraced larger-than-life imagery. “Breaking the Waves” was both grounded in classic themes and felt like the coming-out party for Dogme, the movement founded by LVT that embraced natural filmmaking techniques like handheld cameras and sunlight.
Few films have ever been as dissected and analyze as Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona”, recently released on Criterion Blu-ray for the first time with new special features. It’s somewhat ironic that so many people have spent so much intellectual energy on a film that Bergman admits came to him at a point of low health almost in a dream. In fact, “Persona” somewhat becomes less interesting to me as it’s dissected, much like Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” or Malick’s “Tree of Life”. They are distinctly emotional, symbolic pieces and perhaps they should just be appreciated as such instead of such analysis of “what they mean.” However you choose to appreciate one of Bergman’s most influential films, you should do so with the Criterion edition from this day forward.
We love to go on and on when the Academy gets it wrong, especially in the notoriously flawed Documentary and Foreign Language categories. And so we should give them a pat on the back when they get it right. Yes, “Blue is the Warmest Color” deserved more attention but my vote still would have gone to Paolo Sorrentino’s masterful “The Great Beauty,” released today on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection. It’s one of the best films of the last several years; a mesmerizing ode to the diversionary quality of excess. Don’t miss it.
The Criterion Collection’s deal with IFC Films has to a unique subset of their catalog. While most Criterion films are either acknowledged classics or foreign/smaller films that the company wants to shed more light on, the IFC ones are generally current. While some of the choices have questionable, we’ve also seen recent greats like “Certified Copy,” “Fish Tank,” next month’s “The Great Beauty,” and this week’s “Blue is the Warmest Color” joining the collection earlier than they otherwise would have. “Blue” is a great film with two of the best performances of 2013. Sadly, the DVD release doesn’t reflect the film’s quality.
Steven Soderbergh’s film “King of the Hill” is an essential one to understanding his career simply for the way it displayed the range we would come to admire in one of our best filmmakers. Soderbergh is one of the most important directors of the last quarter-century, in no small part due to the incredible range he has displayed throughout his career. His current-century work has been defined by an incredible attention to detail but his 3rd and 4th films, “King of the Hill” and “The Underneath,” which is included on this Blu-ray in its entirety, bear the mark of a man still honing his craft. And he’ll be the first to tell you that.
Cinema history has a few great double-up years: 12-month periods in which a classic filmmaker had not one but two great films. Mel Brooks may be the most notorious, releasing two of the best comedies of all time in 1974 (“Blazing Saddles” & “Young Frankenstein”) and Steven Spielberg has arguably done it a few times, inarguably in 1993 (“Jurassic Park” & “Schindler’s List”) and he would double-up again in 2002 (“Minority Report” & “Catch Me If You Can”) and 2011 (“Tintin” & “War Horse”).
Michael Mann’s “Thief” is a crime movie that’s more about the criminal than his illegal acts. It’s about a man who has been torn down to nothing who slowly puts pieces back into his life, like a love affair and a family, only to learn that he has to give all of them up for his own safety. It’s a fascinating film, stunning in its technical acumen and with stellar performances from James Caan, Tuesday Weld, and Robert Prosky (making his film debut). It’s also a great inclusion in The Criterion Collection, perfectly remastered and with some interesting interview insights.
Do you think Albert and David Maysles knew they were creating not just a documentary but launching cultural icons when they filmed the mesmerizing “Grey Gardens,” now available in a Criterion Blu-ray edition? The film about “Little Edie” and “Big Edie,” relatives of American royalty in Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, became a cult phenomenon, inspiring a follow-up (which is included in this release), an award-winning fictionalized version of their story with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, and even a full-length musical.