DVD Triage for March 6

New Release Pick of the Week

Game of Thrones: Season 1
Yep, I’m featuring a TV show this week. Game of Thrones quickly sped to the top of my list of must-see shows last year, and rewatching some of it this week has only solidified that. Both in terms of an adaptation from the books and taken on its own, this show is fantastic, a perfect combination of medieval-style court intrigue and menacing fantasy.
2011 USA. Starring: Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley.

Other New Releases

Catalog Pick of the Week

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray
I’m not sure whether this film is worth the Blu-ray upgrade if you already have the DVD, but it’s certainly a movie worth owning in SOME format. Definitely one of my most-quoted movies, its sheer absurdity keeps me watching it over and over, and enjoying it every time.
1974 UK. Director: Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam. Starring: John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Michael Palin.


Other Catalog Releases

Universal is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year with a new logo and a raft of DVD and Blu-ray releases tagged “Universal’s 100th Anniversary Collection.” Since there’s a fair chance that readers here are interested in the classic stuff, I’ve included the more notable Universal and Warner Archive releases below – see the full list at Row Three. Note: I probably would’ve featured Sullivan’s Travels, because that’s the best movie releasing this week, but it’s only a DVD release (not Blu-ray), and it’s already out from Criterion, so I’m not sure why you’d want this version.

The Blues Brothers DVD & BD (1980 USA, dir John Landis, stars John Belushi)
Charade DVD (1963 USA, dir Stanley Donen, stars Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn)
The Deer Hunter DVD & BD (1978 USA, dir Michael Cimino, stars Robert De Niro)
Destry Rides Again DVD (1939 USA, dir George Marshall, stars James Stewart)
The Egg and I DVD (1947 USA, dir Chester Erskine, stars Claudette Colbert)
Francis the Talking Mule DVD (1950 USA, dir Arthur Lubin, stars Donald O’Connor)
The Jerk DVD (1979 USA, dir Carl Reiner, stars Steve Martin)
The Last Temptation of Christ DVD (1986 USA, dir Martin Scorsese, stars Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel)
Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life DVD (1983 UK, dir Terry Jones, stars John Cleese)
Out of Africa DVD & BD (1985 USA, dir Sydney Pollack, stars Meryl Streep)
Three Smart Girls DVD (1936 USA, dir Henry Koster, stars Deanna Durbin)
Screen Couples Spotlight Collection (Charade, Double Indemnity, Pillow Talk, My Little Chickadee)
Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection (Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon)
Hollywood Legends Spotlight Collection (Harvey, Spartacus, Touch of Evil)
Best Picture Winners Spotlight Collection (Out of Africa, A Beautiful Mind, All Quiet on the Western Front, Going My Way)
Westerns Spotlight Collection (High Plains Drifter, Destry Rides Again, Winchester ’73)

Balalaika (1939 USA, dir Reinhold Schünzel, stars Nelson Eddy, Ilona Massey)
Broadway Serenade (1939 USA, dir Robert Z. Leonard, stars Jeanette MacDonald)
The Firefly (1937 USA, dir Robert Z. Leonard, stars Jeanette MacDonald)
I Married an Angel (1942 USA, dir W.S. Van Dyke, stars Jeanette MacDonald)

Instant Watch Picks of the Week

One of my first exposures to the yakuza film, and I enjoyed it quite a lot – lots of twists and turns and double-crosses, and plenty of brutal and interestingly-shot kills. Definitely got me interested in more of Kitano’s work.
2010 Japan. Director: Takeshi Kitano. Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase.

The Adventures of Tintin
I haven’t sat down to watch this animated TV version of the Tintin comics yet, but I really want to after enjoying the Spielberg movie as much as I did. My husband grew up with them, and he was pretty excited at the opportunity to catch them again on Netflix.
1991-1992 France/Canada. Starring: Colin O’Meara, Thierry Wermuth, Christian Pellissier.

Other Instant Watch Releases

Oh, look, The Lady Eve and Bedazzled are back after their recent expirations. Thanks, Netflix! How about you just leave stuff on instead of expiring them for a week?

Expiring Picks of the Week

Le cercle rouge [3/15]
This was hands down my favorite movie of everything I watched last year, with a fantastic crime plot shown from every angle and one of the best heists ever on screen – it’s been on Netflix Instant for quite a while, but it’s expiring soon, so catch it while you can.
1967 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Alain Delon, Yves Montand, Bourvil.

Other Instant Watch Expirations

Not too many expirations this week, which is a good thing; still some very good films, with most of the notable ones coming from the French, British, and American New Waves of the 1960s and 1970s.

Tunes Worth Hearing: February 2012

Month number two of keeping track of my favorite music releases ended up quite well, even if I spend a good part of the month continuing to listen to stuff from January. I guess that’s how it should be, eh? A bit of variety this month, with a bit of electronica, some country rock, some noise rock, some indie pop, and even a silent film connection. I should note that unlike my Scorecard post for movies, I’m not listing everything I listened to, but only stuff I liked to one degree or another. You can see how these fit in with the rest of the albums I’ve heard this year on my 2012 Favorites page (below the movies). And you can listen to my favorite songs of the year over here on Spotify.

Goldfrapp – The Singles

Okay, so this isn’t strictly speaking NEW music, but the album did release in February, and I have been listening to it a whole, whole lot, and I do kind of consider it my re-introduction to Goldfrapp, so I’m counting it. I’ve heard a few Goldfrapp songs before (notably “Strict Machine”), but I wasn’t enough into electronic-infused music until now to really get into her stuff. I guess Jonathan is having an effect on my musical tastes as well. I’m still not hugely into electronica, but this falls somewhere closer to the electronic end of rock for me – just a step or two beyond the synthiness of Metric or Blondie, and with good vocals and melodies layered in. It pretty much hits all my buttons, and it’s been almost on repeat all month (don’t worry, I still made time to listen to some other things), and it may not stop anytime soon. Granted, a singles album has a leg up on other albums since it’s kind of a “best of” record, but yeah, whatever.

Watch video for “Strict Machine”
Watch video for “Ooh La La”
Watch live performance of “Lovely Head”
Listen on Spotify

Heartless Bastards – Arrow

I may have to rethink my anti-country music stance, because both of my favorite actually new albums this year have been either country or folk inflected to some degree (the other being First Aid Kit – see last month’s post). Apparently if there’s enough rock in your country rock, I may quite easily become a big fan. Which leads me to believe that it’s just modern-day Nashville that I don’t like. Erica Wennerstrom leads this band with highly distinctive growling vocals, just the right sound for this raw sound. Something in the instrumentation and power vocals (especially on “The Arrow Killed the Beast”) also reminds me of my favorite Neko Case album, Blacklisted, which I’ve heard described as “country noir.” That epithet fits Arrow as well.

Listen to “The Arrow Killed the Beast”
Watch live performance of “Simple Feeling”
Listen on Spotify

Tennis – Young & Old

One of the cool things about Spotify is that I can introduce myself to bands that I had no idea existed before – I can usually find out about hot new bands from Stereogum or other buzz-tracking blogs, but sometimes one slips through the buzz cracks. Tennis is husband-wife duo (my favorite thing!) Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley from Denver, and they’re on their second album with Young & Old. I’m not sure they’ll reach the upper echelons of my musical taste that husband-wife duos like Mates of State and The Submarines enjoy, but they definitely put a smile on my face with these songs.

Listen to “Traveling”
Listen to “My Better Self”
Listen on Spotify

Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

After hearing the opening bit of this album, I was all prepared to dislike and dismiss it – it’s a little too noisy and chaotic for me at the beginning, with the shouting going on under the singing. But I decided to stick it through and listen to the whole album at least once, and somewhere by the fourth song or so, I found myself genuinely enjoying it, as it settled into just the right amount of noise rock. By the end, I was ready to immediately play it again. That’s not been the norm as I try to take in two or three new releases a week lately, so it was a refreshing surprise. (I can’t remember if I’ve listened to their previous releases or not; I’ve certainly been aware of the name, but perhaps I dismissed them too early before, as I almost did this time.)

Listen to “End of the Line”
Listen to “Born to Lose”
Listen on Spotify

Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled With Light

Fanfarlo is a fun band, and very personable the time I met them after a show at Amoeba – I even have a signed ‘7 from them. :) Even though I find this new release lightly enjoyable, I can’t say I’m a big fan, though. I won’t turn it off, but it runs a bit to the overly twee/hipster side, even for me. The song “Shiny Things” (see video below) is fairly solid and avoids some of the unnecessary quirk, but it’s all over “Replicate.”

Watch video for “Deconstruction”
Watch video for “Replicate
Listen on Spotify

Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Being the burgeoning silent cinema aficionado that I am, I couldn’t let this one pass me by. I’ve heard various things by Air over the years, and it’s never really been my thing as anything but a novelty, and to be honest, that’s pretty much what this is. They were tasked with writing a new original score for Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon, newly restored in its original hand-colored version, and this album is that score plus a few more tracks. I don’t love it, but it’s an interesting fit with the film most of the time.

Listen on Spotify

Film on TV: March 5-11

Another week, another bunch of film programming to run down for the Film on TV column on Row Three. Here are my top five picks coming up this week, and of course, you can head over to Row Three for all the rest. A note on these picks – I usually put a “must see” tag on my most recommended films on the post on Row Three. These are not necessarily just those films; these may be absolute must-sees, or they may be things that I think are underseen, or underrated and deserve another look. It’s also not necessarily things that haven’t been featured in the column before. So there’s an arbitrary nature to the picks, but I’ll always put my wholehearted support behind any of the ones I pull out to mention over here.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Monday, March 5 at 8:00pm on IFC
One of my absolute favorite films of the past decade (or ever, really), an absolutely beautiful and terrifying fantasy that juxtaposes the gruesome horrors of the Spanish Civil War with an equally horrifying fantasy world that provides, if not escape, at least some measure of importance and control to the film’s young heroine. Guillermo Del Toro solidified my view of him as a visionary filmmaker with this film, and it still stands to me as a testament to what fantasy can and should do.
2006 Spain/Mexico. Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Meribel Verdú, Doug Jones.
Must See

Marie Antoinette

Tuesday, March 6 at 11:30am on IFC
Though Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is unconventional, it is a solid and riveting re-interpretation of the giddy but not untroubled courts of Louis XVI and Louis XVII. The use of actors like Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman, who are not known as period actors, as well as anachronistic music, sounds like an ill-conceived attempt to make the story feel contemporary, but it actually works. Coppola took some serious risks with this film, but they paid off beyond all expectation.
2006 USA. Director: Sofia Coppola. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne.
(repeats at 8:00pm and 12:45am on the 7th)

A Town Called Panic

Tuesday, March 6 at 7:45am on Sundance
One of the most delightful films I saw in 2009, a whacked out stop-motion film from Belgium that follows Horse, Cowboy, and Indian throughout a series of adventures, mostly focused on trying to rebuild their house which keeps getting stolen every night. This is mile-a-minute absurdity with more inventiveness in 75 minutes than I usually see all year.
2009 Belium. Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar. Starring: Stéphane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Pater.
(repeats at 1:00pm)

The Big Sleep

Thursday, March 8 at 11:00am on TCM
One of the greatest detective/mysteries/films noir ever made. Humphrey Bogart is the definite hard-boiled detective, Lauren Bacall is the potential love interest/femme fatale. Don’t try to follow the story; whodunit is far less important than crackling dialogue and dry humor. Watch out for future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) in the small but extremely memorable part of the bookshop girl.
1946 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers, Elisha Cook Jr., Dorothy Malone.
Must See

The Razor’s Edge

Saturday, March 10 at 8:00pm on TCM
There’s a lot going on in this film based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel, from rich young Tyrone Power heading off to India to “find himself” to the financial troubles facing his socialite ex-girlfriend Gene Tierney and her husband to their rekindled affair when Power returns, but what you’ll mostly remember is Anne Baxter in a deservedly Oscar-winning performance as the former friend whose life has hit rock bottom. It’s one of Baxter’s best roles (Eve Harrington notwithstanding), and it’s worth watching just for her.
1946 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, Herbert Marshall, Lucile Watson.

The Roundup: 3 March 2012

Seems like every time I put these together, most of the featured links end up being about silent cinema in some way. That’s totally not intentional, but I guess it does indicate what’s intriguing me the most these days. Certainly classic cinema is a particular love of mine, which you can easily see in the feature links section most every week, but there are links to posts about newer films galore under “other links.” I think part of it is that blogs focused on newer films tend to have mostly news and reviews, which is fine, but I rather like featuring longer-form, more thought-provoking and wider-ranging articles, and I often find the most interesting ones on classic film blogs. Interesting. Sorry, I got caught up in psychoanalyzing my blog reading habits there for a second. My bad. There are also a TON of new trailers for big films and small down in the video section; as always, these will open in a lightbox when you click on the links.

Featured Links

It’s Alive! Guy Maddin and Spiritismes… by Kim Morgan at Sunset Gun

The always mysterious and inventive Guy Maddin is embarking on a typically odd but cool-sounding experiment. He’s holed up in Paris’s Centre Pompidou (the museum of modern art) and is making one short film PER DAY, each inspired by a lost silent film. He’s got some great talent on board, too, including Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, Mathieu Amalric, and many others (most of them French). The filming sessions are being termed seances, which doesn’t surprise me coming from Maddin, as he and the actors recreate things unseen by pretty much any living eyes. Kim Gordon has the full scoop, and I urge you to read it, as she’s working on the project as well and has unique insight into Maddin’s thoughts. The ghostly results are being broadcast live here, but they’re at an ungodly hour in California. Stupid time zones. I haven’t located recordings of them, either – hopefully they’ll release them all in some format when the program is complete.

The Second (Annual?) Favorite Classic Actress Tournament at All Good Things (and elsewhere)

I don’t know whether Monty at All Good Things intends to make this Favorite Classic Actress tournament a yearly thing or not, but I kind of hope he does. Last year it was a lot of fun voting through the brackets, celebrating when favorites won and bemoaning when they lost. Irene Dunne powered through the competition last year to upset a lot of higher seeded competition – will she defend her crown as reigning champion this year? It’s going to be tough – the field is much bigger and diverse this year with 128 different actresses. The tournament is taking place over four different blogs – The Mythical Monkey is taking the Silent Era and the 1930s (he’s definitely the right person to handle this area; I’ve linked to his silent cinema articles here many times), Rosalind Russell – Dazzling Star is hosting the 1940s, Dawn’s Chick Flicks and Noir will have the 1950s, and Monty will be doing the 1960s right on All Good Things. Monty’s already been listing out the competition, so check out All Good Things for that, and the Mythical Monkey is providing a bit more a breakdown on all the ladies on his blog (not to mention a boatload of promotional images). Voting starts on Monday, March 5. Don’t miss out! (Of course, I’m pulling for my girl Barbara Stanwyck the whole way, but the competition is brisk.)

The First Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards at the Flickchart Blog

It’s not uncommon for movie-obsessed websites to give out alternative Oscars come this time of year, especially when the real Oscars are as yawn-worthy as this year. But I helped with the Flickcharter Awards, so they deserve special mention. I occasionally contribute over there, and when one of the other Flickchart bloggers suggested doing our own awards, it was a pretty easy bandwagon to jump on. There are a few Flickchart-specific categories, which made it more fun than just mimicking the Oscars totally, plus after we came up with the nominations, we opened it up to anyone to vote, and a lot of people did. There were a few upsets, some shoo-ins, and overall, I think a very solid set of nominations and winners.

The History of the History of Silent Comedy by David Kalat at Movie Morlocks

A typically wide-ranging article from David Kalat, looped around the idea that the history of silent comedy is one constructed by Hollywood itself both to separate the silent era from the sound era (preserving the sense of progress and improvement, conveniently ignoring the fact that many silent comedians continued doing much the same slapstick into the sound era) and to inculcate a sense of nostalgia for a bygone era that still survives to this day. He also discusses the way that silent comedy as a concept was reduced to a few outstanding individuals (Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd), creating a sort of circular logic of significance that excises others like Monty Banks, Raymond Griffith, Billy West, Charley Chase, and more.

The White Hell of Pitz Palü, Sturdy Pre-Hitler Leni Riefenstahl and the Strange and Fascinating Allure of the German Mountain Film by Kevyn Knox at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World

An extremely long title, but a very interesting piece. Before Leni Riefenstahl became the infamous director of such Nazi propaganda pieces as Triumph of the Will and Olympia, she was an actress best known for a series of “mountain films” she did, such as The White Hell of Pitz Palü, directed by G.W. Pabst and Arnold Fanck. If you’ve seen Inglourious Basterds, you might recall that Pitz Palü was used as a plot point, as Michael Fassbender attempted to convince the suspicious Nazi officer that his accent was strange because he was from the valley of Pitz Palü. Pabst’s mountain films were also playing at Shosanna’s cinema. Kevyn Knox takes us into the original film itself, Riefenstahl’s part in it, and even delves a bit into her later career as a director.

From “We” to “Me” by Scarlett at The Scarlett Olive

The Scarlett Olive draws on two depictions of youth culture in different eras – the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musicals of the 1940s and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off from 1985 – to explore the shift in our culture at large from a “we” culture to a “me” culture. Sociologists would likely agree that our culture has gotten more individualistic and self-centered (the current generation is sometimes termed “Generation Me” instead of “Generation Y”), and that seems to be borne out in the way films depict the youth culture, moving from everyone pulling together to achieve a common goal (in Mickey-Judy movies, generally putting on a show, which usually benefits everyone) to teens seeking their own enjoyment above all else. There is more to explore here, though – since both these movies were made by adults, their youth culture is in some ways constructed, and that’s even more true for the Mickey-Judy musicals. Definitely an interesting starting point.

Hey, Pluto! by Brandie at True Classics

The Classic Film and TV Cafe just hosted a Classic Movie Dogathon, focusing on dogs in classic film and getting a lot of really nice posts around the classic film blogosphere. One of my favorite entries (unsurprisingly, as it seems I link to Brandie every one of these posts) was on Mickey’s best friend Pluto, and his history as Disney’s main non-anthropomorphic character. She discusses how Pluto came to be and how he came to be Mickey’s dog, as well as focusing in on the shorts where Pluto is actually the main character. This post also fits in really well with the series she’s been doing anyway on early animators, all of which are worth reading.

The Ballad of Linda Darnell by The Self-Styled Siren

A lovely piece about actress Linda Darnell, who livened up many a 1940s film with her presence, but isn’t particularly well-remembered today (outside of classic cinema aficionados, of course). The Siren talks about how this essentially down-to-earth actress with the bombshell looks unfortunately often ended up in sexed up, objectified roles, then highlights her most notable films, like her central role in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine, her noir turn in Fallen Angel, her breathless support of Rex Harrison’s mania in Unfaithfully Yours, and perhaps her best performance ever in A Letter to Three Wives. Now I feel like going back and rewatching all these movies.

More Links!

David Hudson of Mubi lists the best films he saw at Berlinale
J. Hurtado of Twitch reviews the Blu-ray release of Mandrill, a fun Chilean action spoof, and recommends it; I saw it last year, and I concur, it’s an over-the-top good time
Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear has a sneak peak of TCM’s April schedule
The Classic Movie Man reviews Pinky, taking into account the social context of its time period
French Toast Sunday picks the top 6 most terrifying movie versions of space – can’t argue with these!
The most recent LAMB Director’s Chair was Dario Argento, which explains all the great reviews I’ve been seeing around of Argento’s works
Outstanding infographic of Hollywood’s relationship with piracy, courtesy of Film School Rejects
Shadows and Satin runs down the top ten reasons for loving Double Indemnity, and I agree with every single one (Ginny at Old Movies Nostalgia adds some more of her own)
Courtney of Big Thoughts from a Small Mind reviews Certified Copy, and pretty much thinks as highly of it as I do
Dan at Public Transportation Snob reviews Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, a film I saw ages ago and don’t remember at all – time for a rewatch!
Ryan at the Matinee is totally right about We Need to Talk About Kevin, and I love the way he keeps his review focused on Eva while avoiding spoilers
Kevyn Knox counts down his top 10 silent films for Anomalous Material, a great place to start if The Artist and Hugo have whetted your interest
The Oscars are over now, but Chris’s rundown of the ten nominees over at Silent Volume is one of the best analyses I’ve seen
Bob Turnbull finds inspiration from Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff
Kurt at Row Three talks about the recent renovations and upcoming opening of Toronto’s historic Bloor theatre, now the home of Hot Docs
First review of the Japanese film Parade I’ve seen since I saw it almost two years ago – and Twitch’s Niels Matthijs liked it almost as much as I did

Cool Trailers and Videos

Academy Award winner The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Teaser trailer for Frankenweenie – a return to form for Tim Burton?
The first part of the original Frankenweenie (Part II, Part III)
New trailer for The Avengers – too much Bay, not enough Whedon?
Trailer for Richard Linklater’s Bernie – stay to the end, it actually looks funny
Trailer for The Raid – now inexplicably The Raid: Redemption
New trailer for John Carter
Trailer for Deep Blue Sea, starring Rachel Weisz
Trailer for Snabba Cash II (the first will make its US bow in July)
Russian teaser for Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmasters
Extended teaser for Game of Thrones Season 2
What if Episode I were actually good?
Admiral Ackbar interviewed

Noteworthy News

Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days followup picked up by Sundance Selects
More casting news for Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut, Snow Piercer
Joe Wright is returning to period literature with Anna Karenina; Anomalous Material has the first photos
New service Tugg is working with theatres to let you and your buddies vote on what plays – could definitely be cool if it gains traction
Sofia Coppola taps Emma Watson for her next film
First look at the Coen Bros’ Inside Llewyn Davis
Edgar Wright will direct a Disney reboot of The Night Stalker, with Johnny Depp
Community will be back March 15th! Can Not Wait.
Fassbender’s going to play Irish folk hero Cuchulainn? I’m totally there.

Metric dates new album Synthetica for June 12th
First track from Norah Jones’ upcoming Danger Mouse-produced album
Bioshock: Infinite finally gets a release date – October 16th
Xbox Live gets HBOGo starting April 1
I’m pretty new to comic books, but even I’m finding things to get excited about in Image’s 2012 lineup
Kickstarter may provide more funds this year to creative projects than the National Endowment for the Arts