The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
On the Santa Monica Pier, in the shabby La Monica Ballroom, a bizarre Depression-era fad unfolds – the dance marathon. A worn out collection of hopefuls (Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Bonnie Bedelia, Red Buttons, and Bruce Dern) compete in hopes that a Hollywood casting agent spots them or that they at least win the contest’s $1,500 cash prize. But the competition is a grueling public spectacle, lasting thousands of hours and taking weeks to proceed, leaving dignity and salvation farther and farther away. Based on Horace McCoy’s brutally poetic novel and featuring stand-out performances including Gig Young’s award-winning role as the marathon’s huckstering emcee, Sydney Pollack’s seminal film puts a cap on 1960s idealism and paints a bleak portrait of the American Dream that still resonates today.
- New 2K digital transfer, presented with uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentary by director and producer Sydney Pollack
- Audio commentary with Jane Fonda, producer Irwin Winkler, former president of ABC Pictures and talent agent Martin Baum, Bonnie Bedelia, Michael Sarrazin, Red Buttons, and legendary hair stylist Sydney Guilaroff
- New interviews with actors Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, and Bonnie Bedelia
- New interview with film critic Kim Morgan
- New interview with filmmaker Sarah Gertrude Shapiro discussing They Shoot Horses and introducing her 2013 short film Sequin Raze
- Original featurette on the making of the film
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Scott MacDonald, composer John Green’s musical continuity notes, Pollack’s forward to the screenplay, and notes, pictures, and diagrams taken from Pollack’s shooting script; a new paperback edition of McCoy’s original novel
Our next proposal has proven more involved than expected, but it should go up this weekend and we hope it impresses. In the meantime, we thought we might provide a little tease of what’s to come.
Here are “Three Reasons” for our next Criterion Collection proposal:
- Reality Entertainment
- Dancing on the Edge
- Selling Out the American Dream
Got it? Either way, MMC! will meet you on the Santa Monica Pier in a day or two.
Back in January, the Criterion Collection paired the Oscar-winning short film Logorama (Ludovic Houplain, Hervé de Crécy, and François Alaux, 2009) with Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin (1966). Created by the French collective H5, the short constructs Los Angeles entirely from (3,000 or so) trademarked logos and then presents these sanitized images of friendly consumerism in the sun-drenched violence typical to films like To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985) and Heat (Michael Mann, 1995). The result is a clever statement on the ubiquity of capitalist commodification in our daily life and a somewhat nasty dismantling of the corporate messaging shorthanded into these capitalist symbols. Those interested in the legality of Logorama (or at least the American legality of a French film) should read Rose Lawrence’s “LOGORAMA: The Great Trademark Heist.” Lawrence’s unpacking of the legal tests for parody, satire, infringement, and dilution are particularly useful in considering the artistic aims, popular interactions, and social commentaries at work in the short film. As a bonus, Lawrence also touches upon important legal texts like George of the Jungle 2 (David Grossman, 2003) and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”
Movie watching has been slow-going of late, what with television dominating our screening minutes. MasterChef: Australia, Lucha Underground, The Venture Bros., and Guy’s Grocery Games: Supermarket Masters Tournament have been keeping it classy around MMC!. And it’ll be tough times for cinema with Jordskott, Five Came Back, Archer Dreamland, The Gorburger Show, and the NBA playoffs on the immediate horizon. Nevertheless, the last 10 movies I’ve watched are:
- Yakuza Hooligans 893 (Sadao Nakajima, 1966)
- A Touch of Zen (King Hu, 1971)
- The Naked City (Jules Dassin, 1948)
- Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015)
- Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
- Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1970)
- Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
- Deafula (Peter Wolf, 1975)
- Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992)
- Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, 2017)
This just in and you heard it here first – Toni Erdmann is really good. See it before Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson turn it into Dinner with Schmucks (Jay Roach, 2010), a movie that I do enjoy but takes some crazy liberties with its very entertaining source material, Francis Veber’s The Dinner Game (1998).
A Touch of Zen is dazzling to the eye and manages to feel measured and accelerated, dedicated and diverted, all at once. Shin Godzilla takes on the plodding monster that is political bureaucracy (with tongue firmly in cheek). Porco Rosso remains one of Studio Ghibli’s undervalued masterpieces. But a warning should be heeded – stay away from Deafula … far away. Its American sign language-meets-vampire movie premise can’t save it from the failings of its art house pretensions.
Lastly, you can still vote for the cult cinema genre to be featured in our next Arrow Video proposal. Please head over to our poll and vote for your favourite!!!
Big thanks to Aaron West for inviting me on Criterion Now, his recurring podcast on the ongoing developments of all things Criterion! You can listen to us now on “Episode 11 – Blow-Up, Tiny Furniture, Gimme Shelter.”
Lucky listeners can hear me shrug off ’60s London, defend the aspect ratio of comic books, mistake Zelig as ’70s Woody Allen, declare myself the spokesman of a nation, and defend Lena Dunham, Michael Bay, and Point Break. It was a lot of fun, but MMC! followers should enjoy it now because a track record like that doesn’t encourage repeat visits!
(And for the record: I don’t dislike Blow-Up (I just have other Antonioni films I much prefer), I probably should have stumped for Take the Money and Run (1969) which I also enjoy, and I do have great tolerance when the Collection tries to represent cinema outside its typical fare, even when it results in titles like Armageddon and Jellyfish Eyes.)
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Our Little Sister.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) is a scenic and gently sensitive domestic drama that confirms its maker’s reputation as a great director in the tradition of Yasujiro Ozu and Mikio Naruse. Adapted from a popular Japanese comic book, the film concerns three twentysomething sisters – Sachi, Yoshino, and Chika – who live together in an old, large house in the seaside city of Kamakura. When their long absent father dies, they travel to a small countryside town for his funeral and meet their shy, teenage half-sister for the first time. Bonding quickly with the orphaned Suzu, they invite her to live with them and the four sisters commence a new life of tentatively joyful discovery. With documentary precision and picturesque elegance, Our Little Sister is a touching survey of love, generosity, and the weight of family histories.