Please Stand By

Simpsons Technical DifficultiesMMC! is on the road right now and while our next proposal is essentially ready to go up, the computer provided in my hotel room doesn’t seem to love all of the robust options available in WordPress, meaning I can’t quite get our next post to include the usual array of links and whatnot.  For that reason, I’ll keep plugging away at drafts for further titles in the meantime and delay our next post just a few more days.

Thanks for your patience and check back in for our next imagined Eclipse set, this one celebrating one of Japan’s great director-actress collaborations.

(My) Top Ten List

Criterion Banner FINALEvery month, the Criterion Collection asks a friend – a filmmaker, a programmer, a writer, an actor, an artist – to select their ten favorite movies available from the Criterion Collection and jot down their thoughts about them.  The entries (from people like Jane Campion, Jonathan Lethem, and Sonic Youth) are often surprising, and always entertaining.

Big thanks to Aaron, Kristina, and Ruth for organizing the Criterion Blogathon and for allowing me to craft my own Criterion Top Ten List.  I love lists.  Not in the sense that they represent any kind of canonical statement of anything, but in the way that they reflect certain perspectives.  Good lists say as much about their authors as they do about the films they include, and Criterion’s Top Ten Lists are loaded with as many insights about their “friends” as they are about the films themselves, making those lists doubly valuable to us cinephiles.  In truth, when picking between the hundreds of masterpieces amassed by Criterion, it’s hard to imagine anyone coming up with a bad Top Ten and I’m not sure anyone reads a Criterion Top Ten List to applaud or gripe about what got included.  I read them to see what speaks to these individuals and what personal insights or connections they can share.  Isn’t it great to see how classy Roger Corman’s keeps his Top Ten, how absolutely characteristic Chuck Klosterman’s List proves to be, how amazing is Kim Newman’s choice to include The Human Skeleton, and how utterly greedy Guillermo del Toro is by stuffing 21 films into his Top Ten?  I love it.

My Criterion Top Ten List has been a thornier process than I imagined, with only about half of my initially considered titles actually withstanding the months-long screenings and re-screenings done to prepare a list I feel fairly confident in.  In selecting these 10 films, I asked myself why I liked them, why they stay with me, why they resonate, and how I came upon them.  In doing so, these films not only reflect my tastes in film but also trace my relationship with the Criterion Collection over the last 15+ years.  It includes the third Criterion title I ever bought and one that I saw for the first time less than 3 months ago.  There are themes: unrequited love, seriocomedy, ensembles, meticulous production design, dream sequences, widescreen black and white.  And there are, for me, many surprising exclusions.  No Godard, no Kurosawa, no Powell and Pressburger, and no Maddin.  There’s no Days of Heaven, The Firemen’s BallClose-upWhen a Woman Ascends the Stairs, A Night to RememberThe Tin Drum, Good MorningLes misérables, Divorce Italian StyleThe Night of the Hunter, the Flamenco TrilogyForbidden Games, The Battle of AlgiersIl Posto or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, if just for the DVD’s menu screen.  (I’m already way over 10 films just talking about what didn’t make the cut!)  But the best thing about this Top Ten List is knowing that it’s not permanent, that I might reach into some box set later tonight, read Criterion’s next monthly announcement, or simply grow into being a slightly different (and hopefully better) person and find myself connected to another film that forces its way into my imagination and onto this list.

For the moment, here is my Criterion Top Ten List, arranged for ease of reading (and not for ranking) and including a plain text portion that I imagine would accompany each title in the usual fashion of the Criterion website and an italicized portion that serves as a more personal annotation for each selection.

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99 francs (Jan Kounen, 2007)

“Brilliant, trashy, offbeat.  Exceptional.” – STUDIO.

Drafthouse Films LogoOctave Parango (Jean Dujardin) is the master of his world.  His job: copywriter at the acclaimed ad agency Ross & Witchcraft.  His motto: “Man is a product like any other.”  He has all he desires – drugs, women, luxury – but when Octave ruins a meaningful romance with a beautiful and caring co-worker, he becomes disgusted with himself, his easy-going lifestyle, and the system he helped create, causing him to rebel and sabotage his biggest advertising campaign.  Jean Dejardin (The Connection) tears down the dishonest and hypocritical world of corporate advertising in this blackly comic tale of self-destruction.  Inspired by Frédéric Beigbeder’s best-selling novel, Jan Kounen directs this comedy “bursting with ideas from start to finish!” (Le Parisien).

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Jan Kounen
  • Audio commentary with Kounen, writer Frédéric Beigbeder, and actor Jean Dujardin
  • Making-of featurette
  • Back on the Roof: Behind the Scenes of the Fall
  • Another World: Filming in the Amazon
  • Deleted scenes, with optional commentary
  • Special effects featurette
  • Jan Kounen Podcasts from the set of 99 francs
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (director of the absurd) on Legrand advertising, an excerpt of a 2007 debate between Rousseau and Kounen
  • Deleted making-of scenes
  • Capitaine X and Vibroboy, two short films by Kounen
  • A 24 page booklet featuring concept art, production photos, and new interviews with cast and crew

Deluxe Edition – Package Includes:

  • 99 francs on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 6 hours of bonus material
  • DRM-free Digital Download of the film on 1080p, 720p, and mobile/tablet formats
  • 27″ x 40″ Movie Poster
  • Frédéric Beigbeger’s novel 99 Francs

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10 on the 10th – November 2015

Alphaville Japonaise

  1. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
  2. The War of the Stars II: The Future in Motion (The Man Behind the Mask, 2012)
  3. The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka (Yasuzo Masumura, 1967)
  4. A Wife Confesses (Yasuzo Masumura, 1961)
  5. Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
  6. Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow, 2015)
  7. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953)
  8. Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)
  9. L’avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
  10. White, White Storks (Ali Khamraev, 1966)

With The Criterion Blogathon coming up quickly, my attention has been focused primarily on revisiting some favourites in the Collection and this list of the last 10 films I’ve watched reflects that.  Without saying too much, I’ll confirm that at least two of the titles above will be making it onto my Criterion Top Ten list.  The full schedule to The Criterion Blogathon has been uploaded and it’s rather overwhelming (posts are even going up as I write this!) – we recommend heading over, looking for your favourite Criterion titles, and planning your reading list carefully.

Jurassic BurtAs an aside, Jurassic World is only tolerable if one can imagine that Chris Pratt is not playing ‘raptor expert and infallible hero Owen Grady, but is actually portraying Andy Dwyer’s alter ego, Burt Macklin ( … FBI).  Now where did those dinosaurs hide the President’s rubies?

The real coup of this list is discovering the Vimeo page for The Man Behind the Mask!  We’ve embedded the full fanedit of The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused into our post on the film, and those interested in more from TMBTM can check out the other films uploaded to his Vimeo page.  Sorry kids, no JAWS: The Sharksploitation Edit, but you’ll find more Star Wars goodness, plus fanedits of Indiana Jones and Conan, and still further content from one of the Internet’s best faneditors.

Four Extraordinary Heroes, One Regiment: Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman, Claude Rains and Herbert Marshall in World War I

PoppySource: Four Extraordinary Heroes, One Regiment: Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman, Claude Rains and Herbert Marshall in World War I

Here is a wonderful piece on four of everyone’s favourite leading men and their efforts in World War I as members of the London Scottish Regiment.  These accounts are all the more moving for the self-effacing honesty, the admissions of fear, and the heartfelt sadness expressed by these soldiers/actors.

Big thanks to sistercelluloid for this fascinating post.

Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Freaks.

criterion logo“We accept you, one of us.  Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble.” This is the chant of Freaks, director Tod Browning’s bizarre morality play of betrayal and retribution in a circus sideshow.  In this Pre-Code masterpiece, an evil trapeze artist seduces and marries a small-statured performer in hopes of murdering him and inheriting his secret fortune.  Her plot raises the ire of the other sideshow members and the “Code of the Freaks” demands a harsh and terrible punishment for this “peacock of the air.”  Browning, a former circus contortionist, shocked audiences and his studio by bringing true circus freaks to the silver screen (including a legless boy, a human torso, Siamese twins, a human skeleton, a pair of armless women, and microcephalics – called “pinheads” in the film), and in doing so Browning created a film that effectively ended his career but became a cult classic decades later.

Disc Features:

  • High definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by Browning biographer David J. Skal
  • Freaks: Sideshow Spectacle, a documentary on sideshow performers appearing in the film
  • 3 alternate endings
  • Special Message prologue added for the film’s theatrical re-issue
  • Kim Newman on the banning of Freaks in the UK for 31 years
  • Photo gallery of production and publicity stills
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by scholar David Church and director Rona Mark, the original short story “Spurs” that inspired the film, and a script synopsis from the MGM archives

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