The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Phenix City Story.
Corruption, brutality, and vice plagued Phenix City, Alabama, for 100 years, so who would dare to change it? Based on real-life events and filmed on location in what was called Sin City USA, director Phil Karlson’s semi-documentary tears this jolting tale from its Pulitzer Prize-winning headlines and tells the story of those citizens who risked their lives to bring down the burg’s syndicate of thugs and murderers. Signalling the end of stylish film noir and pointing to the crime-busting exposés that followed, this classic B-noir remains indelible for its shockingly transgressive violence, its unsettling authenticity, and its subtextual awareness of the struggling civil rights movement.
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Phil Karlson: The Core of Fact, a short appreciation featuring writer/film historian Alan K. Rode
- New interview with critics and one-time Alabamans Jonathan Rosenbaum and Nathaniel Thompson
- Historic photos of Sin City-era Phenix City
- PLUS: An essay by critic R. Emmet Sweeney
These last ten movies I’ve watched reflects two things: (1) I’m trying to catch up with the movies of 2018 and round out my list of favourites for the year, and (2) I’ve discovered Kanopy and I think I’m in love. (Not that I need to tell anyone reading this post but) Kanopy is a streaming service with an impressive collection of classic films, independent cinema, and documentaries. Probably the most stupendous aspect of Kanopy (over selections from The Criterion Collection, Kino, A24, Oscilloscope, The Orchard, Flicker Alley, Arbelos Films, the DEFA Film Library, and others) is the inclusion of Frederick Wiseman’s entire documentary catalog, so expect to see more Wiseman appearing on future “10 on the 10th” posts and on MMC!‘s top film discoveries for 2019!
- Racetrack (Frederick Wiseman, 1985)
- If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)
- All You Can Eat Buddha (Ian Lagarde, 2017)
- The Phenix City Story (Phil Karlson, 1955)
- Vice (Adam McKay, 2018)
- Darker Than Amber (Robert Clouse, 1970)
- The Other Side of the World (Orson Welles, 2018)
- Save the Green Planet! (Jang Joon-hwan, 2003)
- Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher, 2018)
- Mary Poppins Returns (Rob Marshall, 2018)
Ian Lagarde’s All You Can Eat Buddha deserves some comment here as possibly the least known title of the ten. This small, Canadian film stars French actor Ludovic Berthillot as a mysterious, diabetic, Québécois tourist who becomes the patron saint of a waning all-inclusive resort, quietly performing miracles and bringing slow ruin to the vacation spot while allowing his own body to deteriorate. Buddha is strangely funny and hauntingly enigmatic, operating something like the snowbird nexus between David Lynch and Luis Buñuel. (And while technically having a late 2017 festival release, Buddha sits as my #13 title of 2018.)
This morning, MMC! awoke to discover big news on the film-nerd front with the announcement of The 25th Frame podcast/media network! Founded by MMC! friends Aaron West, Cole Roulain, Ericca Long, and Matthew Gasteier, the network is a tribute to cinema fandom.
Happy 2019, kids! It’s less than a week after New Year’s and that means it’s primetime at gyms everywhere, so it’s the perfect opportunity to spend time with Ben Berman’s hilarious, moving, and all too true short film, How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps (2016). The film is based on Aaron Bleyaert’s essay of the same title, discovered by Berman when it was forwarded to him by a friend after joining a gym. The short was shot in two halves with SNL‘s Beck Bennett (in a wonderful starring performance as a heartbroken mattress salesman) losing 30 pounds in the three months in between. Funny and disarmingly inspirational, How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps is actually perfect anytime of the year.
This post is naturally dedicated to work-out loving wife and her friend who loves anything with “humping” in it. LOL.
For list-nerds like me, the end of the year is a special time with everyone one and their dog posting their best and worst movie lists for debate and celebration. (For what it’s worth, you can find my still-evolving list of Top 50 favourites for 2018 on Letterboxd and our dogs’ most hated film of the year was Wim Wenders’ Pina (2011).) I particularly love those year-end discovery lists and recommend the Pure Cinema Podcast‘s “Film Discoveries for 2018,” the loads of lists at Brian Saur’s blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks, and the “Ants in the Pants of 2018” episode hopefully soon to arrive at The Magic Lantern podcast. But before I get to MMC!‘s favourite discoveries of 2018, I want to take a moment…
This has been a great year at MMC! To be honest, this blog is really meant to satisfy my curatorial, scholarly, and fan-service itches and I really don’t pay much attention to traffic and the like, but it’s hard not to notice that traffic is up a whopping 40% over last year and that’s no doubt due to a lot of good people who’ve contributed to keeping MMC! a rewarding experience. Big thanks to Aaron West for having me on his Criterion Now podcast once again, this time with the great Tim Leggoe. With two visits under my belt, I’m just going to declare myself part of the CN family. Big thanks to all the film festivals who’ve let me participate in their great events – the Chattanooga Film Festival, Ithaca Fantastik, the Buried Alive Film Festival, the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival – and to filmmakers like Ryan Prows and Bo McGuire for being genuinely awesome people to meet and spend time with. Thanks once again to podcast-men Sam and Dan of the Arrow Video Podcast for their kind words. Lastly, big thanks to those out there who regularly support this little corner of film fandom – blogs like Noirish, Sci-Fi Jubilee, Voices From The Balcony, Movie Fan Man, Screen Zealots, The Telltale Mind, Cracked Rear Viewer, dbmoviesblog, 100 Films in a Year, Silver Screenings, Windows on Worlds, and our Finnish friend jnvahtola. (Plus shout-outs to floodmouse, Erin, and Simoneteffect!) Keep up the good work all of you and see you in 2019!
And now, here are my top 20 first time screenings for 2018 along with my Letterboxd reviews:
A STYLISH AND DEMONIC DEBUT
On a dark and stormy night in an unnamed German city, a young taxi driver named Luz (Luana Velis) arrives at a police station in a state of shock. Meanwhile, at a nearby bar, the mysterious psychiatrist Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) is approached by Nora (Julia Riedler), a woman with a disconcerting manner and an unexpected connection to Luz. They strike up a conversation over drinks and before it’s too late, Rossini falls into the thrall of a malevolent force intent on finding Luz. When Dr. Rossini arrives at the station to hypnotize Luz and assist in taking her statement, a claustrophobic journey into anxiety-inducing horror reaches a terrible crossroads.
Shot on 16mm with impeccable visuals, Tilman Singer’s audacious art school thesis project is an unexpected horror revelation. An experimental shocker with an irresistible retro vibe, this first feature fluidly assembles elements from the horror and art house cinema of the 1970s and ’80s, deftly deconstructing the demonic possession narrative and turning a simple police station into an intersection for the occult.
Special Edition Contents:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
- Newly translated English subtitles
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Tilman Singer
- Under the Influence, new interviews with actors Luana Velis, Jan Bluthardt, Julia Reidler, Nora Vanderkurt, and Johannes Benecke
- New interviews with Singer, director of photography Paul Faltz, production designer Dario Mendez Acosta, composer Simon Waskow, and sound designers Jonas Lux, Henning Hein, and Steffen Pfauth
- Original theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by horror film journalist Heather Wixson