Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film (Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, 1980)

Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer.

The award-winning team of David Gill and Kenneth Brownlow present a definitive and unparalleled look at the history of silent film in America with Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Film. Narrated by actor and silent film enthusiast James Mason, this 13-part series celebrates the birth of an industry and the town and people who made it happen. From the arrival of the filmmaking pioneers early at the dawn of a new century, through the outbreak of the First World War; from the rise of romance to the demise of the Old West; from when comedy was king until the advent of sound, this stunning television program surveys the enormous range of spectacular, innovative, and exciting films created by a business still inventing itself. Brilliantly edited and featuring a multitude of invaluable interviews by stars, directors, and below-line personnel, Hollywood is an irreplaceable document on cinema history and a loving tribute to those that made a legend out of a modest California town.

With notes by Kevin Brownlow.

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My Chattanooga Top Ten!

The 2019 Chattanooga Film Festival is now done and dusted and its winners have been announced. Giovana Olmos won the Student Filmmaker Award for Sweet Tooth, Dylan Meyer took the prize for Best Short with Rock Bottom, Andi Morrow’s Pusher the Movie won for Tennessee Filmmaker, Bethany Brooke Anderson won Best Feature for Burning Kentucky, and the Audience Prize went to Billy Senese’s The Dead Center. Senese’s film, shot in Nashville, was the only award-winner that I saw and it was an enjoyable horror experience, featuring an ancient evil unexpectedly held in a hospital’s psychiatric ward and a frustrated doctor forced to face this unexpected threat. The filmmaker’s own experiences with mental illness obviously inform The Dead Center and the film finds legitimate scares in the friction between its institutional setting and its supernatural menace. Still, the movie fails to make the most of its concept by remaining too vague in its characters and its monster, missing opportunities to ratchet up its stakes and bring its audience even closer to The Dead Center‘s dark core. I would encourage horror fans to check out The Dead Center but MMC! had favourites of its own and the best of the best were found in the “CFFeatures” section.

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Airplane! (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, 1980)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Airplane!

In this zany masterpiece written and directed by the trio of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker of The Kentucky Fried Theater, a traumatized fighter pilot (Robert Hays) boards an airliner to win back his flight attendant girlfriend (Julie Hagerty) and becomes the plane’s last hope when the crew and half of the plane succumb to food poisoning. Loaded with surreal humor and rapid-fire gags, Airplane! parodied the popular disaster films of the 1970s and took audiences by storm in the process, a breath of fresh air that turned into a massive box office hit. With an iconic cast that includes Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane! is one of cinema’s most quotable films and an all-time, off-the-wall, comedy classic.

Disc Features:

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Elephant (Alan Clarke, 1989)

Alan Clarke’s Elephant (1989) is a short film made for television and produced by Danny Boyle and BBC Northern Ireland. Set amid the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the short presents 18 matter-of-fact murders with a coldly observational approach, providing limited dialogue and utilizing the predatory look of steadicam follow shots. The film takes its title from Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty’s description of the Troubles as “the elephant in our living room,” and it served as an inspiration to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003), a film that likewise attended to the broader social problems that underlie American school-shootings and gun violence.

Clarke’s short is overdetermined in its intentions, being full of intense men and purposeful walks, yet it is also disturbing empty. Despite its apparent single-mindedness, there are no explanations of the hows and whys of its killings and there are nearly no sounds of surprise or panic, yet there is always the banality of violence and death, a lifeless body in a drab room and a getaway that rarely strays from the same purposeful walk. For more on Elephant and the psychology it embodies (or withholds) in its particular cinematography, MMC! offers Jordan Schonig’s impressive and insightful video essay, The Follow Shot: A Tale of Two Elephants (2018). Schonig’s essay provides a concise exploration of what may be contemporary cinema’s most ubiquitous and conspicuous shot and perfectly unpacks the themes and tensions at work in Clarke and Van Sant’s respective films.

Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987)

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

In this award-winning, romantic comedy, Cher stars as Loretta, a widowed bookkeeper in Brooklyn who agrees to marry a mild-mannered man (Danny Aiello) even though she does not love him. Unlucky in love, she promptly falls for his estranged brother (Nicolas Cage), sparking a torrid affair with the moody, young man while her fiancé is absent at his mother’s deathbed. With wonderfully stylized dialogue by playwright John Patrick Shanley and a brilliant ensemble of supporting performances from Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, John Mahoney, Julie Bovasso, Louis Guss, and Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck is a modern screwball classic and an operatic fable full of moonlit enchantment and the sweet charm of sugar cubes dissolved in champagne.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interviews with director Norman Jewison, writer John Patrick Shanley, and actors Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, and Danny Aiello
  • Audio Commentary featuring Cher, Norman Jewison, and writer John Patrick Shanley
  • A Night at the Opera, musicologist Marcia Citron on opera, La bohème, and Moonstruck
  • Remarriage Italian Style, scholar William Day on Moonstruck and the comedy of remarriage
  • Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family, a featurette on the making of the film
  • Music of Moonstruck, a featurette on the film’s score
  • Trailer and TV spots
  • PLUS: An essay by scholar Mary Ann McDonald Carolan

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Murphy’s Romance (Martin Ritt, 1985)

Designed for the film lover in mind, SHOUT SELECT shines a light on films that deserve a spot on your shelf. From acknowledged classics to cult favorites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving these movies the love and attention they deserve.

JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU’VE FOUND THE RIGHT GUY, SOMEONE EVEN WORSE COMES ALONG.

The last thing Emma Moriarty expected to find in Eunice, Arizona, was love. So how does she wind up the object of MURPHY’S ROMANCE? Sally Field and James Garner star in this endearing comic love story from director Martin Ritt. Field plays a gutsy divorced mother eager to make it as a horse trainer on a small desert ranch. Enter the town’s most eligible widower, Murphy Jones (Garner). The lovable, free-wheeling pharmacist befriends Emma and eventually comes a-courting. But just when Emma may have found the right guy, her ne’er-do-well ex, Bobby Jack (Brian Kerwin), rides back into her life. Which one of these persistent suitors will lasso the reluctant filly? Share the warmth and feel-good humor of Field, Garner and MURPHY’S ROMANCE!

Special Features:

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