They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (Sydney Pollack, 1969)

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.

Disc Features:

  • 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
  • Trailer
  • 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

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Logorama (Ludovic Houplain, Herve de Crecy, and Francois Alaux, 2009)

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.”

A Brief History of John Baldessari (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, 2012) and Ed Ruscha: Buildings and Words (Felipe Lima, 2016)

I like asking – if your life required narration, who would you want to provide it? No one has ever chosen Tom Waits, which is too bad because he does have a great voice.  I like the idea that Tom Waits’s voice is a natural starting point for this micro-portrait of artist John Baldessari. It’s an entertaining short, full of wry humour and clever edits and Looney Tunes momentum thanks to its classical score. This is me enjoying A Brief History of John Baldessari (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, 2012).

Very much in the same vein is Ed Ruscha: Building and Words (Felipe Lima, 2016), another micro-portrait of another California artist narrated by another celebrity. This time it’s Owen Wilson, and while he’s no Tom Waits, he has pretty good voice for this too.  I wouldn’t second guess anyone choosing him to narrate their life. Lima’s short takes a similarly machine gun approach to surveying the artist’s vast catalogue, and expands the talking head count along the way. It’s all enough to make you move to California and start exploring the artistic possibilities of label makers, road paint, or portraits of diner specials.

Little Murders (Alan Arkin, 1971)

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

criterion logoAfter directing the successful off-Broadway revival of Jules Feiffer’s acclaimed play, Alan Arkin made his feature film directing debut translating the senseless, hysterical world of Little Murders to the screen. Apathetic photographer Alfred (Elliott Gould) and feisty optimist Patsy (Marcia Rodd) are a young mismatched couple in a frantic metropolis where sniper attacks, power outages, and obscene phone calls are commonplace. With riotous supporting performances by Vincent Gardenia, Elizabeth Wilson, Jon Korkes, Lou Jacobi, Donald Sutherland, and Arkin himself, Feiffer’s satirical screenplay takes absurdist aim at the meaningless violence and spreading disenchantment in American life and produces a blackly hilarious comedy classic.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2004 featuring actor Elliott Gould and writer Jules Feiffer
  • New interview program with director Alan Arkin, stars Elliott Gould and Marcia Rodd, and writer Jules Feiffer
  • Short films directed by Arkin – T.G.I.F. (1967), People Soup (1969), Samuel Beckett is Coming Soon (1993), and Blood (Thinner Than Water) (2004)
  • Gene Deitch’s Academy Award-winning short film Munro, written by Feiffer
  • Theatrical trailer and TV spots
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Jim Emerson and Roger Ebert’s original 1971 review

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Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins, 1992)

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 favourites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving these movies the love and attention they deserve.

Shout SelectIN BOB WE TRUST.

Written, directed, and starring Tim Robbins, this mockumentary about an upstart celebrity candidate for the United States Senate is a hilariously fearsome prediction of American politics in the 25 years that followed. Conservative folksinger Bob Roberts manipulates media coverage of him while singing about the proliferation of welfare abusers, drug users, and soft-hearted liberals and resisting rumors of corruption and hypocrisy. Bob Roberts captures the false populism and soundbite superficiality of contemporary politics with unnerving prescience.

Tim Robbins assembles an all-star cast with Alan Rickman as Roberts’ shady campaign financier, Giancarlo Esposito as a crusading journalist, Gore Vidal as Robert’s political opponent, and an array of supporting appearances by Jack Black, Susan Sarandon, Ray Wise, James Spader, John Cusack, Helen Hunt, David Strathairn, Fred Ward, Bob Balaban, Peter Gallagher, Lynne Thigpen, Pamela Reed, and Brian Murray.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary With Director And Star Tim Robbins
  • Audio Commentary With Tim Robbins And Gore Vidal
  • Audio Commentary With Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair of Counterpunch
  • Back On The Campaign Trail – New Interview With Tim Robbins
  • Buggin’ Out – New Interview With Giancarlo Esposito
  • Getting Started – New Interview with Jack Black
  • Original Bob Roberts Short Film Made For Saturday Night Live
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailers
  • Photo Gallery

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The Pride of Strathmoor (Einar Baldvin, 2014)

Einar Baldvin’s The Pride of Strathmoor (2014), the animator’s thesis project for USC, presents extracts from the fictional journal of Pastor John Deitman of Strathmoor, Georgia, from June and July, 1927. Inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980), The Pride of Strathmoor resembles the racist mind of H. P. Lovecraft as illustrated by Ralph Steadman and makes for an unsettling work of madness and the macabre.