American Movie (Chris Smith, 1999)

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

Menomonee Falls may be a long way from Hollywood, but quick-talking filmmaker Mark Borchardt has a cinematic dream and he aims to finance his magnum opus, Northwestern, through a direct-to-market, no-budget horror short titled Coven. Filmmakers Chris Smith and Sarah Price filmed Borchardt and his team of hometown thespians and semi-willing family members through two years of financial crisis and emotional turmoil. The result was a bizarrely heartfelt and hilariously poignant documentary that became the award-winning hit of the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and a uniquely arresting portrait of Midwestern eccentricity, determination and character.

Disc Features:

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The Chickening (Nick DenBoer and Davy Force, 2015)

It’s inevitable.  At some point everyday, each of us think back to 2005, to Burger King’s introduction of the TenderCrisp Chicken Bacon Ranch burger, and to David LaChapelle’s “Fantasy Ranch” ad campaign, a trippy, countrified, sweetly perverse TV ad featuring Darius Rucker, Vida Guerra, Brooke Burke, and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.  But as much as we all love this crassly commercial riff on “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” universal questions still get asked – Why isn’t it nightmarish or disgusting?  Why isn’t it Kubrickian in its point of reference?  And where are the references to Tommy Wiseau and The Room (2003)?  Thankfully, Nick DenBoer and Davy Force have answered these questions with The Chickening (2015), a proof of concept pseudo-trailer and your latest masterpiece in “Cinegraffiti” (unless you’re my wife, who hated this and considered it nightmare fuel).

Be sure to read Birth.Movies.Death.‘s exclusive interview with DenBoer and The Chickening‘s press kit.

Streetwise (Martin Bell, 1984)

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

criterion logoMartin Bell’s Academy Award-nominated documentary portrays the lives of several desperate teenagers on the streets of downtown Seattle.  Thrown too young into a seedy, grown-up world, these runaways and castaways survive … but just barely.  Rat, the dumpster diver.  Tiny, the teen prostitute.  Shellie, the baby-faced blonde.  DeWayne, the hustler.  All old beyond their years.  All underage survivors fighting for life and love in the alleys and abandoned buildings of Washington’s Emerald City.  Streetwise is a late classic in cinema verité that insightfully reveals a harsh place and time too easily ignored by those outside it.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital film restoration, approved by director Martin Bell, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Erin, Bell’s 2003 short film combining footage of Erin “Tiny” Blackwell shot in 1983, 1991, and 2004
  • ABC report from 1993 revisiting Blackwell 10 years after Streetwise
  • New interview with Mary Ellen Mark with an accompanying gallery of her photography
  • New interview with Bell, Mark, and Blackwell
  • Interview with Megan Gibbard and Carrie Whitaker Henner of the King County Homeless Youth and Young Adult Initiative
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring Cheryl McCall and Mary Ellen Mark’s July 1983 Life magazine article and a new essay by writer-producer Veena Sud

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The American Astronaut (Cory McAbee, 2001)

“Imagine a Laurel & Hardy skit directed by Salvador Dali.” – ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“More original than almost anything you’ve seen this millennium.” – SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

“Now that’s entertainment!” – FILM THREAT

“Surprising and hilarious! May be the most wonderfully strange film experience you have this year.” – ELLE MAGAZINE

Drafthouse Films LogoSpace travel has become a dirty way of life dominated by derelicts, grease monkeys and hard-boiled interplanetary traders such as Samuel Curtis.  Written, directed and starring Cory McAbee of the legendary cult band The Billy Nayer Show, this sci-fi musical-western uses flinty black-and-white photography, Lo-Fi sets and the spirit of the final frontier.  We follow Curtis on his Homeric journey to provide the all-female planet of Venus with a suitable male, while pursued by the enigmatic killer, Professor Hess.  The film features music by The Billy Nayer Show and some of the most original rock ‘n’ roll scenes ever committed to film.

Also included are McAbee’s hour-long, genre-defying space western Stingray Sam, his 52-minute fantasy Crazy & Thief, and his award-winning short films Reno, The Ketchup and Mustard Man, The Man on the Moon, and Billy Nayer, collected together here for the first time and providing a comprehensive review of one of America’s most audacious independent filmmakers.

Special Features:

  • Live audio commentary with writer, director, and star Cory McAbee
  • Gallery of production stills, storyboards, graphic designs, and sidewalk drawings
  • Ceres walk test footage
  • Trailers
  • Stingray Sam, McAbee’s 2009 musical-comedy, sci-fi-western serial recounting Stingray Sam and the Quasar Kid’s mission to save a kidnapped girl, with behind the scenes extra footage
  • Crazy & Thief, McAbee’s 2012 fantasy about a seven year-old girl who takes her two year-old brother on a voyage through a world of homemade mythologies
  • Reno, a 2007 short starring McAbee as a singing cowboy bragging about his travels through Nevada
  • The Ketchup and Mustard Man, a stream of consciousness-narrated musical
  • The Man on the Moon, McAbee’s short film about a dejected husband exiled on the moon, shot on a Fisher Price Pixel Camera
  • Billy Nayer, an animated short film direct by and starring McAbee as a singing bar patron
  • 24-page booklet of photos, production stills and promotional materials, plus a new interview with Cory McAbee

“Hertz Donut” Edition – Package Includes:

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[Safe] (Todd Haynes, 1995)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents [Safe].

criterion logoJulianne Moore is riveting in her first leading role as Carol White, a suburban housewife who begins exhibiting the symptoms of environmental illness.  Timid and uncertain, White finds her body rejecting the socially and chemically induced artificiality of her San Fernando Valley life.  When traditional medicine is unable to provide support and treatment to Carol’s diminishing health, she seeks assistance at Wrenwood, a new age facility devoted to treating immunity system deficiencies with its own set of rules and definitions.  Todd Haynes’ [Safe] presents with Kubrickian detachment a dark and fearsome critique of consumer society and contemporary gender roles, as well as allegorical insight on gay existence in straight culture, particularly in the post-AIDS era.  Mysterious, unforgiving, and devastating, [Safe] inverts the feel-good, “disease-of-the-week” TV movie format to become one of the great classics of 1990s cinema.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored digital transfer, supervised by director Todd Hanyes, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary with Haynes, star Julianne Moore, and producer Christine Vachon
  • White [Mater]ial, a new video piece by Amber Jacobs and Catherine Grant
  • Trailers
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring new essays by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum and urban theorist Mike Davis and Alison Maclean’s 1995 interview with Todd Haynes.

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Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004)

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

criterion logoShane Carruth’s Primer is as stunning a début as ever seen in American independent cinema, a science fiction revelation made on a $7,000 micro-budget that went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.  Assisted by a cadre of friends, family and colleagues, Carruth wrote, directed, produced, edited, photographed, scored, and starred in this small film full of big ideas.  Carruth, a former engineer himself, plays Aaron, a small-scale inventor who, with his business partner and best friend, Abe (David Sullivan), constructs a device with the unexpected ability to move its subject back in time.  The pair promptly utilize the machine for their own ends, only to discover it is a Pandora’s box that compromises their trust in reality, their friendship, and their own physical and mental condition.  An indie hit that is simultaneously avant-garde and starkly realistic, Primer is a confounding and highly rewarding experience that demands repeat viewing.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital transfer, supervised by Shane Carruth, with DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Two audio commentaries, one featuring Carruth and the other featuring the filmmaker with cast and crew
  • Introduction by filmmaker Rian Johnson
  • New interview with culture critic Chuck Klosterman
  • Animated storyboard comparison
  • Production materials gallery
  • Trailer
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring A. O. Scott’s review for the New York Times, Q&A with Carruth, and a new essay by film scholar Thomas Elsaesser.

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