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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Criterion: Nobody does it better
So says this USA Today article by Mike Snider.
From its Manhattan offices, the Criterion Collection now fashions special-edition DVDs that set the standard for the industry while rescuing from the vaults classic films such as Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game (1939) and creating filmmaker-approved versions of modern movies, including Steven Soderbergh's Traffic.

"In terms of extras and commentaries, many of those were their innovations," says filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, who started his American Zoetrope DVD lab that produced The Godfather and One from The Heart DVDs. "We admire them and try to live up to the standard they are known for."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/29/2004 Comments (0)
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Monday, June 28, 2004

Know Your Giallo
Here's a great introduction to Italian giallo cinema from the Uppers Organization.
Cinematically the giallo, even from the earliest Bava-films up to Dario Argento's latest, has always been highly stylised. Much attention is paid to photography and editing, which renders most gialli exciting mise-en-scene and narrative structures. Experiments with point-of-view-shots are common and much work often go into the murder scenes which unlike in most horror/thriller cinema have an active part in the story's development and in the portraying of the killer. The soundtrack also plays a vital part in most gialli. Like in the spaghetti westerns the soundtracks often feature a series of themes. For instance the murderer often has his/hers theme and sometimes different ones to underscore the emotional state of him/her. Psychology is always an important factor in the giallo and there is often music to emphasise it. For instance in Dario Argento's Deep Red (Profundo Rosso, 1975) the murderer even carries around a tape recorder with music to evoke the murderous feelings. All this of course makes for a highly cinematic genre, and sometimes it's impossible to see how a literary genre inspired it all.
(via Bitter Cinema)
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/28/2004 Comments (0)
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Friday, June 25, 2004

Slant on The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
"What Far From Heaven was to Douglas Sirk, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is to those lovable Grade-Z monster movies of the 1950s." Full review here.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/25/2004 Comments (0)
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Thursday, June 24, 2004

My Top 20 Movies
I just revised my top 20 list at Your Movie Database. To make it more manageable I limited it to english-language films and only one film per director. Here it is:

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2. Vertigo (1958)
3. Citizen Kane (1941)
4. Blade Runner (1982)
5. King Kong (1933)
6. Third Man, The (1949)
7. Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
8. Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)
9. Night of the Hunter, The (1955)
10. Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)
11. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
12. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
13. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
14. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
15. Casablanca (1942)
16. Maltese Falcon, The (1941)
17. Searchers, The (1956)
18. Taxi Driver (1976)
19. Pulp Fiction (1994)
20. Conversation, The (1974)

If you make your own top 20 at YMDb, post a link to it in the comments area.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/24/2004 Comments (0)
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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

It's Alive!
Here's a great essay on mad scientists in movies from Strange Magazine.
In fact, their films have been hotbeds of fortean technology, introducing then-taboo ideas, preparing audiences for technological development in a world in which moral and scientific values would change and old taboos would be discarded. The movies render such taboo topics psychologically "safe" by making the inventions those of "madmen."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/22/2004 Comments (0)
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Monday, June 14, 2004

60s Science Fiction TV

I reviewed two very different 60s science fiction series in Mindjack today: The Prisoner & Thunderbirds.
Only a decade ago, the notion of owning an entire television series was an uncommon one - reserved mostly for Trekkies and other really obsessive fans. But now some of the best selling DVDs are regularly TV series.

These are usually divided into individual season sets, costing anywhere from $40 to over $100. But DVDs seem particularly well suited to short-lived TV series. Sure, you can own the entire run of The X-Files if you want, but it'll cost almost a grand. Series that only lasted a season or two, however, generally cost around $100 or less.

A&E Home Video has latched onto this market, releasing a number of short-lived cult television series on DVD. Two of the series that I was most interested in are shows on opposite ends of the 60s science fiction spectrum: The Prisoner and Thunderbirds.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/14/2004 Comments (0)
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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Dawn of the Dead DVDs
Move over Lord of the Rings, Fangoria has details of Anchor Bay's massive four-disc edition of Dawn of the Dead. Three versions, three commentaries, two feature-length documentaries, and loads more. This sounds like the greatest DVD ever!
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/12/2004 Comments (0)
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Friday, June 11, 2004

Maybe it's just because I love movies about movies, but Mario Van Peeble's Baadasssss! is one of the movies I'm most looking forward to seeing this summer. Here's Roger Ebert's review.
It would be nice if movies were always made the way they are in Truffaut's "Day for Night," with idealism and romance, or Minnelli's "The Bad and the Beautiful," with glamor and intrigue. But sometimes they are made the way they are in Mario Van Peebles' "Baadasssss!" -- with desperation, deception and cunning. Here is one of the best movies I've seen about the making of a movie -- a fictionalized eyewitness account by Mario of how and why his father, Melvin Van Peebles, made "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," a landmark in the birth of African-American cinema.

Though it's limited distrubition probably means I'll have to wait for the DVD.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/11/2004 Comments (3)
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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Phil Tippett Does Starship Troopers
I didn't realize until I read this interview that special effects pioneer Phil Tippett directed Starship Troopers 2, which just went straight to DVD.

Your budget was a little smaller on this one, yes?

Kind of (laughs). It depends on who you talk to. Some people say that the original was between $90 and $100 million, and ours was just under $6 million. It's a big difference.

The limited budget - as the film buffs we are, we immediately realized that this had to be a horror film. We always said that if Starship Troopers was Aliens, this one was Alien. It wasn't going to be as good as a Ridley Scott picture, but it was going to be 10 Little Indians in a haunted house. That was just a given. We started from that premise and realized that we weren't going to have something that was spectacle upon spectacle upon spectacle. We have to deliver that, as well, but we had to be conscious of what we could do.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/09/2004 Comments (0)
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Review: Once Upon a Time in the West
Whenever someone tells me they don't like musicals, I tell them to watch Singin' in the Rain. If someone says they don't like westerns, I tell them to watch this. Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West is as grand as a John Ford film and as cool as a Quentin Tarantino movie.

And the DVD is simply incredible for the price (less than 12 bucks at Amazon). The transfer is wonderful and the extras as as good as those on discs costing three times as much. On two discs, you get three documentaries (really one split in three parts), a short featurette on railroads and the west, and a commentary featuring John Carpenter, Alex Cox, Leone biographer Christopher Frayling, and others. There's lots of Criterion discs that aren't nearly as good as this.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/09/2004 Comments (0)
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