It’s a big week for new releases, as two major Criterions hit the shelf and a cornucopia of hits from last year come in for home viewing. With so much to choose from, it was a struggle to narrow it down to five, but here’s what I whole-heartedly suggest you shell out your cash for this week!
Top 5 Releases
At this point in his career, Judd Apatow is no artist, but he seems to display every desire towards being one. Take for example the use of often artful cinematographers Janusz Kaminski and Phedon Papamichael on his past two films, or even more to the point his films’ constant focus on the demands and impositions of adulthood. This Is 40 sticks out less as the “sort-of sequel to Knocked Up” and more as an organic therapy session for Apatow’s personal hassles. Aside Paul Rudd, who I’m certain everyone would rather be played by, Apatow often uses his entire family unit as actors in his films. He may currently be seeking out more of a mainstream audience than he should, but his willingness to bare his private so blatantly towards the public is enough reason to take interest in whatever path his humorously wandering career may take. Also Leslie Mann kicks ass in this, but maybe people will take closer notice of her talents in The Bling Ring.
When I saw Jacques Audiard’s latest in my safe haven of Portsmouth, NH in September, I was certain it would coast into the lower rungs of my Top 10 list. That it didn’t further convinces me a transition to Top 20s is more prudent these days, because while Rust and Bone may not be up to the high mark Audiard hit with A Prophet, it continues his fond relationship with American genre tropes. Audience favorite Marion Cotillard began the season as the film’s most exciting awards prospect, her internalized conflict mirroring the ferociously externalized work on Matthias Schoenaerts, even less recognized by the awards factions. Neither would make the Oscar cut, and the French may be kicking themselves for not submitting this instead of commercial hit The Intouchables for Foreign Language Film. All the same, Audiard lays his emotionality bare, but his skin’s tough enough to take it.
Another confession of my lax experience up to this point, I have not seen this or any of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s numerous collaborations which have proven vast inspiration upon simple glance. Few filmmakers put such an immaculate emphasis on colour, between the production and costume designs, that I’d be surprised if Tarsem Singh didn’t take much of his own daffy inspiration from their work. Films like The Red Shoes and A Canterbury Tale rested just outside Sight & Sound’s Top 100 list, while Colonel Blimp and (a bit higher) A Matter of Life and Death coaxed between #90 and 100. They couldn’t possibly be such a difficult taste to acquire, and yet it feels as though their time of modern acceptance has yet to come. Here’s hoping their work seeps further into the public consciousness for next decade’s list. This Criterion re-release may well be a potent first step.
Amongst the most pleasing shocks of this year’s Oscar ceremony was the announcement of a tie in Sound Editing, but I admit I often forget Skyfall was the other film to win in this category. That’s partly because it was the only award Kathryn Bigelow’s CIA procedural took home that night, having taken a scandalous political tumble in the unnecessarily fierce awards campaign climate, but also because the film itself sticks more fervently in the mind than most other nominees this year. So much more than a simple hunt for Osama Bin Laden, it’s a melancholic time capsule of all we have lost in the age of the war on terror, and Bigelow’s devotion to putting audiences inside the line of fire is second to none. Both Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker still raise the sickening guilt inside me that I’m not doing as much for the world as the men and women overseas, as strong a testament to their efforts as any.
It’s fascinating to look at a long established auteur’s directorial debut and see where the seeds for their later stylistic codas came from, because they aren’t trapped by any particular style. Terrence Malick’s first two films in the 70s are at some distance from her work two decades later, as the reclusive director had two decades on his own to stew over his trademark aesthetic. Because of that, we may never see anything quite as performance or narrative driven as Badlands, which is fondly stamped with the influence of Malick’s mentor, Bonnie and Clyde director Arthur Penn, in it’s story of two young lovers on the run from the law. Like any of the director’s visually dense works, it’s merits defy the cramped space of a single paragraph, so I’ll defer to David Ehrlich of Film.com’s wonderful review of the new Criterion Blu-Ray, drawing gorgeous parallels between Badlands and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. If you have any sense in you, you’ll buy it and discover for yourself! (Side note: Doesn’t Star Wars totally rip off the above image?)
This week’s slate of releases incurred more of my personal prejudice than most, but I’ll try not to be too nasty for those who fell passionately for Tom Hooper’s
betrayal translation of musical phenomenon Les Miserables to screen, as well as Peter Jackson’s gaudy return to middle earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s strange that I find myself having nicer things to say about Bachelorette, which I still felt pandered to loudly to the Bridesmaids demographic, and should have put more effort into fleshing out its female characters.
And if you’re interested in scraping the bottom of the indie barrel for hidden jewels, ensemble comedy All Together, 2010 homeless neighborhood documentary Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home, middle eastern switched-at-birth drama The Other Son, and Parker Posey comedy Price Check are all out there for your discovery. I leave it to your own ambition!
Streaming Pick of the Week
Available on YouTube.
In choosing this week’s streaming pick, I wanted to venture off-base of Netflix and Hulu+’s more commercially leaning titles in pursuit of something more subversive to offer up for leisurely viewing. Admittedly this Parisian relic of Avante Garde cinema might be a less conventional watch with it’s rather illusive narrative about two orphaned girls who find themselves torn apart over the affections of a romanticizing philanderer. Nevertheless, it’s a beautifully sewn tapestry of both Avante Garde motives and conventional dramatic narratives, as well as a profound travelogue of the Paris communities we’d rather ignore in favor of the fantasy locale we see in films like Midnight in Paris. Even in cultural paradise, it’s pointless without companionship.