Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: August 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nicholas Ray Blogathon Reminder

by Tony Dayoub

Just posting a friendly reminder for everyone to stop by next week for my annual Labor Day Blogathon. In years past many contributors have made this annual tradition a resounding success, first in 2009, when we celebrated the work of Brian De Palma, and last year when we praised David Cronenberg. I've already received contributions from such notable critics as Richard Jameson of Parallax View and MSN and Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer examing the work of 2011's featured director, Nicholas Ray. Given that he would be 100 years old this year, now's the time for even those unfamiliar with his oeuvre to consider it. TCM is planning a month-long retrospective in October featuring almost all of his movies, including such hard to find rarities like A Woman's Secret, Born to Be Bad, and Wind Across the Everglades. Also in October, the New York Film Festival is screening a digital restoration of his last film, the quasi-experimental We Can't Go Home Again.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Manhunter at 25

Summer of ’86: We Don’t Invent Our Natures…: Manhunter

by Tony Dayoub

[This is my entry in the House Next Door's annual "Summer of…" series, co-presented by Aaron Aradillas of Blog Talk Radio's Back By Midnight and Jamey DuVall and Jerry Dennis of Blog Talk Radio's Movie Geeks United! Manhunter was released in theaters on August 15th, 1986.]

I was never quite as taken as everyone else was when I first saw The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. After just coming off of two post-punk films which married comedy to violence in unpredictable ways (Something Wild and Married to the Mob) Lambs seemed like a dank, watered-down, miscalculated step into typical thriller territory for director Jonathan Demme. Worse, its Oscar wins seemed to tempt derail Demme’s career for a while, as he pursued projects more for their awards-worthiness than for any personal interest in the material. Admittedly, Anthony Hopkins’ performance as serial killer Hannibal Lecter was electrifying. But the fact that this cannibal killer was imprisoned in what looked like a dungeon struck me as both phony and a little too on-the-nose in its attempt to force Jodie Foster’s heroine to descend into Hades every time she needed more help with her case. So deliberately unusual was Hopkins’ glassy-eyed intensity and odd vocal inflection, it was years before I connected his character to Brian Cox’s Hannibal Lecktor (sic) in Manhunter, a film I had caught in theaters just five years earlier...


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waiting for Agnes

Considering Roman Polanski's little-seen Cul-de-sac

by Tony Dayoub

Earlier this month, the Criterion Collection released Roman Polanski’s absurdist film Cul-de-sac (1966) on DVD and Blu-ray, perhaps to coincide with the exiled director’s birthday on August 18. Its story centers on the irritatingly meek George (Donald Pleasance) and his liberated young wife, Teresa (Françoise Dorléac). Both live in a castle on an isolated English isle in Northumberland whose road to the mainland is cut off for hours each day whenever the tide rises. Fleeing in the wrong direction from a botched job, that’s how two bumbling gangsters — Dickie (Lionel Stander) and the fatally wounded Albie (Jack MacGowran) — end up stuck there, their broken-down getaway car engulfed by the encroaching sea. Dickie can’t drive, clipped pretty badly in the arm himself. So he calls his unseen boss, Katelbach, asking to be picked up. In the meantime, Dickie, George and Teresa engage in a battle of wills rife with elements of sadomasochism, class distinction and gender politics.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Newest Wave of MGM Limited Edition MODs Show Big Improvement

by Tony Dayoub

The initial run of MGM Limited Edition's manufactured-on-demand (MOD) DVDs (which I reviewed for Wide Screen a few months ago)—a shoddy product made by subsidiary CreateSpace—made a lot of customers unhappy. In my earlier review I said the "line feels like the chintziest of all of the MOD collections, which is a shame considering it carries some of the most interesting titles..." Since then, MGM has switched to Allied Vaughn (which also manufactures Warner Archive's MODs) in order to fulfill their orders. Though problems reportedly continue here and there (you can read the ins and outs of this transition at DVD Talk), I am much happier with the resulting product, which now includes a rudimentary menu, and the occasional special feature. After the jump I review a small sample from this latest batch.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Movie Review: Warrior (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

Epic, engrossing and exciting! These are the three words that immediately spring to mind while watching Warrior, a movie cut from the same cloth as those of the age-old Hollywood fight genre. Only instead of wrestling or boxing, it is the increasingly popular sport MMA (mixed martial arts) that supplies this surprisingly successful film with a fresh perspective.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Told You When I Came I Was a Stranger

McCabe & Mrs. Miller at 40

By Tony Dayoub

I’d be hard pressed to find a more evocative opening credit sequence than that of the 1971 Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller. First, we hear the wind blowing over the WB shield logo that precedes the film. As the movie fades up, so do the plaintive guitar strings of Leonard Cohen’s “The Stranger Song,” rising along with the soft light of Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography. In a tracking shot, a lonely figure — his body enveloped in brown-orange fur so as to render him faceless — meanders down a winding dirt road on his horse. The fluid camera seemingly drags the film titles into view from screen right at the same deliberate pace that the rider’s horse tows a second beast of burden. The horses stroll past a half-built church sitting in the cold drizzle. The man jumps off the horse when he arrives at the ramshackle mining settlement we’ll come to know as Presbyterian Church. He doffs his fur coat, and big reveal: It is pretty-boy Warren Beatty, bearded and looking as run-down in his tight-fitting dark suit and bowler hat as the rest of the camp. The local saloon’s proprietor, Paddy Sheehan (Rene Auberjonois) soon susses out the stranger’s name from his customers: McCabe...


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blu-ray Review: The Killing (1956)

by Tony Dayoub

Queuing up today's Criterion release of The Killing on the old Blu-ray player should be sufficient to hush any Stanley Kubrick naysayers out there. "What naysayers?" you ask. Well, my wife for one, who has always associated Kubrick with a certain pace of interminability best exemplified in her mind by 2001: A Space Odyssey. (The Shining notwithstanding, of course, since she finds the horror film much too disquieting to dismiss so easily.) But there is a minority of movie-lovers who refuse to offer any kind of chance to be won over to this director they ascribe a certain lack of emotion to. For these contrarians, this film noir offers everything they would argue he wasn't capable of capturing on film.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Lady from Shanghai

Why isn't Shanghai Express available on domestic DVD?

by Tony Dayoub

The collaboration between director Josef von Sternberg and his muse, Marlene Dietrich, is one of cinema’s most fruitful. One can actually see Von Sternberg build the slight, tentative Dietrich from a starlet to a tempestuous, formidable screen icon over the course of seven films between 1930 and 1935. And neither would quite hit the career highs they did when they worked with each other. Von Sternberg would only be credited with eight more films before retiring in the late fifties. Dietrich would appear in many more, but her output was a relatively paltry one compared to actors of her day.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nicholas Ray Blogathon

by Tony Dayoub

I'd like to invite anyone and everyone to participate in my third annual Labor Day blogathon, running September 5 - 8. In years past many contributors have made this annual tradition a resounding success, first in 2009 when we celebrated the work of Brian De Palma and last year when we praised David Cronenberg. This year's featured director, Nicholas Ray, would have celebrated his centennial today. First recognized by the auteurists who launched the French New Wave, Ray's body of work is one of the most influential in all of cinema.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Whistleblower films on DVD and Blu-ray

by Tony Dayoub

What is our attraction to movies about whistleblowers? Is it our admiration of one loner speaking truth to power when confronted with an injustice that person may have been a party to? Or is it our own distrust of the establishment, an inborn characteristic in the more rebellious of us, conscious of the way our own place in the world came to be when our forefathers overthrew the armed forces of their mother country? It’s arguable whether the humdrum phone hacking scandal — which started with the News of the World and has embroiled everyone from its parent company’s CEO, Rupert Murdoch, to talk show host Piers Morgan — registered much with the average American until the mysterious death of 47-year-old Sean Hoare. A former reporter for the British tabloid, Hoare was one of the first to expose the newspaper’s questionable methods of acquiring information. Speculation immediately drifted towards some conspiracy angle despite Hoare’s notorious abuse of drugs and alcohol.