The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1125): THE FUNERAL -- A Legend of Japanese Comedy Makes His Feature Debut
By Sean Boelman
Jûzô Itami’s Tampopo has long been a part of the Criterion Collection, so it is certainly a surprise that it has taken this long for his feature debut, The Funeral, to join the fold. However, now that it is in the collection, it is a must-add for any cinephile who is a fan of Japanese cinema.
With an episodic structure, the film follows a family who have a series of unusual interactions during the traditional three-day funeral of their patriarch. Although this is often over-said about films, this is the type of movie where you truly don’t know what is going to happen next, as the film expectedly gives no shits about your expectations.
The comedy in the film is certainly unique. It’s seldom laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it’s quietly wry with a very dark undercurrent. The often weird and random nature of the film is a large part of its charm. Itami focuses on parodying the mundanity of everything that goes on in preparing for a funeral, and the result is something that is extremely relatable.
With an episodic piece like this, it is important to have characters that are interesting, and Itami certainly delivers on that. The motley crew of family members that have congregated to “mourn” the death of their patriarch is full of quirky folks, and the dynamic between all of them is excellent and what makes the film work.
The cultural aspect of the film here is certainly interesting, as this is a commentary on many of the practices that make up a traditional Japanese funeral. However, even the practices that are most sacred and dear — the honoring of a loved one who is passing on from this life — are not too high for Itami to skewer them.
From a technical aspect, it is astounding that this is Itami’s debut feature. His command of the visual craft here is already fantastic and feels fully developed. There are several shots in the film that are simply gorgeous, and others that are framed wonderfully for perfect comedic effect, all thanks to the work of cinematographer Yonezô Maeda.
This Criterion edition features several bonus features, some new and some old. For the new, audiences can expect new interviews with actors Nobuko Miyamoto and Manpei Ikeuchi, which supplement a short program produced by the Criterion Channel and a booklet containing an essay by Pico Iyer and excerpts from Itami’s 1985 book Diary of “The Funeral” and a 2007 remembrance of Itami by actor Tsutomu Yamazaki.
The Funeral is a Criterion that you are definitely going to want to pick up, especially if you are a fan of Japanese comedy. It’s sharp, witty, and still a phenomenal satire even after almost thirty years.
The Criterion Collection edition of The Funeral is now available.
By Tatiana Miranda
Before the creation of Studio Ghibli and its groundbreaking animated films such as My Neighbor Totoro, there were the early animated projects from Ghibli co-creators Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki‘s filmmaking careers. In 1974, they worked on the hit animated series Heidi, Girl of the Alps, and then nearly ten years later, they co-created Studio Ghibli, where they would create plenty of well-acclaimed animated features. Well before the height of their careers and after leaving Toei Animation, they worked together to make two animated shorts, Panda! Go, Panda! and Panda! Go, Panda!: Rainy Day Circus. For these shorts, Miyazaki debuted as a writer, and Takahata utilized his new skills in directing. Their collaboration on the Panda! Go, Panda! shorts paved the way for their eventual collaboration when creating Studio Ghibli.
Made during the height of the panda craze in Japan during the seventies, Panda! Go Panda! took inspiration from many different popular influences at the time. The plot’s fairy tale themes are similar to that of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” particularly in the second short, Panda! Go, Panda!: Rainy Day Circus. The short film opens with circus employees searching the main character Mimiko’s house for their lost tiger. As they search, they grow increasingly anxious to discover who lives in the house as they come across the overly large items meant for the anthropomorphic panda character PapaPanda; this is similar to Goldilocks examining the different sized items in the three bears’ home.
Mimiko’s character design, such as her bright orange braids, take influence from Pippi Longstocking, which Takahata and Miyazaki had been working to adapt into an animated series. While some designs are remnants of scrapped projects, others would become an inspiration for later animated films. For example, PapaPanda, the large panda father to baby panda Panny and father figure to Mimiko, has very clear similarities to the design of Totoros from My Neighbor Totoro. Mimiko’s clothing is also very similar to that of Mei and Satsuki from My Neighbor Totoro.
Beyond being an insight into the development of later animated films by Miyazaki and Takahata, Panda! Go, Panda! is also an enjoyable watch in itself. These shorts make the most of their thirty-minute run time, with unique characters and adorable design choices matched with a simple but captivating plot premise. The first installment introduces Mimiko, a young orphan who is fiercely independent, as she creates a makeshift family with anthropomorphic pandas PapaPanda and Panny. These characters have an air of childlike wonder to them as they go on adventures, saving Panny and, in Panda! Go, Panda!: Rainy Day Circus, saving their new circus friends. Compared to later works by Miyazaki and Takahata, the plot of Panda! Go, Panda! is self-explanatory and straightforward, although one could infer something deeper about the forced entrapment of anthropomorphic animals that reoccurs in both shorts.
Almost fifty years after its initial release in 1973, Panda! Go, Panda! has the same charm as modern animated shorts. Currently, a digital restoration of both shorts is being shown at select US theaters just in time for a new DVD and Blu-ray release on June 21.
By Sean Boelman
Regional festivals are awesome, especially those that focus on a specific theme and highlight films that support that message. Held in Dallas, TX, the EarthX Film Festival returns for a 2022 edition with the theme of “A Celebration of the Outdoors”. With a lineup encompassing everything from festival favorites to some exciting premieres from acclaimed filmmakers, this is an event not to miss.
Opening the festival is Ben Masters’s (The River and the Wall) new film, Deep in the Heart. Narrated by Academy Award-winner and iconic Texan Matthew McConaughey, this is the perfect local interest film to open a festival like this. Exploring the stories of several species of wildlife native to the ecosystems of Texas, this is the type of gorgeous nature documentary that just demands to be seen on the big screen. You will be in absolute awe of the natural beauty you see on screen.
Another high-profile film playing the festival is Rachel Lears’s To the End. The filmmaker’s follow-up to the acclaimed Knock Down the House, Lears is again following Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (as well as two other subjects), this time as they fight for the Green New Deal and an overall shift in the way climate politics are done. It’s a very angry, timely film, and one that you will definitely want to see to ensure that you are part of the conversation.
For those looking to take a chance on something more independent, check out Tigre Gente, directed by Elizabeth Unger. Telling the story of a Bolivian park ranger and a Hong Kong journalist who are investigating the illegal jaguar trade, the film does a great job of exploring this issue that you might not have known is much of an issue in the first place.
Another hidden gem at the fest is Newtok, a documentary that explores an Alaskan community that is under threat of ending because of climate change. It’s a very different perspective of the climate crisis than you’ve probably ever seen before. Instead of inundating the audience with facts, directors Andrew Burton and Michael Kirby Smith show us the very real, human consequence of this ecological crisis, and it’s powerful.
For the closing night of the festival, attendees can see the newest film from acclaimed director Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys), The Yin and Yang of Gerry Lopez. This biography of surfing legend Gerry Lopez is one of the more fun films to see in this year’s lineup — a nice break from some of the darker themes that many of the film’s in the festival cover.
Other highlights in the lineup include Ron Howard’s We Feed People, Alex Pritz’s The Territory, and Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love, all films which premiered at the major festivals earlier this year to great acclaim. The festival aims to showcase the amazing planet we live on and the people who are trying to make a difference for the world, and all of these films do just that.
The EarthX Film Festival runs from May 12-15.
By Dan Skip Allen
Starting in the '40s and going through the '60s was the age of the big Hollywood musical. Sure, musicals trickled on through the rest of the decades, but not like the golden age of musicals. One of the era's biggest stars was Gene Kelly. Arguably his most famous and most important role was as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain. It's a very influential film on many levels, some even considering it the best movie musical of all time.
Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lamonte (Lina Hagan) are a very popular duo in Hollywood. They bring the crowds in by the droves for their silent pictures. While attending a party, the host shows them and the studio head a talking picture reel. The studio head gets the idea that talkies are the new-fangled thing that will bring the movie industry to the next level. When the picture he is making, The Dueling Cavalier, doesn't sound right, he doesn't know what to do.
Singin' in the Rain has a great cast in addition to Kelly and Hagon. Debbie Reynolds, the mother of Carrie Fisher, is Kathy Seldon, an entertainer in her own right. She dances and sings at various parties. When Kelley's character's car breaks down, he gets a ride from her. This is the beginning of an on-again-off-again friendship between the two. Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) is the best friend of Kelly's character. He is always there when he needs a friend to talk to or an idea. They work very well together on screen.
Singin' in the Rain is an excellent film for many reasons, and one of them is that it has a great story of the transitioning of silent films into talking pictures. This was a story at the time that depicted something that actually went on in Hollywood a couple of decades before. Some people just couldn't cut it in talking pictures because they didn't have the proper accent or couldn't speak the English language, or have some other talent they needed. Dancing and singing were prerequisites now at this time in Hollywood. It's a big change.
Another thing that makes Singin' in the Rain so great is its great musical numbers. "Good Morning," "Make Me Laugh," the title track, "Singin' in the Rain," and so many more vibrant, entertaining songs kept this movie going from beginning to end. The songs are the heartbeat of this wonderful film about change in Hollywood. With Kelly, Reynolds, and O'Connor singing these songs, it was destined to be a success. They are easy to sing along with while watching the film. That's a key to why this was such a success.
Singin' in the Rain also had technical aspects that made it look and sound so good. Technicolor was a relatively new thing at the time that was used to bring this film to life. The various dance numbers are very vibrant. Colorful costumes and sets jumped off the screen. The remastering for the 70th Anniversary didn't hurt the film — it made it better. This film has never looked better than it does now, 70 years later. That's saying a lot for a movie this old to still stand up this far from when it came out originally.
Gene Kelly was a massive star when Singin' in the Rain came out. He'd done An American in Paris, Brigadoon, and Hello Dolly, but his biggest and most famous role ever was as Don Lockwood. Kelly danced and sang his way to stardom. He had a charisma and personality that made him a star. Kelly was a talent that has rarely been seen before or since.
One of my influences as a film critic is Roger Ebert. His favorite film of all time was Singin' in the Rain. I understand why he loves this film so much. "Singin' in the Rain pulses with life; in a movie about making movies, you can sense the joy they had making this one." This says it all. Once I saw it, I instantly loved it. Seventy years later, it holds up as one of the great musicals and films in general of all time. MGM made a film that will probably influence filmmakers and be enjoyed by film fans like me for decades to come.
The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1120): THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT -- A Seminal Moment in Music and Film History
Review by Sean Boelman
One of the great things about the Criterion Collection is that they re-release films that aren’t as widely available. Their new high-definition transfer of The Girl Can’t Help It, a genre-defining jukebox musical from 1956, is a welcome addition to the collection that will help prevent this seminal movie from fading into obscurity.
In the film, a gangster hires a down-and-out press agent to turn his girlfriend into a singing star, but issues arise when they realize she isn’t as talented as they had thought. It’s a movie that plays a lot of delicate balancing acts — wholesome yet edgy, progressive but familiar — but it’s a wonderful comedy that went underappreciated at the time and has this second chance to be discovered.
The film stars Tom Ewell, who was in some of the most acclaimed comedies of the era (such as The Seven Year Itch and Adam’s Rib), and Jayne Mansfield, who Hollywood tried their best to make their next Marilyn Monroe. Upon release, Ewell and Mansfield were criticized for their lack of chemistry in the movie compared to its contemporary comedies, but it works given that this isn’t like the charming screwball comedies that came decades before it.
Yes, the plot of the film is absurd and ridiculous, but it is also edgy and satirical in an almost mean-spirited way. It’s reminiscent of The Producers, even though this movie predates Mel Brooks’s musical comedy by over a decade. It’s ahead of its time in terms of the plot and tone, but it was also very progressive as a jukebox musical.
Ewell opens the film with a monologue that breaks the fourth wall and brings the audience into this “story of music” in “lifelike color by DeLuxe” (which looks absolutely gorgeous in this transfer, by the way). It’s a gimmick that we can look back at today and observe with amused admiration, but was likely a hoot back in the day.
The movie features several rock and roll performances throughout, making it a celebration of some of the most iconic music stars of all time. Cameo performances by Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, and Fats Domino, among others, give the film an undeniable and infectious energy and would come to make it one of the most influential movies in all of music history.
The bonus content that has been released as part of this Criterion Collection edition is fantastic, including new essays, interviews, and commentaries on the film. The insert is also great, with an essay by Rachel Syme and excerpts from director Frank Tashlin’s book How to Create Cartoons, offering a glimpse into the mind of its creator.
The Girl Can’t Help It is an important moment in music and film history, and is an important addition to the library of any cinephile. The Criterion Collection has outdone themselves with this wonderful transfer and release of a movie that is dying to be rediscovered.
The Criterion Collection edition of The Girl Can’t Help It is now available.
The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1118): THE LAST WALTZ -- One of the Greatest Concert Docs Ever Finally Enters the Collection
By Sean Boelman
When looking at any list of the greatest music documentaries of all time, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz would consistently rank near the top, so it’s surprising that it took this long for the film to earn a spot in the Criterion Collection. A wonderful restoration of a brilliant movie, this is a must-add to any cinephile’s physical media collection.
The film documents the final concert of the music group The Band at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving 1976. It’s one of the most iconic moments in rock music history, and we as music fans are lucky that this has been captured on film to be experienced by generations to come, and by someone as talented as Scorsese.
This Scorsese fella sure knows how to do music documentaries, having worked as an assistant editor on what is arguably the greatest movie of the genre, Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock. And the ability that film had to transport the audience back to a particular moment in American music history is not lost here.
The movie wonderfully captures the magic of not only this concert, but the music of The Band as a whole. The Band blends so many musical genres in their work, and Scorsese manages to show the different elements that went into the creation of their signature sound without overtly explaining it. It’s a dream for fans of a good music doc.
Obviously, the concert is captured wonderfully in the film. Scorsese uses a shooting style that feels extraordinarily intimate. It’s not like we are watching a camera point at the stage, the movie aims to make us feel like we are a part of this experience and understand what fans were feeling if they were watching this concert live, and it works extraordinarily well.
Scorsese also weaves in backstage interviews with The Band in between the bits of their performance footage. But unlike a lot of other music documentaries, this does not feel like a crutch. Instead, it feels like a natural extension of what we are seeing — a way to get to know The Band more intimately.
Admittedly, the bonus content on this Criterion spine is a bit underwhelming, much of it carried over from previous special editions, like a 2002 making-of documentary and two audio commentaries. Still, the restoration (supervised by Robbie Robertson) is so extraordinary that it’s more than worth the upgrade.
If you haven’t yet seen The Last Waltz, now is the time. It is truly a seminal music documentary, and this new Criterion Collection 4K transfer is one that any collector will want to have on their shelf.
The Criterion Collection edition of The Last Waltz releases on March 29.
By Sean Boelman
Every year around the time of the Academy Awards, the major contenders end up getting more significant theatrical play because of the increased interest. However, recent years have seen films get nominated that weren’t intended to get theatrical play in the first place. Oscar week marathons and other extended play is a great chance for people to catch up on the nominated films they haven’t seen or revisit those they didn’t get to see in theaters.
Last year, for the 93rd Academy Awards, was the first year that all of the nominees had been available to screen in theaters across the country since the 90th edition (since Netflix would get their first Best Picture nomination in the 2018-19 season with Roma). However, the pandemic showed the need there was for theaters to adapt and be flexible with the changing distribution ecosystem, and the theater chain squeaked out a deal with Netflix in November 2020.
This is a nice return to what makes the Oscars what they are — a celebration of the best movies to grace the silver screen. But the reality of the matter is that people aren’t consuming media the same way they used to. Theatrical is still alive and well, yes, but with more options than ever before to watch from home, and those options being as high quality as they are, it is nice to see those being recognized as well.
In a move that split cinephiles everywhere, the entire Warner Bros. slate for the year of 2021 streamed on HBO Max for 30 days on the same day it opened in theaters. Under the old eligibility guidelines, Dune and King Richard would have been disqualified, but the Academy’s willingness to adapt has allowed these films to be recognized. WB even emphasized the theatrical experience for Dune, running it several weeks in PLF screens and holding numerous in-person FYC events for voters in major markets. It’s a gorgeous film that demanded to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
Interestingly enough, streaming service Netflix had more of a commitment to theatrical exhibition than the legacy studio WB. Their Best Picture nominees Don’t Look Up and Power of the Dog each had theatrical exclusivity periods of a few weeks, and for the most part, even only screened for press theatrically only. Don’t Look Up blew up on Netflix, but it’s the type of film where the laughter plays well with a crowd. Power of the Dog is the only film that maybe benefits from a lack of theatrical play because, despite Ari Wegner’s cinematography being a sight to behold, its glacial pacing is hard to sit through in a theater.
Some studios still committed to a limited theatrical window with their releases. Focus’s Belfast played exclusively in theaters for 19 days before being available to rent at home for $19.99 in the PVOD model. While this is the type of prestige pic that likely would have gotten a theatrical run anyway, it was still nice to be able to see this with a full crowd of people laughing and crying alongside the film.
Disney-owned 20th Century Studios took it a step further with 45-day theatrical exclusivity periods for Nightmare Alley and West Side Story before they hit HBO Max and studio-owned services (Hulu and Disney+, respectively). Both are films that feel like they came from a bygone era, one a moody noir drama, and the other a big-screen musical. Both benefit from the immersion of being able to see them with an extraordinary sound system and picture quality.
The two films that had a full theatrical run were MGM’s Licorice Pizza and Janus Films’s Drive My Car. Licorice Pizza even had a full-month run exclusively in 70mm film before even opening in theaters nationwide. It felt like a prestigious theatrical event. Drive My Car had a specialty run, and part of what makes the Oscars so special is that a nomination can boost a film’s profile significantly. Now, the film is getting play in major multiplexes across the country.
One of the most surprising things about this year’s Best Picture race is that one of the frontrunners had the least theatrical play. CODA is a true crowd-pleaser in every sense, and it hits so much harder emotionally when you see it with a crowd of people who are eating it up. It’s unfortunate that only a select few people have gotten the chance to see this on the big screen, but those few who did had a truly lovely experience.
It’s a great feeling to be able to see all of the Best Picture nominees on the big screen again. With so many of these films being available for at-home viewing, it’s easy to forget the magic that these films can have on the big screen.
By Sean Boelman
Returning in-person to Austin better than ever, the SXSW Film Festival is again bringing cinephiles a showcase of some of the most exciting and subversive films that the year has to offer. For those who have been missing the feeling of community for the past two years, this will be a happy reunion, but for those who aren’t able to make it out to the live event will still have the opportunity to participate via some online offerings.
We at disappointment media are covering the SXSW Film Festival again from home, and we will be reporting to you on what we have had the chance to see in the lineup. Below you will find some of our quick thoughts on some of what we have seen, and we will be updating this article throughout the fest, so be sure to check back in!
Split at the Root
Linda Goldstein Knowlton’s documentary Split at the Root explores a very important issue: immigrant families being separated under the Zero Tolerance Policy. And while the film explores these issues in a way that highlights the urgency of the situation, there are some issues with its presentation. Although it is understandable why the filmmakers wanted to focus on the people bringing about change on this front, it comes dangerously close to coming across as white saviorism.
Documentarian Sam Green’s new film 32 Sounds debuted at Sundance earlier this year and is now making its way to SXSW. However, this was not envisioned as merely a film — there is also an in-person experience that augments the film with live performance elements. It’s unfortunate that the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented most audiences from experiencing the latter, but Green’s exploration of sound is still fascinating and something you have to behold. It’s definitely a tad on the pretentious side, but it’s observations are strong enough to justify it.
The SXSW Film Festival Documentary Feature Competition often features a film that will be very important in the long run, and David Siev’s Bad Axe is that film this year. Exploring a community in rural Michigan, the film is at once an exploration of the COVID-19 pandemic, generational trauma, and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a lot to juggle, and at times, first-time director Siev struggles to tell all of these stories, but the result is mostly affecting.
We Feed People
For some reason, filmmaker Ron Howard’s documentaries tend to be much more consistent in quality than his narrative films. We Feed People, his portrait of the activism of celebrity chef José Andrés, is yet another good documentary from him. Those hoping for this to be a standard cooking documentary are going to be disappointed, because there isn’t much of a focus on the food itself, but it is a moving portrait of the difference that people can make if they dedicate themselves to change.
Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story
Despite what the title may imply, Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story isn’t really about jazz… nor does it go too heavy on the Big Easy. Just as the eponymous music festival has evolved over the years to become something more mainstream from how it started, this documentary appeals to the masses. Yes, it’s a good film in many ways, with great music and a celebration of the culture that led to Jazz Fest exploding as it did. Still, the film doesn’t escape the feeling of being a glorified promotional video to attract new attendees to the festival.
Addison Heimann’s Hypochondriac is the type of movie where you can admire what it was obviously trying to be, even if it doesn’t always work for what it is. The film deserves some points for being an unabashedly gay genre picture, something which there isn’t enough of, even these days, but the execution is messy. The first half of the film and the second half of the film don’t really mesh together, as when the film goes from being slightly tongue-in-cheek in the beginning to being more of a straightforward horror picture for the remainder of the runtime, it loses most of its steam.
Millie Lies Low
Michelle Savill’s Millie Lies Low is the rare film that manages to take two very different tones and balance them extraordinarily well. It works as both an awkward comedy and an uncomfortable race-against-the-clock thriller. Ana Scotney’s performance as the titular character is extremely strong, giving the film a majority of its emotional resonance. For those who experience any form of anxiety themselves, Millie’s struggle is not only going to be extremely sympathetic, but entirely contagious.
Soft & Quiet
When Jason Blum boards something that isn’t outright horror, you know that it’s something to be excited about. And so when he was announced to be joining as a producer on the real-time thriller Soft & Quiet shortly before the beginning of the festival, it immediately became one of the most intriguing films in the lineup. Lo and behold, it’s an absolutely riveting watch, with a depiction of white supremacy that is disgusting in all the right ways. It’s the type of film that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
Pete Ohs’s Jethica is a true rarity in the major festivals these days — a truly independent film. You would expect a film like this with a budget of about $100,000 to pop up at something like Slamdance or perhaps a genre festival, but the fact that it got a major platform like SXSW is impressive in and of itself. While the film shows its budget at several points, and even occasionally looks outright cheap, there is something undeniably charming about its style that makes it a cult classic waiting to happen.
Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets
The GameStop stock situation is without a doubt one of the most bizarre things to happen in the history of the stock market, and so it’s definitely the type of story that would make a fascinating documentary. Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets interviews the retail investors who played an integral role in the historical surge of the company’s stock prices along with the Wall Street insiders who were caught so off-guard by this unprecedented movement. But these events also pulled back the curtain on an issue in the system that threatens our financial freedom as individuals, and this film explores that well.
The Thief Collector
In her documentary The Thief Collector, Allison Otto explores one of the most unusual mysteries that shook the art world. It’s an art heist that feels like it is pulled out of the movies because of how simply outrageous it is. And yet, the film still falls victim to the same flaw that a majority of art-centric documentaries have: the talking head interviews just aren’t that interesting. No matter how many ridiculous twists and turns the story takes, it will be hard to keep the audience interested in these people talking about art in a very dry way.
Still Working 9 to 5
Camille Hardman and Gary Lane’s documentary Still Working 9 to 5 explores both the making of the eponymous hit 1980 film and the context in which it is made. It’s a film that is sure to be of interest to cinephiles, because it tells one of the best underdog stories in the film industry, but it also explores the very real issue of gender parity. And in discussing the ways in which these issues are still prevalent over 40 years later, the film is a call to action that audiences need to see.
Co-writer/co-director/star Jason Winter is a lot of what makes the horror-comedy Deadstream work. As a parody of a specific type of viral video, it’s quite funny, even if its humor is derived more from basic gags than insightful satire. But it’s also just a solidly-crafted horror flick in its own right. In terms of found footage movies, it’s on the upper end, with a narrative device that makes sense and a style that isn’t overwhelming. Plus, the make-up work here is exceptional, featuring a handful of really impressive monsters.
Acquired by Shudder shortly before the start of the festival, Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes’s Sissy is a confused film. Part social media satire and part slasher flick, the film can be divided pretty clearly into two halves, neither of which works particularly well. The film follows two childhood best friends who reunite after a decade apart, leading them to a trip together in a remote cabin where some long-dormant tensions arise again. And if the tonal issues weren’t enough, the film is sunk by the fact that the characters aren’t likable whatsoever.
This Much I Know To Be True
Filmmaker Andrew Dominik and musician Nick Cave’s previous concert film collaboration, One More Time With Feeling, was met with widespread acclaim, and their newest outing, This Much I Know To Be True, will be received with equal warmth. Poetic and beautiful, this isn’t going to be a film for audiences who can’t get behind Cave’s idiosyncratic musical style, but those who appreciate his unique brand will be absolutely enthralled. It definitely meanders a bit, but its observations are so profound that it works.
Several documentaries have used footage in a very abstract sense with little in the way of a traditional narrative, but are still compelling nevertheless. Joële Walinga’s Self-Portrait will not join those ranks, as this mosaic of surveillance camera footage taken over the past four years is not all that interesting. Supposedly offering a peek deep inside the hearts of humanity and an exploration of the things that we value, there are some thematic threads here about connection and greed, but they don’t develop into anything that is insightful beyond the level of a college-level sociology course.
Reggie Yates’s Pirates is a charming little hangout film, although it does feel derivative of so many other films of the genre that have come before. It’s a fun time, and at less than eighty minutes, it’s hard to really hate anything about this, but it becomes clear after about twenty minutes that all it is dealing in is good vibes. The thing that makes it so watchable is the extraordinary chemistry of the main three actors: Jordan Peters, Reda Elazouar, and Elliot Edusah.
A Vanishing Fog
The Colombian film A Vanishing Fog is certainly going to be one of the more original films in this year’s film festival lineup, but it comes across as more idiosyncratic and eccentric rather than imaginative. The film is about a guardian of the mountains who spends his time caring for the ecosystem and his ailing father. It meanders quite a bit, and while there are some occasional moments that offer some genuine insight, it mostly feels like an imitation of better, more poetic Latin American filmmakers. Augusto Sandino’s visual style is impressive, but the script leaves something to be desired.
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic
Teemu Nikki’s The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic is a rare film, the sorts of which are hard to find outside of the festival circuit. It follows a blind man who sets out on an impulsive quest to unite with a woman he has never met face-to-face but talks on the phone with regularly, with the hitch of him not having an aide to help him find his way. An unorthodox mix of romantic comedy and thriller, the biggest strength of this film is in how well-written and endearing the protagonist is, making this a powerful watch.
The 2022 SXSW Film Festival runs from March 11-19.
By Dan Skip Allen
John Wayne (True Grit, The Searchers, Stagecoach) has got this reputation of being a man's man. He is a tough guy if you will, but he played a softer, more compassionate character in his films every once in a while. That is if you consider Sean Thornton a gentler, more compassionate man. After all, he killed a man in the ring as a boxer, which convinced him to leave America and move to a small town in Ireland called Innisfree. Now he's trying to start over fresh.
Sean figures he would move back to where his family is from, and he would buy their land and live the rest of his life in peace. Except a man named Will Danaher (Victor McGlagen) is also interested in the land. Sean notices a beautiful redhead named Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara, How Green Was My Valley, Miracle on 34th Street), who happens to be the sister of Danaher. He tries to get into a relationship with her to spite Danaher, but she's feisty and fiery as redheads tend to be. And what a beautiful relationship it turns out to be.
Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne have been in a few other films besides A Quiet Man together: McLintock, Rio Grande, and Big Jake. They have very good screen chemistry from working together on all these films. Some might consider it one of the best on-screen romances ever in Hollywood. I would have to agree with this assessment. These two have a great on-screen dynamic.
Another frequent collaborator of John Wayne is John Ford. These two have had a long and prosperous filmmaking relationship with one another. They did quite a few Westerns, making the duo famous in Hollywood. Their films are some of the best movies ever. A Quiet Man might be the oddest film they've done, though. It's not about tough firefighters, WWII pilots, or gunfighters shooting each other and Native Americans. It's a romantic film that hits on all the notes a great romantic film should.
With the annual March holiday of St. Patrick's Day coming up, A Quiet Man is a perfect film to revisit. It's one of the greatest films focusing on Ireland. The drama between Wayne and McGlagen's characters is accurate of the time, and the romance is one of the best put to screen. This film also has more to offer than just the story and acting. It has excellent cinematography and music as well.
The cinematography by Winton C. Hoch is gorgeous for the time. The reds and blues are very bright and vibrant, and Ireland's backdrop as a whole is beautiful. The music by Victor Young, mostly bagpipes and horns, is fantastic as well. The film has so much going for it. The story by Ford and others is excellent as well. It's the kind of story many audiences can get behind.
As a kid, I was in love with films about Ireland. Darby O'Gill and The Little People and A Quiet Man were my favorites because they romanticized the homeland of my ancestors. The music and drinking were right up my alley. A little too much up my alley. Still to this day, St. Patrick's is my favorite holiday. John Ford, John Wayne, and Maureen O'Hara gave me a film where I could believe in something as a child. My upbringing wasn't perfect, but films like A Quiet Man are something I can go back to time and again and remember what kind of life I wished I could have.
A Quiet Man is turning seventy years old this week. If there ever was a film to see at this time of year, it's this one. The beautiful romance, what there is of it, and the redemption story of Wayne's character is all worth watching the film. The music, whether it is an Irish lyric or a slow piano solo and pun intended music to my ear. The look of the film is stunning. The performances by all and direction are fantastic. This film is just a delight no matter how you look at it. What other film would be better suited to watch this St. Patrick's Day holiday than this one? It's one of the best from this trio who have so much familiarity with one another.
By Dan Skip Allen
Broadcast News isn't the first film or the last that deals with the nightly news, whether local news or national news. Aaron Sorkin did a great job with The Newsroom for two seasons on HBO, Apple TV+ has The Morning Show, which is a big hit, and Network won four Academy Awards for Peter Finch (posthumously), Faye Dunaway, and two others. Broadcast News is a more in-depth film about the interworking of a news network and news broadcasting.
Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is a high-strung new producer in Washington DC. She has the drive to succeed in her field but lets romance get in the way of her career. A fresh new anchorman, Tom Grunick (William Hurt), is hired, and she falls madly in love with him even though he's not good for her. Another co-worker, Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), is unbeknownst to her, infatuated with her. She has to balance her love life and her career.
William Hurt is a very prolific actor, even winning an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his role as Luis Molina for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1986. He played General "Thunderbolt" Ross for many years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the father of Betty Ross. He starred opposite Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God and the erotic thriller Body Heat. Tom Grunick in Broadcast News might be his most complex role ever. He is trying to woo Jane while also building his career as a news anchor. His character has multiple layers to him. This is what made Hurt such a prolific actor for forty years: his ability to create layered and complex characters studies with each performance
Holly Hunter won an Academy Award for the Jane Campion classic The Piano in 1993. She has played everything from an animated Elastigirl in The Incredibles to a sexually active policewoman in Raising Arizona. She is an outstanding actress who brings power and reverence to her roles. She has been in many fantastic films and tv shows, but her feisty, know-it-all character in this film might be her best. She has to control everything, even going as far as telling the cab drivers how to get from place to place while riding with them. She even has to manipulate her love life to the tiniest detail.
Broadcast News is an in-depth look at the television news industry and how this industry can be very good at times and toxic at others. The cutthroat nature of it is very fascinating. James L. Brooks tries to balance the hard-nosed news angle with a romantic comedy. It works perfectly. The characters he focuses on are nuanced and interesting to follow for two hours. This is an interesting look at career choices versus one personal life. And sometimes, none of it is in their hands.
The film focuses on three main characters and has an excellent supporting cast to complement them. Jack Nicholson plays the station's anchor and is a nice addition to the film. It gives the film clout with his name attached. Joan Cusack (School of Rock) plays an assistant editor in the newsroom, and Robert Prosky (The Natural) plays the producer of the news before handing the job off to Jane. He gives some nice advice to her and brings some gravitas to the film as the veteran producer. Everyone does a great job complimenting the three leads.
Broadcast News is a film with a great look at a news station's inner workings and the people who work within it. Each day's news is the biggest thing and how the reporters are looking for the next big story. The romantic angle is another whole thing, though. This film is well directed, but it's the story and cast that make it a great movie.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.