Night Moves
MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

Pratt By Douglas PrattPratt@moviecitynews.com

DVD Geek: All That Jazz

Not only Bob Fosse but screenwriter Robert Alan Aurthur died too young, doubly reinforcing the vivid spiritual premonition of All That Jazz, Fosse’s transfixing 1979 show business musical that blatantly anticipated his own death (eight years later) and Aurthur’s, who died before the film was finished, with Roy Scheider (who died 31 years later but still much too soon) in the autobiographical role of the stage and film director who smokes too much, ingests too much and works until he drops, creating brilliant art every step of the way.

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DVD Geek: 12 Years a Slave

How can the random displacement of humans being distributed as property sustain a consistent intrigue of character? How can modern actors embody any of the characters, black or white, truthfully, without going insane? McQueen oversees all of these challenges, creating a powerful, beautiful work—no more or less violent than many great films that have addressed violence—that is entertaining and exciting throughout its 134 minutes.

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DVD Geek: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

One of the greatest aspects of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies was the astounding sweep and gripping nature of its action scenes. They were stupendous, as great as anything ever created for the cinema, and nothing in An Unexpected Journey comes close. There are many smaller moments that are joyful, and several scenes that are legitimately thrilling, but the movie is missing the tentpole moments that made the other three films so exceptional.

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DVD Geek: Pacific Rim

The 62 minutes of excellent production featurettes that accompany the film reveal how incredibly thorough del Toro was in overseeing the movie’s creation, which is why, boxoffice shortcomings or not, the film is going to be around for a very long time to come. As he explains, “This movie was made by people who love giant monsters and robots, for people who love giant monsters and robots.”

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DVD Geek: The Killing

More and more, movies seem like short stories and TV shows seem like novels. It took two ‘seasons’ (actually, each is a half-length season) for the murder mystery program, “The Killing,” to reach its highly satisfying conclusion. Set in Washington State, it is stocked with more red herrings than Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, and there are rumors of fans having to buy new shoes and new televisions each week for having tossed the one into the other at the end of each episode.

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DVD Geek: Cloud Atlas

Directed by the Wachowski siblings Lana and Andy, and by Tom Tykwer, the film, like Intolerance, is broken into different stories set in different eras, with dazzling editing that jumps from story to story like fingers sweeping down the keys of a piano. The prominent cast members have multiple roles, figuring centrally in some stories and peripherally in others. Tom Hanks is top billed, and his performances are no stunt—he’s really, really good in each of his highly varied roles. Running a grand 172 minutes, the film is dazzling and intelligent, and is never tedious or introspective. It will take multiple viewings before people begin to recognize how elaborate its breakdown of religion is—how events that happen hundreds of years earlier change in the telling across the centuries while retaining the essen It is a thrilling movie, and is easily the best theatrical feature to come out of 2012, not only for its unrestrained entertainment, but for the boundaries it breaks as it advances the art of filmmaking.

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DVD Geek: Red Hook Summer

Once Spike Lee made Malcolm X, he seemed to lose all of his relevance as a filmmaker, thus reinforcing the adage about being careful what you wish for. But he really has only himself to blame. His first films were genuinely edgy, exciting, and revelatory. Other than his documentaries, his later films have all been flailing around in the dark, trying to find any kind of edge at all. His 2012 feature, Red Hook Summer, is heartbreakingly bad, because it almost isn’t.

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The DVD Geek: Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man doesn’t just deserve the Oscar nomination, it deserves to win. Running 87 minutes, it lulls you into believing—or perhaps even not believing—the story of a few enthusiastic South African fans that attempt to uncover the biography of an American balladeer from the early Seventies called ‘Rodriguez,’ who had a smooth, articulate voice, reminiscent of Jose Feliciano (with his dark glasses, he also looks a lot like Feliciano), and adept recording engineers that brought a detailed complexity and color to his orchestrations.

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DVD Geek: Lawrence of Arabia

One of the greatest color films ever produced, David Lean’s 1962 Lawrence of Arabia shows the Earth unadorned by its decorative vegetation or man-made blemishes, with landscapes so vast that humans are no more than tiny specks passing across the surface, hardly larger than the grains of sand beneath the feet of their camels. Set during World War I in the Middle East, the film concerns not only battles, but the political maneuvering which would set the stage for power equilibriums in the region that are continuing to this day.

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DVD Geek: This is Cinerama

Cinerama is dead. It died before our grandmothers did. To see the Cinerama format in a movie theater as a child, however, was to associate its startlingly wide image with life’s future, the grand possibilities that are spread out before one. And so to relive that experience now, on Blu-ray, is to grasp, with all the fleeting, orgiastic thrill of grasping a ghost, the hopes and dreams and safety and anticipation of childhood. By the time the helicopter was flying over Niagara, the tears were flowing from our own eyes with a fervor equal to the Falls.

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The DVD Geek: The Strawberry Statement

The further they recede in time, the more fascinating the campus riot movies become. Despite the brief resurgences of similar sentiments in the Occupy Wall Street movement, there is something very alien about the militancy of the youthful rebels. And while violence as a means of suppression by the authorities has continued as a practice, usually of last resort or near last resort, that practice has not been depicted in popular entertainment since the spirit of the Sixties subsided.

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DVD Geek: The Artist

The black-and-white image is crisp and captivating. The quality of the BD presentation enhances, among other things, the film’s fabulous production design, so that the locations—such as the Bradbury Building stairwell, evocative of a Jerry Lewis production design, which shows Dujardin’s character on the way down meeting Bejo’s character on the way up, as extras breeze past them and around them in a mysteriously perfect rhythm—and costumes pelt the viewer continually with refreshing stimulation.

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DVD Geek: The Rape of the Vampire

The greatest bad movie ever is Plan Nine from Outer Space, but coming in a close number two is Jean Rollin’s exquisitely ridiculous The Rape of the Vampire, which has been released on Blu-ray no less, by Kino Lorber Incorporated as a Redemption title. For one thing, it is in that hoity-toity language, French, which connoisseurs of badness embrace as the language of their superiors. For another thing, it has lots of topless women, which in itself is not a bad thing at all—just ask a nursing infant—but is really dopey when there is no particular narrative reason as to why the women should choose not to drape themselves respectably, particularly when there are a bunch of grunting, farmer-looking types, chasing after them with pitchforks.

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DVD Geek: Camelot

One can speak derisively of Blu-rays for their operational legthargy, but there are amazing things that the format can accomplish, and a very good example is that they can turn bad movies into good movies. Musicals have always played by different rules than other movies, and that is what is at work here. Rather than dwelling on the film’s failures, the BD enables one to embrace what does succeed in the film, and allows those glories to reign.

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DVD Geek: The Magnificent Ambersons

Exactly 15 years after DVDs were introduced to the home video market place, Warner Home Video has finally released the last significantly important, classic motion picture in the format, “The Magnificent Ambersons,” and like the opinions of the townspeople on the fates of the characters at the end of the film, no one cares.

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DVD Geek: My Week With Marilyn

First, you have to see “The Prince and the Showgirl.” It is a film that will continually make you smile. Its story is cute and its cast is legendary. Then you watch “My Week with Marilyn” … The 2011 film is not about dishing dirt on the production. It is, rather, and in some ways very much like “The Prince and the Showgirl,” about the ephemeral nature of love.

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DVD Geek: World on a Wire

Way, way before The Matrix, before Blade Runner and before umpteen Japanese anime tales, Fassbinder not only understood the epistemological paradoxes of cyberworlds, he understood how to communicate those paradoxes to viewers in an entertaining and engrossing manner.

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DVD Geek: Design for Living

Made before the Production Code cleaned up his innuendos and flagrant sexual metaphors, Lubitsch constantly teases the viewer with his balancing act of sharing and hiding what the characters are thinking and doing. Almost as an afterthought, each man’s fortunes rise because of his association with Hopkins’ character, and yet, for each, it is a downward trajectory of spirit when she turns her attentions elsewhere.

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DVD Geek: Godzilla

No other land or people have suffered from the effects of manmade atomic destruction as Japan has, and the monster, Godzilla, is a metaphor of that destruction that has proven to be as far reaching and enduring in its truthfulness as the creature itself has been in popularity. Even America, which is as symbiotically entwined with Japan’s nuclear catastrophes as the American version of the film is with the Japanese version, has embraced the subliminal power that is conveyed by the rubber-suited monster, and its later, upgraded special effect iterations, raging across the captivating miniature landscapes and cityscapes.

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DVD Geek: Lucky Lady

In 1975, the heavily promoted Lucky Lady, sporting three big boxoffice names, was intended to be a Twentieth Century Fox blockbuster. Full of witty one-liners and some decent slapstick (especially from Reynolds), it followed the movie company formula for success precisely, but audiences quickly sniffed a turkey and the stars couldn’t save it.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

DEADLINE: How does a visualist feel about people watching your films on a phone or VOD?
REFN: It depends on what kind of movie you make. We had great success with Only God Forgives on multiple platforms in the U.S. Young people will decide how they see it, when they want to see it. Don’t try to fight it. Embrace it. That’s a wonderful opportunity. We’re at the most exciting time since the invention of the wheel, in terms of creativity because distribution and accessibility have changed everything. A camera is still a camera whether it’s digital or not; there’s still sound; an actor is an actor. Ninety-nine percent of what you do is going to be seen on a smart phone – I know this is the greatest thing ever made because it allows people to choose, watching what you do on this format or go into a theater and see it on a screen. That means more people than ever will see what I do, which is personally satisfying in terms of vanity. But you have to be able to adapt, to accept things in different order and length than we’re used to. We are in a very, very exciting time.
~ Nic Refn to Jen Yamato

DEADLINE: You mention Tarantino, who with Christopher Nolan and a few other giants, saved film stock from extinction. To him, showing a digital film in a theater is the equivalent of watching TV in public. Make an argument for why digital is a good film making canvas.
REFN: Costwise, it’s a very effective way for young people to start making movies. You can make your movie on an iPhone. It’s wonderful seeing how my own children use technology to enhance creativity. For me it’s a wonderful canvas. Sure, I love grain in film. I love celluloid. But I also like creativity. I like crayons, I like pencils, I like paint. It’s all relative. Technology is more inclusive. A hundred years ago when film was invented, it was an elitist club. Very few people got to make it, very few people controlled it and very few people owned it. A hundred years later, storytelling through images is everyone’s domain. It’s ultimate capitalism. There are no rules, and no barriers and no Hays Code. Where does this go in another hundred years? I don’t know but I would love to see it.
~ Nic Refn To Jen Yamato