What says Christmas more than a movie that is quite possibly the prequel to Blue Velvet and is set over pretty much the course of an entire year? Well probably a lot of things, but Meet Me In St. Louis is the film that was drawn out of the hat, so here we go… Opening on a street with a horse-drawn carriage to let us know it’s ye olde times, we are taken into the Smith family home. Instantly we are drawn into a seemingly endless series of critiques on the flavour and texture of the soup. Rather than view this as some kind of Masterchef style cooking show critique as it seems to become over the course of a few minutes, I prefer to read it as the deeply cynical judgements of an angry screenwriter, bitterly pronouncing their characters as “too sour” or “too thick” and raising their middle finger to the upper middle class… Although I’m probably wrong about that.
Nothing says Christmas more than Bruce Willis in a wifebeater surrounded by explosions, shooting a bunch of European criminals. Die Hard is one of my favourite Christmas movies, for the simple reason that it’s a massively enjoyable movie that is coincidentally set somewhere around Christmas. Once you get past being bludgeoned over the head by the 80s anachronisms (in the first five minutes we see a series of terrifying hairstyles and fashion choices, Bruce Willis carrying his gun on the plane, people smoking in the airport, outrageous workplace sexual harassment and Bonnie Bedelia), you can settle into the exposition, which lets us know that we are in “California!” because people are apparently different there, that the Nakatomi Plaza is a state of the art building controlled by computers (which are probably not to be trusted), Bruce’s wife is [gasp] using her maiden name in the workplace and that they may or may not celebrate Christmas in Japan.
The stated aim of The Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series is to curate a “selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions”, with each volume “a brief cinemateque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer”. Due to the relative obscurity of the majority of titles in this series, the films are DVD only and with prints of variable quality, however the real goal is to simply make these films available to a wider audience. The previous releases in the Eclipse Series have been divided between collections of lesser known films by important directors (Early Bergman, Silent Ozu, Late Ray, The First Films Of Akira Kurosawa) and collections of films from overlooked directors or movements (Travels With Hiroshi Shimizu, Three Popular Films By Jean-Pierre Gorin, Pearls Of The Czech New Wave, Nikkatsu Noir).
I think the fact that I watched all four of the different versions of Army Of Darkness contained in the amazing Scream Factory Army Of Darkness Collector’s Edition blu-ray package over the course of three days may give some indication of just how much I love this film. Over the years I have owned numerous versions of this film across pretty much every format and can now safely say that there is finally a definitive version and I can get rid of all of the other versions… Well, I can get rid of all of them except “The Necronomicon” blu-ray edition because that has some pretty cool packaging.
The Criterion Collection’s stated aim is that they are “dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions of the highest technical quality, with supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of film”. Their success in this endeavour is reflected not only in oft-used phrases like “Criterion worthy” and “Criterion like” as a description of the quality of films and home video releases, but also by the very presence of the Criterion Blogathon of which this is part.
Back around the year 2000, Beastie Boys Video Anthology was the first Criterion Collection title that I bought. New to the DVD format at the time, I remember spending a night transfixed watching seemingly endless permutations of “Intergalactic” and “Shake Your Rump”, the first two songs on the first disc. When selecting a title for the Criterion Blogathon, Beastie Boys Video Anthology seemed the obvious choice. Not only does it shows the great variety of the “contemporary” side of The Criterion Collection, but it’s also an excellent example of their history of pushing the envelope of what could be achieved both technically and artistically in home video releasing.
I’ve been looking for a book like Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl for years. Sleater-Kinney have been my favourite band since somewhere around the release of One Beat and have been crying out for a decent book on their history, if for no other reason than to provide some kind of explanation of what happened in 2006 to led to those dreaded two words “indefinite hiatus”. However, it was unexpected that this book would be written by a member of the band.
Released in 1967 Dont Look Back is a fly on the wall documentary following Bob Dylan during his ten day tour of the UK in April/May 1965. Falling just over a month after the release of Bringing It All Back Home, the film captures Dylan at a fascinating turning point of his career. Dont Look Back is also particularly notable with D. A. Pennebaker being given a level of access to the enigmatic Dylan that has not been seen since. That said, Eat The Document, Dylan and Pennebaker’s rather unsuccessful attempt to film his 1966 UK tour may have played a role in this change of heart.