Song of the Day: HALLELUJAH by the late, great Jeff Buckley

One of the reasons I love the Snyder Cut Trailer, despite the fact I do not think a reedited film will make that C-/D+ movie substantially any better ( though I would love to be pleasantly surprised, the trailer does look great), is simply because I love the song HALLELUJAH. Many years ago I listened to the Jeff Buckley version, and my –appreciation– for that song remains undiminished, regardless who sings it. But for that song at its best, you have to go to the Jeff Buckley version, of the Leonard Cohen classic.

First let’s start with the OG, Leonard Cohen.

Now let’s move on to the version that made me a fan of the song:

And finally this live performance video is not Buckley’s best performance of the song. It is tired and worn and imperfect, and tortured, but for all those reasons, it is an essential glimpse at Jeff Buckley before his untimely passing, and an essential inspiration to all of us, in what it means to perform, even when you are not sure if you have anything left to perform with.

 

 

 

After doing this post I checked and to my dismay realized I did not have the Legacy CD version of GRACE. For a physical media head like me, that’s an unforgivable omission.

Come the beginning of the world or the end of it there are a few things every man or woman of note should have: A good pickup truck, a good shotgun, a good knife, some good books, some good movies, some good CDs, and a portable DVD player to platy them all on.

Jeff Buckley’s GRACE should be one of those cds.

Get yours by clicking the image above.

And get a decent portable player, as well as the headphones I recommend, here:

 

 

Jeff Buckley Lyrics

“Hallelujah”
(originally by Leonard Cohen)

Well, I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing HallelujahHallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…

Well, baby, I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor (you know)
I used to live alone before I knew ya
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…

Well, there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do ya?
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah…
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah…
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

Roku Youtube Channels pick the Best/Favorite/Recommended/ Must Own 3D Blu-Rays!

I, in the last 48 hours, have decided to jump into 3D TV. I’ve had a 3D capable Blu-ray player for several months. and just this week ‘engaged the engines'(yeah that’s going to catch on) on getting a 3D projector that does native 1080p. Should be here next week.

And along with that, I have begun compiling a list of recommendations of must own Blu-Ray titles.(ie I jumped on Youtube, via Roku, and found a bunch of recommendations)

And a word on that region free Blu-ray player, I picked up.

I purposely sought out a Blu-ray player that, in addition to being region free, also does 3D; as I knew eventually I wanted to cross that bridge. In fact, being I have been a life long 3D fan, from stereoscopic comic books and Art-books, to the old Anaglyph 3D presentations that would come on tv, every blue-moon, when I was a kid (Invariably the 3D over the tv, never worked great; using those funky red and blue glasses) it is funny that it has taken me this long to jump into 3D.

Part of it is, even though I was in the theaters, with everyone else that snowy winter, when AVATAR made its way onto our screens and became a world wide phenomenon, kicking off this latest 3D craze; I didn’t hop aboard the 3D train. While a fan of AVATAR, and thought its 3D was ground breaking; I was never sold on the idea of everything needing to be in 3D. I am still not. However I am far more compelled by the idea of being able to also do 3D in the home. Not all the time, but occasionally. 

In the 10 years since AVATAR’s success, while hundreds of films have been foisted on us at increased ticket prices, I probably went to see easily less than 2 dozen films in the theaters. 3D is great for 45 minute IMAX films (in real IMAX theaters that are in science centers, not the retrofitted baby Imaxes that are in your local multiplex) but for (closing in on 2 hour) blockbusters, it has to be done well; and not everything lends itself to 3D.

3D when done brilliantly needs to be in the movie theaters, not in our homes, and needs to be done sporadically. At least that was my feeling for the past 10 years since AVATAR, and in the theaters I have seen some good uses of 3D since then.

However these days while I still believe a real theater is the best place for 3D, and that viewing should be sporadic, what supercedes that… is me being a collector. And no, I refuse to use supersede, I am going with supercede. It was good enough in the 17th century, it is good enough now. :).

Being a collector (which I have been since my grade-school days of comics and books and vhs tapes and records),  I like having the ability to not rely on gatekeepers. if I do choose to revisit an especially impressively made 3D film on my Blu-ray player, in my home, I don’t want to have to vet that choice through anyone else; or wait on licensing agreements for movies to become available.

I do not like having to rely on gatekeepers for anything, not my entertainment, not my news, not my liberty. 3D tvs have in the US gone the way of the Dodo, and the older models that you can get are prohibitively expensive. Manufacturers of Blu-ray players, are closing up shop. Big business has obviously passed around a memo, “let’s phase out this physical media nonsense, and make them come to us for everything; where we can monitor, we can control, we can edit material, as necessary.”

A noble memo. But I don’t think they got my memo.

“No.”

So job one, was to pick up a multi-region Blu-ray that could also do 3D. I saved up and got that done a few months ago. ‘What about 4K?’ I hear someone asking.

 

4K? I don’t really care about 4K.

 

“What?? Oh no he didn’t??!!! Get me a knife, I’m gonna cut this fool!!!”

Wait. Bear with me Trumpian mob.

Let me explain,

I do not care about 4K, as it is really negligible improvement over a well mastered Blu-ray.

“What??? But…”

Shhh. Adults are talking.

There is a difference between a well mastered 4K and a well mastered Blu-ray, viewed on the median residential monitor display size of 55″ to 65″, at a viewing distance of 8 to 10 feet; but that difference is not pixel density, is not screen real estate. That difference is not 4k pixel count, vs 1K pixel count.  With 20/20 vision viewing any modern display of the size I listed, from the distance I listed, if you can see a difference at all… it will be negligible at best.

You have to remember you don’t actually see very well, even with 20/20 vision. That’s why the illusion of movies even works. Because our brains are very good at taking the upside down nonsense our eyes sends them, and crafting a world view that makes sense.

That is the reason 24 static images, moved at speed (a movie), can fool us into believing there is motion going on. If our eyes were really any good, we could never fall for the lie of motion, we would register movies for what they are, 24 static images , flipped one after another.

We would be, how Alan Moore, that mad scribe, describes the Flash.

One of the most beautiful, and horrible lines I have ever read, I read at a time when we read most of the horrible things that form us. I had read Flash comics as a kid, and thought them and the character way cool. And with scant lines, Alan Moore taught the young tike I was, the meaning of existential dread.

‘There is a man who moves so fast that his life is an endless gallery of statues.’

I understood then, a concept I had not thought of till that moment, the horrible constraints of perfection.

However we, perhaps thankfully, do not perceive the world clearly, we as a species, even the best of us, see relatively poorly.

However,  our brains are fantastic for compensating for our deficiencies. Making a truth, out of the lie of our eyes. And with television and the difference between pixel count between 1080p and 4K that occurs at speed in real time, our brain is just as adept in that situation, at lying to us. You are unlikely to see any difference in pixel count.

“But I’m telling you I see a clear difference between 1080p and 4K when I watch BOO BOO GOES TO HOLLYWOOD!!!!!”

Yes, I know. But that difference (using the parameters previously stated) is not pixel density. The difference you are seeing is color grading and picture processing applied by technologies such as HDR. That is why HDR is there, to give you the difference that 4K by itself cannot.

But here is the thing, they could have just as easily applied HDR to work with Blu-ray, made HDR an evolution of Blu-ray, solidify Blu-ray as a format, and help it finally supercede Dvd, as the most popular format. But then they could not sell you new tvs, and new incompatible 4K media, which requires all new players.

 

4K is a cash grab. And it is a road of diminishing returns.

While concepts like 2k and 4k and even now 8k, have a useful and needed place in production and mastering and editing, and real theatrical showings. On the residential/consumer side it is simply superfluous. And companies harangued into tying up limited resources re-releasing the same 10 titles in yet another format, just take money and resources away from titles that are still awaiting… their first Blu-ray release.

 

So that is why 4K is not a priority for me. I don’t hate it, I’d just rather solidify the formats we have, than further fragment an already fragmented market. However if studios can make 4k work for them, and make money off it, a niche of a niche, good for them.

I don’t care if 4k, 8k, 16k players exits, there will always be people putting the stupidest things in their homes (“So let me understand this. Every device inside my house will now have a microphone built in, that can not be hardware disabled? And a camera? And be able to call out back to it home servers? And all data is potentially saved? Is this a Bob Newhart skit? A Bill Cosby skit? I’m sorry son, no one is going to believe that science fiction story. 1984 is one  thing, but that story you are talking about would have required an entire generation to not have the common sense that God gave a rock. Next thing you are going to tell me is they let a reality tv star steal the election and run the country into the ground!!! Ha! Ha! What an imagination!”).

Leave me the ability to watch what I want, when I want. Without having to vet my viewing through gatekeepers and their servers; and the rest of the world— can keep spinning.

Yeah give me region-free Blu-ray any day. And yeah, I’ll even take a side of 3D. :).

 

If that is not the longest digression in the history of the world, it has to be in the top 3. But finally, you made it to what you really came for. The tits— oh wait, I meant the list. There are no Mammary glands below. I repeat, there are no Mammary glands below. Go ahead and unsubscribe, see if i care!!!

Yes, yes. It has been a long week.

Oh ps, the items in bold in the lists below, are titles that in my research I think are the ones to start with, and they just so happen to be ones that I have ordered and are on the way. So if you can’t find em, I bought the last ones. HA! HAAHA! HA! HA! HHAHA! HA! HA! HEE! HO! HA— hmm this is surprisingly difficult to keep going. You get the picture, maniacal laughing. Sheesh!

Humor, look it up.

 

TOMMY BOY
HUGO, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF EARTH, KONG:SKULL ISLAND,JUNGLE BOOK,STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS,PACIFIC RIM “Could have been one of the number one 3D movies of all time”,JURASSIC PARK, POLAR EXPRESS, LIFE OF PI, AVATAR -2020 LIST

THE FAILED JOURNALIST

TRON LEGACY, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, HOBBIT BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, AVATAR, HUGO, POLAR EXPRESS, GRAVITY, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, THE WALK, LIFE OF PI
-2018 LIST

3D BLU-RAY BUNKER

NEED FOR SPEED, INFERNO(1953), THE WALK, HERCULES(2014), THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014), AVATAR, STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, XXX RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER DAY OF RECKONING – his 2020 selections

BRASS TAX

A quick caveat about BT. You think I’m offensive, I’ve never known anyone use the term b*tch as often as he does. 🙂 Seriously, his early videos I left thinking, “Did they delete the other words from the dictionary?”. Joking. But seriously, stick with this show, they are informative and fun. His BLACK PANTHER 3D Blu-ray review is hilarious, and he rates it as superior to the 4K. He hasn’t done a 3D review in 11 months, but I hope new ones are on the way.

THE LAST JEDI, FORCE AWAKENS, BLADE RUNNER 2049, BLACK PANTHER, THOR RAGNAROK, AVENGERS ENDGAME, KONG SKULL ISLAND, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, XXX THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, THE GREAT WALL, GHOST IN THE SHELL, DOCTOR STRANGE, TRANSFORMERS THE LAST KNIGHT

 

**************************

All humor aside, there are a lot of great selections, and great videos to peruse . Do me a favor, if moved to, and not offended by my whimsy… like, subscribe, and support using the links below. Further go subscribe to all four of the channels listed above. They possess just a monumental amount of info on 3D Blurays. I am subscribed to all these channels and consider them, essential. I’m first in line to like their new 3D related videos.

 

DEAL OF THE DAY!

DEAL OF THE DAY 2! Like I said I don’t find 4k a necessity, however I found this player that includes necessities like region free, and 3D, but it also includes 4K at an affordable price. At this price it is a bit of a no-brainer.

DEAL OF THE DAY 3!

This one has steadily increased in price. The model 700 is cheaper, but what I like about the specs on this one (the 706) is it is a short throw, which just means placement is easier as you can place it right near the screen or wall to be projected on.

DEAL OF THE DAY 4!

 

DEAL OF THE DAY 5!

 

KINO LORBER Boutique Blu-ray Label Overview PART 2: FIVE FOR FRIDAY

Last installment I covered some recommended titles from Kino Lorber’s ‘While Supplies Last’ sale. This time I just wanted to cover five titles in general that caught my attention and are on my ‘to buy’ list.

Without further ado, here they are!

p.s. As a hint I generally do not purchase films that do not offer special features. At a minimum I need a film commentary.  Physical media should give you more than you can get from just watching it on streaming, or why pay for it.

So yeah if I own it, or recommend it, it has special features. The only exception for that is titles that may not be available streaming, or 3D titles, or other scarce titles, where we are just lucky to still have the film.

Okay, now we get to it!

 

 

Very interesting sounding film from the Director of DUEL AT DIABLO. And since I have that film, I have to get this one.

This one just sounds bonkers in all the right ways. Not because the movie is going to be great, I have my doubts about that. But just the backstory behind it, namely getting relatives of famous stars to star in an exploitation movie. The commentary on this one seems poised to be full of amazing Hollywood anecdotes and backstory.

This movie sold me on its names. Name One: Director Budd Boetticher, I am now interested in seeing more of his films after picking up Arrow’s sold out FIVE TALL TALES boxset. Name Two: Jeff Chandler who has never given a bad performance and was great in a jaw dropping performance in TEN SECONDS TO HELL Name Three: Sidney Poitier. Hell you could have led with that. I have picked up every single Kino Lorber release with the great Sidney Poitier (DUEL AT DIABLO, almost sold out, Gals and Ghouls! 🙂 ). So yeah, this one is a must buy.

I love the films of John Sturges, and not only have I never seen this film, I have never heard of this film. And another film that is sold by its names: the aforementioned John (MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) Sturges! Richard (One of my favorite Movie and radio actors ever) Widmark! And Borden (I wrote two of the best westerns ever, RED RIVER and WINCHESTER 73) Chase!! What?!!! This is an easy must buy.

I did not love this film the first time i saw it, however it is possible i did not give it the attention it deserved. And considering this is one of the most ‘special feature’ rich releases, from the typically bare bones Kino Lorber, this is a must buy, for the special features alone.

Honorable Mentions:

I can not recommend this Blu-ray because it does not have any commentary or special features, but it sounds incredibly interesting. I’m going to look on streaming for this one. I really want to see if it is as good and interesting as it sounds.

 

I do not currently have an affiliate link with Kino Lorber, however you can click on the images above and they will take you to the item on Amazon. If you use the link you get a great item, and this blog gets a very appreciated couple of pennies. A win-win!

Criterion Blu-Ray of the Day : George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

Night of the Living Dead

I’m watching George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on Criterion’s beautiful newly released 2-Disc Edition.

 

DISC 1: THE FILM

I’ve seen the movie before, years ago, as well as other Romero films. And while understanding the significance of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I have never been a fan of the zombie/ghoul genre. Most likely due to its over-saturation by lesser filmmakers just regurgitating Romero’s novel approach, as well as simply not being a fan of gore.

Romero’s re-imagining of the Zombie as a flesh eating corruption never stood well with me. It was the myth of the ghoul, rather than the older Haitian mythology of the Zombie. A Zombie, as understood from Haitian lore, was something dead, that had been transformed into something beyond death and beyond corruption, more in common with the Jewish Golem, and seen most visually in the Val Lewton produced I WALK WITH A ZOMBIE

Romero’s flesh eating, rotting monstrosity, that was all corruption, could not be more different than the idea of the Zombi. However, to Romero’s credit he did identify the creatures accurately in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as ghouls, but for whatever reason ; the press or marketing latched onto calling them by the incorrect nomenclature of Zombie. If I had to guess, I would think the more exotic sounding Zombie, simply appealed to them more, than the more crude (but accurate) term of ghoul.

So while I appreciated NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I was never the biggest fan of it. It’s a little too strident for me, and argumentative, filled with unlikable people, which may or may not be accurate in such a situation; but was for me, not what I wanted to spend time viewing, and was a bit plodding because of it.

However, re-watching the film, on this Criterion release I have a new appreciation for the film. 

First thing that strikes you is how stunning this film looks, in this Museum of Modern Art remastered edition. The Black and White cinematography is beautiful, and I see now exactly how stylish the film was in its use of camera angles and shadows. It may be Romero’s most beautiful film because of its noirish and dutch angle filled aesthetic.

2nd, the very structure of the film, while commonplace today, at the time the ‘house under siege’ motif was new, most notably seen in 1964’s Vincent Price vehicle THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD managed to build on that premise, and deepen it, by adding group dynamics to the mix, as well a claustrophobic ‘you are there’ intensity, in its cinema verite shooting style. Not to mention the creation of a whole new breed of monster.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, taken in context of when it was made, is ground breaking in terms of how it is filmed; the mixture of science fiction, horror, group dynamics and intended irony and unexpected social commentary, along with the running commentary of the media helping to tell the film’s back-story. And just the general bleakness of the film is astonishing, even watching it today. Given how truly threadbare and Indy this film was, in a time before the concept of Independent film even existed, its nihilism still has the power to impress.

Duane Jones gives a compelling performance as Ben, and is the bedrock upon which the film cements itself as a classic. But all the performances are surprisingly intriguing, from Russell Streiner and Judith O’Dea and William Hinzman (lead Ghoul) who effectively open the film in a now iconic sequence, to on-screen couples Keith Wayne and Judith Ridley and Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman, and Kyra Shon as their daughter.

A word on Marilyn Eastman who plays Mrs. Cooper, she gives, in a small role, one of the best performances of the film, up their with Dwayne’s work. You can not take your eyes off of her when she is on screen, she is so nuanced and compelling in a very contained performance, that plays all the more effectively in counterpoint to the histrionics and testosterone around her. She also was part of the crew and is on this commentary, and her insights are always an informative part of the commentary.

DISC 1 SPECIAL FEATURES

Regarding the Special Features, Co-producer Russell Streiner in the INTRO TO NIGHT OF ANUBIS feature, explains NIGHT OF ANUBIS was the working title for the film as it was under production. NIGHT OF ANUBIS was actually the 2nd title for the film, they originally wanted to title the film THE NIGHT OF THE FLESH-EATERS. However a cease an desist order from a studio with plans to release a movie called FLESH-EATERS led to Romero coming up with the title NIGHT OF ANUBIS.

So the movie would go all through production with the title NIGHT OF ANUBIS, however once the film wrapped the distributors did not like the title ANUBIS, found it too esoteric no doubt, so the name was changed for the last time for its release, and the film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was born.

FIRST COMMENTARY

Romero and select Crew- It’s not the most interesting commentary, one reason is because there are so many voices on the commentary, and they are all going in different directions, and largely they are discussing minutiae even by commentary standards. Whether eye-glasses were supposed to be half on or all on, and discussions like that.

It is initially a very pedantic, pedestrian, minutiae focused commentary. However the commentary does pick up in moments, and becomes quite incisive, such as about 25 minutes in as they discuss the actors, among them the lead Duane Jones. and the thoughtful changes he made to his character. One intriguing thing is, it was colorblind casting. The role was not written for a Black guy, they actually had another actor, a White Actor, they were going to go with, but then Dwayne Jones came in an auditioned. His audition impressed everyone and he got the part.

It was a threadbare Pittsburgh production, and for the character of Ben they just needed a big guy to play him, as initially he was supposed to be a Brutish trucker. So largely they lucked out with Duane, as they got an actor who brought so much more to that character, than was on the page.

Necessitating rewriting that character for the more erudite and thoughtful presence that Duane brought to that role.

That in hindsight the film is notable for a Black protagonist, I think overlooks the stronger blessing of that casting; which is that they were lucky enough to get a great actor for that role. Duane Jones ended up bringing a unique variable to that performance, that would have been lost –  not just by an actor of a different ethnicity, but an actor of lesser sophistication. By any actor that was not Duane Jones.

There is a humanity Duane brings to a brutish character, that careens it away from the facile, surface level histrionics— to instead explore someone captivating and heroic and flawed. The takeaway from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is not that they cast a Black actor in the role, but rather that the best actor for that role, was a great actor, who was also Black. It is a subtle distinction but I believe an important one, that is still not quite embraced today.

Another interesting segment on the commentary, is an hour into the film, where they discuss the making of one of their more involved shots, the Washington DC based tv coverage, where the crew drove down to DC, and play the roles of reporters and military personnel. Involved, because for all intents and purposes this was just a very small Pittsburgh production, done by the crew, in any free time they could carve out, around their full time jobs.

The commentary than segues into discussion of Duane Jones before his passing. From this point to the end, the commentary gets far more intriguing. Overall, while not always fluid, this commentary gives you historic insights into the film and the performers that otherwise would have been lost to time. For this reason while not a great commentary, there are gems in here that make it an essential commentary.

 

SECOND COMMENTARY

Commentary Two has even more people involved, so lots of similar voices overlapping. Russell Streiner (producer/actor ‘He’s coming to get you, Barbara!‘), helping to sheep-herd this conversation, gets it off to a more compelling, entertaining start than the first commentary. And it places this commentary in time, to hear them discuss the upcoming laserdisc release. As someone who remembers laserdisc and still own some, it is a nice nostalgic touch.

And I like that, in this commentary, they reassert that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was not made as a social message film, they were simply making a horror film, and Duane was hired simply because he was the best actor who auditioned for the role. Add to that a running gag about Marilyn Eastman and lumber, and it is just a fun, affable commentary.

 

DISC TWO : A WHOLE DISC FULL OF SPECIAL FEATURES

Holy cow. Is this a loaded, feature rich release. This disc includes over 12 special features. Including interviews with the cast, and new documentaries made just for this release. It is just  wonderful grab bag of content that you can revisit and dive into at your leisure.  Including just a wonderful 1987 audio interview with Duane Jones recorded with Tim Ferrante.

“That moment, the total surrealism of the racial nightmare of America, being worse than whatever we were doing as a metaphor in that film, lives with me to this moment.”

-Duane Jones, 1987

 

SUMMATION

All in all, is a must own physical media release. In terms of beauty of the product on your shelf, and the content itself, and booklet. I came to this release a bit hesitantly, because as I mentioned I was never a huge fan of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Revisiting this film, and listening to the commentaries, and going through the special features, I have to say this is one of the treasures of my collection. Highly Recommended.

 

Get your copy here!

 

Currently Watching : TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) courtesy of KANOPY Streaming!

 

What a great film noir. And the lead actress is in the running for one of the most fatal… Femme Fatales. However watching this on streaming tonight, was a bit of a pain, The Picture kept losing quality and buffering. See this is the reason, for all the people screaming the death of physical media, that my physical media collection is not going anywhere.

I’m actually stockpiling the must have movies and TV series, that I do not want to rely on streaming, or licensing agreements, to be able to view.

Streaming when it works is great. But you have so many gate-keepers and potential points of failure and degradation between the supposed high quality 4K presentation you are paying for, and the actual variable picture quality you end up getting.

Streaming is absolutely fine for discovering new things and trying new films and TV shows, but as far as enjoying or re-watching a beloved film or tv show in a satisfying and quality manner, when and where and how you want, there simply is no replacement for having physical media at your fingertips.

And on top of that one reason streaming is as good as it is, is because it has the standard of physical media (Dvd, Blu-ray, 4K) to compete with, to keep it honest.

What happens when physical media is not an option, when studios have a captive audience, that has no alternative to the variable and at times disappointing real world quality of streaming?

You get the same kind of inferior presentation as you get from over the air Digital tv/Antennas.

Yes you get the benefits of far more channels than the old analog over the air television gave you, but you get less reliable quality then what you got from Analog tv. And anyone who has spent anytime watching Digital over the air tv sees the variable quality I speak of.

Business is happy to give us more, but better? In the absence of true choice and alternatives, better, is a cost that increasingly companies do not want to pay.

So to that end, if you decide you love this movie, you might want to get the Blu-Ray here!

Criterion Blu-Ray of the Day : Jeffrey Wright on the phenomenal film RIDE WITH THE DEVIL

Like the war it pivots around, Ang Lee’s RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, is a troubling property.

A box office failure on its release in 1999, the film came and went from theaters, virtually unseen. The release of the movie on Blu-ray, from respected Blu-ray Boutique label Criterion, finally gives audiences a chance to (most for the first time), see and explore what may be the most challenging film, from a director known for taking on eclectic and challenging material.

It is not an easy film, filled as it is with absurdities, and contradictions and stupidities reflective of the time. However stick with it, as it is a rewarding film, as much for what it says about the mistakes this nation has made, as it is prophetic and timely about the mistakes this nation is currently making.

Is it a great film? It has moments of greatness, and is never quite what you think it is.

It is ultimately a film I bought simply upon Jeffrey Wright, mentioning it as one of his favorites; and one I am very glad I bought. The beautiful criterion release offers a great interview with Jeffrey Wright, snippets of which I have provided below. However, please watch the film before indulging in the full special features.

In an age of streaming, this Criterion release of RIDE WITH THE DEVIL makes a case for physical media just in the gorgeousness of the gestalt. From the striking and handsomely designed packaging, to the overflowing with special features director’s approved and remastered release, to the eye-catching booklet filled with informative essays on the film; in every way this film is as much a tactile and dimensional experience, as a visual one.

A must own release. Grade: B+.

 

“I think that’s what separates this film from other films about the civil war, and other films that deal with historical racial dynamics in this country, that Ang was open to the complexity of it. That war is a seminal event in the character of American history, and it continues to inform who we are today, and who we will become. The story is a non-conventional look at historic race relations in this country. “

“I understood the attack they had planned, and I understood the subtlety of the character they had drawn. Holt, the character I played, that Ang described as an emerging character, and I thought it worked on multiple levels, relative to the film. Interestingly that was the first role I got, not having had to audition. Ang said that he had seen my work, he had seen Basquiat prior to that and maybe some of my stage work and said ‘There was something in your eyes that I saw, that was right for the character.’ That as well gave me a lot of confidence in the way that he worked, and  the way he understood what acting was.”

“Black folks in the south, in the years before the civil War did not have a voice. Holt, is reflective of the nature of Black folks relation to society at that time. And ultimately as he emerges out of that silence, what he does say is all the more heightened, and all the more powerful.”

“I think it has gained a core audience since then — an expanding audience, it’s a film that’s going to survive. RIDE WITH THE DEVIL is the last film about the Civil War of the 20th century, and I think the arc from BIRTH OF A NATION, at the beginning of the 20th century to RIDE WITH THE DEVIL is an evolution of our ways of portraying this critical and defining point in our history, through cinema.”

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MATEWAN By John Sayles – A masterpiece made in 1987 that is absolutely relevant in 2020

 

‘You think this man is the enemy? Huh? This is a worker! Any union keeps this man out ain’t a union, it’s a goddam club! They got you fightin’ white against colored, native against foreign, hollow against hollow, when you know there ain’t but two sides in this world – them that work and them that don’t. You work, they don’t. That’s all you got to know about the enemy.’

-MATEWAN [2 syllables, pronounced MATE(as in your spouse)- WAN (as in WAND)]

 

Matewan

Click on the above image to purchase.

 

People use words like masterpiece and great, and sometimes the true weight of what you may be getting across may be lost.

Let me therefore explain MATEWAN to you thusly, I just finished watching the film yesterday. And I’m watching and listening to the, newly cut 2019 Criterion interviews today. (quick aside, i really appreciate that criterion went to the expense of doing new interviews and features for this film, which is something i am critical of them not doing, in other films. These 2019 featurettes are really— stunning, and on top of the greatness of the film, make the blu-ray a must own purchase.)

 

This morning I watched the news of Resident Trump dressing up essentially unidentified strike breakers and thugs, and letting them loose in Portland Oregon, and calling it the law.

 

“If you have vacation benefits, if you have unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation— these things weren’t given to you; they were fought for by people throughout this country. And i’m passionate about the fact that people have actually made an effort to fight for other people’s rights.”

—Karen VuRanch, THEM THAT WORK (2004) Documentary/featurette on the Matewan Massacre

 

Watching MATEWAN, a stunningly beautiful film, referencing a caustic bit of American history,  from exactly 100 years ago, gives me, and I think it will give you, one of the greatest gifts art can can give— perspective. Perspective on the mistakes we have made, and the tyranny we have allowed.

And perspective helps us deal with the present, without ignorance, and if not without fear, without hopelessness. Because we can see others have seen these days of Gethsemane, and endured it, triumphed over it.

You can go many days of your life without gaining that type of perspective, that barest hint of —- grace. Looking at the world, many people go their whole life without finding the type of perspective, that glimpse of grace— that MATEWAN hints at.

For $30 to $40, Criterion’s MATEWAN blu-ray is one of the best purchases you can make. And ultimately, what it has left me with, like the best of true art, is priceless.

 

 

 

” The way she poured herself into her song— it can make a doubting man religious.”

—James Earl Jones on Hazel Dickens’ song in the film

Currently Watching : Eureka MASTERS OF CINEMA Blu-Ray OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) by James Whale

Guys if you buy only a few Blu-rays in 2020, Eureka’s slip-covered release of OLD DARK HOUSE should be one of them. The new art that adorns the slip cover is frame worthy, and the release itself is well mastered and over flowing with features. Sporting three interesting featurettes  as well as three film commentaries, and a booklet; the release is a worthy addition to any film fan’s collection.

Now it’s not all laudable, as I find the earliest commentary, between Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, for an earlier DVD release, to be while informative, oddly dismissive of certain things. Most notable Karloff’s performance, which I, and obviously by his billing, the studio recognized was the crux of the film. It is the menace of Karloff’s character of Morgan, that drives much of the film. Karloff is either wordlessly commanding the camera, or if off screen — is the concern the other characters are discussing.

So for the Newman and Jones commentary to dismiss Karloff’s performance, just strikes me as they have missed some crucial points regarding the film.

The second commentary is a welcome one by star Gloria Stewart (most famous these days by being in James Cameron’s TITANIC). She offers welcome insights, but just be aware that this is less an overview on the film, and much more just Gloria Stewart discussing her life as an actress, particularly as the film goes on. So if looking for a commentary that is discussing the film, this is not that. But it is great to hear her recount her insights and anecdotes. So not a great commentary per se, but it is a great and welcome interview, talk, from one of the few remaining people who was there, and knew these people. In that way it is an invaluable recording.

I have not yet listened to the third commentary, but plan to do so soon. So for all the reasons above, for the wealth of content included, I count it as a must own for any fan of classic cinema.

Get your copy here!

Currently Watching : CONFUSION NA WA (2013) by Kenneth Gyang on KANOPY

Confusion Na Wa (2013)

I love discovering an exciting new voice, an exciting new filmmaker;  and Kenneth Gyang’s CONFUSION NA WA is that calling card  of  a wonderful new cinematic voice. CONFUSION NA WA is such a biting, smart script, extolling the frenetic, whiplash swings of nations caught between the crushing extremes of a past of colonial theft and a present of  globalization enacted disenfranchisement. You will need subtitles for this, as the patwa some characters speak, can be heavy to decipher in places. But the meaning is surprisingly always crystal clear.

It swings between bitingly funny and horrific and tragic and disturbing, sometimes within the same minute. It is an adroit balancing act of a film, and a nation, always on the brink of glory and chaos. It is a weird movie in that the characters are at turns likable and vile. In other words to differing degrees, they are like us the viewer, heroes to some people we know, and villains to others. And one of the highlights is a conversation on the LION KING that will have you amazed by its wit, and amazed by perhaps something else, a hint of something insightful and perhaps profound beneath the humor.

The film ultimately is about all these disparate lives intersecting, in the wake of a lost/stolen phone, in surprising, entertaining, and horrific ways. If this film does not grab you in the first 15 minutes it is not for you. However, if like me, you will find that it just keeps getting more and more compelling

“I’m trying to stop a moral decline occurring in my own country!”

I have to tell you, I surprisingly really enjoyed this film. The more i think about this film the more I like it. I’ve seen French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism films that could learn a thing or two from this movie. As debut films go, this is one to remember. You can currently view this film on your Roku or Fire TV device, by loading the KANOPY channel.

I really look forward to future films by director Gyang, and hope to see this movie get a feature rich Blu-ray release by a company such as Criterion or Arrow or Kino Lorber. I think it is that good. Grade: B+.

Currently Watching : Criterion Blu-Ray THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957) by Mikhail Kalatozov

Letyat zhuravli (1957)

“I believe in poetic cinema. Poetic cinema is the cinema created in especially vivid form… by great masters like Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Dovzhenko. In my own work I strive to affect a viewer’s consciousness and soul by means of poetic cinema.”
-Kalatozov in a 1961 interview. Available on the Criterion Blu-ray

Tatyana Samoylova in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Tatyana Samoylova in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957)-Three things period Russian films do just about better than anyone else, is tragedy and beauty and grandeur, and Director Mikhail Kalatozov’s THE CRANES ARE FLYING is overflowing with all three. You get the deep focus cinematography immortalized by Orson Welles married to a balletic, spiraling, intimate ground breaking, “you are there” camera movement, that is uniquely Russian. what kalatozov himself would call— poetic cinema.Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Almost 7 decades later and without any need for CGI, and 20 years before the invention of the Stedicam – the cinematography in this film (by the equally acclaimed Sergei Urusevesky) remains— both unbelievable and sublime. It is a film that draws you in from frame one, and holds you and the characters like a lover— deeply, afraid to be parted.Aleksandr Shvorin in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

All in all, a transfixing and haunting viewing experience, greatest of which is the beauty of Tatyana Samoylova, whose beauty captured here for all time, is so great –- and her performance so affecting—- that at times looking at her – is like looking at the sun.

One of the great Russian beauties, she becomes the mythical Helen – whom all young men seek to impress with war; and ‘changed by the war’ young men; seek only to hold in peace. THE CRANES ARE FLYING is up there with I AM CUBA/SOY CUBA (another Kalatozov cinematic achievement, with this time a stunning Cuban beauty) as a milestone of Russian cinematography, and by extension a milestone of world cinematography; up there with Welles CITIZEN KANE and Lean’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS. There is no putting this movie on, and not being captivated by it.

THE CRANES ARE FLYING is another masterpiece lovingly provided by the Criterion Blu-ray label. I am on a hunt now to see the other available Kalatozov directed films, as well as Tatyana starring films. Kalatozov,while IMDB lists 20 directing credits for him, most of those appear to be documentaries or shorts or state sponsored work. It really appears he only has 6 or 7 feature films to his name, all coming toward the end of his career, especially once he found a kindred spirit in his cinematographer, Urusevesky.  So I look forward to adding THE FIRST ECHELON, LETTER NEVER SENT and RED TENT to the list of Kalatozov films to add to my collection. Grade: It is a simple enough story, but the visuals just make it, cinema undeniable— A+.Aleksey Batalov in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Click the image below to get the best price on the feature rich Blu-ray, and you also earn a few very appreciated pennies for this blog! A win-win!

Letyat zhuravli (1957)