Friday, September 27, 2013

A Fistful of Criterion Wannabes! (Matt’s Picks)

    This week, we here at In the Mouth of Dorkness are putting together wish lists.  These are the movies we want the special edition maestros of the Criterion Collection to get their film-loving little hands on; a few movies that might not be on their radar.  A year ago, Seconds would have appeared on this list, but it just got the Criterion treatment, so its spot opens to something else.  And Things to Come?  Amazing.  With the Zatoichi films coming, I would love to see the entire classic run of Godzilla get a serious box-set.  In the meantime, here are some films that beg (I can hear 'em) for Criterion DVDs.

5.  The Fountain:  This is one of my favorite films, and the DVD has almost no special features.  The Blu is only slightly better.  What’s the story with the aborted version?  What about the graphic novel?  How about those special effects?  I want more than a few featurettes.  I want some serious stuff.  Commentary, documentary, motion comics even.  No less than 2 disks.  Bring it on.

4.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari:  This silent film is such a mindblowingly strange film it pretty much created the career (remember his early years were good) of Tim Burton.  It’s freaky, surreal, fanciful, and filled with enough visual flare for a dozen movies.  I would love to see a collection of directors talking about the film’s influence on their work.  A documentary about the film, or the filmmakers would be welcome as well.  And how complete is it?  How cleaned up can it be?  How about a biography on actor Conrad Veidt?  What little I know about that guy seems flippin’ fascinating.

3.  The Warriors:  This is a true Urban Fantasy film.  After the assassination of the new Gang Messiah, one gang must make an Odyssey-like quest across the hostile world of the City.  Facing various other gangs, the siren song of women, inner demons, and dangers untold, Swan and his people learn what’s really important.  The Warriors is a movie like no other, a strange journey into idealized gangs.  Along with Walter Hill’s other masterpiece Streets of Fire (which should also get the Criterion treatment), it helps to establish a certain mysterious and wonderful early 80s cinematic language.

2.  Lost Highway:  No love for Lynch from Criterion?  Lost Highway is the ultimate expression of what I love about David Lynch’s films.  The characters, the look, the odd dialog, the perplexing plot progression.  It’s all so wrong it’s right.  It may not be the most pure Lynch film (probably Inland Empire), but it’s perfect to me.  And, as usual, the DVD release was bare bones.  How about a nice two disk set, with Pretty as a Picture, the excellent documentary, conversations with the director and actors, and maybe even excerpts from the book Lynch on Lynch.  Short films, commercials, music.  Barry Gifford doing readings from Night People.  There’s so much that could accompany the movie, and give it more context.

1.  Speed Racer:  Opinions are, by their nature, subjective.  But your negative opinion of this film is wrong.  An amazing Kung Fu film of the highest order, blasted into your third eye with a Technicolor lightening bolt.  It’s not about racing, it’s about excellence.  It’s about the ultimate enlightenment.  It is about Kung Fu.  Like the great masters of the Martial Arts films, when Speed finally transcends, achieving Nirvana, he shapes the world not according to physics, but according to will.  He acts as one with the universe.  Add to that, and the candy-colored futropolis, a great story about family and love, and you've got something special.  Yet, the film did not connect with John Q. Lunchbox.  And I would argue that the reason may be more simple than many would think.  Speed Racer is an Art Film.  It has the trappings of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, but at its Zen center, it is a spiritual journey through perception and self-knowledge.  It may not be in black & white.  They may not speak French.  And it may not end in ‘fin.’  But Speed Racer is an art film.

    Sure, I could’a picked some Hong Kong melodramas about Gong Li looking sad (I do love those), or something depressing from France.  But not all art has to be about depression.  And some movies can leave you feeling pretty good…and that’s OK.  No.  It’s better than OK.  It’s pretty great.


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