18 August 2009

Announcement: The November Criterion Blu-Ray Release

The Criterion Collection has literally just (i. e., moments ago as well as moments during the typing of this post) posted on its website the titles of the three new films and the (fourth) anthology being added to the Collection this November, 2009 - and, wow, two of them are very recent! The Blu-Ray release, which will also be available on DVD, is the 2008 Italian film Gomorra by director Matteo Garrone; and one of the DVD releases is the 2008 French film A Christmas Tale by director Arnaud Desplechin. The earlier film is 1969's Downhill Racer, directed by Michael Ritchie, and the anthology is The Golden Age of Television, a series of 1950s' teleplays (by various directors) curated in the early 1980s by PBS.

Huzzah: I've been wanting to see A Christmas Tale! Happy anticipation, everyone.

P. S. It seems that Criterion's releases of A Christmas Tale and Gomorra are part of a larger burgeoning partnership between Criterion and IFC, the Independent Film Channel. According to a number of online news' chroniclers (e. g., here and here), this partnership, which was recently finalized, essentially grants Criterion the rights to distribute select films from the IFC family on DVD and Blu-Ray in the United States - though it is unclear which of the two will do the actual selecting. In whichever case, in addition to the select titles already announced, the partnership will also extend to include the as yet unannounced Criterion releases of other recent IFC films like Che (2008) and Hunger (2008), whose leading actor Michael Fassbinder received a nomination for Best of the year by this blogger for his work therein. Furthermore, the partnership will not only reach out into the future of IFC's filmic acquisitions, but will also reach back, into the past, to repolish for distribution some of the film house's previous titles, like the wonderful Y Tu Mamá También (2001), which apparently may be expected within the next year. As one of course trusts for the best from Criterion, this news is greeted here, at A Year in Film, with thorough excitement for what other offerings this new partnership may hold as we elope from this year in film into the next and beyond.

17 August 2009

Announcement: Kate Winslet and Todd Haynes!

From Variety: Kate Winslet has just (officially?) signed herself onto the new Mildred Pierce adaptation that (may I say, avant-garde) director Todd Haynes is developing for (HBO?) this fall. Swoon!

Though Variety goes so far as to speculate as to the reasons why a newly minted actress would take as her next project a made-for-TV movie, I felt no such reservations or prejudices, for it can hardly be said that the medium makes the project - the medium rather than the writer/director, who is in this case amazing.

14 August 2009

Review: District 9

Genre: Science-Fiction / Action-Adventure

In the spirit of reinvigorating the original content on this blog, I am now catching up on my unposted reviews (e. g., Public Enemies, Brüno, 500 Days of Summer) by posting this unexpected review of this unexpectedly seen and - dare I say - well received new film, by director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp. It, District 9 - a title that bears the name of the fictional site of its film's action, located in the former seat of apartheid: Johannesburg, South Africa - is indeed an action-based film, even as it traverses bounds well beyond that of the typical action-adventure and flows its way, like a somewhat spectacularly well connected river, channelling through the various social issues that underscore phenomena like racism, stigma, the unknown, the outsider/other, education, consent, ambition, loyalty, and humanity (i. e., what it means to be "human"). With such a spectacular array of topics, one would expect it to be relatively discombobulated, shooting out at ideas perhaps as an overzealous octopus; but, perhaps in order to appease more than the hoards of contemporary fanboys who may flock, as the designated demographic, to the film for its 'aliens v. humans [with cool weapons]' appeal, the film makes use of its sullen, pale tones; rapid cuts and pacing; and fantastical storyline competently enough to bring them all together, to undiffuse the array and concentrate it into a directed and singular ray: a philosopher's stream of consciousness perhaps, that rests on interrelated topics for sometimes the breadth of an instant, in perpetual attempt to find the elemental and binding truth of it all - such an attempt itself, the crucial aspect of any and all science-fiction.

Of course, the more basic tropes of science fiction are there, buried inextricably in the premise and the ultimate resolution of the storyline: the sudden presence of a demonstratively "other [being];" the ensuing internal identity-struggle, actively externalized as a physical struggle; and the manifest resolution that you and he, the self and the other, are none but one in the same. And, of course, these tropes are aptly enough conveyed - nothing unusual. Yet, then quite without warning, they flower, as though dried Asian tea-flowers quietly immersed in water, into the expansive array of questioning and ideas that I've mentioned before.

In the background of post-apartheid South Africa, segregation reemerges as an easy parallel. Human rights issues clutter the fore for a good while, with consent and equality in freedom (despite rank, race, or respect of education) churning the clutterous stew for a while. Then drop in stigma and varied ambition, the psychology of organizations, and the classic 'rules and regulations v. common sense;' and finally ices the piece the essence of humanity, or the overriding morality of being. Though the film is rare to rest upon any one of these ideas consistently or longly enough for it to be declared a serious argument of perspective or personal politics on behalf of the writers and the director, it still weaves a powerful tapestry of questions that its interconnected scenes supply the resources by which those scenes' spectators may answer.

While I'm not very accustomed to waxing on in this way about such a mixture of genres and ideas as there may be found in this film, I am thrilled that I can give myself lieve to do so here. Though I fear for the future of this perhaps newly minted series of films - fear that the sequels that are, no doubt, tipping the tongues of the writer-director and his producers may lose the inquisitive but entirely competent sparkle that has made this (initial?) film special - I nevertheless celebrate District 9 for all its successful challenges and allusions.

Grade: B+, a river run well tread and ventured.

07 August 2009

Trailer: New York, I Love You

A sequel of sorts to the fun and popular Paris, Je T'Aime (2006), New York, I Love You is similarly an anthology of short films about love found, lost, and otherwise held in a major city - here specifically in the five boroughs of New York City -- translation: delightfully easy summer fare. Watch the trailer here. Cheers!

05 August 2009

Box Art: Monsoon Wedding (2001)

The Criterion Collection has announced the official box art (right) for its upcoming Blu-Ray and DVD releases of Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding (2001), due in October alongside Howards End (1992) and Wings of Desire (1987).