Author: Nathanael Hood

Criterion Discovery: The Lure

Background: Just two years after its Polish premiere, Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s feminist fairy tale musical The Lure (Spine #896) explodes onto Blu-ray. This is Smoczyńska’s first film in the Collection as well as the seventh Polish film overall to be inducted.  Story: In a bold re-imagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, two young mermaids named Golden and Silver (Michalina Olszańska, Marta Mazurek) are discovered by a strip club rock band on the shores of Poland. They are quickly pressed into performing at their club where Golden secretly seduces, kills, and devours male patrons. However, Silver falls in love...

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Shines With Honesty

Overview: A small Midwestern town is thrown into chaos when a grieving mother puts up three billboards accusing the local authorities of incompetence in their investigation of her daughter’s rape and murder. Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 115 minutes. [Warning: Includes spoilers] The Personal Heresy:  The genius of Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri rests in a single scene about thirty minutes in. Local gift-shop cashier Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) has been dragged into the police station by Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) on a charge of assaulting a dentist with his drill during a routine check-up. Mildred...

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Mansfield 66/67 Is An Odd Bio With Glitter In Its Veins

Overview: A lurid, candy-coated look into the tumultuous life, death, and legacy of Hollywood starlet, sex symbol, and rumored Satanist Jayne Mansfield. Gunpowder & Sky; 2017; Not Yet Rated; 84 minutes. A Photo is Worth a Thousand Side-eyes: It’s one of the most famous photos in Hollywood history. At a 1957 Paramount dinner party honoring Italian film star Sophia Loren, Hollywood bombshell Jayne Mansfield sits down next to the guest of honor, gazes over at the camera, and flashes her million-watt smile, all the while oblivious to two things. First, that her right nipple had fallen out of her...

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Only The Brave and the Hope of a Detoxified Masculinity

Overview: Based on the tragic deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots during the June 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, Only the Brave follows several elite Arizona firefighters in their last year of service before dying in the line of duty. Columbia Pictures; 2017; PG-13; 133 minutes. Playing With the Boys: Joseph Kosinski’s Only the Brave drapes itself in the trappings of Hawksian male camaraderie and machismo. The members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots—a group of twenty elite Arizona firefighters who serve on the front-line of forest fires—all posture and preen like the meatheads we’ve come to expect...

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The Meyerowitz Stories is a Mostly Successful Look at Family Dysfunction

Overview: The emotionally stunted children of an old sculptor are forced to reconcile following the father’s unexpected hospitalization. Netflix; 2017; Not Yet Rated; 110 minutes. A Return to an Old Form: Over the past few years, Brooklyn auteur Noah Baumbach has established himself as one of the cinema’s preeminent chroniclers of twenty-something millennials, specifically with his enthusiastically received Greta Gerwig diptych Francis Ha (2012) and Mistress America (2015). But with his new film The Meyerowitz Stories, Baumbach returns to his roots as examiner of dysfunctional families, specifically ones orbiting semi-successful artists living in New York City. One of Baumbach’s...

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Criterion Discovery: Sid and Nancy

Background: After a long hiatus of being out of print, Alex Cox’s punk-rock cult hit Sid & Nancy (Spine #20) returns to the Criterion Collection. The film was Cox’s first to be included in the main collection, preceding Walker (Spine #423) and Repo Man (Spine #654). Story: After a fateful meeting, Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) and American junkie Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb) begin a star-crossed, mutually destructive romance. As the two plummet further and further into the grip of heroin addiction, Sid sets out with the Pistols on their disastrous American tour, becomes a solo...

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Criterion Discovery – Certain Women

Background: Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women (Spine #893) adapts three short stories from writer Maile Meloy to create an understated yet powerful examination of isolation and loneliness in the cinematically overlooked wilds of rural Montana. It is Reichardt’s first movie in the Collection. Story: In the outskirts of Montana, the wanting lives of three women are tested: frustrated lawyer Laura Wells (Laura Dern) gets called in by the police to help defuse a hostage situation when one of her disabled clients named Fuller (Jared Harris) holds up the offices of the company that cheated him of worker’s comp following an...

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Mubi Hidden Gem #2 – Hello Destroyer

Hello Destroyer Kevan Funk Drama Synopsis: After almost killing a rival hockey team’s player during a match, Tyson Burr struggles to rebuild his life.  Overall: It would be a gross oversimplification to say that Kevan Funk’s Hello Destroyer is a film about violence, much as it would be a gross oversimplification to say that it’s a film about hockey. Yes, the film follows Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahamson), a professional hockey enforcer who gets dropped from his team after hitting an opposing player so hard he shattered one of his vertebrae and hemorrhaged his brain. Hello Destroyer is a film...

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Mubi Hidden Gem: Three Lives and Only One Death

Three Lives and Only One Death Raúl Ruiz Fantasy   Synopsis: Four or five Marcello Mastroianni’s have four or five unusual days. Overall: Is it possible to appreciate a puzzle more for its individual pieces than for the picture it makes when you put it all back together? I’m sure there’s an overarching plot in Raúl Ruiz’s Three Lives and Only One Death. At least, you could probably decipher one if you meticulously combed through its two hour runtime of self-reflective whimsy. Unlike many films that revel in their own opacity, there’s an underlying rhythm and purpose at work...

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Abundant Acreage Available Demands Empathy and Rewatches

Overview: Following the death of their father, a middle-aged brother and sister must deal with three unexpected squatters who take up residence in their family tobacco field. Gravitas Ventures; 2017; Not Yet Rated; 80 minutes. Tell, Don’t Show: It’s hard to believe Angus MacLachlan’s Abundant Acreage Available didn’t begin life as a stage play. Constrained to a single house, a single tobacco field, and the inside of a single tent, the film almost totally neglects the desolate wilderness of its rural North Carolina setting. There are no sweeping vistas, no flashy or fancy frame compositions, no hint of any...

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Criterion Discovery: La Poison

Background: Sacha Guitry’s acerbic, openly misogynistic black comedy La Poison (Spine #891) examines the perversion of judicial justice in the face of a sensationalized public. It is Guitry’s first film in the main collection, but his fifth film overall following the release of Criterion’s Eclipse Series 22: Presenting Sacha Guitry. Story: After stewing for thirty years in a miserable marriage to a drunken crone, provincial gardener Paul Louis Victor Braconnier (Michel Simon) plots the murder of his wife Blandine (Germaine Reuver). He visits the office of Maître Aubanel (Jean Debucourt), a notorious lawyer famous for his love of defending...

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Criterion Discovery: Meantime

Background: Mike Leigh’s Meantime (Spine #890) is a crucial piece of 1980s British cinema examining economic stagnation in Thatcherite England. It is the fourth of Leigh’s films to be inducted into the Collection, after Naked (Spine #307), Topsy-Turvy (Spine #558), and Life is Sweet (Spine #659). Story: A working class family wastes away in perpetual unemployment in a shoddy apartment tower in London’s East End during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. Only the mother Mavis (Pam Ferris) has employment. Her angry, good-for-nothing husband Frank (Jeff Robert) and two sons, the bitter, troublemaking Mark (Phil Daniels) and painfully introverted Colin (Tim Roth)...

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Savage Dog Scratches An Action Itch

Overview: After being betrayed, an ex-IRA soldier in 1950s Indochina swears revenge on the men who destroyed his life. XLrator Media; 2017; Not Yet Rated; 95 minutes. 80s Cheese Done Right: Of all the action schlock to come from our old friends XLrator Media, Jesse V. Johnson’s Savage Dog is, if not the best, then certainly the most viscerally satisfying. I could easily see this film being made in the 80s by Cannon Films starring either a haggard Chuck Norris or a kickboxing Jean-Claude Van Damme. It’s the kind of preposterous action cheese where sweaty, shirtless men give poignant...

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Person to Person is Nothing But Ordinary

Overview: A group of New Yorkers deal with life and love over the course of a nondescript day. Magnolia Pictures; 2017; Not Yet Rated; 84 minutes. Stately, Plump: It’s not an inherently bad idea to center a work of art on the quotidian struggles of ordinary people as they live their lives through a single day. James Joyce based his novel Ulysses—one of the supreme literary achievements of the modern era—on two humdrum Dubliners navigating an equally humdrum day. Dustin Guy Defa attempted something similar with his sophomore feature Person to Person, a film following a handful of tangentially...

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Watching Dunkirk With Autism

It was about 30 minutes into Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk when the German torpedo smashed into the side of the evacuation ship and dozens of young men gasped and struggled and screamed and drowned in pitch blackness that I realized two things. First, as a film-lover, I was having one of the greatest experiences of my life. Dunkirk was a work of near-transcendent excellence—a distillation of operatic bombast and visual splendor seldom seen since the heyday of Sergio Leone, David Lean, and Akira Kurosawa. But secondly, as an autistic man, I was having one of the worst. My chest tightened...

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