Author: Nathanael Hood

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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)...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

New York Asian Film Festival 2017: Hong Kong and Taiwan Sampler

Seeing everything at the New York Asian Film Festival is easier said than done: due to the sheer scope of the programming, it’s impossible unless one has a press pass and about 2-3 weeks of spare time. Although we couldn’t make it to every screening, we were able to attend dozens of y showings from each of the countries represented by the festival. Here we see the non-competition films from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The eclecticism of the films here, ranging from slapstick splatter-horror to understated family drama, help give a fuller picture of two of the most vibrant...

Read More

New York Asian Film Festival 2017: Japan, Southeast Asia, South Korea Sampler

Seeing everything at the New York Asian Film Festival is easier said than done: due to the sheer scope of the programming, it’s impossible unless one has a press pass and about 2-3 weeks of spare time. Although we couldn’t make it to every screening, we were able to attend dozens of  showings from each of the countries represented by the festival. Here we see the non-competition films from Japan, Southeast Asian, and South Korea. They represent only a fraction of the films presented from those three markets, but from them we get a glimpse into their sheer, eclectic...

Read More

New York Asian Film Festival 2017 – Main Competition Slate

Of the 57 films being shown at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), only seven were selected to compete for its prestigious Audience Award, presented last year to Kankuro Kudo’s deranged paranormal comedy Too Young to Die!. In keeping with this year’s goal of increasing the visibility of Southeast Asian cinema—an industry traditionally ignored by Western festivals and marketplaces—three of these films hail from the area. Two of them, Thailand’s Bad Genius and the Philippines’ Birdshot are not only the best of the slate, but also among the best of the festival. (Although sadly, Vietnam’s KFC is...

Read More

New York Asian Film Festival 2017: Mainland China Program

It’s a safe assumption that the majority of Westerners, unless they were lucky enough to live in a big city with a film festival or a small college town with an arthouse theater, have never seen a Chinese movie. Hong Kong movies—in particular the wuxia spectacles of Run Run Shaw and the gun ballets of John Woo—have left an incalculable impact on Western cinema and culture. But Hong Kong cinema and Chinese cinema are two very, very different beasts. Muzzled by state-controlled censorship for decades, the creative and popular resurgence of Mainland China’s film industry is still in its...

Read More

Abu is Underdeveloped Ambition

Overview: Canadian-Pakistani documentarian Arshad Khan recounts his difficult upbringing as a gay Muslim in a fundamentalist immigrant home. TCDM Associates; 2017; Not Yet Rated; 80 minutes. So Close Yet So Far: The most objective documentaries are always the hardest ones to review. Stripped of any kind of creative stamp or focus other than the dry regurgitation of facts, interviews, or images, it’s nearly impossible to review them without simply recounting everything that was shown or said like you were writing lecture notes. At a glance, Arshad Khan’s Abu should be the exact opposite: it’s an intimate recounting of the...

Read More