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December 03, 2011


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Well, I'm glad to see another installment of this, and I hope there's another before the holiday. (But I'll prepare myself for it not to happen.)

I mentioned this to you on Twitter, but regarding Dumbo and other older Disney films the company's not interested in releasing on Blu-ray, or unwilling to: I rewatched Dumbo when it came out on Blu-ray this past fall and hadn't fully appreciated, as a kid, how discomforting the "When I See An Elephant Fly" song or the quickie roustabout number are. Considering the racial overtones in those scenes, Disney's unwillingness to release Song of the South even on DVD seems strange to me. Dumbo, though, does look incredible on Blu-ray, as expected.

Citizen Kane also looks incredible in its transfer, as you point out. (And maybe it's me, but shouldn't he be shouting about Sing Sing? Gotta go full throttle.)

Also, do you think the Jurassic Park trilogy is worth it for someone who only enjoys the first film in the series? I've heard the overall special features and transfer are worth it, but I'm curious to know what you think.

Peter Lenihan

I saw Meek's Cutoff first at NYFF at the Lincoln Center and then months afterwards at the Film Forum and there was simply no comparison in terms of image quality. It blew me away at the NYFF--certainly the best I had seen up to that time in 2010 (for me, only Angelica compares)--but at the Film Forum it was like watching a different movie; I don't know if it was projected digitally or badly or what (I'm no expert) but frankly it looked like shit and I was completely unmoved by it, which shocked me considering how profoundly it had affected me the fall before.


THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE is tremendous. I would like to put in a good word for the Matti Bye score also included on the Criterion disc. That's the one I listened to, and although the film isn't EXACTLY a horror film, Bye's music still struck me as one of the finest horror scores I've ever heard. Especially during that nearly-unbearable, in a good way, ending.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Ah, god, FUCK Film Forum! Every time I see something there I vow that I'm never going back and then sooner or later there's something I just HAVE to see and the projection is terrible and I vow that I'm never... And fuck their pretentious snacks.

Sorry to hear STRIKE didn't use the original intertitles---there's some very cute animation in the Russian that was included in the DVD edition. On the other hand, the DVD also does this incredibly annoying thing of shrinking the frame every time there's intertitles and then snapping back at the end, which kills one of the movie's best visual jokes (the mug shot scene), so it's a fair trade. I 'm surprised and delighted STRIKE's come to Blu-Ray so (relatively) quickly, though, as it's by far my favorite Eisenstein. Its so constantly free and inventive in a way the more consistent and classroom-friendly POTEMKIN and OCTOBER aren't. Plus I'm really excited to see the plotters-reflected-in-a-puddle shot in gleaming high-def.


@Peter, I saw it at the NYFF too, in one of the rush seats (i.e. two rows from the screen), and it did indeed look amazing, especially the first 20 minutes or so. Very disappointing to hear that it was projected so poorly in so many places because I thought it was one of the best-looking films I've seen in the past two years.


Just out of curiousity, did anyone see "The Phantom Carriage" with Jonathan Richman's live score?


"cinema is where you can find it. And Breaking Bad ain’t cinema."

Well if you say so. But that doesn't explain why the episode "Crawl Space" was easily one of the most thrilling new things on any screen, large or small, this year.

But, uh... Another time.

"The Phantom Carriage" really is an incredible release, and an incredible film - and it is sad that it doesn't have the name value of a "Faust" or "Nosferatu," or that Sjostrom isn't as beloved as Murnau (which isn't a knock against Murnau, but rather a testament to the greatness of Sjostrom.) Hopefully this release helps to rectify that a bit - and hopefully Criterion's allegedly forthcoming release of "Lonesome" will help that film get the reputation it deserves as one of the greatest of all films, of any era.

Paul Duane

Breaking Bad isn't cinema, but it's great, great television. And that's a terrific thing to have. As is this Guide, thanks for another wallet-sapping installment, Glenn.

Jason M.

Not to take this further off track with arguments for another time, but how is television (or maybe we're just talking Breaking Bad) not cinema? I'm not going to argue that Breaking Bad is great cinema, but I'd certainly consider it as part of the cinema family nonetheless.

Anyway, discussion of the convergence of television, cinema, and whatever the internet ends up doing to replace both of them is a really fascinating one, and one worth having. But as you say, Glenn, another time. Thanks much for the great write up on these discs, many of which will likely find their way into my viewing schedule in the near future.

Glenn Kenny

I actually don't have anything against "Breaking Bad." I was just once again venting my resentment against that whole Slate-and-beyond crowd that likes to slag Tarkovsky and Godard and then act like their rabid television dribbling makes them intellectuals. "Bad" seems to be the television art object of choice among these bozos. I sometimes need to remind myself that just because something is well-liked by assholes it doesn't invalidate the thing itself (something poor Kurt Cobain could never quite grok).

Johnny K

There's no link to Zhivago in the Citizen Kane writeup.

GK Update: Now there is. Crap. KNEW I'd forgotten something. Thanks for the heads-up.

The Siren

Wonderful. I love these guides, especially the way they do sort of sidle into evaluation, as with The Collector--and how great, and bleak, and gorgeous, is THAT movie? Better than the novel, and I liked the novel a lot. And I'd probably cite Cape Fear as my least favorite Scorsese too, for the record.

Owain Wilson

I actually really like Dean Cundey's photography on Jurassic Park. It's that simple, clean, colourful look that really makes it pop - and fits nicely with the whole theme park ... er, theme. He also shot my favourite film, Back To The Future. What I love about Cundey's style is that there's no pissing about. Straightforward but handsome.

I'm pleased at your description of Jurassic Park III, Glenn, because I feel the same way. It has a really nice pulpy feel to it and moves along like a bullet, kind of like a well thumbed and yellowed adventure paperback that 12 year old boys used to read. Today's franchise movies don't hold a candle to the Jurassic Park flicks.

Another great guide, Glenn. Hooray!

Owain Wilson

Oh, and Cape Fear was the very first 18 certificate film I saw at the cinema here in the UK. I was 16 at the time, so the thrill of actually getting in to see it has helped it become one of my favourite Scorsese films, despite its flaws.

Ah, memories.

Johan Andreasson

@bill: Happy to see praise for the Matti Bye’s score of “The Phantom Carriage” (which indeed is one of the greatest movies of all time). One of the pleasures of watching silents in Stockholm is that they often come with Bye on piano (or sometimes with a small orchestra). He’s especially good with horror and 20s German movies – just the other week he did a splendid job with Murnau’s “Faust”.

Also count me in among the bozos with “Breaking Bad” as an art object of choice.

Glenn Kenny

The crucial difference, Johan, is that the "Breaking Bad" fans I'm talking about think "The Phantom Carriage" is a bore and that its fans are oppressive art-film-dribbling dweebs, and they would like nothing better than to toss the negative of that film onto their cultural-vegetable bonfire. Is my point.


I think had a similar response as your Lovely Wife to 3 WOMEN, and in fact that's been my response to a lot of Altman when I've first seen it-- NASHVILLE, THIEVES LIKE US, MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER, SHORT CUTS...When Altman is on, there's something about his work that can be deeply unsettling, in ways I can't articulate but are very palpable and present, and the movie can evoke an almost physical desire for me to want to back away from it. But then it's under my skin, and it haunts me for days, and I always return to it, and suddenly those are among my favorite movies.

All of which is to say, I guess, that I really like 3 WOMEN, in part because of that very strong initial response it evoked. And man, I really miss Robert Altman.


I thought your initial dig at "Breaking Bad" fans was directed at me, since I called it cinematic in the comments section here. As much as I like the show (and a number of other current TV shows), I've never used it as a cudgel against Tarkovsky, Godard or any other art cinema. I'm glad you've clarified what you meant.

Hollis Lime

".When Altman is on, there's something about his work that can be deeply unsettling, in ways I can't articulate but are very palpable and present"

That's because he's telling the truth.

Scott Nye

Glad to see some good word in here for Winnie the Pooh, a film which will no doubt land amongst The Tree of Life, The Turin Horse, and Certified Copy in my best-of-the-year list. It's at least as delightful as the Kiarostami, and only a little less intellectually prodding once you start to dive into its approach to language and literature.

Put me down as another fan of the Matti Bye score. Absolutely terrifying. Burrows deeply into the soul for a few days there, and the film along with it.

Somehow, even though I thought my desire for it had reached its absolute peak, you've left me wanting that Meet Me in St. Louis disc even more. I was astonished by how much I thoroughly loved that film, and...man, the Blu-ray sounds like a treat.

And as with extremists of all stripes, I do my best to actively distance myself from Breaking Bad's most fervent admirers, much as I do love the show. It is quite the ripping yarn.


The Going Places Blu-Ray is the best recent archival release I've seen. Hope you get around to it, Glenn...

(They released the standard 117 minute version I've seen before. IMDB mentions a 150 minute version from a French 1999 re-release, and it's too bad that's not what they released. I think I could be quite happy with an extra 30 minutes of that movie.)


Rules For Understanding Breaking Bad:

1) The long-running big-budget cable TV series for a sophisticated audience that originated with The Sopranos in conjunction with the rollout of HDTV is something new and highly interesting in the history of motion pictures.

2) This new format is not cinema. Neither is it traditional TV. Again, it is something new and highly interesting.

3) Breaking Bad, while being quite compelling and watchable, (that's a genuine compliment), is not even close to being the best work this new format has produced.

4) HBO Original Programming is the most important motion picture studio on the planet at the moment. This has been true for several years now.


In re BEN HUR - I'm not embarassed to profess my affection for it. Seeing it projected for the 1st time in ages as part of the Nu-Arts widescreen program a while back, I was struck by how it was really more about being a Jew than about becoming a Christian and I was totally gob-smacked by the thought that the chariot race was executed virtually millenia before the advent of Louma cranes, Shotmaker trucks and the like. That bad boy really holds up...


Since several people have mentioned "Breaking Bad" in these comments (as opposed to BREAKING BAD, which would be how I type it if it was cinema), I'll jump in: I call shows like these "long-arc dramas" (I think I read that somewhere).
While HBO's "The Sopranos" in 1999 was probably the first big budget series of its time like this in the U.S. (OZ started in 1997, but was a bit more episodic in structure), for me, "The Shield" was probably the first significantly successful long-arc drama that made me take notice of the trend. And it had to suffer editing to commercial breaks - a device that seems ingrained in the momentum of how these types of shows work (deliberate beats and intervals not required of stories released in the longer theatrical running times).
I know they might seem less "sophisticated" on the surface, but I never undestood why "The Shield, or even "Sons of Anarchy" (a.k.a. 'Hamlet with motorcycles') get the short end of the critical stick when being compared to some of the HBO or AMC brand....

Sorry for the more than possibly, completely off-topic comment.
I will say that I am probably buying the BLUE VELVET Blu-ray even though I have bought two previous DVD versions, because I want that extra footage. And what's the deal with THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS only being available as a bundle with CITIZEN KANE?


"I'll jump in: I call shows like these "long-arc dramas" (I think I read that somewhere)."

That is indeed better terminology.

"And it had to suffer editing to commercial breaks ... (deliberate beats and intervals not required of stories released in the longer theatrical running times) ... I never undestood why "The Shield, or even "Sons of Anarchy" ... get the short end of the critical stick when being compared to some of the HBO or AMC brand."

I think you provide the answer to your question. Those commercial beats really can really screw up a long-arc drama. In fact, I think part of AMC's genius has been to create shows with commercials that minimize the annoyance of those beats.

But HBO is just in a league by itself. When the indie film ecosystem collapsed a decade ago, it seems like half the talent migrated to HBO.


I really would be interested to know if the commercial break structure of different networks really does effect the writing of a Glen Mazzara or Kurt Sutter in a way that limits them comparably to a Terence Winter or even Matthew Weiner...

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