Any film can be a DVD but it has come to be accepted as common knowledge that a Criterion Collection DVD is important. And don't we all know by now that the discerning film aficionados manning the helm of the goodship Criterion don't scrimp when it comes to a figuring "wow factors" into their packaged feature presentations - that's why one expects only the best in classic and contemporary cinema when glimpsing said particular 'C' word, right? WRONG! Welcome to the new world of Criterion Collection realness, created for the people by the people, shining like a grand DIY roadside attraction just off the information superhighway: the Fake Criterions tumblog! Okay, so maybe I'm just getting on board with this trend, which would be still considered fairly new by all accounts if the year were 2002, but seeing as it's 2012 and this blog has only been around for a year and a half and has already amassed extensive content of admin and fan-made Criterion Collection DVD artwork (often highlighting Criterion's sophisticated approach to graphic design by treating lowbrow, low-budget films in a like manner) it seems to me that film geeks are taking the argument for the appreciation of tangible media into their own hands. I mean, what movie enthusiast wouldn't be romanced into acquiring something as ridiculously awesome as this:
Here's to Andrew Ihla who designed this nugget of Criterion Collection fool's gold! All I can say further is that scrolling through the entries can be painful at times for there is so much goodness in the Fake Criterions stacks that I believe truly should exist. Really, it hurts my feelings to see these things and know that I cannot possibly enjoy the full cinematic experience house within faux Criterion offerings like these:
I love me some Disney but, please, if you're going to hoist their banner alongside yours, give Studio Ghibli the treatment their works deserve! While I'm ecstatic that visually gorgeous though plot-muddled Tales from Earthsea gets a slick, English-dubbed (featuring Willem Dafoe, no less) U.S. release today (on DVD/Blu-ray), it comes with the sinking feeling that some of the works included in the famed Disney-Tokuma (Ghibli's parent company Tokuma Shoten Publications) deal struck in the mid-80's will never see the light of the silver screen stateside. [*sigh*]
However, Tales from Earthsea, originally released in Japan in 2007 and the directorial debut of Goro Miyazaki --- son of acclaimed Ghibli auteur Hayao Miyazaki, is a tepid mess of thrilling animation that could take the edge off the recent disappointing news that Disney will be delaying the U.S. theatrical release of Arrietty the Borrower(StudioGhibli's most recent work, currently enjoying top billing in France with DVD release expected soon in Japan, Europe and elsewhere) until February 2012 --- that is, if Disney decides to release it here at all. What an incredible understanding these two studios have!
Still this magical fantasy about the once-embattled relationship between humans and dragons and wizardfolk, whether clad in humble Gandalf garb (the good) or androgynous drag (the bad and the ugly), should leave fans of DreamWorks' How To Train Your Dragon feeling pants'd, in a good way. I've always felt that when comparing Disney and Studio Ghibli the difference is as much in the impression as it is in the message received; watching Disney reminds me of how rotten it used to feel when grown-ups talked down to me as a child, whereas watching Ghibli makes me recall those childhood instances when I was as excited as I was afraid of "growing up." Disney makes me want to stay in, but watching a great Ghibli film, and Tales from Earthsea is nowhere near the greatest, yet still pretty good, makes me want to go out afterwards and drink in the sweetness of existence. And not even the culture-washing power of Disney, what with their sometimes sub-sub-par English translations that carry over in to the dubbing and subtitles and wonky promotional trailers (see below), can bleed the beast of Studio Ghibli dry. In any case, if you're dying to get your Ghibli fix ASAP, you can bet your bottom-self "Chinatown special" that Amoeba will likely have bargain Arrietty the Borrower DVDs on sale soon after the rest of the world does, just like we did with Tales from Earthsea three years ago. In your face, Magic Kingdom!
Gary Weis' 1979 film 80 Blocks From Tiffany's, which was just released on DVD, offers a rare and intimate glimpse into a gritty bygone era in New York City's history. This was a time when street gangs (or "clubs," as their members called them) like the notorious Savage Skulls and the Savage Nomads ruled the tough South Bronx section of NYC.
The engaging documentary may only date back 32 years but, in terms of cultural differences, it seems like an eternity ago -- back when the Bronx was, as Weis told me in a recent telephone interview, "A whole different time and place. It was kind of like Dresden when I filmed there."
Indeed, the South Bronx captured in 80 Blocks is the rubble-strewn, bombed out looking, New York City that ranked as one of the poorest areas in the nation back in '79. In fact, it was such a rundown, destitute place that both Presidents Carter and Reagan traveled there for photo ops to exemplify the most striking symbol they could find of urban decay in America. It was also the time and place when the subways were covered in graffiti and when a new music and culture called hip-hop was taking root in the "Boogie Down" Bronx, with hip-hop offering an alternative to gang culture to many in those formative years of the culture.
And it is this aspect of the film that has attracted so many to 80 Blocks From Tiffany's, since the film contains rare footage that has been reused in countless other films about that same period in NYC history such as Shan Nicholson's Rubble Kings and Travis Senger's White Lines and The Fever: The Death of DJ Junebug. "80 Blocks is the best documentation of the Bronx during the late 70's right before the gang culture started to fade away," Senger told me via email. He says the film acted as both an influence and a key source of content for his own film about the early days of a Bronx hip-hop club.
Everybody knows that old cats can open doors, but did you know that only ghost cats can close them?
Well, to quote the great Levar Burton, don't take my word for it, find out for yourself! Here's to the joy of lessons learned from Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 cinematic freak-out Hausu (or House if you speak American), a film that'll give you a trick-or-treating of horror-infused psychedelia like you've never ever experienced, not even in your wildest, most delightfully random-ass frightmares. While it's difficult to know where to begin in reviewing this amazing monkeyshine, it should not go without saying that supposedly the story was dictated to the director by his 11-year-old daughter, which pretty much makes the movie itself just as crazy as, well, a story told by a demented little girl with cat fancy, Auntie issues, and campy ideas about "indecent" piano behavior. Add to that the fact that Hausu seems to be a visual exercise in testing the limits on how many times a movie can one-up itself, utilizing a lightning round of every stylistic technique known to film-making all the way, as if daring viewers to exclaim "this shit is bananas!" to which the movie quite literally delivers a shit-ton of bananas, no kidding.