Will Schube’s scared of what they represent.
There’s no better place to discover films or re-visit art house classics than through the Criterion Collection. The New York based purveyors of fine films focus on restoring lost classics and introducing movie lovers to undiscovered gems. Each film is loaded with bonus features and extras, but each comes at a fairly hefty price—about twenty five bucks for DVDs, thirty five for Blu Rays. This is a pretty big price to pay during a time in which Apple is no longer making computers with disk drives and anyone under twelve hasn’t heard of a DVD player. But if you’re a fan of film, Criterion is leaps and bounds above the competition. Here are five newly released titles worth checking out.
A Poem is a Naked Person (1974)
Les Blanks’ 1974 documentary focuses on Leon Russell and his gang of merry musicians. The film’s energy matches Russell’s, and the result is a slow burner through Grand Lake in Oklahoma. The documentary is surely in the pantheon of great music films, and Blank’s styleless style gives the movie a fly on the wall aesthetic. A Poem is a Naked Person is a joyous reminder of how great Leon Russell is. And how great Les Blank is, too.
Easy Rider (1969)
Not much to say about this one. It’s a countercultural classic that probably shouldn’t be as popular as it is but is a helluva fun 90 minutes. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda are good—and Hopper’s a fine director, too—but Jack Nicholson absolutely steals the show. And what a goddamn national treasure Jackie N. is. This was the start of Nicholson’s renaissance, and by 1980 he had already starred in Five Easy Pieces, Carnal Knowledge, The King of Marvin Gardens, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Shining. The guy practically defined American Cinema in the ‘70s. Easy Rider helped lay the foundation for this run.
In a Lonely Place (1950)
No one’s better than Bogie. Humphrey Bogart defined acting to an entire generation and In a Lonely Place is one of his best performances. Combined with Nicholas Ray’s control and form as a director, Bogie carries the film to extraordinary heights as a hard drinking, rough talking writer we all wish we could be. The film is a Noir classic, and one of the rare genre films that exists outside of its designated boundary.
The Player (1992)
It’s impossible to find a review of The Player that doesn’t call the Altman classic a ‘scathing satire.’ The term feels limiting because The Player is so much more than a teardown of the Hollywood studio system. It almost feels sympathetic towards Hollywood, even though Altman’s disdain for the studio filmmaking process was widely known at the time of The Player’s release. But the Tim Robbins led film is funny, sardonic, cynical, and thrilling. It’s a smaller scope than we’re used to seeing from Altman, but he uses this refined focus to hone in on the fascinating Hollywood landscape.
Wim Wenders’ Road Trilogy (1974-1976)
I’ve yet to see any of these three films, but if they bare any of the filmmaking skeleton that reveals itself in Wenders’ later work—Paris, Texas, The American Friend, Wings of Desire, etc.—the films are surely worth seeking out.