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Archive for the ‘Tales From the Big Screen’ Category

By Bob Clark

In this past month, the Blu Ray of Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo saw its release in Japan, continuing the burgeoning Rebuild cycle of Hideaki Anno’s magnum opus in a manner that has already won droves of accolades and hypertensive horror, based on little more than happening to exist. That’s par for the course with all things Eva, naturally, but it’s something even more underlined for fans of the series who live outside of Japan, as there’s always something of a prolonged waiting period for any given release to reach our shores, in an official capacity or otherwise. It seemed to take forever for even the shoddiest of pirate camrip footage to leak its way out onto the net, and even longer for that material to be paired with semi-coherent subtitles forged by fans attempting to translate the poor audio found on the tapes smuggled in from moviegoers willing to risk the sanctity of their cell-phones for the cause of international fandom. I’ve never been a fan of pirating material myself, even though it’s become almost a necessary evil in the anime world, as most of the best modern releases barely see the light of day over here, and are now only beginning to be given even online streaming distributions worth a damn on sites like Crunchyroll.

Still, given the poor quality of the camrips I never really considered looking at them to begin with, but now with the advent of the movie’s Blu Ray release, the situation is a little more difficult. Not only does this HD release mean an exponentially higher quality of torrents will soon be flooding the web, if not already, but it means there’s now a completely legit official way to watch the film by purchasing the disc itself, given that Japan and the United States share a Blu Ray region. Granted, you’d probably want to wait until the inevitable release of a disc from Hong Kong, both for the fact that it would include English subtitles and be a great deal cheaper (I did the same thing myself when purchasing a copy of Miyazaki’s classic Castle in the Sky when I got too fed up with the poorly scripted “dubtitles” on the current Disney discs), but even without a translation it’s terribly tempting to be able to watch the movie at long last. After all, it’s not like comprehending the dialogue is necessary to enjoying the Eva experience, or even understanding the largescale plot convulsions or intimate character hysterics– all the emotions are right up there on the screen already, etched into the faces and myriad battles. I’m feeling that temptation, but trying to keep from giving in. Because no matter how convenient it would be to purchase and watch Eva 3.0 in the comfort of my own home, that’s not where it was meant to be seen, and no matter how long it takes, I’m determined to witness it for the first time on the big screen.

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By Bob Clark

It’s depressing at times to think of how many films by my favorite directors I’ve been exposed to primarily on television. There are obvious cases like films by Lucas & Spielberg, or any other mainstream releases that came out well before I was born, but those are easy to shrug off. Likewise there are films like Blade Runner or Pulp Fiction which may have seen prominent theatrical releases or rereleases during my lifetime, but early enough in my childhood that being introduced to them on the big screen would’ve been out of the question. Even some of the more niche works I’m fond of like Heaven’s Gate or any given anime feature I’m able to accept seeing for the first time on television, due to the fact that there just weren’t any other options at the time to check them out– yes, Cimino’s magnum opus may be enjoying a big-screen revival nowadays, and it’s become more and more common for classic films of the Ghibli canon to find art-house exhibitions, but one can’t always be patient enough to wait for a classic, sometimes forgotten masterpiece to play in the proverbial theaters near you. This is one of the great advantages of the home-video generation of film consumption, the option of curate one’s own cinematic vocabulary through VHS and DVD, instead of relying upon the personal whims of local theater programmers. It’s an empowering way to digest a heavier volume of content, but what one loses in the context of the reductive home television experience as opposed to the expansive theatrical one can’t be underestimated, especially with one of the great widescreen gambits of that premier experimenter of the cinema, Jean-Luc Godard.

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By Bob Clark

One of the issues facing anyone who wants to experience classic films in their best condition is the matter of availability. Usually this revolves around the question of what is or isn’t playing on a big screen at any given time, if you live in an area that has enough theaters devoted to repertoire screenings of old films. But availability also cuts into the arena of home viewing, and in the case of classic films it can be very easy to simply take any given movie’s ubiquitous presence in video, DVD and TV broadcasts for granted and miss the chance to experience them in a theatrical venue, even when it becomes an option. John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon is probably one of the best examples of this syndrome, a movie that’s no less respected and cherished after the decades of play it’s received on television long after it originally bowed from cinemas. In that time it’s accrued almost as much of a legend for itself as it details for “the black bird” throughout its running time– as the third adaptation of Dashiell Hammet’s book, and the only one that matters; as one of the touchstone examples of the film noir movement as recognized in post-war French criticism; as a cult object so feverishly defended that its fans fought off Ted Turner’s colorization efforts and keep it for time immemorial in glorious monochrome.

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By Bob Clark

Among my growing obsessions while following movies for the past several years has been observing the cinematic experience– that is, the act of actually seeing a movie in the cinema, in the theater, as opposed to merely watching it at home on a television or computer screen. Increasingly we’re seeing a whole host of generations growing used to viewing films made for the biggest of screens on the smallest of devices. The gap between a mainstream film’s theatrical lifespan and its home-video release in all manner of physical and online forms grows shorter and shorter, with some filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh even cutting out the middleman entirely and preferring to experiment with solely on-demand and streaming releases for some works. We’ve also seen the rise of television as a prestige medium for storytelling, something which is relatively new in America but established most other places. A crucial difference lies in the balance of creative power, however– whether in live-action or animation, television in Europe and Asia can very often be a director’s medium, whereas in the United States it is almost always a writer-driven affair, which can result in excellent long-form serial narrative but oftentimes lackluster visual storytelling. Add to this the by now standard habit of sending out screener discs for industry-insders to catch up with new releases at home before casting their ballots during awards season, and one may well wonder if the various recipients ought to be receiving Oscar or Emmy statuettes for their troubles.

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By Bob Clark

It’s been fine year of proclaiming the death knell of cinema and the end of its relevancy as the dominant mode of popular art and entertainment. Most of this high talk and hot air has been ballied about online, but a fair amount of it has made its way into ink through publications like the New Yorker and the Village Voice and subsequently in books from the same authors, who read doom for art-cinema in the tea-leaves of blockbuster franchises, a steady rise in the quality of the rival medium of television, and a steep decline in the readership and employment of their own traditional print critics as online reviews become the norm. But the movies and their connoisseurship have been under these same threats and competitions for decades, or even the better part of half a century by now in some form or another, and the silver screen hasn’t been tarnished beyond the pale of public sight just yet. If there has been anything that’s fallen into some kind of danger over the past year, or several years, it’s been the idea of “the movies” as a public theatrical event, something witnessed in a crowd of patrons on a screen at least as tall as a basketball net, in lieu of shorter and shorter waiting periods between a film’s initial debut and its eventual home-video release in the various formats of DVD, Blu Ray, download and on-demand streaming. Though it’s routine to mix cinema and television freely on this blog and countless other sites, I’ve made sure to only include 2 works created for the small screen on this final personal top-ten for the year, and one of them was seen in part on the big screen, anyway. So let’s get to it.

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By Bob Clark

Last week I posted my favorite retrospective screenings of 2012, showcasing the kinds of rereleases unique to the New York art-house circuit, along with the occasional wide or touring release that allows audiences of any generation to experience a film in its natural theatrical habitat long after its debut has passed. And though it’s a great experience to go back and devote significant time to gems by the likes of Godard, Miyazaki, Moretti and the like, there is one natural disadvantage it has– it eats up a lot of the rest of the movie-going time you have throughout the year. As a consequence I didn’t see nearly as many late releases as I would’ve liked to last year, and even fewer that I liked enough to actually put on a list like this. Therefore, this is something of a compromised entry, with at least one film that doesn’t belong by any measure of “late release” definition, one that’s questionable, and one that fits but is something of a recycle from the year of its initial release. But who cares? There’s a superflu terrorizing the East Coast and I’ve got to try and get a shot in before heading out to another Godard retrospective screening (screw this new junk anyway), so let’s get to it.

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By Bob Clark

At the end of every cinematic year, there’s always the question of where certain movies fit in the rank and file of top ten listings, and the like. Do you list a film based on the year it was created, the year it was screened in festivals, or the year it received a wide release in your area? This is ignoring of course whether or not it was originally made as a film or a piece of television, or what have you. If you really wanted to have a completely accurate ranking of the best films from any given year, you’d have to wait until long after that year has passed, perhaps towards the end of the decade, and thus give yourself enough time to track down all the late releases and obscure curiosities that aren’t likely to enjoy significant screenings even in the most cosmopolitan markets (that goes double if you’re an anime fan). Last year I thought I managed a pretty tidy compromise in listing my favorite late releases from around the world, mostly foreign-market titles that might’ve played in domestic festivals but didn’t reach major theaters in the New York area until time had passed. But as I put together that list, I realized that I was still ignoring a significant amount of the time I’d been spending in the various moviegoing events both in the city and suburbs. One of the great advantages of living in New York is the dense art-house repertoire output, constantly showing classics both in festivals and year-round, allowing you to see some of the best films out there the way they were meant to be seen, and not hemmed in by the claustrophobic confines of a television screen, or worse.

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