New Releases 07/30/13

Top Hits
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (action, Dwayne Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 41. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “A couple of surprises await fans of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, a follow-up to the 2009 moneymaker G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Those surprises will not be spoiled here because, this being yet another film inspired by a Hasbro toy, the movie’s other main attributes are noise and heavy weaponry.” Read more…)

The Bitter Buddha (stand-up comedy, Eddie Pepitone. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 72. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A rough-hewed and admiring portrait of the 54-year-old comedian Eddie Pepitone, The Bitter Buddha will, like its subject, struggle to appeal to a wider audience than comedy geeks and professional dyspeptics. Like a less focused and more self-punishing Lewis Black, Mr. Pepitone is a ranter, railing against the mediocrity of the modern world in a raspy whine that often rises to a bellow. [As one colleague slyly remarks, ‘I love to watch him but not listen to him.’] Offstage, however, this Brooklyn-born, Los Angeles-based Buddha [a possible allusion to his ice cream-induced belly as well as his meditation practice] seems more cuddly than crabby, playing with his beloved cats and hanging out with his girlfriend.” Read more…)

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (animated action, C. Thomas Howell [voice])

New Blu-Ray
G.I. Joe: Retaliation

New Foreign
The Bronte Sisters (France, historical drama, Isabelle Huppert)

New Documentaries
War on Whistleblowers: Free Press & the National Security State (politics, civil liberties, government secrecy. From Stuart Klawans New York Times review: “Seriousness of purpose is brought low by the banana peel of slipshod craft in War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State, the latest film from Robert Greenwald and his busy documentary workshop, Brave New Foundation. Following martial and revelatory titles like Uncovered: The War on Iraq, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism and Koch Brothers Exposed, War on Whistleblowers presents stories of government employees who discovered wrongdoing, brought the evidence to their superiors and at last, after encountering neglect or resistance, took the information to the news media, to the benefit of the public but the detriment of their families and careers.” Read more…)

Rob Harmon’s Recommendations 07/30/13

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksPIETÁ (dir. Kim Ki-duk, 2012)

If ever there were a person trapped in a Buddhist-hell of continuous earthly suffering it is Lee Kang-do (Lee Jung-jin), the central character of PIETÁ. As the hired muscle for a seedy loan shark he patrols the grimy, downtrodden machine shops of Seoul, tracking down those who have reneged on their debts and collecting his own twisted form of compensation, crippling his victims so that his boss can collect the insurance money stemming from their “accidents.” What’s worse, Kang-do almost seems to enjoy what he does and as, the film progresses, the urban landscape around him becomes as cluttered with his hobbling victims as the space around Jacob Marley is by ghosts. Day-in, day-out, Kang-do shambles through this chilling vacuum-of-an-existence, seemingly knowing no other way to live.

Into this void one day is injected an older woman named Jang Mi-sun (Jo Min-su), who mysteriously follows Kang-do around on his daily routines before approaching him and telling him that she is the mother who had abandoned him years before. Kang-do scoffs at this and proceeds to subject her to every manner of humiliation possible, trying to get her out of his way, until finally convincing himself that she must, after all, be his mother. Kang-do begins to soften and change but, unfortunately, karma is closing in on him fast and a startling revelation about Mi-sun’s character will ultimately seal his fate.

The unrelentingly stark atmosphere of Pietà is daunting and bleak, with Kang-do resembling what might have been the result if one of the abandoned children-from-hell of either Luis Buñuel’s LOS OLVIDADOS or Hector Babenco’s PIXOTE had been allowed to reach full maturity in an ancient Greek tragedy. Indeed, Kim strips bare and refuses to sentimentalize the machinations of capitalism, showing how the wealthy prey upon the lowest classes, portraying a world where every human body has a price, no matter how cheap. The first half of the film, with the naked light of Kim’s camera firmly fixed on the scorched-earth of Lee’s empty existence, can be extremely hard to watch at times. But—having said that—the film pays handsome dividends to those adventurous enough to see it through to its end. The conclusion is particularly rich, with both main characters – karmic-ally speaking, left with no place to go – moving inexorably toward painful redemption, at last allowing some light to filter into this purgatory.

Special mention should made of the performances by the two leads: Jo Min-su is heartbreaking in an incredibly difficult role while Lee Jung-jin—his face a mask of pain and suffering early on—manages to bring life even to this monstrous character.

Critic André Bazin once famously summarized the filmmaking philosophy of Erich von Stroheim thus: “Take a close look at the world, keep on doing so, and in the end it will lay bare for you all its cruelty and its ugliness.”  Kim Ki-duk’s Pietà proves that such a withering stare will ultimately reveal beauty, as well.

Though Pietà was winner of the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film festival (surprisingly, the first Korean film to do so) Kim Ki-duk has long been established as one of the poets laureate of the new Korean cinema, his films with their stark and erotic imagery, sparse dialogue and quiet, hermetically-sealed environments, and focus on allegorical situations and Buddhist transformation making him a fixture on the stage of world cinema.  Many of his uniquely searing, uncompromising parables, from THE ISLE (2000) and SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER… AND SPRING (2003) to 3-IRON (2004) and THE BOW (2005), are available in our Korean section.

Interestingly, two other films made by prominent Korean directors in recent years have similarly dealt with the theme of motherhood (or grandmother-hood, as it happens) in an unflinching and thought-provoking way: Bong Joon-ho’s aptly titled MOTHER (2009) and Lee Chang-dong’s POETRY (2010).

Music: M.T. Bearington to play Wed., July 31, at 8 PM

MT_Bearington_portraitM.T. Bearington will play the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, July 31. The cover is $5 and the music starts at 8 PM.

Matt Thomas knows how to write a song—as evidenced in over a decade of music-making with the Weigh Down, Leaves of Lothlorien, and Short Pants Romance.

Sometime around 2006, he found himself in between projects, wondering what to do next. The answer came as soon as he got his hands on a Mac and discovered Garage Band.

He toiled and tinkered. He wrote and recorded one song. One song led to many. He shared a few with people. The people really liked them—particularly Jason Hamel of Mates of State, who encouraged Matt to put a band together to share a bill with the Mates and Carlos Wells, who released the collection of bedroom recordings as “A Cloak of Nouns and Loss” on Safety Meeting Records in 2008.

Three drummers, four bassists, three guitarists, and one trumpeter/keyboardist later—the Bearington Band remains busy as ever.

The current lineup features Thomas, Bill Readey (guitar, vocals), Jason Bates (drums) and Chris Klouman (bass).

Over the past two years, the band has shared the stage with Deerhoof, the Drums, and Tim Easton at New London’s 2009 I AM Festival, rocked with Of Montreal and Lupe Fiasco at the 2010 BOMB Fest, and opened for Mates of State on a Northeast stint in February 2010.

Their full-band, follow-up effort “Love Buttons” hits the shelves on Valentine’s Day 2011. Produced by Fuzzy Rainbow (Fake Babies, Eula), with a hand from Greg Giorgio at Tarquin Studios (Interpol, The National), it’s an upbeat collection of sonic musings on various forms of love—from the traditional to the twisted—through the eyes of characters real and fictional.

And just in case that’s not enough to keep you entertained, don’t fear—the next record “Silent Immortals” about a gang of vampire mimes is already in the works. That’s right, we said “vampire mimes.”

Check out this video posted by the band on YouTube of their song “Dark Night” performed live:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Monday, July 29. FILM SCREENING: “ARRANGED”

• Wednesday, July 31. INDIE PSYCH/POP: M.T. BEARINGTON

• Thursday, Aug. 1. IMPROVISATION/WORLD MUSIC: SUPER TRANCE

• Monday, Aug. 5. FILM SCREENING: “ONLY HUMAN”

• Wednesday, Aug. 7. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, Aug. 8. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ILANA ZSIGMOND

• Monday, Aug. 12. FILM SCREENING: “CRASH”

• Wednesday, Aug. 14. GARAGE ROCK/PUNK: THE ESTROGEN HIGHS

• Thursday, Aug. 15. JAZZ: THE NICK Di MARIA QUARTET

• Monday, Aug. 19. FILM SCREENING: “THE WAR WITHIN”

• Thursday, Aug. 22. MULTI-MEDIA: HAPPENING/NOW

• Monday, Aug. 26. FILM SCREENING: “THE OTHER SON”

Rob Harmon’s Recommendations 07/23/13

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picks“‘They’ tried to get her last night.”

“They? A wonderful word. And who are they? They’re the nameless ones who kill people for the great whatsit. Does it exist? Who cares? Everyone everywhere is so involved in the fruitless search for what?”

The above film dialogue may sound as though it comes from a couple of world-weary, existential characters in some contemporary, character-driven talk-fest of a thriller or drama. It isn’t.

In fact, the source is Robert Aldrich’s fantastic 1955 apocalyptic-film-noir KISS ME DEADLY and the characters voicing it are mega-macho detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) and his slinky secretary Velda (Maxine Cooper), respectively.

Even today Kiss Me Deadly crackles with youthful energy, surviving as a remarkably modern, self-aware exercise in deconstructing the paranoia and deadening conformity which characterized much of the Eisenhower era. Adapted from the novel by Mickey Spillane by A.I. Bezzerides and featuring Hammer—Spillane’s famously ham-fisted, misogynistic detective-hero—Kiss Me Deadly may be the greatest act of sabotage in the history of movies: a delightfully obtuse, impossible-to-pigeonhole exercise in subverting the expectations of an audience… a film which almost seems to undercut the very genre—detective movie/film noir—from which it springs!

Here is a film, for example, with bursts of sadistic violence interspersed between long, ponderous gaps of shambling detective work in around Los Angeles; cryptic, veiled dialogue, like that listed above as well as a lot of discussion about a sonnet by Christina Rossetti; and a brain-melting plot device and conclusion which set new standards for cinematic nihilism in the age of radioactive anxiety.

Unlike a lot of film noir there is no flashback structure here but, instead, the story involves Hammer’s quest to disentangle a dim memory, in this case that of a woman named Christina (Cloris Leachman in her feature film debut!) with a dark secret who he picks up hitchhiking by the side of the road in the opening scene. Hammer’s quest to track down the meaning of her words terminates in a sort of box, or “great whatsit”—a kind of Maltese Falcon gone nuclear—which many dangerous people are anxious to get a hold of but only the terse, strong-headed hero seems capable of retrieving in this world full of goons and nymphomaniac women.

The film’s famous denouement somehow toes the line between horror and poignancy, leaving the viewer with a mightily unique image seared upon the brain. Other memorable performances in the movie are provided by the likes of Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Wesley Addy, Gaby Rodgers, and Juano Hernandez (the African-American star of INTRUDER IN THE DUST, shown last night as part of the current Film Series in the Best Video Performance Space).

Last week I wrote about how we here at Best Video recently recovered the mother of all overdue movies and how my thinking on the role of credit in our economy then led me to Alex Cox’s quintessential 1984 sci-fi comedy REPO MAN. If you are interested in the spiritual source of that great film (as well as the wellspring and guiding force of many another avant-garde exercise in genre pastiche!)—a glowing thingamajig/MacGuffin-plot device, credits that anarchically scroll backwards, and, perhaps more so than these, a kind of overarching cynical, drained-of-all-sentiment viewpoint of the City of Angels during a time of social conformity—then look no further than this effervescent, sun-dappled, post-Atomic Age noir: also, incidentally, recently re-released by the Criterion Collection!

And if you are interested in other works from this remarkably diverse and talented film-maker—from the old-school freak-outs WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) and HUSH…HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964) to macho-misfit-extravaganzas like THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) and THE LONGEST YARD (1974) to lesser known treats like EMPEROR OF THE NORTH (1973) starring Lee Marvin and Hamden’s own Ernest Borgnine—they may be found in our Robert Aldrich section, located in Best Directors!

New Releases 07/23/13

Top Hits
Trance (drama/thriller, James McAvoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 61. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Trance, Danny Boyle’s speed-freaky neo-noir, begins in a London auction house, one of those muted, imperial shrines where old masters are bought with nearly imperceptible nods. Starting this way is pretty much akin to a bull locking itself in a china shop. The director of head-rushing entertainments like 28 Days Later and 127 Hours, Mr. Boyle is a flamboyant visual stylist with a punk rocker’s delight in anarchic jolts. His is a cinema of attraction and repulsion. One minute he’s seducing you with bold color and whooshing cameras, the next he’s like a kid with a Taser, zapping you with grotesque images like a macheted head topped off as cleanly as a coconut.” Read more…)

Bullet to the Head (action, Sylvester Stallone. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 48. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The multiple bullets that pierce multiple brains in Bullet to the Head — boring holes into people as disposable as paper gun targets — suggest that the title refers to an ideal rather than being merely descriptive. It implies, in other words, an appreciation and awareness of the principles of contemporary action cinema, and perhaps even a sense of play in respect to the genre. And while the veteran action director Walter Hill hasn’t done much to enliven this dull, unmemorable material, with its mechanically moving parts and popping gunfire, its dull-red splatter and spray, he has brought a spark of wit to the proceedings, starting with the figure of Sylvester Stallone.” Read more…)

Ginger & Rosa (drama, Elle Fanning. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Ginger and Rosa are best friends. Vanguard baby boomers born in adjacent London hospital beds in 1945, they are teenagers in 1962, when most of Sally Potter’s ardent and intelligent film about the girls takes place. The air around them is charged with anxiety — about the threat of nuclear war, mostly — intellectual restlessness and sexual curiosity. Perhaps it always is that way for 17-year-olds, but every generation acts out its own particular pageant of rage, revolt and disillusionment.” Read more…)

Steel Magnolias (drama, TV remake with African-American cast, Queen Latifah. Metacritic: 75. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “When that thick slice of Southern ham called Steel Magnolias was released in 1989, not much was said about the fact that in a nearly two-hour film, set in a Louisiana town, only two black actors got to speak. Both played nurses, and between them they had about four lines. There were other black faces on screen — maids, banquet servers, token wedding guests — but they just smiled and kept their mouths shut. It’s satisfying, then, to see how the new race-reversed Lifetime remake of Steel Magnolias on Sunday night turns the tables. White actors hover in the background, and few of them speak: a nurse, a couple of doctors and an ex-boyfriend. It’s hard to see why the doctors needed to be white, but let’s not quibble.” Read more…)

Twixt (horror/thriller, Val Kilmer. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 38.)

New Blu-Ray
Bullet to the Head

New Foreign
Graceland (Phillipines, thriller, Arnold Reyes. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “The sins of the fathers are visited upon their daughters in Graceland, a tense and tough-minded family drama in which young girls are as likely to be victimized by plenty as by poverty. Set in the teeming streets and dank alleys of Metro Manila, as the capital region is known, this bleak sophomore feature from the young writer and director Ron Morales centers on Marlon [a riveting Arnold Reyes], the loyal driver — and part-time procurer — for a corrupt Filipino politician named Chango [Menggie Cobarrubias]. Though disgusted by his enabling of Chango’s taste for underage company, Marlon has few options; with a wife in the hospital and a daughter beginning to crave the electronic toys of her wealthier classmates, he can ill afford unemployment.” Read more…)

Pieta (Republic of Korea, drama, Min-soo Jo. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Morally cunning and with a tone as black as pitch, Pieta, the 18th film from the South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, is a deeply unnerving revenge movie in which redemption is dangled like a cat toy before a cougar. The beast in question is Kang-do [Lee Jung-jin], a merciless bag man for a powerful moneylender who cripples slum-dwelling debtors to collect on their insurance claims. As cold to himself as to his clients, he lives in a comfortless flat where the entrails from the previous night’s chicken dinner still decorate the bathroom floor. So when a strange woman [Cho Min-soo] begins to stalk him, claiming to be the mother who abandoned him long ago, Kang-do barely hesitates: he rapes her.” Read more…)

New British
Ginger & Rosa (drama, Elle Fanning, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Ginger and Rosa are best friends. Vanguard baby boomers born in adjacent London hospital beds in 1945, they are teenagers in 1962, when most of Sally Potter’s ardent and intelligent film about the girls takes place. The air around them is charged with anxiety — about the threat of nuclear war, mostly — intellectual restlessness and sexual curiosity. Perhaps it always is that way for 17-year-olds, but every generation acts out its own particular pageant of rage, revolt and disillusionment.” Read more…)

New TV
Hell on Wheels: Seasons 1 & 2

New Documentaries
Favela Rising (Brazilian society, poverty, music, activism. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 65.)
Hecho en Mexico (Mexican music, culture)

New Music DVDs
Hecho en Mexico (Mexican music, culture, in Hot Docs)

New Children’s DVDs
Super Friends! A Dangerous Fate

Music: Fuchsprellen and Colorguard play experimental music Thurs., July 25, at 8 PM

The free improvising group Fuchsprellen and ambient/noise musician Kryssi Battalene aka Colorguard will perform in the Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, July 25. The cover is $5 and the music starts at 8 PM.

Fuchsprellen—the name comes from “fox tossing,” a popular blood sport of the 17th and 18th centuries—play free-form, improvised music.  The trio is comprised of Steve Chillemi (who plays drums in Captain  Beefheart cover band Doctor Dark) on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone, Peter Riccio (guitarist and singer of The Sawtelles) on drums and Pete Brunelli on bass. No foxes will be harmed in the making of this music.

Fuchsprellen at the Best Video Performance Space in January, 2013 with special guest saxophonist Richard Brown

Fuchsprellen at the Best Video Performance Space in January, 2013 with special guest saxophonist Richard Brown

Colorguard will perform a short opening set. Colorguard’s most recent casette release is described thusly on the Elm Recordings Web site: “Hauntingly minimalistic improvisations from New Haven guitarist (Mountain Movers, Medication) and noise-maker Kryssi Battalene. On this release she works with a prepared turntable to create both harshly distorted and keenly melodic record loops that are as beatiful as they are unrecognizable from their source material.”

Listen to Colorguard’s “Host” at YouTube:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, July 24. SINGER-SONGWRITER/INDIE: SAMUEL BASS, KEVIN MF KING

• Thursday, July 25. AVANT-GARDE_IMPROVISATION: FUCHSPRELLEN, COLORGUARD

• Monday, July 29. FILM SCREENING: “ARRANGED”

• Wednesday, July 31. INDIE PSYCH/POP: M.T. BEARINGTON

• Thursday, Aug. 1. IMPROVISATION/WORLD MUSIC: SUPER TRANCE

• Monday, Aug. 5. FILM SCREENING: “ONLY HUMAN”

• Wednesday, Aug. 7. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, Aug. 8. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ILANA ZSIGMOND

• Monday, Aug. 12. FILM SCREENING: “CRASH”

• Wednesday, Aug. 14. GARAGE ROCK/PUNK: THE ESTROGEN HIGHS

• Thursday, Aug. 15. JAZZ: THE NICK Di MARIA QUARTET

• Monday, Aug. 19. FILM SCREENING: “THE WAR WITHIN”

• Thursday, Aug. 22. MULTI-MEDIA: HAPPENING/NOW

• Monday, Aug. 26. FILM SCREENING: “THE OTHER SON”

 

Music: Samuel Bass, Kevin MF King on Wed., July 24, at 8 PM

Solo performers Samuel Bass and Kevin MF King will each play a set in the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, July 24. The cover is $5 and the music starts at 8 PM.

Samuel Bass is a songwriter from Hamden, Connecticut. He currently lives/goes to school in Marlboro, Vermont where he studies ethnomusicology. His first album, The Gritty Smoke, was released on the 4th of July, 2012, and since then he has been working on a new release called The Uncanny Valley. He enjoys intimate conversations and long walks on the beach.

Samuel Bass

Samuel Bass

Listen to Samuel Bass’ “Slipping Into the Shoes of the Hangman”:

Kevin MF King’s songs run amok with topics such as work drudgery, self-reflection, escapism, the debauchery displayed in modern politics and the process of human interaction, at times using fictional folk tales to tell a story, others just beautiful instrumentals. KMFK has more than 100 self-recorded songs regularly distributed on self-released hand-stamped cds.

KMFK’s first self-released cassette, “Digital Sneeze,” was given away to close friends in mid-2007. The next year was full of home recordings and more self-released CDs including the “Car Wreck At The Car Show” EP. In the spring of 2008 KMFK traveled to Boise, Idaho to record the “Employees of The Month” EP with Nathan Paradis (IQEQ). More travels, shows and recordings followed including the “Miss…ionary Jones and the Backflips” LP and by September, KMFK traveled to an extended stay Marriott with producer Nathan Paradis in Baltimore to record the “Sept. ’09” EP as well as the “Variations” LP with the group Give Us A Kiss.

kmfk_hanks_Web

Kevin MF King

Upon arriving back in CT, KMFK had a full live band called Kevin MF King & Death Valley Retreat, consisting of Derek Monahan on bass and Scotty-O (Mouth On Tailpipe) on drums. The trio played out often and recorded one album together, the “Death Valley Retreat” EP. In the summer of 2010 Scotty-O left the band and was replaced by Jason Musshorn (Beneath The Marrow) for a brief period. In October 2010 KMFK entered Silver Bullet Studios solo to record the song “Rope” with Greg Thomas (Misery Signals). In January 2011 KFMK traveled to Lawrence, Kan. to record another batch of demos and play a few shows. In May 2011 KMFK stopped performing solo to focus on the duo SEA with Broccoli Robb Park. Many shows, flyers and months later in October SEA recorded a 5 song ep “CHAIR” with Sgott MacKenzie (Ferocious Fucking Teeth). The group played its final show in December 2011.

The year 2012 was full of solo shows and in October KMFK recorded once again with Sgott MacKenzie, churning out the “Feral Kids” EP which was followed up in February 2013 by its sister ep “Bird Mask.”

Listen to the cut “Wash My hands” from Kevin MF King’s “Feral Kids” EP:

 

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, July 10. ACOUSTIC FOLK: SHELDON CAMPBELL

• Thursday, July 11. ACOUSTIC ROCK: JAMES VELVET & THE LONESOME SPARROWS

• Wednesday, July 17. INDIE POP: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Wednesday, July 18. CLASSICAL GUITAR: ORPHÉE RUSSELL

• Monday, July 22. FILM SCREENING: “ARRANGED”

• Wednesday, July 24. SINGER-SONGWRITER/INDIE: SAMUEL BASS, KEVIN MF KING

• Thursday, July 25. AVANT-GARDE_IMPROVISATION: FUCHSPRELLEN, COLORGUARD

• Monday, July 29. FILM SCREENING: “INTRUDER IN THE DUST”

• Wednesday, July 31. INDIE PSYCH/POP: M.T. BEARINGTON

• Thursday, Aug. 1. IMPROVISATION/WORLD MUSIC: SUPER TRANCE

• Monday, Aug. 5. FILM SCREENING: “ONLY HUMAN”

• Wednesday, Aug. 7. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, Aug. 8. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ILANA ZSIGMOND

• Monday, Aug. 12. FILM SCREENING: “CRASH”

• Wednesday, Aug. 14. GARAGE ROCK/PUNK: THE ESTROGEN HIGHS

• Thursday, Aug. 15. JAZZ: THE NICK Di MARIA QUARTET

• Monday, Aug. 19. FILM SCREENING: “THE WAR WITHIN”

• Monday, Aug. 26. FILM SCREENING: “THE OTHER SON”

Rob Harmon’s Recommendations 07/16/13

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksRepo Man (dir. Alex Cox, 1984)

Best Video, as you well know, is a rental business, which means that customers rent our property—DVDs, Blu-Rays, and, yes, even VHS tapes—and then return them. Or, at least, that is the idea; when the contract is broken and an item is not returned we, first, benignly attempt to retrieve it (some of you *ahem* are familiar with our “courtesy” phone calls about overdue movies) and then, if that fails, we seek restitution in order to replace it. Generally, the system works well: either people get their rented items back on time or, even better, they bring it back late and pay us a fee.

Of course, things do not always run smoothly. Recently, for example, we recovered a VHS tape from a scofflaw (who shall remain nameless) that was 3,325 days—or 9 years, 1 month, and 10 days (excluding two leap days)—overdue! This particular item had been at the top of our late list for as long as I have worked at Best Video and, among staff, it was regarded as the Holy Grail—nay, the Saddam Hussein/ace of spades—of all overdue movies and I, for one, did not think that I would ever see it returned.

This incident got me to thinking about our system of free market capitalism and how much in it relies upon credit… which, of course, eventually led me to that great satire on the subject, Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, which was, incidentally, recently re-released in a gorgeous new edition by the Criterion Collection.

“Credit is a sacred trust. It’s what our free society is founded on,” proudly states veteran repo man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), in a movie whose DNA is wound up with the unwritten laws of frontier justice and property.  In Repo Man, released in 1984 at the height of Reaganomics, a bunch of hard-bitten Los Angeles repossession agents—somewhat like your friendly Best Video staff—are in pursuit of a rarefied object of great worth, a sort of “great whatsit,” which, in this case, is a 1964 Chevy Malibu carrying a spectacular bounty for whoever manages to bring it in.

I have seen Repo Man at least a dozen times in my life but I still cannot quite tell you what it is about.  Here is an attempt at a summary: Otto (Emilio Estevez), a self-centered young punk with a massive chip on his shoulder, is one day tricked by Bud into helping him “repossess”—or steal—a car, whose owner has defaulted on payments. In desperate need of money in order to gain some separation from his dead-end existence Otto overcomes his initial revulsion and follows Bud into this vaguely unsavory line of work. Besides the characters who populate the repo company’s office, there also the Rodriguez brothers, a persistent thorn-in-the-side for Otto and his cohorts, constantly stealing, as they do, some of the best cars on the street; some punks with guns, former friends of Otto’s, who spend most of the movie holding up stores; Otto’s girlfriend Leila (Olivia Barash) who works for an agency dedicated to revealing the existence of extraterrestrials; some mysterious government agents, including one with a metal hand, snooping around in the background; and, of course, there is the aforementioned ’64 Chevy Malibu, which has recently arrived in town from Area 51 with a mysterious, glowing something-or-other in the trunk, driven by a half-mad atomic scientist.

If all of this sounds a little wacky to you it is certainly forgivable since Repo Man is a burlesque of the highest order: the “story” here is like some sort of a slippery, anarchic mash-up of countless ideas, narratives, and genres—pureed in a blender to a hilariously disconnected (Molotov) cocktail, flung out at the height of the Reagan years (an imposingly apocalyptic moment if ever there was one!). Yet the film is less an angry howl and more of an absurdly deadpan disintegration of filmic form: the film somehow manages the almost-impossible feat of being all things at the same time, both sweet-natured, 80’s-style coming-of-age comedy and scathing satire of American capitalism, both a buddy picture, social-commentary, acerbic attack on conformity, sensitive evocation of teen angst, work-place comedy, action movie, police procedural, punk rock music video, Western, and a send-up of new-age-y, sci-fi-style transcendentalism!

What more can be said about this film?  It has been said, correctly, that Repo Man is a cult film par excellence, that almost its entirety is “quotable” to an extreme, with off-the-wall dialogue and sequences galore.  But what is missing from our discussion of the film? It is perhaps this, that it is time we freed Repo Man from the basement designation of “cult movie” and recognized it for what it is: inspired madness of the highest order; a comedic balancing act which is well-acted, -written, -directed, -edited, etc.; and exactly the kind of silly, razor-sharp satire which our topsy-turvy American way of life both demands and deserves. Though the film may have its shabby edges and may have stumbled at the box office, initially – only to be later saved by word-of-mouth as well as sales of its soundtrack – it is no fluke or accident but, in fact, a great film.

So, remember this, and we would appreciate it if you got your movies back to us on time….

New Releases 07/16/13

Top Hits
42: The Jackie Robinson Story (sports biopic, Chadwick Boseman. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Biographies of great athletes can be roughly sorted into three categories. There are hero-worshiping fables suitable for fourth-grade classrooms, scandalous feet-of-clay exposés and, rarest of all, narratives that link sports with significant, nonathletic historical events and social issues. In America those events and issues almost always have to do with race, which makes the life of Jackie Robinson especially ripe for sweeping, comprehensive treatment. But while 42, Brian Helgeland’s new film about Robinson, gestures toward the complicated and painful history in which its subject was embroiled, it belongs, like most sports biopics, in the first category. It is blunt, simple and sentimental, using time-tested methods to teach a clear and rousing lesson.” Read more…)

Evil Dead (horror remake, Jane Levy. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 57. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The new Evil Dead has none of the first movie’s handmade charm or hilarity, intentional or otherwise. [It also lost its ‘The.’] The director, Fede Alvarez, approaches the creaky material with a surprisingly straight face and a fair amount of throat clearing.” Read more…)

The Jackie Robinson Story (1950, sports drama, Jackie Robinson. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The true-life story of Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ great star who initially made baseball history as the first Negro in the major leagues, is one which might have been written by the creator of Frank Merriwell, assuming that author had been conscious of the foul play of race prejudice. For, as everyone faintly acquainted with the details of modern sports knows, it’s a story that fits the pattern snugly, with prejudice in the villian role. And so it is not surprising to find The Jackie Robinson Story on the screen a frank and familiar pursual of the old pluck-and-luck routine, with the hero smacking a grand-slam off Jim Crow in the ninth.” Read more…)

The House I Live In (legal system, War on Drugs. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A call to national conscience, the activist documentary The House I Live In is persuasively urgent. Directed with heart by Eugene Jarecki, the movie is an insistently personal and political look at the war on drugs and its thousands of casualties, including those serving hard time for minor offenses. It is, Mr. Jarecki asserts — as he sifts through the data, weighs the evidence and checks in with those on both sides of the law — a war that has led to mass incarcerations characterized by profound racial disparities and that has created another front in the civil rights movement.” Read more…)

History of The Eagles (musical bio, concert, The Eagles. Metacritic: 74.)
Wild Bill (UK, drama, Charlie Creed-Miles. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Blu-Ray
42: The Jackie Robinson Story
Evil Dead

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Jackie Robinson Story (1950, sports drama, Jackie Robinson, in Top Hits. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The true-life story of Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ great star who initially made baseball history as the first Negro in the major leagues, is one which might have been written by the creator of Frank Merriwell, assuming that author had been conscious of the foul play of race prejudice. For, as everyone faintly acquainted with the details of modern sports knows, it’s a story that fits the pattern snugly, with prejudice in the villian role. And so it is not surprising to find The Jackie Robinson Story on the screen a frank and familiar pursual of the old pluck-and-luck routine, with the hero smacking a grand-slam off Jim Crow in the ninth.” Read more…)

New British
Wild Bill (UK, drama, Charlie Creed-Miles, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
Jack Taylor: Set 1 (detective series, Iain Glen)

New TV
Longmire: Season 1 (western series, Robert Taylor)
Damages: Season 5 (legal drama series, Glenn Close)
Hell on Wheels: Seasons 1 & 2 (western series)

New Docs
The House I Live In (legal system, War on Drugs, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 77.A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A call to national conscience, the activist documentary The House I Live In is persuasively urgent. Directed with heart by Eugene Jarecki, the movie is an insistently personal and political look at the war on drugs and its thousands of casualties, including those serving hard time for minor offenses. It is, Mr. Jarecki asserts — as he sifts through the data, weighs the evidence and checks in with those on both sides of the law — a war that has led to mass incarcerations characterized by profound racial disparities and that has created another front in the civil rights movement.” Read more…)

Bidder 70 (activism, environmental issues, Tim DeChristopher. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 61. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Bidder 70, for all its clumsiness, nails the way that a spontaneous act of courage can focus the mind and clarify an ideology. A handful of social-justice notables, including Robert Redford and the conservationist Terry Tempest Williams, weigh in, but it’s Mr. DeChristopher’s journey that resonates. Observing him as he ponders nonviolent protest, quotes Edward Abbey and visits mountaintop-removal coal mines in West Virginia, where he was born, we hear not the legal machinery humming inexorably in the background but the mental gears of an activist clicking into place.” Read more…)

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (energy policy, history of oil exploration, Daniel Yergin)

New Music DVDs
History of The Eagles (musical bio, concert, The Eagles, in Top Hits)

Music: Orphée Russell on classical guitar Thurs., July 18, at 8 PM

Orphée_Russell_at_Best_VideoOrphée Russell wowed the audiences in the Best Video Performance Space the two times he has played here. An award-winning graduate of the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, Russell currently attends the Eastman School of Music. Russell plays classical guitar. The music starts at 8 PM. The cover charge for this show is $5.

A sampling of quotes from some prominent classical guitarists about Russell’s performance in the juried student recital at the National Guitar Workshop in the summer of 2010:

“Very poetic performance-you have a musical presence” — Julian Gray,  recording artist and faculty, Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins  University

“Beautiful tone and sense of legato…Very lovely and expressive  playing” — Adam Holzman, recording artist and faculty, University of  Texas at Austin

“You have such a wonderful sense of phrasing / timing – very mature  musically…You are a beautiful young player” — Martha Masters,  recording artist and faculty, Loyola Marymount University

“You brought a lot of poise and depth of feeling to this performance”  — Marc Teicholz, recording artist and faculty, San Francisco  Conservatory

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, July 10. ACOUSTIC FOLK: SHELDON CAMPBELL

• Thursday, July 11. ACOUSTIC ROCK: JAMES VELVET & THE LONESOME SPARROWS

• Wednesday, July 17. INDIE POP: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Wednesday, July 18. CLASSICAL GUITAR: ORPHÉE RUSSELL

• Monday, July 22. FILM SCREENING: “ARRANGED”

• Wednesday, July 24. SINGER-SONGWRITER/INDIE: SAMUEL BASS, KEVIN MF KING

• Thursday, July 25. AVANT-GARDE_IMPROVISATION: FUCHSPRELLEN, COLORGUARD

• Monday, July 29. FILM SCREENING: “INTRUDER IN THE DUST”

• Wednesday, July 31. INDIE PSYCH/POP: M.T. BEARINGTON

• Thursday, Aug. 1. IMPROVISATION/WORLD MUSIC: SUPER TRANCE

• Monday, Aug. 5. FILM SCREENING: “ONLY HUMAN”

• Wednesday, Aug. 7. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, Aug. 8. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ILANA ZSIGMOND

• Monday, Aug. 12. FILM SCREENING: “CRASH”

• Wednesday, Aug. 14. GARAGE ROCK/PUNK: THE ESTROGEN HIGHS

• Thursday, Aug. 15. JAZZ: THE NICK Di MARIA QUARTET

• Monday, Aug. 19. FILM SCREENING: “THE WAR WITHIN”

• Monday, Aug. 26. FILM SCREENING: “THE OTHER SON”