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Home Video Hovel: Car Wash, by Craig Schroeder

11 Jul

1976’s Car Wash is a cinematic outlier, noteworthy for spawning a ubiquitous disco hit and hosting early film appearances from legendary comedians Richard Pryor and George Carlin (as well as a bevy of performances from notable character actors like Franklin Ajaye, Bill Duke, and Antonio Fargas). Car Wash isn’t a crowning achievement, but it deserves to be remembered as more than a 1970s oddball spectacular.

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Home Video Hovel: 8 Million Ways to Die, by Alexander Miller

10 Jul

Since home video has undergone the Blu-ray evolution, it has unearthed a handful of neo-noirs and cop movies from the 1980’s; some overlooked, some divisive and others that have aged out of the public perception for one reason or another.

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Home Video Hovel: Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi

10 Jul

Before Cheech & Chong’s first movie Up in Smoke came out, they had several hit studio albums and had been touring for over a decade. Up in Smoke was a huge hit, so it was not a surprise when a sequel followed with 1980’s Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie. Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie proved to be another hit, domestically out-grossing both Caddyshack and the original Friday the 13th. This Shout Select Blu-ray release has just enough amusing extras for fans to enjoy.

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A Ghost Story: Good Grief, by David Bax

6 Jul

With its central figure, a ghost straight out of a Charlie Brown cartoon (bedsheet, eyeholes, rounded-off head), and the 1.37:1 aspect ratio of its frame, David Lowery’s majestic and meditative new film, A Ghost Story, sometimes comes across as a bit of a throwback. I’m sure, though, that Lowery would prefer the term “timeless.” In the totality of his vision, he gives us an hour and a half or so not to grapple with the eternal but to embrace it. Stretching off in every direction as far as the mind’s eye can comprehend, we see that the human experience always has been and always will be filled with constant death and sadness but also, and in equal measure should we so choose, with beauty and transcendence.

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The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography: Scratch the Surface, by David Bax

30 Jun

Elsa Dorfman has photographed a number of famous people in her time, from the Beat poets (most notably and most often her good friend Allen Ginsberg) to Bob Dylan to later musicians like Steven Tyler and Jonathan Richman. Yet, as good as those pictures are, they will not be her legacy. She will, especially if Errol Morris’ new documentary The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography anything to say about it, be remembered for the decades she spent taking beautiful, straightforward individual and family portraits in a rare and notable format. Morris, in pointing a camera at her the same way she did and the same way he has done many times before, explores as much about himself as he does his subject.

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Pop Aye: Good Memories, by David Bax

30 Jun

Nostalgia would be an inadequate word to sum up the motivations, both thematic and character-based, of Kirsten Tan’s Pop Aye. The protagonist here is not merely romanticizing his past. He’s painstakingly attempting to return to a time and place that literally no longer exists. The driving philosophy can best be summed up by the title of Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again. But with an elephant.

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The Little Hours: Pious as Fuck, by David Bax

29 Jun

It will be hard to avoid reviews of Jeff Baena’s The Little Hours that accuse it of being a “feature length sketch.” It’s not an entirely unfair charge, given the basic comedic presence of a film that takes place in the 14th century but has all its characters speaking in modern, vulgar language. Certainly, it’s funny to see nuns gossiping about each other like shallow sorority sisters and then yelling at the convent’s field hand, “Don’t fucking talk to us!” But if that were the only joke, it would wear thin quickly. Luckily, Baena has more in mind.

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LA Film Fest 2017: On the Beach at Night Alone, by David Bax

28 Jun

Like a surprising number of compelling movie protagonists, Kim Min-hee’s Young-hee, the woman at the center of Hong Sang-soo’s On the Beach at Night Alone, is an almost completely passive, reactive character. Distinguished by her severe, long black coat (or coats; it does appear to be longer in the early section), Young-hee spends the movie in cities where she doesn’t live, relying on the hospitality and whims of friends and acquaintances.

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LA Film Fest 2017: Don’t Come Back from the Moon, by David Bax

28 Jun

Bruce Thierry Cheung’s Don’t Come Back from the Moon stands out less as a coming-of-age story or a portrait of economic malaise than it does as a simple, extended work of tonal discipline. In viewing the movie, you float from scene to scene on softy, grainy imagery, much of it captured during the magic hour. Cheung’s aesthetic command is laudable but often static, making his narrative feel inconsequential.

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Baby Driver: I Hit the Road and I’m Gone, by Ian Brill

28 Jun

Tire squeals and gunshots are all set to rhythm in Edgar Wright’s latest film. While there’s plenty of levity to be found in Baby Driver but this is Wright’s first film where the action, not the comedy, comes first. Nevertheless, even when the film becomes more serious than any of his previous offerings, the director handles the pacing and tone like a bandleader that keeps his group in tune and on beat.

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