Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Priced to Own: Time's Up for the Video Store?

With Virgin Megastore closing in the upcoming weeks, Netflix fast running local video stores out of business, the rise of streaming media online, the continued hubbub about piracy, and the still-uncertain introduction of Blu Ray discs, the fate of the DVD is certainly questionable. Nor is VHS as "obsolete" as many would think: many films are still unavailable on a digital format, and with the industry in such a state of flux, the once assured market for obscure films on home video is no longer a guarantee. That doesn't stop stores from practically giving away VHS tapes of otherwise impossible-to-find movies like King Vidor's (1920), which I found for $3 at I-won't-say-where and have never seen on eBay or Amazon (or in any other stores). In the midst of all this, two of Hollywood's oldest surviving studios, MGM and Warner Bros., are continuing to roll out old movies from their vaults in restored editions on DVD, but both are using drastically different means that belie the uncertainty of the home video market....

Read the full piece at The L Magazine.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tod Browning at Film Forum

A teen runaway turned circus barker and vaudevillian, Tod Browning's sideshow life on the fringes of society foreshadowed the outcasts that would become the epicenter of his films. Whether theatrical performers themselves (such as in The Unknown and Freaks) or criminals who use theatricality as part of their schemes (The Blackbird and The Devil Doll), Browning's characters are linked by a shared anguish which manifests itself physically. It is only fitting that Browning learned filmmaking under the guidance of D.W. Griffith, for whom he was an actor. Whereas Griffith's innovative close-ups of Lillian Gish's face to reflect her pure soul, Browning used Lon Chaney's entire body to convey the impurity of his. And for five consecutive Mondays beginning May 11th, sin and lust will rule the big screen as Film Forum celebrates macabre master Browning...

Read my full essay on Tod Browning here at The L Magazine.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Grin Without a Cat (1977)

One could view Chris Marker’s A Grin Without a Cat (1977), just released on DVD by Icarus Films Home Video, as an aggressive antidote to such dumbed-down fairytales of that tumultuous time period, but that would hardly scratch the surface of the film’s profundity. In this three-hour tome to two decades of political struggle around the globe, Marker charts the idealistic rise of the international leftist movement in the 1960s and its problematic fracturing in the subsequent decade. Using his characteristic essay-film format, Marker culls interviews and footage from disparate sources, including propaganda and activist films, and weaves them into a complex tapestry of perpetually diverging political viewpoints...

Read the full review here at The L Magazine.