a Healthy Disdain


Out now DVD and Blu-ray, Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is destined for full-blown cult stature, thanks, most notably, to a gloriously unhinged turn from Nicolas Cage.  Legendarily eccentric in his own right, Herzog’s basic direction to Cage was to “let the wild boar loose”, and it’s clear that Cage obliged.  The result is the  manic marvel that is the titular Lt. McDonagh, a crooked cop with a crooked back, nursing a cocktail of addictions to ease his pain. 

“Outrageous” doesn’t even begin to describe this absurdist gem, or Cage’s spellbinding, stratospherically over-the-top performance.   Rather, I’ll simply refer you to the adjacent image of the film’s original poster (swiftly rejected by the MPAA), which sums things up nicely.

Yep, that’s an image of Nicolas Cage holding an elderly woman at gunpoint, depriving a second elderly woman of her oxygen cannula, and hallucinating iguanas.  The full-size version is available here.



If you fancy yourself a film snob and have yet to discover The Auteurs, allow me to do you a huge favour: Join The Auteurs.

Part film-fan-Facebook, part on-demand cinematheque, The Auteurs is an online community devoted to the discovery, discussion, and celebration of cinema.  The site was established in partnership with The Criterion Collection, and very much shares Criterion’s dual ethos of preserving exalted classics and promoting lesser-known gems.  Premised on the aptly disdainful credo  “popular doesn’t always mean good”, The Auteurs caters to those with diverse appetites and discerning taste.

Films are available via a browser-based streaming service, compatible with both PC and Mac, and are readily expandable to full-screen HD.  The site itself is completely free to join, and, amazingly, many of its films are also completely free to watch.  Indeed, thanks to the sponsorship of Stella Artois, Auteurs members can, for a limited time, access a selection of Cannes Festival favorites entirely free of charge.  While precise availability varies by region, the offerings include films by Frederico Felini (Amacord), Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle), Wong Kar-wai (Happy Together), and others, as well as Lars Von Trier’s 2000 Palme D’Or winner, Dancer in the Dark.  For the full lineup, visit this link.

Even if you prefer to do your viewing elsewhere, The Auteurs remains an essential resource for web-savvy cinephiles, thanks to its elegantly-designed database and robust social networking features.  The site tracks user ratings, reviews and favorites, making it easy to discover related films and filmmakers, and to connect with like-minded film buffs.  As a handy bonus, the discussion forums also have a notably lower douchebag quotient than do IMDB’s.

Register ASAP to take advantage of the Cannes special presentation, which runs until June, and once you’ve done so, feel free to hit me up via the user search page (Julian Carrington).


In the grand tradition of Jesse’s Diets, here’s what I’ve been watching this week:

My second and third viewings of Fantastic Mr. Fox cemented Wes Anderson’s stop-motion gem as a recent personal favorite, and compelled me to extol its virtues to the Internet at large, via this very blog.  Although it was criminally under-appreciated by cinemagoers, if not by critics, I’m hoping it’ll get the love it so richly deserves now that it’s available on DVD, and in an outstanding Blu-ray edition, from (who else but) Fox Home Entertainment…

Having greatly enjoyed both The Host (2006), and Mother – which recently debuted in North America to rave reviews – I thought it high time I check out 2003’s Memories of Murder, the film that heralded Bong Joon-ho as a luminary of new Asian cinema.  Like his compatriot Park Chan-wook, Bong’s film’s trade in dark subject-matter, but exude an invigorating originality that defies genre convention.  True to form, Memories of Murder is somehow a thrilling, tragic, and uproarious procedural, based on the case of South Korea’s first documented serial killer.  The built-in bonus for foreign viewers is that the film’s haunting final frames will arrive as a genuine surprise…

Black Dynamite may have been in and out of theatres faster than you can say “bad muthaf–”, but this 70s blaxploitation spoof – out now on DVD and Blu-ray – has all the makings of a future cult classic.  These include laughably authentic (i.e. poor) production values, a comically nonsensical plot, and, most importantly, a comprehensive sense of its own absurdity.  While the gags do begin to wear thin over its 90-minute run time, Michael Jai White’s charisma and surprisingly legit action chops quite literally save the day.  Which is to say nothing of his ladykilling winks and smiles…

After managing to sleep on Mulholland Dr. for nearly nine years, I was increasingly taken aback to see it crop up in several recent “Best of the Decade” pieces, and often in the # 1 spot.  Quite whether it’s the decade’s best may be up for debate, but having now belatedly experienced David Lynch’s fever dream neo-noir, I can certainly attest to its standing as a contemporary masterpiece.  Indeed, given all the praise the film has garnered, I’m not sure what I can add – other than to note that I wasn’t in any way disappointed, despite what became a great weight of expectation.  It may well reappear in next week’s post, as I need to get on that second viewing ASAP…

Speaking of which, I also managed to return to Blue Velvet, which, unlike Mulholland Dr., hadn’t totally lived up to its reputation the first time around.  What shocked and awed back in ’86 simply hadn’t blown me away in 2010.  After a second viewing, however,  I can begin to appreciate where its rapturous supporters are coming from.  Whether it was Mulholland Dr.‘s magnificent afterglow, a greater context for Lynchian noir, restrained expectations, or all three, my most recent impressions are that Blue Velvet, in fact, holds up remarkably well.  It turns out that this David Lynch guy is actually pretty darn good.  Who knew?


Not to beat up on Hot Tub Time Machine, but it’s difficult to peruse this week’s “Now Playing” listings without experiencing the vague sensation that your intelligence is being insulted.  In truth, that’s nothing new, and as with most weeks, if you’re willing to ignore the marketing blitz for whatever 3-D Hollywood hack job that happens to be premiering, there’s usually at least one film to be found that’s genuinely worth your while.

This week, that film is Mother, the latest in a trio of thrillers that affirm writer/director Bong Joon-ho as one of the hottest talents in world cinema.  Like his North American breakout, The Host, and South Korean sensation, Memories of Murder Mother is yet another demonstration of Bong’s unique aptitude for marrying horror, hilarity, and genuine pathos.

Bong also appears to revel in subverting audience expectations, and does so, in Mother, by casting 68-year-old Kim Hye-ja in the title role.  Beloved in her home country as a matronly TV mom, Bong transforms Kim into an irrepressible manifestation of maternal fervor, more ruthless – yet more real – than Tarantino’s Bride.  Hers is a roaring rampage for justice when her mentally challenged, grown-up son is conned by police into confessing to the murder of a local school girl.  The audaciously unpredictable plotting is typical of Bong, but it’s Kim’s bravura performance that truly needs to be seen to be believed.  Mother is currently playing on select screens across North America, including at the Cumberland in Toronto, so catch it while you’ve got the chance.

April 1, 2010, 3:26 am
Filed under: Film Snobbery 101 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Any competent film snob knows that foreign films are the best films around.  Not only is there a significant likelihood that they will feature nudity, but cultivating an appreciation for foreign cinema has the added benefit of causing you to appear both intelligent and worldly.  If there’s a drawback to foreign films, however, it’s that they come from foreign countries, and to travel abroad every time you wanted to catch a flick would be both time-consuming and expensive.

While many foreign films are available on DVD in North America, some of the very best foreign films are not.  Meanwhile, those that are available are often needlessly difficult to access, excessively pricey, or both.  Thanks to the advent of online retail, one means to overcome this dilemma is to purchase foreign films directly from foreign retailers, via the Internet.  Even alllowing for currency exchange rates, this method can be far less expensive than buying foreign films domestically, and offers a greater variety of titles to choose from.

“Problem solved!”, you’re thinking.  And, but for a few important steps, you’re nearly right.  The last task is to ensure that your North American DVD player will play your newly acquired foreign DVDs.  In general, DVD players sold in North America are “region-locked”, and will not read foreign discs.  Happily, it’s often possible to “unlock” a player, via a simple circumvention procedure, or “hack.”  Video Help is a website dedicated to providing instructions as to how to unlock various DVD players, complete with a handy search function to assist in finding hacks for specific makes and models.

In the event that there are no known hacks for your current DVD player, I suggest purchasing a new player for which a hack is available.  “Woah, there,” you may be thinking, “I’m not a rapper!”  You needn’t worry; DVD players are now typically very affordable.  I can personally recommend the Toshiba SD7200, which is currently available at Future Shop for under $60.  It has up-conversion capabilities, a handsome exterior, and, best of all, is easily hacked – see Video Help for specific instructions.

The one caveat to this method is that you will need an HD-ready television set to accommodate the foreign video signals produced by foreign DVDs.  If you don’t have an HDTV, you can nonetheless experience foreign films with the aid of your personal computer.  Simply download and run the VLC Media Player, insert your foreign DVD, select “Open Disc”, and voila!  The magic of foreign films will be yours to enjoy, and recognition as an intelligent and wordly individual will be soon to follow.

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