My Two Cents
Monday, 13 May 2019 17:01

Claire Denis’ High Life, Once Upon a Time in the West: The Book, and a few Thoughts On Endings

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So... did you guys happen to see/enjoy/rage at last night’s penultimate episode of Game of Thrones? It was doozy, that’s for sure. But more on that in a minute (and I assure you, there will be no spoilers).

First, we have some new Blu-ray reviews for you... Tim has posted his thoughts on Nicolas Roeg’s Track 29 (1988) in a new Region B Blu-ray release from Indicator and Powerhouse Films. Meanwhile, Dennis has offered his thoughts on Tom O’Horgan’s Rhinoceros (1974) from Kino Classics.

Now then, in release news, Lionsgate has just announced the Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital debut of Claire Denis’ new high-concept science fiction film High Life on 7/9. I actually hope they’ll consider releasing this in 4K, because the film’s visuals certainly deserve it. In the meantime, the Blu-ray will include 2 featurettes (Audacious, Passionate, and Dangerous: Making High Life and Visualizing the Abyss: The Look of High Life) with audio in 5.1 DTS-HD MA. You can see the cover artwork at the left and also below. [Read on here...]

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Here’s a look at the trailer for High Life...

Meanwhile, Shout! Factory and GKids have announced that the 2014-2015 Studio Ghibli animated series Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter is coming to Blu-ray on 8/20. The 26-episode series was directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro. All 26 episodes will be included in a 4-disc set along with a making-of featurette and an interview with Goro Miyazaki. Audio will be included in both English and the original Japanese, with proper English translation subs. You can see the cover artwork below.

And here’s something awesome from Shout! as well: The studio is releasing Perry Henzel’s The Harder They Come (1972) as a Shout Select title on 8/20. The film stars reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. The package will also include Henzel’s next film, No Place Like Home, as a bonus feature. And there will be additional extras shot in Jamaica too.

In other release news, Warner has set LEGO DC: Batman – Family Matters for release on Blu-ray and DVD on 8/6.

Arrow Video will release Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery’s The Loveless on Blu-ray on 7/9. The film stars Willem Dafoe.

Marvel and Disney’s Captain Marvel is now available for pre-order on here and by clicking on the cover artwork below.

And the BFI has announced its July-September Blu-ray and DVD release slate, which is set to include Derek Jarman’s Blue (1993) and The Garden (1990) on Blu-ray on 7/15, Of Flesh and Blood: The Cinema of Hirokazu Kore-eda – includes Maborosi (1995), After Life (1998), Nobody Knows (2004), and Still Walking (2008) – on Blu-ray also on 7/15, Carol Reed’s A Kid for Two Farthings (1955) on Blu-ray and DVD on 8/19, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Trilogy of Life – includes The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Arabian Nights (1974) – on Blu-ray also on 8/19, Alan J Pakula’s Comes a Horseman (1978) on Blu-ray on 9/16, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975) also on Blu-ray on 9/16, and the classic British sketch series At Last the 1948 Show (1967) and Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-1969) on DVD only on 9/16. You can read more here.

Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece (book)All right, I wanted to take a moment today to call attention to a new book that’s coming out next Tuesday (5/21) from film historian Christopher Frayling and Reel Art Press. It’s called Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece. Now, if you’re a Sergio Leone fan – and you should be – I shouldn’t have to say anything beyond the title to convince you to pick this baby up. But it’s 335 pages of hardcover awesome, with a foreword by Quentin Tarantino. The book covers the director, the story, the screenplay, the cinematography and production design, the actors, the production schedule (broken down day by day, no less), references to other westerns in the film, and even includes photos of deleted scenes, all of it accompanied by rare or unseen production photographs and artwork. It’s a gorgeous book and if you’ve read Frayling’s excellent Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death, you’ll have a good idea what you’re in for. This book is a treat, so do check it out. You can pre-order it here on Amazon.

And finally today, I return to the subject of last night’s Game of Thrones. Again, there will be no spoilers, so never fear if you haven’t seen it yet. But it’s the subject of a great many posts and much hand-wringing today on social media. Some viewers loved it, but a lot of fans are up in arms about various aspects of how the show is coming to an end (and how their favorite characters are “being treated” in the process). And I find the whole thing fascinating. For the record, I actually liked the episode and I’ve certainly been watching the show from the start. At least, I wasn’t upset by the episode.

Part of it is this: Having spent the last 30 years studying film and TV narratives, and breaking down and analyzing such things, I’m much less interested now in being satisfied by an ending as opposed to simply being surprised by it. I have no need for a story to somehow conform itself to my expectations. I’d rather let the storytellers tell the ending they want and I’ll go along for the ride. I might like it or I might not, I might get the unexpected or not, but film and TV has never been a choose your own ending exercise. Few such endings are perfect. Still, this show has been a mostly enjoyable experience and – for me at least – that’s a win.

To the extent that some fans are having strong reactions to it, however, I think it’s down to a few things. First, I do think there’s a tendency for many fans to get so invested in their favorite characters that they write their own ideal endings for those characters in their heads. And when that isn’t what happens ultimately on screen, it’s hard to reconcile. That’s a totally natural and understandable response. But it’s also certainly true that the nature of the show has changed. For most of its first 5 seasons, Game of Thrones has been a strongly character-driven series. This is true of George R. R. Martin’s early books as well. But in order to wrap up the series, especially after the show ran out of books to adapt, it almost unavoidably became much more plot driven. Also, the series’ writing team had really perfected the show’s pacing for a 10-episode season. So when they began to shorten the last couple seasons, the storylines began to feel more rushed.

I also think that part of what’s touching a nerve with people is that the show’s ending is a little too closely mirroring reality, by which I mean this: Only a small percentage of people ultimately get what they want/dream of/deserve in life. Of the rest, half just get what they get (which is unsatisfying) while the other half tend to get screwed (which is unfair). But endings are tough, man – Game of Thrones endings in particular. Just ask Martin, who can’t even finish writing The Winds of Winter! In the meantime, I generally try to enjoy the ride for what it is – and what it ends up being – as opposed to what I hope or expect it to be. That allows a person a bit of useful perspective on these things as a viewer, and it makes the rare surprises all the more pleasant.

All right, we’ll leave you with some cover artwork for titles we’ve mentioned above and others (click to pre-order them on Amazon if available and remember that doing so helps to support our work here at The Bits, which we appreciate!)...

Captain Marvel (4K Ultra HD) High Life (Blu-ray) Us (4K Ultra HD)

Mothra Steelbook (Blu-ray) Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 (Blu-ray) Ronja (Blu-ray)

Stay tuned...!

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