Why spend your New Year’s Eve blowing a lot of money to get drunk with douchey strangers when you can curl up with a bottle of Cook’s and some good movies? Here’s my short list of movies I was glad to see receive the DVD treatment in ’08:
•<\!s>White Dog (Criterion) If you missed the Castro’s revival screening of Sam Fuller’s 1982 animal drama, here’s another chance to watch Paul Winfield attempt to retrain a German shepherd that attacks black people. One of the strangest and most profound antiracist films ever made. For a double bill, you can also check out Winfield’s Academy Awardwinning turn with a much kinder pooch in 1972’s Sounder (Koch Vision) but that film is totally Cicely Tyson’s show.
•<\!s>Goodbye Uncle Tom (Blue Underground) Speaking of race, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi’s infamous 1971 "doc" (the duo kicked off the shockumentary craze with 1962’s Mondo Cane) about the horrors of America’s original sin may indeed be, in the words of Roger Ebert, "the most disgusting, contemptuous insult to decency ever to masquerade as a documentary." But the film’s hideousness is only matched by its hubris you really have to see it to believe it.
•<\!s>The Last Laugh (Kino International) If Cristi Puiu’s Mr. Lazarescu had a forefather, it would be Emil Jannings’ sad-sack hotel porter in F.W. Murnau’s 1924 classic of German silent cinema. Watching a man lose his last shred of dignity has never looked so good, thanks to Murnau’s innovative camerawork and Kino International’s loving scrub-job.
•<\!s>Sleeping Beauty (Disney DVD) I totally wanted to be Maleficent as a child, and her devilish hauteur and magenta and black robes have never looked better thanks to Disney’s Blu-ray edition of the studio’s last hand-inked feature film (1959). Watch it on mute and get lost in the Sirk-ian palette.
Honorable mentions: Criterion’s reissues of notable Max Ophüls works, Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket (1996), and Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985); Paramount Home Entertainment’s The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration (original film, 1972); Fox Film Noir’s release of Jean Negulesco’s Road House (1948); and Lionsgate’s Sophia Loren and Catherine Deneuve box sets.
MATT SUSSMAN’S TOP TEN LEADING LADIES (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
Julianne Moore in Savage Grace (Tom Kalin, Spain/USA/France, 2007)
Juliette Binoche in Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien, France, 2007)
Sylvia Miles in Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara, Italy/USA, 2007)
Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! (Phyllida Lloyd, USA)
Lina Leandersson in Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)
Ann Savage in My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, Canada, 2007)
Asia Argento in The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat, France/Italy, 2007)
Tilda Swinton in Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, USA/UK/France)
Jun Ichikawa (as the Harajuku witch) in Mother of Tears (Dario Argento, Italy/USA, 2007)
All the women of In the City of Sylvia (José Luis Guerín, Spain, 2007)