DID YOU READ

Ten Great Films You Can Buy For Under Ten Bucks

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By Matt Singer and Alison Willmore

IFC News

[Photo: “The Color of Money,” Buena Vista Pictures, 1986)

We here at IFC News recognize the great contributions companies like The Criterion Collection have made to the fields of film preservation and restoration, and we treasure the DVDs of theirs in our respective collections. But let’s be honest. Those suckers are expensive: always at least thirty bucks, and sometimes as much as twice that for the really cool sets.

You might be under the impression that the only movies worth owning are the ones that have been blessed with one of these glitzy DVD treatments, which often act as much as a seal of approval as anything else. And when wading into the murky waters of DVD discount bins, it’s easy to get discouraged amidst a sea of low-rent cartoons and minor Elvis movies.

But know this: there are diamonds in the rough out there, only these diamonds don’t cost as much as diamonds. These are great movies that are dirt cheap; so great and so cheap, in fact, that there’s really no good reason your DVD shelf shouldn’t be without them. Here are IFC’s guaranteed-to-delight-and-impress-but-not-kill-your-wallet picks.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Directed by John Carpenter

List price: $9.98

So you’ve got this thousand-year-old incorporeal sorcerer who needs to marry a girl with green eyes; a stolen truck named The Pork Chop Express; two rival Chinatown street gangs; Kim Cattrall as a lawyer whose last name is actually Law; a trio of magical weather-monikered henchmen; and Kurt Russell doing what is, apparently, a mulleted John Wayne impression. There’s no denying John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China” is trash, but it’s great trash, the kind you reach for when you’ve got a few friends over, a few beers in you and a desire for raucous, campy entertainment. In other words, this DVD is an invaluable purchase.

The Color of Money (1986)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

List price: $9.99

“The Color of Money” has a bad reputation, as a minor film by Martin Scorsese and as the movie for which Paul Newman finally won his Best Actor Oscar, not for his performance, but as a sort of lifetime achievement award. Having “The Color of Money” in your DVD collection, then, sends a statement; that (a) you don’t automatically accept the conventional wisdom about any movie and (b) “The Color of Money” is one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s — not to mention one of the most underrated movies by Scorsese and one of the most underrated sequels of all time. Watch it for some of Scorsese’s most dynamic camerawork and Richard Price’s razor-sharp screenplay, pick up a few talking points about how Newman’s Fast Eddie fits in with other Scorsese anti-heroes, and watch your auteur cred grow.

Days of Heaven (1978)

Directed by Terrence Malick

List price: $9.98

In the history of cinema, there have been plenty of films to offer up unforgettable images of loveliness and emotional weight, but it’s possible that none can ever match the elegiac beauty of Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven.” Cinematographer Néstor Almendros won an Oscar for his work — a lower-billed Haskell Wexler would later write to Roger Ebert that he sat in a theater, timing the scenes he shot with a stopwatch to prove that over half the footage was his. Whoever was responsible, the film’s shots of the endless Texas landscape, so often steeped in golden, late day light, are both epic and achingly wistful, a reminder that the happiness recounted by the film’s narrator Linda (Linda Manz) was fleeting and is still mourned. One to own on the basis of its sheer greatness.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Directed by John Ford

List price: $9.98

John Wayne made a ton of pictures. A lot of them weren’t very good, a bunch have fallen out of copyright, and plenty of those are available in poorly transferred discs. But there are significantly less of his truly great films available for the budget-minded DVD consumer — you’re really left with John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and Wayne’s elegiac final picture “The Shootist” from director Don Siegel. Though I love both films, I’m giving the nod here to “Valance,” and really, how could I not? It’s one of the most important westerns Ford ever made, particularly in the way it shows the director, nearing the end of his career, coming to grips with the way in which his ideas and art had become accepted as some kind of literal representation of life on the American frontier. No surprise, then, that the film concludes with the classic line “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Plus you get to hear John Wayne call Jimmy Stewart “pilgrim” a whole lot.

The Naked Gun (1988)

Directed by David Zucker

List price: $9.99

Speaking personally, I will say that while I have many better-made, more important, more artistic movies on my own DVD rack, I haven’t watched any disc I own more times than my copy of “The Naked Gun,” David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker’s timeless cop pastiche. Maybe it’s not the funniest movie ever made — but maybe it is. And it’s definitely one of the most quotable; and ten bucks is a small price to pay to have your own copy to memorize whenever you please. I’d suggest you start with the priceless scene in which Leslie Nielsen’s hapless Lt. Drebin gives a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that makes Roseanne’s look respectful in comparison (“And the rockets red glare! Bunch of bombs in the air!”). You’ll never attend a sporting event in quite the same way again.

Nashville (1975)

Directed by Robert Altman

List price: $9.98

“Nashville” requires more from you than you expect — Robert Altman’s masterpiece is a film that sprawls, but also one that spins its storylines obliquely, catching people and relationships in medias res. I’ve tossed it in the DVD player to have on in the background while doing something else, only to find myself unable to not pay attention to it. By the end, always, when Barbara Harris picks up the mic to sing “It Don’t Worry Me,” I’m enraptured. There’s nothing more I need add to the scads of acclaim “Nashville” has built up over the years; the only thing that remains to be written is that, unlike many other critically acclaimed films, “Nashville” is one you may actually reach for to watch for fun.

The Quick and the Dead (1995)

Directed by Sam Raimi

List price: $9.95

Here’s a tip for enjoying this film at home: when Sharon Stone is on screen, just put your hand over her. Voilà — suddenly you’ve got a rollicking western pastiche with a presciently excellent cast that includes a pre-“L.A. Confidential” Russell Crowe and a pre-“Romeo + Juliet” Leonardo DiCaprio. Even with the outrageously miscast Stone left uncovered, Sam Raimi’s underrated and over the top homage to Sergio Leone and later, wilder westerns is a jolly good time, and precisely the kind of DVD you’d actually watch instead of just displaying on your shelf as a sign of your impeccable taste. Extra credit must be given to Gene Hackman, whose wicked John Herod rules the town of Redemption with an iron fist, a lightning draw and a heart squishy with unlikely regret.

Targets (1968)

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

List price: $9.98

“Targets” is a great part of a collection as a “lender” — a disc you don’t watch too much, but you give out to people who spot it and go “What the hell is this movie?” In this case, it’s a remarkable overlooked film from writer/director Peter Bogdanovich. It was produced under remarkable conditions, too: star Boris Karloff was under contract to producer Roger Corman for two shoot days and Corman entrusted Bogdanovich to make a movie — any movie — by recycling footage from the Karloff/Corman film “The Terror” with stuff from the two new days. Bogdanovich’s solution was as ingenious as it was economical: in “Targets,” “The Terror” material plays itself, as does Karloff (sorta) as an aging horror film star struggling to find relevancy in a darker time with darker movies. In a concurrent story, a young man (played by Tim O’Kelly) with a happy family loses his mind, kills his loved ones and goes on a murder spree. It’s a smart, disturbing movie that surprises pretty much everyone who watches it. More of my friends have watched my copy of “Targets” than I have at this point, and a couple of them have even bought the disc themselves.

3 Days of the Condor (1975)

Directed by Sydney Pollack

List price: $9.98

The 1970s were a pretty amazing decade for American film, and any self-respecting DVD collector needs to own at least a few New Hollywood films that demonstratively scream seventies. That means anti-government, anti-corporate and, above all, deeply paranoid. You could go with Alan J. Pakula’s “The Parallax View” ($9.98) starring Warren Beatty, but I’ve always preferred the somewhat less pretentious, somewhat more entertaining “3 Days of the Condor,” starring that other left-wing icon, Robert Redford. The Sundance Kid plays low-level CIA operative Joseph Turner (codename: Condor) who returns from his lunch break to find his co-workers dead, which sets off a movie-wide manhunt, a veritable blooming onion of deception, and a love affair with Faye Dunaway, which, come to think of it, is another de rigeur 70s trope.

Vanishing Point (1971)

Directed by Richard C. Sarafian

List price: $9.98

In Quentin Tarantino’s half of “Grindhouse,” Zoë Bell hops off a plane from New Zealand and has only has one thing on her mind — she wants to drive an Alpine White 1970 Dodge Challenger. While I’d probably be more in line to take a shower and a nap, I can’t fault her choice of make and model. It’s the same car as the one Barry Newman’s Kowalski, loaded up on Bennies, takes from Denver to Cisco, California in “Vanishing Point,” one of the great car chase movies of all time, if a particularly existential and shaggily 70s one. Cred alone could justify this purchase — “Vanishing Point” is a solid cult favorite, and one that’s always being threatened with remakes. Charles Robert Carner directed one for TV in the late 90s, starring Viggo Mortensen as a kinder, gentler Kowalski; another big screen remake has been kicking around in development. All the more reason to have the original on hand.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.