DID YOU READ

Seven Rare Films To Watch Now Before Google Video Dies

Seven Rare Films To Watch Now Before Google Video Dies  (photo)

Posted by on

This post will self-destruct in two weeks…well, not exactly, but the videos below will be since Google unceremoniously announced the end of Google Video over the weekend that they are putting a kibosh on the video service as of April 29th that unlike the one they eventually bought, YouTube, allowed users to upload video longer than 10 minutes. This development won’t be mourned by many, as the video quality was never that great and since 2009, users lost the ability to upload videos, so it became something of a barren wasteland in terms of content.

However, unrestricted by time and largely ungoverned, the site also became the place on the Internet where cinema’s orphans could be widely seen, either because they now belong to the public domain or because issues legal or otherwise have prevented their release through traditional means. Naturally, this meant there was plenty of piracy on the site of more recent films, much of which was eventually cleaned up, but for cinephiles, it also offered easy access to films that were mostly exclusive to the bootleg market, including a lot of early films that add context to some famous filmmakers’ later oeuvres or obscurities that must be seen to be believed. Here is a sampling:

“Fear and Desire”

Last year, there was word that a DVD edition of Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film may finally become available in the near future after Eastman House uncovered a print in a Puerto Rican film lab they inherited, but the late director long tried his best to keep the film out of circulation, which is why this online version is the closest most cinephiles have ever gotten to see the film, featuring future writer/director Paul Mazursky as one of four soldiers who must fend for themselves in an unidentified country after their plane crashes in enemy territory. After Kubrick raised the film’s $10,000 budget on his own, he sold the rights to foreign film distributor Joseph Burstyn, who subsequently went out of business, leaving “Fear and Desire”‘s rights in limbo and public screenings have been rare ever since.

“American Boy”

The last time this 1978 documentary from Martin Scorsese was widely available, it was still mostly for collectors as part of a laserdisc set The Voyager Company (of which the Criterion Collection descended) released of the director’s early nonfiction shorts in 1990. As Dave Kehr wrote for that disc’s liner notes, the film’s subject Steven Prince bears a resemblance to “The King of Comedy”‘s Rupert Pupkin as a storyteller in search of an audience, though Prince is genuinely captivating as he simply tells tales from his growing up, and the film is insightful not only in terms of Scorsese’s style (full of closeups) taking shape, but into the influences that shaped him as it’s clear Prince is a close friend. (It’s also obvious the film had an impact on Quentin Tarantino since one of the anecdotes is the basis for one of “Pulp Fiction”‘s most famous scenes.) If you find the time, after you see “American Boy,” you should do yourself a favor and watch Tommy Pallotta’s wonderful follow-up doc “American Prince” – also available for free online — which catches up with Prince in the present day when he’s as compelling as ever.

“HWY: An American Pastoral”

This experimental film starring Jim Morrison got a resurrection last year when Tom DiCillo dug it up to serve as the backbone for his documentary on The Doors, “When You’re Strange,” which had the surreal effect of bringing the late singer back to life since so few people had seen the original film and the image of a bearded Morrison coasting through the desert and ultimately ending up in Los Angeles is eerie to say the least, though it ultimately owed far more to the influences of Michelangelo Antonioni than it does the singer’s personal journey. As DiCillo told me during an interview last year, “There’s no way in hell we could’ve recreated that” and indeed, the clips in “When You’re Strange” get the best presentation the film has ever received, yet the film is currently only available in full online.

“Begotten”

No less than Susan Sontag labeled future “Shadow of the Vampire” director E. Elias Merhige’s highly experimental 1991 horror film “one of the 10 most important films ever made,” which surprised the writer/director since as he told Filmmaker magazine years later, “I had people telling me I’d be lucky if I could ever show the film for free.” Ultimately, that’s how it worked out since short of paying upwards of $60 on eBay for an out-of-print self-distributed DVD of the film, the version online is the only way to see this dialogue-free, black-and-white variation on the story of Genesis that’s extraordinary for what Merhige was able to do with the processing of the film for a surreal visual effect.

“Society of the Spectacle”

SnagFilms has cornered the market on delivering free documentaries to the public online, but Guy Debord’s 1973 adaptation of his own philosophical book about how society has been shaped by media and constant modernization, as told through a collage of film clips and other archival materials, is appropriately available on one of the widest platforms available.

“Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”

Short of a secret screening at SXSW in 2009 where the title had to be kept under wraps, Todd Haynes’ 1988 biography of the famed singer told only with Barbie dolls is rarely shown in public as a result of rights issues from the music, which Richard Carpenter used to keep the film from ever being widely distributed. Yet the film remains beloved by cinephiles as it demonstrates the empathetic and articulate filmmaker that would go on to make “Far From Heaven” and “I’m Not There.”

“The Conqueror”

Frankly, words can’t do much justice to this 1956 disaster that starred John Wayne as Genghis Khan and Susan Hayward as the Asian princess Khan attempts to romance. Sadly, it wasn’t just a bomb by movie standards, but was believed to have been responsible for cancer in many of the film’s cast and crew since the film was shot near an atomic testing range in Nevada. All these things led producer Howard Hughes to buy back the film’s rights to keep it out of the public eye, though Universal eventually released the film on VHS in 1992. Still, “The Conqueror” hasn’t been re-released since, leaving this version the only way to see Wayne don a mustache that droops below his lips. As commenter Derek Hill mentions below, “The Conqueror” did make its way to DVD in 2006 as part of the “John Wayne: An American Icon Collection” series.

Watch More
Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

Watch More
Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

Watch More
Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet