Pick of the Week
There may be no sadder, or more upsetting, film this year than Amy, a look at the too-short life of Amy Winehouse from Senna director Asif Kapadia. Using archival footage and new interviews, Kapadia’s film traces Winehouse’s path from talented teen to global superstar to burnout to her death, taking an evenhanded approach that’s still enraging for all the moments where tragedy might have been avoided if she’d had better, more responsible people looking out for her. The film both serves as a reminder for why Winehouse mattered, and how great her music was, and drives home what we lost when she slipped away before our eyes.
Downhill Racer (Criterion)
Of the great director/actor pairings, the team of Robert Redford and Michael Ritchie doesn’t get mentioned enough. (Then again, Ritchie doesn’t get mentioned enough in general, but that’s another matter.) The two most famously collaborated on the forever-relevant political black comedy The Candidate, but teamed up once before in this great 1969 sports film now getting a Blu-ray release from Criterion. Ritchie’s great theme — here, in The Candidate, The Bad News Bears, Smile, and beyond — was what it takes to win in America. The answer, almost invariably, is all or most of one’s soul. Redford plays the titular sports hero as a man laser-focused on one goal, at the expense of everyone else around him. And if that’s not enough to sell you on an overlooked gem, Gene Hackman co-stars as his coach.
Mistress America (Fox)
This year has seen the release of two Noah Baumbach movies, the acidic, Gen X-gets-old comedy While We’re Young and Mistress America, the second film Baumbach co-wrote his frequent star and off-screen partner Greta Gerwig. They’re both quite good, but if you must see only one, Mistress America has the slight edge. It’s a light-on-its-feet, deep-in-its-concerns farce in which Gerwig plays the flighty sort-of-mentor to a college freshman played by Lola Kirke.
Fear The Walking Dead (Anchor Bay)
This companion series to The Walking Dead spent much of its first season finding its undead feet. But its freshman season showed a lot of promise and ended well. Plus it stars Kim Dickens, which is always a plus.
Goodnight Mommy (Anchor Bay)
This Austrian horror film set the internet abuzz with its terrifying trailer earlier this year. By all reports the film itself lives up to the hype. (I’m putting it aside to when I’m no longer too scared to watch it.)
Roger Waters The Wall (Universal)
Roger Waters spent three years touring behind a full-album, multimedia-rich performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, a semi-autobiographical concept album about growing up without a father and turning into an alienated rock star. If you missed it, this filmed version — which played theaters earlier this year — might be the next best thing.
Welcome to L.A. (Kino Lorber)
Director Alan Rudolph began his career as a Robert Altman protege and made his directorial debut with this Altman influenced look at Los Angeles. It’s been hard to find for years, which makes this new Blu-ray edition quite welcome.
Yakuza Apocalypse (Entertainment One)
Also welcome: Any Takashi Miike film, but especially one that involves the yakuza, vampires, and men fighting in frog costumes.
Zoo: Season one (Paramount)
If you missed this year’s most important summer-replacement series, now’s your chance to catch up. Sure, it’s streaming on Netflix, but some series need to have a permanent place on the shelf.