Pick of the Week:
The Hateful Eight (The Weinstein Company)
So much of the conversation leading up to the release of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight concerned its presentation — the revived Ultra Panavision format, the 70 mm exhibition, the road-show screenings, and so on — that it almost seems odd to talk about it as just another movie you can watch on your television. Fortunately, The Hateful Eight‘s virtues are of the kind that don’t diminish on the smaller screen. If anything, the chamber drama it ultimately becomes feels like an even more natural fit on TV.
That’s not to say that it’s not, as usual, a relentlessly cinematic sort of movie, just that Tarantino’s Old (and cold) West variation on a drawing-room mystery owes as much to ’70s TV shows as his usual sources (which it all but acknowledges with a mid-film here’s-what-you-missed voiceover). It’s also a film that plays just as well, if not better, the second time around, when viewers who know where it’s all headed can watch for clues they didn’t catch the first time around. (Too bad the Blu-ray and DVD versions offer little in the way of extra features to further flesh out the experience.)
The Bicycle Thieves (Criterion)
In Robert Altman’s The Player, Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 film The Bicycle Thieves gets held up as an example of the sort of pure, meaningful filmmaking to which films don’t aspire often enough. There’s a reason for that. A cornerstone of what would become known as Italian neo-realism, the film puts the emphasis on an everyday tragedy: An unemployed man (Lamberto Maggiorani) has the bicycle he needs to take a new job stolen. So, he sets out in search of it with his son in tow. De Sica uses that set up as a way to explore a Rome still recovering from World War II and the everyday people just trying to get by in an unforgiving place. It’s at once humble and stunning as it moves toward one of the movies’ great, inevitable endings. New to Blu-ray, thanks to Criterion, it’s one not to miss.
Archer: The Complete Season Six (20th Century Fox)
Or, for a different sort of story of those who live on both sides of the law, check out the sixth season of Archer, which found the characters returning from the Archer Vice season, but still not letting the usual rules of espionage get in their way.
This true-life story of the doctor who first pointed out a serious deleterious health effect of professional football didn’t quite start the national conversation on the costs of playing in the NFL — and the queasiness fans should probably feel supporting it — when it was released last December. Maybe hitting home video during the off-season will change that.
A Poem Is a Naked Person (Criterion)
One of the great documents of a filmmaker’s career, the Les Blank: Always For Pleasure box set released in 2014 combines almost every offbeat, life-affirming documentary Blank made in his long career. Missing was A Poem Is a Naked Person, Blank’s long-lost look at Leon Russell. Shot between 1972 and 1974, but long-unreleased, it earned the reputation as the great lost-music documentary, a reputation largely affirmed by the reviews it earned when it finally saw the light in 2015.