A Thousand Clowns

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Comedy;
$19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Jason Robards, Barbara Harris, Barry Gordon, Martin Balsam, William Daniels.

 If there can be such a thing as a pro-hippie dropout movie geared for white guys, it has to be 1965’s A Thousand Clowns, which in its own ragged way, almost by accident, also nearly comes off as “European” in its approach to 1960s cinema.

In the movie that sealed my lifelong fandom, Jason Robards re-creates his stage role as a purposely unemployed writer for Chuckles the Chipmunk, a nutcase upset that he’s getting blank stares instead of the “62% outright prolonged laughter” that the agency has predicted. He lives in a New York studio apartment so cluttered with bizarre knickknacks from second-hand stores that have stroked his fancy over the years that his 12-year-old nephew (Barry Gordon) generally enters by fire-escape window. The son of Robards’ long vanished sister, they have been together seven years. One day, the kid writes an essay celebrating unemployment insurance, which becomes enough of a red flag to attract a hopelessly starchy rep of the child welfare board (William Daniels) and his far more empathetic subordinate (Barbara Harris).

Unless Robards (as Murray Burns) can go back to Chuckles, or anywhere else gainfully employing pronto, he will lose his nephew — limited time he uses to instead romance Harris in a series of around-the-city set pieces on two-seater bikes and the like that recall the time a friend of mine once asked: “Was this movie directed (Fred Coe is credited) or patched?” It may well have been because I see the editor was Ralph Rosenblum, though I can’t recall if this is one of his salvation jobs chronicled in a book that’s became an instant film-editing staple: When the Shooting Stopped. In its own weird way, the film is both structurally haphazard but also, somehow, unexpectedly offbeat-fresh in then conventional ways.

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Working its way into all this is Martin Balsam’s supporting Oscar-winning performance as Robards’ more responsible, nose-to-the-grindstone brother — one of those turns based on relatively few scenes and is thus a debatable choice, though certainly he is fine, no question. Much more eye-opening to me at the time were my first screen exposures to both Daniels and Harris, who at the time was knocking them dead on Broadway with On a Clear Day You Can See Forever — still, imo, the greatest score ever attached to a lousy book. (It was still true of the 1970 Streisand-Minnelli film version, too.) In its own way, Harris’s character is as eccentric as Robards’; they are not your everyday matchup.

Gordon, who’d already enjoyed a varied childhood career — for just one thing, he’d scored a huge December 1955 hit with the novelty tune “I’m Gettin Nuttin for Christmas” — is also more than memorable as a) one who tries to be a disciplinary figure; and b) yet also idolizes his uncle and wants to stay with him. Unrecognizable, Gordon is on the main bonus extra here covering the basics of his career and offering opinions on how the movie evolved into an offbeat mess, though in nothing like such brutal terminology.

Some of Robards’ cruel barbs toward Daniels (Dustin Hoffman’s future screen father in The Graduate) are puerile or juvenile. But others to this open target — as well as all the Chuckles material and his routines with Gordon — are on-the-floor funny, which is why the picture struck a nerve with college arthouse audiences at the time for whom The Maltese Bippie just didn’t cut it. I know a lot of people who get a panoramic grin on their faces over Clown’s mere mention and know of one person (former boyfriend of a favorite editor) who rates it as his favorite movie of all time.

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Here’s another Kino Classics release in which that ever-resourceful company has chosen to pluck another cult item that never even got a VHS release and (pretty sure) was only issued on an on-demand DVD. It should also be noted that Coe, Herb Gardner’s script (adapted from his own stage version) and the score all got nominations as well. But not Robards when I was certain he had.

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Mystery of the Wax Museum’ and ‘A Thousand Clowns’

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Mystery of the Wax Museum’ and ‘A Thousand Clowns’

The Mystery of the Wax Museum

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Horror, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh.
1933.
This above-and-beyond is even more impressive for licking the salvage job that had to be done as opposed to the movie’s visual content, which is by nature on the dark side for the film that was later remade in 1953 as House of Wax with Vincent Price.
Extras: Museum wouldn’t be a vintage Michael Curtiz picture on a recent Blu-ray if it didn’t serve up Curtiz biographer Alan Rode to offer a backgrounder, and he really has to fight the clock to fit his standard pro job into the tight 78-minute running time. This would all be enough for most discs, but there’s also a sweet tribute to Fay Wray, which includes not only Wray in archival interviews but Victoria Raskin, her daughter with screenwriter Robert Riskin and author of a recent book on her parents
Read the Full Review

A Thousand Clowns

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jason Robards, Barbara Harris, Barry Gordon, Martin Balsam, William Daniels.
1965.
If there can be such a thing as a pro-hippie dropout movie geared for white guys, it has to be A Thousand Clowns, which in its own ragged way, almost by accident, also nearly comes off as “European” in its approach to 1960s cinema.
Extras: Former child actor Barry Gordon is on the main bonus extra here covering the basics of his career and offering opinions on how the movie evolved into an offbeat mess.
Read the Full Review

Kino Lorber Announces August DVD, Blu-ray Disc Releases

Kino Lorber has set home release dates for its August 2020 slate of home video releases.  All titles are available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc except where noted. The 15-movie slate begins rolling out Aug.  4 with the following releases:

  • Code of the Freaks (DVD only) is a documentary from director Salome Chasnoff that presents the radical reframing and the use of disabled characters in film over the last 100 years. The documentary investigates the use of movie imagery to shape the beliefs and behaviors of the general public toward disabled people.

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  • Capital In the Twenty-First Century is a documentary based on the international bestseller by economist Thomas Piketty. An eye-opening journey through wealth and power, the film attempts to break the assumption that the accumulation of capital runs hand in hand with social progress and shines a new light on today’s growing inequalities.

Coming August 11 are the following releases:

  • Sonja: The White Swan is a biopic about Sonja Henie, one of the world’s greatest athletes and the inventor of modern-day figure skating. She decided to go to Hollywood in 1936 to become a movie star and the rest is history. She becomes the richest woman of her time, and lives a life surrounded by fans, lovers, and family.
  • Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint is a German documentary on Hilma af Klint, an abstract artist long before the term existed who was a trailblazing figure in her field, inspiring spiritualism, modern science, and the riches of the natural world around her. She began in 1906, when she reeled out a series of huge, colorful, sensual, and strange works. Bonus features include additional interviews, deleted scenes, and a painting gallery.
  • Lucky Grandma is the story of an ornery, chain-smoking and newly widowed 80-year-old grandma (Tsai Chin, The Joy Luck Club) who is eager to live life as an independent woman, despite the worry of her family. When a local fortuneteller depicts an auspicious day in her future, she heads to the local casino and goes all in, only to find she was not as lucky as she hoped. Bonus features include some behind-the-scenes featurettes and the theatrical trailer.
  • A Different Story is a 1978 critically acclaimed film following the story of a handsome, charming, and intelligent gay man named Albert and an attractive, delightful, and quick-witted lesbian named Stella. After celebrating Albert’s birthday with a fun-filled night in town, the two friends end up in bed and wake up surprisingly with newfound feelings for each other. Bonus features include a new 2018 HD master of the uncut R rated version as well as trailers and optional English subtitles.

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Coming August 18 are the following releases:

  • Forbidden Fruit, Volume 6: She Should’a Said No and The Devil’s Sleep (Blu-ray Disc only), two 1949 exploitation films that follow in the spirit of morality tales such as the 1936 Reefer Madness and Marijuana. She Should’a Said No stars Lila Leeds, as an orphan trying to pay for her brother’s college education who tries marijuana for the first time and begins to lose her inhibition and memory. The Devil’s Sleep looks at juvenile delinquency, phony women’s health gyms, and the pushing of narcotics to teenagers.
  • Guest of Honour is a film from Academy Award nominee Atom Egoyan. It features a high school music teacher named Veronica and her father as they attempt to unravel their complicated histories and intertwined secrets. When a hoax instigated by an aggressive school bus driver goes very wrong, and Veronica finds herself accused of abusing her position of authority with a 17-year-old.
  • Conquest (Blu-ray Disc only) stars Mexican screen legend Jorge Rivero and is directed by Lucio Fulci. When a cruel and evil shadow has fallen over the peaceful land of Cronos, the only hope the people have lies with two warriors who are willing to take on Ocron, the demon sorceress who controls the sun which threatens the lives of everyone. Bonus features include the new 2019 HD master, a conversation with star Rivero, and the theatrical trailer.
  • Emma 2! Dance Spectacular (DVD only) is a children’s preschool film starring Anthony Field and Emma Watkins. There are 12 different episodes featuring 16 songs, all hosted by the girl who loves to dance and share her dancing glee.

Coming August 25 are the following releases:

  • The Reginald Denny Collection consists of three silent features from the career of the debonair British star: The Reckless Age, Skinner’s Dress Suit, and What Happened to Jones? In The Reckless Age, Denny plays an insurance agent who insinuates himself into the case of a wealthy heiress. In Skinner’s Dress Suit, he is a shy clerk who asks his boss for a raise at the urging of his wife. When his request is rejected, he lies to his wife who immediately goes out and buys an expensive suit. In What Happened to Jones? he plays a wealthy young bachelor who, on the night before his wedding, is convinced to attend a poker party which is promptly raided.
  • Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind (DVD only) explores the career, music, and influence of legendary Canadian musical icon Gordon Lightfoot. With unprecedented access to the artist, the documentary follows Lightfoot’s evolution from Christian choirboy to an international star and beloved Canadian icon.
  • Benjamin (DVD only) is a charmingly offbeat gay romantic comedy about a mess-of-a-filmmaker juggling the anxieties and excitement of his upcoming film premiere. The film is written and directed by British comedian Simon Amstell, and stars Gabe Gilmour, Jack Rowan, and Colin Morgan.
  • The Tobacconist is a film from director Nicholas Leytner about a 17-year-old named Franz who journeys to Vienna to apprentice at a tobacco shop. There, he meets Sigmund Freud (Bruno Ganz), who is one of the regulars at the shop, and the two quickly form a bond. When Franz falls desperately in love with the music-hall dancer Anezka, he seeks advice from the renowned psychoanalyst, who admits that the female sex is as big a mystery to him as it is to Franz.
  • Trick Baby (Blu-ray Disc only) is the gritty story of the relationship between two Philly conmen, Johnny “White Folks” O’Brien (Kiel Martin), a biracial man posing as a white man, and “Blue” Howard (Mel Stewart), a black man. From an early age, Blue raised Folks as his own son — but he passed on more than his heritage when he taught him the ways of the street and the art of the con. They wind up getting in over their heads and things begin to unravel between a crooked cop and some shady investors. Bonus features include a new interview with director Larry Yust, a radio spot, and the theatrical trailer

Mike’s Picks: ‘Tin Cup’ and ‘The General Died at Dawn’

Tin Cup

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and brief nudity.
Stars Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson.
1996. A golf-backdropped romantic comedy directed and co-written by Ron Shelton, Tin Cup was about as popular at the box office as the filmmaker’s breakthrough Bull Durham, yet it isn’t talked about as much these days — perhaps due to Durham’s extraordinarily sustained shelf life as a movie that really caught on in the home market.
Read the Full Review

The General Died at Dawn

Kino Lorber, Thriller, $24.95 Blu-ray, Not rated.
Stars Gary Cooper, Madeleine Carroll, Akim Tamiroff, Porter Hall, William Frawley.
1936.
As a standout film or close in the borderline screen career of Lewis Milestone that additionally features the first screenplay of playwright Clifford Odets’ career, The General Died at Dawn has more going for it than the cosmetic magnitude of its two impossible-looking lead actors captured here in a new 4K mastering that shows how great ’30s Paramounts used to look.
Extras: Historians Lee Gambin and Rutanya Alda share the Blu-ray commentary.
Read the Full Review

 

 

Kino Lorber Sets Home Release Date for ‘The Woman Who Loves Giraffes’

Kino Lorber has set an April 7 release date for The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, the critically acclaimed documentary by Allison Reid that explores the life and work of pioneering biologist Anne Innis Dagg.

The documentary will be available on Blu-Ray Disc and DVD at suggested retail prices of $34.95 and $29.95, and also for digital download on Amazon, iTunes, InDemand, FandangoNow, Google Play and Kino Now.

In 1956, the then 23-year-old biologist Anne Innis Dagg made an unprecedented solo journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. When she returned home a year later, the insurmountable barriers she faced as a female scientist proved difficult to overcome. In The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, Anne (now 86) retraces her steps, offering a window into her life as a young woman who got a first-hand look at the devastating realities that giraffes are facing.

Bonus features will include deleted scenes, Doc Soup Q&A, and trailers.

Mike’s Picks: “Murder, He Says” and “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project”

Murder, He Says

Street Date 4/7/20
Kino Lorber, Comedy, $24.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Fred MacMurray, Helen Walker, Marjorie Main, Jean Heather, Porter Hall.
1945.
Fred MacMurray gives what may be the top comic performance of his long and still underrated career in Murder, He Says, a twisted Hollywood comedy that gets a 4K spiff-up for Blu-ray.
Extras: Includes a voiceover commentary by producer/writer Michael Schlesinger and film archivist Stan Taffel.
Read the Full Review

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

Kino/Zeitgeist, Documentary, B.O. $0.06 million, $29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray, NR.
2019. There’s almost certainly a link between a certain kind of genius and a certain kind of madness, which is one of the themes of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project — director Matt Wolf’s graphically sophisticated documentary about a most unusual woman who was on a mission.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes a commentary by Wolf, interviews, and episodes of a public access talk show hosted by Marion Stokes.
Read the Full Review

Murder, He Says

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/7/20;
Kino Lorber;
Comedy;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Fred MacMurray, Helen Walker, Marjorie Main, Jean Heather, Porter Hall.

Other than 1948’s Miss Tatlock’s Millions, which falls just short of being a brother-sister incest farce while getting all jocular about mental illness, Murder, He Says is the most twisted Hollywood comedy I know from the 1940s. This raises an interesting question of why almost all the funniest ’40s comedies I know — both of the above, the Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder libraries, the “Roads” to Morocco, Utopia and Rio — were all from Paramount, but that’s a question for another day. (The Lubitsch’s at other studios would be an exception, though they’re less gut-busting than charming on historical levels.)

Very little about 1945’s Murder, or at least its characters, has been to charm school — starting with the murder of an innocent party that’s played for laughs when it’s not being simply shoved under the narrative rug. There’s also a near-psychopath matriarch who frequently and brutally takes a whip to her imbecilic twin sons; the promiscuous use of firearms in an indoor setting by half the cast; and the played-for-laughs radioactive poisoning that makes as many of them glow, developed by the latest husband of the whip-wielding mom. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t all take place on an Ivy League campus but in backwoods Arkansas, where a rep from a national poll studying rural living makes the mistake of riding his bike onto the property of this inbred-acting array.

Fred MacMurray plays this poor sap in what I’d rate as the top comic performance of his long and still underrated career (The Apartment is, of course, a masterpiece, but he’s mostly a no-joke total heel in that one). His timing is flawless when he has to react about once a second to the mayhem going on around him. The supporting cast, which includes Marjorie Main as “Ma,” is in the same class, including one major acting surprise. And voiceover bonus commentary by producer/writer Michael Schlesinger and film archivist Stan Taffel speculate that Main’s work here might have encouraged MacMurray to get her cast a couple years later in The Egg and I, a huge hit for Universal-International and the movie that launched the Ma & Pa Kettle series (I remember when it was theatrically issued in the summer of 1954, which only the biggest box office wave-makers were in those days).

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Getting back to Murder, which gets a 4K spiff-up here, MacMurray shows up at the sub-ramshackle house as part of his job — and to see if he can figure out what happened to the work colleague who preceded him and was not heard from again (good luck on that one). Instead, he’s accosted on the way by one of the twins; they’re Mert and Bert, and Peter Whitney nails both roles, abetted by some of the best matte work of the era. All the blood relations here seem to be products of Ma Barker’s gene pool, and the source of constant conflict here is the whereabouts of 70 grand from some long-ago family crime spree that’s supposedly hidden somewhere in the house. Grandma (Mabel Paige) knows the elusive location, but she’s on her death bed — and even in her better days was always “tetched.” The only hint is a few musical notes that result in nothing when they’re hummed and a few accompanying lyrics of gibberish that make about as much sense.

Nobody in the family trusts any other member, and this extends to poor MacMurray, who would have been better off lobbying his superiors to handle the Death Valley polling territory. Matters get more complicated when the family member who pulled off the robbery escapes from jail and shows up to mount her own money search. The tragic Helen Walker has this role, and it’s obvious before very long that she’s an imposter with her own agenda, and like very few other people here, is “normal.

Two Hollywood hopefuls in the cast all but had their careers ended by auto mishaps. Jean Heather, who, despite noteworthy appearances in both Going My Way and Double Indemnity, basically came out of career nowhere here to go all the way thoroughly “nailing” the family’s one likable character, who, alas, may be even more tetched than grandma. In real life, beautiful Heather got thrown from a car and disfigured, and made her final screen appearance in a 1949 ‘B’ Western.

The decline of Walker, who’d scored in a high-profile co-lead in her first picture, was more protracted but possibly more of a nightmare. She picked up three soldier hitchhikers on New Year’s Eve of 1946, and when she flipped the car, one of them was killed and the other two badly injured. The survivors charged drunkenness, and the messy trial that resulted cleared her criminally but resulted in career-wrecking publicity. She worked intermittently after that, but after good supporting roles in a couple well-regarded 20th Century-Fox noirs, it was a steep toboggan ride for her. Commentators Schlesinger and Taffel may be too gentlemanly to mention it, but at least at some point, alcohol was indeed a debilitating problem with her. In her final big-screen appearance (The Big Combo), it clearly shows on her face.

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The director here was George Marshall, who spent a 56-year career mixing bombs, god-awfuls, nonentities and several indisputably enjoyable “entertainments” without ever making a really great movie or major factor in any title’s applicable movie year, other than Destry Rides Again (coming soon from Criterion). Schlesinger and Taffel are quite enamored of him in their appropriately breezy mix of the jocular and informative, though one of them claims that Marshall directed three of the five episodes in “How the West Was Won” when it was Henry Hathaway who did (Marshall only directed “The Railroads,” which is the weakest of the quintet). The actors’ dexterity here is so keen throughout that one has to assume that Marshall definitely deserves his share of the praise, especially with the younger players. But even at 94 minutes, the action gets a little labored in the final going before it’s yanked with vigor back into the plus side by a terrifically clever barn-set finale. The script, but the way, is co-written by Lou Breslow, who also penned a comedy that I’ve  coincidentally been watching as we speak, It was 1950’s Never a Dull Moment, in which MacMurray weds and drags the incomparable Irene Dunne to his struggling farm, and this city-dweller begins living a kind of Green Acres existence,

Ultimately, the standout takeaway is that I can’t immediately think of another comedy that’s anything like it — and certainly not from the 1940s — though the commentary notes its warped link with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I suspect Paramount is the only studio that would have attempted it at the time because they really had a flair for off-center farces. I can just see a horrified Louis B. Mayer seeing it at an industry screening and immediately putting out a directive for MGM to speed up development on Love Laughs at Andy Hardy.

Mike’s Picks: “Murder, He Says” and “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project”

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino/Zeitgeist;
Documentary;
Box Office: $0.06 million;
$29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.

There’s almost certainly a link between a certain kind of genius and a certain kind of madness, which is one of the themes of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project — director Matt Wolf’s graphically sophisticated documentary about a most unusual woman who was on a mission. Though at times, even Stokes herself might have wondered what it was, exactly, despite lucking out posthumously in ways that now invite cautious reverence, at least from researchers and chroniclers of relatively recent lost history. The last involves the period between the mid/late 1970s and the Sandy Hook massacre, which occurred on the day she died.

African-American Stokes came from enough Philadelphia money to stoke her undertaking — and then her ground-floor purchase of Apple stock (Steve Jobs was one of her eclectic but intense passions) set her up for about 50 lives’ worth of funds. This abetted her recording of everything off the air with the first of countless VCRs —  though initially, she  began more modestly, with sitcoms like “All in the Family” and especially the original TV incarnation of “Star Trek,” whose melting-pot crew and its relative communal status appealed to her extreme Left-ish political beliefs. Actually, she was a full-fledged member of the Communist Party, so despite her arguable genius, she had her limitations — serving both as a key player in the post-Revolution “Fair Play for Cuba” Committee (now there’s a blast from the past) and an unsuccessful attempt to move with her first husband to Cuba.

The turning point was the Iran Crisis and the launching of ABC-TV’s “Nightline” with Ted Koppel, whose surprising success against Johnny Carson and other fun-oriented late-nights anticipated 24-hour news stations — as well as the blurring between straight reportage and the ratings benefits accrued from turning political events into a kind of sophisticated daily mini-series. Stokes was extremely savvy on this kind of thing, which included the “coloring” of the news. She not incorrectly sensed, from what she was recording and watching, that the seized hostages in the Iran affair almost certainly had to include CIA personnel. What bothers me some about this is that all governments have agendas and always have — the way that most humans do unless they’re a little on the simple side. This is definitely dog-bites-man material.

Earlier, Stokes herself had hosted a Philadelphia political talk show that looks like public access but may have had a network-affiliate public service connection. A couple of those episodes are included as a Blu-ray bonus via what, like the Stokes archival project itself, is a miracle of preservation taken from long outdated technology. In it, she shows herself to be a good listener to guests invited on for their diverse points of view — a trait she didn’t display toward anyone in her family. An exception to this may or may not have been John Stokes, the professional partner and co-host of her show who became husband No. 2. A white patrician who later benefitted as well from that early Apple stock purchase, he left his wife (for good) and daughters (mostly for good) to devote his now-reclusive entire life to Marion. He’s the kind of guy of whom my Marine D.I. father like to describe as “for someone his age, he’s not wired together right.” But, hey: We live in a pluralistic society.

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Good listening wasn’t a trait that extended to Stokes’s family life, and she made things miserable for her ultimately devoted chauffeur and personal assistant (both interviewed here) whose main job was to record — all the time. She made life impossible for her son from marriage No. 1 (Michael Metelis), even though he was a really good kid and smart as hell in ways that were too conventional for her (she owned somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000  books and read them). She had husband Stokes so cowed that when one of his daughters stalked him into having a brief conversation in the park, he implored her not to tell Marion.

Ultimately, she amassed 140,000 VHS tapes and was wealthy enough that she could store them in her apartments, leaving more room to pack-rat other possessions. Someone here makes the interesting and credible observation that hoarders keep what no one else wants, while collectors stockpile rare treasures that somebody somewhere would likely covet. In terms of her recordings, at least, she was in the latter category, and her collection of national and local coverage of racially motivated police brutality can almost stand alone. But in terms of “mission,’’ she was working with outdated technology on its way to becoming all but permanently unavailable, which meant time wasn’t on her side.

After her death, her son very eventually found the Internet Archive, which was probably the only place capable of copying this trove. Director Wolf comes up with some exceptionally impressive visuals that capture the true scope of Marion’s combined holdings when boxed up, to say nothing of lifting a full clip history of Stokes’s chronicled era, which even includes sporting events and the kind of oddballs who used to appear daily on Phil Donahue’s show. My favorite one splits the screen into four sections to show us simultaneous real-time footage of how quickly NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox were to interrupt the usual morning-show business to cut to the first plane hitting the first WTC tower on 9/11.

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Director Wolf caught a major break when son Michael turned out to be so smart, articulate, philosophical and finally loving of his mother after a very difficult upbringing that many people wouldn’t have survived. That he can relate the personal-story part of the documentary with such objective clarity frees up Wolf’s very fine commentary to concentrate not exclusively but primarily on the technical and labor-intensive efforts by Stokes, himself and the Internet Archive to make the material a reality — and into a viable format.

On a work-obsession level, Project reminds me a little of Finding Vivian Maier, the doc about the American street photographer whose holdings proved to be amazing after she died. As a portrait of an exceptional talent incurring misery on her family while fighting her own demons, it reminds me a little of Liz Garbus’s What Happened, Miss Simone?, the Oscar-nominated and exceptionally great portrait of its “Miss” (Nina Simone). But due to the specialized achievement of its subject, Project kind if stands alone, even though Stokes had one of those personalities that no one will be fully able to read.

Mike’s Picks: “Murder, He Says” and “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project”

‘Kino Marquee’ Virtual Theatrical Platform Expands to 150 Indie Cinemas

Kino Marquee, the transactional VOD platform launched last week to enable movie theaters shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic to generate revenue, has expanded to include 150 indie theaters.

For a select fee, viewers can watch a digital release on a participating theater’s website with revenue split between Kino and the indie exhibitor.

The platform will stream Cannes-prize winning Brazilian thriller Bacurau, with a virtual Q&A with filmmakers and cast on Wednesday, April 1 at 8 p.m. ET. Kino Marquee plans to offer top films from other independent distributors.

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Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles and starring Sônia Braga and Udo Kier, Bacurau won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2019 and went on to play Toronto and New York Film Festivals.

The virtual theatrical VOD initiative, which now includes Alamo Drafthouse and Laemmle Theaters, is designed to emulate the moviegoing experience as much as possible, enabling movie audiences to support their local theaters by paying to view films digitally.

“We’ve all been thrust into a brave new cinema world. Kino Marquee offers film lovers and the theaters a way to mutually support each other — audiences can keep going to newly released movies and theaters can keep selling tickets to great cinematic experiences online,” CEO Richard Lorber said in a statement.

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Lorber said Kino Marquee is designed as a lifeline to help keep arthouse cinemas in business and keep the work of “top independent filmmakers” under the halo of first release “virtual screens.”

Ken Loach’s festival favorite Sorry We Missed You also is available through Kino Marquee with Film Forum in New York, where the film’s theatrical premiere (launched March 4) was cut short by the theater’s closure. Multiple cities will follow later this week.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Beau Brummell’ and ‘Canyon Passage’

Beau Brummell

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Stewart Granger, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov, Robert Morley.
1954.
A flop at the time, this superbly cast costume drama has picked up a cult following who should be pleased by the Blu-ray’s 4K scan off the original negative that pays off with such vivid reds and dark blues on its British military uniforms.
Read the Full Review

Canyon Passage

Kino Lorber, Western, $24.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Patricia Roc, Lloyd Bridges.
1946.
Set in pre-Civil War Oregon amid a settlement that’s pretty isolated even by Northwest standards of the day, Technicolor Canyon Passage on Blu-ray makes for a fairly stunning visual experience, though you can’t tell at first because the opening shot is set of muddy streets during a monsoon.
Extras: Includes a commentary by Toby Roan, who knows Westerns as well as anyone.
Read the Full Review