Documentaries have been elevated into mainstream popularity over the last decade by numerous stellar films, and I would imagine the leading contender for an Oscar this year has to be "An Inconvenient Truth" from Al Gore.
It is out on DVD now and more and more households are checking in for an abundance of science and shock on the theories and ideas behind global warming. In terms of the old days of schlock cinema, it's a Mondo Cane of eco-catastrophic fears. Whatever your views on the notion of global crisis, the movie is hard to dismiss.
And Al is on a roll because of it. Since judicial decisions denied him the White House, he has been one of the more relaxed and fascinating figures in politics and entertainment. He pokes great fun at himself on many "Futurama" episodes and TV cameos, and this month's GQ has a terrific and candid interview with the man on the movie, the Bush administration - all no holds barred and often very funny - that is this week's must read.
The Masters of Horror 2nd season on Showtime, which airs new episodes each Friday night at 10 p.m. is not only getting better and better, it's found great stories and new ways for horror directors to shine. Tonite's episode is a new entry from Dario Argento based on an F.Paul Wilson tale and stars Meat Loaf (or as a friend of mine says, "it's old man Loaf's boy, Meat!") who is now identified in movies and TV as Meatloaf Aday.
Last week's episode - John Carpenter's Pro-Life - was jaw dropping audacity incarnate, daring to mingle demons, anti-abortionists, and gore. Of course, it wasn't the mind-bending weird of last season's too-much-for-cable-TV- broadcast of Takashi Miike's "Imprint," (which I showed to friends during the Thanksgiving holidays, and now qualifies as a "clear-the-room" movie.)
The Independent Film Channel has picked up the first of the 1973 epic crime films known as "The Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honor or Humanity", and it airs tonight at midnight and during the month of December. The very influential style of the movie still resonates today, whether as music in Tarantino's "Kill Bill" or the ruthless, non-romantic gangster movie this year, "The Departed." Director Kinji Fukasaku used the story of the crimelords as social critique, but the movie picks you up and never lets you go.
The movie very accurately depicts the rise of the Yakuza crime families following the end of World War 2. Four sequels followed, but this first one stand very well on it's own. The entire collection is now available on DVD - just in time for someone to give it to me for Christmas!!
And speaking of Asian legends, I read a fascinating account of an American in China who is blogging about his life there. He happened upon a super-cheap and non-pirated copy of the DVD collection of "Kung Fu". Like many my age and some younger, that show was the first introduction we had to the stories and myths and entertainment which broke open the cinema and the world to Asian movies. Check out his blog here -- and yes, learning to say "When you can take the pebble from my hand it will be time for you to leave" in Chinese is a truly cool thing. And follow the mystery of Caine's name here.