Friday, September 15, 2006

Camera Obscura - Classic Short Films, New DVDs and Some Jazz

Cinematic marvels can appear in many shapes and sizes. I was lucky enough to see movies in giant palaces in the 1960s and 1970s, and remember the announcement being made that movies would no longer be preceded by cartoons or short subjects.

Mostly I recall the giant screens filled with an animated dusky expanse of desert and towering rock formations, a ribbon of black road threading through the wastelands and the sudden burst of a racing bird (a Roadrunner) hotly pursued by a coyote with a knife and fork (one Wile E. Coyote to be exact). Occasionally, I'd see some short film before the feature, usually a wildlife piece or a more rare behind-the-scenes reel of a movie about to be released.

For some years now, Turner Classic Movies have included short films and cartoons on their schedule and today the entire day is nothing but short films. Some are from many years past, but tonight some rare short films will be presented by the top name directors - David Lynch, Martin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock. So heat up the old VCR or program your Tivo or DVR and snag these rare films.

Other featured short films will be shown by Francois Truffaut, Ridley Scott and his brother, Tony, Jane Campion, Roman Polanski-- all starting with Lynch's short films tonight at 9 p.m.

A full list of the short films and the times they air are here.


I must urge you to spend the time (and/or money) to watch the newly released first season DVD collection for a show that didn't get much attention this year, "The Unit." Produced and created by award-winning playwright/director David Mamet, the show follows a group of elite soldiers as they take on missions around the world, and face challenges on the homefront as well.

A great round-up of the episodes and the DVD extras are here. The show is lean and muscular, tough and realistic, and very satisfying both as drama and as a more realistic look at how military squads operate. I am eager for the new season to get underway.

Landing on DVD shelves on Tuesday, September 19th is a new horror movie called "Left In Darkness". What I liked best about this new movie is the sharp eye of the director which provides an old-school approach - rich atmosphere, suspense and chills without heavy gore or computer generated effects.

The story centers on Celia (Monica Keena of "Freddy vs. Jason") whose 21st birthday is pretty dang lousy -- she gets drugged, raped and is killed by drug overdose at a wild frat party. But that is only the beginning of her problems.

She is trapped in a netherworld and in a battle between good and evil, battling the threat of Soul Eaters and searching for a way out. Actor Tim Thomerson plays her late grandfather to perfection. One never knows if he is helping her or leading her to an even worse fate.

The last third of the film turns up the confusion and fear a few more notches, and the result is a first-rate take on suspense and the macabre.

My thanks to Anchor Bay and M-80 for the screener copy of the movie. Definitely worth a viewing for fans of suspense and horror.


Since I started this post talking about the great old days of short films, I thought it a fine way to end today with a short film by filmmaker/photographer Gjon Mili, one of the best of the Life Magazine photographers. The short is called "Jammin' The Blues" from 1944.

1 comment:

  1. Scorpio Rising7:48 AM

    Sure agree about the Unit...I think I read that "Faith" Eliza D. will be joining up this season.

    Also waiting for Season 1 of Bones.
    I thought that was a sharp show as well.
    Men In Trees has some good possibilities if it keeps up the pace.