I cut the cord many years ago. Netflix and my DVD collection do me just fine, thank you very much. Until it doesn’t and I start looking for other means to get the videos I want, morally solid or not. I had an Amazon Prime account before I ever used their streaming services, but after purchasing an Amazon Fire box, I use that aspect of the service regularly. Recently, I’ve also started using a third service, but I like switching those around.
I started with Filmstruck, which is run by Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion people, and offers up loads of foreign and art house movies. A couple of months back I switched to Hulu so I could catch The Handmaid’s Tale. I was ready to switch to Starz this week so I could catch up on American Gods, but then Filmstruck offered me 30 days free if I signed up again and I took it.
You’ll hear about that in a minute, but first…
Howl’s Moving Castle
Fathom Events and GKIDS have been showing Studio Ghibli movies on the big screen for the last several months. Sadly, I only got to see three of them, but each of them was a true treat. I’ve seen Howl’s Moving Castle many times over the years but catching it this week on the big screen made it more wonderful than ever. You can read my full write-up here.
Nosferatu The Vampyre
What I love about Filmstruck is that it gives me access to films that might not normally be on my radar or films that I know about and want to watch, but that get put on the back burner. Because I’m paying for the service, I make sure I watch a few of their films each month and I am never disappointed. Last time I had Filmstruck, I watched Burden of Dreams, a documentary on the troubled filming of Werner Herzog’s movie Fitzcaraldo. This time around I decided to watch an actual Herzog film and why not start with the one he did about vampires?
Based upon the classic 1922 film (which itself was the first adaptation of the novel Dracula - although it did so without being granted the rights, thus the name change), Herzog ports over a lot of that film's iconic images, but brings in his own sense of morbid beauty. Shunning the horror genre’s tendency for graphic violence, Herzog instead slows down the pace, developing a sense of dread, dripped with mood and an indelible sense of place. Klaus Kinski, his regular collaborator and best fiend, plays Count Dracula (Herzog managed to secure the rights and brought back the original novel’s names) and I’d put him right up there with Max Schreck in terms of utter creepiness. This might be my favorite vampire movie ever.
Considering I’ve still not finished The Defenders (to say nothing of how I couldn’t even make it through Iron Fist), I probably shouldn’t have started Netflix’s newest Marvel entry. But here I am, three episodes in already. I was not a fan of the actor's brief stint on The Walking Dead, but he completely won me over in his portrayal of Frank Castle on Season 2 of Daredevil (and was quite disappointed when they rushed him off in order to bring on the ninjas in the second half of that season). He’s perfect as The Punisher. So far they’ve done him right on his own series. It's even darker and more violent than Daredevil and the conspiracy-theory storyline has so far been really interesting. They are rolling on a few too many tired cliches and some of the secondary characters aren’t quite fleshed-out enough to make them interesting, but thus far I’m really digging it.
Aguirre, The Wrath of God
It begins with a group of Spanish Conquistidors in full armor traipsing down a small path from the top of a mountain, surrounded by forests and fog. It ends with Aguirre standing on a boat full or corpses and wild monkeys proclaiming his plans to conquer this land.
What happens between those two scenes is mesmerizing. Herzog loves pitting his actors against nature so to shoot this film he really did send everyone thousands of miles from anywhere into the jungles of South America. In the scenes, we see his characters barely surviving on make-shift rafts; his actors (and his film crew, and himself) are likewise barely surviving on those same make-shift rafts.
Once again, Herzog pays little attention to plot and action, instead allowing a sense of mood, filled with dread, ambition, and blood to tell his story. Kinski plays Aguirre, a Spanish conquistador searching for El Dorado, the Lost City of Gold. Greed for money and power and an enormous sense of ambition doom the mission from the start (and the fact that El Dorado doesn’t actually exist). It's a beautiful film full of wonder and horror in equal measure.
The Thin Blue Line
In October 1978, a Dallas, TX police officer was shot and killed during a routine stop for a traffic violation. Despite some pretty thin evidence and relying on the testimony of a 16-year-old juvenile delinquent named David Harris, a 28-year-old drifter named Randall Adams was arrested and convicted of the crime.
In 1988, Erroll Morris released The Thin Blue Line, a documentary about the murder. In it, he interviews both Adams and Harris plus various police officers, lawyers, and witnesses. He also recreates the crime several times over, adding in pieces of evidence (reliable or not) as they are discovered. This was a bold and original move for a documentary at the time, causing some scandal as a documentary was only supposed to show actual footage of what you are documenting, not recreations of those moments.
About a year after the film’s release, Randall Adams’ conviction was overturned and he was released from prison. Many credit the film with that release. It is a powerful, incredible film that set the standard for true-crime documentaries and influenced countless films to come including The Jinx and Making of a Murderer.
The Avengers: Infinity War
A new trailer for the new Avengers movie just dropped. It doesn’t give us much information and it's overloaded with action, but it's our first glimpse of having pretty much everyone in the MCU in the same film and that’s kind of awesome.