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by Bill Gibron

30 Dec 2011

#4: The British TV Series Snuff Box

Every year, we here at Short Ends and Leader get into an argument over the way in which we “determine” this category. While many stand around and scream about the titles we don’t include (insert name of famous film - say Citizen Kane - released on Blu-ray with a bountiful selection of added content) while staring, stunned, at what we chose to champion. The debate always comes down to something akin to commerciality vs….well, weird. It seems like everything we love about the format gets shuttered aside when the major studios decide to unleash their big cinematic guns. Instead of digging beneath the surface and seeing what lies below, we are supposed to kowtow to the companies that control the format and give them even more publicity.

Well, that’s never been the case and won’t be this year. As a matter of fact, aside from a Manufactured on Demand offering from one of the major multinational, the rest of 2011’s list comes from fringe distributors. It’s not like we go out of our way to cheer for the underdog, but when the choices are the latest mediocre movie from the supposed hit factory of Hollywood, or some long lost entry from a true cinematic auteur, we’ll take the newly discovered treasure any day. Again, many of the entries here are older titles brought up to date thanks to the digital medium. Only a couple come from the last few years. What this indicates is that our list for the Best DVDs of 2011 is all about artistic archeology. We’ve dug through the drek and discovered a collection of gems that any film fan would be foolish not to own. So keep your Collector’s Edition of The Lion King. We’ll stick with these:

by Bill Gibron

29 Dec 2011

#8: Sextette

Actually, an alternative title for this particular list could be “the worst homemade hack horror films of all time.” It seems that every year, like calculated clockwork, fans from all over the hemis-fear log into their own particular brand of macabre and make movies, thinking they are the next Wes Craven—or more likely, Sam Raimi. They believe so much in their muse that they leave things out such as talent, creativity, acting ability, characterization, storytelling and technical competence. Of the ten DVDs discussed here, five are part of this particular category. A few come from decades back, when proficiency was countered by available outlets, but others come right from today, when digital determines capability - or at least, should.

As for the rest, the determination is a bit different. In fact, every year, it’s the same argument - is this a worst FILM list or a worst DVD list… and better yet, what the Hell is the difference! If you added up the number of comments and emails, questions and complaints, you’d have a stack of suggestions higher than a college slacker. The truth is, this category comes a close second to the “unknown film” compilation. Instead of focusing on the obvious choices we move slightly beyond the mainstream to seek out those titles which, in all honesty, didn’t need to be on DVD in the first place.

by Bill Gibron

28 Dec 2011

Outsider films are, dare it be said, a dying breed. Thanks to updates in technology, new and novel means of distribution, and the bandwagon like call to arms that is the Internet, even the most reclusive cinematic “genius” is bound to be discovered (and if the biz has anything to say about it, exploited). This doesn’t mean that every movie made sees the light of an everyday release, but it does make it harder and harder to stay in the background. Websites strive on uncovering the unique and unsung, and as such, banking on the uniqueness to raise their always struggling profiles. After 12 months of sifting through the celluloid remnants, offering up a compendium of ten heretofore unknown treats is difficult, if not impossible. Still, in the annual spirit of such a discussion, we will give it a well-considered whirl.

Of course, the notion of titles “you never heard of” has to be taken with a grain of cinematic salt. We could have easily included the brilliant British alien invasion film Attack the Block, and equally genius UK road comedy, The Trip, or the killer clowns from Franco’s Spain, The Last Circus, on this list. They easily demand inclusion among 2011’s Best. But the minute we include them here, someone will come out to claim that, as mainstream hits around the world, we are being too US-ccentric in our premise’s frame of reference. With this in mind we dug a little deeper, looked a little harder, and came up with a list that hopefully has more “huh’s” that “aha’s.” Sure, some will still be known, but most will be untapped treasures.

by Bill Gibron

15 Dec 2011

Every year, the argument begins. Some famed filmmaker is left off the Oscar list while his movie remains a contender for the top prize. This leads to the natural denouncements like “the movie didn’t direct itself,” while others point out that great performances and expert realization of the printed word are all within the purview of the man or woman sitting behind the lens. Yet the director always seems to be the last one legitimately acknowledged. Sometimes, a name is swept in on a wave of celebration and support. In other instances, the lack of recognition is laughable.

Looking over a small list of who has an Academy Award for their work in the director’s seat and who doesn’t is shocking enough. Tom Hopper has one. Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher do not. Ron Howard has one. Paul Greengrass and Alexander Payne don’t. In fact, there are actors with more Oscar nods than legitimate icons of the directing trade. The fact that both Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner have awards and Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino do not is just jaw-dropping. While one could easily continue on with such a list, it is perhaps better to point out 10 of the most egregious oversights. The cinematic sins exposed here are so horrid in fact, it’s hard to get a handle on how they happened. The only important thing to remember is, they did, beginning with this unfathomable affront:

by Bill Gibron

8 Dec 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow has one. So does Natalie Portman. Marlee Matlin, Halle Berry, and Reese Witherspoon are all walking around with the accolade attached to their brand. Heck, even Helen Hunt can claim her place in the pantheon of Oscar winning actresses (Really? REALLY???). In fact, over the last two decades, it seems that publicity and warped media sentiment have skewed the awarding of Academy gold more so than actual talent. It’s as if the PR companies and the various critics groups get together, whittle down the list of potential candidates to a “who hasn’t got one yet?” collection of names, and then begins the process of setting the Year-End agenda. Perhaps that explains why Hillary Swank has two statues while Gena Rowlands has none.

As we did last week, List This will once again pinpoint ten specific instances where the voting members of the movie business got it wrong - or failed to recognize a worthy role all together. Again, we will present them in alphabetical order, along with the film we feel makes our case. In certain instances, an actress may have already been nominated for said effort, but ended up losing for reasons that routinely boggle the mind. While not at all inclusive, it is clear that, in most cases, the tide or time was simply not in their favor. In other situations, however, there is no explanation for their exclusion (or possible exclusion).

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'Game Art': Letting the Developers Speak

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"In Game Art, Matt Sainsbury is asking questions of video game developers that one might ask a movie director or a novelist or a painter.

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