Folded in among today’s DVD releases, presumably overlooked amid your Twilight sequels and Harold and Kumar 3D yuletides and “Shakespeare didn’t write his plays!” screeds, is one of 2011′s best films: The Sunset Limited, written by Cormac McCarthy, directed by Tommy Lee Jones, starring Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. Wait, you might be thinking. (You might be!) What a fine pedigree! What an excellent cast! I would have gone to see that! Did it not play at my local art house or multiplex? No, hypothetical reader, it did not. It was made for HBO, and since Sunset Limited, based on McCarthy’s play, is primarily a two-handed conversation piece about race, class, mortality, and despair, it’s probably not surprising that it found a home on a pay cable network rather than at a Hollywood studio. But this is nothing new; dialogue and intellect-driven efforts like this migrated to television long ago, as studios lost interest in telling small stories.
Since they started airing in the mid-1960s, TV movies have taken risks — either on subject matter or on rising young talent. The results weren’t always commendable; there’s a reason that the phrase “made-for-TV movie” calls up images of Tori Spelling cowering on Lifetime, or broadcast networks airing simultaneous dramatizations of the lurid Amy Fisher story. But between the networks and cable, we’ve seen an assortment of genuinely beguiling television movies; we’ve gathered ten of our favorites after the jump, with plenty of room for yours in the comments. (And, just to keep it simple, we’ve steered clear of miniseries, documentaries, and films like The Believer that were intended for theatrical release but premiered on television instead).
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In retrospect, last week’s gift guide for movie geeks was seriously lacking in one important element: it needs more Criterion. The Criterion Collection, as you presumably well know, is the preeminent home video label for film nerds, lavishing their second-to-none skills of restoration and supplementation on titles both well-known and obscure. So yes, a week-late addendum: if you’re shopping for cinephiles, a title or two from the Criterion Collection should do the trick.
Alas, which titles? At 600+ films (and growing monthly), sifting through the collection is a daunting task. Thankfully, the label is more than happy to help out; one of the most enjoyable time-killers on their site is their section of Top 10s, in which film fans from across the spectrum — directors, screenwriters, actors, cinematographers, comedians, critics, etc. — select their ten favorite Criterion titles, often with concise mini-reviews for each. After the jump, in a bit of meta list construction, we’ve picked out ten of our favorite folks from that page, and a few of their recommendations as well.
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IFC Films’ Sleeping Beauty — the Jane Campion “presented” movie directed by Australian novelist Julia Leigh — slinks into theaters this Friday. Sounding more like Anne Rice’s sadomasochistic Sleeping Beauty trilogy than the classic tale we knew as children, the film finds Emily Browning as a university student who gets wrapped up in an erotic whirlwind with a dark twist we’ll let you discover for yourself.
Many films have lifted the veil on fairy tale fantasies, revealing the depraved, pitch-black narratives hiding in literature’s fabled legends. One flip through the storybook confirms that our childhood fantasies were a treasure trove of primal fears and sexual anxiety. Coming-of-age nightmares, patriarchal distress, and feminine paranoia are just a few of the Grimm-inspired subjects that Hollywood has explored in its retelling of these mythic stories. Click through for a look at ten films that put a dark twist on our favorite fairy tales.
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Whether you’re an artist or an aficionado of the arts, there’s no question that peering into the sketchbooks of lauded virtuosos is a valuable experience. They serve variously as illustrated diaries or catalogs of casual drawings, paintings, and musings — lending a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the inner thoughts of beloved artists. From a reprint of Frida Kahlo’s diary full of vibrant drawings and writings to the silkscreened lips of Andy Warhol’s portrait subjects to Tim Burton’s sketches, our roundup of adored artists’ sketchbooks is sure to give you some insight into the creative process.
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1. Today in Sarah Palin news: The state of Alaska will release 24,000 pages of its former governor’s emails to members of the press who have requested them (note: they’ll have to pay the shipping fees for the five boxes, which weigh 55 pounds apiece). Last night in Sarah Palin news: She took a break… Read More
For a writer so beloved of the film industry’s core target market — i.e., teenagers with cash to burn — H.P. Lovecraft has remained curiously untouched by Hollywood. That was due to change this year, of course, with Guillermo del Toro realizing his long-cherished dream of a Lovecraft adaption. But with the $150 million project now having been put on hold indefinitely due to the studio’s budget worries, the door will have to remain closed. We can’t really think of anyone better placed to adapt Lovecraft than del Toro, but still — here’s a lighthearted look at how Lovecraft adaptations might haved turned out if they’d been helmed by various other prominent directors.
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Movie geeks and horror fans across the internet are up in arms over news that director Guillermo del Toro’s dream project, a film adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft novella At the Mountains of Madness, has been canned by Universal Pictures. Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool News fired off one of his barely readable screeds, calling Universal “chickenshit” for cancelling the picture; Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny responded with a reasoned and reasonable essay, noting that Universal has taken on plenty of chancey movies.
So why were they so afraid of this one? “Concerns over the film’s budget and likely R rating,” explains The New Yorker. Basically, the studio feared that the film’s high production costs ($150 million) would require a box office gross that said R rating would preclude it from generating. Commentators like Knowles and McWeeny have taken this news as an opportunity to fire up this year’s model of the art vs. commerce debate. But here’s a more pressing question: why have we allowed an organization as clearly corrupt and incompetent as the MPAA to play such a pivotal role in determining what films get made?
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Yup, it’s time for another Comic-Con trailer. But don’t despair: This isn’t yet another tortured superhero deal. It’s our first peek at Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, a remake of a ’70s TV movie co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, the renowned Mexican filmmaker responsible for the darkly gorgeous Spanish Civil War nightmare Pan’s Labyrinth. This first clip is all blackness and classic-horror suspense, with glimpses of gorgeous cinematography and the kind of children’s-world surrealism del Toro is known for. All of which is to say, we are excited. How about you?
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1. French-born American artist Louise Bourgeois — known for her abstract sculptures — died yesterday at the age of 98. [via NYT]
2. Last night Apple shut down Lala, the streaming music service it acquired back in December, replacing it with nothing. [via MediaMemo]
3. Check out the trailer for This… Read More