Want to know more about John Frankenheimer’s criminally overlooked monolith of paranoia, SECONDS (1966)?
SECONDS by Jez Conolly and Emma Westwood, part of the Constellations series of sci-fi cinema books, is available from your favourite book pusher but you can also buy direct from the publisher, Liverpool University Press.
It may be the best film you’ve never seen. So watch now then digest this tasty monograph.
I recently took possession of Arrow Film‘s absolutely gorgeous, limited edition, two-disc, blu-ray release of Jill Gevargizian‘s The Stylist. This is really something special – a jam-packed release, many would say – and I’m honoured to have contributed an essay to the booklet, ‘The Stylist: A curious case of mistaken identity’ and rub shoulders with the likes of my homegirl Alexandra Heller-Nicholas who has contributed with a sumptuous visual essay, ‘The Invisible Woman’.
For any horror fans who have not seen this feature-length version of the 2016 short of the same name, I urge you to rectify the oversight and move The Stylist to the top of your viewing list. I put it on my best films of 2020 and my uncle Ross says that it’s “the best horror film I’ve seen made in recent years.”
“Launching from a 20-minute video essay detailing various components of Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) by Lee Gambin, fellow critics Emma Westwood and Jarret Gahan will discuss works that caused controversy, sometimes sparking protest, as well as the role of the rock opera through a cinematic lens.”
“From religious themed films that prompted outrage such as The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Ken Russell’sThe Devils (1971) to Russell’s manic magnificence in his filmic adaptation of The Who’s Tommy (1975), this will be a rollicking panel conversation.”
Let me draw your attention to the one from Second Sight, though, because it’s a little bit special.
As well as all the juicy original extras, it’s got a heap of news ones (and beautiful cover art!) including a freshly cooked video essay from Alexandra, a perfect-bound booklet with new essays by Hannah Woodhead and me (Emma Westwood), and a new interview with Julia Ducournau by Lou Thomas.
That’s just a taste (pardon the pun) of what makes this special limited edition extra special. You won’t be disappointed if you decide to add this one to your Blu-ray library.
My viewing of new cinema was somewhat stymied by the events of 2020 so, in creating this list, I’ve gone with a heavenly Top 7 of all-killer-no-filler. Here they are in alphabetical order:
THE ASSISTANT (dir. Kitty Green) Utterly transfixing in its depiction of the mundanity of junior office positions, THE ASSISTANT is also terrifying real in its representation of systematic workplace abuse and neglect – subtle, insidious and that little bit too close to what many women have experienced ‘in real life’ (me included).
DISCLOSURE (documentary, dir. Sam Feder) In fleshing out Hollywood’s representation of transgender people, this documentary is notable for its no-frills approach of talking heads combined with clip & tell. But this approach only serves to accentuate the brilliance of its interviewees. No platitudes here – insights of the highest calibre.
HOST (dir. Rob Savage) I had to be prodded to see this one, and there’s no one more surprised than myself that one of the better horror movies of the year could be about the COVID pandemic. At a tight 57 minutes, HOST serves as an example of why horror is such an important, relevant genre. Now, no more pandemic films, please.
THE LIGHTHOUSE (dir. Robert Eggers) Simultaneously hilarious and a fever dream of the grimiest forms, Robert Eggers proves he’s one of the gnarliest wordsmiths currently in the film biz. Claustrophobic, sweaty, insane. THE LIGHTHOUSE also ticked off another item on my cinematic bucket list: to see Willem Dafoe as a grizzled seaman.
MORGANA (documentary, dirs. Josie Hess & Isabel Peppard) Remarkably intimate and delicately revealing documentary about a middle-aged, Australian woman who overcomes her stultifying suburban existence by creating pornography. A film that has you grabbing at your heart in unexpected ways.
POSSESSOR (dir. Brandon Cronenberg) If there was any wonder whether Brandon Cronenberg was his father’s son, this film definitively demonstrates that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Yet, Brandon has come up with his own stamp of ‘Cronenburgundian’ mindfuckery. For that, he must be applauded.
THE STYLIST (dir. Jill Gevargizian) This film is everything I wanted from Peter Strickland’s IN FABRIC but, sadly, was not served. A horror film steeped in style, as its name would suggest, and one that holds its form from first through to third act. It makes me excited to see what Jill Gevargizian will do next.
This book has been brewing for a while now, so I couldn’t think of a better way to end 2020 than to announce SECONDS is now available for pre-order (with a proposed release date of 21st April 2021).
It’s been such an amazing experience co-authoring with Jez Conolly and following his creative lead with this project. Hopefully, we can introduce SECONDS to a new audience and give the film at least some of the acclaim it deserves.
Sandra Wollner is an Austrian filmmaker who’s gained some notoriety for creating a film that has been deemed controversial, THE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORN.
If you don’t know about this controversy, I won’t reveal anything at this point but, instead, let you listen to the interview that I conducted for Triple R’s Primal Screen program. You can hear the interview via the link below at approximately the 6:20-mark.
I’d encourage you to listen to the whole show, especially when Sally Christie, Flick Ford and I discuss THE TROUBLE BEING BORN post-interview and put our spin on this quiet, lonely and philosophical film. As Flick so perfectly articulated, “Representation is not endorsement.”
Time has got away from me, which means I’m pleased to announce not one but two new commentaries for the fine folks at Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
THE WAR (1994), directed by Jon Avnet and starring Kevin Costner and Elijah Wood, is a Southern-drenched allegory of war waged on two fronts: the internal conflict of a man returned from the Vietnam War and the one faced by his kids against the town bullies. I’m honoured to have danced this commentary with Paul Anthony Nelson who makes his debut behind the DVD commentary mic (and what a premiere!)
ISN’T SHE GREAT (2000), directed by Andrew Bergman and starring Bette Midler and Nathan Lane, is a candy-coloured biopic about the larger-than-life author of Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann. I get to unpick the threads of this lost curio with my commentary sister, Sally Christie, and continue our proclivity for all things Bacharach.
I’ve just taken possession of this jaunty new release from Arrow Films. It’s a highly inventive, low budget monster film called LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER by Ryland Brickson Cole Tews and Mike Cheslik that kicks up a notch in the third act (a rarity these days). I’ve seen lots of monsters in my time, and this one is really something else.
I provide one of the commentary tracks with my other Lady of the Lake, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (the lake theme will become more evident with an upcoming announcement from Alex and myself). In the meantime, there are a heap of extras on this one to keep you busy, as the following image demonstrates…
Do yourself a solid and get behind these filmmakers. They’re ones to watch.