I was lucky to be part of Monster Pictures’ release of Julia Ducournau‘s RAW a few years back, in which there were masses of extras featuring venerable film critics such as Kier-La Janisse and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. The extras from this one have now found their way to not one but two new Blu-ray releases of RAW – one from Scream Factory (Region A) and another from Second Sight (Region B).
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.
Viva Rock Hudson!
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.
Both films are available for pre-order before their respective releases in February and March 2021. Visit the Kino Lorber website for more.
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.
Lee Gambin has outdone himself with this spectacular book on the phenomenon that was the ‘Very Special Episode’, where American television sitcoms would explore more serious subject matter. It’s a niche topic but maybe not as niche as you would expect, given Lee’s book tops 525 pages… and there’s another volume to come!
In this first volume, a huge array of Very Special Writers (as Lee calls them), analyse Very Special Episodes from the years between 1956 and 1985. The arsenal of writers Lee has assembled is formidable, many of whom I’m proud to call my friends, and who all come together to create a Very Special Book unlike anything published to date.
I’m also proud to be of one of the many contributors, with three essays on what I think is a particularly special television sitcom, Good Times. It might feel uncomfortable for some to see a white Australian girl writing about a very culturally black American series but, that’s the thing about art and artists, they build bridges between culturally disperse groups and enable us to walk in the shoes of others. That’s what Good Times did for me, and I am grateful for the tolerance and understanding it taught me as a little girl.
Tonight on a Very Special Episode: When TV Sitcoms Sometimes Got Serious is available at all the usual outlets and I really do urge you to buy it.
My dear friend, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, had recently interviewed the highly prolific horror filmmaker and actor Brea Grant for Fangoria. Her radar pinged when the subject turned to one of Brea’s upcoming projects: a graphic novel on the hypothetical adventures of Mary Shelley’s great-great-great-great-great granddaughter and the heavy literary burden such a teenager was likely to have carried on her shoulders.
Something of interest to Emma? Natch.
Given I am currently ensconced in my next book project on THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Alex saw the opportunity for a professional hook-up. She introduced me to Brea, I interviewed Brea, Diabolique published the resulting article and the rest is history.
You can read the article here but you can also scroll down further to see some stunning artwork from the book that didn’t make it into the Diabolique article.