Welcome back to my Home Movies! Today, we have a bit of a stocked slate, option-wise. Not only do we have Empire of Light and The Inspection leading the way with new releases, this week includes a tremendous Criterion release in Dazed and Confused on 4K. Top notch choices, up and down the line. Read on for more…
Empire of Light
I seemed to have liked this Sam Mendes passion project more than most. Sure, there are some rough edges, but Olivia Colman is reliably great, Micheal Ward makes a terrific first impression, and the projection booth scenes heavily moved me. I spoke to editor Lee Smith here about Empire of Light, but this here is some of what I had to say out of the Telluride Film Festival:
The magic of the movies is real and here at Telluride. Sam Mendes‘ Empire of Light is a warm treat to the special feeling some of us get when we enter a cinema. For me, I literally grew up in movie theaters, my grandfather having been a projectionist. Both times that Mendes’ lovely new film goes in side the booth of the theater at the story’s heart, I was brought to tears. This takes nothing away from the lovely romance at the flick’s core, but the love letter that made me swoon most was to the building where the flickering lights are held. Either way, Mendes has crafted his warmest work to date here, without question.
Empire of Light is clearly Mendes’ most personal film to date. It’s easy to see how the Academy Award-winning director sees the value in the theatrical experience, building out a love story around that entire feeling. While there’s no literal stand-in for him among the cast, you can tell he feels a kinship with everyone involved.
It’s a shame that The Inspection mostly flew under the radar this season. Filmmaker Elegance Bratton mines his personal experiences for a universal drama that really works. I spoke to him here about it, as well as with much of his cast, including Raúl Castillo (here), Jeremy Pope (here), and Gabrielle Union (here). Back at the Toronto International Film Festival, this here is some of wha I had to say about the movie:
Story time: about a decade ago, I was briefly in the New York City Police Academy. Yes, I was training to be a cop. I didn’t last long, opting for this far safer career instead, but the short-lived experience has always stayed with me, for good and for bad. Watching The Inspection at the Toronto Film Festival, some things came rushing back to me. Sure, many of the particulars are different, but some of the feelings were the same. So, on top of this independent drama being one of the better movies to play at TIFF, it has the added bonus of really hitting home its emotions in a very specific way.
The Inspection could easily have been a moribund slog. Luckily, in adapting his own real life experiences, writer/director Elegance Bratton finds hope, as well as unlikely humor. There are some moments that work better than others, but interestingly, all of the bits meant to provide levity really land. It’s strong calculus, too, as otherwise this might have wound up too heavy to take on. Instead, it becomes wildly compelling.
The Old Way
Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams
Station Eleven (TV) – Interview with Mackenzie Davis here
Dazed and Confused
From The Criterion Collection: “America, 1976. The last day of school. Bongs blaze, bell-bottoms ring, and rock and roll rocks. Among the best teen films ever made, Dazed and Confused eavesdrops on a group of seniors-to-be and incoming freshmen. A launching pad for a number of future stars, the first studio effort by Richard Linklater also features endlessly quotable dialogue and a blasting, stadium-ready soundtrack. Sidestepping nostalgia, Dazed and Confused is less about “the best years of our lives” than the boredom, angst, and excitement of teenagers waiting . . . for something to happen.”