If you enjoyed my profile of Fandor earlier this week, you should definitely stream the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, currently available on Netflix. It's not only a moving portrait of a passionate man, but it's also a movie lover's movie, filled with praises and pans. It's hard to watch and not get excited about the possibilities of movies in general.
Also streaming this week, we have a series of cinematic entertainments consisting of that most basic of visual themes: crime or violence. In many cases, these criminals and loonies therein are such fun to watch that we almost don't want them to get caught. In other movies, we get heroes, and in still others, we get people who are simply brave enough to try to find a connection with another person in their crazy, mixed-up worlds. Finally, see below for more details about an exciting new streaming service, TubiTV.com.
New on Netflix
The moving documentary Life Itself (2014) tells the story of the passionate, intelligent, and fair-minded film critic Roger Ebert, who died in 2013. The movie tells all about his long, Pulitzer Prize-winning career at the Chicago Sun-Times, and his popular TV show with Gene Siskel, whom he loved like a brother and fought with just as intensely. It tells about his journalistic skills, his love of movies, his early bout with alcoholism, and the romance he found in his 50s with his wife Chaz.
Director Steve James, the man behind one of Ebert's favorite movies, Hoop Dreams, begins the film with footage of Ebert in the hospital, in what turned out to be the final months of his life. When Siskel died in 1999, he had kept his sickness a secret, and Ebert vowed not to do the same. So everything is open and on the table here. Some of it is not so pretty, some of it is beautiful, but all of it is life.
While D.W. Griffith is routinely credited as the father of American film, the French filmmaker Louis Feuillade was equally as influential, and what's more, his century-old films are still extremely entertaining. Whereas Griffith perfected the art of cross-cutting to generate suspense, Feuillade mastered the art of long-form storytelling, building a deep, sustained, complex tale over the course of several hours. Though he made hundreds of films, he's best known for his lengthy crime films Les Vampires (1915), Judex (1916), Tih Minh (1918), and especially his breakthrough Fantomas (1913).
Running about five and a half hours, Fantomas is notable for having a bad guy as its main character. Fantomas (René Navarre) has no conscience and no moral compass; the movie very simply marvels at the skillful ways he pulls of his various crimes. A policeman (Edmund Breon) and a newspaperman (Georges Melchior) are the "good guys," who work to take down the bandit. Netflix presents the movie just as Feuillade presented them, in five "episodes" that run between 54 and 90 minutes each.
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