Sunday, 21 March 2021

11 Years Anniversary Post

Of Closets and Cellars

11 Years of NUTS4R2 -
Criterion And Severin

Okay then, today marks 11 years to the day from when I published my first post on this blog and thanks very much to all of you who read here. I thought I’d use this post to highlight one of my favourite things to do when I have a spare five minutes in lockdown. An addictive You Tube experience if ever there was one...

If you’re into movies and you want a steady stream of, mostly, inspiring videos lasting roughly between 2 and 6 minutes each, two of my favourite ‘go to’ boutique labels, Criterion Collection and Severin Films, have produced an interesting set of ‘quick watches’ which, between them, are sure to please most avid cinephiles.

The Criterion Closet videos started being produced by Criterion in 2016 and they are a fascinating look at the people behind the movies, showing them getting excited about films while, simultaneously, trying to hold their greed in check.

The basic premise is simple. Take a well known director, actor, musician, famous film critic or some other interesting celebrity, arm them with a Criterion branded tote bag and then let them loose in the stock cupboard to take as many freebies as they feel they can get away with before their conscience gets the better of them. The one thing they have to do, to earn their freebies, is talk a little bit to the camera and tell us why they picked each one, how it inspired them and to share any other little anecdotes they might have picked up along the way (especially interesting if they’ve worked with the director of one of their picks, for instance).

Since Criterion started doing this, they’ve produced (at time of writing), 81 of these little video gems, starting with video editor Jonathan Keogh and ending with, so far, actor Matthew Modine. And along the way you’ll meet some really interesting people who have deigned to accept an invitation into the Criterion Closet over the past few years... some of them who are, alas, no longer with us. So if you go to this link and check out the full playlist of videos on the right hand side of the screen, you’ll get a choice of viewing the collected musings of diverse artists such as Terry Gilliam, Guillermo del Toro, Adrian Utley (from Portishead), The Brothers Quay, Philip Kaufman, Richard Ayoade, Volker Schlöndorff, Mike Leigh, Edgar Wright, Michael Cera, Gaspar Noé, Ben Wheatley, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Karina, Agnès Varda, Isabelle Huppert, Claire Denis, Ethan Hawke, Richard E Grant, Paul Dano, Kim Cattrall and John name but a few (or, you know, to name but 23).

And what you’ll find is the amazing amount of enthusiasm they have for films of all different kinds, from directors as diverse as Kurosawa, Godard, Bergman, Fellini, Romero, Kubrick, Tarkovsky and... even some film about the Beastie Boys?

Meanwhile, in January 2020 (a bad year to start this), in admiration of Criterion’s new gimmick, which presumably boosts sales when people take recommendations from celebrities they see helping themselves to random cinematic pleasures, the wonderful label Severin decided they’d do their own version of it and introduced us to... the Severin Cellar.

Now they’ve only managed to shoot eight episodes so far (although one has just been deleted for reasons I really don’t want to get into right now but, it turns out, these days everybody is guilty at the drop of a hat) but, if you click this link you will, again, see all of their episodes listed on the right of the screen. These explorations of guilty pleasures, where various luminaries go through Severin’s catalogue of beautifully restored grindhouse classics of sleaze, horror and sexploitation... go a little further than Criterion and include very quick clips relevant to what each guest decides to start talking about but, be warned, because of the nature of the wonderful range of Severin’s films, not all the clips will be ‘safe for work’. Many of these names may not be as familiar to many movie goers, with the likes of Joe Begos and Shock Waves entering the cellar (is this really a cellar or, you know, just a room hiding behind phonetic alliteration?) but they are all as equally entertaining, inspiring and informative as their Criterion counterparts... so these little videos are well worth a watch. There’s even one director who has been in both the Criterion Closet and the Severin Cellar and, watching those two in quick succession shows off the different slices of filmic knowledge stored in this gentleman’s noggin... take a look.

So, if you’ve nothing to do of an afternoon during lockdown and want to get enthusiastic about film all over again, then the Criterion Closet and Severin Cellar videos on their respective You Tube channels are something to investigate. Alas, I wish I’d downloaded one of them before it was taken down as it was my favourite in the Severin series but, you never know, there’s a chance it might resurface again depending on certain investigations at some point, I would think (or hope... I hope he's not guilty).

Anyway, maybe you’ll find something inspiring within that lot and, once again, thanks very much for reading. I’ve got quite a few reviews planned for the blog coming soon including a fair number of reviews of Norman J. Warren and, courtesy of a rather nice box set put out by Severin, a long list of Al Adamson films too so, hopefully something for all tastes over the coming year or two on NUTS4R2. All the best.

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