Author Archives: Amos

“The Queer Games Avant-Garde: How LGBTQ Game Makers Are Reimagining the Medium of Video Games” by Bonnie Ruberg— Making and Playing the Game

Ruberg, Bonnie. “The Queer Games Avant-Garde: How LGBTQ Game Makers Are Reimagining the Medium of Video Games”, Duke University Press, 2020.

Making and Playing the Game

Amos Lassen

Bonnie Ruberg’s “The Queer Games” gives us twenty interviews with twenty-two queer video game developers. Their radical, experimental, vibrant, and deeply queer work is bringing about a shift in the medium of video games.  They speak with insight and candor about their creative practices and their politics and passions, telling stories about their lives and inspirations, the challenges they face, and how they understand their places within video game culture. What they have to say goes beyond typical conversations about LGBTQ representation in video games or how to improve “diversity” in digital media. Rather, “they explore queer game-making practices, the politics of queer independent video games, how queerness can be expressed as an aesthetic practice, the influence of feminist art on their work, and the future of queer video games and technology.” Their conversations give us a look at an influential community that is changing and redefining video games by “placing queerness front and center.”

The interviewees include Ryan Rose Aceae, Avery Alder, Jimmy Andrews, Santo Aveiro-Ojeda, Aevee Bee, Tonia B******, Mattie Brice, Nicky Case, Naomi Clark, Mo Cohen, Heather Flowers, Nina Freeman, Jerome Hagen, Kat Jones, Jess Marcotte, Andi McClure, Llaura McGee, Seanna Musgrave, Liz Ryerson, Elizabeth Sampat, Loren Schmidt, Sarah Schoemann, Dietrich Squinkifer, Kara Stone, Emilia Yang, Robert Yang

The queer games avant-garde not only change the boundaries of gaming, it’s shows what games can be and that  we can all play.

Table of Contents: 

Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Reimagining the Medium of Video Games  1
Part I. Queer People, Queer Desires, Queer Games
1. Dietrich Squinkifer: Nonbinary Characters, Asexuality, and Game Design as Joyful Resistance  33
2. Robert Yang: The Politics and Pleasures of Representing Sex between Men  42
3. Aevee Bee: On Designing for Queer Players and Remaking Autobiographical Truth  51
Part II. Queerness as a Mode of Game-Making
4. Llaura McGee: Leaving Space for Messiness, Complexity, and Chance  63
5. Andi McClure: Algorithms, Accidents, and the Queerness of Abstraction  73
6. Liz Ryerson: Resisting Empathy and Rewriting the Rules of Game Design  81
Part III. Designing Queer Intimacy in Games
7. Jimmy Andrews + Loren Schmidt: Queer Body Physics, Awkwardness as Emotional Realism, and the Challenge of Designing Consent  93
8. Naomi Clark: Disrupting Norms and Critiquing Systems through “Good, Nice Sex with a Tentacle Monster”  102
9. Elizabeth Sampat: Safe Spaces for Queerness and Games against Suffering  113
Part IV. The Legacy of Feminist Performance Art in Queer Games
10. Kara Stone: Softness, Strength, and Danger in Games about Mental Health and Healing  125
11. Mattie Brice: Radical Play through Vulnerability  134
12. Seanna Musgrave: “Touchy-Feely” Virtual Reality and Reclaiming the Trans Body  143
Part V. Intersectional Perspectives in/on Queer Games
13. Tonia B****** + Emilia Yang: Making Games about Queer Women of Color by Queer Women of Color  153
14. Nicky Case: Playable Politics and Interactivity for Understanding  162
15. Nina Freeman: More Than Just “the Women Who Make Sex Games”  171
Part VI. Analog Games: Exploreing Queerness Through Non-Digital Play
16. Avery Alder: Queer Storytelling and the Mechanics of Desire  183
17. Kat Jones: Bisexuality, Latina Identity, and the Power of Physical Presence  192
Part VII. Making Queer Games, Queer Change, and Queer Community
18. Mo Cohen: On Self-Care, Funding, and Other Advice for Aspiring Queer Indie Game Makers  205
19. Jerome Hagan: Are Queer Games Bringing “Diversity” to Mainstream Industry?  215
20. Sarah Schoemann: The Power of Community Organizing  223
Afterword. The Future of the Queer Games Avant-Garde  233
Appendix. Queer Indie Games to Play at Home or in the Classroom  245
Notes  257
Bibliography  265
Index  271

“INGE’S WAR: A German Woman’s Story of Family Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler” by Svenja O’Donnell— Caught in History

O’Donnell, Svenja. “INGE’S WAR: A German Woman’s Story of Family Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler”, Viking, 2020.

Caught in History

Amos Lassen

Svenja O’Donnell’s “Inge’s War” is about her grandmother’s experiences as a girl growing up in Königsberg during World War II. The prose is gorgeous and the research that went into this is stunning.

Inge’s family was German and non-Jewish family. It had neither backed Hitler’s regime nor stood publicly against it, yet the members had to face the consequences of the Nazi’s actions against Europe.

Some thirteen years ago, while working as a foreign correspondent in Russia, Svenja O’Donnell gave herself a special assignment to Kaliningrad to explore her own family history. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the small Baltic city (then called Königsberg and a part of Germany) had been her grandmother Inge’s childhood home. O’Donnell knew that Inge and her family had fled Königsberg to escape the Russian advance at the end of the war and they never returned. What she did not know and she could not have anticipated her distant, reserved grandmother’s reaction came when she called her and told her who she was.

Naturally this shook Inge and she cried telling her newly discovered granddaughter that she had so much to tell her and it is from this that O’Donnell reconstructs a family story that reveals  something most of us have known little if anything about—- there were bystanders I Germany Germany’s who neither supported the Nazi regime nor risked all to resist it.

O’Donnell based her book on more than ten years of conversations, archival research, travel that she used to tell the story of Inge’s life from the rise of the Nazis through the postwar period. We read of Inge’s falling in love in Berlin’s underground jazz clubs, and have a child out of wedlock after the father was sent to the Eastern Front. Inge organized and led her family’s escape as the Red Army closed in. We learn the terrible secret Inge had been keeping for more than half a century: the act of violence that finally separated her from the man she loved. This is both an intimate story and the story of a granddaughter breaking through the silence that was common to German-descended families around World War II. Inge confronted both her family’s suffering and its legacy of neutrality and inaction.

 “Inge’s War” is the story an ordinary woman who becomes caught in history; and the lies that are told in order to survival we tell to survive. It is the story of family trauma, the dangers of nationalism and anti-Semitism, and of refugees. It also is the story of a woman during war and, by and large, what we have known about the period of World War II has come to use through the narratives of men about men. The traumas and sacrifices of women  were of lesser importance than those of men and women often paid for a life of normality with their silence. O’Donnell never mentioned the war years, and she never thought to ask. It was by a chance conversation that led Inge to talk and for O’Donnell to listen to the story of a German woman surviving on the wrong side of war. She dealt with violence, displacement, and a trauma that changed her life. “Her silence was at first a refuge, then a habit, then a torment.” The decisions that she was forced to make were often tragic. By writing this book, O’Donnell wants to give her grandmother voice back to her.

“RESISTANCE”—A Tribute to Marcel Marceau

“RESISTANCE”

A Tribute to Marcel Marceau

Amos Lassen

Writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz’s Resistance is an old-fashioned story of brave opposition to the Nazi occupation of France. It features a sarcastically reluctant hero, a mentally unbalanced sadistic villain, and nail-biter last-minute escapes and is focused on a Nazi-fighting mime, Marcel Mangel (who later changed his surname to Marceau). Marceau is the son of a Jewish butcher living in Strasbourg, France. He tires of wearing a smock and cutting up meat in his father’s shop and prefers putting on a Chaplin mustache and greasepaint to his face in order to clown around in cabarets. His more traditionally minded father, Charles (Karl Markovics), disapproves of Marcel’s creative life and the audiences he performs for are more interested in dancing girls.

This is a light family drama despite opening scene in which Elsbeth (Bella Ramsey), a young Jewish girl in Munich, sees her parents gunned down during the Kristallnacht pogrom. But these early scenes skillfully illustrate the melancholic nature of Marcel’s clowning and also establish just how little the future superstar and his community understood the extent of the danger just a few miles away in Germany.

Marcel becomes involved with the arrival of a truckload of Jewish orphans, including Elsbeth. They were ransomed from the Nazis and the orphans are put up in a nearby castle and watched over by a troop of Jewish Boy and Girl Scouts. Marceau was made to feel guilty by his brother Sigmund (Édgar Ramirez) and begins helping out. Through his cousin, Georges (Géza Röhrig), Marcel got the opportunity to assist Jewish children who have lost their parents, keeping them laughing through miming. He has his own motive— he is anxious to impress  a girl named Emma (Clemence Poesy) and uses his clowning to keep the kids entertained.

The director’s determination to keep the story’s focus on the fight against the Nazis becomes clear once war begins and France is occupied and all Jews in the country become targets. Marcel becomes responsible for more orphans and with his compatriots relocates to Lyon and joins the resistance. The Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighofer), a sadist who likes to play the piano while executing people in the empty pool of his fancy headquarters at the Hotel Terminus. Barbie is a sociopath who keeps the immediacy of Marcel’s mission front and center.

After the action shifts to Lyon, Marcel’s group has to balance keeping themselves and the orphans alive in France or escaping to Switzerland. Eisenberg’s Marceau shows his skill for signaling vulnerability and resolve at the same time. His theatrical exaggeration of miming allows him to express physically. While Marcel mimes, we’re able to concentrate on his eyes and face, which give both a lightness and an emotionality to his movements while at the same time silent and focused.  Marcel’s life touched many, and everyone within this film becomes a bit insignificant in his shadow. The film totally belongs to Marceau.

There are moments of emotional authenticity that make Marceau convincing and riveting. We see him not as a superhero but as an “ordinary” human being thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The fear, the confusion, the anxiety are all written on Eisenberg’s face as he feels his way into the new uncomfortable position of responsibility for others’ lives. So are the joy and the delight when his pantomime helps him chase away the ghosts that haunt him and his charges.

 

Jakubowicz sees these extraordinary circumstances that turned Marceau into the great artist he dreamed of being but feared the war would not let him become. It was the children that gave purpose to his art and taught him to use it to help those who needed it. The film is very close to Jakubowicz, a Venezuelan filmmaker of Polish Jewish descent, whose grandparents on both sides are Holocaust survivors,. He found the story of Marceau’s role in the French Jewish underground by accident. He didn’t even know Marceau was Jewish and became intrigued because it was a story of Jews rescuing Jews during the Holocaust—something only rarely seen on screen.

“THE WIND”— Staying Indoors

“THE WIND”

Staying Indoors

Amos Lassen

“The Wind” from filmmaker Nico Mastorakis is about mystery novelist Sian Anderson (Meg Foster)  who comes to the remote Greek town of Monemvasia. Elias Appleby (Robert Morley) is the pompous British landlord of the house she’s renting  and he warns her of two dangers: the wind, which gets dangerously strong at night, and Phil (Wings Hauser), his sleazy and suspicious American handyman. When night falls and the wind starts howling, Sian sees Phil burying Elias’s dead body in a shallow grave in his front garden. She is trapped indoors by the wild wind and she realizes that she must play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the Phil, who’ll stop at nothing to quiet her so that she will not talk about what she saw.

Sian leaves boyfriend John (David McCallum) and Los Angeles and flies to a secluded island off Greece. She needs the isolation to write her next novel. Sian is warned to stay indoors at night because of the terrible windstorms daily. While she is writing one night, Phil murders Elias, who is trying to evict him. After Sian sees Phil burying something in the garden, she calls John, who is of little help mainly because he is in America.

The film then turns into a game of cat and mouse. Phil arms himself with a sickle, and slips in and out of Elias’ house, terrorizing Sian. John finally gets in touch with the local police, and Kesner (Steve Railsback), a stranded seamen, goes to investigate the call as a favor to the constable. Phil has been hiding the evidence, and Kesner believes Sian’s imagination may have got the best of her.

Kesner is killed and Sian stabs Phil and flees to freedom. Two newlyweds stop by the house and find no one home. Sian keeps falling into holes in the ground, and cannot get to the couple in time before they drive off. Phil magically comes back to life and the two have a final showdown on a cliff (where a very unconvincing mannequin is thrown into the ocean in the process). Mastorakis had a neat film going but he stretched it out much. We have eighty minutes of solid suspense but then he betrays his audience with a laughable climax. Spoilers ahead…

Bonus Materials

  • New restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative, approved by writer-director Nico Mastorakis
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Optional Greek subtitles
  • Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and LPCM Stereo 2.0 Audio
  • Blowing The Wind – Brand new interview with Director Nico Mastorakis
  • The Sound of The Wind – The complete soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer and Stanley Myers
  • A collection of trailers for the films of Nico Mastorakis
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic and author Kat Ellinger

“WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE!”  (‘Papa, sdokhni’)— Once Upon a Time in Moscow

“WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE!”  (‘Papa, sdokhni’)

Once Upon a Time in Moscow

Amos Lassen 

 “Why Don’t You Just Die!” is an entertaining look at family life, Moscow style. Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) has just one objective: to gain entry to his girlfriend’s parents’ apartment and kill her father Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev) with a hammer to restore her honor. But all is not as it initially seems, and Matvey’s attempts to kill the family patriarch don’t quite go to plan. Andrey is a formidable and ruthless opponent who is unwilling to die. Writer/director Kirill Sokolov explores family, modern relationships and the dark places they can take you to when things turn sour. “Why Don’t You Just Die!” is filled with laughs, twists and a lot of blood and gore and is an absurdly funny action-packed allegory. The non-linear pic is also a nasty take on Putin’s corrupt Russia. It’s a nihilistic film, one that turns things over and shocks.  

The film takes in Andrey’s small Moscow hi-rise apartment where he lives with his obedient wife Tasha (Elena Shevchenko). Matvei dressed in a Batman t-shirt, rings the bell while concealing a hammer with which he plans to use to kill the father of his actress girlfriend Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde) for sexually abusing her as a child. He’s doing this as a favor for Olya, who requested it. She also told him dad keeps a large stash of money in the apartment and this awakens her boyfriend’s criminal impulses. When invited in, he drops the hammer and accepts the offer of a cup of tea. But soon the father and the boyfriend are fighting, as dad doesn’t like the idea of him having sex with his daughter.

Flashbacks give the backstories involving Matvei, Olya and Andrei’s police partner Evgenie (Mikhail Gorevoy). We learn of an earlier blackmail pact between the crooked cops allowing a deranged sex killer to escape jail, an incident that turned tragic. We arrival of Olya and Evgenie, the mayhem intensifies until the brutal conclusion at the apartment’s elevator entrance.
The film is a smartly constructed and blisteringly paced piece of chaos. Twists and turns are everywhere and by the end of the film, no one is exactly who they seemed to be at first. Surprise after surprise play with our minds.

Bonus Materials:

  • High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
  • Original lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Brand new interview with author and critic Kim Newman, exploring Why Don’t You Just Die! within the context of the long-standing tradition of single location cinema
  • Exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsals and the film set
  • Four short films by Kirill Sokolov: Could Be Worse, The Outcome, The Flame and the award-winning Sisyphus is Happy (Best Director and Gold Frame awards, 2013 Unprecedented Cinema International Festival of Short Film)
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Kirill Sokolov’s complete original storyboard for the film (BD-ROM content)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two choices of artwork
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Neil Mitchell

“ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK”— At Home in Massachusetts

“ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK”

At Home in Massachusetts

Amos Lassen

Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) is horror’s hostess with the mostest and now we have her on a Blu-ray special edition. Elvira just quit her job as a Los Angeles TV horror hostess when received the unexpected news that she’s set to inherit part of her great aunt Morgana’s estate. Arriving in the small town of Fallwell, Massachusetts to claim her inheritance, Elvira meets her sinister uncle Vincent, who, unbeknownst to Elvira, is an evil warlock secretly scheming to steal the old family spell book for his own evil ends. The camp begins and we are in for quite a ride and more double entendres than you would think possible. Made in 1988, “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” helped solidify the horror hostess as a major pop culture icon. She owns the screen with her quick wit, sass, and of course, cleaving-enhancing gown.

What is so immediately captivating about Elvira is the total disconnect between her physical appearance (including makeup and costuming) and her personality. She is a kind of combo of Valley Girl inanities and Mae West double entendres. Elvira became an instant sensation.  

Elvira quits her tv gig in what might be called a #Metoo reaction, even if Elvira’s blatant sexuality and frequent jokes about her own “attributes” might make that seem completely and unavoidably ironic. She seems to strike instant gold anyway when she finds out she’s inherited Fallwell.  

Of course, Fallwell turns out to be an ultraconservative town that has never seen anything quite like Elvira, and Elvira pretty much immediately invites the local busy body and moral custodian Chastity Pariah (Edie McClurg) to a meeting. The rest of the film is kind of vignette driven, with Elvira encountering both disparagement and acceptance in the little town, while also coming to the realization that her inheritance might be more than she bargained for. There are scenes that are quite funny, but there probably aren’t enough of them to sustain a feature film.  
Basically, the entire formula for comedy is comprised of a steady delivery of “sex joke, double entendre, joke about Elvira’s breasts, sex joke, double entendre, joke about Elvira’s breasts, sex joke, double entendre, joke about Elvira’s breasts.” It’s not a bad formula, but after an hour, it becomes so predictable, you can see when a joke is about to fly at the audience, and it doesn’t really land all the time. But then again, Cassandra Peterson makes even the most clunky one-liner land, thanks to her unabashed goofiness, and her ability to use her chest as a sight gag more times than not.

 “Mistress of the Dark” has a lot going for it. It never tries too hard and actually has fun with the premise. Cassandra Peterson uses the popularity of her character while also giving her something to do. She provides the audience with her origin, a back story about her family, and she never hesitates to flirt with men around her in spite of the disgust of the puritanical town she ends up in.

After moving into her dark mansion and adopting a dog, Elvira discovers she comes from a long line of witches. Meanwhile, her evil long lost uncle wants the sacred book of “recipes” Elvira’s aunt has left behind, while Elvira battles the town’s puritanical government, all of whom will do whatever it takes to run her out of town. Elvira runs amok garnering the love of the town’s teens, and even turns a small picnic into an orgy.

Elvira sticks closely to the horror genre, providing a fish out of water comedy. Elvira herself is a likable character filled with movie references and shameless homages, while also never afraid to flaunt her assets to everyone she meets. This may not be the comedy that re-invented horror comedies, but Elvira’s feature film debut is an entertaining and raunchy foray with the always sexy and unique Cassandra Peterson keeping it together.

Bonus Materials

  • Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original uncompressed stereo 2.0 audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Introduction to the film by director James Signorelli
  • 2017 Audio Commentary with director James Signorelli, hosted by Fangoria editor emeritus Tony Timpone
  • 2017 Audio Commentary with Patterson Lundquist, www.elviramistressofthedark.com webmaster and judge of US TV show The Search for the Next Elvira
  • Archival Audio Commentary with actors Cassandra Peterson, Edie McClurg and writer John Paragon
  • Too Macabre – The Making of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark – newly-revised 2018 version of this feature-length documentary on the making of the film, including interviews with various cast and crew and rare never-before-seen archival material
  • Recipe for Terror: The Creation of the Pot Monster – newly-revised 2018 version of this featurette on the concept and design of the pot monster, as well as the film’s other SFX
  • Original storyboards
  • Extensive image galleries
  • Original US theatrical and teaser trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing by Kat Ellinger and Patterson Lundquist

“BEYOND THE DOOR”— Demonic Possession LIVES and GROWS

“BEYOND THE DOOR”

Demonic Possession LIVES and GROWS

Amos Lassen

Filmmaker Ovidio G. Assonitis brings us a gloriously wild take on “The Exorcist” with “Beyond the Door” starring Juliet Mills as Jessica Barrett, a young mother who starts to develop strange behaviors whilst pregnant with her third child. Jessica shows signs of full-blown demonic possession (complete with projectile vomiting and fully-rotating head). Film critic Robert Hebert described this film as “disgusting”, “scary trash” and “maddeningly inappropriate”. Arrow Video now brings us the Blu ray and it is quite a film.

Jessica is married to a record producer (Gabriele Lavia) and is mother of two foul-mouthed children. She is pregnant but senses something strange about the baby brought on by the reappearance in her life of an old lover Dmitri (Richard Johnson).  The devil has promised to extend Dmitri’s life if he makes sure Jessica delivers her devil spawn. As her behavior goes from bizarre mood swings and foul language to speaking in a male voice along with the head-spinning and telekinetic phenomena, her husband tries to figure out what is happening and Dmitri pretends to share his concern in order to get close to Jessica and the baby.

The film takes elements from both “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist”. The actors approach their roles with conviction; especially Mills even when her bizarre behavior seems more ridiculous and ominous.

Over the years “Beyond the Door” has been released under a variety of titles like “The Devil within Her” in the UK, “Diabolica” in Japan and its Italian title was originally Chi sei?, which translates into Who Are You? The plot revolves around a woman named Jessica Barrett who is forced to deal with demonic possession while the son of Satan is growing inside of her. One of the subplots involves Dimitri whose motivations are never fully explained and his existence is ambiguous. Visually the San Francisco and Italian locations lend greatly to the films atmosphere. The specials effects scenes involving Jessica Barrett’s demonic possession are all extremely well done as they never come off looking cheap or tacky.

 

Where’s Jessica?” asks her worried husband, when she disappears during a birthday party for the children. He finds her in the bathroom, vomiting blood. She tells him that she feels a little weak and they agree she ought to get more rest. Parts of the movie play almost as comedy and unfortunately for the film, the laughs seem almost appropriate.

In the earlier parts of the movie, mysterious hands reach out to touch shoulders in darkened rooms, and it turns out it’s just the husband patting his wife. In the later stages, though, when Jessica begins to turn green and talk wildly, the movie becomes disgusting. There is green vomit, brown vomit, blood, levitations and other manifestations of the devil.

Jessica’s short order pregnancy that proceeds so rapidly that she’s three months pregnant within a week. The mysterious stranger seems to have the answer, and after saving her husband from being run over by a truck we see that “it is all trash, but it’s scary trash”. It is entertainment if this is your thing.

Beyond the Door is one of the Top Grossing Movies in the country right now. Why? Maybe because at some dumb, fundamental level, it really does live it up to, or down to, its promise. It’s all trash, but it’s scary trash.

     —Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Many of the special effect scenes do hold most of what they set out to do…frighten and impact the viewer. Beyond the Door certainly doesn’t disappoint with the specialized subject matter.

     —Wee Willie Wicked, HorrorNews.net

Bonus Materials

  • Limited to 3,000 units
  • Brand new 2K restoration of the extended Uncut English Export Version
  • Exclusive bonus disc containing the alternate US Theatrical Version and Italy Possessed, a brand-new feature-length documentary on Italian exorcism movies!
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
  • Reversible fold-out poster
  • Perfect-bound collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Martin and Alessio di Rocco
  • Brand new 2K restoration of the Uncut English Export Version, released as Devil Within Her (108 mins)
  • High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • The Devil and I – a newly-filmed interview with director/producer Ovidio G. Assonitis
  • Barrett’s Hell – a newly-filmed interview with cinematographer Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli
  • Beyond the Music – a newly-filmed interview with composer Franco Micalizzi
  • The Devil’s Face – a newly-filmed interview with camera operator Maurizio Maggi
  • Motel and Devils – a newly-conducted audio interview with actor Gabriele Lavia
  • Alternate Italian Chi Sei? opening titles
  • Alternate Behind the Door VHS opening titles
  • Alternate Japanese Diabolica opening and ending sequence
  • Trailers, TV and Radio Spots
  • Image Gallery
  • Brand new 2K restoration of the US Theatrical Version, released as Beyond the Door (99 mins)
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Italy Possessed – a brand new feature-length documentary on the history of Italian Exorcist rip-offs, including interviews with key filmmakers such as Sergio Martino, Alberto De Martino, Pupi Avati, Marcello Avallone, Ovidio G. Assonitis and many more!

“SIXTEEN CANDLES”— Teens in the 80s

“SIXTEEN CANDLES”

Teens in the 80s

Amos Lassen

Writer-director John Hughes in his first film became the king of teen cinema with “Sixteen Candles”, and in the process he gave us one of the most iconic faces of ’80s Americana: Molly Ringwald. As high schooler Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald), her 16th birthday could just be the worst day of her life. Her entire family has forgotten about it because her older sister’s impending wedding; her biggest crush, high school hunk Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) has found an embarrassing “sex quiz” filled out by Sam in which she details how she is saving herself for him; and she is hounded by a relentless nerd, Farmer Ted AKA The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) who won’t take no for an answer. Before the end of the night of her birthday she still hope and believes that all her birthday wishes could still come true. “Sixteen Candles” is a film that is thoughtful and funny at the same time, and still holds up very well today. 

Things really get crazy when Samantha’s grandparents invade the house for the wedding, bringing along an exchange student named Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe). To escape the insanity of her home, Samantha goes to a school dance, where she is accosted by The Geek. All the while, Jake has noticed Samantha, as he’s grown tired of his stuck-up girlfriend, Caroline (Haviland Morris). As the night progresses, all of these characters intermingle with one another, and many bizarre things occur.  “Sixteen Candles” does the nearly impossible by presenting the kind of realistic diversity which one sees in a real high-school and balances this with a handful of very serious moments and many funny ones.

Granted, many of the characters in the film are exaggerations and the big party is too over the top, but there is enough genuine emotion in the film to overcome this. Anyone whose family forgot their birthday would be devastated and it is this clever and simple premise gives the film a great hook, and allows the audience to buy into Samantha’s longing for attention from anyone, especially Jake. Jake is a refreshingly original character, a rich boy who is willing to settle for what others consider to be less. But it’s Anthony Michael Hall’s geeky character that steals the film and gets in some of the best lines. “Sixteen Candles” may sound like a chick-flick, but it has something to offer anyone who’s ever felt awkward and left-out.

Samantha has a crush on her school’s most popular boy (Michael Schoeffling) but school geek (Anthony Michael Hall) has a crush on her. However, just when things look grim for Samantha, with embarrassments such as her grandparents and a foreign exchange student, it turns out her dream boy is looking at her too.

Some of the good jokes and perceptive thoughts about teenage crises are slightly marred by some crowd-pleasing easy laughs but overlook those and sit back and enjoy the affecting performances of Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall.

Bonus Materials

  • New restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation of the Theatrical Version of the film (92 mins), plus Blu-ray™ premiere Extended Version (94 mins), featuring the additional “cafeteria” scene newly remastered in high definition
  • Original lossless mono audio, plus 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround option
  • Original English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Alternate “home video” soundtrack prepared for VHS and laserdisc releases
  • Option to watch additional scene from the Extended Version separately
  • Casting ‘Sixteen Candles’, an all-new audio interview with casting director Jackie Burch
  • When Gedde Met Deborah, a newly filmed conversation between actors Gedde Watanabe and Deborah Pollack
  • Rudy the Bohunk, a newly filmed interview with supporting actor John Kapelos
  • The In-Between, a newly filmed interview with camera operator Gary Kibbe
  • The New Wave Nerd, a newly filmed interview with filmmaker Adam Rifkin, who shadowed John Hughes while working as an extra on set
  • Music for Geeks, a newly filmed interview with composer Ira Newborn
  • A Very Eighties Fairytale, an all-new video essay written and narrated by writer Soraya Roberts, looking at the film from a contemporary feminist perspective
  • Celebrating Sixteen Candles, an archive documentary featuring interviews with cast, crew and admirers, including stars Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Dooley, Justin Henry, Haviland Morris and Gedde Watanabe
  • Theatrical trailers, TV spots and radio spots
  • Image galleries
  • BD-ROM: PDF of the original shooting script
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nikki Baughan and Bryan Reesman

“GOLDIE”— An Urban Coming-of-Age Story

 

“GOLDIE”

An Urban Coming-of-Age Story

Amos Lassen

In the eyes of her little sisters Sherrie and Supreme, Goldie (Slick Woods) is a star. Her big break awaits and she’s just got to pick up that golden fur coat she wants. She needs to land a role as a dancer in a hip-hop video and keep child welfare services from separating her from Sherrie and Supreme, now that their mother is locked up. But holding onto those dreams isn’t easy when there are so many obstacles in her path. Dutch director Sam de Jong brings us a very real New York film that is both raw and glamorous, realistic and relentlessly optimistic. It is also filled with heart and attitude. 

Instagirl fashion model Slick Woods plays Goldie, a streetwise Bronx teenager whose dream of making it big seems to be derailed by her mother’s arrest. Goldie has been promised a featured role as a dancer in a music video for local rapper Tiny (A$AP Ferg). She needs to send in an audition tape first, so she shoplifts a skimpy yellow onesie and uses her preteen half-sisters Supreme (Jazmyn C. Dorsey) and Sherrie (Alanna Renee Tyler-Tompkins) to be her fangirl camera crew. However, problems begin almost immediately. Goldie gets fired from her discount department store job, has a fight with her mother’s drug-dealer boyfriend Frank (Danny Hoch) after pocketing his cash. Her mom, Carol (Marsha Stephanie Blake), is arrested on unspecified felony charges. Goldie is then forced to grab Supreme and Sherrie and flee the shelter where they’ve been staying since losing their home. She tries to prevent child services from taking her sisters and put into the system.

Goldie fights for her dreams. She lives on pizza slices and takes her sisters from one friend or family member to the next so they will have a sense of home. When she sees a yellow faux fur coat in a local store window, she fixates on it and becomes convinced that it will seal her stardom. She sells her mother’s stash of Oxycodone to smack-talking fly girl Princess (Angela Griszell),  to be able to buy the coat and then steals her blonde wig. Obstacles for Goldie appear everywhere including Frank trying to get his cash back and sleazy sexual opportunist Jose (Jose Fernandez) who tries to stiff her on a deal. Her father Richard (Gbenga Akinnagbe) is not the only one telling her that calling child services is her best option.

It’s easy to go along with her belief that she will make everything work and keep what remains of the family intact (at least for a while). It’s predictable, however, that reality affects Goldie’s plans, especially when the music video turns out to be an amateurish enterprise that looks like it is nothing more than a lousy payment.

As coming-of-age lessons go, there is not much new here. The writer-director is more interested in examining how self-motivation can create a force field of invincibility, even if there’s always someone waiting to step on and destroy it. That process takes on an almost mythical dimension when Goldie finally gets her version of a magic cloak, only to discover  that its powers are limited. When Goldie drops her bravado and reveals her vulnerability, the story becomes more than a reckless adventure. It segues in the moving final scenes into a sensitive depiction of a young woman’s first experience of the world of making adult decisions. There are flaws in the film but by mixing professionals with non-actors in a milieu that is grounded in street life but with the alternate reality of fabulousness and fame that Goldie struggles to keep alive in her head, we see that the film’s charms outweighs what is lacking.                                

Slick Woods brings out the vulnerability and transforms Goldie’s story into a poignant coming of age drama. Director De Jong brings energy to a social realist scenario  but this is Slick Woods’ film. She has the looks, the moves and is filled with self-confidence.  Goldie is no saint. She shoplifts, deceives, steals money and does whatever necessary to survive. It is her unwavering determination and concern for her sisters that make her such an engaging figure. The strength of Slick Woods’ performance is in the way she finds plaintive grace beneath the brash, sassy confidence of her exterior. She brings out the vulnerability in Goldie’s tireless spirit and transforming Goldie’s story into a poignant look at coming of age.

BONUS PROGRAMMING

  • Bonus Short Film– We Love Moses (Directed by Dionne Edwards | United Kingdom | 15 minutes ) — When Ella was twelve, she discovered sex. Now eighteen, Ella reflects on how her obsession with her older brother’s best friend, Moses, left her with a secret she still carries.

 About Film Movement

Founded in 2002, Film Movement is a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide including the Oscar-nominated films Theeb (2016) and Corpus Christi (2020). Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci, Ettore Scola and Luchino Visconti. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

“OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE”— A Misunderstood and Likeable Guy

“OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE”

A Misunderstood and Likeable Guy

Amos Lassen

Ric Burns’ documentary “Oliver Sachs: His Own Life” is filled with interesting bits and pieces many of which could easily provide enough material for a film in their own right. It is a treasure. Sacks understood, perhaps better than most, how little things can make a person happy. Filmed in the period leading up to his death, this documentary reflects on his work as a doctor and a writer  and on a life that was often lonely, one that he survived partly through his ability to find joy in unexpected places.

Director Burns brings us the story of a boy born into a respectable home, both his parents were doctors, who had the opportunity to match his intelligence, yet nevertheless found himself an outsider and who championed the cause of outsiders throughout his life. Sacks was misunderstood and sidelined for a long time by the medical establishment but he managed to achieve widespread public acclaim. Perhaps this came out of his, his willingness to make the field of neurology accessible and his assertion that what a doctor needs most is empathy.

 

Sacks was empathetic and was likeable, something he did not use for many years because he was shy yet once he mastered it, it was an integral part of who he was. Burns does not ignore the criticism Sacks faced, especially the claims that he put personal glory ahead of ethics and that he exploited his patients. However, it is hard to think ill of a man who seems so open, warm and engaging. Sacks was a man who was shaped by the times through which he lived, the treatment of his schizophrenic brother Michael convinced him that there had to be a kinder way to deal with mentally ill people. His experience of being gay in a profoundly homophobic society led him to take refuge first in bodybuilding and later in recreational drugs, pushing his body and mind to the edge again and again. When he eventually realized he had to get help, he started psychoanalysis and became fascinated by the brain and began to exert his own influence on the world. Up to this point in the film, all was seen through  still photographs. Now we move on to Sacks’ life on film and we see his  famous awakenings that would later be dramatized in a film with Robin Williams, whom we see briefly talking with Sacks in another piece of archive footage.

Sacks’ most passionate contention was that helping people had to begin with trying to understand the whole of who they were, not just what was different about them. He had been forewarned of his death from malignant melanoma but he still worked hard to sum up his own life in words during his final few months. We meet some of the people who knew Sacks, and from those who drew inspiration from his work; but it’s Sacks himself, reflecting on an injured leg, apologizing for his “multisyllabic swearing” or, in his seventies, falling in love for the first time, who is what shines in this lovely film.

“Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” closely follows the autobiography that Sacks published shortly before his death in 2015. Burns conducted several interviews with Sacks in the months before his death, and he also included interviews with celebrated writers, physicians, friends and family members.

Sacks is probably known to most audiences from the movie Awakenings, a best picture Oscar nominee from 1990 that starred Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. It pic was based on Sacks’ book about his work with comatose patients back in 1969, when an experimental drug treatment led to these patients coming back to life after years or even decades asleep. Williams in effect played Sacks in the film and there are scenes in the documentary showing Sacks on the set with Williams. But of course there was much more to Sacks than that movie.

He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in England. Both of his parents were physicians, but one of his brothers was schizophrenic. Some  of the people that we hear from speculate that this family experience might have created Oliver’s interest in understanding emotionally troubled people.

His family life was painful in other ways as well. When he told his mother that he was gay, she replied, “You are an abomination.” Sacks ran from England for America and rebelled as a motorcycle rider and a bodybuilder. Eventually he moved to New York to focus on his medical career, and although his work with psychotic patients was initially controversial, he was eventually admired by his peers.

Many prominent people pay tribute to Sacks in the film, including a number of fellow writers like Jonathan Miller (his classmate at Oxford) and Paul Theroux, “New York Review of Books” editor Robert Silvers, members of the medical establishment and Temple Grandin, who was part of a study on autism that radically changed popular understanding of this condition.

Sacks’ personal life was as interesting as his professional achievements, perhaps partly because of his mother’s disapproval. In his autobiography and here in this film, Sacks says that he was celibate for 35 years. He was in his 70s when he established a loving relationship with photographer Billy Hayes, another person that we hear from in this documentary.

The real heart of the film are the interviews that Burns conducted with Sacks himself, some in private and some with his friends and colleagues in attendance. When Sacks realizes his death is imminent and says his goodbyes to these long-term associates, the scenes are emotionally moving. The film is a tribute to Burns’ discretion as well as his filmmaking skill. He earned the trust not just of Sacks but of so many others who played an important role in his life. 

One of the surprising and moving lessons of the documentary is how often the most gifted people are unappreciated. Late in life, Sacks earned many honorary degrees and awards from the medical establishment, but he spent a far longer period of his life as an outsider and often miserably unhappy, even suicidal man. It could be that his own torments helped to create the sympathy for society’s outsiders that led to his amazing discoveries. This is the most provocative insight in the film.

Sacks wrote about people in extreme states — of sensory and neurological damage, of awareness and sheer being. “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” is a tender and thrilling portrait of a man who led an eccentrically defiant, at times reckless existence that was the furthest thing from being planned. He was a wanderer and  a scientific navigator of the soul.