Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
May was another terrific month of retro releases for Twilight Time. But there are two films that are must-owns.
Twilight Time: May releases
1976’s NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE is the movie Woody Allen never made. But it is the movie that Paul Mazursky made, and he directed the equally-as-impressive BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE. Mazursky creates a film essay on the forbidden talk of sexual liberation, interracial sex and homosexuality in the ‘50s, along with the political, artistic and literary freedom of the time. The film may be a bit gloomy and pretentious for some, but the performances (most notably a young Christopher Walken and Shelley Winters) and dialogue should entice audiences.
The other monumental release is Walter Hill’s 1993 film GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEGEND. It’s based on the true story of the titular Apache chief (Wes Studi) and his armed resistance to the U.S. Government’s subjugation of his people. Also starring a young Matt Damon, Robert DuVall, Gene Hackman and Jason Patric, GERONIMO is a fascinating lesson in humanity for history buffs and Western aficionados.
Also take 1915’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION and 1956’s HILDA CRANE into consideration. They may not have the talent to immediately capture your interest, but both titles intrigue in their own ways.
THE BIRTH OF A NATION is one of the oldest movies I’ve ever seen. It may test your patience being a three-hour-plus silent epic, about the impact of the Civil War and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan, but it’s astonishing to see how far we’ve come in cinema, especially when you see how disgustingly racist the film is.
HILDA CRANE, on the other hand, is much shorter and digestible. Starring Jean Simmons (sadly, not of the band Kiss), Guy Madison and Jean-Pierre Aumont, this is the weakest film in the bunch. It’s equivalent to watching a dated soap opera. There are some likable qualities to it, such as it being an open examination of female sexuality, but you also have to put up with a lot of melodrama.
NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE is rated R, 111 minutes; GERONIMO is rated PG-13, 115 minutes; THE BIRTH OF A NATION is not rated, 191 minutes; and HILDA CRANE is not rated, 87 minutes.
Extras: All films are sold separately (through twilighttimemovies.com) and have individually unique special features. The releases come with such extras as isolated music tracks, original theatrical trailers and audio commentaries. THE BIRTH OF A NATION, however, includes many more engrossing supplemental material to keep one busy for a while.
Warner Archive Collection: June releases
To round off the month’s retro releases, the Warner Archive Collection also has a sizable set of titles worth checking out.
The film that struck my fancy right away was 1972’s SUPER FLY. It sees the late-and-great Ron O’Neal as a urban cocaine dealer who wants to find a clean way out of the business before death or jail finds him. He builds an escape by making his biggest deal yet. But the idea of retirement doesn’t sit well with the mob.
SUPER FLY is a thinly-plotted film. We mainly just follow O’Neal around as goes from place to place. There’s a ridiculous amount of shots of people walking around and driving (with soothing Curtis Mayfield music playing over them), which is probably because the original script was only about 45 pages. However, the film captures the era well and it’s got an upbeat energy that’s easy to vibe with.
The remaining three Warner Archive films are an acquired taste. If, like me, you treasure classic romances, complex dramas and historical epics, you’ll appreciate 1962’s 2 WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN (a sweeping Kirk Douglas-starring drama about a former star juggling the pressures of life), 1957’s DESIGNING WOMAN (Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall play a couple who find out they have little in common — it’s bright and well-written) and 1961’s THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES (a Sergio Leone-directed spectacle about Greek military heroes and war).
SUPER FLY is rated R, 91 minutes; 2 WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN is not rated, 107 minutes; DESIGNING WOMAN is not rated, 117 minutes; and THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES is not rated, 128 minutes.
Extras: Available through wbshop.com, the special features vary. Some Blu-rays include audio commentaries with filmmakers or film historians, while others (like SUPER FLY) have special documentary featurettes.