DVD Tales: Batman: The Animated Series to Blood Simple

Following from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm...

Batman: The Animated Series (Bruce Timm, 1992-1995)
I own all four seasons of the mega-hit that started it all. Without Batman, we wouldn't have gotten Superman, Justice League or the rest. When it first aired, I was at university and only caught it once or twice. Before buying the boxed sets - and I did that mostly because I'm a huge fan of the Justice League cartoon - I'd seen maybe half a dozen episodes, tops. Well, they're as a great as everyone says they are, with the Paul Dini stories usually stand-outs. I find that I'm not much of a Joker fan, but Harley Quinn is something else, and for a while, I was watching the show just for her (and Batgirl too - I'm all about the girls). The fourth season redesigns the characters in the simpler, slicker Justice League style, and is the equivalent of a Batman Family comic. It's great too, and avoids the fatigue a fourth season might have normally entailed.

Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)
I saw this as a rental and immediately fell in love with its quirkyness. A puppet show based Eloise and Abelard? That's brilliant! Never mind all that crazy other stuff. The DVD is just as quirky. It's not a great package, but you get the story of a car extra (those people hired to drive down a stretch of road over and over and over), and a shot of Spike Jonze puking from nervousness.

Belly of an Architect (Peter Greenaway, 1987)
I used to have this friend (just don't know what he's doing now) who had his Master's in Film, and he had me discover a lot of pretty weird stuff. Let's just say he had his own aesthetic. One of his favorite directors was Peter Greenaway and I must've been lent most of his movies to watch. One I found by myself is Belly of an Architect starring Brian Dennehy (the alien leader in Cocoon) as an architect obsessed with the work of the obscure work of Boullée, as well as his own round stomach. It's an artsy descent into madness, and probably a tour de force for Dennehy (though Chloe Webb as his wife is the worst frickin actress ever). The funny thing is, I first rented Belly for 99¢ at a pharmacy. I couldn't believe they had that. It's the only Greenaway I own, since the rest is either expensive or not readily available. I'm still looking for Prospero's Books.

Big Lebowski (Cohen Bros., 1998)
By the time I started to get really interested in the Cohen Brothers, The Big Lebowski was already a cult film among my friends. thing was, I'd never seen the whole thing. A scene here, a scene there, I didn't really get it. And let's just say these same friends haven't always steered me in the right direction. So The Big Lebowski was one of the last Cohen films I got and watched. And it's brilliant! (Score one for my friends.) A film noir thriller with a completely clueless protagonist has been done elsewhere as pure comedy (The Man Who Knew Too Little), but I much prefer the deadpan, quirky Cohen style. Fun stuff!

Blood Simple (Cohen Bros., 1984)
Ah, but here's where my real love affair with the Cohen films begins. I'd seen Barton Fink and The Man Who Wasn't There, but that's it. I remembered Blood Simple being mentioned around the time Fargo came out, and the atmospheric light-through-bullet holes scene was shown. So when I took the plunge, I started from the beginning. It remains my favorite to this day. It's noir, it's borderline hicksploitation, it's macabre and funny in all the wrong ways, I love it. Great choice of music too, I'd watch it just for that. Funky extra: The DVD commentary is by a faux-film historian who puts an academic spin on the "real" script for the film. It's so crazy, it's a film unto itself.

But what did YOU think? Next: Blue Planet to Bourne Supremacy.

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