Hollow City, Dazed and Confused, Black Hawk Down, The Princess Bride
Set in 1991 when the Angolan capital was under curfew and children like N’Dala, our protagonist, were in danger of being forcibly recruited by the military.
Spare and naturally told, Hollow City is about children forced to be warriors. A war orphan, N’Dala, flees the care of a despairing nun and wanders his country aimlessly. He’s adopted by Zé, a boy a little older than he is. As N’Dala confronts the dangers of the city, Zé portrays a legendary child warrior in the school play. There’s a sense that these children, forced to prematurely step into adulthood, do so with unexpected grace, but that the choices they’re forced to make are unfathomable.
Some production notes.
Dazed and Confused
The holy grail of Gen X nostalgia comes somewhat surprisingly from boutique distributor Criterion almost 30 years to the day it was set — May 28, 1976. It launched the careers of then unknowns Ben Affleck, Parker Posey and Matthew McConaughey.
I first saw it in ’93 when I was living in New Orleans at a place called Movie Pitchers that sold beer at its art house screenings. It was the ideal way to see the film — in a good-natured Southern haze. Seeing it again I was struck by how little I remembered of its plot, so slack it threatens to drag along the ground, and would do so if not for the infusion of 70s rock classics.
A ton. It’s so top heavy with analysis that the slight product begins to sag under the weight of the all the making of docs, outtakes, audition tapes and commentary tracks.
See it at a rep house with some buddies and cheap beer instead.
Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott leads a chunk of early-aughts Young Hollywood (Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Orlando Bloom) through the true story of a 1993 firefight between Army Rangers and Somalis in Mogadishu, centered around a downed helicopter.
Not having seen Black Hawk Down since its 2001 theatrical release, I couldn’t tell you which eight minutes in this unrated “extended cut” are new, or whether this material appeared as deleted material on any of the film’s three (!) previous DVD incarnations. Regardless, the film remains intense and well-mounted in the moment yet forgettable as soon as you look away. Once the men are in combat, it’s difficult to tell one imperiled soldier from another; this may be realistic, but it doesn’t do much for the drama of this now-150-minute film.
In contrast with a previous three-disc edition, the only extra here is an informative installment of the PBS news series Frontline.
Scott’s halfway decent movie grows less compelling on one DVD release, let alone four.
The Princess Bride
A new, two-disc release of the very first favorite movie of half the children born in America since 1980.
The Princess Bride is unanimously beloved, perhaps, for its role as its admirers’ cinematic primer. It’s explicitly a “storybook story,” designed to sate every narrative appetite. Recognition of its tongue-in-cheek tone comes later, but doesn’t sour the experience: the makers were smiling a mile wide the whole time, but never treated it as a joke.
Retains the and featurettes from previous special editions, with some whimsical new docs to justify its existence. It’s available in either “Buttercup” or “Dread Pirate Roberts” editions, the differences being the menus and packaging — pink for girls, blue for boys. As the generation raised on the movie has only recently traded “As you wish” for “Fuck the gender binary,” this is a bit perplexing.
You probably own it already.