For our Channel-exclusive series Art-House America on FilmStruck, we recently visited Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, a grassroots theater that has become a vibrant hub for a diverse mix of visual media and live events. Alongside our documentary profile about the venue, we’re presenting an ongoing selection of films near and dear to the theater’s programmers. The latest addition to the series is Doug Pray’s landmark grunge-rock documentary Hype! (1996), a brisk and captivating film that charts the early-nineties rise of such legendary Seattle bands as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. In 2016, the NWFF played host to a memorable twentieth-anniversary screening that was attended by many of the musicians featured in the film, which you can now watch on the Channel.
Also up this week:
The burdens of donkeyhood hold a mirror up to the human condition in these parables of everyday cruelty. Franck Dion’s animated short concerns Edmond, a diminutive office drone mocked and bullied by his coworkers, who jeeringly crown him with a paper donkey hat. Instead of wounding him, though, this prank triggers an awakening of Edmond’s animal identity. Then, Robert Bresson’s hallowed classic follows the donkey Balthazar as he is passed from owner to owner and suffers for the sins of mankind, his life paralleling that of his first keeper, Marie (Anne Wiazemsky).
Melodrama casts noirish shadows in this portrait of maternal sacrifice from Hollywood master Michael Curtiz. Its iconic performance by Joan Crawford as Mildred, a single mother hell-bent on freeing her children from the stigma of economic hardship, solidified Crawford’s career comeback and gave the actor her only Oscar. But as Mildred pulls herself up by the bootstraps, first as an unflappable waitress and eventually as the well-heeled owner of a successful restaurant chain, the ingratitude of her materialistic firstborn (a diabolical Ann Blyth) becomes a venomous serpent's tooth, setting in motion an endless cycle of desperate overtures and heartless recriminations. Recasting James M. Cain’s rich psychological novel as a murder mystery, this bitter cocktail of blind parental love and all-American ambition is both unremittingly hard-boiled and sumptuously emotional. Supplemental features: a conversation with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito, excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring actor Joan Crawford, a feature-length documentary about Crawford, and more.
The work of American novelist James Jones provides the basis for these two star-studded Hollywood melodramas. Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning classic From Here to Eternity (1953), an adaptation of Jones’s National Book Award–winning first novel, is a chronicle of military life on a Hawaiian base leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, with a flawless cast featuring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, and Donna Reed. Sinatra, who won an Oscar for his role, also stars in Vincente Minnelli’s big-screen version of Jones’s sprawling second novel, Some Came Running (1958), in which an alcoholic novelist returns home to small-town Indiana after the war and finds himself at a crossroads.