100 Best Mainland China Films

Time Out Shanghai has surveyed 88 Chinese filmmakers, actors, academics, critics, and industry insiders and compiled the definitive list of the best 100 films to come from mainland China.

There are some definite gems in there as befitting a film industry that’s over a hundred years old. Remember it’s only mainland China, so no films are from Taiwan. That would be a great list, too.

Only Time Will Tell - RIP Frankie Knuckles

Frankie Knuckles sought to make the dancefloor a refuge from all the bullshit in the real world. How, he wondered, could you make safety last forever…or at least until the morning hours?

In the seventies where there wasn’t much in the way of dance records (not the kind we know today anyway), he made do with what he had: disco, soul, R&B, jazz, and yes, even rock records. You could play one song after another, but how to keep the really dancey parts, the beats, going? Two records on two turntables, but that wasn’t enough. He wanted to add more parts.

And so Frankie loved the dancefloor so much that he played reel-to-reels for the masses. And it was grand.

House music, the music he created and so named after the Warehouse (the Chicago club where he began spining in 1977), like hip hop, is a lifestyle. Sure, you can merely dabble. A bachelor party. Or New Year’s. Or whatever special occassion you allow yourself once a year. Special because you know it will end and the next day it’s back to your life, back to your job, back to your blah. 

But true house heads know that the dancefloor is more than a mere stopover. It’s the destination, where you congregate and share not just your best (or worst) moves but the entirety of yourself. It’s a community of  peacocks in human form. The dancefloor is where friendships are made, kisses are exchanged and if you’re lucky, your soul flies free.

Whenever I hear someone say, “I don’t like songs that go thump, thump, thump. It’s too repetitive”, they’re missing the point. The point is to get lost in the repetition, to find solace in the beats, to let your mind and body float off into the ether. To enter (here comes a bad word) a trance. Like the ecstatics of ancient Israel who would go out into the desert and chant non-stop in the searing heat until they hallucinated and found communion with their god.

On these enveloping dancefloors, you became a part of something so natural and beautiful that when you returned to the real world, you looked at other people as if THEY were crazy and living on the outside of society. How, you wanted to scream at everyday people on the street, can you not want to be a part of the boundless love and energy and acceptance that you experience at a night out with other people who look nothing like you but are really just like you?! But you don’t scream. You smile and maybe listen to your Walkman and count down the hours until you’re among your people again.

The grand masters of any art need lucky as much as brilliance. Their art must hit at the right moment and that’s what makes Frankie Knuckles so special. He saw a need and wanted to do something about it and filled a void in our culture at the perfect time. He reasoned that people on the margins of society should have a place to be themselves, to be free. The crazier the better.

And so it was, a visionary black gay man from the Bronx began to play records to groups of sweaty gay men in places like Continental Baths on West 74th. And when the opportunity presented itself for Frankie to move to Chicago in 1977, he jumped at it and unknowingly began a journey that would change music, pop culture, and partying forever. You only need to look at the huge impact of electronic music in festivals, concert halls, and stadiums worldwide to understand his legacy. 

The news yesterday of the death of Frankie Knuckles dots the final sentence in the book of genesis for house music. Every party has to end. And that’s a hard thing to accept. Frankie Knuckles was, and will always be, The Creator of house music. No genre of music is solely attributed to one person but house.

Frankie made house. This house. And we all now live in it.

William Friedkin's Masterclass on Sorcerer

"I love this film more than any of my others." - William Friedkin

One of the best movies of the 70s you’ve never seen, Sorceror, is getting its Blu-Ray release and theatrical re-release this April. The 1977 action film, based on Georges Arnaud’s novel The Wages of Fear, follows four international outlaws traversing a South American jungle in trucks loaded with dynamite. The movie, a considerable rival to Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 version of the story, opened the week before Star Wars rendering it dead on arrival. 

For years the movie languished in studio vaults due to various legal entanglements. Friedkin, the director of no less than three seminal films of the 70s (The Boys in the Band, The Exorcist, and The French Connection), had to file a lawsuit simply to find the legal documents that established the true ownership of the movie. Flash forward to today and the various studios have apparently put aside their distribution issues and allowed the movie to be restored under Friedkin’s direction.

The restoration premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year and was also screened last month at the Cinemateque Francaise for their Toute la Mémoire du Monde restoration film festivalHere is a video of the Master Class that Friedkin gave at the festival devoted entirely to Sorceror.

Friedkin’s stories are always worth listening to and his trademark straight-shooter style hasn’t diminished with age. Friedkin will next be on hand to discuss the film next at the TCM Festival in Hollywood in April. Enjoy.

3 Reasons You Should Jump Into Hannibal Right Now

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There’s no cult surrounding the books of Thomas Harris like the kind surrounding other crime authors. Harris writes about the behavioral science investigators of the FBI who look into the darkest corners of the human mind. In addition to being murderous and incapable of stopping, the serial killers of Harris’s books have a flair for sadistic ritual killings and dramatic presentation of the bodies. Not the kinds of things you want to rehash and examine with a book club.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of Harris’s greatest contribution to pop culture, the villain Hannibal Lecter. Played most famously by Anthony Hopkins, his first on-screen appearance was by Bryan Cox in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, the first of two adaptations of Harris’s Red Dragon.

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Red Dragon chronicles the investigation by Will Graham, an FBI agent whose sophisticated sense of empathy allows him to enter the minds of serial killers. During the investigation he must play mental chess with Lecter, a psychiatrist who once helped him but turned out to be a pyschopath himself.   

Now Hannibal, the T.V. show on NBC, chronicles how Lecter and Graham met and how their lives and minds would be forever intertwined. It was created by Bryan Fuller (of the excellent Pushing Daises) and can easily lay claim to the goriest, most graphic show ever on network television. Assuming that’s your cup of tea, here are three more reasons why you should tune in to the season two premiere tonight.

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1) The Guest Stars

Here are a just a few examples. Gillian Anderson as Lecter’s therapist. That’s right…Dana Scully is head-shrinking Lecter. Eddie Izzard as another insane doctor who is seemingly keeping Lecter’s cell warm for him. Raúl Esparza as Dr. Frederick Chilton (yes, Lecter has him many times for dinner). And Mobius himself, Laurence Fishbourne, as Jack Crawford, Will Graham’s mentor and enabler. And these are the people you know. Several other actors are stars in the making, like Hugh Dancy (who plays Graham), Caroline Dhavernas (as Dr. Alana Bloom) and Gina Torres as Bella Crawford.

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2) The Pedigree of the Directors 

T.V. isn’t really a director’s medium, but try to tell me that the horrific Grand Guignol artistry and look of the show doesn’t have the fingerprints of masters like Guillermo Navarro (the cinematographer for Guillermo Del Toro), John Dahl (who directed Red Rock West and The Last Seduction), and British legend, Peter Medak, all over them. Let’s see who they bring aboard for season two.

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3) Mads Mikkelson. Obviously.

The world I dream about has enough money to remake Casino Royale and this time swap roles between its leads. Daniel Craig will play a Bond villain and Mads Mikkesen is James Bond. Smooth, with an impassive face, he betrays nothing of the danger that awaits. He is a killer at the ready. That is essentially how he plays Lecter. No Hopkins hamming here. This is the face of sophisticated evil. The beautiful death incarnate.

Inherent Vice Release Date Set

The newest Paul Thomas Anderson film, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, will be released this December 12th. That officially makes it the shortest time between releases of any of Anderson’s films, and that should make anyone who loves film happy.

Soderbergh's Hitchcock/Van Sant Mash-up

Ever wonder what a mash-up of the two versions of Psycho would look like? Well wonder no more. Steven Soderbergh has done so.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil Reviews Spike Jonze's Her

Living genius Ray Kurzweil is a globally recognized scientist who not only holds numerous patents for inventions like speech recognition technology, he is the originator of the theory of singularity which posits that sometime in the near future, computers will surpass human brains as the most efficient processing machines and will eventually meld themselves into us, creating the next evolutionary stage of consciousness.

Her is a movie directed by Spike Jonze where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with and has an affair with his phone’s operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. 

Kurzweil has now reviewed the movie and is probably the most qualified person to do so. Click here to read his review.

Silent, The New Animated Short from Oscar-winning Moonbot Studios

In 2012, Moonbot Studios won for "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore". Here is their follow-up, called “Silent”, which is anything but.