Schubert. On Film.

Review – Z CHANNEL: A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION

Posted in 2000s, Reviews by schubertonfilm on February 5, 2010

Z CHANNEL: A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (2004)  ****

Directed by: XAN CASSAVETES

Interviewed: F.X. FEENEY, ROBERT ALTMAN, JAMES WOODS, QUENTIN TARANTINO, STUART COOPER, JIM JARMUSCH, ALEXANDER PAYNE

Before I viewed this documentary, I had no clue what Z Channel was. It was on television so long before my time I could never have known. Z Channel was one of the first cable subscription movie channels, predating both HBO and Showtime, but available only in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. But the fact it was only available in Los Angeles did not hinder Z Channel’s success. It actually boosted its profile, as all of the film industry juggernauts watched Z Channel and scouted for talent. The groundbreaking and original thing about Z Channel was that it was the first of its kind to play uncut versions of its movies, some of which had never been shown in public before. And the other groundbreaking thing was that the majority of the programming was not done by market research or a team of programmers, but the brainchild of one, some might say crazy, film lover by the name of Jerry Harvey.

Harvey was a struggling screenwriter with the right connections. A friend of filmmakers like Sam Peckinpah, he was a well-known movie nut when asked to head up programming for the fledgling Z Channel. He made it his mandate to seek out unknown, underground films that were under appreciated, barely seen and/or mostly ignored. He saved movies from extinction. He was the first to show the box office flop Heaven’s Gate in its full, uncut 4 hour glory and the first to play the studio-chopped version of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America on a double bill alongside it’s newly found 4 hour director’s cut. In this documentary, James Woods states that Oliver Stone’s 1986 film Salvador would never have received the Oscar nominations it did if not for Z Channel stirring up attention. Robert Altman gives Harvey full credit for rescuing lost gems like McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Images. It’s easy to forget that in the early 80’s, VHS rental stores were uncommon and the only way of seeing movies like these uncut were cable channels like Z.

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The Brendan Ross Special

Posted in The Brendan Ross Special by schubertonfilm on February 5, 2010

Schubert. On Film is proud to present Peacock-award winning writer Brendan Ross. Take it away Brendan!

The Top 10 Movies of 2009 According to Me,

Brendan Ross!

10. Thirst (Chan-wook Park)

Yeah the whole vampire trend is getting out of hand, but it’s good to know that neat things can still be done with the genre.  My favourite movie of 2008 was Let the Right One In, and although this isn’t nearly as polished as that it is still one of the most unique and visually interesting horror films I’ve seen in some time.  I heard someone say Chan-wook Park is like a Korean David Fincher and I would say that’s pretty spot on.

9. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)

I will admit I thought the movie lost some of it’s momentum towards the end, but this is still an incredibly smart and focused summer movie.  The effects were fantastic not even considering that the budget was only $40 million.  And considering that the budget was only $40 million, well, the effects were an even more enthusiastic synonym.  It would be so great to see this movie snatch up the technical Oscars over Avatar but, sigh, who am I kidding?

8. Moon (Duncan Jones)

I didn’t think this kind of science fiction filmmaking even existed anymore.  A complex and intricate plot that’s surprisingly easy to follow thanks to great storytelling, a classic directing style that uses models and practical effects, and a great lead performance holding it all together.  Sam Rockwell, who I’ve always thought is incredibly likeable, pulls in my second favourite performance of the year in what is essentially a one-man (two-man?) show.  The mere fact that he hasn’t gotten any recognition for this really proves the fact that the Oscars and especially the Golden Globes are a joke.

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