Flashback to 1982. Raul Julia was nominated for a Tony Award for his magnificent performance in NINE.
I was at the awards event, and a man came up to me and said, “You’re father is a great actor.” I looked at him quizzically. Then he added. “You must be proud to be Raúl Juliá’s son”.
I smiled. “I should be so lucky”, I told him. to him he encountered with, “You look just like him”!
I should be so lucky. One of my favorite performers—and one of the world’s—was taken from us way too early. In 1993, he was diagnosed with cancer, but he continued to act, playing rainforest activist Chico Mendez in the television movie The Burning Season (1994), for which he posthumously won Golden Globe, SAG and Emmy Awards. Juliá’s brilliant and daring career was tragically cut short by his untimely death in 1994, at age 54.
PBS Distribution has released Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage, a special presentation of THIRTEEN’s American Masters and Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES. This documentary is a warm and revealing portrait of the charismatic, groundbreaking actor, from his journey from his native Puerto Rico to the creative hotbed of ’60s New York City, to prominence on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Filled with passion, determination and joy and told in his own voice through archival interviews and in the words of those who knew him best, the film traces Juliá’s personal and professional life while showcasing performances from his collaboration with Joseph Papp’s The Public Theater to his successful cinematic career. His best-known roles include the history-making productions of Titus Andronicus, Two Gentlemen of Verona with Clifton Davis, The Taming of the Shrew with Meryl Streep and The Threepenny Opera (for which he was nominated for a Tony for his role as Macheath); the Broadway musical Nine and Dracula; and films such as Kiss of the Spider Woman, Moon Over Parador, The Eyes of Laura Mars, Romero, Presumed Innocent and The Addams Family.
Interviews with some of the most respected actors who worked alongside Juliá, including Anjelica Huston, Edward James Olmos, Rita Moreno, James Earl Jones, Sonia Braga, Rubén Blades and Esai Morales, illuminate his impact as an artist. In addition, actors John Leguizamo, Jimmy Smits, Andy Garcia and others share how they were profoundly influenced by Juliá and carry the torch of his legacy. Juliá’s personal side comes to life through never-before-seen family photos and home videos, along with reminiscences from his wife, Merel, his sons, relatives and friends, who share candid insights about his life away from the spotlight.
Ever-present throughout Juliá’s story is the cultural landscape of the entertainment world and the boundaries he broke. Before diversity and inclusion efforts were part of the national conversation, the big man with the engaging personality and accent was able to amass a varied body of timeless work that helped pave the way for Latino actors today. He was also a passionate and pioneering advocate of social causes, including ending hunger. In Juliá’s words, “It’s all done within a context of love. That’s the beauty of it, you see?”
Before making Hollywood epics such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, director Richard Fleischer started his career with a series of low-budget B-features, often taking ripped-from-the-headlines tales of crime stories and spinning them into noir gold, of which an exquisite example is 1949’s endlessly entertaining Trapped.
A young Lloyd Bridges stars as hard-boiled hood Tris Stewart, a convicted counterfeiter doing time in the Atlanta pen. When a fresh batch of fake bills starts circulating, treasury agents bail Stewart out to help lead them to the maker of the fake plates. But Tris double-crosses the Feds, hooking up with his gun-moll sweetie (22-year-old Barbara Payton in her breakout role). They plan to heist the plates and hightail it across the border. With the Feds closing in and the double-crosses piling up, Stewart finds himself between a rock and a hard place. Will he trapped for good?
Although long sought by the Film Noir Foundation,Trapped was believed to have suffered the unfortunate fate of many B-films of the era—oblivion. But when a private collector deposited a 35mm acetate print at the Harvard Film Archive, the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA Film & Television Archive (with support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust [The HFPA Trust]) sprang into action, restoring the film. The result, presented in a Blu-ray/DVD dual-format edition by Flicker Alley, honors the pitch-perfect performances, assured direction, and gorgeous cinematography of this edge-of-your-seat, noir classic.
Olive Signature line has released a Blu-ray edition of Bells of St. Mary’sthat is a significant improvement over the DVD released by Republic Pictures 100 years ago. The lack of specks and soot and and scratches leads us to believe the film has been (greatly) restored, though why Olive doesn’t use this bragging point is beyond us.
This is not a true “Christmas film”, but the warmth and heart and humor and luminous Ingrid Bergman make it worth a few viewings. We are still a bit surprised when we admit that she and co-star Bing Crosby (as a nun and a pastor at odds with each other) have appealing chemistry together.
Have an appetite for a dark, delectable comedy in the tradition of cannibal classics Eating Raoul and Delicatessen? Look no further than A Feast of Man (IndiePix Films), certain to satisfy your hunger (and funny bone).
When a wealthy and eccentric New York playboy prone to mischief dies unexpectedly, his four closest socialite friends are summoned to the late aristocrat’s country home overlooking the Hudson for a viewing of his video will. Only things don’t go quite as Wolf, the executor of the estate, had planne: Gallagher’s posthumous wish is to put his dearly beloved to the test—each will become a millionaire overnight if they can unanimously agree to consume his dead body and the group, has until the end of the weekend to reach a decision. Funny food for thought!
Say hello to the ultimate Tony Montana experience with the Scarface“The World Is Yours” Edition Gift Set (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment). This gem is chockfull of goodies: The 1983 film is 4K UHD; experience the unforgettable film like never before with HDR for brighter, deeper, more lifelike color.
There’s also more than 2 and a half hours of bonuses, including the brand-new Scarface 35th Anniversary Reunion Feature, with an all-new conversation with director Brian De Palma and actors Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer. Another Blu-ray bonus: Both the original theatrical and alternate censored versions of Howard Hawks’ newly restored 1932 version Scarface. Perhaps best of all is the limited edition, individually-numbered replica of one of the most iconic props from the film.
After a 30-year-old bachelor, leaves his corporate job to pursue his dreams as an artist, he embarks on a new life as an Uber driver while working on a graphic novel titled Pixelia, which just happens to also be the name of this IndiePix Films release. One day, a transgender woman gets into his car and changes his life forever; they spend the whole day together, opening each other’s minds: she shares her desire to adopt a child, while he narrates the story of his graphic novel.
After a special bond quickly forms, he realizes his own queer identity, and the couple start to make their way in a culture that is not always friendly to alternative ways of life.
This LGBTQ festival favorite, made on a show string budget, is a prime example of India’s budding queer cinema movement.
The Broad City Complete Series(Paramount) has everything a queen or two could ever need. In addition to every single freakin’ episode, there are special features including outtakes, deleted/extended scenes, and every episode of Hack into Broad City and Behind Broad City. Plus, a special features only disc with more than 30 minutes of additional extras. Yaaaas!
Frank Capra’s heart-warming masterpiece is the best-known and most-loved holiday film. Now you can watchIt’s a Wonderful Life (Paramount) holiday classic like never before, newly remastered from the original film negatives and more vibrant than ever with stunning clarity.
With the endearing message that “no one is a failure who has friends”, Capra’s heartwarming masterpiece continues to endure, and after more than 70 years, this beloved classic still remains as powerful and moving as the day it was made.
Not to be catty, but little heroes can romp to the rescue with the PAW Patrol pups, as the canine crew use their tools, tech, vehicles and problem-solving skills to save Adventure Bay.
Each pup has a unique job and skills, but the pack must always come together as a team to save the day. The 3-DVD set PAW Patrol: Best in Snow Collection (Nickelodeon) deserves a spot in each kid’s stocking.
For the young and young-at-heart: Bumblebee & Transformers Ultimate 6-Movie Collection,
including Bumblebee and all five Transformers films, from visionary director Michael Bay and legendary producer Steven Spielberg.
Baby Boomer boom! The Toys That Made Us (Screen Media) is an American television series created by Brian Volk-Weiss. The first four episodes of the series began streaming on Netflix on December 22, 2017, and the next four were released on May 25, 2018.
The eight-episode documentary series, as it was originally touted, focused on the history of important toy lines. The first four episodes focus on the Star Wars, He-Man and G.I. Joe toy lines with subsequent episodes featuring LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty and Star Trek. The Bu-ray set includes a free collectible!
Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orphee & Eurydice in one of opera’s most beautiful masterpieces; his exquisite drama introduces us to Orpheus, the poet and musician whose every word and note communicate the most overwhelming love for his Eurydice.
This production features Gluck’s reworking of the original German opera into a French-language production which contains thrilling ballet sequences that will come to vivid life under the direction and choreography of the legendary John Neumeier. This production stars Dmitry Korchak as Orphée with Andriana Chuchman as Eurydice and Lauren Snouffer as Amour. Oui!
Democracies should protect their citizens, especially the most vulnerable among them, but the United States is increasingly failing to do so especially in areas like the Rust Belt, the manufacturing heartland of the nation that includes Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The investigative documentary The Corporate Coup d’Etat (First Run features) shows how corporations and billionaires have taken control of the American political process, and in doing so have brought economic hardship and ruin to vast swaths of the country. It combines insights from political thinkers and journalists with the experiences of citizens from the Rust Belt, where factory closures and outsourcing have left it desolate and people hopeless.
The film argues that the crisis predates Adolph Freak’s election by many years: Decades ago, U.S. democracy began selling its soul to big corporations; lobbyists and business-friendly politicians took control in Washington, gradually undermining the will of the people. Provocative and revealing, The Corporate Coup d État exposes what happened and where we are now.
Other First Run features topping the list: Tattoo Uprisingreveals the artistic and historical roots of today s tattoo explosion. This sweeping overview explores how tattoos were used in early Christian practices, how they were discovered halfway around the world during the voyages of Captain James Cook, and how they exploded in popularity in America beginning with artists like Ed Hardy.
There’s an unforgettable appearance by Werner Herzog, who allows a rare glimpse at his Ed Hardy tattoo.
Spanning three generations, Chasing Portraits is a deeply moving narrative of the richness of one man’s art, the devastation of war, and an unexpected path to healing. Moshe Rynecki was a prolific artist who painted scenes of the Polish-Jewish community until he was murdered during the Holocaust. For more than a decade his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, has searched for the missing art.
An elderly man, Octav Petrescu (portrayed by the brilliant Marcel Iures), returns to his childhood villa in Romania to sell it. Arriving there after a decades-long absence, Octavwanders through the atmospheric house and undulating grounds that surround it and is confronted and transformed by the memories and spectres of his youth, eventually finding answers to questions that have cast a shadow over his adult life.
From Oscar-nominated Josh Aronson and featuring a new song from Jon Bon Jovi, To Be Of Service is a documentary about veterans suffering from PTSD who are paired with a service dog to help them regain their lives.
The film follows these warriors with their dogs as this deeply bonded friendship restores independence and feeling for the men and women who so courageously served our country.
Inherited from Maria Montessori in 1907, the Montessori Method is a child-centered educational philosophy that celebrates and nurtures each child’s desire to learn, an approach valuing the human spirit and full development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive. The Montessori Method is increasing in popularity both in the U.S. and abroad.
Curious to see how the Method works first hand, filmmaker Alexandre Mourot sets his camera up in the oldest Montessori school in France (with kids from 3 to 6) and observes. He meets happy children, free to move around, working alone or in small groups. Some read, others make bread, do divisions, laugh or sleep. The teacher remains discreet.
Children guide the filmmaker through the whole school year, helping him understand the magic of their autonomy and self-esteem–the seeds of a new society of peace and freedom, which Maria Montessori dedicated her life work to.
Such is the wonder and joy of Montessori: Let the Child be the Guide.
Holy high notes! Melody Makers (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Visual), a chronicle of the birth of music journalism from the world’s oldest and longest standing seminal music magazine, is not just another music documentary; through a series of interviews from artists and journalists of the time, the film tells the true story of the rise and fall of the world’s most influential music publication and uncovers an era of tremendous creative freedom.
Who says the holidays can’t be a horror . . . and we don’t just mean when the in-laws come. George Roy Hill’s landmark science-fiction classic, Slaughterhouse-Five, tells the tale of World War II soldier Billy Pilgrim and how he was abducted by aliens. The flick took home the Jury Prize at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival and has been a favorite of sci-fi fans ever since. Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote the novel the book is based on, famously claimed, “I drool and cackle every time I watch that film.”
Not only is Arrow bringing this to Blu-ray for the first time in North America, but it comes with a brand new 4K restoration and a spaceship-load of special features. Yippee!
He was a true genius. And Kurt Weill’s Street Scene is an amazing mélange of show tunes, arias, jazz numbers, folk songs and spirituals, a true musical melting pot that aptly underlines the rich variety of characters that populate the New York City tenement block in the ’30s that’s the focus of this exceptionally vital and criminally undervalued work.
It was meant meant to be a truly American opera, half-way between his The Threepenny Opera and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and drawing from the famous play by Elmer Rice (recipient of the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 1928).
Weill wrote Street Scene shortly after fleeing Nazi Germany. When he discovered the vitality of the American musical scene, his focus became to reconcile the Broadway musical with European traditional opera, jazzy and North-American tunes with an almost Puccinian-like lyricism. Under Tim Murray’s vivid and precise baton, the superb production by John Fulljames perfectly renders the vitality and energy released by the streets of New York that proved to be a great inspiration to the theatrical mind of the composer.
Released by BelAir Classiques, the staging generously evokes a bygone era of American history, simultaneously looking rundown and part of a dreamscape worth longing for.
Anything you can do I can do better. But no one can do anything better than Video Artists International (VAI), the company who finds and releases long-lost, forgotten or obscure TV shows and musicals on Blu-rays and DVDs. Since its inception, in 1983, VAI has been dedicated to preserving great performances of the past century while maintaining the absolute highest standards of performance available on DVD, Blu-ray and CD. Smart Santas would do no better than head straight to vaimusic.com to discover the array of timeless treasures that make the best stocking stuffers. We made a list, kindly and musically asking Santa Baby to bring us some gems. And the envelope goes to . . .
♥ The Irving Berlin classic Annie Get Your Gun, starring Mary Martin and John Raitt. It aired live on November 27, 1957; and the Blu-ray contains nifty bonus tracks. They include the show’s closing commercial; although no elements of the commercials for the 1957 Annie Get Your Gun telecast are known to exist, VAI is including the unedited audio of the closing commercial, hosted by Martin, which includes a message wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. There’s an excerpt from a live concert of Martin with Louis Magor at the piano. Martin talks about the role of Annie, performs “Anything You Can Do” with Magor (who sings from the keyboard), and also recalls her collaboration with Ethel Merman on the Ford 50th Anniversary Show in 1953.
♥ Another Mary Martin gem: Available for the first time on home video: The historic live 1956 telecast of Mary Martin as Peter Pan, generally considered the definitive performance of this beloved musical. Only nine days after the initial Broadway run had ended, the cast and crew (under the supervision of director Jerome Robbins) assembled in the Brooklyn studios of NBC to perform the show live for television. A year later, in preparation for the second Peter Pan live telecast, essentially the same cast reunited for several performances at the Ambassador Theater in New York City for invited audiences of children.
This gave the 1956 telecast the same fresh theatrical quality as the first.
♥ With a book by Moss Hart, and music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin, Lady in Dark is one of the legendary musicals of American musical theatre. Inspired by Hart’s personal experience with psychotherapy, its innovative concept was termed a “musical play,” presenting the main character’s therapy sessions and waking life as spoken drama and her dream sequences as musical numbers. The excellent cast features Ann Sothern in the title role, with James Daly (Tyne’s Daddy), Carleton Carpenter, and Luella Gear. The show’s brilliant score includes “The Saga of Jenny” and “My Ship.” It’s live telecast was on September 25, 1954.
♥ An original made-for-TV musical, produced and directed by Max Liebman, Holiday tells the story of Nell Valentine (marvelously protrayed by Doretta Morrow), a young schoolteacher who breaks the routine of her everyday life to embark on a European adventure. Nell meets and falls in love with the mysterious Ray Brinton (Keith Andes), another American apparently on vacation, whose past poses an obstacle to their romance. The cast includes a rare dramatic and musical performance by Kitty Carlisle as Ray’s estranged wife Adele, as well as cameo appearances by Tammy Grimes and Jacques d’Amboise. It’s live telecast was on June 9, 1956. The DVD Includes the original commercials as a separate bonus feature.
♥ VAI sails the high Cs with a wonderful array of historic opera performances. Opera legend and film star Risë Stevens leads a magnificent cast in this 1955 television production of The Chocolate Soldier, produced and directed by Max Liebman. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, The Chocolate Soldier is one of the most popular operettas of all time; on Broadway alone, it received seven productions throughout a period of 40 years. Stevens is partnered by the delightful Eddie Albert, and the cast also features the beloved baritone Earl Wrightson and the popular character actor Akim Tamiroff. Interestingly, Stevens made her Hollywood debut in a 1941 film version of The Chocolate Soldier that employed much of Straus’ score, but followed a completely different storyline. Liebman’s television production restores the original plot and characters, and faithfully conveys the romance and good humor of the Viennese operetta tradition.
♥ We were lucky enough to have worked (just once) with Bubbles. That’s Beverly Sills to you. One of Sill’s most acclaimed portrayals was as Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti’s intensely dramatic opera Roberto Devereux. In this 1975 production from the Wolf Trap Festival, shes is joined by John Alexander, Susanne Marsee, and Richard Fredricks. Maestro Julius Rudel is the conductor of this live production, devised and directed by Tito Capobianco. An essential addition to every opera lover’s video library. An equally delightful DVD features the role for which Sills was world-famous: Violetta in Tito Capobianco’s stirring production of Verdi’s La Traviata. This performance was captured live on video in 1976 as part of the Wolf Trap Festival. Brava!
♥Theater Songs of Brecht & Weill Lotte Lenya and Gisela May were the two most prominent interpreters of Brecht and Weill in the last century. Here, from 1958, is Lenya performing five of Kurt Weill’s songs from The Threepenny Opera, Happy End, Mahagonny and the Berlin Requiem.Gisela May performs Brecht songs with music by Weill, Heymann and Dessau. As a bonus, Martha Schlamme performs two songs of Weill, joined by Will Holt in one number.
One of the most exciting VAI moves is the release of Bell Telephone Hour, a long-run concert series sponsored by Bell Telephone as the name implies and showcased the best in classical and Broadway music. Its TV run was from 1959 to 1968. Beginning in 2001, DVDs of performances from the television series have been released by Video Artists International. To date, VAI has issued more than two dozen DVD compilations. A visit to their website will drive you greedy as you ask Santa for all of them! Two faves: ♥ Dolores Gray: Bell Telephone Hour 1959-1966 For 40 years, Dolores Gray was a star of Broadway, London’s West End and cabaret. Among her Broadway credits, she starred in Two on the Aisle, Destry Rides Again and 42nd Street. In London, she appeared in Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy and Follies. Here she sings a slew of classics, including “A Wonderful Guy” (from South Pacific), “My Funny Valentine” (from Babes in Arms), “It Never Entered My Mind” (Higher and Higher), “Friendship” (from “Dubarry Was a Lady”) and “Down in the Depths” (from Red, Hot and Blue) Also on the show: Marc Breaux, Art Lund,Jack Cassidy, Nancy Dussault and Donald O’Connor.
♥ For the legendary comic actor Groucho Marx, playing the role of Ko-Ko in The Mikado “fulfilled a lifelong ambition.” The Mikado was Groucho’s favorite among the works of his beloved Gilbert and Sullivan, and the 1960 Bell Telephone Hour production was adapted for television and directed by Martyn Green,
a man Groucho revered as an authority on interpreting the role of Ko-Ko. The strong supporting cast features distinguished veterans like Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, Robert Rounseville, and Dennis King, as well as young artists like the lovely soprano Barbara Meister as Yum-Yum and Groucho’s 13-year-old daughter, Melinda, as Peep-Bo. Special features include audio interviews with Dick Cavett, Groucho’s daughter Melinda Marx and Barbara Meister; Martyn Green in excerpts from H.M.S. Pinafore (Bell Telephone Hour, 1963), cast bios and the commercials from the original telecast.
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some