From Upstate New York to South Africa, all around New York City, and a trip back in time to Japan and Vietnam, this week’s small screen must-sees take us all around the world. Without further ado, here are this week’s top picks on TV, DVD, and VOD:
1. “October Country” (criticWIRE rating: B+)
The pick of the week this week is the first film from Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher. “October Country,” which comes out on DVD today, chronicles a year in the life of Mosher’s family in Upstate New York. Bookended by two Octobers — two Halloweens, the film explores dark themes through the ghosts of the family’s history that bubble up at various points throughout the year Palmieri and Mosher’s family follows them. Michael Koresky in an indieWIRE pays the filmmakers high compliments, “The people onscreen are uniformly engaging, but unlike so many other creators of these personal docs, Mosher and Palmieri wisely know that may not be enough. With their backgrounds in visual arts, the directors are confidently able to use the crisp digital video imagery to maximize their subject’s expressive potential.”
2. Art:21 presents “William Kentridge: Anything is Possible”
In its first foray in devoting a whole hour on one artist, PBS’s Art:21 series provides an intriguing glimpse behind the work of South African multimedia artist William Kentridge, which will premiere on PBS Thursday October 21. The film, made as a special presentation outside of the biannual seasons of “Art:21,” shows the artist at work in his studio, working with paper scraps, video cameras, and actors to produce a production of the Gogol/Shostakovich opera “The Nose.” Kentridge’s idiosyncratic vision for his art come through in this provocative portrait of an artist who defies the rules of the art establishment to produce art on his own terms.
One of the standout films screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give” has pleased critics throughout the year. The film centers on a couple (played by Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt) who must wait out the death of the tenant next door as they prepare to knock down the wall separating their two apartments to expand their own living area. In the waiting process, they develop a relationship with their elderly neighbor and her two grand-daughters. The film was one of iW Associate Editor Peter Knegt’s favorites from this year’s Sundance, calling it Holofcener’s best.
4. “Beautiful Losers” on Babelgum
Online video website Babelgum is celebrating one of its films, Aaron Rose’s “Beautiful Losers” as its first Art Film of the Month. The film follows the work of a DIY artist collective that was borne out of a NYC storefront. Included in the story the doc tells are artists Shepard Fairey, Harmony Korine, Margaret Kilgallen, and Mike Mills, making the film a must-see for late twentieth century art appreciators.
5. “Seven Samurai” and “Apocalypse Now” Get an Update
The Criterion Collection is re-releasing their celebrated package of Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” on Blu-Ray, the most intensively restored version of the film thus far. Also out today is the “Full Disclosure” box set surrounding “Apocalypse Now,” which includes the film’s 1979 theatrical cut, the Redux version and the making-of doc “Hearts of Darkness,” with a book of copies of documents surrounding the film’s production.