The Old College Try, or, 30 Minutes in my Player and Back to Greencine*: So you see, despite the fact that I do not have the access to foreign and independent cinema I once did, it's never been my intention to turn The Academic Hack into a DVD review site. All the same, I've had to make my peace with DVD like anyone else in my position (i.e., currently hours away from a major American city). It's a delicate balance; I want to stay on top of the year's releases, but home video sucks. There are far too many other things I can be doing at home besides slogging through a painfully average Amerindie film or European co-pro, just because some "respected" critic somewhere said it was good. At the same time, people I know will ask me whether I've seen this or that, so now I can answer those questions before they arise while working out my anger issues with withering sarcasm. Let's begin.

Green Chair (Park Chul-soo, South Korea)

[Even the sex is boring. In fact, Park seems to have been operating under the delusion that a 19-year-old boy boinking a randy older woman would be enough to compensate for narrative aimlessness and a lack of discernible visual style. For the real thing, see Jang's Lies.]

Daybreak (Björn Runge, Sweden)

[If you locked Darren Aronofsky in a cellar for three months with nothing but Bergman films to watch, he might come out and produce something like this. A good film to exfoliate to.]

Côte d'Azur (Crustacés et coquillages) (Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, France)

[Almost touching in its featherweight pointlessness, like a François Ozon film striving for "warmth." It's so gosh-darned sex-positive it forgets to be ribald, much less raunchy. I sort of dug Adventures of Felix back in the day, but I feel pretty safe writing these guys off now.]

Initial D (Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, Hong Kong)

[Apparently, just as every third American indie director is actually jockeying to shepherd the next SuperFriend to the big screen, the ace auteurs behind Infernal Affairs are attempting their own mega-cash-in in the form of a pan-Asian Fast and the Furious knockoff. Practically Bollywoodesque in its faith in booming pop music, chop-shop editing and vacuous pretty boys as a winning formula. Even the racing scenes aren't any good. Moral: when Colin Geddes passes over stuff like this, avoid.]

Touch the Sound (Thomas Riedelsheimer, Germany / U.K.)

[The second in Riedelsheimer’s series on mediocre Scottish artists. Like most non-jazz improv, Glennie’s music is repetitive and wanky, and I wasn’t enjoying watching her travel the world banging on shit.]

The Rider Named Death (Karen Shakhnazarov, Russia)

[Straitlaced Russian period piece, attempting thriller-like intrigue. Well-appointed, but drably middlebrow. Very, very brown. Nothing much to suck me in, but your mileage may vary.]

Schultze Gets the Blues (Michael Schorr, Germany)

[This one’s weird. It wants to be a slow, fixed-frame Euro art film, but it never holds any of its shots long enough for them to have any impact whatsoever. Neither populist nor especially challenging, it goes nowhere. Slowly. But not slowly enough.]

Triple Agent (Eric Rohmer, France)

[I actually hope to revisit this on the big screen sometime, since home video didn’t serve it well at all.]

20 Fingers (Mania Akbari, Iran)

[Akbari takes up Kiarostami’s DV improv mode for a relationship film that is little more than one tedious argument after another. And the muddy visuals look like crap.]

The Ballad of Jack and Rose (Rebecca Miller, U.S.)

[Gave it a try just for Day-Lewis’s reportedly impressive perf, but the heavy-handed nature symbolism – rushing water = burgeoning sexuality! – drove me away.]

Kontroll (Nimród Antal, Hungary)

[This film is stupid. The only thing it probably had going for it – the atmosphere of the dank subway tunnel under piercing fluorescents – is lost on video anyway.]

Nowhere Man (Tim McCann, U.S.)

[Pretty unbelievable, in a shameless, go-for-broke kind of way. But it resembles nothing so much as a final project some hapless undergrad submitted for an Introduction to Videography course at some Big 10 university, and the writing makes All My Children sound like Murakami.]

Sheriff (Daniel Kraus, U.S.)

[Apparently if you watch long enough this becomes a subtle critique of local police power, but I couldn’t hang with its folksy tone and sub-Wiseman editorial intrusions.]

Casuistry: the Art of Killing a Cat (Zev Asher, Canada)

[People should have been protesting this film at TIFF 04 because it is boring.]

Dallas 362 (Scott Caan, U.S.)

[I’ll probably give this another try, but man oh man, is the sensibility not mine. If I wanted to hang out with bar-brawling loser-dudes, I could spend the holidays with my cousins. And I never do.]

Up and Down (Jan Hrebejk, Czech Republic)

[This guy has no formal chops to speak of. His compositions are negligible, his vignettes too heavy-handed by half, and basically all you have here is Hard Evidence that post-Communist life is tough, people are desperate, and that desperation often resembles a three-ring circus with gin blossoms for clown noses. Czech please.]

16 Years of Alcohol (Richard Jobson, U.K.)

["Pretentious twaddle." I believe that's the phrase. It so thinks it’s an angsty work of capital-a Art and it is just so painfully adolescent. See a Terence Davies film instead.]

Beautiful Boxer (Ekachai  Uekrongtham, Thailand)

[Dull, conventional bio-pic about a transgender kick-boxer. Not horrible, but it was a lot more stylish and queer-positive when it was called Madame Satã.]

Evil (Mikael Håfström, Sweden)

[Recommended if you thought The Skulls suffered due to its abstruse plot and tonal subtlety. Hint: de professors at de boys ahKADamee are veddy veddy evil, mwah ha ha, etc.]

Sexual Dependency (Rodrigo Bellott, Bolivia / U.S.)

[Key to understanding my taste in filmic art: if Nan Goldin is your hero, most likely I will not respond to your creative effort in the slightest.]

In Satmar Custody (Nitzan Giladi, Israel)

[Non-Satmar mommas, don’t let your babies end up in Satmar custody. Oh, and by the way, Satmars don’t like Israel, but the director does.]

*I cancelled Netflix on account of they pissed me off.