30 Years of Scarecrow!

Scarecrow Video is celebrating 30 years of connecting people with their new favorite films and in honor of this landmark occasion, we’re launching a 30th Anniversary Fundraiser to lay the foundation for our next 30 years.
Proudly non-profit since 2014, your support has allowed us to keep this important collection alive. At 131,000+ titles (three times the number currently available from major streaming services), we give you the power to curate your own viewing experience like no corporation can.
You’ve also helped us develop unique community outreach efforts. Our screening room hosts free movies and lectures nearly every night, we’ve created programs that deliver meaningful content to families and seniors, and we are currently working with high schools and universities to provide educators with media and the expertise of Scarecrow staff to supplement their lessons.
But most importantly you have kept this collection — the largest publicly available collection in the world — growing and thriving. From international blockbusters to local micro-budgets, from anime to Zoetrope, Scarecrow provides unparalleled access to important, diverse voices and you make it happen.
To keep this collection thriving, please support us during our anniversary fund drive by visiting our GoFundMe. To show our appreciation, we’re offering gifts and opportunities to connect with Scarecrow in unique ways. Learn more about those here. Your gift will assure that this important collection remains publicly available, and you will be funding our continued effort to develop new ways to connect people with their next favorite films. Join us as we lead the way for videos in a digital age!

New Releases for May 22!

It’s another glorious New Release Tuesday!

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The Seasoned Ticket #3

Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.

 

The Seattle International Film Festival begins on May 17 and runs halfway into November. I kid! It only feels like it runs halfway into November. Among its hundreds of titles are a handful of “archival” (oy, that word) presentations, which represent an important mandate of any film festival: to value the cinema of the past.

A couple of giants are acknowledged in SIFF’s first weekend. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the obscenely talented genius who burned out in 1982 at age 37, was so prolific his filmography is still issuing forth “new” works. New, that is, in the sense they haven’t been screened outside Germany in decades. One such project is Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day, a TV miniseries Fassbinder made in 1972, reportedly a saga of the joys and hardships of factory workers. Because this blog series is about connecting movies to Scarecrow’s collection, I’ll call attention to Fassbinder’s range by mentioning three films released consecutively (astonishingly!) in 1974.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is one of RWF’s most accessible films, a heartbreaking portrait of affection between an older widow (Brigitte Mira) and a younger North African immigrant (El Hedi ben Salem). It’s a warp on Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows, but played out in drab apartments and lonely bars and, in one memorable scene, Hitler’s favorite restaurant.

Martha also has affinities to Sirk’s films, especially in its rigorously-composed frames, most of which seem to trap a woman (Margit Carstensen) married to a sadistic upper-class husband (Karlheinz Böhm). The film’s baroque visual style is a riot of bric-a-brac and mirrors, as though reflecting a society that makes its citizens miserable by design.

And then there’s Effi Briest, a black-and-white costume drama based on Fontane’s great 1894 novel, a tale of a young woman married off to an older man. Fassbinder’s blend of the classical and the postmodern is dazzling to behold, and in Hanna Schygulla he has a movie star to draw out the tragic qualities of an unfortunate heroine. That’s one year of Fassbinder’s career; get lost in the Scarecrow Fassbinder section and you might not emerge until mid-November.

The other giant hailed at SIFF is Kenji Mizoguchi, the Japanese master, and another filmmaker whose interest in female characters is a striking part of his greatest films. SIFF is showing Sansho the Bailiff, Mizoguchi’s staggering 1954 masterpiece, a film that will not leave you unchanged. The director’s best-known work is probably Ugetsu (1953), but do not miss The Life of Oharu (1952), in which an aging prostitute (Kinuyo Tanaka) recalls the disasters that led to her sorry state. Mizoguchi doesn’t so much photograph this story as he sees and feels it through the camera, with absolute command of the language of film. I was going to end by saying that although Fassbinder and Mizoguchi don’t have much in common, they stray across similar subject matter in these films—but now I wonder if they have quite a bit in common, including a baleful eye for how systems and societies can crush the unsuspecting.

 

Robert Horton, the longtime reviewer for the Daily Herald and Seattle Weekly, is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

New Releases for May 15!

It’s another glorious New Release Tuesday!

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Scarecrow: A Volunteer Appreciation

by Jeff Williams

“Oh, man, you’ve gotta check out Scarecrow.” I don’t know how many times I had someone say that to me when I moved to Seattle. Nearly twenty years later, I have no idea how many times I’ve said that to other people, though it feels like a catchphrase. What is it about this video store that provokes such a sense of awe? Well, while Scarecrow began as (and remains) a video store, it has become much more than that. In 2014, it transformed into a non-profit organization, and now offers special programs for film lovers of all ages. It is, in short, a cultural institution.

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The Seasoned Ticket #2

Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.

 

Chantal Akerman’s haunting 1977 film News from Home will screen at the Northwest Film Forum on May 12; it’s a series of evocative shots of New York City, accompanied by the sound of Akerman’s voice reading letters from her mother in Belgium. This ingenious filmmaker, best known for her 1976 masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, is well-served by the Scarecrow mission. Where else would you find a “Chantal Akerman” section devoted to her work? (No, seriously—is there anywhere else?) Features, short films, and documentaries about Akerman are included here. I will point out one feature that made a big impression on me over thirty years ago: Toute une nuit, from 1982. In a structure that echoes La Ronde (and prefigures Slacker), Akerman tracks the progress of a single summer night in Brussels, moving from one person to the next, like an eavesdropper content to listen in for a while and then skip to something else. The people look for connection, an elusive goal on this lonely night. This is a fine introduction to Akerman’s work, especially if the three-hour Jeanne Dielman sounds daunting—which it shouldn’t.

 

Fritz Böhm’s Wildling opens May 11 at the Varsity theater, a horror picture with Liv Tyler and Brad Dourif. Now then: Brad Dourif. Here’s a career that nobody would’ve predicted in 1975, when Dourif was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the sensitive Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. How that tender young actor became known for playing forehead-vein-bulging maniacs (with a strong cult following for being Chucky in the Child’s Play series) is a subject for a biographer, but Dourif’s skills have remained potent throughout an up-and-down filmography. He’s so good as an obsessive quasi-preacher in John Huston’s Wise Blood (1979) that the performance may have typecast him more than Cuckoo’s Nest did; as the grim-jawed proselytizer for a church without Christ, Dourif paints a definitive portrait of someone you’d cross the street to avoid. He logged some high-profile projects, like Milos Forman’s Ragtime (1981) and Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980), but his ability to tap the nutso vein was noticed by David Lynch (for Dune and Blue Velvet), and Dourif has had a hard time avoiding the image since—still, he works so much, he’s had variety if you look hard enough. For one of his prime psychos, check out Exorcist III, the 1990 film directed by Exorcist novelist William Peter Blatty. Dourif’s performance is a virtuoso exercise in taking horror-movie monologizing to operatic heights. Interest in the film has quietly grown over the years, including a partial reconstruction of Blatty’s original cut, titled Legion. In either version, Dourif’s commitment to being in the moment remains fierce.

 

Robert Horton, the longtime reviewer for the Daily Herald and Seattle Weekly, is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

New Releases for May 8!

It’s another glorious New Release Tuesday!

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Introducing the Seasoned Ticket

Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.

 

The Grand Illusion has a three-day (May 4-6) run of William Friedkin’s documentary The Devil and Father Damorth, a nonfiction account of director’s encounter with a real-life exorcist. I haven’t seen it yet, but the reviews sound stoked. You don’t need me to point you toward The Exorcist, Friedkin’s hellish horror classic, but if you trundle past the Friedkin section at Scarecrow and find yourself in the mood for something to make the skin crawl, you might consider Bug, the director’s 2006 nightmare scenario. Based on a play by Tracy Letts (who’s recently blossomed into one of our most glorious character actors—please see The Lovers if you haven’t already), Bug puts a hard-luck waitress (Ashley Judd) in a rundown motel, where she encounters a polite stranger (Michael Shannon) who seems inordinately interested in our insect friends. This is one of those stage plays that surely derive a lot of their oomph from unfolding live in a small theater, so a movie version inevitably loses something, but Friedkin’s treatment of the crazed material is ingenious. Judd and Shannon are terrific; as I said of his performance in my 2006 review, Shannon “has the ability to go completely nutso at the drop of a hat, and a lot of hats are dropped.” It’s not really a horror movie, but it plays into Friedkin’s customary assessment of the world as truly rotten.

 

The Seattle Art Museum’s springtime “Alfred Hitchcock’s Britain” series is winding down, which gives us a chance to note that the 1941 Suspicion (May 10) falls into the category of Absolutely First-Rate Hitchcock That Isn’t Usually Ranked That Way. Minute for minute, it’s one of the director’s best. For another low-profile Hitchcock film, check out the next film he made, Saboteur (1942), which sticks Robert Cummings in the Wrong Man role and features an astonishing finale atop the Statue of Liberty. That sequence is rigorously blueprinted, and played without music; it’s an ideal three-minute class in how Hitchcock orchestrated dynamic lines, composition, open space, light/shadow, sound, and rhythm in the creation of a visually exhilarating sequence. Dorothy Parker co-wrote the screenplay, and the puckish character actor who plays the villain, Norman Lloyd, is still alive today—103 and still telling stories.

 

Robert Horton, the longtime reviewer for the Daily Herald and Seattle Weekly, is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

New Releases for May 1!

It’s the first glorious New Release Tuesday of May!

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Cinema Jackpot! – SCREAM

by John S.

Cinema Jackpot! – SCREAM

Cinema Jackpot! is a series that reviews films with uncertain origins which ultimately became popular smash hits. Everyone loves a good success story. Join us as we explore how these movies caught lightning in a  bottle and triumphed.

(Cinema Jackpot! runs alternately with Movie Postmortems)

THE CONTESTANT: Scream

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