My Top 25 Film Discoveries of 2022! (and a goodbye, at least for now …)

Another year and MMC!’s favourite first-time watches list expands yet again, this time recounting our top 25 discoveries! Plenty of Criterion Collection titles find representation, as well as releases by Kino, Disney, Deaf Crocodile, Film Movement, Radiance Films (upcoming), and VCI. Our Noirvember screenings manage to make up a fifth of this list and streaming platforms like the Criterion Channel, Midnight Pulp, and Kanopy (plus some less legitimate options) fill in the rest.  And for anyone keeping score, Francesco Rosi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli takes the top spot as MMC!’s favourite first-time watch of 2022, followed by Konrad Wolf’s Goya: Or the Hard Way to Enlightenment!

Un Carnet de BalUn carnet de bal (Julien Duvivier, 1937)

Dance Card plays like High Fidelity in glorious French mono as a wealthy widow revisits a list of old suitors nearly twenty years later. In a series of vignettes, Duvivier tours through French cinema, from fated nightclub noirs to bittersweet Catholic piety, from queasy, canted, quayside seediness to Raimu and Pagnol-esque banter. Love French cinema and you’ll find here a full house, ace of diamonds high, loaded with wistful romance, fated tragedy, swooning melancholy, and evocative compositions. A lovely and sad confection.”

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Leadbelly (Gordon Parks, 1976)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Leadbelly.

criterion logoIn his final theatrical film, celebrated director Gordon Parks cast Roger E. Mosley as the iconic blues and folk singer Huddie Ledbetter, better known to music history as Lead Belly, the King of the 12-String Guitar. Dramatizing the musician’s turbulent life from his early 20s to his mid-40s, Leadbelly follows Huddie as he performs at bars and sukey jumps, learns the blues from “Blind Lemon” Jefferson, faces violent racism and its deadly consequences, and twice finds himself incarcerated, labouring on back-breaking chain gangs and performing at the behest of white authorities. Combining pastoral simplicity with the resilient and rebellious spirit of the 1970s, all to the sounds of Lead Belly’s iconic songs, Leadbelly offers a vibrant and harrowing portrait of the segregated Jim Crow South and stood as the film Parks most admired amongst his own filmography.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with filmmaker Spike Lee and music historians Kip Lornell and Charles Wolfe
  • March of Time newsreel on Lead Belly
  • Three Songs by Leadbelly, Blanding Shaw and Wah Mong Chang’s 1945 footage edited together two decades later by folk singer Pete Seeger
  • Legend of Lead Belly, Alan Ravenscroft 52-minute documentary on the folk singer
  • Selected performances from A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly
  • Archival interview with folklorist Alan Lomax
  • Theatrical trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: A new essay by scholar L. Roi Boyd III and novelist Richard Wright’s 1937 tribute to Lead Belly written for the Daily Worker

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10 on the 10th – December 2022

Cash on Demand PosterAlthough it is entirely by accident, 1961 is exceptionally well represented among these last ten films I’ve watched. Hailed as arguably the greatest Korean film ever made, Aimless Bullet is a stylishly shot drama that remarkably recalls the stripped down aesthetics and emotional intensity of Italian neorealism, then cranks its despairing bleakness up even farther. Criterion release Blast of Silence is a yuletide city symphony posing as a low-rent, noirish hit job dressed up in some exceptionally cynical, hardboiled narration, and it’s cheaply wonderful. Quentin Lawrence’s Hammer Films heist flick sees Peter Cushing play a bank manager who is visited by one bank-robber whose meticulously planned heist inspires a Scrooge-like challenge to Cushing’s miserly, tight-assed personality. Certainly the latter two films are perfect for anyone interested in an alternative Christmas canon for this season’s screenings.

  1. The Day of the Beast (Álex de la Iglesia, 1995)
  2. Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988)
  3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson, 1992)
  4. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas (Kirk R. Thatcher, 2002)
  5. Blast of Silence (Allen Baron, 1961)
  6. My Crasy Life (Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1992)
  7. Cash on Demand (Quentin Lawrence, 1961)
  8. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989)
  9. Leonor Will Never Die (Martika Ramirez Escobar, 2022)
  10. Aimless Bullet (Yu Hyun-mok, 1961)

Also, in case you weren’t already aware and reading this list hasn’t tipped you off, the holiday season is upon us. This December seems to putting some unforeseen emphasis on Jim Henson and the Muppets and while you can’t go wrong with The Muppet Christmas CarolMMC! has to step outside these last ten screenings to recommend Eric Till and Peter Harris’ A Muppet Family Christmas (1987), an ABC TV special which boasts appearances by characters from the Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and even the Muppet Babies!

Make Mine Neon Eagle!

NEV_logoWhen Jared Auner of Mondo Macabro posts about a new label devoted to Asian Cult cinema, MMC! takes gleeful notice!

With the announcement below, Auner and his partners Jesse Nelson and Brian Izzi of Cauldron Films launch Neon Eagle Video, a new home video boutique imprint dedicated to Asian cult cinema, and reveal their first release, the Taiwanese revenge-fest Kill Butterfly Kill. This inaugural edition will offer multiple cuts of the film and promises a stacked, double-Blu-ray, limited edition release. Needless to say, MMC! is intrigued by Kill Butterfly Kill’s cartoonish violence and its Pinky Violence meets Turksploitation sensibility (not to mention that cover image which appears to include appropriated Kamen Rider V3 masks!). NEV promises future releases including a title from Japan – just take MMC!’s money already!

NEW ASIAN-FOCUSED LABEL ‘NEON EAGLE VIDEO‘ MAKES DEBUT WITH DELUXE BLU-RAY EDITION OF THE TAIWANESE EXPLOITATION MOVIE ‘KILL BUTTERFLY KILL’

KILL BUTTERFLY KILL cover artCauldron Films’ Jesse Nelson and Brian Izzi, in collaboration with Mondo Macabro’s Jared Auner are proud to announce the formation of a new home video boutique imprint, Neon Eagle Video (NEV),that will focus on the trashier side of Asian cinema, highlighting exploitation, action, horror, and other ‘cult’ films that have been neglected in the High Definition era.

Each disc will be lovingly curated and produced by Jared Auner, with restoration, authoring, manufacturing, and distribution handled by Cauldron Films. Each release will be sold through the Cauldron Films site and DiabolikDVD.com.

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10 on the 10th – November 2022

Mildred Pierce PosterNoirvember is upon us and it can be seen amongst these last ten films that I’ve screened. Sam Fuller’s Underworld U.S.A. is a very late example of the form, a vicious and nasty riff on The Count of Monte Cristo with some bravura camera movement and a sweaty, cruel, and unrepentant performance by Cliff Robertson. Still, the most exceptional noir of these last ten films is undoubtedly Michael Curtiz’s double-dealing weepie, Mildred Pierce. A first time watch at MMC! HQ, Mildred Pierce proved to be an exceptional noir experience punctuated by the discovery of two of cinema’s most despicable villains. Both films are sure to make this year’s list of favourite discoveries.

  1. The Blank Generation (Amos Poe and Ivan Kál, 1976)
  2. Glorious (Rebekah McKendry, 2022)
  3. Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)
  4. The Outside (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2022)
  5. L’Argent (Robert Bresson, 1983)
  6. Blood of the Dragon (Kao Pao-shu, 1971)
  7. Arabella: Black Angel (Stelvio Massi, 1989)
  8. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Eric Appel, 2022)
  9. Underworld U.S.A. (Samuel Fuller, 1961)
  10. The Autopsy (David Prior, 2022)

A big shout-out to The Blank Generation which is an essential glimpse into the early CBGB-era punk and new wave scene, boasting rough but wonderful footage of Patti Smith, Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, and the Ramones. And as someone unfamiliar with Wayne County & the Electric Chairs, Angry Inch fans are going to need to see this proto-Hedwig act in the campy, confrontational flesh. Finally, these last ten films also bear the marks of MMC! working its way through Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Appearing on Netflix, this horror anthology series boasts a murderers’ row of filmmakers – Panos Cosmatos, Jennifer Kent, Ana Lily Amirpour, David Prior, Catherine Hardwicke, Vincenzo Natali, Guillermo Navarro, and Keith Thomas. I would be surprised if some of these entries didn’t make MMC!’s list of favourites for 2022.

The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival Returns!

2022FestPosterIt’s November and you know what that means – the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival! This latest iteration is bigger and better than ever, but don’t take my word for it. Check out this press release from Festival Director John Allison and the other good folks at the SFFF!

Saskatoon – November 3, 2022 ­– The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, Saskatchewan’s largest feature film festival, returns for its 13th edition at the Broadway Theatre on November 18-26, and will bring the best in international independent cinema to Saskatoon.

“This year is our largest festival ever. We’re showing more than 50 feature length and short films over nine days at the Broadway Theatre,” said festival director and founder John Allison.

In addition to a wide variety of new films from around the world, this year’s festival will feature a Midnight Mayhem screening, a short film block which will be free to the public, a Drunken Cinema, a Cartoon Party and live and virtual Q&As with filmmakers throughout the week.

“Yes, the Cartoon Party is back,” adds Allison. “This year it is Halloween themed, so on Saturday morning November 26, you can put your Halloween costume back on and watch retro cartoons in the theatre. For the party crowd, we’re hosting THE LOST BOYS as a Drunken Cinema on Friday November 18. It’s an interactive drinking game played along with the movie. We’ve held those before, and they are a lot of fun. On Saturday, November 19 at 11 am, join us for the Saskatchewan theatrical premiere of COLD WIND BLOWING, a film shot in Southern Saskatchewan, and director/writer Dionne Copland and producer/editor/cinemaphotographer Louise Weard will be in attendance for a Q&A. And all of that is just in addition to the creative documentaries, dark comedies, horror films and sci-fi movies we have throughout the festival.”

This year’s festival truly has an international flair with films from Norway, Argentina, Italy, Spain, France, Peru, Mexico, Philippines, USA and Canada. For information on the full film lineup and festival passes, visit www.skfilmfest.com.

For more information contact John Allison, Festival Director, at 306-280-2868 or john@skfilmfest.com.

2022 Festival Lineup

A short film precedes each feature film.

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