The Old Lady and the Pigeons (Sylvain Chomet, 1997)

Before The Triplets of Belleville (2003) and The Illusionist (2010), Sylvain Chomet made the award-winning The Old Lady and the Pigeons (La Vieille Dame et les pigeons, 1997). The animated short features an impoverished and starving gendarme who dresses up like a giant pigeon in order to be fed by an old woman (and that barely scratches the surface of how hilariously bizarre the short gets). Chomet was inspired to make a film of his own after seeing Nick Park’s Creature Comforts (1989) and set upon his production after pitching the concept to Didier Brunner of the French animation studio Les Armateurs. Backgrounds were designed by Chomet’s comic book collaborator Nicolas de Crécy, although the two would later fall out over Crécy’s view that Chomet improperly copped his style for the designs of The Triplets of Belleville. The Old Lady and the Pigeons is silently comic and strangely surreal and establishes many of Chomet’s characteristic styles and themes, making it an easy access point to Chomet’s limited filmography. It is also a quick 24-minute scratch for those of us still itching to see his next film, The Thousand Miles, a Fellini-inspired story about the world’s most beautiful road race, Italy’s Mille Miglia.

The Vinni-Pukh Trilogy (Fyodor Khitruk, 1969/1971/1972)

Spring is here, Easter is this weekend, MMC!’s next imagined release is taking typically longer than expected, and it’s been some time since a post have gone up, so now seems like the perfect opportunity to offer something cute, furry, and vaguely off-centre. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to appreciate Fyodor Khitruk’s trilogy of short films adapting A. A. Milne’s beloved tales of Winnie-the-Pooh for Soviet audiences!

Khitruk’s trio of Vinni-Pukh films — Winnie-the-Pooh (1969), Winnie-the-Pooh Pays a Visit (1971), and Winnie-the-Pooh and a Busy Day (1972) — were made out of Soyuzmultfilm studios and without the director having seen Disney’s theatrical short Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1966). Khitruk’s initial interest in the character came from English editions of Milne’s stories and he was only exposed to Boris Zakhoder’s Russian translations later. Zakhoder served as screenwriter to the Trilogy and he frequently clashed with Khitruk as Zakhoder promoted an approach faithful to the original stories while Khitruk sought to transform the material. The films reflect Khitruk’s vision, doing away with the authority-figure of Christopher Robin and presenting Milne’s characters living forest creatures, not stuffed toys brought to life. Pooh remains rather dim, but he is far more assertive and boisterous than Disney’s bear. The animation is wonderful, merging the primitiveness of children’s drawings with the clean abstraction of mid-century modernism and the earth-toned colour palettes of the ’60s and ’70s. The films adapt three stories from Milne’s original 1926 book, avoiding stories from Milne’s 1928 sequel, The House at Pooh Corner, which introduced the Tigger character. If these adaptations are new to you, congrats! You are now free from the adorable hegemony of the Disney films!

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Happy Halloween from the NFBoo!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Seeing as how it’s snowing and blowing hard today, what better way to celebrate this chilly Halloween than with some spookerrific shorts from the National Film Board of Canada. We’ve got surrealist worlds, honking monsters, devilish visitors, chicken leg houses, and anti-smoking PSAs.

Batmilk (Brandon Blommaert, 2009)

“In this animated short, an oafish ghoul and his soft exposed brain are met with ruin when the brain is unexpectedly killed. Though paralyzed, the ghoul attains a fresh brain and is fed with new life. ” (NFB)

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Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018)

HE’S A LUMBERJACK AND HE’S NOT OKAY

Pacific Northwest, 1983 A.D. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence in near isolation. When their pine-scented splendour is savagely destroyed by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand and his cult “The Children of the New Dawn,” Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire. Armed with a hand-forged battle axe and an insane thirst for revenge, Red won’t stop until he has destroyed Jeremiah and his disciples.

From the visionary mind of Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow), Mandy is an ultra-hard, stylishly told hell-trip with heavy metal symbolism, demonic motorcycle mutants, buzzing chainsaws, and a phenomenal performance by Nicolas Cage as an unstoppable, single-minded avenger. Arrow Video proudly presents this modern grindhouse classic for the first time on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

  • 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) approved by director Panos Cosmatos
  • High definition Blu-ray (1080p)
  • Original DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New audio commentary with Panos Cosmatos and filmmaker and critic Sam Ashurst
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Interview at the Sundance Film Festival with producers Lisa Whalen, Josh Waller, Daniel Noah, and Elijah Wood and special guests Nicolas Cage, Vince Neil from the band Mötley Crüe, and Panos Cosmatos
  • Acid Wash, new interview with cinematographer Benjamin Loeb
  • It’s Gobblin’ Good!, new interview with director Chris Casper Kelly and special effects artist Shane Morton on the Cheddar Goblin commercial
  • And Red All Over, new interview with designer Richard Kenworthy of Shynola on the film’s title cards
  • Standing on the Edge of Time, new interview with animation director David Garcia
  • The Blade and the Beast, new interview with weapon maker Tim Wagendorp
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Teasers and trailers
  • Concept art and stills gallery
  • Rewind This!, a feature-length documentary with audio commentary by director Josh Johnson, producer Carolee Mitchell and cameraman and editor Christopher Palmer
  • Soundtrack CD with music composer Jóhann Jóhannsson
  • 10″ vinyl single of “Amulet of the Weeping Maze” by Jeremiah Sand
  • Fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Four retro-poster photos double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions, alternative posters and promotional images
  • 44-page collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Travis Woods and an introduction by Panos Cosmatos

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Peace on Earth (Hugh Harman, 1939) and Good Will To Men (Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, 1955)

Nothing says Christmas like a post-apocalyptic rumination on peace by anthropomorphic rodents and so MMC! happily presents Hugh Harman’s Peace on Earth (1939) and its Cinemascope remake, Joseph Barbera and William Hanna’s Good Will To Men (1955). Peace on Earth’s anti-war sentiment is expressed through a grandfather squirrel who describes the senseless self-destruction of humankind through war (guessed at as a battle between vegetarians and meat-eaters). The short’s rotoscoped depictions of gas masked soldiers are chilling and provide a rather staggering contrast to the pleasantly plump and happily caricatured animals that now claim domain over the Earth. Hanna and Barbera’s post-World War II version manages to be even grimmer in its details, taking images of infantry helmets and gas masks and adding flame-throwers, machine guns, bazookas, missiles, and nuclear annihilation. In doing so, Good Will To Men brings man’s capacity for mutual destruction into fearsome relief. Both of these MGM shorts garnered Academy Award nominations and Peace on Earth in particular has developed a reputation in the animation field as being Harman’s masterpiece and a heralded classic of the form.

To all those who stumble into the blog (intentionally or not), Make Mine Criterion! wishes you and yours a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!

Stay safe, share some love, and watch something amazing!

SFFF Day 5 – J&B Straight Up!

After packing in 200 or so people for the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s second annual Saturday Morning All You Can Eat Cereal Cartoon Party, Day 5 was all about director Joe Dante, actress Belinda Balaski, and a trio of features film celebrating their work. Screenings of The ‘Burbs (1989), Gremlins (1984), and The Howling (1981) were each introduced by Dante and followed by a Q&A session. All three films looked great on the big screen and Dante and Balaski were open and affable with the SFFF audience, answering questions and recounting stories. Dante discussed working as a consultant to an upcoming animated Gremlins prequel and briefly acknowledged that his long desired project about Roger Corman, The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes, was being produced by SpectreVision and should see production in 2020. Balaski recounted a popular story about how the designers of Gremlins’ Gizmo obtained Steven Spielberg’s elusive approval of the creature when she recommended that they take inspiration from the King Charles Cavalier Spaniels Spielberg had recently acquired. When asked which of their films they felt deep-diving fans should explore, Balaski cited Mark L. Lester’s youth culture/crime drama movie Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976) while Dante nodded at his under-seen (and unfortunately prescient) political satire The Second Civil War (1997). The pair were generous with their time, even sitting down on the Broadway Theatre’s stage floor to sign programs and badges for remaining diehards, and they proved to be excellent guests for the SFFF’s landmark 10th year.

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