The Story of O.J. (Jay-Z and Mark Romanek, 2017)

MMC! readers will know by now my soft spot for classic East Coast animation pastiche, so needless to say I’m currently awestruck by Jay-Z and Mark Romanek’s stunning video for “The Story of O.J.” Sampling Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” “The Story of O.J.” unpacks the unavoidable consequences of blackness’s various shades and the place of capital as a potential countermeasure. It’s a cool and canny track whose video takes as its reference point the racist stereotypes of early animation such as the Censored Eleven. Blogs like Cartoon Brew, Birth. Movies. Death., and Dazed have provided excellent accounts of the works referenced in “The Story of O.J.” and of the transtextual subversions being made by Jay-Z in this retrofitted homage, but I’m particularly struck with how the artistry and creativity of those problematic cartoons are merged with hip hop music video conventions and the issues addressed in conscious rap – the way an MC in direct address is situated with Fleischer-style backgrounds and vanishing points, how chipmunk soul vocals are fittingly located in a cartoon cabaret or how wacky surrealism is used to draw a shortcut connection between historical exploitation and its consequential products, and the way Jaybo’s matter-of-fact, unruffled skepticism reflects on the three-fingered cool of Bugs Bunny. A welcome companion to Beyoncé’s stunning Lemonade from last year, “The Story of O.J.” is a daring and ambitious work, sure to be one of the best of 2017.

Devilman: The Birth (Umanosuke Iida, 1987) and Devilman: Demon Bird Sirene (Umanosuke Iida, 1990)

TO FIGHT A DEMON, ONE MUST BECOME A DEMON!

Prehistoric demons, hideous and pitiless monsters that consume humans body and soul, secretly threaten mankind. Humanity’s only hope is to harness the demons’ power and turn it against them. With the help of his friend Ryo Asuka, the pure-hearted Akira Fudo merges with the demon Amon, God of War and Beast of Hell, to become Devilman, powerful defender of the human race with the strength and abilities of a demon! In Devilman: The Birth and Devilman: Demon Bird Sirène, this hellish anti-hero pits his infernal might against possessed party-goers, squid and spiders monsters, a sadistic turtle creature, and a beautiful and savage winged demoness.

Adapted from the 1972-1973 manga of visionary author and artist Go Nagai, Umanosuke Iida’s pair of original video animations faithfully represents the gory violence and incredible monstrosities that defined the series and made Devilman an iconic figure in Japanese popular culture. Arrow Video proudly presents these classic works of 1980s anime excess on high-definition Blu-ray with both their original Japanese audio and notorious English dub tracks.

Special Features:

  • New High Definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original stereo audio for original Japanese and English dub tracks (uncompressed on the Blu-ray Disc)
  • Isolated music tracks featuring the compositions of Kenji Kawai
  • New optional English subtitle translation
  • New interview with acclaimed author and artist Go Nagai
  • “We All Steal from Go Nagai!” – Directors Guillermo del Toro, Rob Zombie, and Yoshihiro Nishimura on the legacy of Go Nagai and Devilman
  • Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Natsume Fusanosuke and Andrea Marinelli and an essay by creator Go Nagai written on the 30th anniversary of Devilman
  • Devilman: Tanjo Hen – the single volume novel that originally accompanied the OVA in 1987, newly translated and reprinted in its entirety
  • The Demon Bible – the original book published by Bandai in 1990 featuring artwork by Go Nagai, includes original Japanese and new English translations and reprinted in its entirety

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Logorama (Ludovic Houplain, Herve de Crecy, and Francois Alaux, 2009)

Back in January, the Criterion Collection paired the Oscar-winning short film Logorama (Ludovic Houplain, Hervé de Crécy, and François Alaux, 2009) with Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin (1966). Created by the French collective H5, the short constructs Los Angeles entirely from (3,000 or so) trademarked logos and then presents these sanitized images of friendly consumerism in the sun-drenched violence typical to films like To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985) and Heat (Michael Mann, 1995). The result is a clever statement on the ubiquity of capitalist commodification in our daily life and a somewhat nasty dismantling of the corporate messaging shorthanded into these capitalist symbols. Those interested in the legality of Logorama (or at least the American legality of a French film) should read Rose Lawrence’s “LOGORAMA: The Great Trademark Heist.” Lawrence’s unpacking of the legal tests for parody, satire, infringement, and dilution are particularly useful in considering the artistic aims, popular interactions, and social commentaries at work in the short film. As a bonus, Lawrence also touches upon important legal texts like George of the Jungle 2 (David Grossman, 2003) and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”

Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (Francois Girard, 1993)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.

criterion logoFrançois Girard provides in this unconventional bio-pic a compelling and memorable exploration of Canadian musician Glenn Gould, arguably the 20th Century’s greatest classical pianist. Through thirty-two elegantly constructed vignettes mixing drama, documentary, animation, and avant-garde, Girard reveals glimpses of Gould as performer, recording artist, humorist, outdoorsman, speculator, recluse, and iconoclast. Taken together, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould offers a prismatic understanding of Gould’s complex genius and his personal struggles without dispelling the enigmatic power of his legend.

Disc Features:

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Ghost Stories (Late Night Work Club, 2013)

Next up, we offer a short film of short films – the indie-animated anthology Ghost Stories (2013). Containing 11 minimalist shorts, Ghost Stories is the product of various members of the Late Nite Work Club crafting these pieces between projects and classes. MMC! is particularly fond of Charles Huettner’s The Jump, Caleb Wood’s Rat Trap, and Alex Grigg’s Phantom Limb, although Ghost Stories is an impressively satisfying effort throughout. In fact, the omnibus format of Ghost Stories produces a convivial effect, expanding the regard for these shorts by placing them alongside one another and creating a whole greater than its parts.

The Pride of Strathmoor (Einar Baldvin, 2014)

Einar Baldvin’s The Pride of Strathmoor (2014), the animator’s thesis project for USC, presents extracts from the fictional journal of Pastor John Deitman of Strathmoor, Georgia, from June and July, 1927. Inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980), The Pride of Strathmoor resembles the racist mind of H. P. Lovecraft as illustrated by Ralph Steadman and makes for an unsettling work of madness and the macabre.