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.

MeTube: August Sings Carmen ‘Habanera’ (Daniel Moshel, 2013) and MeTube 2: August Sings Carmina Burana (Daniel Moshel, 2016)

Thoughts of the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal (just underway) and various other fantastic film festivals still to come has me reflecting on cinematic weirdness and my attendance to the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival back in October. Among my favourites were Daniel Moshel’s two bizarre shorts, MeTube: August Sings Carmen ‘Habanera’ (2013) and MeTube 2: August Sings Carmina Burana (2016). The former is a hallucinatory tribute to awkward YouTube performances. Featuring Swiss tenor August Schram as a nerdy opera wanna-be and Elfie Wunsch as his grimly attentive mother, the short transforms a reserved and amateurish rendition George Bizet’s Habanera from Carmen into an EDM-infused, pan-sexual bacchanal, and it’s weirdo-glorious. Moshel’s crowd-funded sequel takes MeTube‘s classical mindfuck to the streets with a flash-mobbed carnival of “Opera on Acid.” For more by Moshel and a peek into the making of the films, check out his YouTube and Vimeo pages!

I’m working on our next proposal (an underappreciated comedy for the Shout Select label) so hopefully that will arrive soon. TCB, baby!

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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Cold Trumpet (Enzo Nasso, 1963)

MMC!‘s post proposing a Criterion treatment for Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (François Girard, 1993) is set to arrive during this weekend’s O Canada! Blogathon. In the meantime, MMC! offers for your consideration Enzo Nasso’s Cold Trumpet (1963), an experimental short featuring another musical virtuoso, Chet Baker. Tromp Fredda (the short’s Italian title) sees the trumpeter through an Antonioni-esque landscape of industrialized decay, where he is acknowledged by some individuals, completely unnoticed by others, and plagued by the sudden appearance of a pair of wind-up musical toys apparently mocking him. Just a little jazz surrealism to lead you to the weekend!

We Together (Henry Kaplan, 2016)

The best dancing zombie video since John Landis’ Thriller (1983), Henry Kaplan’s We Together (2016) offers some interesting ideas as to why the undead might partake of some extended krumping. Featuring the music of Kerron Hurd, this short manages to do something surprising and intelligent with an over-played and often uninspired monster.  For more on the making of We Together, check out Henry Kaplan’s interview at Directors Notes.

Sister Hell (Fredrik Hana, 2015)

Winner of the Best Horror Short at the 2015 Fantastic Fest, Fredrik Hana’s Sister Hell (2015) is a Norwegian Nunsploitation horror-comedy about a quiet nun who yearns for a life of voluptuous sin and infernal objectification. With the help of some back alley cosmetic surgery, she achieves her dream only to become the target of the sisterhood that she fled. Sister Hell plays like a post-millennial Ken Russell film, full of heresy and bad taste, then jacked up on body modification, gore, and pornified celebrity in all the best ways.