MMC! keeps our creepy October rolling with Dave Fleischer’s spook-errific animation classic, Snow-White (1933). This Betty Boop masterpiece was animated almost single-handed by Roland Crandall over six months, his reward for loyal service to Fleischer Studios. The short features an array of creepy gags and set-pieces, the highlight of which is the Mystery Cave portion where a rotoscoped Cab Calloway performs “St. James Infirmary Blues” as a ghostly Koko the Clown. I first saw Snow-White in a class on the Disney Company where the very knowledgeable professor cited the rotoscoped appearance of Cab Calloway as an introduction of realism into the film, something I never understood given the very fantastic animation applied to the phantom Koko transforms into and the almost unnatural, counter-intuitive physics of Calloway’s glides and moonwalks. Snow-White has been preserved by the National Film Registry and can be found on Blu-ray in Volume 4 of Olive Films’ Betty Boop: The Essential Collections.
Trouble is just a beat away in this action-packed ’80s classic starring the Kings of Rock, Run DMC. The up-and-coming hip-hop trio of Run, DMC, and Jam Master Jay are signed to Strut Productions, a crooked booking agency laundering drug money for gangsters and aiming to exploit the group’s growing popularity to further their criminal schemes. When their close friend and roadie Runny Ray stumbles upon the illegal operation and is murdered in cold blood, the devastated musicians take the law into their own hands to avenge their friend’s death, facing racist thugs and armed gangsters in their pursuit of justice.
Co-written, co-produced, and directed by superstar record producer Rick Rubin and supported by a hard-hitting soundtrack featuring music by Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, Slick Rick, the Junk Yard Band, and Public Enemy, Tougher Than Leather is an urban Western that’s too tough to miss.
- New High Definition digital transfer
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround Options
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Grammar Like a Hammer: The Making of Tougher Than Leather, a new documentary containing interviews with Darryl McDaniels, Rev Run, Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, Chuck D, and Eddie Murphy
- Run DMC music videos for “Run’s House,” “Mary, Mary,” and “Christmas in Hollis”
- Theatrical trailer
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring an interview with photographer Glen E. Friedman and a collection of his on-set photographs
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.
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!
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.
François 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.
- New 2K digital restoration, supervised by director François Girard, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary featuring writer/director François Girard and writer Don McKellar
- Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroitor’s 1959 documentaries Glenn Gould: Off the Record and Glenn Gould: Off the Record
- Judith Pearlman’s 58-minute film adaptation of Gould’s The Idea of North radio documentary
- “Variations on Glenn Gould,” Perry Rosamund’s 30-minute documentary on Gould for the Canadian TV program Telescope
- Early television appearances by Gould discussing Beethoven and Bach and appearing on “The Anatomy of the Fugue” for the television show Festival
- PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by critic Ashley Clark and by Brian Levine, executive director of The Glenn Gould Foundation
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!