MMC! was lucky enough to see Kier-La Janisse’s latest Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cartoon Party and the best of the program was Jerry Lieberman’s Huff ‘n Puff, an anti-smoking PSA for the American Cancer Society that riffs on the story of the Three Little Pigs with some strange gallows humour. We could only assume that the Big Bad Wolf died just after the short ended. The short seems to have been part of a larger campaign that included an illustrated story offered as a pamphlet. (If anyone knows the year this animated short was produced or released, I’d appreciate the info!)
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Face in the Crowd.
Before he brought Mayberry, North Carolina, into American homes and became an icon of moral rectitude as Sheriff Andy Taylor, Andy Griffith burst onto cinema screens as Lonesome Rhodes, a charismatic drifter with a canny, down-home wit and an avaricious taste for status and influence. After charming Arkansas radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) and becoming a local media star, Rhodes leverages his growing popularity into national television fame and a trusted position among political and industrial power-brokers. Gradually Rhodes is corrupted by his own success and his laid-back attitude gives way to a monstrous off-camera personality. With stand-out supporting performances by Walter Matthau, Anthony Franciosa, and Lee Remick, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg create a roaring statement against grassroots fascism, advertising fakery, and the pernicious influence of television on the political process.
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Introduction by filmmaker Steven Spielberg
- New conversation between filmmaker Martin Scorsese and critic Kent Jones
- Ron Simon on A Face in the Crowd and the Golden Age of Television
- Facing the Past, a 2005 documentary on the making of the film
- Griffith’s 1972 appearance on the television show Morning Exchange
- “What It Was, Was Football,” Griffith’s 1953 comedy monologue
- Afterword by filmmaker Spike Lee
- PLUS: An interview with Elia Kazan on A Face in the Crowd, an essay by historian Foster Hirsch and a reprint of Budd Schulberg’s short source story “Your Arkansas Traveler”
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Our Friends in the North.
Based on Peter Flannery’s 1982 stage-play, this award-winning BBC mini-series charts the lives of four friends from Newcastle over four decades – Nicky, a radical socialist preoccupied with the class struggle; Tosker, a cocky young man with dreams of celebrity and success; Mary, who struggles with the pressures of marriage and motherhood while pursuing her own professional ambitions; and Geordie, a troubled young man who flees his hometown for London. Over its nine episodes, Our Friends in the North traces the fortunes of an ever-changing England through the break-out performances of Christopher Eccleston, Mark Strong, Gina McKee, and Daniel Craig. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this sprawling milestone in British drama for the first time ever in North America.
- New 4K digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Interview with Christopher Eccleston and Gina McKee
- Retrospective with Peter Flannery, producer Charlie Pattison, executive producer Michael Wearing, and directors Pedr James and Simon Cellan Jones
- New interviews with Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee, Mark Strong, and Daniel Craig
- Visual essay by playwright Michael Eaton
- Complete soundtrack listing with chart history
- Precis and color stills of the original first episode
- TV spots
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film scholar Marcus Hearn and television scholar Robin Nelson
Criterion Collection devotees should love The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders (2013), a SNL short film by Rhys Thomas. Originally called simply New Horror Trailer, Thomas’ film is a brilliant parody of Wes Anderson‘s distinctive aesthetic reset in the creepy home invasion horror subgenre. This tale of “handmade horror” is the quintessential “homemade bicycle made of antique tuba parts” (thank you Amy Poehler), being so faithful to Anderson’s kitschy style and tone that it might be true if it weren’t a joke. For those looking to unpack Anderson’s particular look and how it is reproduced, we highly recommend Alex Buono’s “How We Did It” blog post which provides exceptional insight on the short film’s making.
MMC! returns to its program of seasonably appropriate short films with Maarten Groen’s Arrêt Pipi (2015), a gialli-inspired commission by VPRO, a Dutch public broadcaster. Sarah (Bo Maerten) and Bram (Benjamin Moen) stop to use a gas station restroom in the woods of Wallonia and find themselves fighting for their lives. This slickly made short is inspired by the urban legend of Aka Manto, a ghost that haunts Japanese washrooms by offering visitors red or blue toilet paper with deadly effect. Arrêt Pipi had a dark, absurdist humour that invigorates its spot-on exercise in genre with a welcome sense of play and vitality.
With weekend upon us, MMC! thought we might nose around some of the more unusual corners of the National Film Board of Canada. First up is Island Romance (Donald Ginseberg, 1957), a sweetly corny romance between a young man in Prince Edward Island and a girl visiting from Winnipeg. The short originally aired as an episode of the CBC television series Perspective, which replaced the popular On the Spot documentary series. Perspective aimed to blend documentary and fiction and was typically shown on Sunday afternoons, although the series was subject to frequent time slot changes. Perspective was a popular program, but was eventually replaced by the seminal Direct Cinema documentary series Candid Eye.
This merger of documentary and fiction makes Island Romance an unusual watch. Ginsberg’s presents an innocently saccharine tale of young love in the 1950s, but its quaintly chaste nature seems to take odd turn when local islander Danny (Daniel MacDonald) finds his efforts to woo the vacationing Jean (Iris Krangle) frustrated by her love for Canadian history and regional culture. Danny would like nothing better than a quiet moment with Jean, but seems in frequent competition with the tales of fishermen, literary landmarks like Green Gables, and historic events like Confederation and historical furniture like the chair of the country’s first Prime Minister. Viewers of Island Romance are not likely to expect a love triangle between Danny, Iris, and the Ministry of Tourism, but the film may be better for it by providing a little “WTF” in an otherwise picturesque story of G-rated summer lovin’. (And for those keeping track, Island Romance is peculiarly accurate in its details – Winnipeg’s newspaper is the Free Press and its most affluent neighbourhood is called Tuxedo.)
As per the NFB:
This short fictional film features the picturesque seaside landscape of Prince Edward Island as the setting for a summer romance between a girl from Winnipeg and a young fisherman from North Rustico, PEI. The young couple visits historic and scenic sites such as Government House in Charlottetown and Cavendish, of Green Gables fame. The film is a classic summertime romance and a nostalgic visit to the delightfully sun-soaked PEI of the past.