I recently watched Redes (Emilio Gómez Mariel and Fred Zinnemann, 1936), from the first Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project box set, and Kent Jones’s visual essay which makes reference to Manhatta (1921), a documentary short made by photographer and Redes-cinematographer Paul Strand and painter Charles Sheeler. The short is not included in the WCP set (although it was included on the now OOP DVD set, Unseen Cinema), and so I thought I would share it here at MMC! The short is inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem “Mannahatta” and is considered the USA’s first experimental film. Strand and Sheeler link their respective art forms (painting and photography) to cinema by preferring dynamic angles and compositions over movement, using editing and intertitles to express a monumental day in Lower Manhattan. The result is a visually engaging and invaluable document of the time.
The last ten movies I’ve watched include a violent yakuza tragedy, a French comic book spectacle, a lengthy basketball documentary, an anesthetic-induced erotic fantasy, and an animated mini-series.
- Hiroshima Honor: Hostage Rescue Tactics (Yûji Makiguchi, 1976)
- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson, 2017)
- Django, Prepare a Coffin (Ferdinando Baldi, 1968)
- Malibu Express (Andy Sidaris, 1985)
- Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies (Jim Podhoretz, 2017)
- Superchick (Ed Forsyth, 1973)
- The Freshman (Sam Taylor and Fred Newmeyer, 1925)
- The Masseurs and a Woman (Hiroshi Shimizu, 1938)
- Daydream (Tetsuji Takechi, 1964)
- Adventure Time: Stakes (Andres Salaff, Elizabeth Ito, and Adam Muto, 2015)
The best and worst film of this bunch is definitely Malibu Express, the ridiculous tale of a hunky detective with all the ’80s trappings (moustache, fast cars, houseboat, hand cannon), some Cold War espionage, a murder mystery, some salacious blackmailing, a few hired goons, a helicopter, a race car, a drag queen, a family of redneck yokels, and plenty of sexy Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets in various states of undress. As far as pubescent male fantasies go, Malibu Express is glorious garbage and will take its rightful place on my Mount Rushmore of terrible films.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of classic important and contemporary films presents American Movie.
Menomonee Falls may be a long way from Hollywood, but quick-talking filmmaker Mark Borchardt has a cinematic dream and he aims to finance his magnum opus, Northwestern, through a direct-to-market, no-budget horror short titled Coven. Filmmakers Chris Smith and Sarah Price filmed Borchardt and his team of hometown thespians and semi-willing family members through two years of financial crisis and emotional turmoil. The result was a bizarrely heartfelt and hilariously poignant documentary that became the award-winning hit of the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and a uniquely arresting portrait of Midwestern eccentricity, determination and character.
- Restored 2K digital transfer approved by filmmakers Chris Smith and Sarah Price, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary with filmmakers Smith and Price, star Borchardt, and co-star Mike Schank
- Coven, the short film of Borchardt
- New interview with filmmakers Smith and Price
- New interview with documentary subjects Borchardt and Schank
- Twenty-two deleted scenes
- All five appearances by Borchardt on Late Show with David Letterman
- NFL commercial starring Borchardt and Schank
- Mark and Mike, a zerotv.com series featuring Borchardt and Schank
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: An essay by filmmaker Ti West
Once an Icelandic colony, Gimli sits at the edge of Lake Winnipeg, a beach community in the province of Manitoba that is home to a couple of thousand residents and that hosts an ever growing film festival for five days each July. The seventeenth and latest iteration of the Gimli Film Festival was its largest so far, including approximately 45 feature films and various shorts. Needless to say, no attendee can see the entire program. I was lucky enough to attend for three of the five days of programming, making it to 14 screenings and avoiding the dozen plus titles I had already seen.
The hallmarks of the GFF are its free sunset screenings on the beach with its massive 11 metre tall screen set up out in the water. This year featured Twister (Jan de Bont, 1996), Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984), The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Petersen, 1984), and the Criterion title Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009). Classic car owners came out en masse for the screening of American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973), lining the beach with some beautifully chromed vehicles, however the most inspired selection was Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds (1963) with Gimli and its gulls allowing Bodega Bay to spread out beyond the screen’s limits.
What a month! Criterion knocks it outta the park with its October releases, trailers abound with the San Diego Comic Con in full swing, reviews from the ongoing Fantasia Film Festival keep rolling in, and I’m scheduled for 14 screenings at the Gimli Film Festival later this week! Wheeeee!
The stand out title in Criterion’s stacked October announcements is Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975). It’s taken me quite a while to become comfortable with the contrasting beauty of Kubrick’s compositions and the coldness of his direction, but this tension has always felt right in Barry Lyndon, where the great director dissects the shallowness of his subject with great insight and depth. Everything about the Criterion Collection’s edition of Barry Lyndon looks amazing and I suspect I may need to re-write my Top Ten as a result.
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.