We’re nearly a quarter into 2022 and so this seems like a good opportunity to celebrate MMC!’s favourite short film discovery for the year thus far – Spike Jonze’s Video Days (1991). While I’m about the right vintage to have been awed by this seminal skate video on its initial release by Blind Skateboards, I was never a skater-kid and so I now come to Video Days fresh, and while the particulars of the tricks and locations mean relatively little to me, the energy, playfulness, and cheeky construction of Video Days is undeniable. Regularly credited as Spike Jonze’s first directorial effort (though Jonze directed the skate video Rubbish Heap in 1989), the 24-minute video features celebrated skaters Guy Mariano (a mere 14 years-old at the time), Jordan Richter, Mark Gonzales, Rudy Johnson, and Jason Lee. (Lee’s Gulf War ballad purportedly inspired Kevin Smith to cast him in Mallrats!) Jonze establishes a framing device of the five skaters riding in an Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency and sets their trick footage against a diverse series of tracks including “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5, “My War” by Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr.’s “Just Like Heaven,” “Cancion Mixteca” by Ry Cooder, and John Coltrane and the Ref Garland Trio’s “Traneing In” (billed during the end credits as “Some damn good jazz”). Jonze caps off the video with a shocking ending and some hilarious end-credits that had kids in the early ’90s scratching their heads over whether or not this quintet of niche-celebrities survived the production. Video Days is regularly lauded as providing the definitive skate video template and being arguably the greatest skate video of all time, though it should also be appreciated as a stunning opening salvo in the film and videography of now-heavyweight director and VICE creative director Spike Jonze.
Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Fantasia International Film Festival
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Love Letter, April Story and hana & alice.
Few filmmakers capture the wonder and angst of young adulthood like Japanese writer-director Shunji Iwai. With the hazy, sentimental lens of his regular cinematographer Noboru Shinoda, Iwai’s early feature films explore pivotal moments in teenage life through the mundane challenges of the everyday. Audiences quickly embraced Iwai’s treatment of grief and love with his smash debut Love Letter, about a woman rediscovering her late fiancé through letters exchanged with his former classmate. Linked by their cold introductions, Iwai and Shinoda’s subsequent films – 1998’s April Story, about a shy girl’s move to university, and 2004’s romantic con-job hana & alice – trace the changing times as much as the changing hearts of their characters, and collapse style and substance into lyrical poetry. These “White Films” express Shunji Iwai’s unique view on young love and loneliness and exemplify the dreamy landscapes he nostalgically maps in his films.
SPECIAL EDITION COLLECTORS’ SET FEATURES:
- 4K digital restorations, approved by filmmaker Shunji Iwai, with new 5.1 surround soundtrack mix presented in DTS-HD Master Audio
- Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 live-streamed tribute, masterclass, and Career Achievement Award with Shunji Iwai, hosted by Ariel Esteban Cayer
- Animated storyboards for Love Letter
- Music videos directed by Iwai and featuring April Story star and pop singer Takako Matsu
- Filming of H&A, an 80-minute behind-the-scenes feature on the making of hana & alice
- Four short films featuring Hana and Alice
- Theatrical trailers and TV spots
- New English subtitle translations
- PLUS: Essays by Japanese film scholar David Desser and critics Grady Hendrix and Hayley Scanlon
The Old Lady and the Pigeons (Sylvain Chomet, 1997)
Before The Triplets of Belleville (2003) and The Illusionist (2010), Sylvain Chomet made the award-winning The Old Lady and the Pigeons (La Vieille Dame et les pigeons, 1997). The animated short features an impoverished and starving gendarme who dresses up like a giant pigeon in order to be fed by an old woman (and that barely scratches the surface of how hilariously bizarre the short gets). Chomet was inspired to make a film of his own after seeing Nick Park’s Creature Comforts (1989) and set upon his production after pitching the concept to Didier Brunner of the French animation studio Les Armateurs. Backgrounds were designed by Chomet’s comic book collaborator Nicolas de Crécy, although the two would later fall out over Crécy’s view that Chomet improperly copped his style for the designs of The Triplets of Belleville. The Old Lady and the Pigeons is silently comic and strangely surreal and establishes many of Chomet’s characteristic styles and themes, making it an easy access point to Chomet’s limited filmography. It is also a quick 24-minute scratch for those of us still itching to see his next film, The Thousand Miles, a Fellini-inspired story about the world’s most beautiful road race, Italy’s Mille Miglia.
Happy Halloween from the NFBoo!
Seeing as how it’s snowing and blowing hard today, what better way to celebrate this chilly Halloween than with some spookerrific shorts from the National Film Board of Canada. We’ve got surrealist worlds, honking monsters, devilish visitors, chicken leg houses, and anti-smoking PSAs.
Batmilk (Brandon Blommaert, 2009)
“In this animated short, an oafish ghoul and his soft exposed brain are met with ruin when the brain is unexpectedly killed. Though paralyzed, the ghoul attains a fresh brain and is fed with new life. ” (NFB)
Godzilla vs. Mito Komon (Shinya Takeshita, 1991)
A cult classic to knowing G-fans everywhere, Godzilla vs. Mito Kōmon was made by Shinya Takeshita around 1991 while a student at Osaka Art University. The short is loaded with DIY charm and cheeky ingenuity thanks to Takeshita playing a one-man show as a news reporter (with pop bottle microphone), various classic kaiju and tokusatsu characters (with cardboard fins and helmets), and even multiple utility poles. Takeshita also plays various roles from the iconic Japanese television series Mito Kōmon, including the title character and his various followers. The short is memorable in part for bringing two together two Japanese icons: Godzilla and his giant monster ilk and the characters of Japan’s longest-running period drama, Mito Kōmon (1,227 episodes from 1969 to 2011), which featured a feudal lord traveling in disguise with his samurai retainers and redressing some local injustice in each episode. In these socially distanced days where scores of people are taking their creativity to webcams and video-sharing in even greater abundance, Takeshita’s film is a reminder that wacky, enthusiastic, brilliant entertainment was always just one person and one camera away.
The Limey (Steven Soderbergh, 1999)
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Limey.
Terence Stamp is Wilson, a English ex-con who arrives in Los Angeles to hunt down the man responsible for his daughter’s “accidental” death, a record producer named Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda). Propelled along an increasingly brutal search for the truth, Wilson’s singleminded desire for revenge splinters into a meditation on cultural dislocation, an elegy on fatherhood, and a radical, fragmentary investigation of memory. Conceiving of the film as “Alain Resnais making Get Carter” and featuring throwback casting with Stamp, Fonda, Barry Newman, and Joe Dallesandro, Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey is a modern tough guy classic and a seminal work of American independent cinema.
- Restored 4K digital transfer, approved by director Steven Soderbergh and cinematographer Edward Lachman, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary with Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs
- Audio commentary with Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren, Barry Newman, Joe Dallesandro, Soderbergh, and Dobbs
- New introduction by Soderbergh
- New conversation with Soderbergh, editor Sarah Flack, cinematographer Edward Lachman, and actors Luis Guzmán and Lesley Ann Warren
- Deleted scene featuring Ann-Margret
- Isolated music score
- Trailers and TV Spots
- PLUS: A new essay by critic Ashley Clark