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!

Video Camera Demo Tape Fred Meyer (—, 2017)

Video Camera Demo Tape Fred Meyer (—, 2017) is 26-minutes of footage taken by a Washington State Fred Meyer superstore’s floor model VHS camera in the spring of 1992. Discovered by Kellie Rogers among her father’s old camcorder tapes intended for DVD conversion, this footage of early ’90s consumerism is oddly compelling and extremely watchable. Katie Rife of The A.V. Club calls it “2017’s most avant-garde documentary” and Sophia June of Willamette Week cites it as “the greatest time capsule ever.” Hyperbole aside, the footage offers plenty of grist for the theoretical mill – the independent and foregrounded presence of the apparatus (notice those autofocus corrections), the manner of its smart device-less, unconnected subjects, the transient and incidental quality of captured footage with the rising convenience of personal recording, the footage’s online success and the current culture’s thirst for nostalgia. For those disinterested with the philosophical implications of Video Camera Demo Tape Fred Meyer, there are plenty of fascinating period intricacies to take in – the early packaging of CDs in long boxes, the ubiquity of sweatshirts, commercial transactions actually paid with paper money, and the lamentable rise of fanny packs. Good times.

Trailer Tuesday

First, a shout out to Cole and Ericca at The Magic Lantern Podcast who shared some love for MMC! in their recent discussion of Little Murders. Cole and Ericca provide a great (and very funny) discussion on the relationship at the centre of Arkin’s film. For the record, I’m with Cole – the wedding sequence stands as the most enjoyable part of the movie and Elliott Gould’s unresponsiveness to the demands of social convention or personal interactions is all too recognizable.

My most recent Criterion connection came by seeing Brazilian singer Seu Jorge perform live his selection of David Bowie covers from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). Jorge put on an amazing show, providing a variety of entertaining anecdotes on the making of the film, displaying some nimble guitar-work, and filling the theatre with his deep, impressive voice. The trailer for The Life Aquatic prominently features Jorge’s covers, serving as an effective promo of the singer’s currently touring show. Don’t miss it!

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Trailer Tuesday

The 70th annual Cannes Film Festival is now underway and this month’s “Trailer Tuesday” is devoted to the most intriguing trailers from the most prestigious film festival in the world!

I should say that Cannes will likely screen many good, even great films, but that doesn’t mean those films have trailers that distinguish them as anything other than feel-bad dramas and social commentaries. Heck, a lot of films at Cannes don’t even have trailers yet! Today, we’re embracing a few engaging trailers, not endorsing future masterpieces.

Let’s start with Redoubtable, Michel Hazanavicius’ bio-pic on acclaimed director and general enfant terrible – Jean-Luc Godard. Leave it to the cheeky Hazanavicius to rib Cannes right in the trailer to his film! Cannes might have the last laugh though, as reviews from Redoubtable‘s screening are less than flattering.

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Trailer Tuesday

It’s easy to look at the Criterion Collection’s July announcements as being rather slim, but the announcement of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) is a long awaited dream finally come true for cineastes. And if the thinness of new edition’s supplements have muted your enthusiasm, one look at the trailer for the 2017 restoration may be the answer to all your anxieties. I would daresay that this trailer nearly shows an entirely new film to me. This could be a revelation.

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