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.

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.

Born Like Stars (Steve Haddock and Brad A. Seibel, 2006)

MMC! is hard at work on our next imagined Criterion Collection set. In the meantime, MMC! offers a kind of thematic preview to our next proposal with Born Like Stars (Steve Haddock and Brad A. Seibel, 2006), a Wholphin classic from Volume 2 and Best of Wholphin Vol. 1. The video, taken by a remotely operated vehicle called Tiburon from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, depicts baby squid hatching from the 3,000 egg cluster of a deep sea squid. The Gonatus onyx is a small, deep sea squid with the rare practice of brooding its eggs between its arms rather than on the ocean floor, something only discovered in 2005. The undulating movement by the mother squid pumps oxygen through the cone of eggs. The short’s plinky-plunky, music box score works in perfect compliment to the subject matter, creating a nursery-like atmosphere around its seemingly alien footage.

Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (David Lynch, 1995)

With the Criterion Collection’s tease of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992) and the screening of the first two parts of Lynch’s new Twin Peaks 18-part feature at the Cannes Film Festival, it seems like much of the CC world is abuzz over David Lynch and the prospects of new spine numbered editions being announced. This has got me thinking about my favourite shorts by Lynch and so today MMC! casts its spotlight on Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (David Lynch, 1995), a 52-second film made for the Lumière and Company anthology film (1995) celebrating the centenary of Auguste and Louis Lumière’s first films. Contributing shorts to the anthology used the original Cinématographe camera, were edited in-camera, could not be longer than 52 seconds, could not have synchronized sound, and were allowed no more than three takes. This eerie and foreboding short was filmed on five sets constructed at the house of Gary D’Amico, Lynch’s special effects co-ordinator. Premonitions is one of six restored short films included on Criterion’s edition of Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977).

Devilman: The Birth (Umanosuke Iida, 1987) and Devilman: Demon Bird Sirene (Umanosuke Iida, 1990)

TO FIGHT A DEMON, ONE MUST BECOME A DEMON!

Prehistoric demons, hideous and pitiless monsters that consume humans body and soul, secretly threaten mankind. Humanity’s only hope is to harness the demons’ power and turn it against them. With the help of his friend Ryo Asuka, the pure-hearted Akira Fudo merges with the demon Amon, God of War and Beast of Hell, to become Devilman, powerful defender of the human race with the strength and abilities of a demon! In Devilman: The Birth and Devilman: Demon Bird Sirène, this hellish anti-hero pits his infernal might against possessed party-goers, squid and spiders monsters, a sadistic turtle creature, and a beautiful and savage winged demoness.

Adapted from the 1972-1973 manga of visionary author and artist Go Nagai, Umanosuke Iida’s pair of original video animations faithfully represents the gory violence and incredible monstrosities that defined the series and made Devilman an iconic figure in Japanese popular culture. Arrow Video proudly presents these classic works of 1980s anime excess on high-definition Blu-ray with both their original Japanese audio and notorious English dub tracks.

Special Features:

  • New High Definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original stereo audio for original Japanese and English dub tracks (uncompressed on the Blu-ray Disc)
  • Isolated music tracks featuring the compositions of Kenji Kawai
  • New optional English subtitle translation
  • New interview with acclaimed author and artist Go Nagai
  • “We All Steal from Go Nagai!” – Directors Guillermo del Toro, Rob Zombie, and Yoshihiro Nishimura on the legacy of Go Nagai and Devilman
  • Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Natsume Fusanosuke and Andrea Marinelli and an essay by creator Go Nagai written on the 30th anniversary of Devilman
  • Devilman: Tanjo Hen – the single volume novel that originally accompanied the OVA in 1987, newly translated and reprinted in its entirety
  • The Demon Bible – the original book published by Bandai in 1990 featuring artwork by Go Nagai, includes original Japanese and new English translations and reprinted in its entirety

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Aniki-Bobo (Manoel de Oliveira, 1942)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Aniki-Bóbó.

criterion logoSet in the director’s hometown of Porto, Portugal, Aniki-Bóbó features a romantic rivalry amongst a group of young, school-age children. Eduardinho, an unofficial leader and bully to a band of his classmates, has affection for Teresinha, a pretty girl who begins noticing the interest of a shy boy named Carlitos. When Carlitos steals a doll for Teresinha and is accused of pushing Eduardinho off an embankment and toward an oncoming train, the youngster must negotiate feelings of guilt, betrayal, and persecution. Manoel de Oliviera’s first feature film was a commercial failure on its initial release, but has become regarded as a classic work in Portuguese cinema, a forerunner to Italian neorealism, and an inspiration to generations of Portuguese filmmakers.

Disc Features:

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • A new piece about Manoel de Oliveira’s first career in cinema with scholar Randal Johnson
  • A pair of city symphonies by de Oliveira on Porto – Labor on the Douro River (1931) and The Artist and the City (1956)
  • Excerpt from Sergio Andrade’s documentary Manoel de Oliveira: His Case, featuring interviews with de Oliveira and actors Fernanda Matos and Horácio Silva
  • Manoel de Oliveira and the Age of Cinema, a short documentary made for Portuguese television on the filmmaker
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim and a reprint of Aniki-Bóbó‘s source story, José Rodrigues de Freitas’ Millionaire Children

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