Ghost Stories (Late Night Work Club, 2013)

Next up, we offer a short film of short films – the indie-animated anthology Ghost Stories (2013). Containing 11 minimalist shorts, Ghost Stories is the product of various members of the Late Nite Work Club crafting these pieces between projects and classes. MMC! is particularly fond of Charles Huettner’s The Jump, Caleb Wood’s Rat Trap, and Alex Grigg’s Phantom Limb, although Ghost Stories is an impressively satisfying effort throughout. In fact, the omnibus format of Ghost Stories produces a convivial effect, expanding the regard for these shorts by placing them alongside one another and creating a whole greater than its parts.

The Cat With Hands (Robert Morgan, 2001)

Robert Morgan’s The Cat With Hands (2001) has become something of a horror short classic over the last 15 years, utilizing stop-motion animation’s unsettling, uncanny look to ghastly perfection. The short was inspired by a recurring childhood nightmare of the director’s sister and passed that distress on to its viewers now.  Enjoy!

Two from The All-Nighter Room

A lot of time has been spent lately watching short films and some new favourites have been found, particularly from The All-Nighter Room, a Brooklyn based production company founded by Mickey Duzyj and specializing in distinctive animated and documentary shorts. First up is Duzyj’s The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere (2016), the story of Haru Urara, a Japanese racehorse with a massive losing-streak that became a national symbol of perseverance and pride in hard economic times. Next is Mickey Duzyj and Jeremy Johnstone’s Emmy and Webby nominated The Perfect 18 (2014) about IT manager Rick Baird’s perfect round of Putt Putt golf. Both films offer Duzyj’s clean, spare animation design, with the former subtly using colour to represent the expanding popularity of Haru Urara and the latter deploying this crisp style to elaborate on the precision required of competitive miniature golf. Both of these films are surprisingly affective and use the short film format to avoid allowing their subjects to become overblown.

The Whale God (Tokuzo Tanaka, 1962)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Whale God.

criterion logoA small Japanese village is obsessed with killing a monstrous whale that has decimated its hunting parties. The town’s wealthiest man offers his land, position, and only daughter to the individual who can kill the demon whale. Shaki, a popular young man whose family has been massacred by the beast, steps forward vowing to slay the whale and avenge his relations, but his efforts are complicated by a brutish stranger to the village also intent on killing the monster and collecting on the promised riches. Based on Koichiro Uno’s award-winning novel published the previous year and scripted by visionary writer-director Kaneto Shindo, this loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick captures the madness and danger of whaling and combines it with period drama and kaiju monster effects.

Disc Features:

  • New, high definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with Japanese film critic Tadao Sato
  • New interview with Japanese-literature scholar Jeffrey Angles
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic, novelist, and musician Chris D.

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The Spider Labyrinth (Gianfranco Giagni, 1988)

DEATH STALKS ALAN WHITMORE ON EIGHT LEGS

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddAmerican Alan Whitmore (Roland Wybenga), a professor of languages translating ancient texts for the Intextus Project, is sent to Budapest to find his colleague Professor Roth, a researcher who has gone strangely silent and who has failed to deliver his final report on an ancient religion. In the Hungarian capital, Alan is met by Roth’s beautiful assistant Genevieve Weiss (Paola Rinaldi) and commences his search for Roth and the ancient spider-cult that his colleague had uncovered. Can Alan discover the secret of these unnatural cultists and stop their murderous ways or will he become lost in the pagan sect’s web of paranoia, terror, and brutality?

Gianfranco Giagni’s The Spider Labyrinth blends Lovecraftian horrors with giallo stylishness and a gothic atmosphere to create a doom-laden masterpiece of 1980s Italian horror. Sergio Stivaletti’s terrifying effects are exceptional, bringing The Spider Labyrinth to its mad, shattering climax and confirming it as a little-known horror tour de force.

Special Features:

  • New high definition transfer of the English and Italian versions
  • High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Original English and Italian Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround Options
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Old Ones and Arachnids – Extensive interview with Sergio Stivaletti on The Spider Labyrinth‘s visual effects
  • Mistress of the House – An interview with Stéphane Audran
  • Weaving Webs – An interview with Paola Rinaldi
  • Lovecraft on Eight Legs – An interview with Lovecraft experts S. T. Joshi and Sandy Petersen
  • Songs for Spiders – An interview with composer Franco Piersanti
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kim Newman

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Ishu Patel!

NFBToday, MMC! offers a trio of diverse animated films by longtime NFB animator Ishu Patel. First up is Perspectrum (1975), an abstract work of colourful geometry that adapted techniques developed by Norman McLaren. Next is Bead Game (1977), which takes its inspiration from the elaborate bead-work of Inuit women and provides a cautionary tale on our aggressive tendencies and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Lastly, Patel’s beautifully luminescent Paradise (1984) examines the value and nature of beauty, hauntingly accompanied by James Last’s The Lonely Shepherd. Patel’s career with the NFB took him around the world conducting animation workshops in the Far North, Ghana, Yugoslavia, the USA, Japan, and back in his native India, and he was honoured with awards from major film and animation festivals including Ottawa, Annecy, Melbourne, and Berlin. His Bead Game received a BAFTA Award and an Oscar nomination, while Paradise won a Silver Bear at Berlin and gave Patel his second Academy Award nomination.

As per the NFB:

In this animated short, simple geometric forms as thin and flat as playing cards constantly form and re-form to the sound of the kyoto, a 13-string Japanese instrument.

As per the NFB:

In this animated short, thousands of beads are arranged and manipulated, assuming shapes of creatures both mythical and real. They continually devour, merge, and absorb one another in explosions of colour.

As per the NFB:

In this short animation film, a magnificent bird performs for the Emperor inside a glittering palace. Its plumage is a blaze of color. A blackbird, watching enviously, strives to acquire what he so desperately covets, only to discover that a golden cage can’t compete with the open skies.