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.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Simon & Garfunkel: Songs of America.
Directed by their friend Charles Grodin and airing almost two months before the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s 1969 television special Simon & Garfunkel: Songs of America previewed their landmark album and shows the two on stage, in the studio, and on a concert tour across a turbulent country. The documentary follows the duo in cinéma verité style while interspersing footage of the social movements that defined a nation growing more aware, more sophisticated, and more complex. The special’s initial sponsor infamously balked at footage of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, the Poor People’s March on Washington, and the recently slain Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Though unpopular at the time, Songs of America has become an enduring portrait of an era and of Simon & Garfunkel as artists, with incisive commentary provided by iconic songs like “America,” “The Boxer,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Sound of Silence,” “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could),” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
- New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Robert Ryan’s 1969 introduction to the television special
- The Harmony Game, Jennifer Lebeau’s 2011 feature-length documentary on the making of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water album
- Remembering Chuck, new interviews with Simon and Garfunkel on their personal and professional friendship with Grodin
- Saturday Night Live sketch from 1977 featuring Charles Grodin, Paul Simon, and Art Garfunkel
- PLUS: A new essay by rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Bandits of Orgosolo • Ten Documentary Shorts by Vittorio De Seta.
Heralded by Martin Scorsese as “an anthropologist who speaks with the voice of a poet,” Italian director Vittorio De Seta produced a string of extraordinary short documentaries in the 1950s that distill their subjects to pure cinema. Shooting in vivid color in the rural villages of Sicily, Sardinia, and Calabria, De Seta captured the rhythms and rituals of everyday life among the fishermen, miners, shepherds, and farmers who continued to live and work according to the preindustrial traditions of their ancestors. These shorts were followed by Bandits of Orgosolo, which presented with neorealist authenticity the tragic plight of a poor Sardinian shepherd unfairly accused of rustling and murder. Together, these miniature marvels and this hardscrabble feature-film debut stand as essential, ennobling records of a vanished world.
- New, restored 4K digital transfers of all eleven films, overseen by the World Cinema Project in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays:
- The Age of Swordfish (1954 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) Vittorio De Seta’s rhythmic editing adds drama to this chronicle of a Sicilian spearfishing expedition.
- Islands of Fire (1954 • 11 minutes • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) This prize-winning short is a poetic portrait of life on the coast of Sicily before, during, and following a volcanic eruption.
- Solfatara (1955 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) Harshness and beauty exist side by side in this look at the lives of sulfur mine workers and their families in southern Italy.
- Easter in Sicily (1955 • 10 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2:35:1 aspect ratio) De Seta captures the music and pageantry of an Easter celebration in Sicily.
- Sea Countrymen (1955 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) The rhythms of the sea set the tempo for this vivid account of a day in the lives of Sicilian fishermen.
- Golden Parable (1955 • 10 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) Filming amid the flaxen wheat fields of Sicily, De Seta documents the everyday rituals of farmers during harvest time.
- Fishing Boats (1958 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) The unpredictable nature of the sea governs the world of Sicilian fishermen as they work, rest, and seek refuge from a storm.
- Orgosolo’s Shepherds (1958 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) The striking landscapes of rural Sardinia provide the backdrop to this lyrical look at the hard-earned lives of the region’s shepherds in winter.
- A Day in Barbagia (1958 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) From sunrise to sunset, De Seta chronicles the lives of Sardinian women who look after both home and fields while their shepherd husbands are away tending their flocks.
- The Forgotten (1959 • 21 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) De Seta travels to a remote province in southern Italy to capture a unique celebration known as the “Feast of Silver.”
- Bandits of Orgosolo (1961 • 95 minutes • Black and White • Monaural • 1.37:1 aspect ratio) Returning to the Sardinian countryside, De Seta presents a ruinous portrait of a poor shepherd wrongfully associated with some bandits and forced to flee, taking his flock and his younger brother into remote, inhospitable lands.
- Introduction by Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival chief Gian Luca Farinelli
- New interview with director Martin Scorsese
- Détour De Seta, a 2004 documentary by Salvo Cuccia
- The Filmmaker is an Athlete: Conversations with Vittorio De Seta, Vincent Sorrel and Barbara Vey’s 2010 interview with De Seta
- New English subtitle translations
- PLUS: Essays by scholar Alexander Stille and critic J. Hoberman
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents David Byrne’s American Utopia.
Deeply reflective and exceptionally high-spirited, David Byrne’s theatrical concert American Utopia stormed Broadway with the ex-Talking Head’s mix of iconic music and quirky ideas. With a collection of eleven talented musicians, singers, and dancers supporting him and informed by the work of James Baldwin, Janelle Monáe, Hugo Ball, and Kurt Schwitters, the show plucked at the connections between us and aimed to start making sense of it all. With director Spike Lee commemorating the show for the screen, David Byrne’s American Utopia transforms the stage production into an immersive, dynamic cinema experience that radiates with astounding performances, inventive contemporary dance, and political urgency. A clarion call for protest, compassion, and shared responsibility and a new masterpiece among concert films, David Byrne’s American Utopia is the life-affirming rock-doc arriving at precisely the right time, ready to burn down the house.
- 4K digital master, approved by director Spike Lee and David Byrne, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Start Making Sense, a roundtable conversation with Lee, Byrne, musician Janelle Monáe, and critic Ashley Clark
- One Fine Day, a new program of interviews with Lee, Byrne, and the film’s cast of performers
- Slippery People, a conversation between choreographer Annie-B Parson and cinematographer Ellen Kuras
- Remain in Light, an exploration of American Utopia stage design and its innovative lighting
- Promotional discussions featuring Lee and Byrne
- Meet the Band, introductory videos for the cast and crew
- Additional performance of “Hell You Talmbout”
- Trailer and teaser
- English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- PLUS: An essay by film critic Robert Daniels
AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE AND PUNK ROCK
In a dreary Michigan suburb, aggro punk rocker Simon (Kyle Gallner) finds himself on the run after a bout of arson and a close call with the police. A chance encounter with eccentric and socially awkward Patty (Emily Skeggs) provides him a place to hide from the law, though she fails to realize that her new friend is the anonymous lead singer of her favourite band. The pair embark on a series of misadventures and while their radically different personalities make them an unlikely duo, Simon and Patty realize that they have a lot more in common than first expected.
Dinner in America is an ode to the ’90s Nebraska punk-scene of writer-director Adam Carter Rehmeier and a hilarious underdog love story boosted by a generous helping of absurdity and some instantly quotable dialogue. Set to the beat of brilliant original songs and perfectly casting Skeggs and Gallner as a suburban Bonnie and Clyde, Dinner in America is a wild and empowering ride through the places and people of Middle America — in all their peculiar forms.
Special Edition Contents:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Feature-length audio commentary with director Adam Carter Rehmeier and producer Ross Putman
- One Night Only, new interview on the film’s music with Rehmeier, Emily Skeggs, Kyle Gallner, and composer John Swihart
- Freedom from Want, new interviews with supporting cast members Lea Thompson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Pat Healy, and Griffin Gluck
- Straight Shooting, new interview with cinematographer Jean-Philippe Bernier
- Apocalypse Yow, new interview with musician and actor David Yow
- Detroit Punk City, stories from cast and crew on the shoot
- Outtakes and deleted scenes
- Original theatrical trailer
- Soundtrack CD including a remix of “Watermelon” by Bernier
- Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by producer-director Ant Timpson
HE’S A LUMBERJACK AND HE’S NOT OKAY
Pacific Northwest, 1983 A.D. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence in near isolation. When their pine-scented splendour is savagely destroyed by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand and his cult “The Children of the New Dawn,” Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire. Armed with a hand-forged battle axe and an insane thirst for revenge, Red won’t stop until he has destroyed Jeremiah and his disciples.
From the visionary mind of Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow), Mandy is an ultra-hard, stylishly told hell-trip with heavy metal symbolism, demonic motorcycle mutants, buzzing chainsaws, and a phenomenal performance by Nicolas Cage as an unstoppable, single-minded avenger. Arrow Video proudly presents this modern grindhouse classic for the first time on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray.
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
- 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) approved by director Panos Cosmatos
- High definition Blu-ray (1080p)
- Original DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- New audio commentary with Panos Cosmatos and filmmaker and critic Sam Ashurst
- Behind-the-scenes featurette
- Interview at the Sundance Film Festival with producers Lisa Whalen, Josh Waller, Daniel Noah, and Elijah Wood and special guests Nicolas Cage, Vince Neil from the band Mötley Crüe, and Panos Cosmatos
- Acid Wash, new interview with cinematographer Benjamin Loeb
- It’s Gobblin’ Good!, new interview with director Chris Casper Kelly and special effects artist Shane Morton on the Cheddar Goblin commercial
- And Red All Over, new interview with designer Richard Kenworthy of Shynola on the film’s title cards
- Standing on the Edge of Time, new interview with animation director David Garcia
- The Blade and the Beast, new interview with weapon maker Tim Wagendorp
- Deleted and extended scenes
- Teasers and trailers
- Concept art and stills gallery
- Rewind This!, a feature-length documentary with audio commentary by director Josh Johnson, producer Carolee Mitchell and cameraman and editor Christopher Palmer
- Soundtrack CD with music composer Jóhann Jóhannsson
- 10″ vinyl single of “Amulet of the Weeping Maze” by Jeremiah Sand
- Fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
- Four retro-poster photos double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions, alternative posters and promotional images
- 44-page collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Travis Woods and an introduction by Panos Cosmatos