Maya and the Three (Jorge R. Gutierrez, 2021)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Maya and the Three.

criterion logoAn epic animated event told over nine chapters, Jorge R. Gutierrez’s Maya and the Three is the story of a brave and rebellious warrior princess whose fifteenth birthday ceremony is interrupted by the gods of the underworld who claim her life is forfeit to the God of War, Lord Mictlan. While coming to terms with her family’s secret past, Princess Maya embarks on a quest to recruit three legendary fighters, fulfill an ancient prophecy, and save their four kingdoms from the gods’ vengeance. With its Mesoamerican inspired fantasy world, its frame-breaking action spectacles, and its impeccable collection of performances by Zoe Saldaña, Alfred Molina, Allen Moldonado, Stephanie Beatriz, Gabriel Iglesias, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Rosie Perez, and Rita Moreno, Maya and the Three takes its inspiration from cinema’s great works of fantasy to produce a dazzling tribute to Gutierrez’s Mexican homeland.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • 4K digital transfer, approved by creator-director Jorge R. Gutierrez, with Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the 4K UHD and Blu-ray editions
  • In the 4K UHD edition: One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and two Blu-rays with the film and special features
  • Audio commentary featuring Gutierrez and creative consultant Sandra Equihua
  • Spanish language alternate soundtrack with newly translated English subtitles
  • Extended interviews with the Gutierrez, Equihua, Zoe Saldaña, Diego Luna, Gabriel Iglesias, Stephanie Beatriz, Allen Moldonado
  • Picture-in-picture storyboards and production artwork for the entire film
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Featurettes on the series: Creating the World of Maya, Behind the Epic Battles, Meet the Warriors, and 15 Fun Facts
  • Music video for “If It’s To Be” by Kali Uchis
  • Son of Jaguar, Gutierrez’s VR tribute to Mexican pro-wrestling
  • Super Macho Fighter, a stop-motion proof of concept created by Gutierrez
  • Carmen Got Expelled!, a 2010 pilot by Gutierrez
  • Carmelo, Gutierrez’s 2000 thesis film for CalArts, and Tequila Macho, a 1999 teaser made at CalArts
  • We the People music video series produced by Netflix with creator Chris Nee, producers Barack and Michelle Obama, and various directors including Gutierrez
  • Trailers and teasers
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: New essays by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and visual effects journalist Ian Failes; and drawings, original paintings, and other ephemera

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MMC! Double Feature #42: A Latin American History Starter Pack

In anticipation of MMC!’s next (and overdue) imagined Criterion edition, this latest “Double Feature” shares a couple of recent Netflix favourites in an unusual pairing linked by their celebratory treatments of Mesoamerican, South American, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures. Órale!

John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons (Aram Rappaport, 2018)

Presenting the 2017 Tony-nominated play, Aram Rappaport’s film version of John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons follows the performer’s survey through 3,000 years of Latin American history all in an effort to help his bullied son. The process is a heartfelt reclamation of Leguizamo’s history, an unpacking of his resentments, and an effort to offer something culturally redemptive to his son and himself. Leguizamo paints with a broad brush in this one-man show, reveling in cartoonish caricatures and historical overstatements while citing his scholarly and not-so scholarly sources, but his points remain sound throughout. This is a comedy and its lessons and its outrage are revealed through that lens, remaining true even while its outspoken tour guide sometimes colours way outside the lines.

Maya and the Three (Jorge R. Gutierrez, 2021)

Building on El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, his lucha libre-inspired series for Nickolodeon, and The Book of Life, his animated feature film drawing on Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, Jorge R. Gutierrez’s Maya and the Three is an epic adventure told through the histories and mythologies of Mesoamerica, South America, and the Caribbean. Maya, a spirited princess with the heart of a warrior, undertakes a mission to fulfill an ancient prophecy and save humanity from the wrath of vengeful gods by uniting four kingdoms and leading their unlikely champions. Gutierrez mines clichéd tropes with brilliant stylization, moving heroism, and multivalent representations that push back against stock family film conventions and fantasy movie presumptions. Sacrificing warrior mothers, multiple Akira slides, stone Olmec heads, Gatchaman helmets, a Rosie Perez voice-role, some post-colonial villains found in undead conquistadors, and the most spectacular closing battle seen in quite a while make this massive animated fantasy an easy MMC! favourite.

“The Spirit of Cuauhtémoc, Alive and Untamed!”

For no particularly good reason, Mexico and Latin America hold a place of special regard here at MMC! headquarters. We love the food, the art, the music, the history, the mythology, and the professional wrestling of Mexico and those of its sister countries and cultures. What is especially wonderful of both John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons and Maya and the Three is that neither is precious about its celebration of these histories. In these films, they are things to be embraced and enjoyed passionately, things to both applaud and laugh at, things that influence and are influenced upon as part of a global culture rather than being something hermetically sealed away for its own stultifying preservation. Above all, they are exceptionally entertaining, bringing accessibility while still remaining faithful to their vernacular origins. For those not too starched in their educational expectations, this pairing makes for a brilliant introduction to some Latin American study.

Both John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons and Maya and the Three are available on Netflix. And with titles like Uncut Gems, The Irishman, Roma, and Beasts of No Nation having already garnered Criterion canonization, who’s to say these titles might not be waiting for a wacky “C” of their own?

SFFF Day 3 – Hard Knock Lives

‘Stead of treated, the kids were getting tricked on Day 3 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival. Certainly the SFFF’s most celebrated film was Issa López’s festival darling Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017). MMC! has discussed López’s film on more than one of occasion, and so we’ll take its greatness as read and briefly discuss Jérémy Comte’s Fauve (2018), a Canadian short that feels tailor-made to open for Tigers. A Special Jury Prize-winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Fauve concerns a pair of boys exploring a surface mine who “sink into a seemingly innocent power game with Mother Nature as the sole observer.” The short brings to mind Gus Van Sant’s Gerry (2002) and a very specific John Mulaney joke about an impression he had as a child, but these glib comparisons belie the truly heartbreaking nature of Comte’s film. Fans of Tigers would be well served to seek out Fauve.

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Tigers Are Not Afraid (Issa Lopez, 2017)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Tigers Are Not Afraid.

Issa López’s festival-favourite is a darkly magical tale set in the real world tragedy of Mexico’s violent drug war, where thousands of murdered and missing people result in countless orphaned children forced onto the streets to fend for themselves. When her mother disappears, a young girl named Estrella uses one of three wishes granted to her to ask for her mother back and finds herself haunted by a vengeful ghost. Estrella takes up with a quartet of street kids led by Shine but the boys have their own problems, pursued by a vicious gang intent on reclaiming a lost iPhone. Blending artfully immediate handheld cinematography and convincing fantastical digital effects, López creates a realist fairy tale that stands as a prescient statement on Mexico’s deadly drug cartels and a hauntingly magical fairy tale.

Disc Features:

  • 2K digital transfer, approved by director Issa López, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with López, acting coach Fátima Toledo, and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
  • Tan Callando, López’s 1994 student film made at Mexico’s National University, with introduction by the director
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by novelist Stephen King

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Highway Patrolman (Alex Cox, 1991)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Highway Patrolman.

criterion logoAgainst his father’s wishes, Pedro – a naïve kid from Mexico City – joins the Highway Patrol.  His simple desire to do good rapidly comes into conflict with the reality of police work in a lonely rural environment populated by poor farmers, rich drug dealers, and beautiful women.  British director Alex Cox takes his anti-authoritarian politics to Mexico and creates a series of long-take master shots that explore the futility of imposing good on others and rejects cinema’s glamorized views of law enforcement.  Marking Cox’s full removal from the Hollywood filmmaking machine, Highway Patrolman is a mature, observational reflection on societal corruption and personal accountability in the heat and dust northern Mexico.

Disc Features:

  • High definition digital transfer with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New introduction by director Alex Cox
  • Audio commentary with Cox and writer-producer Lorenzo O’Brien
  • Patrulleros & Patrulleras, a collection of interviews by Cox of cast and crew
  • From Edge City of Mapini, a monologue by Cox on the connections between his first film Edge City and Highway Patrolman
  • Edge City, Cox’s UCLA thesis film
  • New interview with Miguel Sandoval on the film’s casting and on working with Alex Cox
  • PLUS: A new essay by critic F. X. Feeney

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Macario (Roberto Gavaldon, 1960)

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

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Adapted by Emilio Carballido and filmmaker Roberto Gavaldón from legendary author B. Traven’s novella The Third Guest, itself inspired by a tale of the Brothers Grimm, comes this masterpiece of fantastic cinema.  A poor woodcutter and family man, Macario (Ignacio López Tarso), is obsessed with ending his hunger and hides in the woods to enjoy one filling meal, only to meet a series of mystical visitors and befriend Death himself (Enrique Lucero).  Macario is bestowed a water with the power to surmount death and sets out to improve the lives of his family, only to become the object of scrutiny for the local Catholic authorities.  A late classic of the Golden Age of Mexican film and a major touchstone for magical realism in Latin American cinema, Macario achieved international acclaim and was the first Mexican feature film nominated for the Academy Award.

Disc Features:

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
  • B. Traven: A Mystery Solved, Will Wyatt’s 65-minute, 1978 made-for-television documentary
  • The Enigmatic Story of B. Traven, an hour-long, 2012 documentary by Xavier Villetard for French television
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Plus: B. Traven’s source novella The Third Guest and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Glenn Erickson Continue reading