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?

Orders (Michel Brault, 1974)

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

criterion logoStraddling fiction and documentary reconstruction, Michel Brault’s Orders is a gripping reenactment of the roundup and imprisonment of ordinary Québécois citizens during the October Crisis of 1970, when Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau imposed martial law following the political kidnappings of a British diplomat and a government minister by the secessionist Front de libération du Québec. Nearly 500 people were arrested, imprisoned, and questioned during this period before eventually being released without any charges ever being brought against them. Brault, who won the Best Director’s Award at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival for Orders, interviewed 12 detainees and recorded 50 hours of material to base this harrowing portrait of the Crisis, drawing upon his pivotal contributions to the direct cinema and cinema vérité movements during its filming. Now restored 40 years after its explosive debut at Cannes, Orders is an understated examination of the erosion of democratic values that foresees the rise of the permanent state of emergency.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interviews with director Michel Brault and actors Jean Lapointe, Claude Gauthier, and Louise Forestier
  • On Screen – Les Ordres, a one hour television documentary on the film for Canadian television
  • Les raquetteurs, Brault’s landmark short film that launched Quebec’s direct cinema movement
  • Le direct avant la lettre, Denys Desjardins’ 2005 documentary on the direct cinema movement
  • The October Crisis: 50 Years Onscreen, a discussion on Orders with actors Claude Gauthier and Louise Forestier, filmmaker Mathieu Denis, and documentarian Félix Rose (son of FLQ member Paul Rose)
  • Action: The October Crisis of 1970 and Reaction: A Portrait of a Society in Crisis, two documentaries by Robin Spry utilizing extensive archival footage
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: New essays by Quebec film scholar André Loiselle and Canadian art critic and historian David Silcox

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Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Fantasia International Film Festival

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Love Letter, April Story and hana & alice.

criterion logoFew filmmakers capture the wonder and angst of young adulthood like Japanese writer-director Shunji Iwai. With the hazy, sentimental lens of his regular cinematographer Noboru Shinoda, Iwai’s early feature films explore pivotal moments in teenage life through the mundane challenges of the everyday. Audiences quickly embraced Iwai’s treatment of grief and love with his smash debut Love Letter, about a woman rediscovering her late fiancé through letters exchanged with his former classmate. Linked by their cold introductions, Iwai and Shinoda’s subsequent films – 1998’s April Story, about a shy girl’s move to university, and 2004’s romantic con-job hana & alice – trace the changing times as much as the changing hearts of their characters, and collapse style and substance into lyrical poetry. These “White Films” express Shunji Iwai’s unique view on young love and loneliness and exemplify the dreamy landscapes he nostalgically maps in his films.

SPECIAL EDITION COLLECTORS’ SET FEATURES:

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Have a Happy Halloween with Nick Cross!

What’s scarier than the exploitation of capitalist culture, our societal collapse into a dystopian nightmare, and our inexorable march into cosmic obliteration? Answer: Nothing. And so MMC! celebrates this All Hallow’s Eve with a trio of animated mind-melters from Canadian animator Nick Cross. First up is The Pig Farmer (2010) – “a simple tale of a wayward soul, awash in an ocean of tragedy and regret.” Well, that and various pork-related gags. Don’t be fooled by the fairy tale-vibe and cutesy look; this short ain’t for the kids!

Next up is Perihelion (2013), “a sort of animated tone poem” inspired by German Expressionist and Surrealist painters of the early 20th Century like Otto Dix, Richard Oelze, Ingrid Griebel-Zietlow, Rudolf Schlichter, and Max Ernst, as well as Francisco Goya. The short operates as something of a Möbius strip tracking a cycle of human downfalls. The effect is amazing in execution and awful in vision. You’re welcome!

Lastly, we wrap up this dispiriting tribute to Nick Cross with The Clockwork Elves (2020). Cross’s summary of the short is questionable: “The Clockwork Elves could be a pyschotropic exploration of spirituality and death – or it could be a tale of a little goofball hopped up on goofballs. Either way — it’s a cartoon.” Made single-handedly over seven years, the short takes the animator’s critiques of late capitalism deeper into the psychedelic nightmare than ever before, creating a vision quest montage that is amazingly spectacular, shockingly vibrant, and exceptionally apocalyptic. This is the squished and squashed, cutesy-pie version of Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” video and it’s just as bracing.

If all of this is a bit too nightmarishly heavy for you, then MMC! recommends revisiting Over the Garden Wall (2014), a modern Halloween classic that perfectly celebrates American colonial folklore, historical commercial art, and East Coast animation. Cross worked as the series’ art director and it should be required viewing for any Halloween fanatic.

STAY SAFE KIDS, AND HAVE A

HAPPHALLOWEEN!

Mad God (Phil Tippett, 2021) – Fantasia International Film Festival 2021

READY YOUR EYES. READY YOUR SOULS. PREPARE TO MEET YOUR MAKER.

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddFollow the Assassin, Mad God’s silent soldier, on his mysterious mission through Miltonesque worlds filled with grotesque monsters, mad scientists, and savage war pigs. This darkly surreal realm where nightmares roam free is forged from the subconscious mind of legendary visual effects and stop-motion craftsman Phill Tippett (contributor to the original Star Wars trilogy, RobocopJurassic Park, and Battleship Troppers). Commenced over thirty years ago and later resurrected at the behest of animators at Tippett’s Berkeley studio, this ambitious personal project employed hundreds of puppets, dozens of environments, and a crew of more than 60 artists who painstakingly animated every set, creature, and effigy in this macabre masterpiece.

Each element of Mad God is independently created and hand-crafted from its creator’s heart. At times, that heart bursts with love for its craft, while at other times it is morbidly gruesome, punctured and left bleeding. Altogether, Mad God is a testament to the power of creative grit and an homage to the timeless art of stop motion animation.

Limited Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio
  • Introduction by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
  • Audio commentary by filmmaker Phil Tippett and special effects artist Dan Martin
  • Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 live-streamed tribute, masterclass, and Lifetime Achievement Award with Phil Tippett, hosted by Rupert Bottenberg
  • Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters, Alexandre Poncet and Gilles Penso’s 2019 documentary on the life and work of Phil Tippett
  • Worse Than the Demon, a short film by Phil Tippett’s daughter, Maya Tippett, on the making of Mad God
  • Dammit Phil, You Had One Job!, Phil Tippett on his infamous meme
  • Nightmare Music, new interview with composer Dan Wool on the music of Mad God
  • Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Sam Ashurst and a gallery of exclusive production writing and artwork by filmmaker Phil Tippett

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