I feel like 2018 is the year that the internet had enough of people saying that Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) is a Christmas movie and I’m thankful. Don’t get me wrong; I love me some Die Hard but the self-congratulatory smugness of the Die Hard-as-Christmas classic declaration had its day long ago. To both celebrate and hopefully memorialize this effort in a once clever and now tired idea, MMC! wishes everyone a safe and happy holidays with Brad Neely’s 2009 Baby Cakes short, The In-House Carol, a crudely fashioned and hilariously daft portrayal of Die Hard love gone too far.
SEASON’S GREETINGS TO ALL!!!
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival has upgraded the apparatus with its 2018 edition. That means fewer midnight screenings in favour of an extra day of programming, a 3-hour cartoon and cereal party, a snazzy new booklet, new voting ballots, some clever bumpers running before the screenings, sponsorships and promotions from Vinegar Syndrome and Shudder, and even an after party with cast and crew of Supergrid. And with turnout for Day 1 looking robust, Festival Director John Allison and his team must be feeling positive about the prospects for this year. There’s always a desire to find a theme to a given day’s program but finding a common thread between Anna and the Apocalypse (John McPhail, 2018), Rock Steady Row (Trevor Stevens, 2018), Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983), and their supporting short films is something of a challenge. At best, it might be said that most of these films attend to breakdowns in community and some very unlikely ways to reassemble them.
Rein Raamat’s Hell (1983) adapts the engravings of Estonian graphic artist Eduard Wiiralt into a surreal, grotesque, and heavily sexual animated short. Wiiralt’s three source works, “The Preacher,” “Cabaret,” and “Hell,” date back to the early 1930s and portray a cacophony of bacchanalia, hysteria, and violence in the final years of Estonian independence amid the unrest of the Great Depression and European instability. Raamat’s Hell (Põrgu) was created in the comparably uncertain time of Soviet dismantling and collapse. The short is unsettling in its physical fluidity, like an Eastern European, art film prediction of the climax to Brian Yuzna’s Society (1989).
MMC! keeps our creepy October rolling with Dave Fleischer’s spook-errific animation classic, Snow-White (1933). This Betty Boop masterpiece was animated almost single-handed by Roland Crandall over six months, his reward for loyal service to Fleischer Studios. The short features an array of creepy gags and set-pieces, the highlight of which is the Mystery Cave portion where a rotoscoped Cab Calloway performs “St. James Infirmary Blues” as a ghostly Koko the Clown. I first saw Snow-White in a class on the Disney Company where the very knowledgeable professor cited the rotoscoped appearance of Cab Calloway as an introduction of realism into the film, something I never understood given the very fantastic animation applied to the phantom Koko transforms into and the almost unnatural, counter-intuitive physics of Calloway’s glides and moonwalks. Snow-White has been preserved by the National Film Registry and can be found on Blu-ray in Volume 4 of Olive Films’ Betty Boop: The Essential Collections.
Thoughts of the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal (just underway) and various other fantastic film festivals still to come has me reflecting on cinematic weirdness and my attendance to the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival back in October. Among my favourites were Daniel Moshel’s two bizarre shorts, MeTube: August Sings Carmen ‘Habanera’ (2013) and MeTube 2: August Sings Carmina Burana (2016). The former is a hallucinatory tribute to awkward YouTube performances. Featuring Swiss tenor August Schram as a nerdy opera wanna-be and Elfie Wunsch as his grimly attentive mother, the short transforms a reserved and amateurish rendition George Bizet’s Habanera from Carmen into an EDM-infused, pan-sexual bacchanal, and it’s weirdo-glorious. Moshel’s crowd-funded sequel takes MeTube‘s classical mindfuck to the streets with a flash-mobbed carnival of “Opera on Acid.” For more by Moshel and a peek into the making of the films, check out his YouTube and Vimeo pages!
I’m working on our next proposal (an underappreciated comedy for the Shout Select label) so hopefully that will arrive soon. TCB, baby!
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
On the Santa Monica Pier, in the shabby La Monica Ballroom, a bizarre Depression-era fad unfolds – the dance marathon. A worn out collection of hopefuls (Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Bonnie Bedelia, Red Buttons, and Bruce Dern) compete in hopes that a Hollywood casting agent spots them or that they at least win the contest’s $1,500 cash prize. But the competition is a grueling public spectacle, lasting thousands of hours and taking weeks to proceed, leaving dignity and salvation farther and farther away. Based on Horace McCoy’s brutally poetic novel and featuring stand-out performances including Gig Young’s award-winning role as the marathon’s huckstering emcee, Sydney Pollack’s seminal film puts a cap on 1960s idealism and paints a bleak portrait of the American Dream that still resonates today.
- New 2K digital transfer, presented with uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentary by director and producer Sydney Pollack
- Audio commentary with Jane Fonda, producer Irwin Winkler, former president of ABC Pictures and talent agent Martin Baum, Bonnie Bedelia, Michael Sarrazin, Red Buttons, and legendary hair stylist Sydney Guilaroff
- New interviews with actors Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, and Bonnie Bedelia
- New interview with film critic Kim Morgan
- New interview with filmmaker Sarah Gertrude Shapiro discussing They Shoot Horses and introducing her 2013 short film Sequin Raze
- Original featurette on the making of the film
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Scott MacDonald, composer John Green’s musical continuity notes, Pollack’s forward to the screenplay, and notes, pictures, and diagrams taken from Pollack’s shooting script; a new paperback edition of McCoy’s original novel