Van Diemen’s Land (Jonathan auf der Heide, 2009)

“A grey, horribly-beautiful vision of Hell.” – Simon Foster, SBS.

Drafthouse Films LogoNow called Tasmania, Van Diemen’s Land was originally a feared and dreaded penal settlement, a final stop at the edge of the world for those convicts unwanted by the British Empire. In 1822, eight convicts escaped the brutal Macquarie Harbour penal station and were forced into the brutal Tasmanian wilderness when their plan went awry. With little food and equipment, these Irish, English, and Scottish fugitives battled harsh conditions and aching hunger in a merciless and unforgiving land – a land where God wields an axe. Director Jonathan auf der Heide and actor Oscar Redding create a grimly poetic retelling of Alexander Pearce’s infamous escape from Macquarie Harbour and the unthinkable acts he committed during his 113 days at large.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director and co-writer Jonathan auf der Heide, co-writer and lead actor Oscar Redding, and cinematographer Ellery Ryan
  • A Journey Up River: Making Van Diemen’s Land
  • Three additional featurettes: The Battle of the Beards, Subtleties of the Slate, and From Bailbo to Van Diemen’s Land
  • Hell’s Gates, Jonathan auf der Heide’s 2008 short film
  • Two Devils, Jonathan auf der Heide and Gregory Erdstein’s 2014 short film
  • Theatrical teaser and trailer
  • Original storyboards
  • A 24 page booklet featuring production photos and a new essay by film scholar Roderick Heath

Deluxe Edition – Package Includes:

  • Van Diemen’s Land on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 2½ hours of bonus material
  • DRM-free Digital Download of the film on 1080p, 720p and mobile/tablet formats
  • 27″ x 40″ Movie Poster

Continue reading

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.

Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme, 1980)

Designed with the film lover in mind, SHOUT SELECT shines a light on films that deserve a spot on your shelf. From acknowledged classics to cult favourites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving these movies the love and attention they deserve.

Shout SelectA TRUE STORY?

Jonathan Demme adapts the stranger-than-fiction life of Melvin Dummar to the big screen, celebrating the fair-weather fortunes of an affable everyman who offers a late-night ride to the world’s richest man, Howard Hughes. Dummar returns to his workaday life, struggling to get ahead with dead-end jobs and game show fantasies until a letter arrives out of the blue naming him as a possible heir to Hughes’ fortune. Being poor was hard, but Dummar discovers in this slice-of-life satire that the prospect of being rich is even harder.

Melvin and Howard is a feel-good story about tough luck starring Paul Le Mat and Jason Robards as Melvin Dummar and Howard Hughes, a pair of scruffy outcasts at opposite ends of the economy. Featuring an Academy Award-winning screenplay by Bo Goldman and supporting performances by Pamela Reed, Michael J. Pollard, Gloria Grahame, Charles Napier, Dabney Coleman, and Mary Steenburgen in an Oscar-winning role as Melvin’s first and second wife, Jonathan Demme’s tale of hard work and easy money is an under-appreciated American classic.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary With Director Jonathan Demme And Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto
  • Being Melvin – An Interview With Actor Paul Le Mat
  • Living Lynda – An Interview With Actress Mary Steenburgen
  • A Bonnie Situation – An Interview With Actress Pamela Reed
  • I Am Melvin – Interview Excerpts With Writer Bo Goldman
  • Melvin And The Master – Director Paul Thomas Anderson On Melvin And Howard
  • “Melvin And Howards” – An SCTV Parody Sketch
  • Theatrical Trailer

Continue reading

Four Last Canada Vignettes

NFBMMC!‘s retrospective on the National Film Board of Canada wraps up where it first began, with the Canada Vignettes. Provided here are four MMC! favourites: Fort Prince of Wales (Brad Caslor, 1978), Spence’s Republic (Brad Caslor, 1978), Flin Flon (Tina Horne, 1978), and Lady Frances Simpson (Christopher Hinton, 1978). All take a cheeky view of Canadian history, reveling in its absurdities and undercutting ideas of “great men” leading the nation to some inevitable glory. And all, for some strange reason, have some connection to the Province of Manitoba. Go figure.

As per the NFB:

A Canada Vignette giving a humorous animated version of the history of Fort Prince of Wales from its construction to its capture by the French.

As per NationalFilmBoardFan:

An animated vignette about the role of Thomas Spence in the formation and demise of the Republic of Manitoba at Portage la Prairie in 1967-68.

As per the NFB:

This short documentary vignette reveals the curious origin of the name of Flin Flon, Manitoba.

As per NationalFilmBoardFan:

An animated vignette on the journey of Lady Frances Simpson, with her piano, from England to Lower Fort Garry.

And so, that’s it for our retrospective on the National Film Board of Canada! Did we make any NFB converts? Did anyone make any discoveries or find any favourites? We left a lot a deserving films and filmmakers out of this survey of the Film Board – would anyone like to see MMC! offer another retrospective for an Essential Works of the NFB Volume 2 next July?

Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No (James Blagden, 2009)

Spring training is upon us, bringing to mind another Wholphin favourite – Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No (James Blagden, 2009), a trippy firsthand account of the Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher’s 1970 no-hitter against the San Diego Padres.  Blagden was commissioned with the project by Chris Isenberg, who discovered a 2-hour interview of Ellis by radio producers Donnell Alexander and Neille Ilel.  The interview, potentially Ellis’ last before passing away in late 2008, provides a moment-by-moment account of the right hander’s hallucinogen-powered triumph.  Candidly hilarious and cleverly depicted, Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No is a fitting tribute the one of the most notorious games in MLB history and one baseball’s great characters.

The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka (Yasuzo Masumura, 1967)

Eclipse LogoDomestic rivalry finds unexpected expression in Yasuzo Masumura’s The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka, the true-life story of the Japanese physician who first developed general anesthetic for use in 1804 and the women who competed to be his test subjects.  Hanaoka (Raizð Ichikawa) has little attention for his imperious mother (Hideko Takamine) and his dutiful wife (Ayako Wakao) while he searches for the precise formula for his herbal anesthetic.  Screenwriter Kaneto Shindo and director Yasuzo Masumura step away from the expected conventions of the bio-pic by focusing on the doctor’s spouse Kae, portraying her commitment and sacrifice to her husband’s endeavor as the truly heroic act of this dizzying tale of love and obsession.

Continue reading