The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (Juho Kuosmanen, 2016)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki.

In the summer of 1962, small town Finnish baker Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) has a shot at the world featherweight boxing title held by dominating American champion Davey Moore. Olli is thrust from his countryside home into a fraught training camp with the pressures of national stardom and a draining publicity circuit, but he has bigger problem – he has just fallen in love with a sweet country girl (Oona Airola) and can think about little else. Based on a true story, Juho Kuosmanen’s exquisitely lyrical, verité-styled inversion of the sports biography won the Un Certain Regard Prize, charming Cannes audiences with its gentle humor and bittersweet romance.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital master, supervised by cinematographer Jani-Petteri Passi, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with director Juho Kuosmanen, production designer Kari Kankaanpää cinematographer Passi
  • New interviews with actors Jarkko Lahti, Oona Airola, and Eero Milonoff
  • Roadmarkers (2007), Citizens (2008), and The Painting Sellers (2010), three award-winning short films by Kuosmanen
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A new essay by critic Manohla Dargis

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And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool (Makoto Nagahisa, 2017)

I’ve been catching up on short films lately and filling out my “Top Films of 2017” list. One favourite has been Makoto Nagahisa’s And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool (2017), the Short Film Grand Prize Jury Winner at Sundance earlier this year. The short follows Mayu (Reina Kikuchi), Tamiko (Rina Matsuyama), Ryoko (Marin Nishimoto), and Akane (Nina Yukawa), a quartet of rebellious sixteen year-olds unfulfilled in their hometown of Saitama and who release 400 goldfish in their high school swimming pool. Nagahisa aimed to emphasize “speed, dialogue, and sound” in Soushite watashitachi wa pûru ni kingyo o and the short draws quick comparisons to Edgar Wright for its exuberant style. For those won over Nagahisa energetic portrait of teenage apathy and cynicism, we encourage you to explore his previous works in music video and commercial film profiled on his website.

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

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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

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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?