I’ve been away. To be fair, movies have been away (for the most part), too. So perhaps I was taking advantage of the situation. I’m not going to movie theaters. In fact, this may be the longest continuous stretch of me not going to theaters…ever. Since I could walk, at least. Not going to theaters meant not seeing new movies meant not having content to review on the site, and thus…I had time to step away.
I’ve still been working, and writing, like mad. Writing a master’s thesis doesn’t sound all that bad until you realize that you have that and five or six other things on your plate. Then six months go by and you find you’ve only written about 50 pages. And no movie reviews…
The virtual Fantasia Festival 2020 is in the full swing of things, with on-demand and live premiere titles becoming available to Canadian audiences. Here are reviews of three films playing the fest, The Oak Room,PVT Chat, and Hunted.
Labyrinth of Cinema is screening as part of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival program.
Labyrinth of Cinema is truly a unique cinematic experience. But simply saying that does not even begin to get at the heart of what makes the film so special. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s final film—the director passed away earlier this year—it is a film which pays homage to cinema itself, exploring the power the cinematic medium has to enact change on both an individual and community level. It is a three-hour epic, dubbed during the opening titles as “a movie to explore cinematic literature.” And it is idiosyncratic to a degree where it is difficult to describe in a way that compliments the film. Not that the film is unworthy of compliment.
Survival Skills is screening as part of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival
Quinn Armstrong’s Survival Skills has plenty of contemporaries. This faux police training video has the same old media affection, anachronistic diegetic reality, and cringe comedy of the late night comedy of Tim & Eric, viral alt comedy videos like Too Many Cooks, and a handful of other indie films on the festival rotation in recent years. Survival Skills deviates enough from these by presenting a less overtly comic take on the postmodern pastiche of the VHS tape aesthetic. But this tone is also the major detracting feature of the film.
In Amy Seimetz’s moody genre piece She Dies Tomorrow—her first feature as a director since 2012’s Sun Don’t Shine—death is coming for people. Not necessarily in a Final Destination determinism sort of way, but in an existentialist death-comes-for-us-all sort of way. Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) is seen wallowing in the wake of what appears to be a volatile breakup with a lover. She has fallen off the wagon, cracking open a bottle of wine as she curls up on the floor in despair.
When her friend Jane (Jane Adams) comes to check on her, it becomes clear that there is more to this depressive episode than merely a breakup. Amy insists that she will die tomorrow, that she knows she will die tomorrow.
Atom Egoyan’s latest, Guest of Honour, is a terse drama arranged to be a puzzle film. I say “arranged” because Egoyan structures the narrative with flashbacks framed from different characters’ perspectives as they tell their version of a story, a family history that unfolds on-screen like puzzle pieces presenting themselves and forming the perimeter of a picture.
In Mr. Jones, the eponymous Gareth Jones (James Norton) is a Welsh freelance journalist who travels to the Soviet Union in 1933 to interview Joseph Stalin. But the film begins outside of this man’s story, instead landscaping a pastoral farm—animals milling about, fields of grain waving with the wind. Jones, in his journalistic pursuit, stumbles upon a nefarious truth behind Stalin’s Five Year Plan—the Holodomor, in which Ukraine’s grain was exported in vast quantities that caused mass, genocidal starvation in the region.
Director Agnieszka Holland directs some great sequences in Mr. Jones—this opening sequence; a woozy, heroin-fueled party; a quiet, haunting interlude on a train. Still, stretches of the film are rather staid. The first act relies on undercurrents of tension stemming from Continue reading Mr. Jones (2020) Movie Review→