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things i like:
rock'n'roll, country, punk & metal.
bands that combine all four successfully.
design, graphic & interior.
the intersection of philosophy & sociology.
ampersands.
andrew wk.
emergent gameplay, of the videogaming variety.
cursing.
beards.
beer.
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cjlo.
deep fried everything.
americana.
making lists
, including this one of my life's ambitions, and these of things on my mind at the time.

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i took a trip! read about it here.

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Fantasia Film Festival 2014 Review Roundup: Part 1

We’re five days in and the festival is already hitting me hard… I’m looking forward to week two, when I can maybe just relax and watch movies until my eyes shrivel up like raisins. Let’s get to the films I’ve seen so far, shall we?

Jacky au royaume des filles This wacky French flick imagines a world in which horses are worshiped, everyone eats gruel from a faucet, and men wear a modified niquab and are subservient to their domineering, masculine wives. While ultimately inconclusive and without a clear message (strange, given its premise), this film is good fun and thought provoking in its own way. 

Kite Despite some pacing problems and mushmouthed, garbled acting by supporting characters, I quite enjoyed Kite for its elegant violence and occasional flashes of photographic brilliance. While the story, adapted from a Japanese anime, is somewhat predictable, this is an acceptable popcorn film and I was not disappointed.

Faults This film is a lovely surprise, a slow burning character study that pits the flawless Mary Elizabeth Winstead against the equally excellent Leland Orser in a story about cults and mind control. Gripping and claustrophobic, this out of the ordinary film deserves to be seen.

Boyhood Director Richard Linklater does not disappoint with this hotly anticipated epic. A coming of age tale unlike any other, this film manages to eclipse the cleverness of its premise (the film was shot over 12 years, and follows the main character from age 6 to 18) and become a meditation on the thread that draws life together. Darkly comedic, with Linklater’s signature laconic style, this film manages to hold a mirror up to the viewer’s own life, suscitating tears and laughter alike. Also, it seems everyone missed the glorious Dazed & Confused Easter egg: the convenience store clerk from D&C (David Blackwell) makes a return appearance in Boyhood as… a convenience store clerk!

Life After Beth While there’s something off about this film, with its strange construction and odd pacing, this ultimately works for it, and keeps it from being yet another zombie film. Aubrey Plaza… well, is Aubrey Plaza all over the eponymous Beth (although her performance once fully “transformed” was delightful), but it was Matthew Gray Gubler’s supporting performance as a a scrawny overcompensating wannabe Rambo that amused me the most. 

Suburban Gothic Where his previous film Excision was stylized and elegant, Richard Bates Jr.’s follow feature, Suburban Gothic, is looser, weirder and a lot more silly. Designed to mimic children’s soft horror (Are You Afraid of the Dark?) but for adults, this film will find its audience, but it just didn’t work aesthetically for me.

Cybernatural One of the best so far, this film manages to bring both a fresh perspective and a timely topic to a somewhat tired genre, singlehandedly revitalizing the found footage film in an incredibly clever, dynamic way. Shot from a single, unwavering perspective (that of one person’s computer screen), this film manages to be utterly suspenseful and terrifying. Tackling cyberbullying in a pointed, but not moralistic way, this is a film that’s totally for our time, and it deserves a huge audience, and maybe even a few sequels, Paranormal Activity-style. If you love this genre, I cannot recommend this film enough, and I only hope more people will get the chance to see it.

Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 7

One week after the end of the festival, this is the last of my reviews. I managed to take in 43 films this year, pretty close to my goal of 47 films, and averaging almost exactly two films per day. I saw almost everything I intended to see, with a couple of exceptions. The best part of this year’s festival is that I allowed myself to get swept along to certain screenings by friends, and those ended up being some of the most enjoyable or thought provoking experiences of the festival. I met a lot of great new people from all over the place, and I let the festival be a purely fun experience for myself. So goodbye Fantasia 2012, and I hope to see you again from June 18th to August 6th, 2013!

Isn’t Anyone Alive?

As I get older, I try to avoid the sunk cost fallacy whenever possible. Did I spend an unrecoverable hour of my life watching this film? Yes. Did I continue to watch the second hour, since I already invested in the first? No. At first, I blamed my confusion and lack of interest on a cultural mismatch. “Maybe I just don’t know enough about Japanese culture,” I thought, “that’s why none of this makes sense”. By the third interminable vignette introducing utterly disposable characters in completely inane ways (a convoluted discussion about pregnancy and black sesame soy lattes was shockingly not enough to get me to care about the second group), I was ready to leave. Then somebody died. “Okay, maybe this will pick up now,” I thought, but it didn’t. More useless characters died, in the same boring way. Discussion with other people that saw the full film said that the second hour was much the same, so I suppose I didn’t miss much, right? 

New Kids Turbo

I had no idea how low the Dutch sense of humor could go! Crossing EVERY boundary of good taste, New Kids Turbo (and its sequel, New Kids Nitro, which I did not watch in its entirety), has absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. That said, I laughed the entire time, against my will and better judgement. There are some clever plot vehicles in here, but for the most part the humor is incredibly lowbrow. A can’t miss for those who want to indulge the basest parts of themselves.

Despite The Gods

In addition to screening her new feature, Chained, this year’s festival also offered up a documentary about Jennifer Lynch. Centered around her experiences while shooting a major Bollywood feature about snake woman, this was an interesting insider glimpse into the issues she faced in trying to make a film in an unfamiliar country with unfamiliar customs. I found the film extremely interesting, particularly the interplay between Lynch and her daughter, and Lynch and the lead actress. It was a pity to hear during the Q&A that she has completely removed herself from the project, and that the final film does not reflect her directorial vision, which was deemed too “languid, sensual and European”.

Excision

AnnaLynne McCord turned herself into every Fantasia nerd’s dream girl during the Q&A for excision, revealing that she identifies more with the misfit weirdo she plays in this film, than the glamorous role she has on the new 90210. That’s a disturbing revelation, since her character in Excision is creepy, unappealing and most likely irredeemable. More of a character study than a fully fleshed out film, I loved the dream sequences, the cameos by John Waters and Malcolm McDowell, and most of all, the appearance of Traci Lords as her mom, but while worth seeing, this film has limited staying power.

Boneboys

I don’t have much to say about this disaster, which is less of a film than a collection of meaningless, poorly acted scenes. Limited in plot, but with a surfeit of pure confusion, there is nothing in here to hang on to, and despite eliciting some laughter (at it, not with it) early on, even the “so bad, its good” quality of the film fades far too fast. This is not just the worst film I’ve seen all year, it may just be the worst I’ve EVER seen.

Chained

I was steeling myself for something lifedraining with this film, based entirely on my childhood memories of the the criticism Boxing Helena received (a film I haven’t seen), and the description in the Fantasia catalogue. I was more than pleasantly surprised, however, because, while brutal in its premise, this film offers a strangely hopeful, positive message. Vincent D’Onofrio is appropriately Vincent D’Onofrio-esque throughout the film, and while the conclusion of the film comes out of nowhere, the film was gripping enough that it was easy to forgive. 

DJ XL5’s Italian Zappin’ Party

As a 50% paesan, I was really looking forward to this digest of the weirdest that the history of Italian film has to offer, and I was not disappointed. The cheesy dialogue, the gratuitous violence, and, of course, given that it’s Italy, the boobs galore, DJ XL5 offered up the best of the worst in a brain goggling buffet. Keep an eye out for encore presentations throughout the year, you won’t want to miss them!

Toy Masters

When it comes to documentaries, the most dangerous thing a filmmaker can do is love the subject too much. Passion is important, but you have to know where to cut, and sometimes those cuts can be brutal and personal and difficult, but they still have to be made. Running at roughly 100 minutes, Toy Masters is definitely interesting, but far too long. Hinging on a “he said, he said, he said” premise about the invention of the He-Man character, there is waaay too much in there about the petty jealousies and power grabs of a bunch of middle aged men, which, while useful as a vehicle for explaining the genesis of the Masters of the Universe franchise, becomes extremely unnecessary when recalled repeatedly throughout the film. In fact, the filmmakers say it best themselves in summing up the film: it doesn’t really matter. All of them had a stake in it, but none of them can claim sole credit. This is a conclusion that most of the audience will reach early on, and would be better served up then, with the rest of the film tracking the rise and inevitable fall of the franchise, and the remaining “human interest story” being left to the film’s postscript or DVD extras. There are some audio and editing oddities, but once the fine cut is finished, it promises to be the definitive film about the Masters of the Universe franchise, no small feat in itself, and passionate fans will love the insider look into the business decisions that shaped their childhood. 

Paranorman

As it goes into wide release today, this clever, sweet and slightly scary stop-motion animated film is one I recommend you not miss. While the stop-motion is perfected with CGI to the point of unrecognizability (the one serious criticism I can level at the film), I was seriously immersed in the plot, which manages to get its message across without ever being cloying. Subtly subversive, this film preaches tolerance, and warns of the evils of religious extremism, all the while delighting with the silly gags you’ve come to expect from animated movies. I loved this film, and it will amuse kids of all ages, particularly those who’ve ever felt like they didn’t fit in.

Turn Me On, Goddammit!

Somehow dropping the “God” from it’s name and advertising along the way, most likely to appease the tender ears of the American populace, this quirky Norwegian coming of age tale follows a hard up teenager on her journey through the social perils of high school. In stark counterpoint to Excision, this is an honest film about teenaged female sexuality that could only have come from a progressive, feminist Scandinavian mentality. 

The Cat

Oh, Korean horror films… why can’t you scare me anymore? I want to feel frightened again, but I can see your jump scares coming from a mile away. Regardless, I enjoyed this tale of a cat and its ghostly ward, and while the anti-cruelty message was a little overwrought, overall, this film was just full enough of all the creepy K-horror tropes to keep me interested.

Sleep Tight

Once again less of a film than a character study, this film is nevertheless very captivating and frightening in a relatively understated way. Directed by Jaume Balagueró, who succeeded in scaring the crap out of me with the first two REC films, this movie won’t have you jumping in your seat as much as it will make you feel thoroughly creeped out. 

When Concordia Meets Fantasia

An excellent (if overly long) short film program culled from the recent archives of Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, there were plenty of great films here, but only one, Prayer Beads, by Han Han Li, really astounded me with its technical and artistic achievement. An eight minute animation that weaves together the symbolism of Eastern religions, this film revels in color and rhythm, and is absolutely beautiful.

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Missed some of my other Fantasia 2012 reviews?

Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 6
The Human Race, Toad Road, Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel, Small Gauge Trauma, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, Robo-G, Killer Joe, White: Melody of the Curse, Black’s Game, Replicas.

Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 5
V/H/S, Miami Connection, The Mechanical Bride, Roller Town.

Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 4
Play Dead, Inbred.

Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 3
Funeral Kings, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, Alter Egos, Jackpot, Black Pond, Resolution, As Luck Would Have It, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, A Night of Nightmares.

Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 2
Lloyd the Conqueror, My Amityville Horror.

Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 1
The Tall Man, The Ambassador, Juan of the Dead.