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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.
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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.

feedback: @angelidotca or ask me anything you'd like here.

i took a trip! read about it here.

evidence of my lame yuppie side on my (gasp!) house blog here.

Fantasia Film Festival 2014 Review Roundup: Part 4… The End.

The festival has been over for almost a week now. Final tally? Of the 44 films that interested me, I managed to see 26, or a little more than a film per day, almost identical to my total for 2013, but nowhere near my festival record of 43 films in 2012 (seriously though, how the fuck did I manage that?). Still two reviews to go, so let’s make ‘em short and sweet:

Space Station 76 High on aesthetics, this comedy puts pretty people on a pretty space station, and lets the story unfold from there. Come for the 1970s retrofuturistic stylings, but stay for the story of sublimated desire, and marvel at the world we were once promised.

Zombeavers If the title doesn’t tell give you an idea of exactly what this film is, you clearly have not seen enough Fantasia films. Kudos to the filmmakers for the hilariously awkward non-CGI creatures, and to the actors for hamming it up through this silly but well executed flick.

All in all, this was an amazing year, and almost everything I saw was a slam dunk. If I had to pick my standouts, I’d choose Cybernatural (best of the fest, by far), BoyhoodThe Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (with the similar In Order of Disappearance coming in a close second), Wetlands (which managed to be this year’s Klown, sort of), and The Creeping Garden. In the “please let there be a sequel or 3 category”, I choose Cybernatural and Let Us Prey, and I Am A Knife With Legs gets a nod in the “WTF?!? how is this so good?” category.

If you want to relive the best of the 2014 Fantasia Film Festival, tune in to CJLO 1690AM tonight from 6pm ET, for a three hour recap of the most memorable films and festival moments. Join Satyyy from Shibuya Crossing and me, Angelica from BVST, as well as special guests, as we run down our festival favorites! Tonight, only on CJLO 1690AM in Montreal, CJLO.com around the world, from 6 to 9pm ET!

Missed my other reviews? Click through for Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

Fantasia Film Festival 2014 Review Roundup: Part 3

What with the extra day that’s been added, there are three days left to this year’s festival, but still a few films on the docket. Most everything I’ve seen this year has been very, very good, and more than a few have been excellent, but like everyone else, I’m looking forward to a home cooked meal and a proper night’s rest…

Guardians of the Galaxy Bigger nerds than me have weighed in more eloquently on this record breaking blockbuster since it went wide last weekend, but all I can say is that I was happy to watch it a few days early with an enthusiastic Fantasia crowd. I enjoyed the adventures of this merry band of misfits, but I especially loved Groot, and really, couldn’t Chris Pratt’s abs have gotten just a leeetle more screen time? All that work for so few seconds…

Ju-On: The Beginning of the End There is nothing remarkably different or new about this film, so if you know J-horror, you know the basic tropes: creepy kids, people with hair hanging in front of their faces walking or crawling with stilted movements, and jump scares… so many jump scares. This was just alright, but I took a little nap in the middle so maybe I’m no longer qualified to say. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I had never seen this classic, but I now know why it’s so highly regarded. Compared to today’s relentless slashers, there is something charming about the low kill count and relatively swift deaths, but it’s the film’s construction that makes it such a special entry into the genre. The beautifully composed shots, creepy set pieces, and skillful build up of tension kept me riveted, and it was interesting to see that, 40 years on, this film still has an incredible visceral thrill.

DJ XL5’s Helluva Zappin’ Party Another excellent DJ XL5 romp, which collects short films into a high energy program intercut with old ads, snippets of weird films and tv shows and other filmic oddities, my favorite short of the night was, without a doubt, Supervenus, which I’ve already mentioned here, and I greatly enjoyed the La bûche de noël (a clip of which you can watch here), part of the Panique au village claymation series, despite it dragging a bit at times. 

Dys- The first feature from my friend Maude Michaud, this is a very dark, and deeply disturbing film that weaves many controversial elements into claustrophobic tale of dysphoria and dysfunction. I interpreted this film as a deeply feminist parable about government and religious control over women’s bodies, but it works equally well as a brutally shocking tale of what can go wrong within closed doors when the shit hits the fan. 

Bros Before Hos The team behind New Kids Turbo and New Kids Nitro are back, and no surprises here, this film makes The Hangover look like a genteel Jane Austen adaptation. Between the gross out moments and unrelenting misogyny and homophobia, there are some oddly endearing underlying messages about the rights of the physically and intellectually disabled and the perserverance of true love. These films can be enjoyed, but proceed with caution.

From Vegas To Macau Saved mostly by the dapper and charming Chow Yun-fat (channeling a Kyle McLachlan vibe here, somehow), this is a messy, confusing film with a lot of competing elements. Don’t go in expecting an Ocean’s Eleven style heist film, like I did, or you’ll be disappointed, but there are some laughs, some nifty fighting scenes, and plenty of WTF? moments to keep you entertained. 

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared Another delightful Scandinavian surprise, similar in some ways to In Order of Disappearance (previously reviewed here), but with a far more lighthearted comedic touch, I loved this film’s arch take on political history, and the glorious amorality of the titular character. There are lots of laughs to be had, and you will likely be charmed by the quirky cast of characters.

Housebound Here’s a quick lesson in film marketing: if your film is a clever, funny, scary and violent, and your original trailer is just someone brushing their teeth for two minutes, you’re doing it wrong. I hope people didn’t miss out on this film because of it, because then they were cheated out of a really enjoyable twist on a haunted house tale, which shines especially bright because of a full cast’s worth of excellent performances. Catch this one if you can, and maybe flip on the subtitles, because parsing the Kiwi accent might make you bust a gut

Metalhead Abounding in Nordic sparseness, this is a deeply understated film about mourning and identity, all set to a soundtrack of classic metal. I feel like I should end this review here, to do this film’s restraint justice, but I will add that I think metal fans will identify with the issues of alienation and community that this film portrays so eloquently and so minimally.

Wetlands It might be a bit of a gross mess, but I still loved this movie so so much. Definitely not for the prudish or faint of heart, there’s nonetheless a level of earnestness to the utterly stomach turning events of this film that rescues it from the typically gross out fare. High levels of erotic awkwardness abound (so if you’re susceptible fremdscham, you may want to tread carefully), but Carla Juri as Helen is impossibly charming and carries the film with charm and aplomb. A quick shout out here also to Rat Pack Rat, from the team behind The Catechism Cataclysm (which I previously reviewed here), which echoes the discomfort and off the wall humor of the 2011 Fantasia favorite! 

Missed my other reviews? Click through for Part 1 and Part 2

One of my favorites from last night’s DJ XL5 presentation, Helluva Zappin’ Party, this is a teaser for Supervenus. To watch a longer extended cut, click here. The full film gets a little gruesome in just the right Fantasia Festival way, and I hope it will be available online it its entirety someday!

Fantasia Film Festival 2014 Review Roundup: Part 2

The festival is just past its halfway mark, and my batting average for films is sadly quite low, although everything I’ve seen thus far has been very good. I’m averaging just over a film a day, but now that things have settled down, I’m going to try to make up for that in the (just under) half of the festival that is left!

In Order of Disappearance (a.k.a. Kraftidioten) Blending Scandinavian bleakness with bloodied black comedy, this is an excellent story of haplessness and thuggery. Stellan Skarsgård amuses as a man on a mission, and Pål Sverre Hagen is magnificent as the Count, the spidery, foppish archvillain. I particularly loved the visual motif of white powder (snow, flour, cocaine) blowing about, a constant reminder of the shifting and insubstantial foundation for all the film’s deaths, as well as the biting social critique of Norwegian culture and politics.

Small Gauge Trauma I caught the majority, but not all, of the program this year, and as always, it was a challenging and captivating experience. Particularly wrenching, though incredibly beautiful and well made, was Canis, a Spanish stop motion animation of unrelenting heartbreak. I also loved Baskin, a snapshot of Turkish terror that explores a Satanic house of horrors, and, excitingly, is in the process of being turned into a feature.

I Am A Knife With Legs Proving that technical excellence can easily take a backseat to clever writing and well spun story, this DIY gem is a clear indicator that outsider art is alive and well. With a ridiculous storyline, funny musical numbers, artful animations and clever jokes, this film’s flashes of brilliance turn into a strobe light that leaves the audience stunned and confused, but utterly delighted.

Let Us Prey I absolutely loved this film, despite its imperfections. Burning slowly for its first half and then maniacally shredding itself to pieces in the second, there are a few lines of cheesy dialogue and some over the top characterizations, but none of that matters thanks to a compelling storyline and excellent performances, particularly by Liam Cunningham as the enigmatic prisoner in cell six. There’s also a setup for a sequel here, which has the potential to be absolutely amazing.

Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead Picking up where the original Dead Snow left off, this sequel delivers more of the same. Laughs, gore, pacing problems, and of course, Nazi zombies, it’s all back in part two. The American characters are somewhat superfluous, although Martin Starr is a welcome addition to any film, but overall this film is a bit tighter than the first, and a solid, if silly, addition to the zombie film canon.

The Creeping Garden It’s difficult to describe how excellent this film is, but stoners will likely let out a collective “whoa” if they get a hold of this incredibly unique, bizzarely specific film. The chemically unenhanced will be enchanted as well, as they step through the looking glass into a world populated by creeping, pulsating, slimy looking growths, and the artists, scientists and musicians obessed with their potential. Don’t let “this is a documentary about slime mold” deter you; yes, it’s definitely that, but it’s so much more.

BTW, The Creeping Garden screens again this afternoon at 3pm in the De Sève theatre, and is absolutely worth cutting out of work early for. Trust me.

A screening has also been added for Cybernatural, which I reviewed in my first review round up, and which is absolutely not to be missed. Do yourself a favor, and get a ticket to the 9:45pm screening tomorrow night, also in De Sève.

Zany, unhinged, groundbreaking and genre bending… these all describe CJLO 1690 AM, the Fantasia Film Festival and I Am a Knife with Legs. Blend these three together, and it’s gonna be a party you won’t soon forget. 

CJLO is proud to present the world premiere of I Am a Knife with Legs, part of the brand new “Fantasia Underground” programming section at the 2014 Fantasia Film Festival! Spotlighting “outrageous indie outsider visions created in the counter-cultural spirit”, this section is a perfect fit for CJLO, Montreal’s underground radio station. I Am a Knife with Legs pushes the boundaries with its absurdist humour, musical numbers, offbeat animation, and a microbudget of $12,000! The CJLO-sponsored screening happens Friday, July 25th at 7pm in the DB Clarke Theatre!

After the film, come to the downstairs bar at Kafein (1429 Bishop) to celebrate 10 years of partnership between the Fantasia Film Festival and CJLO 1690AM, with drinks, snack and CJLO DJs doing what they do best! The party starts at 8:30pm, bring your friends!

FB Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/885731088107278

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.

Oh hai there.

Oh hai there.

I mentioned the lovely Austrian short Spitzendeckchen (a.k.a. Vienna Waits For You) in my review of last year’s Small Gauge Trauma program at the Fantasia Film Festival, and now you can now watch the full film online, for free! Once this film gets its hands on you, you’ll never want to let it go…

Fantasia Festival 2013 Review Roundup Part II!

It has been nearly a week since the end of the 2013 Fantasia Festival, which means I’m extremely behind on closing out my review roundup of this year’s festival. I have no defense other than the fact that I’ve been kicking back this summer, enjoying Fantasia and other summery pursuits at my leisure… I’m sure many of you can sympathize.

BLACKOUT I must have blacked out myself in neglecting to include this in my last round of reviews, but with no good reason, since the film is excellent. Blending the gangster intrigue of Snatch with some Hangover-esque moments, this Dutch thriller will give you a perfect 95 minutes of intrigue and amusement. RIYL: Snatch (really, I cannot overstate this enough), dealing hard drugs

REWIND THIS! There’s a duality in this documentary that, while being enjoyable for me overall, left me of a divided mind. On one hand, as someone who absolutely cannot relate to people fetishizing a medium with few tangible benefits largely for kitsch/retro value alone (cassettes, anyone?), most of that aspect of the film left me unmoved. On the other, as a document of the vast amount of creative human output that we are in the process of losing, I found this film to be incredibly thought provoking. That whole swathes of cultural production are not being given the “longevity” of conversion to digital, and that much of what has been made “straight to VHS” has already been lost, is a legitimate concern, and it’s in touching on these ideas that the film becomes most interesting. RIYL: collecting VHS tapes, Side By Side, compulsively cataloging or worrying about your archives/collections/backups 

WILLOW CREEK I’ve been wanting to see a Bobcat Goldthwait oeuvre for some time, and after seeing this, I’m looking forward to seeing the others. There is something very natural and understated about this found footage film, and I liked it very much, and was satisfied by it, despite it not being very conclusive at all. I think this is mostly due to the quality of the acting, and to the fact that the film can be discussed and debated, since its open-endedness lends itself well to individual interpretation. RIYL: cryptozoology, people with poor planning skills getting their comeuppance

BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN Having Bloodshot Bill introduce this film with some sad, twangy songs couldn’t have been a more perfect segue into this heartbreaker. Beautifully shot, and crafted to cut deep, there was barely a dry eye in the house once the credits roll. There’s a lot to dig into here that I won’t do justice with words, but if you need a cathartic cry, this is the film for you. RIYL: bluegrass, tattoos, seizing the fleeting moments of joy life offers, and raging, raging against the dying of the light

PLUS ONE The high school/college party genre of films is one I’m all too familiar with, so I was very pleased with this latest addition to the roster, which manages to completely embody everything you’d expect, while simultaneously being something completely different. This film IS Can’t Hardly Wait (right down to the red headed misfit girl), if that film had turned into violent headfuck about choice and consequence and time travel. Yes, time travel. RIYL: Can’t Hardly Wait, and/or have ever pondered what you’d do if you met yourself

DISCOPATH He hears disco. He kills. An enchanting premise, which flounders a bit in execution, but is nonetheless an enjoyable romp. The New York scenes are a little cringeworthy due to questionable Noo Yawk accents, but the Montreal stuff is much more viable, and local viewers will enjoy location spotting. RIYL: Kiss’ “I Was Made For Loving You”, living in Montréal

HK/FORBIDDEN HERO This is definitely a party movie, and I was not in a particularly party mood when I saw it, so I was not smitten with this tale of an unlikely superhero who defeats evil with his codpiece and the power of perversion. Lots of women’s panties, and the flexing of golden muscles move this story along, and while it has amusing moments, this is mostly a one note joke. RIYL: half naked men, those Borat-style bathing suits, the word panties as pronounced in Japanese

YOU’RE NEXT One of the strongest, most visceral films I’ve seen this year, this home invasion horror explodes from scene to scene while never letting up. With a strong female lead who fights back and plans ahead, instead of merely stumbling toward survival, this is the film that horror fans have been waiting for. Also of note is the creepy cute animation Invocation, the new Robert Morgan (Bobby Yeah) short that screened with the film. RIYL: survivalism (on the most basic level), survival horror, bickering with your family

TALES FROM THE DARK A horror anthology from Hong Kong, this film brings together three “ghost stories”. The first is circular and somewhat confusing, the second has touches of humor, and the last will have you never looking at grannies in cheap sandals the same way again. Not as strong as some of the other anthologies that screened this year, but there are some creepy moments that Asian horror fans will enjoy. RIYL: revenge, voodoo

CHEAP THRILLS I loved this film, but man, it left a small, dark knot deep in my gut. A wrenching, unrelenting parable of class war, this movie makes you question what you would do for money, and how deep depravity and need will go. I loved seeing David Koechner, better known as Todd Packer, and was delighted by Ethan Embry (star of such classic teen flicks as Empire Records and the aforementioned Can’t Hardly Wait) all grown up, but with the same kinetic quality he brought as a teen. RIYL: making stupid/gross bets, or have ever set your own price for any depraved or disgusting act 

THE WORLD’S END Passionate fans of Edgar, Simon and Nick will most likely adore this film, but while I greatly enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I found myself wishing that this film was something other than it is. There’s a compelling character-driving initial narrative that grounds the film, but it veers into scifi shortly thereafter, to the amusement and delight of many, I’m sure, but not me, particularly. That said, this is still a great film, with all your favorite English actors in the role of unlikely action heroes, and a solid entry in an already storied body of work. RIYL: the three I mentioned above to the degree that their first names are enough, middle aged Englishmen in elaborately choreographed fight sequences, Sisters of Mercy

That brings this year’s total to a relatively disappointing 27 films of the 40 I had aimed to watch (28, if you include the 40 minutes of I Am Divine I managed to catch before having to attend to an emergency), but I’m not complaining. I caught most of what I wanted to see, and now I have a small list of things to catch up on until Fantasia starts again next year!

Click here if you missed Part I!

Tune in to BVST on CJLO 1690AM tonight from 7 to 9pm ET, for your chance to win a pair of tickets to the 17th edition of the Fantasia Film Festival AND to enter to win a pass to Heavy MTL! I know this sounds crazy, but I assure you it’s legit. Guest host Andrew from Grade A Explosives will be taking your calls, so tune in and listen for your chance to win!

But that’s not all! You can double your chances to win Fantasia tickets by tuning in to Champions of the Local Scene, right before BVST on CJLO 1690AM from 6 to 7pm ET! Guest host Andrew will be talking to CJLO alum and Fantasia programmer Simon Laperrière about this year’s edition of the festival and his brand new book on snuff films!

So just to recap:

1) Andrew from Grade A Explosives is hosting both BVST and Champions of the Local Scene tonight

2) He’ll be talkin’ Fantasia with Simon Laperrière

3) We’ll be giving away Fantasia tickets…

4) … AND giving you a chance to win a pass to Heavy MTL!

Tune in to Champions of the Local Scene from 6pm tonight, and BVST from 7pm tonight, only on Montréal’s 2nd favorite radio station, CJLO 1690 AM / www.cjlo.com!

Fantasia 2013!

Starting Thursday, the festival is almost upon us, with tickets going on sale tomorrow. Still not sure what to buy? Here’s what I’m hoping to see during the 17th edition of the Montréal’s best film festival!

5-25-77 High school nerds make movies. Did you say nerds?

Across The River Horror, in the language of one of my ancestral people. 

Antisocial This may just be a bloody good time.

Bad Milo Rectum? Damn near killed ‘um!

Big Ass Spider Big. Ass. Spider. That is all.

Big Bad Wolves I missed Rabies a couple of years ago, but won’t make that mistake again.

Black Out I’m down for a Dutch gangster film, how about you?

Broken Circle Breakdown Sponsored by CJLO 1690AM, this looks like a dark, Belgian version of Crazy Heart

Bounty Killer You had me at “post-apocalyptic”. 

Cheap Thrills Perennial 90s teen movie star Ethan Embry and Todd Packer from Dunder Mifflin get dark.

The Complex A new entry from J-horror master Hideo Nakata (Ringu).

The Conjuring It’s about the paranormal investigators that were involved in the Amityville Horror, and stars Lily Taylor, which is more than enough for me.

Discopath Disco drives a man to kill. Seems legit.

The Demon’s Rook Would it be bad to admit that my main interest in this film stems from the lead actor’s passing resemblance to Mark Morton from Lamb of God? The monsters look pretty cool too.

DJ XL5’s Decadent Zapping Party Don’t go to this if you’re allergic to fun.

Frankenstein’s Army This seems to be channeling Dead Snow, only with Russians. I am very, very psyched for it.

Horror Stories An entry in this year’s rash of horror anthologies, perfect for my love of scares and short attention span.

I Am Divine A documentary about Divine. That is enough information to convince me to see this film.

I’ll Follow You Down Rufus Sewell was in my favorite film of 2012, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (go ahead, judge me, snobs) and now he’s in this. 

Les Kaïra When people say “I’m gonna go see a French film”, this isn’t quite what they have in mind.

The Killing of America My buddy wrote a book about snuff films, and this documentary about gun violence is the screening that accompanies its release. 

Magic Magic On the fence about this one due to the inclusion of horrid Michael Cera, but it could be an outlier.

Missionary Just when you thought the Church of LDS couldn’t get any scarier…

Mistaken for Strangers I’ll watch any music doc, even one about a band I don’t care about.

Plus One When the words “high school” and “horror” intersect, keep a seat for me.

Return to Nuke ‘Em High See Plus One.

Rewind This Another documentary entry, this time about the golden age (?) of the videocassette.

Samurai Cop This year’s Miami Connection? Time will tell.

Small Gauge Trauma I never miss this short film program, and neither should you!

Sweetwater I don’t think I’ve ever missed a Fantasia Fest Western, and I’ve never yet been disappointed.

Tales from the Dark Another horror anthology.

Thanatomorphose Do I have the guts? We will find out soon.

Thermae Romae An ancient Roman time travels to modern day Japan. Cue toilet humor.

The World’s End After the disappointment of A Fantastic Fear of Everything, I’m waiting for Simon Pegg to wow me with this one.

V/H/S 2 I’m looking forward to this followup to last year’s much hyped horror anthology.

War of the Worlds Relive the classic that scared the world through the rare glimpes that only Phil Spurrell can provide.

Willow Creek I have yet to see a Bobcat Goldthwait film, and I figure this is as good a time as any.

You’re Next Home invasion horror, just the ticket to help you sleep through the night.

Zero Charisma Movies about D&D nerds are an automatic must see for me.

Zombie Hunter This genre, like zombies themselves, refuses to die. I’m alright with that.

This is a highly manageable list of only 40 films. As with every year, there may be a few others that sneak their way in, and a couple more that drop off. Given that last year I managed to watch 43 of the 47 films I had set as my goal, I’m hoping that 40 films will end up being a cakewalk by comparison!

It’s also interesting to notice some common themes appearing in this year’s programming. Zombie films are still holding on with a vengeance, although for the most part they seem to be moving away from the traditional take. Lots of high school themed films this year, as well as films about nerds/nerd culture, with bullying as a secondary theme to both of these (no surprises there). There are also quite a few music related films, and many horror anthologies.

It’s going to be a crazy three weeks… are you ready?

vicemag:

Jason Banker and Elijah Wood on ‘Toad Road’
Toad Road is a new film directed and produced by Jason Banker that simultaneously expands the parameters of what documentary filmmaking can be and blurs the lines between that format and traditional scripted filmmaking. In production since 2008, Jason views the film as a “horror-thriller” that follows the lives of a group of hard-living young friends who pursue an urban legend in York, Pennsylvania, that concerns a path in the woods that supposedly leads to the seven gates of hell. Their journey is one of self-discovery, heavy drug use, nihilism, and all of the other things young people around the world are struggling with at this very instant. What sets Toad Road apart from other movies is that the film was conceptualized and shot in a hybrid documentary-feature style, weaving a narrative out of the real lives of its subjects in a way that hits on greater truths than either form is capable of alone.
The film is due to be released—appropriately—this October. And it was during a prerelease screening attended by Elijah Wood that his horror-film company the Woodshed decided to back it as executive producers. I spoke with Jason and Elijah about the premise for the film and how the definition of “horror” has changed in this increasingly terrifying world we all share.   
VICE: The way you cast this film was unique. But it falls in line with the aesthetic of the film. A few years ago, when you were conceptualizing the movie, you looked to VICE’s top MySpace friends and through that found your principals. How did that idea come about?Jason Banker: I wanted to do a hybrid doc-horror thing, but I wanted it to be real situations. I started using MySpace first because at the time you could search it by area code, and I wanted to shoot it in my hometown. But I couldn’t find anybody from there, and I was like, “God, I want some really cool kids.” People who were pretty hardcore, you know? So I thought I should go on and check who’s friending VICE because everybody who reads VICE is connected to that culture. So I did that, and I found this perfect group of kids—actually I found one, and then I looked at his top friends and they were the perfect cast.
How long ago was this?I started casting in 2008. It’s been a long process because I didn’t have any money to make the film and I needed to find real kids. I wanted to do this thing where I used their real lives and bend a fictional story around them. They were totally down to do it. And I told them I wanted to use like them using real drugs and being who they were, and find the characters that way.
Continue

I saw this at last year’s Fantasia Film Festival and had this to say about it. Definitely an interesting film, and worth seeing, especially if the actual Toad Road is anywhere close to home for you. As an aside, the female lead died of a drug overdose last year, which makes this film, and the way it blurs fantasy and reality, even more poignant. 

vicemag:

Jason Banker and Elijah Wood on ‘Toad Road’

Toad Road is a new film directed and produced by Jason Banker that simultaneously expands the parameters of what documentary filmmaking can be and blurs the lines between that format and traditional scripted filmmaking. In production since 2008, Jason views the film as a “horror-thriller” that follows the lives of a group of hard-living young friends who pursue an urban legend in York, Pennsylvania, that concerns a path in the woods that supposedly leads to the seven gates of hell. Their journey is one of self-discovery, heavy drug use, nihilism, and all of the other things young people around the world are struggling with at this very instant. What sets Toad Road apart from other movies is that the film was conceptualized and shot in a hybrid documentary-feature style, weaving a narrative out of the real lives of its subjects in a way that hits on greater truths than either form is capable of alone.

The film is due to be released—appropriately—this October. And it was during a prerelease screening attended by Elijah Wood that his horror-film company the Woodshed decided to back it as executive producers. I spoke with Jason and Elijah about the premise for the film and how the definition of “horror” has changed in this increasingly terrifying world we all share.   

VICE: The way you cast this film was unique. But it falls in line with the aesthetic of the film. A few years ago, when you were conceptualizing the movie, you looked to VICE’s top MySpace friends and through that found your principals. How did that idea come about?
Jason Banker: I wanted to do a hybrid doc-horror thing, but I wanted it to be real situations. I started using MySpace first because at the time you could search it by area code, and I wanted to shoot it in my hometown. But I couldn’t find anybody from there, and I was like, “God, I want some really cool kids.” People who were pretty hardcore, you know? So I thought I should go on and check who’s friending VICE because everybody who reads VICE is connected to that culture. So I did that, and I found this perfect group of kids—actually I found one, and then I looked at his top friends and they were the perfect cast.

How long ago was this?
I started casting in 2008. It’s been a long process because I didn’t have any money to make the film and I needed to find real kids. I wanted to do this thing where I used their real lives and bend a fictional story around them. They were totally down to do it. And I told them I wanted to use like them using real drugs and being who they were, and find the characters that way.

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I saw this at last year’s Fantasia Film Festival and had this to say about it. Definitely an interesting film, and worth seeing, especially if the actual Toad Road is anywhere close to home for you. As an aside, the female lead died of a drug overdose last year, which makes this film, and the way it blurs fantasy and reality, even more poignant. 

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.

Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena, Surveillance, Chained) answers my question around the 20 minute mark during the Q&A for Despite the Gods, the documentary about her experience making a Bollywood movie which screened at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival.