Fantasy films are some of my favourites but too often they focus on characters that I can’t connect to or even identify with. Too often the characters feel the same and never feel like I could be one of them. It’s not to say that I can’t enjoy fantasy or film of that genre but it’s not the same. That is why Alice Waddington’s Paradise Hills is such a breath of fresh air, a film that creates such a universe that you can forgive the flaws and story problem. In her directorial debut, Waddington creates a universe that feels complete, bringing a breath of fresh air in this genre that is too often dominated by men and their stories.
As I mentioned briefly before, we were told going into the festival that The Furies was going to be the goriest. They also warned us that The Assent is the scariest film of the festival. From what I’ve seen so far, I definitely agree. I didn’t think I would learn a few things about demonic possession during the film.
Movies that deal with the notion of time travel are either a success or a complete miss. Too often the story gets lost in the explanation of how it is possible. Luckily, James vs His Future Self is able to avoid this by playing smart and actually taking the time of making the time travel a device that drives not only the story forward but also the characters that the world is filled with. By mixing different genres, the film becomes more than just a time-travel film, it is able to create a story that might not be new but it has so much heart that it brings something fresh to the table.
When trying to program a horror (or “genre”) based film festival, you want to make sure you hit all the sweet spots that might be needed. One thing is for sure, The Furies definitely strikes “goriest film” off the checklist, and it’s wonderful.
I should’ve known what we were going to watch after the great (and funny) short film that played before our screening of Extra Ordinary. But nothing could have prepared me for the non-stop jokes and the total bunker film that it was. Coming from Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, in their directorial feature debut, Extra Ordinary benefits from an all-star cast that makes the film what it is.
Noah Baumbach has created some amazing films, films that have cemented him as one of the great directors of his generation. I remember watching Frances Ha and thinking that this was his best film and that it would take a while for him to do better. Well, Marriage Story did that for me. It’s Baumbach at his best, his strongest. His steady hand is felt throughout and he never falters, navigating the film expertly and creating a devastating look at divorce and how it breaks everyone, even those with the best intention. Baumbach’s craft has never been this tight and it showcases how much he has grown as a filmmaker since his debut. Marriage Story is, in my opinion, his best work to date.
Leading up to May of 2015, I kept hearing about a film called Spring, and it was described as Lovecraft meets the Before trilogy. Anybody who knows me should know this is a film calling my name. I remember missing out a screening of Mad Max Fury Road to see both Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead introduce Spring at a screening in Toronto. Even when the fire alarm went off in the theatre, I still hold that screening close to my heart. In a way, without Spring, there wouldn’t be no Film Queue or no UnderSCENE, or even a version of me who has fallen for film criticism. I have followed their growth as I’ve tried to grow as a writer, and that’s why it pains me to say that Synchronic was their first big-budget film was a (minor) miss.
The film opens in a room straight out of the 1950s and it’s filled with colour, as we watch a small tv that begins its black and white broadcast. It’s a program that has opening narration akin to The Twilight Zone, or Outer Limits or any science fiction based anthology show from the same time period. The program was called Paradox Theatre, and tonight’s episode was The Vast of Night. Using this as a framing device set up the film perfectly and told me exactly what type of film I was about to watch, but it didn’t tell me it would become my favourite movie of the festival.
I didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers, he wasn’t someone we watched in Quebec. So I didn’t know anything about it, or barely anything until I sat down last year to watch the incredible documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour? By the end, I left the theatre in tears and nothing but love for a man that I didn’t grow up watching. And then, Marielle Heller, who directed the great Can You Ever Forgive Me? from last year, was announced to be directing a film about Mr. Rogers with Tom Hanks attached and I was in. Well, let me tell you something, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a beautiful love letter to the man himself. In Heller’s hands, the film becomes so much more then it could.
Bad Education is wild. I don’t know how to really describe it because it’s such a bonker concept and yet, it’s real. Something that actually happened where taxpayers’ money was used for years and years by the school administrators. The only reason why this story broke? A high school student poked around and discovered the truth. Written by Mike Makowsky, who actually went to the Roslyn High School when it happened and directed by Cory Finley (Thoroughbreds), Bad Education blends drama and comedy perfectly in a film that once it gets going it’s unstoppable.