I find it fitting that I’m back at Fantasia after a hiatus last year. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of when I finally realized that films weren’t just some pastime for me, but a genuine passion. So I honestly can’t think of anything more appropriate than to celebrate this anniversary here.
Now for my schedule which, barring Armageddon, I will try to follow as best as I can.
July 12th, 2010
“The Life and Death of a Porno Gang”
Montreal Premiere – Hosted by writer/director Mralden Djordjevic
3:10pm – Everyone has been recommending this film to me, and certainly the plot screams out “SEE ME JEREMY! SEE ME!” so who am I to argue? The film is about a group of filmmakers who try to raise funds for a project by making porn films, then by performing live sex acts, then finally by killing consensual willing victims. Oh, and it’s a comedy. Apparently this is supposed to make Pink Flamingos look like Howard’s End and I for one always welcome a little extremism in my cinematic diet. After all, I always hate it when a film only tries half-way.
July 13th, 2010
“Mai Mai Miracle”
5:30pm – To many westerners, Japan is a cold futuristic city state not far removed from the dystopian sci-fi world of Blade Runner, and visiting a place like Tokyo at night when it rains certainly won’t help dispel these notions. However, Japan is not a new land. It’s an ancient place where there’s still magic hidden under the bones of the present. Long before the cities and the factories and the skyscrapers there was a history, written into the Earth itself and into the souls of its people, that rivals anything found in a storybook. So the idea of doing an Anime about a young girl’s dreams and fantasies about her town’s past is quite fitting.
“Tears for Sale” (Director’s Cut)
International Premiere – Hosted by writer Aleksandar Radivojevic Kicic
10:00pm – Shortly after World War 1 Serbian villages are experiencing a shortage of men and two sisters must go on a quest to find a husband. I love it! In today’s politically correct atmosphere, you could never see something so charming and old fashioned get made. This quaintness also brings to mind one of my favourite things about foreign films. The fact that they have an imagination that hasn’t been corrupted by 24 hour news channels and music videos and garbage reality shows about single women trying to raise flipper babies while juggling careers as both heroic sewer inspectors and Las Vegas prostitutes. There’s a life and a soul to the work that just isn’t present in a lot of the films here because a lot of people’s souls here have been burned away in the deep fat fryer of pop culture. The film’s trailer certainly suggests something that was made far outside of Hollywood and I think that’s neat.
July 14th, 2010
3:00pm – Kuroneko means “Black Cat” in Japanese. In recent years the Japanese have gained much competence in cinema, but they’ve also lost a little bit of the wild, untamed dream world of the early days. “Kuroneko” was made in that time of dreams. Just look at that trailer and tell me the mood isn’t an almost living hungry thing. This a movie made on a shoestring budget but with enough soul to make up for it. The plot seems to be a mishmash of “The Seven Samurai” and “The Grudge” and the antagonist is our favourite Japanese spectre, the Onryõ (AKA: “Scary Blue Lady” to us Gaijin). Because “Kuroneko” is literally the second J-horror movie ever filmed, Kwaidan was made four years earlier in 1964, this is not so much a case of me wanting to see it, but one of me having to see it. As all pilgrims must one day make their way to the holy land, I must see these seminal J-horror films in a proper theatre. It isn’t a desire, but an obligation born out of love and admiration.
July 15th, 2010
3:10pm – Sure, it’s yet another Asian horror movie that follows the “Mystery that must be resolved or else protagonist will die” template complete with scary girl and droning musical soundtrack that reaches a crescendo followed by a loud stings. I haven’t watched a minute of the film, yet it’s like I’ve seen the whole thing already. The thing is though, I don’t care. Scary girl movies are a comforting form of horror to me. Sure it’s predictable, but so is a rollercoaster. That doesn’t make it any less fun and scream inducing. Some movies are more than the sum of its parts and the genre of “Letter Horror” (Seriously, I don’t see much of a difference between J-horror and K-horror except setting and language.) is the perfect example of that.
7:45pm – I’ve never seen a Serbian horror film before, but the storyline sounds comfortingly familiar. A bunch of people trapped in a Turkish bath are hunted by a maniac suffering from “T.T. Syndrome”, which is a disease that causes sociopathic behaviour. The “trapped with a madman” plot has been done before, but I’ve always said that a film isn’t about plot, it’s about storytelling. In any case, this sounds like vintage Argento so it has definite potential. I’m on the fence on this one, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
Canadian Premiere – Hosted by co-director Wes Orshoski
10:00pm – Lemmy Kilmister is one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. He started out in the Rockin’ Vickers back in the 60’s doing covers of Neil Sedaka songs and worked his way up to the hard charging prog-rock band Hawkwind. Finally dispensing with all that niceness to form Motorhead, a band so loud that my eardrums are still ringing from the last time I went to a concert seven years ago.
If anyone deserves a documentary about their life, it’s a guy like Lemmy. He, along with George Thorogood, is the last Rock N’ Roller. Never mind calling what he does Heavy Metal or Punk Rock or N.W.O.B.H.M. or whatever other lame unnecessary label you want to affix to it. They don’t tell the story. Lemmy is a descendant of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. He goes onstage and gives you the musical equivalent of an a*s kicking. He doesn’t give cute names to what he does, he just does it.
Beyond that, Lemmy Kilmister is a goddamn medical miracle wrapped in chains, leather and warts. While Ozzy Osbourne walks around in near catatonia and Keith Richard looks like he wandered out of a graveyard shoot for “The Night of the Living Dead,” Lemmy has managed to keep indulging in the rock and roll excesses past the age when most people retire. Not just that, be has managed to do so while staying upright and coherent. If Lindsay Lohan had half of what this guy’s got she’d have won 6 Oscars and captured Bin Laden by now.
Homepage and Trailer: http://www.lemmymovie.com
July 16th, 2010
9:45pm – Terrorists, Karate, Giant Comets, 2012 prophecies and Japanese punk rock music that will save the world. I mentioned earlier that the Japanese have lost a little zing in their quest to be as competent in their cinema as we are. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t still go batshit insane occasionally. This seems like one of those moments, and I like to be there when that happens.
Homepage and Trailer: http://www.fishstory-movie.jp/
July 17th, 2010
“Oblivion” Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror
11:00am – Well, I guess that since it worked so well for Pixar the Japanese are trying their hand at CGI animation too. Can’t say I agree, but I’m certainly curious about the results. Their regular animated work is completely different from ours, so maybe the CGI will be too. In any case, the storyline is classic Anime fare. A young girl follows a fox to the land of forgotten items to find a mirror that was given to her as a gift by her recently deceased mother. So at the very least we’ll be in familiar emotional territory.
“The Land Before Time”
Hosted by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman who receive a lifetime achievement award.
4:00pm – Having re-watched the movie at home the other day, I can truly say they don’t make them like this anymore. The animation is gorgeous and old school, pulled straight out of the mind and not processed through a CPU to create a photorealistic landscape.
I think the only genuine problem with “Land” is its legacy. With a new sequel produced every 6 of our Earth minutes, plus a TV series and the endless video games, it’s easy to forget that the first one was actually quite good, mature even.
Nevermore: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe
Live theatre performance starring Jeffrey Combs and directed by Stuart Gordon
8:00pm – What if Edgar Allan Poe had put on a one-man show towards the end of his life to help pay his debts? The creative team who brought “Re-Animator” show us what it might have looked like. I have to be honest. I’ve never seen a professional play in my life. So this is a first for me. I do have one question though. Do the title sequence and credits magically float in mid-air, or do people run out with signs and jump up and down? I don’t want to seem surprised when it happens.
July 19th, 2010
Hosted by Ken Russell who will receive a lifetime achievement award.
10:00pm – Ken Russell’s career has had its share of ups and downs over the years, but overall his work is remarkably free of the sort of tepid offerings that haunt a lot of his contemporaries. He profoundly changed the way in which I viewed film and paved the way for my later appreciation of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. I remember watching “Altered States” when I was nine because it had slipped under the parental radar, being advertised as a sci-fi film, not the existential horror movie that it was, and the religious images in the film could have been lifted straight from my Catholic nightmares. So, despite the fact that I don’t praise his work as often as I should, that doesn’t mean I don’t admire it. “The Devils” is considered to be his best film I am proud to say I’ll be able to watch it on the big screen.
July 20th, 2010
7:50pm – The French have their own way of making horror movies. They don’t shy away from violence or taboo. Sometimes this can go horribly wrong, as in “High Tension” where the ending is so over the top that it ruins the absolutely perfect seventy or so minutes that came before. Sometimes, it can work quite well though. Let’s hope “Meute” is in the latter category.
10:05pm – The sequel to one of the only original-ish zombie films of recent years. Granted, there’s just so much you can do with drooling cannibals in an apartment building. Yet the original “[Rec]” tossed out a few fun ideas and didn’t embarrass itself. I can dig that. The sequel is bound to be more of the same, but since the original did it pretty well I’ll give this one a shot.
July 21st, 2010
“Small Gauge Trauma 2010”
5:00pm – Saving the Mount Everest of film for last. “SGT” is not one film, but basically a bunch of carefully picked shorts played back to back. You might remember that I reviewed a DVD compilation a few years ago containing past “Small Gauge” offerings, go read it to get an idea of the sort of thing to expect. I loved what they put on it then, and I certainly wouldn’t miss this now.
For those enjoying the shorter films, here is a list of the shorts that are included this year. And life, being the cruel mistress that it is, means that I won’t be able to see certain movies playing at this year’s festival. Yet, I thought I’d mention them anyway since I definitely would go if I could. So consider the following to be words of admiration, and perhaps a recommendation or two:
July 8th, 2010
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
Canadian Premiere – Hosted by actor Jay Baruchel
6:45pm – As much as I’d like to, I could never make fun of Nicolas Cage. Here is an actor who will do anything ANYTHING for a role. He is fearless and crazy. No film with him in it can be entirely bad or boring. What really makes me intrigued is the fact that this film was Cage’s idea. He wanted to do a film based on the famous segment from “Fantasia” with Mickey Mouse and the brooms, and now it’s playing at the Fantasia Film Festival. Spooky…
July 9th, 2010
Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore
Hosted by H.G. Lewis, Frank Henenlotter, Jimmy Maslon and Mike Vraney.
10:00pm – I’m going to have to live with myself knowing that I’m going to miss a golden opportunity to see H.G. live and in person, which means that I’ll probably never see the man, which means that if anyone p*****s out on this and doesn’t go I will personally find you and go Fuad Ramses on your a*s.
Also includes a free screening of “Blood Feast.”
July 16th, 2010
Hosted by director Stuart Gordon, actor Jeffrey Combs and screenwriter Dennis Paoli
11:59pm – If Lovecraft is Poe, then Gordon is Corman, Combs is Price and “Re-Animator” is their “Masque of the Red Death”. What I’m trying to say, if you haven’t figured it out already, is that “Re-Animator” was made much in the spirit of the earlier AIP films, yet at the same time is a vastly superior work because I believe that the 80’s were a golden age of indie films, much more so than the 60’s or 70’s. There was a lot of talent working in front and behind the camera and it shows.
July 21th, 2010
“Red, White & Blue”
Canadian Premiere – Hosted by writer/director Simon Rumley, actress Amanda Fuller and producer Tim League
10:00pm – If you have never seen “The Living and the Dead” then consider yourself cinematically impoverished. Here was a movie that made “Eraserhead” look cheerful and upbeat in comparison. Not so much a film but an endurance test, a good one. “Red, While & Blue” is Rumley’s new film and should be very interesting.
July 27th, 2010
“Scott Pilgrim VS The World”
7:00pm – Any new film by Edgar Wright is welcome, especially one getting such positive press. I don’t have to recommend this to you or mention what it’s about, because you already know and already want to watch it.
“Tucker & Dale VS Evil”
Canadian Premiere – Hosted by Director Eli Craig and Actor Tyler Labine.
9:45pm – I can, sadly, relate to both Tucker and Dale. Two backwoods hillbillies who find themselves accidentally killin’ stupid city folk over and over again. Totally by accident of course. Happens to the best of us. This is one of those films whose premise is silly as hell. Yet has so much spunk that you can’t help wanting to see it despite your reservations.
July 28th, 2010
Metropolis: Restored Original Cut
Restored print with 25 minutes of extra footage.
7:30pm – A little part of me died when I realized I couldn’t go to this. This isn’t a movie. It’s a piece of history. So seminal is it to cinema as a whole that I’m amazed it doesn’t begin with the words “Let there be light…” For a long time “Metropolis” has only been seen in butchered versions, some so bad as to be nigh unwatchable. Yet this version is likely to be about as close to the viewing the unmolested original that was shown in 1927 barring the invention of time travel.