by Jefferson Robbins Back in September, I published the Kindle ebook The Curse of Frankenstein: A Dissection--a scene-by-scene analytical love letter to a film that shaped me, and discloses hidden depths the more one looks at it.
by Walter Chaw I'd been vaguely aware of the Mile High
Horror Film Festival its previous three years to the extent that I'd reached out at
some point to see about coverage, but it came to nothing and was easy for me
to ignore. Then a good friend moved from the Denver Film Society to the
newly-opened Denver location of Alamo Drafthouse as creative director, and one
September morning, I found myself driving down to meet with him and chat about
his new position. This Drafthouse is beautiful, by the way, and for cinephiles
in the Denver area, it's a hope devoutly wished, answered. If you don't support
this venue and its mission statement ("to save cinema," its co-owner,
Tom, declared to me proudly), you don't deserve it. Anyway, in the cavernous,
leather-lined lobby, I met my friend, who had just come from a planning meeting
with festival founder Tim Schultz. Handshakes facilitated, I got in
touch with ace PR guy Travis Volz a few days later, and suddenly found myself
sitting in a little booth across from Jim Mickle, director of a very, very good remake/not-really-a-remake of We Are What We Are.
by Bill Chambers The cause célèbre at this year's TIFF was critic Alex
Billington's 9-1-1 call. For those living under a rock, what happened was
that Billington entreated Festival volunteers to do...something...about the guy using his light-emitting cell phone at a P&I (press and industry) screening of Ti
West's The Sacrament. When they declined, Billington dialled emergency
services, live-tweeting the whole sorry affair as a gift to the gods of
schadenfreude. This is indeed absolutely childish and cowardly
behaviour, yet a similarly insufferable sanctimony deluged the incident in think pieces and @
replies, some of them from yours truly. Yes, crying wolf to 9-1-1 is irresponsible,
though I imagine Billington's wasn't the first or even second false alarm
Toronto EMS received that morning. Yes, P&I screenings are free, throwing
Billington's sense of entitlement into relief, although they do come with the
Faustian obligation to write about them at some point. (Something that isn't
made easier by a viewing filled with peripheral distractions.) And, sure,
industry folk need to be able to conduct business in a darkened theatre if it
comes to that, because TIFF is a buyer's market ultimately supported by the wheeling-and-dealing that happens over a ten-day period.
by Walter Chaw It's a six-and-a-half hour drive from my
home in Arvada, CO to Telluride on the Western Slope, and there are two ways to get
there. One way is all highway; the other way is all beauty. I took the
second route, and it made all the difference. I've been in a dark, difficult
place for a long time now, or, at least, long enough in the parlance of
near-crippling depression. I was caught in eddies; I had become inert. I had
almost completely stopped writing. Not just essays like this one, but reviews,
too, which I used to be able to pump out with I think alarming speed and ease.
Early on, someone asked my editor how I did it; at times over the last couple months, I wondered if I'd ever write like that again. Things are hard when you're dark.
Getting out of bed was a negotiation--getting out to a screening was a near act
of God. The thought of accidentally eavesdropping other people's thoughts was
agony. The times I did, of course, were good, because the guilt I would have
felt had I gone and not written on the privilege would have been untenable.
Would that the guilt of not writing on home-video releases have the same
Please excuse this self-indulgent post, but the latest episode of my side-project "The Monster Show", "Shrink-Ray," just went live, in glorious 1080p. Thanks for checking it out, I hope it's a pleasant waste of your time. If you like what you see, you can catch up with previous instalments here.
by Bill Chambers Recently, my brother Derek
and I--a failed screenwriting team if ever there was one--took advantage of the new technological democracy and decided to make our own web cartoon, spun off from
a short story Derek wrote ("The Monster Strikes") about a closet
monster who goes on strike and becomes roommates with his intended victim. For
years we had scribbled ideas for a potential TV show based on the concept,
though our initial desire to satirize sitcom tropes changed (evolved?) over
time as we realized we wanted to get away from meta humour and do something
more organically stupid.
by Jefferson Robbins Kathryn Bigelow's Zero
Dark Thirty is politically abhorrent, an ideologue's digest
of how torture "works" on behalf of democratic governments seeking to
defend from or avenge themselves upon terrorism. There's no debate: by
means of torture, CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain) digs her way
from Osama bin Laden's outer network to his inner circle, one, two,
three. As journalist Malcolm
Harris put it, "That Kathryn Bigelow used to be involved in left aesthetics
should make us shiver in fear about who we may yet become." But subtly,
in the way Bigelow presents her lead character's view of the
battlefield and the flag under which she strives, Zero Dark
Thirty betrays mixed feelings about its own ramifications.
by Angelo Muredda When Michael Haneke's Amour met its first wave
of hosannas at Cannes, the press seemed eerily unanimous with respect to all
but the film's place within the German-Austrian taskmaster's oeuvre. Although
some were quick to call it the warmest of his many portraits of couples in
crisis (it would be hard not to be), others saw it as of a piece with his
austere horror films about complacent bourgeois hoarders reduced to ashes by
external invaders--in this case, not the home intruders of Funny Games or Time
of the Wolf (though there is a break-in, for those keeping
score), but the more insidious threat of age-related illnesses. The truth is
probably somewhere between those poles. It's no surprise that the key
players in this two-hander are named, as they always seem to be in Haneke's
pictures, Anne and Georges Laurent--sturdy middle-class monikers for tasteful
piano teachers. But it's difficult to wholly ascribe the universal quality we often
associate with Haneke's Laurents to the familiar, if weathered, faces of
Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who--far more than the chameleonic
Juliette Binoche or Isabelle Huppert, other Haneke collaborators--recall a
bygone era of French cinema.
There are common themes in hate mail--a fact no doubt nettling to those benighted souls putting hardscrabble pen to paper for perhaps the first non-"doomed community college application" purpose of their artless lives. They are as wanting for imagination and grace as the films they choose to defend. Without logic and without information, they respond kneejerk-like, rising in defence of films that, for the most part, they haven't seen with points that are indefensible and harangues impotent, ignorant, and occasionally disturbing.
by Bill Chambers There's something a little ghoulish about
still reviewing TIFF movies at this late date, I know, but I wanted to briefly touch on
a few of this year's selections I never got around to reviewing in full, before they became indistinguishable dots in the rearview.
by Angelo Muredda Following the boys-only slate of the Cannes Film Festival, which made room for tepidly-received efforts from the likes of Andrew Dominik and Lee Daniels but shut out women in a comparable phase of their careers, June has been a surprisingly fruitful month for female directors of North American independents. Not that it's compensation for that snub, but it's heartening to see Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister and Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz get the lion's share of positive indie press in recent weeks, putting them in good company with Wes Anderson, whose Moonrise Kingdom did make Cannes's official selection. You could think of the Female Eye Film Festival, now entering its tenth year and running through June 24th at Toronto's Carlton Cinemas, as a low-key companion to those higher-profile releases.