Opening this week are a few films we covered at festivals earlier in the year. Walter Chaw reviewed Jason Reitman's The Front Runner at Telluride, while I wrote about Boy Erased, Transit, and Bodied--all three of which were released in Toronto today--during TIFF (TIFF '17, in the case of Bodied). And be sure to check out our reviews of some other recent releases that may have escaped your attention, including The Old Man & the Gun, Monrovia, Indiana, and the great Burning.-Ed.
by Walter Chaw Summer seems to be lasting longer, the weather in general is more severe. If the '80s were about apocalyptic fears around the proliferation of atomic weapons and an unstable President, the '10s are about those same fears multiplied by the corporatized destruction of the planet and, in a stealthy sort of way, the rise of the genuinely ignorant as the arbiters of culture and government. When George W. was President, I was interested in the defense that he seemed like the drunk uncle you'd have at a backyard BBQ. He didn't read much, trumpeted his "C" average in school, made up words, started a war because someone was mean to his daddy. Idiots found him relatable and non-threatening; "Conservative Party" developed a more literal definition. I liked to suggest the President be someone who read more than you, did things you couldn't do, was actually smart and not Fredo-smaht!. The only thing this thirtysomething percent of Americans who still think Trump is great--either cynically and opportunistically, or because they're really just stupider than fuck--were ever right about is that their elected leader is the ultimate "trigger" for people who are their betters. Like psychopathic juvies tormenting their unit nurse, they think it's worth it to distress them. It feels good and new, and as the fires grow higher, so, too, does their ardour for their golden calf.
by Walter Chaw After a decade's absence, give or take, I started coming up to the Telluride Film Festival again six years ago at the urging of good friends whom I otherwise hardly see. I was in a bad place and they knew it. They didn't offer platitudes, they offered a challenge, and so one year I accepted it. The hardest thing to do for someone who's depressed sometimes is to accept help. I have come to find that the best gift you can give your friends who worry about you is to ask for help. The problem with depression is it tells you that you are a burden. It's exhausting.
Our FrightFest 2018 coverage launched today in conjunction with the start of the festival and will be updated frequently with reviews and interviews over the next several days. In the meantime, a handful of titles screening there we covered previously, and those reviews are linked below.
by Walter Chaw One of the major misconceptions about film critics and scholars is that they aren't fans of film first, and if they are, then surely they wouldn't be fans of a genre as disreputable as horror. But I've long held that horror is an indicator species in our socio-political quagmire. That often with only limited studio oversight, and because they're entirely possible to execute with a small budget in a short amount of time, horror films, by talking about what a society fears, can tap into the collective unconscious more quickly and effectively than any number of "prestige" presentations. There's a reason most myths and fairy tales have strong horror elements. Get Out is a lot of things, for example, but its closest analogue is George Romero's landmark civil rights masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. I wonder if the horror movie's primal simplicity has anything to do with the disdain with which even its creators sometimes approach it. In any case, horror is important, essential, vital. When it's right, there's not much else righter.
by Bill Chambers While I was composing this "curtain-raiser," a fellow critic tweeted that she'd been offered press credentials for an upcoming film festival but didn't see the point of accepting them, since travel and lodging would inevitably cost more than she would make reporting on the festival. Montreal's venerable genre-film festival Fantasia, now in its 22nd year, has attempted to solve this kind of dilemma and broaden awareness of its brand by inviting online outlets to view the majority of its slate remotely via streaming links. Obviously "screeners" are not a new concept and have for the last few years helped sites like ours round out our coverage of various festivals, but nothing has ever been attempted on this scale, with most of the films accessible via a centralized hub. We're proud to have been invited to participate in this experiment, because with Telluride and TIFF hitting so soon after, and with travel being a challenge even for those of us who live relatively close to Montreal, it's improbable that we'll ever get the chance to attend Fantasia in person. It's something that had always given me, personally, a bigger case of FOMO than Cannes, because if we have a niche, Fantasia fulfills it.
by Alice Stoehr "I can't imagine what you must think of me!" laughed Cecelia Condit. The audience had just seen her groundbreaking shorts Beneath the Skin (1981) and Possibly in Michigan (1983 (left)), plus a swath of her 21st-century work, and she seemed a bit sheepish about her own films' morbid sense of humour. Between the murders, masks, and nursery rhymes, a streak of dark whimsy runs through them, orienting her as a woman in the world. Condit's a garrulous storyteller in life as in her art and was forthright about the layers of autobiography in her work. Annie Lloyd (2008) shows her mother pressing leaves between pages at the end of her life. Within a Stone's Throw (2012) has Condit herself hiking Irish hills in the aftermath of her mother's death. Images of carrying and collecting recur across these films, a motif that suggests both affection and the assertion of control. These are rough-hewn fables that plumb the possibilities of video.
by Bill Chambers In the interest of full disclosure, I've yet to see three of the major Academy Award™ contenders, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, or Phantom Thread. Fortunately, they've all been discussed on Twitter with the fanatical zeal of that machine that stuffs corn down a duck's gullet to make foie gras, so I felt I could bluff my way through this year's scorecard. I for one look forward to enjoying Michael Stuhlbarg's Call Me By Your Name monologue once I've forgotten how good it's supposed to be.
There's one good thing that came out of the first year of the Trump presidency, just one: this realization that what we had always indulged in terms of masculine misbehaviour is dangerous and vile. The entertainment industry, the lowest arm of which gave us Trump, took the brunt of the new "wokeness," almost as though it were taking responsibility for birthing something like Trump by enacting a purge. It's not over. One can only hope the enablers are next--the ones who looked the other way or silently helped normalize a flesh tax for entrance into the realm. Change has to be more than lip-service and the now-familiar tone-deaf apology for narcissism and incomprehension. I could go deeper here about my personal dismay, sense of betrayal, rage, disgust...and I want to--but men have been talking over women about their experiences for long enough.
Opening this Thanksgiving weekend in select cities is Joe Wright's Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman and a Costco tub of latex. And don't miss Greta Gerwig's solo directorial debut Lady Bird, which has been quietly expanding into more theatres. Our own Walter Chaw covered both films at this year's Telluride.
This week finally sees the North American release of the Ben Mendelsohn-Rooney Mara drama Una, which Walter Chaw reviewed at last year's Telluride. The Florida Project also begins trickling into theatres today; Angelo Muredda covered it for TIFF. And I hear there's a sequel to Blade Runner?
by Walter Chaw I've been better now for a long time. I get depressed. I'm in recovery, and it's going well. There's a line in a new song by The National that makes me cry every time I hear it. It goes: