Author Archives: Luke Sneyd
Oh my. There’s so much to George Takei. Part of the original, legendary Star Trek crew, beloved as helmsman Lieutenant Sulu of the starship Enterprise. Countless TV appearances, on everything from Perry Mason to Heroes. Outspoken activist, speaking out on Japanese internment and also gay marriage. Septuagenarian internet phenomenon, plying memes with the very best. And that unending feud with Bill Shatner. He’s an original who’s come even more into his own at such a late stage in his career, as the new documentary from director Jennifer M. Kroot To Be Takei (2014) attests. Beam over to the other side, and we’ll see all Takei’s been up to.
With the release of a 4K digital restoration of the classic The Godfather Part II (1974), TIFF is putting on a great program as well. Second Coming: Cinema’s Greatest Sequels is exactly that, a look at some ground-breaking films and the even better sequels that followed them. While sequelitis can be a terrible Hollywood affliction, with no known cure for each successive Transformers mutation, sometimes those Part 2s turn out to be pretty awesome in their own right. Join me on the flipside, as the sequel strikes back.
Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) were wildly successful, making over $400 million in domestic box office between them. That was more than enough to get the DC brain trust thinking this Batman thing might have legs, or wings, or well, I’m sure they said something like that. They took a chance on first-time producers Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski and the just-launched Fox network, and kicked off the new DC Animated Universe with the gloriously dark Batman: The Animated Series (1992). What followed was one of the best animated series of all-time, one that mined the deep seam of film noir to create a look so uniquely distinctive, the creators dubbed it “dark deco”.
Prolific, rambunctious, and one of the true independents of cinema, Robert Altman was the kind of director Hollywood hated. From his 1970 breakthrough M*A*S*H to his final film, the elegiac A Prairie Home Companion (2006), his movies were big, sometimes unwieldy, ensemble pieces rather than star-driven, bursting with characters and ideas and dialogue that overlapped like ripples in a stream. Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann just had a special screening at TIFF of his upcoming documentary Altman (2014), and TIFF is putting on a retrospective of some of the legendary director’s best known films. Always surprising, Altman’s instincts were the antithesis of our blockbuster era. They made for great movies, even when they weren’t hits. Much like Tim Robbins’s movie exec in The Player (1992), very often Altman got away with murder.
Batman’s got one of the best rogues galleries going. There’s the coin-flipping Two-Face, the pernicious Penguin, the Riddler, Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, Bane, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, and of course Ra’s Al Ghul; the list goes on and on. But towering above this motley nefarious crew is Batman’s true nemesis, that anarchic, murderous, gleeful Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker. Over the years, a passel of Hollywood greats and brilliant voice actors have taken their stab at the killer comedian. They could take up a whole wing of Arkham, there’s so many. Let’s take a tour of some of the best. You should be safe, behind this glass… Read the rest of this entry
Few directors instantly conjure an image of cool aloofness in the way that Jim Jarmusch does. The man, in his dark clothes with his shock of white hair in a spiky pompadour, is probably as famous for his image as for his work. Such is the immortality that appearing on The Simpsons gets you. And yet the work is at least as distinctive. Slow, laconic stories about drifters and outsiders unspool inexorably as we share their reveries and defeats, and the occasional small triumph. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) is an interesting shift, as he turns his attention from his usual pantheon of beautiful losers to the immortal thirst of vampires.
An escaped mental patient (Suzanne Fletcher) places stones in the mouths of bodies she finds laid out by a roadside accident. A woman translating an ancient Chinese scroll sees her fingertips begin to bleed, mimicking the story in the fairy tale she’s just transcribed. A down-and-out jazzer’s life changes oddly for the better when he’s haunted by two ghosts tragically tied to an antique rocking chair. Each scenario is unlikely, unsettling and fantastical. And each one is central to the films of 80s director Sara Driver. A sometime collaborator with Jim Jarmusch, Driver’s work had moderate acclaim but then disappeared. Her first film, You Are Not I (1981), was lost in a New Jersey warehouse fire shortly after its successful festival run. The negatives were rediscovered in 2009 in the Tangiers apartment of Paul Bowles, the author of the story the film is based on, and now TIFF is showing her work in a mini-retrospective. Turn the page if you dare, brave reader, or okay, just give ‘er a click…
Take Blade Runner and draw a line from the 80s replicant noir to the 90s non-consensual machine-induced hallucinations of The Matrix. Somewhere on that line there’s a node, running backwards and forwards, channeling its influences and distributing them back out again, recombining them into a fearsome future hurtling toward us like a heavy calibre bullet. That perfect coalescing point is Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (1995), the cyberpunk anime classic that had tremendous influence on the Wachowski brothers, Steven Spielberg A.I. and Minority Report, and James Cameron’s Avatar. It’s the film that kicks off TIFF’s retrospective Techno/Human: The Films of Mamoru Oshii, and boy does it pack a punch.