Author Archives: Luke Sneyd

Free Spirit: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Any film from Studio Ghibli is a treat. The Japanese anime house has put out some great movies over the years, including Hayao Miyazake’s films Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). Now officially retired, Miyazake’s worked slowly but steadily, putting out a film every five years or so. His Studio Ghibli cofounder Isao Takahata is even less prolific. The director of the masterful WWII story Grave of the Fireflies (1988) has only made three films since, his last My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999) released over fourteen years ago. His return at age 78 with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014) shows that Takahata hasn’t missed a beat. Beautiful and moving, he delivers another anime masterpiece.

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31 Days of Horror 2014 – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

“Whatever you do… don’t fall asleep.”

Yeah. That’s gonna work. Talk about an absolute classic catchphrase. Parents of newborns, late night essay crammers and insomniacs all know how weird your head can get without enough sleep. I’m in the mad throes of a rushed move myself, packing and running around at all hours, and I am spaced. If someone said that to me right now, in a dead serious hushed whisper, I can tell you, I’d freak the fuck out. Freddie Krueger knows where we all live, at night, when our eyes are closed and we’re most vulnerable. But he’s not real, it’s okay. That horribly burnt, disfigured face isn’t real. Those razor claws aren’t real. Have another cup of coffee. We’re fine. Let’s talk about the original Nightmare on Elm Street, I’m just going to lean back, and… did you hear something? Never mind. It’s probably… just… the wind…

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TIFF 2014: Interview with Day 40’s Sol Friedman

So Darren Aronofsky’s Noah with Russell Crowe was a huge hit, grossing over $350 million so far this year. Seems like people respond to the story of God pressing the reset button on a wicked old civilization, drowning every living thing on Earth in a forty-day deluge save for a faithful family and the animals they take aboard their ark. Clearly, Mr. Biblical God has no sense of proportion. Sol Friedman has his own take on the classic Noah story, in his scabrous animated short Day 40. Appearing at the Toronto International Film Festival in the Short Cuts Canada Programme 5, it’s a laugh-out-loud reimagining of the story loosely told from the animals’ perspective. Darkly comedic, Day 40 is sort of a pencil-sketch Animal Farm meets Robot Chicken, and boy does it go to some crazy places in its brief 6-minute runtime. Catch the sort-of-not-safe-for-work-but-not-really trailer and my interview with Friedman, after the jump.

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Somber on the High Seas: Haemoo Sinks Under Its Own Weight

Genre-bending is a real Korean specialty. From the family drama monster movie hybrid of Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host to the madcap martial arts western of Kim Jee-Woon’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird, films like these turn on a dime. You just never know what to expect. One big Korean film at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is Haemoo, directed by Shim Sung-bo. Relatively unknown, the first-time director co-wrote Memories of Murder in 2003 with Bong Joon-Ho, who returns the favour here producing and co-writing Haemoo. Not bad having the director of Snowpiercer in your corner. It isn’t all smooth sailing with Shim Sung-bo’s debut, though. Climb aboard, matey, and I’ll tell you the tale.

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TIFF 2014: Interview with Entangled’s Tony Elliott

The eerie Entangled imagines living in two realities simultaneously.

Who hasn’t fantasized about living a different life, bifurcated, one where you could make a whole new set of choices and see where they lead? But still live your own life, because what’s the value in the difference if you can’t compare? Of course we want it all, to be able to say definitively “this grass really is greener.” Part of the Short Cuts Canada programme on at the Toronto International Film Festival, Tony Elliott’s short Entangled realizes that dilemma in a clever and tense slice of sci-fi thrillerdom. Entanglement is the typically strange quantum concept that two particles anywhere in the universe can become linked, regardless of distance, and what happens to one will also affect the other. The director cut his teeth as a screenwriter, most recently working on the hit series Orphan Black. In Entangled, Erin (Christine Horne) is forced to care for her catatonic lover Malcolm (Aaron Abrams) after a quantum experiment goes very wrong. Determined to find the cause, she runs the experiment again on herself. What she discovers is literally mind-bending, and forces her to question how far she will go for love. Catch my interview with Elliott and the trailer for Entangled after the jump:

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Got That Swing: Bang Bang Baby and Songs She Wrote About People She Knows

The super-stylized Bang Bang Baby follows Stepphy (Jane Levy) and her dreams of musical escape

Finding new talent is a thrill, that delectable shock when you hit on something that speeds your pulse and your synapses and says, “Hey, bet you’ve never seen it done quite like this before.” Getting that thrill is what the Discovery Programme at the Toronto International Film Festival is all about. It’s a showcase of forty films featuring the best new directors from around the world. There’s a bunch of Canadian films in the Discovery Programme, cuz hey there’s nothing wrong with a homer. Two of them happen to have a lot in common. Both Bang Bang Baby and Songs She Wrote About People She Knows are musicals with a hesitant lead finding her way to her dreams. Now those dreams are pesky things, and they never quite turn out the way you expect.

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TIFF 2014: Interview with Indigo’s Amanda Strong

In my continuing series on the Short Cuts Canada Programmes, today we look at one of the most visually striking films in the series, Amanda Strong’s Indigo. Filmed entirely in stop-motion, the hand-crafted figures in this dreamlike short are inspired by Native mythology. A confined woman finds herself liberated by grandmother spider, while her memories are projected in an effort to restore her spirit. Following its own archetypal images and logic, the film doesn’t conform to a straightforward narrative, but conveys a striking journey through several different coloured worlds in its nine-minute run-time. Strong has made several short films, each with an intense, dark visual style. Indigo was also selected for the 2014 Cannes Short Film Corner, and last year the National Post included her in its feature “Six emerging aboriginal artists in Canada who are inspiring change.” Catch my interview with her and the trailer for Indigo after the jump:

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It Follows: Heartfelt Horror Mines the Past for Something New

David Robert Mitchell’s throwback horror film It Follows is surprisingly fresh. And creepy.

Passing on the curse is a time-honoured horror tradition. Through an innocent act, the victim unwittingly brings a malevolent force down on themselves. The only chance for salvation is to make someone else the next target. That’s the plot for The Ring (2002) and its Asian originators, and it stretches back to Jacques Tourneur’s occult Night of the Demon (1957), which in turn takes literary inspiration from M.R. James’s short story Casting the Runes. (The Stephen King/Richard Bachman classic Thinner is another haunting example.) With his new film It Follows (2014) at this year’s TIFF, American indie filmmaker David Robert Mitchell turns the conceit to a sexually transmitted serial haunting. He takes that idea and runs with it, or rather, walks very… creepily… slowly. Now take a look around. We don’t have much time. But you need to know this.

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