Category Archives: Luke Sneyd
The TIFF Kids International Film Festival is close to wrapping up, but there’s a few gems that are still worth checking out. While teens are unlikely to be moved by the charmingly chill ghost flick Room 213, it’s perfect for a younger audience, with a simple story and zero horror histrionics.
High school dramas are back with a vengeance. There’s the noir soap opera shenanigans of Archie, Betty and Veronica on Riverdale, and the sharply observed teen pathos of Thirteen Reasons Why. Both series paint a portrait of high school about fifty shades darker than the quaint distractions of a John Hughes movie. Out on the big screen in limited release this weekend is My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, joining the class of 2017 with a surrealistic romp fusing teen comedy and disaster movies to hilarious effect.
You know you’ve done it. You’re breezing through Twitter, and some outrageous post pisses you off. You retweet it with a snarky comment, probably signing off with a SMH or FFS. You’re still riled, so you repost it to Facebook. People start commenting, tempers flare. Friends are texting you. Meanwhile, you’re hopping off the bus and headed to a restaurant, checking in your location on Facebook, hardly thinking about the myriad crumbs you’ve left in your wake, info bits awash in the net’s digital ocean. “Digital exhaust” is what Prof. Ron Diebert calls it, the ephemera of our constant internet output waiting to be hoovered up and fed into patterns that reveal more than you could possibly imagine. It’s bad enough here, where we mostly fret about corporations assembling minutely accurate portraits of our likes and dislikes to sell us more stuff. In other places, the governments actively use Facebook and other internet media to mislead and pinpoint activists and critics, rounding them up and arresting them. In some countries, posting the wrong thing can get you killed.
I got the chance to catch Nicholas de Pencier’s documentary Black Code as part of TIFF’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, where he and Prof. Diebert engaged in a Q&A after the screening. The doc has been playing the festival circuit, and it’s well worth checking out, if you want to stress out about how piss-poor your digital security practices probably are. The film was released in 2016, and speaking about its concerns in a contemporary context, it was clear both men recognized how the intervening year has only made their film even more painfully relevant.
There’s nothing quite like a David Lynch movie. You know the second you find yourself immersed in one of his unsettling worlds, the strange blend of earnest innocence and churning malevolence vying against one another, light and dark and laughter and horror and violence but especially the eeriness. Nobody but nobody does eerie like David Lynch. Which makes David Lynch: The Art Life so fascinating, a movie about a movie-maker that takes up all the stuff he does other than movies.
The world doesn’t need another milquetoast Canadian indie comedy. But it’s a national specialty, so they keep coming around, safe, inoffensive, government-funded and mildly amusing. Unfortunately for Chokeslam, safe and inoffensive aren’t the words you want to hear about a wrestling comedy, even if it aspires to the romantic variety. Director Robert Cuffley’s attempts to fuse the world of wrestling with the genre clichés of rom-com make for a cute, unassuming yarn that never quite gets off the mat.
Remember the Arab Spring? That democratic fluorescence that erupted in late 2010 in Tunisia and spread with massive demonstrations to Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq? It was a giddy, dangerous time when a predominantly youth movement rose up against autocratic regimes steeped in conservative Islamic ideology. Through riots and violent government crackdowns, people poured into the streets pressing for change. In Egypt, Bassem Youssef was one of the unlikely people at the forefront of the massive cultural shift. A heart surgeon turned satirical TV host, Youssef was dubbed the Egyptian Jon Stewart. Tickling Giants, the documentary from Sara Taksler, follows Youssef’s meteoric rise and lamentable fall, as a funny, principled man becomes an enemy of the state. As Donald Trump demonizes the media in America, Tickling Giants is even more resonant than when it debuted at festivals last year, revealing both the power of satire and its harsh limitations.
In October, 2014, a tourist visiting Yellowknife disappeared. Atsumi Yoshikubo seemed like a typical Japanese vacationer, visiting for the majestic creaking pines and the ethereal beauty of the northern lights. Five days after arriving, she walked out of town and into the woods, never to be seen again. Award-winning producer, writer and director Geoff Morrison’s The Missing Tourist delves into the mystery of Yoshikubo’s vanishing. With no signs of criminality, or much hard evidence at all, could Atsumi have traveled all that way just to slip silently out of the world?
They don’t come around all that often, but the movies love a charismatically gruff old man. From the goofy classic Grumpy Old Men with Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau to Clint Eastwood’s racist curmudgeon in Gran Turino, there’s a strange appeal to bitter old cranks. At least, when they discover they have a heart after all. Hannes Holm’s A Man Called Ove, from the novel by Fredrik Backman, follows in the genre’s creaky, recalcitrant footsteps. With a wonderful performance as the titular Ove from Rolf Lassgård, the film hits all the right irascible notes. Nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category, and another for Makeup and Hairstyling, A Man Called Ove has been an unlikely success.
Sometimes a talent is so oversized it’s like a bomb waiting to go off. One look at ballet’s enfant terrible Sergei Polunin and you can see the talent, his mesmerizing form crackling with electricity. You don’t need to know anything about ballet as Polunin launches his wiry frame impossibly high into the air to know that this kid’s got it. Dancer, the documentary from Steven Cantor (loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies) follows Polunin’s evolution, from child prodigy to hard partying success to burnt-out superstar. It’s an interesting if conventional portrait of an artist with tremendous gifts, lacking the tools to sustain a career.
The Canadian Western has to be the smallest of film genres. Philip Borsos’ The Grey Fox (1982) pretty much begins and ends the genre. It’s small because Canadians don’t really think we had a western frontier, in the same way America did. That’s not entirely true, but misses a larger point, that really almost all of Canada is frontier. Still. And most of that frontier isn’t west. It’s north. Inuk director Zacharias Kunuk corrects that oversight with an arctic reimagining of John Ford’s classic western The Searchers (1956). Spare and evocative, Kunuk’s Maliglutit brings the Western to the snowbound north with arresting results.