Category Archives: Luke Sneyd

Stars in Broad Daylight

We hear about Syria a lot these days. Ravaged by ISIS, crushed by their own dictatorial leaders, the Syrian population is wildly displaced, with millions of refugees looking for new homes around the globe. But we don’t know a lot about the actual country. TIFF looks to fill that gap, with a week-long program of Syrian films called Syria Self-Portraits: Chronicles of Tyranny, Chronicles of War. Stars in Broad Daylight is one of the oldest in the program, from 1988, by Syria’s foremost filmmaker Ossama Mohammed. It’s a bleak comedy, an absurd look at the country’s longstanding oppression.

Read the rest of this entry

TIFF’s Virtual Reality Show a Revealing Revolution

Eagle Flight, from Ubisoft

The revolution is coming. It’s coming for your flat screens and your movie theatres and when it’s done, nothing will be the same. Virtual reality has at long last arrived, with tech that is ungainly, expensive and wondrous. Like all tech innovations, the race to consumer affordability is on, and within five years you can bet that VR will be cheap and ubiquitous. Right now, though, we’re in the supercomputer-that-fills-a-room days (metaphorically—the actual gear is already quite compact). In Toronto, TIFF saw the exciting breakthroughs in the medium and seized the opportunity to let people experience VR firsthand, minus the outlay for an Oculus rig. POP 03 is TIFF’s latest public pop-up installation, a three-day hands-on for people to check out what VR is about. I got my own eyes-on yesterday, and I gotta tell ya, the impact is powerful.

Read the rest of this entry

Rogue One: Into Darthness Trailer Drops

The new story trailer for Star Wars: Rogue One just dropped. There’s a nice chunk of juicy narrative morseldom dished out in its two minutes and fifteen seconds. And possibly the most exciting back-of-someone’s-head shot of all time. Which is apparently the moment we’ve arrived at in popular culture. But shit, it is pretty cool. Feast your eyes, Rebel soldiers, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry

Biff Bam Pop’s Alien Invasion – District 9

Why do so many aliens want to kill us? Okay, maybe humanity leaves a lot to be desired. There’s war, murder, avarice aplenty, and people that want to elect Donald Trump. If we haven’t broken the planet we live on, we’ve sure as hell damaged the packaging. Our celebrated social networks leave us staring at our phones, hardly noticing the actual world in front of us.

But we don’t completely suck. There’s art and inventions and love… still, fucking Donald Trump?  Maybe the aliens have a point. Don’t get me wrong. I love me a Starship Troopers or a Predator or an Alien, when that unknowable other is just a vicious killing machine here to reduce us to emphatic survival. But it’s not often that we see aliens as screwed up as we are. Which is one of the many things that makes Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 so great. The aliens and their massive ship hovering over a metropolis aren’t here to destroy us with monument-shattering death rays. Their spacecraft broke down, they’re sick and dying, and whatever their interstellar traveling, they’re completely S-O-L. The film’s a brilliant exploration of a refugee civilization landing on our doorstep, and the amazing awfulness humans bring to bear in dealing with the problem.

Read the rest of this entry

Lost Generations: The Films of Wim Wenders

German director Wim Wenders captures the miasma of a lost generation in Kings of the Road

Quick. Name Kurt Cobain’s favourite movie. Fight Club? BZZT! He was long gone by the time Fincher’s slacker opus came out. QuadropheniaThe Elephant Man? No doubt they’d have been right up his alley. But actually, Cobain’s on record that his favourite film is a little art-house flick called Paris, Texas, from the German director Wim Wenders. An intriguing film about an amnesiac Harry Dean Stanton slowly reconnecting with his family, Biff Bam Pop’s Daniel Reed will be looking at that one in an upcoming piece, and Andy Burns will be writing about Wenders’s sci-fi opus Until the End of the World. We’re taking a good look at the acclaimed German director, as TIFF mounts its retrospective On the Road: The Films of Wenders.

Read the rest of this entry

Beautifully Drawn Boy: The Thrilling, Wrenching Journey of Boy and the World

When you’re young, very young, the world is bright and bold, a riot of colour and creatures and moments tumbling one to the next. Boy and the World, a newly released animated feature from Brazilian director Alê Abreu, captures that vibrant fleeting spirit magnificently. From its opening moments, the film is a superb experiment in marrying image and soundtrack, a lovely kaleidoscopic zooming outward as a jaunty flute melody builds. We’re plunged into the world of Boy, our nameless protagonist playing in the pastoral rainbow-scape of rural Brazil. His journey from there to the big city brims with revelatory moments, dragging in its wake a stinging indictment of global capitalism.

Read the rest of this entry

Biff Bam Pop Remembers Alan Rickman

rickman 2

Luke Sneyd: Haaaaaaans?? Damn what a lousy week. I’ll miss Alan Rickman, so much genial talent and a class act. I don’t think anyone in the world could say “Potter” with the same degree of total disgust. That caramel voice with its meticulous British diction, he brought incredible personality to so many roles.

My favourite will always be one of the best villains of all time, Bill Clay, aka Hans Gruber. Who else could have made “give me my detonators” one of the most quotable lines in cinematic history? He’s hard to write about because in spite of such indelible roles, he always had an effacing quality. I loved the aggrieved nobility he brought to Dr. Lazarus in Galaxy Quest, again with the beautifully mellifluous reading of “by Grabthar’s hammer.” I always liked Severus Snape, the secret hero of the Harry Potter series. It was a thankless job, hated for the wrong reasons. He came to a tragic end but Harry recognized his extraordinary sacrifice. And for his troubles Snape got to be deliciously, singularly unlikeable.

Alan Rickman’s villains are his best creations, ironic for such a quiet, charming man. May you find yourself in the most English of heavens, Alan. When it came to our attention, you were an exceptional thief.

snape

Mat Langford: One of my fondest memories of Rickman’s body of work will always be his brooding portrayal of Severus Snape, Harry Potter’s (spoilers!) nemesis-turned-protector throughout the series.

Reading his story arc from Half-Blood Prince to DH2 and imagining his performance of it was one thing, but actually seeing it in the films was so much more powerful and mesmerizing. His love for Lily setting him on a course that would define his life, ultimately ending in a tragic yet redeeming revelation through the pensieve, showing Harry his true intentions…just thinking about it still gives me chills.

His shining body of work is impressive, but this performance will always define Rickman for me. It’s a sad day for fans of the series and film in general. He will be missed!

Marie Gilbert: I was shocked to learn of Alan Rickman’s death, as we all are when a talented person passes from this world. While many people are remembering Alan for his work in film and theatre, I remember him for his beautiful voice and, the way he made the spoken word dance inside my head like butterflies on a warm summer day. It didn’t matter if Alan Rickman was playing a villain or a comedy role, when he spoke, you listened. How could you not? His voice was commanding, as was his personality both on stage and screen and off.  I first heard of Alan Rickman when he appeared as the dastardly Hans Gruber in the first Die Hard film. His voice in Die Hard, which was sometimes hypnotizing, made his acts of terror ever so more frightening.  As Severus Snape in the Harry Potter Franchise, his acting, and I’m sure his way of speaking the King’s English, earned him worldwide recognition, but it was his part as Alexander Dane in the comedy film, Galaxy Quest that made me a loyal follower of Alan Rickman.  R.I.P Mr. Rickman, you have left this world a nicer place with your words.

Rickman 4

Loretta Sisco: It’s been tough for Brits in the entertainment industry of late, with the passing of Lemmy Kilmister of the music group Mötorhead and David Bowie. Today we lost another true talent in actor Alan Rickman.

He was successful on both the stage and screen playing a variety of characters. He was great in any role he was in, making him one of the rare actors you would go see even if you weren’t interested in the film, just because he was in it. His performance alone would make it worthwhile.

Although I enjoyed his wit in Dogma and Galaxy Quest, I will best remember him as Sheriff Nottingham in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Rickman made the villain one of the most alluring bad guys to ever grace the big screen. I’ve seen this movie too many times to count, always envious of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the role of Marian. Alan Rickman will be missed by fans worldwide.

Biff Bam Pop Remembers David Bowie

David Bowie

Andy Burns: I saw Bowie three times – the first was at a 2,000 seat club in Toronto called The Warehouse. He was touring Earthling, which I thought and still think was a fantastic album. Seeing him that close was amazing. A few years later, he was second on the bill to Moby for the latter’s Area 2 festival. We leaned against the stage at a giant amphitheater. We were closer. The third and final time was an arena show, and I was far away. I didn’t love it, though. It felt too much like a greatest hits show. But it didn’t matter. In the end, it doesn’t matter.

We all have our favourite David Bowie. Mine is the one I’ve listened to since 1993, when Black Tie, White Noise came out. The first Bowie album I bought. Jump, They Say, was about his brother who had committed suicide. I bought every new album after that. I loved OutsideI Have Not Been To Oxford Town. Little Wonder on Earthling. The title track to The Next Day. I could go on. But I’ll let the music speak for itself.

Robin Renee: David Bowie turned my teenage isolation into an inspired knowing that I could be all I wanted to be in life – creative, queer, bold, outside the box in any and all ways possible. As an artist and as a being, he was, and always will be, my most profound influence. One day I could write something more intellectual on the myriad ways Bowie expanded and shifted the trajectory of modern rock, multimedia, and fashion, but today this feels all too personal, and I have no more words. There is just love, deep gratitude, and the near numbness that precedes grief.

JP Fallavollita:David Bowie, the artist, has passed away, leaving behind an ever-lasting influence over music, fashion, film, art and pop culture. I welled up when I heard the news. So much of what I listen to or see has his fingerprints, heavy or light on it. Whether it was his performance on stage as Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke, or on the screen as Major Jack Celliers or Jareth the Goblin King, his work, his life, was always a modern love; ours timeless. There’s another star brightening the night sky. Play his records. Listen to his songs. Never wave bye bye.

Less Lee Moore: Like many people my age, I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t listening to David Bowie. It started with “Space Oddity,” a song which terrified and fascinated me in equal measure, and it never really stopped. In 1998, I gained an entirely new appreciation for the Bowie mileu thanks to Todd Haynes’s brilliant film Velvet Goldmine, which quite literally changed my life forever, as well as increasing my already massive adoration for the man himself. Like everyone else, I was surprised and delighted by the release of The Next Day in 2013, which quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year. And here we are with the new album, ★, yet another triumph in a lifetime of triumphs, and it’s glorious and beautiful, just like the man who created it and even more so when you consider the circumstances.

“It’s funny how beautiful people are when they’re walking out the door.” — Mandy Slade, Velvet Goldmine

Glenn Walker: Last night’s news of David Bowie’s passing hit me hard. I was devastated. Many of you know I’ve been seriously ill for a month or so, but I’ve been making forward progress and trying to be positive – but this loss was a physical blow and crushed my spirits. I loved and love Bowie, he was a favorite, an idol, an inspiration, and the man marked my life.

My first exposure to Bowie, and also to the offensive gay epithet that starts with an F, was when I saw the “Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth)” duet with Bing Crosby originally air. I remember seeing him on “Soul Train,” and in drag and as a puppet on “Saturday Night Live.” “DJ” from Lodger (which I had on 8-track) was probably the first proper music video I ever saw, another field in which Bowie was a pioneer.

I remember vividly the first times I heard many of his songs. “Golden Years,” “Cat People,” “Station to Station,” “I’m Afraid of Americans,” “Let’s Dance,” “Sound and Vision,” and a dozen others all hold specific memories for my first listens. How many other artists or songs can one say that about?

This weekend, the weekend of both his birthday and death, was filled with Bowie for me. I watched him on “Storytellers” telling tales and performing for a small audience songs from his then-new album Hours. I also finally got around to listening to Blackstar, a fabulous collection.

And today I am crushed, numb, and indescribably sad. Rest in peace, man, I love you, you changed my life.

David Sandford Ward: When I woke up this morning, I read the words “David Bowie died!” in a
text message.

I understood the words; I could not, cannot, and do not understand
their context.

The sentence still doesn’t make sense to me.

My experience of the world has always included David Bowie, and I am having serious trouble contemplating a world where he does not exist. I feel I will struggle with this for a while. Unlike the loss of some of my other heroes (Terry Pratchett, Christopher Hitchens), I am having serious difficulty understanding that he’s gone as he has always been there. I remember my introductions to Pratchett and
Hitchens; I do not remember the same for Bowie as he was always there.

Always.

Andy asked us to include our favourite song, if possible. I cannot pinpoint it with such precision, so, instead, I’ll include something from Bowie’s goodbye:

Goodbye, David. We miss you; we love you. Thank you.

Daniel H. Reed: David Bowie’s spirit has quietly followed me in a number of crucial and random moments throughout my life. Most of the time, I didn’t even know he was there.

I remember a friend of mine from elementary school had a husky named Bowie with two different coloured eyes. At first I was too afraid to go near the dog, as he was loud and larger than myself. When I would visit my friend’s house after school the dog would bark and jump towards me with an incredible, supernatural force. It was definitely intimidating, but as time went on, Bowie recognized my scent. I remember curling up with him and watching a ton of movies together. There were times when I struggled to behave myself in class. I would lose my cool and it was hard to escape my head. Somehow, this majestic husky knew how I was feeling on those days and would nestle himself right against my legs to bestow a sense of calm that I would never forget.

Every time I hear David Bowie’s music I think about the dog as a reflection of his intangible greatness – one that channeled the mysteries of the universe in order to change the earth.

Amanda Blue: How do you say goodbye to someone like David Bowie? Where do you start? He became so many incredible people over the years, and so his spectrum of influence was massive. Though his musical career was obviously astounding, I personally found my Bowie connection in film.

Labyrinth was one of my many childhood obsessions, and (as anyone who knows me knows) Twin Peaks has become one of my many adult ones. So from Jareth to Jeffries, and all the songs, dances, music videos, and hilarious interviews in between, David Bowie had always just… been there. He was always doing something you needed to see and hear, and he was always being talked about (in a good way). The inevitable void that his absence will leave is currently being filled with messages of grief and concert reminiscence, but those things will taper off, and that lack of Bowie’s presence amongst and between us will be felt in a big way. I have no doubt about it. But as a child, watching the Goblin King spin those crystal balls as he climbed stairs that fascinatingly made no sense, and as a teen watching Bowie concert DVDs with friends, he had an influence. Without my even realizing it, I became a fan.

He was someone who made it ok to be weird. He made it beautiful to be weird. He helped so many of us along the path towards finding and embracing ourselves, either directly through his lyrics or indirectly by his music happening to be playing in the background during a pivotal life moment (that of course you didn’t realize was pivotal at the time), or simply having a minor role in a favourite film. So in that way, he will live on in all of us. As long as we remember.

Luke Sneyd: David Bowie was a synthesizer. In the purest sense of that word, he pulled from everywhere, fashion, art, pop, funk, rock, disco, electronica (remember that word?). He pillaged rapaciously, but when all those influences melded together, when they were fed into the Bowie machine with its blue and green eyes and its angular brain and jagged melodies, what came out was always Bowie. Always unique. The influences were there, the diviners could find them, rods straining toward the ground, but the well that sprung from David Jones’s mind was deep as time and wider than the cosmos. Each seismic shift in his discography is another branch of history, music, expression being subsumed and reborn, ashes to ashes, funk to funky.

I only saw Bowie a few times, not enough, nowhere near enough. I caught the raucous return to theatricality of the bewildering Glass Spider tour in the late eighties, and the stripped down classicism of the Sound+Vision tour. Both shows were great, but it’s the records that speak to me, an embarrassment of brilliance across decades.

The irresistible transport of “Space Oddity” captured my childhood self early, and “Ashes to Ashes” whisped echoing in my consciousness, but it wasn’t until “Let’s Dance” that I really discovered Bowie, and discovering him dug deep. Individual singles that escaped the album catalogue, the superb dance with Freddie Mercury’s Queen in “Under Pressure” or the soporific angst of “This is Not America” with Pat Metheny.

The seventies records are an uninterrupted transmission of alien genius, and there’s so many releases I’ve adored since then. The NIN-scape of Outside, the alt-art scaffolding of Heathen, the otherworldly finality of his last gift, Blackstar. I sit amazed at so meticulously planned an exit. Watching the “Blackstar” video, with its collapsed astronaut stranded on the moon, you have to marvel at the incredible circularity of his career addressed with a subtle yet commanding pathos. Bowie knew it was checkout time and they were getting ready to clean the room. And he could still contrive, dying, to make a record powerful and challenging and riven with haunted emotion and intellect. Even more amazing, that’s only one facet of a vast cultural coalescence, the Bowie.net we find ourselves living in. There’s presaging punk, the birth of glam, white soul, gender-bending, the uncategorizable revolutionary sex-toy poster-being from another planet, the questioning, really just endless questioning, of what it is, how wonderful and strange, to be an outsider. Whitmanesque, Bowie contained multitudes. How remarkable, for us, to be alive for the Mozart, the Da Vinci of this couple of centuries in time. Shamanistic voodoo, skeleton in space, thank you David and sorry kids. You might have to wait a long long time till there’s someone new at the centre of it all.

The 17th Annual Animation Show of Shows

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos is one of the standouts of the Animation Show of Shows

Wannabe astronauts simulating free-fall bouncing on the beds in their dorm like trampolines. A free-thinker on an assembly line who dares to scrawl squiggles in a world of striped boxes. A clone from the future visits her originator’s child self, because time loops but really loneliness. Animation opens so many windows on the world, expressive, vivid and unique. It’s a demanding, labour-intensive, expensive medium, keeping animated features down to four or five a year. There’s a burgeoning world of animated shorts out there, though, artists who take a sliver of time and conjure up something wonderful. For seventeen years, veteran animation producer and founder of ACME Filmworks Ron Diamond has put together a program called the Animation Show of Shows. Each year he scours the globe for animation talent to work in his studio. In his travels, he’s constantly discovering vibrant new work, which he curates for his annual series. The past sixteen years Diamond has taken his Show of Shows to major animation houses like Pixar, Dreamworks and Disney, and also to animation schools, showing established and up-and-coming animators rare and hard-to-find films to challenge and inspire them. This year is different though. While Diamond’s pulled together another stellar slate of shorts, this time around the Animation Show of Shows has gone public, and is touring theatres in the U.S., Canada and even further abroad. With three films short-listed for the Oscars in the program, it’s a bite-sized treat.

Read the rest of this entry

Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Bloodborne

Playing Bloodborne is like smashing your head against a wall, a very gory, slimy wall, again and again and again and again. It’s hard. You cry out like a Canadian curler on the ice screaming to the heavens, “HARRRRRRRRRRD.” Fighting a Bloodborne boss is your own private Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise learning by dying over and over, you as Tom in a blood-slicked waistcoat, axe in hand, repeatedly crushed and beaten and mauled. But sooner or later, mostly later, the patterns click, strategies emerge, and at last you vanquish the horrific beast before you, gouts of blood splaying through the air. When it happens, the feeling is pure ELATION. The sheer dopamine rush of joy when you pound that fucker out of existence is immense, a wave of happiness bigger than Kanye’s ego suffusing your entire being. And then it’s onto the next and the gruelling hunt begins anew. Exclusive to the PS4, Bloodborne is one of the best games of the year. But for the horror-loving gamer on your Christmas list, is it all masochism?

Read the rest of this entry

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 664 other followers

%d bloggers like this: