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.
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.
TIFF’s been doing a retrospective on the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. A prodigious wunderkind of the seventies German New Wave, he died of a drug overdose at 37, leaving behind over 40 features and television mini-series made in a brief 15-year career. (Cocaine is a powerful drug in the right nose.) In that burgeoning output, Fassbinder made only one science fiction film. World on a Wire appeared in 1973, a made-for-TV two-parter that virtually disappeared soon after its release. Steeped in a 1970s futurist aesthetic, the film is both wildly dated and amazingly anticipatory, a speculative plunge into the world of virtual reality fully 36 years ahead of The Matrix. Turns out Neo wasn’t the only one popping pills to see what’s really going on.
I’ve been obsessed with Anne of Green Gables since I was a kid, and I’m always a bit nervous when new adaptations appear. I never want to see anything that ruins my Anne, so as I sat down to watch the PBS Holiday special, I crossed my fingers, and did my best to keep an open mind.
Ed Gass-Donnelly’s got style and atmosphere to burn, that’s for sure. In the opening moments of his new elegiac horror-thriller Lavender, we track into a frozen tableau of police investigating a grim crime scene in a rustic farmhouse. The cops hover like statues over sheet-draped bodies as the camera glides between them, coming to rest on a petrified girl slumped against a bedroom wall, clutching a bloody razor. As she stares blankly into us, we wonder, is this girl a killer? Why would she do such terrible things?
My knowledge of Eli Roth’s film career is fairly limited. That said, I loved 2002’s Cabin Fever (just watched it a few years ago) and thought Roth was great in both that and in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds. So I was looking forward to seeing what Hostel had to offer.
When the condescending label “torture porn” was being thrown at films like Saw and Hostel back in the early years of the new millennium, I was unable to weigh in on it, as I had not seen either film. Saw is a cleverly plotted thriller that transcends such restrictive and unimaginative criticisms; would Hostel be equally, if not more, intriguing?
Read the rest of this entry
A mad dictator obsessed with film kidnaps the best director and actress of a rival country, so that his nation can make its movies world-class. In two years, the captive pair churn out seventeen movies, before escaping to freedom. Oh, and they’re married. That’s not the ludicrous pitch to the next Coen Brothers flick. It’s actually a true story. In a limited theatrical run and just released to iTunes today, The Lovers and the Despot lays out the ludicrous details in a fascinating, strange documentary.
The big Hollywood musical is alive and well. Sure, it’s an endangered species, but Damien Chazelle’s vibrant La La Land is about as fine a specimen as you can find. Chosen by Toronto’s filmgoing horde as the best film at TIFF this year, La La Land is a throwback tour de force.
Whether you like The Blair Witch Project or not, there’s no denying that it changed horror cinema forever. Capitalizing on the burgeoning power of the Internet, it helped to not only usher in nearly two decades of found footage films in horror, but also predicted the rise of viral marketing.
Read the rest of this entry
With Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford seems compelled to make up for lost time. Seven years after the success of the fashion designer’s directorial debut A Single Man, Ford’s second feature merges two noir tales into a single multifaceted narrative, dancing through time and multiple fictions. Haunting, by turns icy and anguished, it’s an unsettling and exquisite study of failure, loss and revenge.