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.
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.
One of the many cool things Toronto After Dark does is they’ve pitched a wide tent for themselves. The gory heart of the festival is and will probably always be grand guignol horror, with its gouts of blood and maniacal glee. But they like to stretch out in other directions, too. Friday was sci-fi night, and I caught an offbeat futuristic thriller of sorts, a weird little gem called Synchronicity (2015). Not really a horror film per se, director Jacob Gentry’s edgy sci-fi noir is a time-traveling paean to Ridley Scott’s 80s masterpiece Blade Runner (1982). But can a low-budget indie live up to one of the most influential movies of the past forty years? Is that the future we’re living in?
Like being scared witless? Do gouts of candy-apple-red blood sluicing across the screen make your heart beat like an overclocked dynamo? Maybe throw in a little zany comedy, too, along with the bumps and the jumps and the psychos in the night? Well fear aficionados, have I got the festival for you. Toronto After Dark opens on Thursday, October 15th, and this year’s gorefest promises thrills and chills galore.
Just this past June 4th, Chester Nez died. He was the last of the Navajo code talkers, one of twenty-nine heroes during WWII who developed a special code out of his Navajo language. Owing to its unique syntax, spoken tones, and lack of written language, Navajo was perfect to keep Japanese intelligence at bay during the war. How can you crack a code with no key, a language known only to insiders? Chester Nez was a hero (dive into the code talker story with the movie Windtalkers, or maybe don’t, it’s a mixed bag). But now the Navajo language is fading away, their youth uninterested in learning their ancestral language. And so it falls to Luke Skywalker and Star Wars to give the Navajo a new hope, to rediscover their native tongue with a more familiar cultural touchstone. How did this happen? Is the Force strong with this one? After the jump, the answers are.
Claude Ridder wanted to end it all. Too bad he couldn’t get it right, a bullet fired into his chest merely landing him in hospital, one more botched suicide left to contemplate his problems and failures. How lucky for him then to be given a purpose, chosen by a mysterious corporation as the first human guinea-pig for their experiments with time travel. As one scientist explains tartly, “It works if you’re a mouse.” With nothing left to lose, Claude is cavalier about revisiting his past. Appearing at TIFF this Thursday, May 15th, Je t’aime, je t’aime (1968), is director Alain Resnais’ exquisite exploration of time and memory. Given the opportunity to relive his past, Claude dives in, quite literally, to a beachside ocean from a year before. It being time travel, what could possibly go wrong?
I’ve already written two pieces on TIFF’s Paul Verhoeven retrospective (“Agent Provocateur: The Films of Paul Verhoeven” and “Comedy of Eros: Verhoven’s Lurid Pair”). I never figured I was a big Verhoeven aficionado, but with Starship Troopers showing tomorrow night, I find myself writing a third (and I still haven’t talked about Total Recall or Robocop!). Sometimes he’s brilliant, sometimes he’s an over-the-top cheese-meister; often Verhoeven is both. Still I gotta admit, Starship Troopers is one of the best damn war movies of all time. Seriously! Don’t believe me, private? Pipe down and I’ll give you a briefing, soldier, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry
Spoiler alert! The latest and greatest Biff Bam Popcast is up. In this edition, Glenn Walker, JP Fallavollita, Emily McGuiness, Jason Shayer and Andy Burns talk Star Trek Into Darkness, what we liked (lots), what we didn’t (more than we thought) and much more.
As well, we take a look at the gorgeous new IDW hardcover, Star Trek: The John Byrne Collection. As mentioned in the popcast, IDW continue to knock it out of the park with their licensed properties and this book is no exception. Take a look inside during the popcast and then order your own copy here.