Winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival is, in artier circles, more prestigious than the Academy Award. It represents the winning film out of an official selection that’s notoriously difficult to get into in the first place. Some Palme d’Or winners are grand, sweeping works of high cinema; some are politically searing; and others still are tiny, well-observed character dramas. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters is one of the humbler winners in recent memory – and that begins with its protagonists.

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the house that jack built trailer

Lars von Trier has never exactly been subtle. His characters often talk nakedly about their films’ themes, serving as mouthpieces for von Trier’s ruminations on various subjects. His metaphors are incredibly on the nose; this is a man who made a film about depression by having a literal planet loom overhead, ready to crush all in its way. Though his ideas are almost always interesting, his execution varies between rapturously artful and thuddingly obvious.

The House That Jack Built is all of those things and more – and also von Trier’s most self-indulgent movie to date.

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Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear

In popular cinematic discourse, few phrases are as poorly-applied as “so bad it’s good.” That phrase suggests a continuum of quality, with a sweet spot in which a movie can entertain despite – or because of – its ineptitude.

That’s nonsense. Any continuum of quality would have to exist three-dimensionally to account for the vastness of cinema, and four-dimensionally to account for “that” kind of film. The best kind of “bad” movies are made with extreme passion, from unusual worldviews, and with little skill or taste – and as The Room proves, budget is no restriction on any of that. Often, the results feel like the raw outpourings of staggeringly strange minds. RE/Search Publications assembled many such films into a book entitled “Incredibly Strange Films,” back in 1986, and that’s a term I prefer to use.

Enter Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear, a film certainly made with intense passion, and thoroughly a modern Incredibly Strange Film. Short version: it’s amazing, but to get into why, we’ve got to dig a little. Read More »

TIFF Midnight Madness

The Toronto International Film Festival is best-known these days as a Big Daddy of the awards season. Major films that premiere at TIFF – of which there are many – tend to do so with glamorous red-carpet events, stars congregating outside any one of the gorgeous theatres in the closed-to-traffic festival zone. Many are slick, prestigious studio dramas from celebrated filmmakers – think First Man, A Star Is Born, or If Beale Street Could Talk – and they’re rightly festooned with attention.

I did not attend TIFF this year for those films. I attended for Midnight Madness. Read More »

Searching Aneesh Chaganty interview

Everything happens on the internet now, and that poses problems for filmmakers.

For decades, movies and TV have struggled with how to depict the decidedly un-cinematic act of using computers. In the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s, the typical approaches were to hype up the user interface with animation and 3D graphics, put the user in virtual reality, or make the computer talk. None of these were particularly realistic, and as the internet became more familiar to everyday people through the 2000s, movies had to change. We saw work that used floating, abstract graphics to depict phone or computer use. But these still suffered from the same inherent problem: how do you visually tell a story that takes place on a computer?

Surprisingly, the answer seems to lie in the least expected place. What if audiences didn’t need conventional filmmaking to be drawn into the story? What if the computer screen itself was enough? Enter a burgeoning new wave of cinema, consisting solely of recorded video from computer desktops.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout has been hailed as an instant all-time action classic. Its story moves forwards with relentless determination, while Christopher McQuarrie’s direction and Tom Cruise’s apparent death wish provide jaw-dropping stunt spectacle. It’s edited to near-perfection, constantly escalating the stakes until it hits a climax that’s nail-biting even despite concluding with a hackneyed cliché.

That climax is a perfect microcosm of the film as a whole. In around 15 minutes of screentime – time-kept by a nuclear countdown – it tells its own self-contained story within a story. Fallout’s Kashmir setpiece is masterful parallel-action storytelling, worthy of placement up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, and Mad Max: Fury Road. Strap yourselves in, because we’re going to dive deep into what makes this incredible sequence tick.

Major spoilers, obviously, follow.

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The Meg Book Differences

It seems almost unthinkable that The Meg is based on a book. After slews upon slews of terrible mutant-shark movies from the likes of SyFy and The Asylum, the notion of such a film being adapted from a written text – with a high budget! – is quite something. But Meg: A Novel Of Deep Terror indeed exists, published in 1997 and written by author Steve Alten. It has spawned six sequels about its giant prehistoric shark so far. And now, after decades of development hell, a movie.

I’ve been a shark enthusiast since an early age, and a shark movie enthusiast ever since seeing Jaws at a slightly later age. I’m such a shark movie enthusiast that I even made one myself. Naturally, I read Meg when it came out; just as naturally, I went to see The Meg in its opening week. But though the movie was as real and the shark as big as I wanted them to be, a few things were missing. Namely, it lacked the two sequences that push Meg into the crazed realm of superpulp – and would have done the equivalent for the movie, had they been retained.

Spoilers ahead for both The Meg and its source novel(s).

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James Gordon in The Dark Knight

(Welcome to The Dark Knight Legacy, a series of articles that explore Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece in celebration of its 10th anniversary.)

For all The Dark Knight‘s talk of the heroes we deserve as the ones we need right now, not enough credit gets given to the film’s true hero. Batman and Harvey Dent can go to Hero Hell: Lieutenant (and later Commissioner) Jim Gordon is the only one of the film’s three hero figures deserving of the title. Read More »

(Welcome to The Dark Knight Legacy, a series of articles that explore Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece in celebration of its 10th anniversary.)

Christian Bale’s “Batman voice” was one of the most divisive components of his iconic portrayal of the Dark Knight. Deep and raspy, like a lifelong smoker who just thrashed Marilyn Manson at karaoke, it was intended in-universe as an auditory disguise and intimidation tool – but many audience members found it silly. Regardless of your view on Bale’s bold acting choice, it not only helped define his take on the character, it made his ordinarily intense acting all the more so.

Among the most-imitated aspects of the voice is the way Batman yells. That bellow probably necessitated some kind of insurance policy specifically for Bale’s vocal cords, but it resulted in a wide array of memorable moments. In honour of The Dark Knight‘s tenth anniversary, we hereby present the complete, ranked collection of Batman bellows – 20 of them, across three films, not including anything delivered in a whispered, growled, or “ordinary” speaking voice. Grab a mug of honey lemon ginger tea, and let’s begin.

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Wachowskis Movies Revisited

Lana and Lilly Wachowski have always been bold, innovative, and constantly surprising. They’re best known for their Matrix blockbusters, of course, while their audacious box office flops Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, and Jupiter Ascending confounded expectations and helped create a profoundly idiosyncratic body of work that many struggled to pigeonhole. But the last few years have reframed their filmography in exciting ways.

Sense8, now complete on Netflix, brings together themes that have permeated the Wachowskis’ work for decades, and their coming-out as trans women puts their entire oeuvre into a new context. Suddenly, all these big-budget effects spectacles click into thematic sync. It all stems from the relationship between the body, the mind, and the soul – the self the world sees, versus the self inside.

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