Hope review

Scandinavians know how to draw out operatic misery from quotidian life, and Hope, filmmaker Maria Sødahl’s masterful take on a couple in crisis, illustrates just how effective delving into the misery of brokenness can be. Read More »

parasite us release

In my review from Cannes I described Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite as “a film that unabashedly takes the audience along for a twisty, twisted ride and gets under your skin. With mind-warping shifts in tone and storyline, there’s a feeling that you’re getting more bang from Bong than in a dozen lesser films.” I continue to believe that “it’s a mighty work from a mighty director, and a master who schools the world on how a film like this can be so deftly pulled off.” The jury shared my feelings, awarding the film the prestigious top prize, the Palme d’or.

Months later, my acclaim for the film has grown even higher. I somewhat facetiously wrote for its TIFF premiere that if you really don’t like Parasite it’s incumbent upon you to watch it again. There’s such a purity of vision and precision of craft that it’s easier to find fault in viewer rather than the work itself. It’s that rare movie that truly can, and should, transcend mere discussions of preference. This is a major work, and to argue otherwise seems more than a bit churlish.

It was thus all the more of a pleasure to sit down and speak with Bong during his stay in Toronto. I asked questions in English and he’d reply in a mix of English and Korean (aided by his exceptional translator), and for we discussed the many ingredients that go into making a film like this work. 

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Sea Fever Review

The open ocean has long been the stuff of nightmares, with suspicion and superstition developed over millennia by seafarers. On old maps they would write “there be dragons”, and the oft-quoted fact is that we know more about the surface of the moon than the deepest waters of our planet. Neasa Hardiman’s Sea Fever trades on the fear, fascination and exploitation of the depths, resulting in a film that’s both harrowing and intelligent. A rare mix indeed.

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The Twentieth Century Interview

Matthew Raskin’s film The Twentieth Century is a fever dream of a biopic, using geometric sets and oblique references to historical facts to tell a curiously ahistorical tale about William Lyon Mackenzie King becoming Prime Minister of Canada. Joining a long list of weird and wonderful films to emerge from Winnipeg, Raskin’s film is an audacious and unapologetically odd film. His feature debut follows on a number of shorts that also displayed an oblique view of the past, making for a surreal and engaging work that will likely enthrall and confound in equal measure. 

/Film spoke to Matthew prior to the film’s World Premiere as part of the Midnight Madness slate at TIFF 2019.

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There has been a recent spate of documentaries from the survivors of the 60s, those artists that manage to outlive and outlast many of their colleagues and collaborators, resulting in decades of music making. The latest, Once Were Brothers, draws from Robbie Robertson’s story, a unique narrative where a half-native kid from Toronto became the center of a movement that birthed Americana.

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apocalypse now final cut

As a kid, I was obsessed with helicopters. There was no real reason why, save for the fact that they seemed more magical than planes. Helicopters seem so implausible, like they shouldn’t work, some sort of mechanical beast that defied nature’s rules. The fundamentally feel out of context when you see them in the sky, and with the smallest interference to their aerodynamic components, catastrophe strikes. I liked shows like Airwolf about a fancy flying machine, or even the forgotten Clint Eastwood film Firefox, and on M.A.S.H. you’d see them every week with their giant, dragonfly glass bubbles flying over the canyons of California meant to evoke the Korean conflict.

There is no war more associated with the helicopter than Vietnam, and no better metaphor for America’s involvement than the technical might of the whirlybird that embodies all the achievements and progress and horrors of “modern” civilization, a fragile dominance that rests on thin, spinning blades. Similarly, there’s no better cinematic representation of these birds than Apocalypse Now, a film that barely stays in flight, whipping and spinning around, yet managing, implausibly, to be one of the greatest artistic achievements of all time.

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Hobbs and Shaw Spoiler Review

Spoiler alert: It’s about family.

And that’s it? We can end this article there, right?

Okay. We’ll go beyond that. When taking about Hobbs and Shaw, the latest film in the Fast and Furious saga, it helps to step back a bit when reflecting on the ridiculousness of the first spin-off from what I’ve dubbed the Fast and Furii (I’ll keep going ‘till it catches on, dammit). And here’s your real spoiler warning: all plot points are on the table from here on out.

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once upon a time in hollywood soundtrack

Whether it worked for you or not, Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood, has a lot to unpack. Unsurprisingly for a Tarantino film, one of the most impressive elements is the use of source music, a soundtrack littered with tunes from in and around the 1969 Los Angeles milieu.

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Paul Williams Interview

Actor, writer, singer, lyricist, musician, Oscar winner and survivor – for more than five decades Paul Williams has been all this and more. As an actor he’s appeared in everything from Battle for the Planet of the Apes to Smokey and the Bandit and Baby Driver. As a songwriter he penned hits for The Carpenters, Three Dog Night and Hellen Reddy, as well as the Monkees and Daft Punk. He wrote the lyrics to the Love Boat theme, played in Bugsy Malone both on stage and screen, and wrote scores and songs for dozens of films. He’s even the head of ASCAP, the organization for maintaining copyright for songwriters. He’s currently in the early stages of adapting Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth as a musical.

Yet for all his accomplishments, Williams is also one of the most generous, kind humans you’re likely to encounter. He practically exudes humanity, presenting a warmth and ease of affection that’s downright humbling. It’s easy to be swayed in his presence, somewhat cynical that no one can be this kind, yet in speaking with him the feeling deepens even further. We met to talk about a role that for some is his most iconic – Swan in Brian DePalma’s 1974 Phantom of the Paradise. Williams was originally tasked with the musical duties (a set of songs he wrote in his hotel after gigs while in Lake Tahoe opening for Liza Minnelli), but DePalma soon realized he found his Spector-like spectre for his film. The film was a major flop in most markets, but by a quirk of fate the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba embraced the film, and Williams in turn, as a classic.

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The Lion King Remake Comparison

With John Favreau’s hybrid of plate photography and CGI characters bringing The Lion King back to screen, it’s a perfect opportunity to look at the key personnel who helped bring the indelible songs from the film to life. Some are famous, some less so, and some were left out of the narrative until recently. Since the original landed in 1994, this music has become part of a new pop song canon, playing for decades on Broadway and continuing to enthrall new generations.

When the film was released, this was a breakthrough for Disney. The film was the first animated feature in the studio’s history not based on an existing property, a rarity even by today’s standards as evidenced by the fact that their entire slate seems to be remakes, sequels or prequels of familiar titles. Drawing from many references, especially Hamlet, the film was shepherded by many of the same that brought Beauty and the Beast to the screen, and along with Aladdin and  Little Mermaid convinced the world that the studio was once again the home to classic, timeless animated extravaganzas. The film had strong story, fantastic visuals, but above all an infectious soundtrack made by some exceptional talent.

Here are some of those that helped give rise to the music of The Lion King.

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