I guess it’s Canadian film week, as in a completely unplanned coincidence all of the films I watched this week hail from our friends up North.
Keeping with my resolution to watch more movies, here’s what I took in this past week:
American Mary, dir. by The Soska Sisters, Canada, 2013.
It’s a bit of an understatement that the horror genre is underachieving at this current moment. Found footage drivel and home invasions are drowning in PG-13 mediocrity, with a few jump scares peppered throughout derivative scripts.
Given such a glut of nonsense, it’s a blast of fresh air when a truly unique horror film comes along, one that not only embraces the classic tenets of the genre but embraces filmmaking craft as well. It’s a reason to be excited.
I’d read about The Soska Sisters in a UK film mag and they were in total control of their filmmaking, and they were discussing a low-budget indie called American Mary which sounded interesting. That was some time ago, and as any indie filmmaker can attest to (yours truly included) the gap between making an indie film and releasing it can be excruciating.
To my joy, American Mary showed up on my Nextflix queue, and I watched it immediately. I wasn’t disappointed, and I was genuinely disturbed and provoked.
American Mary is the story of Mary (Katherine Isabelle, excellent), a financially troubled young med student ,who is drawn into the world of extreme body modification. The money is good but then things take a very dark turn when Mary is invited to a very bizarre party. What follows is a frighteningly weird descent into madness and vengeance.
The film, shot on an airtight budget and schedule, is a real testament to craft on all levels: scriptwriting, acting, cinematography and music. It’s a wonder of low-budget filmmaking, a complete horror film through and through, made all the better by a complete eschewing of CGI. The film also makes commentary on things such as healthcare and education, but in the least cloying ways possible, as all great horror films do. Can’t wait to watch this one again, and super excited to see what the Soska Sisters come up with next.
All the Wrong Reasons, dir. Gia Milani, Canada, 2013.
So we’ll get this out the way - this was Cory Monteith’s last film before his death. I never watched Glee nor have I ever wanted to, but after watching Gia Milani’s debut feature All the Wrong Reasons, it’s sadly apparent that Monteith was a true talent which so much more to give. It’s tremendously sad.
All the Wrong Reasons is the story of ordinary people facing extraordinary traumas, and the very different ways they try to achieve a new sense of normalcy. The film is a bit uneven (I couldn’t help but feel that everyone was being unreasonably cruel to their partners - which would be fine if we had a bit of explanation about that) but the performances are strong, and there are several moments of genuine sincerity and vulnerability that’s hard to forget. Monteith and the ensemble cast shine in the face of their unusual circumstances, and of particular note is actress Karine Vanasse, who takes her character on a complete journey of isolation into acceptance. Well done and recommended.
Siddarth, dir. by Richie Mehta, Canada, 2013.
I’m a big fan of director Richie Mehta’s debut feature Amal, which was a heartfelt portrait about the kindness of strangers and our reluctance to see good in the world. Mehta’s follow-up, Siddarth, follows a similar trajectory, but with less-than-satisfactory results.
The story is simple on the surface - a poor family in New Delhi, in a financial bind, send their 12-year old son off to work in a neighboring state for extra money. The son never returns, and the father sets out to find him. It’s a gripping premise but it suffers from a lack of emotional intensity. The loss of the son is treated quite tamely by the family, only if for a few brief moments of actual anguish. It’s really odd, and not necessarily in the best way.
The ending of the film is apt and works, but it’s the meat of the middle that doesn’t work for me. It’s neither here or there for me.
Sept 2, 2013 - The World’s End, Neon Genesis Evangelion 2.2, Sharknado
August 26, 2013 - Elysium, Murder on the Orient Express, TRON: Uprising.
June 6, 2013 - The Invisible War, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Fast & Furious 6.
May 26, 2013 - Upstream Color, Star Trek: Into Darkness.
April 21, 2013 - Through the Weeping Glass: On the Consolations of Life Everlasting (Limbos & Afterbreezes in the Mütter Museum), The Art of the Steal, Repo Man
April 4-14, 2013 - Gate of Hell, White Mane, The Holy Mountain, Scenes From a Marriage, Homeland
March 31, 2013 - Room 237, Strange Circus, The Darkest Hour.
March 24, 2013 - Spring Breakers, The World According to Dick Cheney, Hope Springs.
March 17, 2013 - The Loved Ones, Pink Ribbons Inc., The Seducers.
March 10, 2013 - The Master, Sound City, Perks of Being a Wallflower
March 3, 2013 - Holiday, L’Enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot, The Woman in Black, Savages, Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles
February 17, 2013 - Les Miserables, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste; Galaxie 500 1979-1991,
February 10, 2013 - La Marge (The Margin), The FP, Kill Bill V2
February 3, 2013 - The Night Porter, Gantz, Bitten
January 26, 2013 - Eames: The Architect & The Painter, Luck By Chance, School of Rock
January 19, 2013 - Silver Linings Playbook, We Are Legion, Zero Dark Thirty