Not the romantic comedy starring Richard Gere…
Title: The Controller
Director: Saman Kesh
Length: 8 minutes
I have never written about books before because to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I know enough about literature to confidently be able to say anything interesting about it. If there is one author I do know about however, it is horror maestro Stephen King. I have read 29 of Kings novels, some of them more than once, and I have loved pretty much every single one.
Title: Gregory Go Boom
Director: Janicza Bravo
Length: 17 minutes
Directors: Ben Ockrent, Jake Russell
Length: 8 mins
There is a great movie here somewhere amongst the mess. A missed opportunity…
District 9 was such a breath of fresh air when it landed back in 2009 and this makes Neill Blomkamp’s overly complicated follow up even more disappointing. While it is not a particularly original concept, the prospect of affluent members of society moving away from Earth to live in a floating paradise should provide plenty of space for biting social satire. When Blomkamp does attempt to go down this road it is mostly successful as he sends up the ludicrous bureaucracy of the law enforcement system perfectly. The problem is this message is lost beneath the sludge of a messy, ill thought out plot.
Short Term 12 feels like one of those films where everything has come together perfectly to make a movie as good as the sum of its parts. A strong up and coming cast featuring Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr. (Newsroom) and Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) are at the centre of one of the most personal films in recent memory.
When Kaitlyn Dever’s troubled teen Jayden arrives at a children’s home she turns Brie Larson’s care worker Grace’s world upside down (to use film parlance for a second). Whilst Dever is very capable for such a young actress this is absolutely Larson’s film. In a role so captivating it brings to mind Ryan Goslings breakout role in Half Nelson or even Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Brie Larson channels a young Jennifer Lawrence and builds on an earlier strong performance in The Spectacular Now. Larson is in turn matriarchal and vulnerable and it is surprising that the Academy didn’t come knocking for such a believable and heart breaking performance.
Having worked in care myself I know how frustrating it is when bureaucracy and greed make it harder to help those in need and Larson perfectly encapsulates that frustration. The films realism is no surprise as rookie director Destin Daniel Cretton worked in a home for at risk teenagers and he captures the highs and lows perfectly, particularly the ridiculous notion that doctors and therapists who may see a patient once a month, are in a better position to make life changing decisions, than those who spend 12 hours a day in their company.
In summary Short Term 12 is beautifully written, has a strong supporting cast and an Oscar worthy turn in the lead role from Brie Larson. One of the best films I have seen this year.
Home invasion? Religious critique? Deranged fable? Unnecessarily abstract pretentious rubbish? Dutch Psychological horror delivers far more questions than answers.
There is no doubting that Borgman is a clever and unpredictable film that will keep you not so much guessing but staring blankly at the screen dumbfounded. The closest genre you could pin on Borgman would be horror sub genre ‘home invasion’ but it never really fits neatly into any category and the theme’s, motifs, subtext and metaphors are also difficult to identify and pin down.
There is always a danger to read too much into films like Borgman and to assume that every weird scene and bit of dialogue has some kind of mystical value attached to it when in reality it could just be a lack of actual ideas.
On the plus side the acting is mostly really strong particularly from the two leads Jan Bijvoet as Camiel and Hadewych Minis as the unraveling Marina and Borgman also looks really good with strong, evocative colours and some really memorable single shots (a particularly beautiful/grotesque underwater scene stands out)…
On the down side though the lack of warmth and any sort of comedy, whilst probably intentional, makes for a disengaging viewing experience and the absence of a score coupled with a stop start storyline that is almost nonlinear makes Borgman more of a struggle than its worth.
A frustrating and frankly odd film.
Blair Bigfoot Project.
I thought that director Bobcat Goldthwait’s 2011 film God Bless America was one of the most underrated films of the last five years so I was pretty excited about his first foray into horror.
Willow Creek sees a well acted and believable couple searching the North American woods for any evidence of the mythical creature Bigfoot. This is all shot using shaky, but high quality found footage, and being set in the woods invites all sorts of comparisons to the king of found footage movies, The Blair Witch Project. To his credit Goldthwait does nothing to try and separate the two films instead accepting that two films about people becoming lost in the woods are inevitably going to evoke similar scenes. There are notable and important differences that set Willow Creek aside and stop it from just being a straight up Blair Witch rip off however. Firstly there is one really long, continuous, tension building scene that doesn’t appear to cut at any point. This is quite unlike anything I have seen in horror before in terms of realism. Secondly there are definitely no fucking Bigfoots in The Blair Witch Project.
Making a horror film about Bigfoot is a pretty ballsy move as most people now think of the lovable Sasquatch portrayed in Harry and the Hendersons rather than the terrifying humanoid image from the past. Unfortunately this risk doesn’t quite work out for Goldthwait. Even with a running time of less than 80 minutes the pay off isn’t worth the wait and a half-hearted attempt at ambiguity at the end is not enough to save Willow Creek either.
An interesting piece of work from Goldthwait and worth watching for that one long scene I mentioned earlier but if you want to see a really messed up Bigfoot film then try Drawing Flies instead.
Two documentaries that champion art over commercialism.
Mr. Watterson is Bill Watterson the creator of much loved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. As Watterson is legendarily reclusive there are no interviews with him and barely any archive footage so instead we have extensive interviews with fans, people in the comic industry and celebrity talking heads like Seth Green. It was nice for me to hear people speak with such passion and excitement about Calvin and Hobbes, as one of my happiest childhood memories involves me reading my C & H anthology surrounded by Pic ‘n’ Mix in the sunshine…
What I found most interesting about Dear Mr. Watterson was the revelation that Watterson has never allowed Calvin & Hobbes to be licenced thus preventing any C & H toys or cartoons or anything else. This moral stance has cost Watterson millions of dollars and has stopped his creation reaching the level of popularity achieved by Garfield or Snoopy.
This brings us neatly to Harmontown which follows Community creator Dan Harmon on his tour across America promoting his eponymous podcast.
Like Watterson, Harmon has been fired from numerous projects (including Community for one season before being re-hired) for his refusal to change who he is and also because of his constant quest for honesty and perfection in his writing.
Harmontown is a brutally honest portrayal of a man trying to overcome his problems with alcoholism and a difficult upbringing by connecting with his fans and trying to help others with similar problems. As well as extensive live footage of the tour and behind the scenes extras there is also illuminating interviews with celebrities who have worked with Harmon including Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Ben Stiller and of course the cast of Community.
The whole message of the show Community was there is a place for anti social loners amongst each other and Harmontown takes this notion to the next level with Harmon and his fellow podcaster Jeff Davis playing to packed out venues night after night of misfits, dungeons and dragons enthusiasts and people who have nowhere else to go.
I found Harmontown to be much more true, funny, and honest than any episode of Community and I have a new found respect for Dan Harmon and his work.
Both these documentaries are proof that there are still people out there producing art with meaning and both these films pour scorn on anybody who is too stuck up to accept that comic strips and comedy writing are just as much of an art form as anything else.