Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.14 (1 August 2012): The Tall Man, Mondomanila, White, Asura, and Black's Game

Is it still called sneaking out of work early when the "office" is your apartment and all you're doing is closing a laptop? Because that's what I did yesterday, looking to catch The Tall Man. As you can see, not the most profitable of decisions.

I arrived a bit late, but it was OK because there was a short before the movie. I didn't see it all, but it (Nickolas Lacelle's "Cure") turned out to be one of those post-apocalyptic things which basically gives the director a chance to say that humanity is lousy and life sucks and it has always been this way, really pounding it home to an absurd extent with narration. Mondomanila had a short as well, "The Breathing Birth" from France's Tom Bouchet, which was kind of peculiar with the gas masks and baby that didn't need one and all.

Maybe if things had worked out differently, I wouldn't have conked out during Mondomanila, but nap I did. There doesn't seem to be a lot of logic behind the 3pm nap; festivals never really make me feel physically exhausted and it's too early for the "mentally exhausted by using the same small sector of my brain for the whole day" reason. I did wind up walking from the McGill ghetto to Concordia rather than using the metro at all, but that sort of seems insufficient.

Sorry, Khavn de la Cruz. Liked Son of God, but this knocked me out. It's not just your movie; as much as I liked it, Black's Game started to have the same effect on me at points. I was just tired.

In between those movies, my only Q&A of the day:

"Asura" producer Yoshi Ikezawa, "Asura" producer Yoshi Ikezawa

Producer Yoshi Ikezawa talked about Asura before and after the film, and while I wouldn't necessarily describe it as "hugely candid", it was interesting to hear him say forthrightly that there were three composers credited because getting the soundtrack right was very difficult. He also mentioned that the company he works for, Toei's animation division was mostly known for cute, very commercial works, as indicated by the cheerful "Toei Animation" logo that came after the studio's breaking waves snip.

He also touched on the interesting differences in how the shift between cel-based and CGI-based animation is happening in the US and Japan. In the US, Pixar's early success and our general desire for things to look "real" has us liking CGI that more or less looks like CGI, while Japan seems to prefer that it still look hand-drawn. It was pretty surprising to hear that the characters were CGI here while the backgrounds tended to be hand-drawn; it generally works the opposite way in the US and many other Japanese productions. I suspect that manga being more central to Japanese pop-culture than comics are to that in America (as well as manga's production staying more or less the same to make their intense schedules possible, while American comics have traded a lot for more detail) has kept the standards the same.

Today's plan: Citadel, You Are the Apple of My Eye, Replicas, and Ace Attorney.

And remember, fellow Fantasians (and theater-goers everywhere), yelling or fooling around from your seats when something is wonky with projection and sound, as happened with White, is not helpful - if they're not already trying to fix it in the booth, they don't hear you. You're just making sure that everyone around you notes your displeasure, but they're already feeling the same thing, you know?

(Same goes for the meowing. It was cute and spontaneous the first time it happened a few years ago, when there was an unexpected delay between the room going dark and the picture coming up, but now it seems like people are just doing it because they think they're the entertainment.)

The Tall Man

* * (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012, 35mm)

The Tall Man tries to do something worthy and interesting, at least at points, and those intentions certainly seem praiseworthy, but it just doesn't work. the whole thing simply isn't very well-constructed, to the extent that whether one admires its unconventional decisions or not, the net result is fairly negative.

Cold Rock, Washington, was never a well-to-do town, but it has spiraled into poverty since its mine closed, and in recent months it has become downright nightmarish. There's a plague of missing children, you see, around which an urban legend - the Tall Man of the title - has already sprung up. The latest child to be taken is David (Jakob Davies), the son of Julia Denning (Jessica Biel), the nurse who has run the town's free clinic since her husband's death. In this case, though, she's able to give chase to the abductors, and her pursuit may provide Lt. Dodd (Stephen McHattie) of the state police and County Sheriff Chestnutt (William B. Davis) the leads they need.

Much of this happens in an extended "36 hours earlier" flashback, and to writer/director Patrick Laugier's credit, getting caught back up isn't just a matter of playing an inevitable sequence out; by the time the movie has returned to its starting point, it has had a potentially interesting twist. However, it has also made a strong argument that it needs to commit to that twist fully or serve something else up in short order. Instead, it gets stuck in the mud, with the action slowed to a crawl and characters being vague and/or cryptic because Laugier is not yet ready for the (distasteful) finale.

Full review at EFC.


N/A (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012 Camera Lucida/Spotlight: Filipino Cinema, HD)

Mid-afternoon nap. I'm not proud of this at all, and having myself get knocked-out mid-day in a festival is always weird. If only I'd bought the Pepsi instead of the 7up for caffeine.

Odd little movie; I somehow had it in my head that it was a documentary, and it kind of has the same feel - very hand-held and not hiding that it's video at all, less in the way of plot than random observation. Pretty crude and ugly at times, but I'm not sure it's that interesting. I did like Khavn de la Cruz's Son of God, so maybe if I hit this under other circumstances, it would do better for me.

Hwa-i-teu: Jeo-woo-eui Mel-lo-di (White: The Melody of the Curse)

* * (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

A girl-group horror movie isn't really a bad idea at all: You've got pretty girls, who are highly competitive by nature to fuel any issues between them, and a bunch of settings and situations where people could be killed or maimed that haven't really been mined that much. The cyclical nature of the business makes something coming from the past a potentially nifty hook.

At times, White manages this pretty well, and might work a little better for audiences that are familiar with pop music in general and K-pop in specific (I am never more middle-aged, white, and uncool than I am when the subject of music comes up). Filmmaker brothers Kim Sun and Kim Gok have a hard time really putting together a good horror movie - there's a rhythm to these things, popping jump scenes in at the right moment and building up people losing their minds and setting stuff up and showing it on screen that the Kims really seem to struggle with. It's got moments - the gal behind me did, in fact, jump - but White is often an argument that this isn't as easy as it looks.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012: AXIS, HD)

Asura is a fairly stunning movie visually, combining CGI and hand-drawn animation in surprising ways and getting a unique, clean result. I'm not familiar with original creator George Akiyama's work, but it's pretty amazing how the visuals look like they could have jumped right off the page but still feel unquestionably like a movie.

What's being depicted is pretty stunning, too; it's as unflinching and horrific a depiction of massive poverty, starvation, and desperation as you'll see, although director Kei'ichi Sato manages to straddle the line between to terrible to watch and interesting enough to keep the audience's attention very well. Asura himself (a feral, cannibalistic boy of about nine whom a number of good people try to humanize) is a fascinating character, tormented in his transformation from a perfect and somehow innocent monster to a human being capable of feeling guilt for the horrible things he does. Masako Nozawa does some legitimately great voice acting as Asura, too - it's not subtle work, but it gets the character's strong emotions across.

The only issue I really have is that it gets awfully abrupt toward the end - what the heck is up with the guy taking his arm off like that, and a lot of Asura's growth seems to be elided to get to the last scene. With the movie only 75 minutes long as it is, it seems like the filmmakers could have filled those holes in somewhat.

Svartur รก leik (Black's Game)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

Though I'm not a particular fan of this sort of gang movie, I found Black's Game pretty darn entertaining. There have been a lot of attempts to do movies about young, relatable criminals, and I'm not exactly sure why this one worked for me. Perhaps its the casual dark comedy throughout, or how the pieces of a love triangle show up among the central character but the movie never gets close to being about that.

It seems kind of peculiar to praise a movie like this one for having appealling characters, but that's a large part of why I found watching it enjoyable when so many other movies about people getting sucked into the drug trade seem kind of like a chore. I wouldn't go so far as to call Black's Game "fun", but it's slick and smooth in how it adds gangland action to its coming-of-age story.

No comments: