Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.21 (7 August 2013): Bad Milo and Bad Film

After three weeks, Fantasia has come to a close with two last movies at the Imperial. Both are kind of curiosities that might have been overlooked. In a way, the festival finished in a similar way to how it began: In Japan, with some crazy fights on a train. It just started with a mainstream-slick Takashi Miike and finished with recently-unearthed underground Sion Sono, is all.

But before that, there was Bad Milo, which will be hitting VOD at the end of the month before an October theatrical release (I doubt that did much to hurt its Oscar chances). The director and co-writer, Jacob Vaughan, was in the house:

"Bad Milo" director Jacob Vaughan

Fun Q&A that had the potential for even more fun, as he said he intended to ask questions of the guy who directed the short in front of his movie, even if he stayed in the audience. That would have been awesome, especially since they could have quizzed each other on using puppets. He also asked what the deal with the meowing cats was, and someone said it came from a DJ XL5 show. Didn't realize that; I thought it was just someone making noise when there was an unusually long pause in getting the film started after the lights went down which has since become a race to see who meows first and most obnoxiously.

(And, yeah, that's another reason I don't like it: It's basically complaining to the projectionist, and in 99% of the cases where he can hear it, the guy is just trying to do his job and doesn't need the extra stress!)

Anyway, I'm going to hang around the city for another couple of days to see what it's like when I'm not rushing to a movie. It's been weird having it at the Imperial this year - I think I've eaten at a Crescent Street restaurant once and haven't hit Cocktail Hawaii at all yet. But it's been fun; it's a really spiffy theater inside (if my good camera hadn't turned into a brick, I'd have taken pictures, but the phone's lens really doesn't do the job. Though maybe if I'd taken it out of widescreen mode...). I've also been hanging out and talking with people between shows rather than just being a movie-watching/reviewing drone. I'm looking forward to seeing Paul, Neil, Bill, and Gabriela again next year, and hopefully getting both some more Boston-area friends to come up and some of the movie fans I talk with online. I love this festival, I really do.

Today's plan: 2pm breakfast because I'm on vacation, then tourist stuff. Okay, maybe I'll catch the 9:30pm Only God Forgives at Cinema du Parc. You've got to come down slow.

Bad Milo

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, HD)

See enough horror movies, and eventually "ridiculous puppet monster" can seem like a genre. You can break it down further and make the distinction between whether it's a movie based upon puppets being creepy or one where a puppet is being used to portray some other monster, but that's kind of splitting hairs. The point is, I saw at least two of these things at the festival, and while Curse of Chucky is in the same class for "puppet monster", it can't compete with Bad Milo on "ridiculous".

That's because Bad Milo more or less demands the use of the phrase "baby ass monster" to best describe the cause of Duncan Hayslip's intestinal distress. Oh, sure, his doctor (Toby Huss) says it's a polyp aggravated by stress, and while the latter part is accurate, when Duncan's stress becomes too severe - whether by his boss (Patrick Warburton) transferring him to HR to handle layoffs or his mother (Mary Kay Place) and her young husband (Kumail Nanjiani) hassling him about why Duncan and his wife Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) don't have kids - a little demon pushes its way out his rectum, kills the cause of his anxiety, and then climbs back in. His therapist (Peter Stormare) says it's a reflection of his subconscious and he must bond with it,but... really? "Bond with it?"

With a lot of movies that have this sort of plot, how well it works is a reflection of how well the filmmakers balance comedy and horror, but in this case, director Jacob Vaughan and his co-writer Benjamin Hayes aren't really trying to scare the audience beyond a little heightened danger to give the movie a climax. Instead, the tug-of-war is in how straight to play a movie with a very silly premise, and they've basically decided to go pretty broad; it's about as silly as an be without delving into actual parody. It's violent and gross slapstick attacks on fairly easy targets, and even if a lot of the jokes are the expected butt-related gags, they're seldom told lazily, and enough bits are just off-kilter to have the audience giggle at their oddness.

Full review on EFC.

Bad Film

* * * (out of four)
Seen 7 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, HD)

The question has probably been answered in some interview or festival Q&A with Sion Sono, but if he had been able to spend the time and money to edit this movie and get it released back in 1995, would he have still called it "Bad Film", or is that a title applied in hindsight now that he's got many far more polished works under his belt? Because while this is a very rough underground movie, it's still a Sion Sono movie, which means it's sprawling, unique, and far less cynical than you may expect.

In its alternate future (at the time) the impending Hong Kong handover among other things caused racial tensions in Tokyo to escalate, with foreigners forming gangs and certain Japanese groups forming their own, with some of the most pitched animosity between the Chinese "Baibubong" gang and the Japanese "Kamikaze" gang. Ah, but Kana, the sister of a Kamikaze, has grown quite fond of Maggie, a homeless Chinese girl affiliated with the Baibubongs. They're not the only folks in the gangs realizing the like members of the same sex, and eventually the gays in both plan to plot together versus their homophobic leadership.

There is also baseball.

Described like that, it sounds like Sono is making an earnest allegory for how people who resent bigotry when applied across an ethnic or cultural axis will have no qualms with it applied by sex or orientation, and vice versa, and I suspect that's a big part of what was in his head at the time. If so, he's not exactly focusing on the unfairness or irony of the situation, but instead diving into a zig-zagging story that can turn on a dime and spiral into more insane heights at a moment's notice, with prejudice forming the foundation but plenty of melodrama building everything else up until the part of one's brain that does fine analysis has to cede resources to the part that tries to put lunacy into some basic order.

Full review on EFC.

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