Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fantasia 2018.14: Blue My Mind and Anna and the Apocalypse

Remember what I said about patterns being easy to see when you have short schedule days? It was teenage girls having high school go to hell yesterday. I can't say I loved Blue My Mind, but it's not exactly for me in one sense, though I suppose it is in terms of "hey, teenage girls spend a lot of time freaked out over their changing bodies and identities, so cut them more slack than Mia's father does".

It's a reminder that we really need to get more female voices at eFilmCritic and in film criticism in general - I can review this, but don't have the same perspective. It's worth trying to find someone who does.

Because this was a day where Hall and DeSève were about an hour out of sync, I had some time to poke around for food, and wound up at Taboo, which (I think) is in the spot where m:brgr used to be, in part because that's where I was when the rain started coming down good. Not bad at all, although if I go in again, I may go for more sliders and regular fries rather than a big ol' poutine. I'm recommending it to my brother to try the next time his bosses send him to MTL on business; he'd probably really go fo the tartares and cocktails.

After that, back to the fest for Anna and the Apocalypse and one of the more energetic Q&As of the fest so far.



Tony Timpone on the left, joined by director John McPhail in the center and co-star Christopher Leveaux on the right, and on the "pleased to be here and having a blast" scale of festival guests, young Scots who have made a Christmas zombie high-school musical are pretty high. Leveaux, it was mentioned, is actually the grandson of The Wicker Man filmmaker Robin Hardy, and mentioned putting a little wicker man easter egg in the movie somewhere. When asked about influences, McPhail said that he was always a big horror fan, but finding musicals that had this sort of feel to them was a bit trickier, and got a big round of applause when he mentioned The Happiness of the Katakiris. They did put down a hard-and-fast rule that the zombies would not be singing or dancing at any point, because that would be the difference between the movie being a comedy and being a joke. They also mentioned dropping one of the more meta moments because they couldn't fit it in, and the film's probably better that way. There were other things they couldn't do because of budget - they wanted more gore, but felt they had to save the effects money for when people the audience knew went down. They're psyched to see the Orion logo in front of their movie.

One of the more amusing audience questions came from someone who asked if Vertigo comics character John Constantine was an influence on Steph, and that got McPhail laughing - no, but actress (and choreographer!) Sarah Swire would love that, especially since she pretty much made that character her own: Steph originally started out as a sportier, more outgoing athlete, and the bleach-blonde, standoffish activist was how Swire saw her. She kind of steals the movie.

After that, I headed to the Forum for Salyut-7, which I liked a fair amount, although it's not exactly a break from summer movie camp. Probably the only one until the end, though.

Instead, today's a much more full day, with Violence Voyager, Pledge, Blood and Black Lace, and DJ XL5's Outtasight Zappin' Party. Searching and Hurt are both pretty darn good.

Blue My Mind

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 25 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival: Camera Lucida, digital)

Blue My Mind is the sort of movie where I find myself kind of impatient, waiting for a certain more active story to kick in, but where I am also fully aware that someone who has actually been a 15-year-old girl might look at it and say "yes, this, exactly - this is an uncannily perfect metaphor for having your body and mind suddenly changing and not feeling like you can talk to anybody about it because you've been made to feel like a monster!" It's not for me, and that's okay.

Does it still sometimes feel like the filmmakers have this big fantastical thing in the middle of their story that they spend an hour and a half trying to avoid? Sometimes, yes, and it can be kind of frustrating. It's fortunate that the more grounded bits still work extremely well - lead actresses Luna Wedler and Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen are great, impressively sympathetic even when not necessarily easy to like.

But, really, don't listen to me; find some young women in her teens or twenties who have seen the movie. They're going to know what they're talking about a heck of a lot better than me.

"Netflix & Chill"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, digital)

A quick, entertaining short film that does a pretty nice job of playing out as silent, body-language comedy before taking its twist. Yannick Jozefzoon and Romy Gevers are genuinely funny with alternately hesitant and eager teenagers trying to find the right approach. It takes just long enough a detour into suspense before finding a pretty terrific punchline.

Anna and the Apocalypse

* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Anna and the Apocalypse at time plays like an actual high-school musical, which works better than you might expect. It could be done as a big production, but there's something that feels right about how it keeps things at a level that can revel in the silliness of its premise but still has room to treat its teens' concerns with respect rather than as overdone melodrama or metaphor.

It's the day of the Christmas talent show in Little Haven, Scotland, but things get off a bit on the wrong foot for Anna Shephard (Ella Hunt) when her best-friend-with-a-massive-crush John (Malcolm Cumming) mistakenly blabs to her father (Mark Benton) that his daughter is not planning on going straight to University, but has purchased a ticket to Australia to start a gap travel year. For the other students, problems seem a bit more minor - Mr. Savage (Paul Kaye) is already throwing his weight around ahead of his promotion to headmaster, spiking a story on homelessness Steph (Sarah Swire) has been writing for the school blog, leading her to ask A/V maven Chris (Christopher Leveaux) to help her film at the soup kitchen, though that might make him late for the number his girlfriend Lisa (Marli Siu) - also Anna's best gal pal - is doing in the show. Of course, before all this has gone on, Anna has switched off a story on the car radio about a super-bad flu outbreak, so when she and John start making their way to school the next morning, they find that they've got bigger problems than her ex Nick (Ben Wiggins) being kind of a pest.

The "New Day"-type number that Anna and John have at this point is probably the movie's best and funniest; it gets to be cheery with zombie mayhem in the background, playing as a bit of a subversion of the form, but not in a sneering manner - it's sincere and with standing behind Anna & John, not making the jokes at their expense. The songs by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly are kind of what you might expect from a modern movie musical - there's about five of them, front-loaded so that the latter half of the movie can be more action-based, and on first pass the impression is more that they fit their slot well enough rather than having their lyrics and melodies embedded into one's heads. They sound a little processed, although not so much that they don't sound like they're coming from the characters. Everybody sings for themselves, which is nice.

Full review at EFC.

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