Ingrid Goes West (US – 2017)



Meet Ingrid. Fresh out of a mental wellness facility but not quite ‘cured’ of her social awkwardness. How can we cure what the Internet and Smartphones have created? There is, at present, no quick remedy for social media fixation and stalking. First-time feature film director Matt Spicer’s dark comedy, Ingrid Goes West introduces its story through a pastiche of familiar fonts and cliché travel photography. It’s like being in an Instagram photo collage app. Only, reality clouds the arty pretentiousness very quickly.

Debating whether the perfect reply to your SNS buddies is Hahaha or Hehehe? Salivating over those three dots that indicate someone is responding to your message? So is Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza). She is like us and not like us. We want to like her but Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: Cocolors (Japan, 2017)



Blind faith in the reality of an outside world pushes Cocolors’ protagonists ahead in a mission to see what they’ve been told that they cannot. Toshihisa Yokoshima’s animated gem constructs a dystopia where children still act like kids despite their full-body protective gear, and the frailness their society’s inhabitants have inherited. Living underground after a natural disaster, Aki tries to bring hope to himself and everyone around him, but his words fall flat. His friend, Fuyu (re)invents the traditional Japanese art of woodblock printing. He is missing just one special ink color to complete his piece. Alas, it only exists “out there”.

Fatalism is pit against naive optimism in a toon shaded digital animation world (toon shading creates flat color areas – similar to woodblock printing techniques – instead of rendering objects with 3D volume). Set to a lovely score by Abe Ryudai and Hirose Kiyoshi, Cocolors premiered in Japan as a multimedia performance where Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: Rage (Lee Sang-il, 2016)



Without knowing in advance about the premise or plot, Rage throws at-first disjointed events and characters at the viewer. The connections slowly unfurl with a manhunt revealing three possible identities of a murderer. If however, the viewer goes into this 142-minute drama cum suspense thriller with the notion that it is a horror film, this isn’t the case. Perhaps by design, the mis-typing of Lee Sang-il’s film gives it the advantage of surprising its audience. It is Shunji Iwai-esque in its epic-length and treatment of subject matter. It follows multiple characters – misfits – whose confusion and grief propel their coming-of-age. Scenic Okinawan locations are juxtaposed against the neons of Tokyo, and the viewer is drawn into the relation between characters and environment.

Rarely seen in Japanese film, the gay community is surprisingly well showcased. Rage tackles several still-taboo subjects in this area, such as online hookups, what constitutes a ‘family’, and how to deal with chosen-family burial. The exchanges between characters in this story arc are Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: Oscar (Marie-Josee Saint-Pierre, Canada)



The short animated film, Oscar by Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre begins without beating around the bush. There is no flowery intro or slow lead-in. Oscar Peterson’s voice appears in the opening sequence with assurance and purpose, announcing, “I love what I do.”

There is nothing revolutionary here in terms of ‘plot’. Instead it feels more like a glimpse of the musician for audiences who may already know a bit about him. In just 12 minutes, however, we learn about loneliness on the road and the melancholy of having great news to share about last night’s performance, with family not physically present to hear about it. It is with regret that Peterson speaks Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: Atomic Blonde (USA, 2017)



David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde opened to a full house at its Canadian premiere (at the Fantasia Festival). Anticipation was high for this supercharged slugfest. Expecting action? It’s here. Hoping for plot twists? Satisfactory. Is it effective overall? Open to interpretation.

Charlize Theron is beautiful, her co-star James McAvoy is sexy with intensity, and careful attention was given to the sets. At home, Theron is always bathed in blue light. Location shots depict Berlin’s quaint little streets like a tourist pamphlet. 80’s music lovers will be happy with the soundtrack. However, the alignment between song selection and the corresponding action may either be a roaring success, or completely cheesy. It’s hard to tell if the film is being serious or if Continue reading