By Wednesday of last week, with the long weekend now behind, and your dutiful critic running back and forth between work in the city and screenings in Sitges, the coastal town slowed to a calmer pace of life. I must say, I quite think that Sitges is a more enjoyable place during the week, before the crowds hit on Friday evenings. Lovely! Now continuing with the latest screening reviews.
The documentary feature has long been a favourite of mine, since my elder brother introduced me to the work of Roger Moore with his first outing Roger and Me when I was a wee lad. Watching the new doc GTFO!, it was a reckoning inside that cinema which I was not, in all honestly, prepared for. When we think that the world is comprised of nearly 53 percent females, it should come as no bloody surprise that many game players are obviously women. This film reveals the standard treatment of women not only as depicted in the virtual game world but their treatment by the mostly male community of game players. When this film opens wide, I will most certainly recommend this on the Metropolitan blog. Absolutely informative! And it goes without question that this writer-critic is very much a feminist.
Wandering into a different territory after that doc, I made my way into a film that was a complete bring-down. The dark comedy Entertainment was not necessarily a bad film, it was just bloody slow, bleak and made me so glad not to be a heterosexual WASP male, I swear to G-d. I am all for the empathetic understanding in the struggle of the male species, so I have a lot of compassion for characters like those played by Gregg Tarkington in a true, breakout indie role and John C. Reilly, who I’m always forced to love-he’s such a good character actor. The film is an obvious and very male-centered piece in existential reasoning, but I do look forward to see what weirdness director Rick Alverson will bring up next…However, I think I’ll pass on this one for now though, cheers! Honestly, walking out of the theatre, I actually felt my spirits lift…for a bit.
But the lingering feelings of oddness however did not end there, dear ones. Instead, it got bluer in fact. The latest Governator film Maggie is a strange zombie tale, and it is certainly something very different from what we’ve ever seen Ahnuld doing in cinema before now. The film tells the story of a US, where a zombie pandemic just barely under control has hit the Mid-West. It is here where we find Maggie (portrayed by Little Miss Sunshine herself Abigail Breslin) who has been bitten and will slowly start experiencing 'The Turn.' Arnold plays her father, and it is the first time that I have ever felt him push himself as an actor. The film’s concept as a zombie film is not really warranted (when compared with other films at the festival) so much as it’s a look at an outbreak and family recovery. It’s a drama, and it’s scary to see Schwarzenegger so believable. Bleak, yes but interesting for this type of film. Happy to have seen it.
Well that tenderness ended with a quick descent into madness, let me tell you. Being a fellow who loves horror and the macabre and even gore sometime, I wasn’t perhaps fully, emotionally prepared for the seedy underbelly of a crazed man’s mind in the new thriller Bound to Vengeance. The film comes to us from Jose Manuel Cravioto, who hails from Mexico and this is his first directorial foray in English. When a kidnapped girl escapes the clutches of a sexual predator, she makes a deal with him to rescue the other girls and a running-around-the-city fiasco ensues, with carnage happening here and there. The plot is nothing new and neither is the dialogue, that’s for damn sure…and I could have done with a wee bit more lighting and a less annoying voice on captor Richard Tyson’s vocal drawl, but this effort will likely get Cravioto some friends in H’wood, which is likely what he was aiming for.
Watching a Michael Winterbottom film is always a risk, because you’re either going to get a shock to your senses that is enticing or a juggernaut of intent that fails sadly. So when you have one of his pieces like his latest called The Face of an Angel that runs the gamut on both sides, it’s different. Yes, that’s the word…different, at least in Winterbottom terms. This is actually a celluloid retelling of the Amanda Knox story, and it has a decent cast of protagonists that bring little life to it. Daniel Bruhl stars as a film director/writer who has been brought in to do research on the case of the deceased for his next film. Kate Beckinsale plays a journalist helping Bruhl with the research and other things, and model Cara Delevigne plays a foreign student living in Italy. What doesn’t seem to gel is the plot with the theme. Whenever a film follows the creation of another film, it has to be well-executed. This one needed more time in production, methinks.
Shuffling between a non-typical, flexitime work schedule and then running for eve and late night screenings in Sitges really keeps one running on empty for more than 10 days, so it’s important to rest, grab cat naps and stay caffeinated throughout. Frankly the same applies to life, in general wouldn’t you say?
As I started the film The Final Girls, I had to admit that I was immediately drawn in by the premise. It was clever and easy to swallow. When a fatal car crash takes the life of Amanda Cartwright (Malin Ackerman, whom I always love!) - star of a camp classic, Friday the 13th-style horror series - but her daughter survives, we the audience know we’re set for a sort of revenge-style thriller. At least, that’s what we are supposed to think.
Now onto Youth. This is the latest film by Paolo Sorrentino, winner of the 2014 Best Foreign Film Oscar for the exquisite La Gran Belleza and his second English-language film, his first being 2011’s This Must Be The Place with Sean Penn as an ageing glam rocker. The cast firstly is absolutely stupendous, and the fact that Sorrentino’s film screened here at Sitges made this fan quite happy. As one would think, it has Sorrentino’s specific touch and though the film is not as grandiose as his former film, damned if we’re not intrigued from the first frame…again. The basic premise is that renowned orchestral conductor Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is chilling on vacation with his daughter and best mate when he is royally requested by Queen Elizabeth to please play at Prince Phillip’s birthday soiree. Here, the intrigue and oft-odd humour continue and when you add Jane Fonda, Harvet Kei-freakin-tel, Rachel Weisz and the always weird Paul Dano, what you get is a cinematic landscape that os either really loved or too long to deal with. As beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, I immediately loved this new work by Sorrentino.
I used to love being told how much I looked like Joseph Fiennes as I moved passed my 20s and into my 30s. I always found him the more handsome of the two Fiennes actor-brothers, and then my hair started receding, and just as the compliments eventually ceased, so did, it seem, the constant flow of movies starring Joseph. His latest effort stars him and Nicole Kidman in a film called Strangerland by director Kim Farrant in her first big-screen effort. When they move with their kids to a remote town in the Aussie desert to lead isolated, boring lives, it takes a severe and scary dust storm like only Australia could throw at someone to enliven things. The plot is only thickened just before the storm hits by their kids going missing in the desert. Strangerland is an unpredictable challenge to get through, I’ll give you that but I rather enjoyed the nuanced performance by Kidman, and I’m not keen to just give her that, but I will say that this one is a grower. I’d like to see where Farrant will go from here as a director.
And as the festival wound down this last weekend, plenty of awards were handed out, though the Official Selection Prizes went to the following:
Sitges 48 Official Fantàstic Selection
*Award for Best Feature Length Film: ‘The Invitation’ by Karyn Kusama
*Special Jury Award: ‘The Final Girls’ by Todd Strauss-Schulson
*Award for Best Director (sponsored by Gas Natural Fenosa): S. Craig Zahler for ‘Bone Tomahawk’
*Award for Best Actress: Pili Grogne for ‘Le tout nouveau testament’
*Award for Best Actor (sponsored by Autolica - Mercedes Benz): Joel Edgerton for ‘The Gift’
*Award for Best Screenplay: M. A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller for ‘The Final Girls’ by Todd Strauss-Schulson
*Award for Best Special Effects: Makoto Kamiya for ‘I Am a Hero’ by Shinsuke Sato
*Award for Best Cinematography: Pawel Flis for ‘Demon’ by Marcin Wrona
*Award for Best Music: Jean-Philippe Bernier, Jean-Nicolas Leupi, Le Matos for ‘Turbo Kid’ by Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell
*Award for Best Short Film (sponsored by Fotogramas): 'They Will All Die in Space' by Javier Chillon
*Grand Audience Award (sponsored by La Vanguardia): I Am a Hero, by Shinsuke Sato
*José Luis Guarner Award: ‘Bone Tomahawk’ by S. Craig Zahler
*Citizen Kane Award for Best Up-and-Coming Director: Stephen Fingleton for ‘The Survivalist’
*Carnet Jove Jury Award for Best Feature Length Film: ‘Turbo Kid’ by Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Over the next few weeks, especially leading up to Halloween, All Saints Day and Dia de los Muertos, I’ll be reviewing so many of these award winners and other films screened this year at the Festival on our film blog A Bitter Life Through Cinema here at Metropolitan online.
I also want to urge all our readers to take part in festivals of cinema like this. There are so many fantastic offerings that we get as residents here in Barcelona province and a long, fun-laden fest like this one and the many that hit our shores quite consistently bring vigor and creativity and diversion into our lives in this fantastic city. I’ll see you guys at our movie blog this Friday for more reviews from the debuts at the Festival, as well as, the new releases hitting our screens this next weekend!
Keep it real and keep it fun, kiddos.