“I think we’re all glad that they changed the name to Fantasia,” states Steve Martin dryly during his introduction ofFantasia 2000 regarding the film’s predecessor, which was originally called The Concert Feature. (Fantasia may be a slightly cooler-sounding title, but it’s not much more inviting to the average audience member than The Concert Feature.) That single line of dialogue represents the key to the creative struggle at the heart of Fantasia 2000, a perfectly entertaining film with no identity of its own. Though Martin is funny in his few moments on screen (all of the celebrity introductions in this new film are mildly charming in their own way, though they vary in tone from Martin’s wacky fourth-wall-breaking humor to regal sincerity, as with Angela Lansbury’s climactic appearance), the fact that a recognizable comedian needs to be one of our ushers into a world of strange and fascinating new animation is a tip-off that Fantasia 2000 doesn’t even hope to achieve the same lofty ambitionsFantasia had. The shorts themselves do not reek of hipness and irony, but with Martin’s appearance (even though he was once a cast member at Disneyland, well before he was a stand-up), the movie appears to be catering more to a presumed audience of kids and young adults that tacitly refuses to accept sincerity in art.
The concept of the work of art that is unappreciated by the masses immediately, but gains a passionate and overwhelming following decades later is almost as old as time itself. A book, or piece of music, or painting, or sculpture, or film is unveiled to an indifferent public, save a few devout fans, and is only revived once newer generations approach it with fresh eyes. So many films we now consider to be the greatest of all time were not as warmly received (if they were received warmly at all) upon their initial release. Some classics, such as Citizen Kaneand Vertigo, benefit now primarily from home media releases, repeated airings on Turner Classic Movies, and the impassioned voices of critics and historians to emphasize to general audiences how important and daring and dramatically satisfying these films truly are. Then there are the films that received a second wind of adoration thanks to theatrical re-releases years after the fact, well before home media releases were possible. Such is the case with Fantasia, the 1940 animated film from the fledgling Walt Disney Company, a 125-minute opus that may be the most ambitious cinematic project of Walt Disney’s career, if not one of the most ambitious American films ever produced.
The 2013 Fantasia Film Festival, after three intensive weeks (presuming you followed along either as a press member or a die hard fan), came to a close right around this time last week. Well, okay, describing the event as ‘long’ is a bit mean spirited since in actuality the time went by relatively fast. That said, it remains one of the longest film festivals around and, if you listened to episode 62 of the Sordid Cinema podcast, actually puts some critics to sleep for making them watch and write so much.
Each and every summer Sound on Sight strives to provide its fans the best coverage it can of this now legendary event. Articles range from pre-festival news updates, press conference reports, interviews with filmmakers and actors generous enough with their time to visit Montreal and sit down with writers and, of course, reviews of the movies themselves. While it is stimulating and often a lot of fun to fulfill those duties, they also come with the territory, they are expected from a Sound on Sight writer (and probably writers from any other media outlets covering this or any other film festival). That said, there rarely are articles about the festival experience itself. So, in order to really cap off what was yet another memorable Fantasia (and my second as a SOS writer with a press badge), we shall temporarily do away with the formal writing style and share some more personnel thoughts on the ups and down of covering Fantasia.
While the likes of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai keep finding new ways to reinvent themselves for the modern age, like with fruit or Samba music, older properties like Science Ninja Team Gatchamanhave fallen by the wayside, waiting for the occasional effort to shock some life back into them.
Well, Gatchaman‘s time under the paddles is here, because Toho studios is shilling out big bucks for a glossy new movie stocked with young pretty people to try and bring the bird-themed superheroes into the 21st century, which premiered this week at Fantasia. Except they aren’t bird-themed anymore, they don’t do much superhero stuff, and the film is not especially good, all of which may throw a monkey-wrench into that plan.
Fantasia Film Festival 2013: ‘The Machine’ brilliantly combines a heartfelt story and high-minded sci-fi
The technological advancement witnessed in the fabrication of robots of all kinds has been extraordinary over the past few decades. What appeared as far fetched and clearly ahead of its time in the 1980s and 1990s is commonplace today. Film has often tackled the issue of high-tech progression in several sci-fi related genres, from schlocky horror to high minded psychological drama. With The Machine, Writer-director Caradog W. James puts his spin on a familiar if endlessly fascinating topic of machines replicating human behaviour.
Filmmaking functions heavily in accordance with associations. When things go well on projects certain cliques form. For example, in comedy there is the Apatow gang, featuring writer-director Judd Apatow and such actors as Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd just to name a few. In the American independent horror film genre, there is the group comprised of writer-director Adam Wingard, writer-director-actor Joe Swanberg, actors A.J. Bowen, Amy Seimetz as well as arguably the most notable name of the bunch, writer-director-actor Ti West. Fans are in luck because the entire gang is back with the home invasion film You’re Next, the wait for which has been mind-numbingly long since it’s premier at TIFF…in 2011.
Cyborg 009 is one of those anime/manga properties that keeps cropping up now and again, but never seems to catch on as anything other than a fond nostalgic distraction among anime fans.
Originally conceived of in the 60s by manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori, it tells the story of nine cyborgs with a Captain Planet-eque (to be fair,009 came first, so it should really be 009-esque) level of cultural diversity and boasting super powers of various levels of usefulness. There’s the titular Cyborg 009, alias Joe Shimamura, a Japanese youth who can freeze time, Jet Link, the flying American cyborg, the super strong Native American Geronimo Jr, and Pyunma, the African cyborg who can….breathe underwater. It was written in the 60s, it was probably a more impressive power then.
The Killing of America is an impassioned and emotional showcase of violence in America from the period of the early 1960s into the early 1980s. Resting on the thesis that the society quickly devolved into increasingly acts of senseless violence, the film utilizes rare and disturbing footage of both familiar and unfamiliar events. Rift with a somewhat confused ideology, the film nonetheless packs a punch and suggests where many others haven’t that access to guns are part of the problem, an issue that continues to be debated within American society to this day. Is this little more than a parade of greatest hits for snuff fans or does it reaches deeper, revealing darker truths and realities that we are unwilling or unable to face.
Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play. Which one of those franchises should not belong? The first three feature tall, powerful, humanoid, seemingly immortal foes that have struck fear and admiration in the minds and hearts of horror movie fans for decades already. Each has proven so successful that remakes of all three have already been attempted. The fourth one, Child’s Play, has as its villain a walking, foul mouthed doll. Let that not fool anyone into believing it has not earned the enduring love from legions of fans for decades as well. However much some may want to mock the concept, more than enough people will rise up to defend the malevolent monster.
Ronny Yu’s journey as a director of feature films is eerily reminiscent of that experienced by John Woo. After early success in their native land, Yu and Woo, albeit at different times in their careers, ventured into the Hollywood system with mixed results at best. Action movie legend John Woo returned to Hong Kong and made an extraordinarily grand scale period piece in the mainland, Red Cliff. After Bride of Chucky and Freddy vs Jason, Yu headed back home and made one of Jet Li’s greatest films, Fearless. Now, after a seven-year wait, he returns with a epic period story of his own, Saving General Yang.
Who hates their employer? A cursory survey amongst friends, relatives and co-workers may reveal that, while ‘hate’ is perhaps too strong a term, they feel a level of dissatisfaction with their job. Some might even consider their superiors to be aggravating, power-hungry, selfish, annal-retentive demons (and exhale). It might not be very wise however to act out on one’s frustrations, as a simple matter of human decency and preserving the likelihood of further professional opportunities. Ji Hyeong-do (So Ji-sub), the central figure in Lim Sang-yoon’s A Company Man, is not limited by such moral or utilitarian matters. Not all, in fact.
Ingenuity can go a long way in filmmaking. It is one thing to have a large budget and get creative, it is an altogether different matter to be forced into creative thinking and film techniques because a team of creative minds have no serious budget to speak of. Perhaps it is in those instances that the fruit born out of the efforts of filmmakers shines brightest. When one has no money to spend freely, one must think a bit outside the box after all. Enter Bushido Man, which had its North Ameican premier at the 2013 Fantasia Film Festival, a movie displaying a feverish amount of exuberance.
For the last little while now, Chinese cinema, Hong Kong-made films in particular, have been beating on the nationalism drum with George Kollias-esque intentensity. It’s not enough for films to just be about loose-cannon cops named after Mexican booze or guys in pajamas fighting monkeys, everything has to be, on an explicit level, about the nation, the people and patriotism.