Saturday, 18 March 2017

BROKEN MILE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Film Fest 2017 - Haunting mise-en-scene

Ugliest apartment in Toronto, maybe in all of Canada.

Broken Mile (2017)
Dir. Justin McConnell
Starring: Francesco Filice, Caleigh Le Grand, Patrick McFadden, Lea Lawrynowicz

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You know, ugly can be good. Toronto, for example, is plenty ugly. In fact, it might be one of the most monstrously, obscenely, hideously repulsive cities in Canada (and this takes some doing - especially since Calgary exists). Happily (for inveterate Toronto-haters like me), it's never looked more grim than it does in Broken Mile, a visually dazzling sophomore dramatic feature by Justin McConnell who directed, wrote, photographed and edited this oddly compulsive urban neo-noir thriller.

Shaun (Francesco Filice) wakes up in a puke-filled bathtub in an ugly apartment and discovers that his girlfriend Sarah (Lee Lawrynowicz) is bereft of life. There's clearly something shady about her stone-cold stiffness and he takes an immediate powder instead of calling the cops. In his mad dash to an awaiting Uber, he bumps into pal Kenny (Patrick McFadden) and hysterically, mysteriously apologizes to him. Shaun heads to an unbelievably ugly apartment complex and visits his ex-girlfriend Amy (Caleigh Le Grand) who, not surprisingly, lives in an ugly suite with grossly-patterned wallpaper and adorned with decidedly unstylish IDomo-like furniture. He enlists her help and the two of them spend a frantic night running from a (now-gun-toting) Kenny through one of Toronto's ugliest neighborhoods.

A showdown is inevitable as the mystery slowly unravels.

Ugliest apartment complex in Toronto, maybe all of Canada.

There is much to admire in McConnell's film. First of all, he's chosen to allow the drama to unveil as one long extended take with no cuts for the entire 82-minute running time. I'm normally not a fan of any trick pony cinematic shenanigans like this, especially when the "trick" is the only thing that makes the work palatable (the most egregious being dullard Christopher Nolan's backwards-play in his intolerable and overrated Memento). When there's good reason for such chicanery, I'm all for it.

Of course Rope, Timecode and Russian Ark are the most famous examples of the extended take approach and it can certainly be a worthy way to tell a story on film. The desperation of both the situation and characters in Broken Mile are ideal stomping grounds for its director's decision and so much of the film is compelling and suspenseful. Early on in the proceedings, there's an especially fine sequence in which McConnell trains his lens upon the main character as he sits in the back of an Uber vehicle whilst the unseen driver jabbers on to him. The sense of naturalism here is dramatically palpable and damn entertaining.

As the film progresses, the trick-pony stuff continues to infuse the work with all manner of delectably tantalizing properties. What's less successful is the narrative itself. We always feel like there's more here than what meets the eye, but as the movie careens forward, there are a few lapses in logic that feel like "flaws", but are in fact elements built into the narrative which most savvy viewers will recognize as being far less than what crosses our ocular gaze. I pretty much pegged exactly who was who, what was what and how/when we were going to get there. That the denouement is not fraught with darker and "bigger" elements which most noir-like pictures have going for them is a bit of a comedown - especially since we can see it coming.

This might be an unfair complaint since so much of the movie succeeds on a kind of neo-realist level. The world the characters inhabit is so dull, ugly and drained of life that it was a treat to see so many grim interior and exterior locales (many of which are so grotesque that this Toronto-hating critic has, over the years, gone out of his way to seek them out to keep things "interesting").

I also love how "uncool" everything in the movie is. The apartments that the characters live in are so gross - especially the aforementioned joint Amy resides in - and the car the "villain" drives is ridiculously uncool - a super-ugly normal minivan far better suited to someone's Dad rather than a young, purportedly hip denizen of downtown Toronto. There is also a scene in one of Toronto's dingiest Vietnamese Pho restaurants. I've been there many times and it warmed the cockles of my heart to see it in a movie. (The characters also walk by one of the strangest greasy spoons in the city, which is just around the corner from the Pho joint, but sadly, there are no scenes there. Probably because it closes at 4PM and doubles as an accountant's office and tailor shop.) Not only are the selection of locations a treat, but the garish natural lighting and first-rate compositions deliver some mighty juicy goods for us to slurp down with relish.

This is one solid picture and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing more from this do-it-all dude.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-Half Stars

Broken Mile enjoys its Toronto Premiere at the Canadian Film Fest 2017

Friday, 17 March 2017

AN AMERICAN DREAM: THE EDUCATION OF WILLIAM BOWMAN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Film Fest 2017 Opening Night - Finkleman Satire Worthy, But Misses Mark

Shooting ducks in a barrel not the aim of great satire.

An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman
Dir. Ken Finkleman
Starring: Jake Croker, Diana Bentley, Shiloh Blondel, Jan Caruana, Precious Chong

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Most Canadians with taste, intelligence and hailing from a far superior generation than afforded to the world via millennials, are well acquainted with the considerable gifts of writer-director-actor Ken Finkleman, the Winnipeg born-and-bred auteur. He, along with many stellar 'Peggers, warmed his ass on the University College radiators at the esteemed University of Manitoba before going on to a content creation career, and though most will not forgive his contributions to Grease 2, Airplane 2, Who's That Girl and Head Office, he holds the distinction of creating - bar-none - the very best piece of Canadian television (ever) with his original first 13 episodes of the CBC series The Newsroom in the 1996-1997 seasons and its limited followup More Tears in 1998 (with its deliciously savage satirical portrait of the ultra-conservative Canuck politician/golfer Mike Harris). Though many unimaginative pundits referred to Finkleman's TV work as a poor man's "Larry Sanders Show", they were, as per usual, wrong. The first 13 episodes of Finkleman's bold, brilliant satire, set behind the scenes of a national newsroom, and its sequel with Finkleman's character as a documentary film producer, still deliver the kind of on-the-edge laughs and observations most purveyors of comedy can only dream of.

I only wish An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman was a return to that form, but alas, as satire, it takes its aim at America with all the grace and subtlety of North Western Ontario hosers shooting ducks in a barrel.

In the tradition of such Candide-Gulliver-like satires, most notably Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man!, Finkleman delivers the episodic tale of William Bowman (Jake Croker), an all-American football star hopeful whose life is irrevocably altered by a horrific accident that sends him on a journey of equal parts sadness and madness. He becomes a media sensation, but his fame exacts a horrible toll upon him.

Taking potshots at politics is one thing, but Finkleman trains his aim upon America and frankly, the country is increasingly and alarmingly a place that has become a nation of self-parody. This is clearly the point of Finkleman's bold, brave film, but its satire often seems strangely pitched in ways that are closer to "spoof" rather than the kind of cutting edge one expects from this kind of picture. Things feel too rooted in sarcasm and there's a wonky blend of playing things "straight" and over the top. God knows one doesn't want Finkleman to try aping Lindsay Anderson, but O Lucky Man (and its precursor If) had a glorious consistency of tone that An American Dream desperately needs. In fact, the movie feels a lot closer to Anderson's scattershot Mick Travis finale Britannia Hospital. This is not a good thing.

What is a good thing is that Finkleman's film exists at all. It's often maddening for all the wrong reasons, but there is absolutely no denying there's anything currently out there like it. I wish it wasn't so self-conscious, so aware of itself. Yes, it's clever, but it's never very funny. Its savagery feels machine-tooled. This is, though, reason enough for celebration. Better machine-tooled satire than all the machine-tooled dross that passes for cinema in America today.


An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman is the opening night gala at Toronto's Canadian Film Fest 2017.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Yet Another Reason Why The Royal in Toronto is the BEST Indie Cinema, not just in Toronto, but Canada (and one of the best in the world). The fabulous first-run product is not matched by any screen in the country. Currently playing is the fine indie UK zombie picture THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS - on the big screen, where it's meant to be seen! The Royal has the best sound and picture in the city (by day, it's Theatre D Digital, a sound mixing studio for the movies). The seats are super-comfy too.!!! Review By Greg Klymkiw

Glenn Close is a mad scientist. Typecasting.

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
Dir. Colm McCarthy
Scr. M. R. Carey
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Twelve-year-old Melanie (Sennia Nanua) wakes up in a dank cell, hops out of bed and places herself into a wheelchair. The door opens. Two heavily-armed soldiers train their guns upon her as she's muzzled and strapped securely - treated like a kind of pre-teen Hannibal Lecter and wheeled into a room full of other similarly-secured children.

It's time for school.

Melanie's high I.Q. and vivid imagination is more than enough to earn her the distinction of being teacher's pet to instructor Helen Justineau (babe-o-licious Gemma Arterton). The crusty head of security Sgt. Eddie Parks (still handsome and oddly rugged Paddy Considine) treats the child like a psycho monster and has no use for her. Mad scientist Dr. Caroline Caldwell (a very creepy - naturally - Glenn Close) has been performing a whole whack of grotesque experiments upon the kiddies, but has some very special plans for this child - a girl "with all the gifts".

It's no surprise that Melanie's favourite story is "Pandora's Box" since she clearly holds much in the way of "evil" that she wants to release in order to cling to the "hope" she most definitely can provide to the world.

There is, you see, a fungus. It has spread like wildfire and turned most of the world into "hungries" (as they're referred to by the mean-ass Sarge).

And what precisely are they hungry for?

Human flesh, of course.

She's perfectly normal, though she wants to eat people.

Melanie is a "hungry", but she's definitely not like the others and Doc Caldwell has her eye on the child to provide an eventual cure/antidote.

Every single time I hear about and/or see a new movie with zombies (or any crazed undead afflicted with a "virus/disease/fungus"), my heart begins to sink and my eyes start to glaze over, but when I see something like The Girl With All The Gifts I get all hap-hap-hap-hap-happy again. Yes, there's life left in old chestnuts and Colm McCarthy's film of writer M.R. Carey's screenplay (based upon his book) is proof positive of this.

As is my wont, I knew nothing about the movie before seeing it, and I'm especially grateful to have entered into the film's world in total ignorance. Once hell breaks loose, and oh, it does with horrifying abandon, we're plunged into a living Hell of ravenous, bloodthirsty zombies.

She's not interested in eating anyone at the moment.

The military base falls to thousands of carnivorous creatures and our protagonists - child, teacher, doctor and soldier - begin begin a terrifying danger-fraught odyssey across a topsy-turvy blood-soaked United Kingdom. Director McCarthy handles the proceedings with all the skill and style required to keep us on the edge of our seats. There's one sequence in particular where the "humans" must wend their way through hundreds of "sleeping" zombies which not only provided me with all the necessary bowel gurgles I enjoy during horror pictures, but also inspired the unloading of some heavy matter. (If you see the movie in public, please wear adult diapers.)

This is one scary-ass movie.

That the film eventually creeps into been-there-done-that territory during its final third is a wee bit disappointing, but the picture ultimately delivers on plenty of shocks, chills and thrills and yes, manages to infuse its occasional stock moments with the kind of humanity that finally raises things well beyond the "stock"-in-trade of such items.

An interesting side note is that half of the film's £4 million budget came from the BFI Film Fund (one of their largest investments - ever) and Creative England (the largest investment it's ever made). These are the kind of government-infused cultural initiatives I can support wholeheartedly. I'm assuming/hoping the bureaucrats left the filmmakers alone to make the movie they wanted to make. As a Canadian, I can sincerely hope we see similar government-funded cultural support from Telefilm and its ilk.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-Half Stars

The Girl With All The Gifts premiered at the TIFF 2016 Midnight Madness series. It is a Saban Films release and is playing theatrically at The Royal Cinema in Toronto on the following dates:

2017-03-18 4:30 PM
2017-03-18 9:00 PM
2017-03-20 9:00 PM
2017-03-21 9:00 PM
2017-03-22 9:00 PM

Friday, 10 March 2017

KONG: SKULL ISLAND - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Saved By Great Monsters, John C. Reilly

John C. Reilly: The only thing resembling a human being.

Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Scr. Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
Sty: John Gatins
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson,
John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Why it took four writers to come up with the lame, dull Kong: Skull Island screenplay is beyond me. Then again, given the sheer emptiness of most studio pictures these days, it shouldn't surprise anyone since it takes a whole lotta boneheads to generate a whole lotta stupid. An American President called Donald Trump is proof of that.

If truth be told, I can almost even forgive inept imbecility. What I can't forgive is tedium and this mostly horrendous reboot of the Kong franchise is nothing if not mind-numbingly boring for most of its interminable 118-minute length. Much of what makes the movie dull are the missed opportunities it took four writers to conjure up.

Things begin promisingly enough with the pre-credit sequence. It's WWII and two soldiers - one American, the other Japanese - crash on the remote Skull Island. Ah, tantalizing! Perhaps we will be afforded a lovely action-packed nod to John Boorman's Hell in the Pacific? But, no. We're handed two dull anonymous actors - no Lee Marvin or Toshiro Mifune here. Jesus, I'd have even settled for something resembling Peter Sellers/Burt Kwouk Pink Panther martial arts slap-schtick shenanigans. That, however, would be too politically incorrect by contemporary standards (and sadly, the movie's endlessly shoe-horned P.C. sensibilities are another big problem with the picture). So instead, we get a dull sprint up a mountain and our warring soldiers meet with a far more formidable enemy - Yup, you guessed it, King Kong, the big hairy ape. (But don't worry, ain't nothing too Eugene O'Neill about this hirsute monkey.)

Our movie launches into an annoyingly wham-bam credit sequence detailing American history from the last Great War and eventually leading up to the turbulence of the 1970s. Thank God it stops here - a real decade. Alas, the period detail, in virtually every respect, is woefully inadequate - most annoyingly with the contemporary-speak of the dialogue and the decidedly 2017 timbre of the delivery of said dialogue.

Of course, this being 2017, in spite of the movie being set in the 1970s, we don't get to meet a cool adventurer seeking passage to Skull Island, say along the lines of showman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong in the 1933 version, Jack Black in Peter Jackson's 2005 entry) or even a delectably sleazy oilman like Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin in 1976). What we get is the supremely unimaginative, ineffectual government hack Bill Randa (John Goodman) and his earnestly plucky African-American geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins). Randa is such a useless schmo that it takes his right-hand Houston to convince a Senator to bankroll the expedition.

Welcome to 2017. And not that I have a problem with this smooth young Black male weaselling dough out of the Senator instead of boss man Whitey, but it might have been far more interesting to have a character like Randa, written-for and played by someone with some balls, like Laurence Fishburne for example. The role of this character, or character-type, requires - Nay, demands someone in his august years (or at least in the case of 1976's Grodin, one of those 30-something guys who feels like he's in his 50s or 60s) and more importantly, someone who has the smarts to squeeze oil out of an empty drum.

But, I remind you - it took four writers to generate this screenplay.

Can't go too wrong with a cute prehistoric muskox.

So, off to Skull Island we go. Randa assembles a stock, boring team that includes former British Special-Ops mercenary James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston, a great actor in a nothing role), gung-ho army dude Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson, a great actor, but more boring than usual in this stock role), looking for more carnage now that the Vietnam War is over and perhaps most sickeningly, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson, a great actress with a completely idiotic role), a self-proclaimed "Anti-war photographer" (whatever that's supposed to mean). Of course the team is replete with other soldiers, scientists and bureaucrats in order to provide ample food for the monsters.

The movie plods through all of its uninspired machinations as our team essentially needs to get off the island as soon as they land on it - there are monsters, after all. Our leading lady is, of course, not the "beauty who killed the beast", but rather, the beauty that the beast thinks is kind of okay and not a danger to him. Our leading man is boring and does little more than argue with the gung-ho army guy and acquiesce to the madman's needs to kill monsters to avenge the deaths of his soldiers. Of course, the ineffectual adventurer Randa is so useless that we almost forget he's in the movie until he gets eaten. Then, we get to forget about him all over again.

Happily, the movie introduces us to Lieutenant Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly, playing the older version of the American soldier introduced at the beginning of the movie). Marlow has been living on the island since WWII in the protective custody of the island's indigenous Native population. Thank God! A real character with an irascible sense of humour. Reilly not only makes us laugh, but he's really the only person we care about. Stupidly, the writers have relegated Marlow's Japanese counterpart to that of a corpse - someone who is talked about fondly, but whom we don't get a chance to know. It would have been amazing to have a great veteran Asian actor quipping with Reilly and doing battle with the monsters, but you know, there were only four writers, so you can't expect creative miracles.

Even more boring than most of the film's non-characters are the island's tribesmen. What a ho-hum lot. They appear to be pseudo-Buddhist types who do little more than cast inscrutable glances every which way. This is strangely even more ethnocentric (and perhaps even downright racist) than the previous incarnations of "ignorant", "bloodthirsty" "savages" in the 1933 and 2005 versions. At least those people had something resembling "life" infused in their ooga-booga personae.

Kong looks forward to some yummy octopus tentacles.

Other than Reilly's delightful performance, the only thing else left are the monsters. I won't bother attributing any of the picture's "success" in this regard to the by-rote direction of Jordan Vogt-Roberts (his boring nods to Apocalypse Now notwithstanding), but rather, all the magnificent SFX geniuses who designed the myriad of creatures. Kong's battles with the other behemoths are pretty damn spectacular and perk things up ever-so thrillingly. There's a phenomenal aquatic cage match twixt Kong and a humungous octopus which culminates in a wonderful moment in which Kong slurps up a few tentacles. One can, I suppose, attribute this to one of the four writers. Kudos, dudes!

That said, all previous incarnations of the Kong story were a whole lot more than just the monsters. They had, uh, characters, a solid story arc and were chockfull of wonder. They were sheer magic. There's nothing like that here - just a whole lotta tedious expository (and stupid, 'natch) nonsense to setup the inevitable sequels and franchise "universe". I'm coming to hate that word. "Universe" should conjure up feelings of expanse and possibility - not more of the same.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-Half Stars

Kong: Skull Island is in wide release via Warner Brothers

Thursday, 9 March 2017

LOGAN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Dreadfully Directed Action Scenes Drag Picture Down

It sure would be nice to see this grizzled mug in a real movie.

Logan (2017)
Dir. James Mangold
Scr. Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant,
Richard E. Grant, Dafne Keen, Eriq La Salle, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Logan is the best X-Men movie ever made, but that's not really saying much since all of them have been pretty unwatchable to date. This "final" installment in the long-running film series based upon the Marvel Comics adventures of crime-fighting mutants has one big thing going for it - star Hugh Jackman.

Living in hiding as an anonymous limousine driver in Texas, our title character is slowly dying from the adamantium coursing through his veins. His ability to heal from wounds is seriously affected by this. He's caring for the dementia-riddled telepath Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who lives secretly in a dusty, rusting old factory just across the border in Mexico. Logan reluctantly becomes the chief protector of little girl Laura (Dafne Keen), a "wolverine" mutant just like he is. Pursued by the evil cybergenetic mutant Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and scumbag Transigen Corporation mad scientist Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and the mutant-tracking Caliban (Stephen Merchant), our three heroes hit the highways and byways of America in search of a mutant paradise called Eden (existing across the northern border in Canada, no less).

It's a road movie punctuated by several ultra-violent set pieces.

Cute little girl a baby Wolverine with deadly moves.

The picture isn't really any good - the action scenes are all directed mostly in closeups and medium shots with far-too-much herky-jerky camera moves and ADHD-infused editing and the script defies the most basic logic of the premise it sets up. Since Logan is all too aware that they're being meticulously tracked, it seems especially dopey that he allows himself, the old man and little girl to hunker down with an innocent farming family for an evening on the road to Mutant Mecca.

Surely he knows deadly harm will come to the family - and, of course, it does.

There isn't a single unpredictable moment in the whole narrative. Given the overwhelming portent of co-writer and director James Mangold's mise-en-scene, it's also obvious that Logan and Xavier are doomed. Given that it's a superhero movie and that more sequels and/or a reboot are just around the corner, it's also obvious that the little girl and a whole whack of her mutant kidlet friends will beat the bad guys and make their way to asylum in Canada.

The predictability factor in movies like this goes without saying, so it seems silly to dump on Logan just for that. What can receive a nice smelly turd-release is that the movie fails as a decent rollercoaster ride since Mangold simply has no talent for staging action scenes - all of which are a total mess. Given the astonishing craft of action movies like John Wick and its sequel, when will the studios realize they need to hire directors who know how to direct action? The math on this is pretty simple - long shots, longer takes, first-rate stunt work, a solid sense of geography and edits that are "story" influenced, not merely kinetic.

Well, the math might be simple, but it takes the cinematic equivalent to Einstein to pull it off with aplomb (something Mangold is bereft of). Not that previous X-Men helmsman Bryan Singer is God's Gift to cinema, but even he has certain basic skills to carry this sort of thing off with a relative degree of competence. What Singer lacks is anything resembling a distinctive voice. Mangold, for better or worse, has one - his pictures all have a dreariness to them that borders on, interesting (not really a compliment), but which tends to have some effect in his chamber pieces like Cop Land, his 3:10 To Yuma remake and even his first foray into X-Men territory The Wolverine. He's kind of like Christopher Nolan, but with far less in the way of pretension (and unlike Nolan, he occasionally displays something resembling a sense of humour - a bit dry, but it's there at least).

Logan does, however, have the estimable Hugh Jackman at its core. Jackman has genuine star power. The camera loves him and he's a much better actor than most of his films allow him to be. And Good God, the man is aging beautifully. Clint Eastwood has thirty years on the guy, but Jackman is giving that delicious old coot a decent run for his money in the brawny decrepitude department.

Someday, Jackman will star in a real movie. Maybe he will even play Clint Eastwood's son or baby brother someday. I look forward to that movie.


Logan is in wide release via 20th Century Fox.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Yet Another Reason Why The Royal in Toronto is the BEST Indie Cinema, not just in Toronto, but Canada (and one of the best in the world). The fabulous ongoing Royal series RETROPATH presents Leonard Kastle's brilliantly lurid THE HONEYMOON KILLERS - on the big screen, where it's meant to be seen! The Royal has the best sound and picture in the city (by day, it's Theatre D Digital, a sound mixing studio for the movies) and the Weegie-like monochrome of this great film is going to look more gorgeous than ever. The seats are super-comfy too.!!! Review By Greg Klymkiw

CELEBRATE the 66th Anniversary of the EXECUTION
of The Honeymoon Killers Ray and Martha
at the Royal Cinema on March 10, 2017
On March 8, 1951, the loving couple of Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez were electrocuted at Sing-Sing Prison. On March 10, 2017, you can CELEBRATE the 66th anniversary of their EXECUTION at Toronto's illustrious Royal Cinema during a RETROPATH screening of Leonard Kastle's THE HONEYMOON KILLERS. At 7:00 PM there will be a special pre-show featuring some of cinema's deadliest duos, and a pop-up in the lobby featuring local artists with incredible work for sale! Artists present are: ALEXANDRIA ANN WIDGERY GIAMOS is a part time witch, full time queer feminist who makes handmade magical goods, ALEXA TRILLI, an internationally collected glitter artist and Toronto illustrator TREVOR HENDERSON. And then, the lights will go down low for the screening of the movie proper at 8:00 PM. The Royal Cinema is located at 608 College Street, Toronto, Ontario.

The Honeymoon Killers (1969)
Dir. Leonard Kastle
Starring: Shirley Stoler, Tony Lo Bianco, Doris Roberts,
Dortha Duckworth, Marilyn Chris, Barbara Cason,
Mary Jane Higby, Kip McArdle, Mary Breen

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Though one wishes to imagine the movie Martin Scorsese might have made from Leonard Kastle's screenplay of The Honeymoon Killers, it's probably best left unimagined. Scorsese was quickly fired by the producer for being too pokey on the shoestring $150K budget, whereupon Kastle was selected to replace him.

What remains is still one of the most mouthwateringly lurid films of the 20th century. Not that Kastle's approach to this take on the true-crime drama of the "lonelyhearts killers" was exploitative, but it derives its layers of scum quite honestly due to the realistic, monochrome and almost documentary-like approach to the material. Yet, in spite of the neo-realist flavour infusing the picture, Kastle also bathes the material in a perverse romanticism and we get, first and foremost, a love story - albeit one in which its lovers are psychopaths.

Spring boarding from events which originally took place during the post-war years of the 40s and setting them in the 60s when the film was shot, we're told the tale of Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler), a morbidly obese nurse from Mobile, Alabama who meets the sexy, charming conman Ray Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco) from a lonely hearts club correspondence. Long before internet dating sites, those in need of love would write good, old fashioned love letters to each other via clubs which advertised their services in sleazy "women's" magazines and tabloid newspapers.

The flowery correspondence twixt the two leads Ray to make a trip down to Mobile from New York. Martha lives with her dementia-addled mother (Dortha Duckworth) and has only one real friend, the libidinous Bunny. Ray has come to dupe Martha into emptying her bank account, but instead, he falls madly in love with her, and she with him.

Eventually he reveals his "business" to Martha and the two of them carry on as lovers, but pose as brother and sister, which makes them an ideal team to perpetrate fraud upon lonely spinsters. In no time, however, simple fraud turns to murder and the pair begin to kill their victims. Committing murder seems to spark their libidos even more. After Martha gruesomely, brutally and repeatedly smashes a seventy year old woman's head to a pulp with a hammer, the two retire to the boudoir as Ray, hard-on raging, orders Martha to keep the lights on. "I want to make love," he coos.

Their love knows no bounds, it seems. However, the scams they're perpetrating often place Ray in positions where the "lonely hearts" are demanding sex from him. Worse yet, Ray even seems attracted to some of the women which only causes Martha to become both jealous and even more brutally murderous.

It's only a matter of time until they're caught and as in the real-life case, both of them are put to death in Sing Sing Prison's electric chairs. Kastle, as writer and director, never lets up on the romantic connection between Ray and Martha. Sacrifices are made for love and in spite of the horrific nature of their crimes, the film actually moves us during its final moments. In fact, we're moved quite deeply.

One of the interesting aspects of creating a borderline melodrama of this love is the brilliant notion to use Gustav Mahler's alternately heart-wrenching and sweetly beautiful 6th Symphony as the only score. Written by Mahler during a period of considerable strife in his marriage to Alma Mahler, the work has often been referred to as "The Death of Love" symphony. What makes it work so beautifully is that it needs to convey deep love in order to detail the death of love and used as score in The Honeymoon Killers, it carries us along with as much joyous emotion as it does with its disturbing, dissonant riffs.

There isn't a performance in the film that ever seems out of place. but ultimately, it's Stoler (she played the concentration camp commandant in Lina Wertmuler's Seven Beauties) and Lo Bianco (oft cast as a gangster and cop who transcended the cliches he was forced to inhabit and delivered the brilliantly complex performance in Larry Cohen's God Told Me To) who both keep our eyes glued to the screen. In another time and place, these two render performances that would at least have garnered major nominations and possibly even awards, but in 1969, were relegated to a few decent critical notices and little else.

There have, of course, been a number of film versions of this story, but none of them have the power of Kastle's version to both horrify and move us. It's an extraordinary work and one which continues to live on as a genuine classic.


AFTER YOU SEE The Honeymoon Killers at the Retropath screening at Toronto's Royal Cinema, DON'T FORGET that it is available on a gorgeously transferred Criterion Collection Blu-Ray which comes complete with an all new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, a detailed interview with writer-director Leonard Kastle from 2003, interviews with actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow and a genuinely great new video essay, “Dear Martha . . . ,” by writer Scott Christianson, author of "Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House". Feel free to order the film directly from the Amazon links below and contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner:

Friday, 24 February 2017

GET OUT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Predictable Thriller/Satire about Racism an okay ride.

Too much script idiot-proofing renders watered-down ride. 

Get Out (2017)
Dir. Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener,
LilRel Howery, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Caleb Landry Jones

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A few minutes into watching Get Out, a mostly chilling and funny horror-thriller with a decidedly satirical bent, I briefly took myself out of the drama and asked myself:

"Have I seen too many movies?"

The reason for this self-reflection? Simple. I pretty much pegged all of the "surprises" in the picture's narrative about twenty minutes into it. It's not that the clues were obviously boneheaded, but rather, the movie almost went out of its way to "carefully" shield us from them and, frankly, having seen it all, I just knew where things were headed. Once again I was watching a movie I wanted to love and realized I just couldn't love it because the clever thematic and directorial touches were being cancelled out by the glaring inevitability of the unfolding drama.

Now, was this the movie's fault or my own?

"Good question" he said to himself in added self-reflection.

Surely, I surmised, that when I'm on a roller coaster ride, I know precisely where I'm going and if it's a good ride, it really shouldn't matter. Well, true enough, but the fact remains that Get Out had so much more potential to transcend the simple properties of the ride itself. In spite of my occasional sinking feelings, I was able to concede that there was a decent ride to be had, even for seen-it-all curmudgeons like myself.

Mind you, the movie doesn't get off to the best start. It begins with a hackneyed de rigueur horror movie preamble that telegraphs what's to follow wherein a young African-American male wanders through a lush White-American suburban dreamscape of perfect lawns and hedges. He's clearly lost and definitely nervous. And yes, something shocking happens.


However, I forgave this by-rote entry point and settled in. For awhile, I did indeed succumb to writer-director Jordan Peele's Stepford Wives-like thriller about racism in America.

Lily-white babe-o-licious girlfriends CANNOT be trusted.

Dark, handsome African-American Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and pristine babe-o-licious lily-white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) are happily cohabiting in miscegenetic bliss and preparing for a weekend trip to meet and stay with Rose's parents. Chris asks Rose if she's told her folks that he's Black. She tosses it off as being completely unnecessary - Mommy (Catherine Keener) and Daddy (Bradley Whitford) are far too cool for any of that. Chris expresses trepidation nevertheless, but eventually accepts Rose's confidence that everything will be okay.

Of course, things will not be okay.

On the way up, with Rose driving, they hit a deer and swerve off the road slightly. There's no damage to the car and neither of them are injured, something that annoys a local lawman - he feels they should have called "animal control" rather than "waste" his time. No matter, this gives him a chance to roust Chris, demanding to see our hero's I.D. even though Rose explains that she was behind the wheel, not Chris.

Once they get to Rose's family home, her Mom and Dad seem to be the epitome of cultured White Liberals, but Dad betrays hints of ethnocentrism when he refers to his daughter's relationship with Chris as a "thang" and goes out of his way to extol the virtues of Obama. Rose's creepy brother (Caleb Landry Jones) displays an unhealthy obsession with athleticism and physical prowess, especially as it relates to race and even creepier are the live-in African-American domestics Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) who appear to be refugees from Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

One sequence that Peele delivers the goods on involves Mom actually hypnotizing Chris late one evening. Though it involves the unfortunate narrative trope of Chris feeling guilt over his own mother's death, we are able to suppress this and enjoy Peele's extraordinary visual take on hypnosis itself and especially relish Catherine Keener's juicy turn as a "caring" psychiatrist. For me, Keener has always displayed a kind of earnest creepiness in everything she's done. Here, she fits the role like a glove.

The movie reaches a damn glorious pinnacle during a garden party at the family home when Chris is trotted out before a passel of grotesque denizens of White American affluence - all of whom seem obsessed with the young man's physical attributes.

White Liberals Ain't All They Cracked Up To Be.

It's not long after this, though, that the movie descends into a goofy, loopy sequence wherein Peele lays out a whole whack of expository information as to what is precisely going on (which, we've pretty much figured out anyway). The manner in which it's presented probably looked great on paper, but it slows the movie down in ways that force us to question the logic of why the explanations are delivered to Chris (and by extension to us). Given the sharpness of the film's satire and the occasional flashes of genuine, original horror touches, it's disappointing that the film didn't deal with this information far more expediently.

Luckily, Peele recovers from this fairly major fumble and he serves up one of the more delightfully scary and juicily violent climaxes in recent memory. For me, the movie's lapses were forgiven - almost. Alas, Peele cops out and hands us a ludicrous feel-good ending (involving the film's tiresome comic relief provided by Lil Rel Howery as Chris's TSA officer buddy) which is completely out-of-step with the 70s-style thrillers his film clearly aspires to.

And then, there's that problem of knowing who is who (especially that his girlfriend is part of the "conspiracy"), what is what and where it's all going to go. Is it my problem? No. I don't think so, ultimately. The movie's script, in spite of its clever touches, feels idiot-proofed to a fault. In fact, the whole thing might have been even more chilling and a lot braver if Peele was upfront and exposed his whole deck of cards from the get-go. When a movie flirts with a kind of greatness as this one does, I find it very hard to cotton to idiot-proofing of any kind.


Get Out is a Universal Pictures release.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A MAN CALLED OVE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Sentimental Swedish Ode to Old Grump

Plucky Persian Perks Up Grump's Spirits.
A Man Called Ove (2016)
Dir. Hannes Holm
Nvl. Fredrik Backman
Starring: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg, Ida Engvoll

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You'd have to be the biggest grumpy-pants in the world not to respond to A Man Called Ove, a sweetly funny, delightfully romantic and almost-ridiculously sentimental picture about an old curmudgeon who keeps getting interrupted every single time he attempts to commit suicide. Based on Fredrik Backman's 2012 novel of the same name, writer-director Hannes (Behind Blue Skies) Holm renders this always-humorous and often tear-squirtingly moving movie in a solid, straightforward fashion that allows its first-rate cast to flex considerable muscle.

59-year-old Ove (Lassgård) carries his stern, sullen countenance as if it were a badge of honour. As the persnickety prefect of a townhouse community, he makes his daily morning rounds of the complex, wielding an iron fist and spitting out his disgust when anything (or anyone, for that matter) is the least bit out of place. Being a grump seems to be the only thing that gives him happiness.

After being forced into retirement from the factory he's been foreman at for several decades, the taciturn recent-widower becomes a man with a mission. His goal is to become reunited with his beloved wife (Ida Engvoll). As she's six-feet-under (he visits her grave daily with fresh flowers), the reunion can only be effected via suicide.

With a noose round his neck, a kerfuffle just outside the house commands his attention. A new family, led by the pretty, pregnant and definitely Persian matriarch Parvaneh (Pars), are moving in across the way and whilst backing up their u-Haul trailer, Ove's mailbox gets knocked over.

This will not be the first time his suicide attempts will be foiled. Little does he know it yet, but Ove still has plenty to live for and the world still has plenty of reason for him to keep going.

Kids will always melt the cold heart of a Grumpy-pants!
Many things annoy Ove, but it hasn't necessarily always been that way. Flashbacks (which occur just prior to his suicide attempts) deliver warm insight into his relationship with his father and, perhaps most importantly, the grand, though ultimately melancholy love story that shapes him.

Throughout much of his life, the thing that really irked (and continues to irk) him were/are the "white shirts" - bureaucrats whose only reason for being is to make the lives of everyone else intolerable. Ove's specialty has always been railing against the injustices of bureaucracy and finding ways to cut through the red tape placed before real people. Along the way, his own penchant for red tape forces him to take a good hard look in the mirror.

The centrepiece of A Man Called Ove is Rolf Lassgård's astonishing performance. The picture has been nominated for two Oscars, Best Foreign Film and Best Makeup, but the jaw-dropper omission is a Best Actor nod.

Lassgård's deadpan is impeccable, but there's not too much on any big screen out there that's more affecting than those moments when (via Lassgård) Ove's cold heart is melted by the kindness of others, a grumpy cat he adopts, a Middle Eastern gay man seeking refuge from his family when he comes out, a dear old friend stricken by a debilitating stroke and the genuine warmth afforded to him by the sweet children of his neighbours.

(Yeah, I know this sounds like it could be vaguely sickening, but Holm's assured direction keeps things in check.)

And when Lassgård's Ove sheds a tear or three, there will be no dry eyes in the house - except, perhaps, those ocular ejections held back by those of the grumpy-pants persuasion. Chances are good, though, that even they will succumb.


A Man Called Ove is a Pacific Northwest Pictures (Canada) and Music Box (USA) release. It opens in Canada on February 17/17.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - "Act of Killing - Lite" on Scientology

Louis Theroux - Brit Michael Moore sans Bulk.
My Scientology Movie (2016)
Dir. John Dower
Scr. Louis Theroux
Prd. Simon Chinn
Starring: Louis Theroux, Mark Rathbun, Andrew Perez, Jeff Hawkins

Review By Greg Klymkiw
"One of the systems of faith that are based on the belief in the existence of a particular god or gods, or in the teachings of a spiritual leader."
- The Oxford Dictionary definition of the word "religion"
Founded by the dreadful and prolific Science Fiction pulp writer L. Ron Hubbard and presided over by the enigmatic David Miscavige since Hubbard's death in 1986, the Church of Scientology has taken more than its fair share of volleys over the years, including the brilliant fictionalized fantasia The Master by PT Anderson and Alex Gibney's searing documentary Going Clear.

Examining the aforementioned Oxford definition of the word religion, in addition to the various film exposes, including My Scientology Movie, I really do have to wonder what finally separates Scientology from any other religion, whether it be Catholicism, Christian Fundamentalism, Judaism, Islam and any other major/minor systems of faith. Scientology, like all the rest, feels it is the best religion, places emphasis upon recruitment, needs to survive upon financial support from its followers and is not without cult-like leaders and/or elements of cultish indoctrination.

With My Scientology Movie, Director John Dower, Producer Simon Chinn, Host/Star/Writer Louis Theroux and chief commissioning entity, the BBC, were obviously denied access to the inner workings of Scientology and have taken their cue from the in-your-face (and decidedly entertaining) shenanigans of Michael (Roger and Me) Moore and the extremely visionary film artist Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing, The Look of Violence), to craft this lightweight, often amusing, occasionally chilling bit of shock journalism.

To the former, Theroux blunders about Los Angeles in his oh-so-Blighty fashion on the outskirts of various Scientology headquarters and to the latter, orders up auditions with young actors to play Scientology types in scripted and improvised recreations of speeches, presentations and alleged actual inner workings of the Church.

Young actors portray Scientology officials in recreations.
Host Theroux is accompanied through most of the film's cheeky gymnastics by former high-ranking Scientologist Mark Rathburn who left the Church, exposed its inner workings and was, not surprisingly, discredited by the Church itself. Via Rathburn, we get a sense of his own experiences within the organization and an even greater sense of how his life has become severely beleaguered since his break from Scientology. He comes across, probably to the chagrin of the Church, as an extremely sympathetic figure. Much of our empathy for him, however, comes more from Theroux's annoying and eventually badgering of Rathburn, attempting to get the man to respond to his own "complicity" in events and actions of the past.

One cannot fault Theroux for being a journalist, but one can certainly question his methods in the film, especially as they relate to Rathburn. Firstly, the movie inadvertently exposes how investigative journalists will try to be "friends" with their subjects in order to get what they want out of them. If My Scientology Movie was a film, as opposed to what it is, little more than reasonably watchable TV-style doc-journalism, this fascinating aspect of what makes investigative journalists do their job, might have elevated the proceedings considerably if it had been less (and seemingly) inadvertent.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Theroux's timing and methods to address Rathburn's "complicity" in the actions of the Church, seem so fumbling and wrong-headed that we can't help but feel for the former Scientology big-wig. At one point Theroux, in a somewhat smarmy and definitely clumsy fashion, uses information and points-of-view from letters he's received from the Church's lawyers to needle Rathburn. This not only pisses Rathburn off, but us as well.

Granted, Theroux interviews another former Church official Jeff Hawkins, who not only adds considerable insights to the proceedings, but states unequivocally that he believes Rathburn has been hiding more than a few skeletons in the Scientology Closet. As a journalist, Theroux is bound to act on this. That's the theory - the practice, however, is something else altogether and backfires on him. This kind of recoil is what will give the Church of Scientology considerable ammunition to discredit the movie itself.

I couldn't really blame them.

Andrew Perez as David Miscavige - Star Turn!!!
The film as journalism barely gets a passing grade. As a film, it registers a "gentlemanly" grade of "B". This is no work of artistry, voice and vision (like, say, Joshua Oppenheimer's great, important films). Still, My Scientology Movie gets points of the old-college-try variety for its dramatic reenactments - not because they're especially good, but because the actor they've chosen to play Scientology's topper David Miscavige, Andrew Perez, is undeniably charismatic and rivetingly scary.

His recreations of public Miscavige speeches go well beyond simple Rich Little-like impersonations, he genuinely creates a "character" of considerable human dimension. In the fictionalized dramatic recreations of the Church's inner workings, Perez dazzles so astoundingly that one wonders why he's not already on the road to the same kind of superstardom that celebrity Scientology church-member Tom Cruise is on. Perez is clearly a great actor. The camera loves him and I think audiences would love to see him in more movies (as opposed to what seems to be his only role since making this movie, a bit part in some TV show).

Hell, if Miscavige ever chose to produce his own approved biopic of himself, he'd be well advised to sign up Perez for the role. The kid exudes power and charisma, and that's what Miscavige has in spades.

This is not a bad picture by any means. It has elements that do provide considerable entertainment value. At times, the movie even flirts with Oppenheimer potential. There are a few sequences where Theroux is filming Scientology types as they are filming him in turn. These duelling cameras moments come close to capturing the kind of picture this could have been, if it had been a real movie made by real artists - not just another glorified TV documentary.


My Scientology Movie is a Kinosmith release. Canadian playdates include:
February 6 & 8 Victoria Film Festival, Victoria, BC
February 17 – 23 Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Toronto, ON
February 24 – March 2 Globe Cinema, Calgary, AB
March 3 – 5 Salt Spring Film Festival, Salt Spring, BC
April 14 – 18 Bytowne, Ottawa, ON

Friday, 3 February 2017

Another Reason Why The Royal in Toronto is the BEST Indie Cinema, not just in Toronto, but Canada (and one of the best in the world). Anna Biller's THE LOVE WITCH - on the big screen, where it's meant to be seen! The Royal has the best sound and picture in the city (by day, it's Theatre D Digital, a sound mixing studio for the movies) and the sumptuous colours of Anna Biller's ode to 70s Euro-Trash are going to look more gorgeous than ever. The seats are super-comfy too.!!! Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Love Witch is precisely the sort of movie I'd have seen during the 70s and 80s in one of my favourite (and long-gone) grind houses in Winnipeg that dotted Portage Avenue and Main Street in my old winter city like neon beacons of all that was truly sacred in life. Now you can see this ode to magnificent Euro-Trash in the very best cinema in Canada.

It will be glorious, but be warned, The Royal Cinema is sadly bereft of sticky floors, the aroma of urine/cum and toothless hookers giving gum jobs to malcontent veterans (of both Great Wars).

Well, we can't have everything.

The Love Witch (2016)
Dir. Anna Biller
Starring: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys,
Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Robert Seeley

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Babes, witches, devil worship, black magic and sex, sex and more sex were the mainstay of a lovely sub-genre of 70s Euro-Horror that nobody in their right mind could outright dismiss.

American counterparts amongst these garishly-coloured bonbons never quite lived up to the titillation quotient of Euro sleaze masters like Jean Rollin, Jesus Franco, et al, but no matter, director Anna Biller more than makes up for Uncle Sam's lack of quality output with her very own contemporary masterwork of delectably naughty feculence.

Mega-babe Elaine (Samantha Robinson) has left San Francisco and a mysteriously malevolent past behind her. Resettling in a small town in Redwood country at the behest of some "white" witches, Elaine soon unleashes her genuine powers of "black" magic upon a variety of studs. Plenty of carnal gymnastics, nudity and murder follow.

We should all be lucky enough to have someone like Elaine to love us to death.

Biller creates a sumptuous, sex-drenched tale that parades ritual and rapture in equal measure. Cinematographer M. David Mullen shoots the gloriously garish colours (courtesy of Biller's costume/production design) with deliciously rock-hard lighting (in 35mm no less).

The film proudly wears the clever screenplay's feminist undertones on its sleeve, which smartly contributes to Biller's deft satirical edge. The dialogue she generates for her pitch-perfect cast allows for laughs-aplenty, but where the movie excels (far beyond most other post-modernist endeavours of this kind) is that the actors deliver their lines with the appropriate thud-to-the-floor woodenness, or when necessary, jaw-agape histrionics and they do so with very straight faces and sans tongues-in-cheeks. This is one of the most difficult things for even the most seasoned thespians to pull off and there is not a single cast member who lets Biller, the film and by extension, the audience, down.

Though the movie runs a whopping 120 minutes, audiences will never feel like the proceedings are overstaying their welcome. Biller edits with the skill of a master cutter - not a single cut feels anything less than one which moves the story ever-forward and the pace is happily hypnotic. Those acquainted with the cinematic world The Love Witch recreates (with many fresh frissons) will have nothing to complain about. Those who aren't quite as abreast of it, will still derive pleasure from this diverting carnal romp.

The rest can go to church.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-a-Half Stars

The Love Witch is an Oscilloscope Release enjoying its Canadian Theatrical Premiere at The Royal Cinema, 608 College St. Toronto:
2017-02-04 9:30 PM
2017-02-07 8:00 PM
2017-02-12 8:00 PM
2017-02-19 4:30 PM
2017-02-25 3:30 PM
2017-03-04 9:30 PM.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

10 BEST FILMS OF 2016 as selected by The Film Corner's Greg Klymkiw -includes Klymkiw's Worst Films of the Year and individual accolades forBest Director, Actress, Actor, Script, Etc.

I had such a great year at the movies that I am forced to cheat a bit with my annual Ten Best List. (You'll also find my individual craft accolades and my Worst of 2016 below.)

Here then are my selections of those pictures and achievements that tickled my fancy in 2016 and yes, there are plenty of ties amongst the lot. And yeah, I cheated. There are twenty five movies here, but they are all appropriately tied so YES, this IS a 10 Best List.

Don't like it? Don't read on. It's MY list and NOT YOURS or anyone else's, but Good Goddamn it's a solid list, so pay attention!!!

Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Films of 2016

(tied with Dog Eat Dog and Under the Shadow)
Now, just the thought of a movie starring Brian Cox (Manhunter, Adaptation) and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Killer Joe) as father-son coroners slicing and dicing their way into a nude, gorgeous haunted corpse is enough to tantalize the horror buds. That it's the first Engish-language film by the Norwegian Trollhunter director André Øvredal should send all horror aficionados into conniption fits of joy. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of the creepiest, scariest horror films of the year. With the uber-talented Øvredal at the helm, brilliantly utilizing the astonishingly-designed single-location set to maximum impact, we are drawn into a gloriously terrifying and happ-happ-happily sickening cesspool of sheer terror.
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (tied with Suicide Squad)
In spite of myopic no-nothing critics who continue to crap on him, director Zack Snyder's virtuosity as a filmmaker battered me into glorious submission with this epic DC showdown twixt the alter egos of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. The picture places us in the realm of myth as it relates to 20th century political realities and beyond, but also brilliantly invokes elements of the Arthurian legends, not unlike Sir Thomas Mallory's "Le Morte d'Arthur". Add dollops of New Testament Golgotha fetishism to the mix and, "Bob's your Uncle!" (or in this case, your Uncle is Zack).
(tied with O.J.: Made in America and League of Exotique Dancers)
Using a raft of hidden cameras, Oscar-winning filmmaker Eva Orner chillingly exposes the evil committed by Australia on people who need the country's help, not its disdain. The Australian government, wanting to "protect" political refugees, implement a series of policies designed to "save" lives. That's what they tell us, anyway. The reality is that Australia does not want the bad publicity (and, uh, the inconvenience) of bodies washing up on their shorelines from refugee boats. Most of all, though, the country is run a bunch of ignorant racists who want to keep refugees out of their country - period! What the Aussie rulers have done is tantamount to cruel straight-up incarceration and torture. Orner's film is not only an eye-opener, but a powerful call to action for the rest of the world to speak out against these utterly horrifying, racist actions.
(tied with God Knows Where I Am and Quebec My Country Mon Pays)
This is a great movie! The meticulous detail with which screenwriter Craig Shilowich captures the ins-and-outs of a TV newsroom (not to mention the period detail) is a thing of beauty. He expertly charts the trajectory/descent of the title character (a stunning Rebecca Hall as the famed 70s TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck), never allowing us to feel like anything, structurally or otherwise, is familiar or by rote. Director Antonio Campos demonstrates the kind of control and careful virtuosity needed to navigate the waters of Christine's journey as she looks for love, wends through a complex relationship with her mother (with whom she lives), tries to maintain her journalistic principals, generate work that matters, secure a position in a larger TV market and, as if this wan't enough, deal with both psychological and physical maladies.
LE CIEL FLAMAND (tied with I Olga Hepnarova)
Single Mom Sylvie (Sara Vertongen) runs a tidy little brothel with her Mother. Bearing the moniker "Le Ciel Flamand" (the almost hilariously oxymoronic English translation is "Flemish Heaven"), the modest house of ill repute, nestled off a grubby highway under the grey Belgian skies, is adorned in red lights and within, it seems an especially cozy refuge for gentlemen seeking womanly release. Still, it is a brothel and Sylvie's six-year-old Eline (Esra Vandenbussche, Vertogen's real-life child) is never allowed inside and instead, spends her time in the car or in the company of the kindly Uncle Dirk (Wim Willaert), a dedicated bus-drivin' man of the hangdog schlemiel persuasion. When the child is sexually assaulted, this kitchen-sink exploration of both motherhood and loneliness leads to a virtual explosion of mad intensity which knocks you flat on your ass, precisely because of director Peter Monsaert's observational eye throughout and the quiet intensity which permeates this gorgeous, love-filled slice of humanity.
DOG EAT DOG (tied with The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Under the Shadow)
The first few minutes of Paul Schrader's adaptation of Edward Bunker's classic crime novel "Dog Eat Dog" plunges us into a kaleidoscopic, drug-fueled fantasia that juicily ramps up to one of the most shocking acts of violence imaginable and then the picture forcibly butt-blasts us raw into an even more appalling "OH-FUCK-NO-REALLY?" salvo of horrifyingly hilarious carnage. As the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and director of Blue Collar, Hardcore, Light Sleeper, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, American Gigolo, Auto Focus and the insanely brilliant and unfairly-drubbed The Canyons, the very idea of Schrader directing a Bunker adaptation makes the mouth water. The execution goes well beyond anticipatory salivation - Schrader pins us to the floor and fiercely has his way with us. And we cum and we cum and we cum. Following the adventures of three inept, albeit vicious criminals (Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook) yields the best crime picture of the year.
(tied with Christine and Quebec My Country Mon Pays)
Too many filmmakers forget about the power of poetry in cinema. This is especially endemic in documentary work where far too many pictures simply impart the facts and/or become so wrapped up in "story" that no matter how proficient the films are, they are - as films - all about the issue and/or subject matter at the centre of the work. This does not plague Todd and Jedd Wider's God Knows Where I Am. The picture is an absolute heartbreaker and a good deal of its success is directly attributable to its pace, style and structure which generates a film infused with all the qualities of the sublime. I challenge anyone to not weep profusely at several points within its elegiac 99-minute running time as the picture charts the last weeks of Linda Bishop (beautifully voiced from her diaries by executive producer Lori Singer), an intelligent, sensitive middle-aged woman found dead in an abandoned New Hampshire farmhouse.
HACKSAW RIDGE (tied with Maliglutit/Searchers)
Let's put Mel Gibson's bilious private life aside - God knows we're happy to do it for Roman Polanski and Woody Allen - and let us embrace the fact that he is one of America's greatest living filmmakers. From his populist Oscar-winning historical epic Braveheart, to the numbingly spiritual Passion of the Christ and through to the genuinely insane Apocalypto, Gibson has proven, time and time again that he's the real thing, an artist of uncompromising vision. Hacksaw Ridge puts Gibson right over the top. With this mad, frenzied magnificently impassioned biopic of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty, Gibson sends the Richter scales of Cinema into nuclear overdrive. Veering from gloriously romantic to gob-smackingly violent, Gibson straps us into a straightjacket and grinds our faces into the beauty of love, the horror of war and the near-Christ-like ascension to faith in everlasting life. And the battle scenes, oh the battle scenes: they have few equals.
Is it possible for anyone to have a happy day in Finland? Well, amateur boxer and former Olympic champ Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) hopes so. It's 1962 and he's been entered into a professional bout in Helsinki against the formidable American fighter Davey Moore (John Bosco Jr.), a lean, mean boxer with over 60 wins behind him. Can a sweet, young fighter from the sticks really hold his own in a bout touted as Finland's big shot at boxing supremacy on the world stage? For all intents and purposes, Olli is Finland's "Great White Hope" and the pressures placed upon him seem insurmountable. Worst of all, Olli is severely distracted. He's falling in love. This is one of the best boxing films ever made. Filmmaker Juho Kuosmanen's direction is infused with attention to the smallest details and results in a picture where the stuff of life provides indelible moments of dramatic and emotional resonance far beyond the cliches which litter so many sports films. The love story itself is wildly, deliriously romantic to the point of instilling the most delightful frissons of loving goooseflesh. It's one of the few movies I've seen which manages to create a feeling of butterflies in the tummy which only mad, passionate love can inspire.
HELLO DESTROYER (tied with Old Stone and Werewolf)
In addition to the most Canadian movie never made in Canada, Slap Shot, Canada itself has yielded a number of terrific pictures about its National Sport (Face Off, Paperback Hero, Goon), but none with the genuine force and power of Hello Destroyer. Writer-Director Kevan Funk paints a veritable portrait of Hell; a stylized blend of expressionism and neorealism that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Prince George, British Columbia is often considered Canada's most dangerous city, but in Funk's dazzling feature-length debut, it's not the criminal element anyone need fear, but rather, Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahamson), the newest recruit of the city's minor league hockey team The Warriors. He's a goon, you see. His job is to provide muscle and he delivers the goods with a cool viciousness. Alas, there is something far more brutal and dangerous in the world of hockey than fists and lumber smashed into the teeth - it's politics. When Tyson's enforcing results in a horrifying and tragic incident during a game, our hero meets his biggest adversary of all; shame, shunning and aimlessness.
I, DANIEL BLAKE (tied with A Quiet Passion)
In a world where the poor seem to be better off dying than face the indignity of their supposed benefactors, one wonders what's more evil - the government or its vile, petty bureaucrats who coldly implement policies designed to keep people down whilst supporting the greed of the 1%. Ken Loach, one of cinema's great humanitarians, takes us on a harrowing roller coaster ride of those caught up in the cold-blooded silos of social assistance in contemporary Britain. I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a 59-year-old skilled construction worker (Dave Johns) who suffers a heart-related accident on the job and rightfully applies for benefits. In spite of his serious condition and a desire to get better and return to work, a soulless clerk purporting to be a "medical expert" ticks off a ludicrous series of boxes which deny him basic care. Funny, bittersweet and tear-wrenching, the picture will certainly preach to the converted with aplomb, but should be required viewing for every petty bureaucrat in the world. They kill, you see. They are the minions of the world's true evil.
I, OLGA HEPNAROVA (tied with La Ciel Flamand)
A grim, superbly realized feature-length dramatic biography about the last person ever executed in Czechoslovakia. Writer-directors Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb have crafted a compulsive, moving and shocking film about mental illness as a genuine affliction. It can result in evil actions, but the perpetrators are, more often than not, sick in mind, body and soul. Healing and caring has escaped them. I, Olga Hepnarová speaks not just for one, but all of them. The astonishing young actress Michalina Olszanska plays mass-murderer Hepnarová from age 13 to her death 10 years later. She manages to pull off the near-impossible task of a poker-faced intensity that forces us to look beneath the veneer and into her eyes, which alternate between shark-like death stares and deep humanity, ranging from innate intelligence, sensitivity and confusion, to pain and anger, and even, on occasion, humour. She delivers one of the great screen performances of the new millennium and it serves the superb screenplay and austere mise en scène perfectly.
(tied with O.J.: Made in America and Chasing Asylum)
Director Rama Rau trains cinematographer Iris Ng's expert lens upon a group of exotic burlesque dancers who are not only still with us, but are on the precipice of their induction into the Burlesque Hall of Fame, which will include more than the mere ceremony, but full-on burlesque shows by a number of these great ladies. The interviews included in the film not only provide a rich history of burlesque, but reveal a cornucopia of insights into the themes of female power, grace and showmanship during a time when women in North America were viewed by most men as Madonnas or Whores, Housewives or Harlots, Molly Maids or Madams (and maybe even a healthy/unhealthy mixture of the aforementioned couplings). The inclusion of the gorgeous, supremely intelligent and truly legendary Kitten Natividad made the whole movie sing for me. Director Rau importantly focuses on Natividad's professional and personal relationship with the great Master filmmaker Russ (Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Up!) Meyer.
MALIGLUTIT/SEARCHERS (tied with Hacksaw Ridge)
Inspired by John Ford's The Searchers, Zacharias Kunuk serves up one of the most compelling and exciting action-adventure pictures of the year. Set against the backdrop of the Canadian north, a father and son obsessively chase after a group of men who slaughter much of their family and kidnap their women. That's it - on the surface. Below the simple veneer, a tale of family, love and a culture rooted in a land of harsh beauty roils with uncompromising resonance. Kunuk captures the rich tradition of the Inuk people and his visual storytelling acumen reaches a dazzling pinnacle. He paints a portrait of good guys and bad guys, but does so with the kind of deep strokes which reveal humanity on both ends of the spectrum.
MOONLIGHT (tied with She's Allergic to Cats and Natasha)
Written and Directed by Barry Jenkins, this exquisitely unique film in three “movements” stars Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes as a young African-American coming of age. We share his journey through life from childhood (as a sensitive bullied kid living with his crack-addicted mother), adolescence (as a kid discovering his sexuality on the cusp of manhood) to early adulthood (as a man seeking truths which have so far eluded him). We experience this man's life in a cinematic chamber piece that is as poetically musical as it is evocative in ways that are both culturally specific and universal at the same time.
NATASHA (tied with Moonlight and She's Allergic to Cats)
Given the ongoing richness of the immigrant experience in Canada, a country with an official policy of multiculturalism, it's so important for our cultural industries to tell these stories and reflect our mosaic as it shifts across time. Natasha, written and directed by Canadian filmmaker David Bezmozgis is an especially layered, intelligent and evocative portrait of immigrant life in Canada. Darkness is what ultimately wends its way through this moving, romantic tale. It makes the light seem brighter when it needs to be, but on occasion the light of day - in both exterior and interior settings - take on a portent which ultimately delivers on a classical coming-of-age story that hurts as much as it offers hope. The hurt, is familiar - not familiar in terms of the filmmaking, but in the haunting and decidedly unidealistic experiences felt by the film's characters that we, as an audience, recognize in our own experience. This, of course, is what makes terrific pictures. Natasha is one of them.
(tied with Chasing Asylum and League of Exotique Dancers)
Ezra Edelman's epic documentary portrait of O.J. Simpson is no simple biography. Running just under eight hours long, we are, of course, led through the ins-and-outs of the former football/movie star's life: his rise to fame, his criminal and civil trials for murder and his eventual incarceration for armed robbery and kidnapping, but Edelman, deftly weaving existing footage and new interviews, has crafted a work that is so much more. It is ultimately the story of racism, class and justice in America and as such, the film takes one of the most notorious figures in 20th Century American history and creates a tragedy on a Shakespearean scale - one that proves to be as moving and incendiary as anything wrought before on film. It is not simply a film about being "made" in America, it stands as a truly great history of America itself.
OLD STONE (tied with Hello Destroyer and Werewolf)
In Johnny Ma's extraordinary first feature film Old Stone, Lao Shi (Chen Gang) is a cab driver who accidentally hits a motorcyclist in the street and soon realizes he should not have bothered to stop and most certainly not bothered to help. Because of China's idiotic laws, his life becomes a nightmare: his job is in jeopardy, his finances are drained and his family, by extension, are placed in peril, financially and emotionally. The movie is engorged with suspense and induces considerable anxiety in the viewer. That it slowly mounts to a chilling series of events which inspires a kind of horror and revulsion in us, not only speaks to the power of the picture, but Johnny Ma as a filmmaker with talent to burn. What keeps our eyeballs, hearts and minds glued to the screen is the exceptional performance of Chen Gang. He infuses the role with so much humanity, doing so to the point in which we're feeling frustration and anger because he makes us care about Lao Shi so goddamn much. Gang also has charisma to burn. The camera absolutely loves him. I have no idea why this guy isn't a huge star.
(tied with Christine and God Knows Where I Am)
Master filmmaker John Walker has chosen a delightfully original way into his own very personal story of abandoning the place he loved and still loves more than any other. It's a deftly handled history of Quebec's "Quiet Revolution" that's presented with a combination of superb archival film clips, still images, interviews from Anglo-Quebecers who identify as Quebecers, Quebecers who want their province to separate from Canada and a myriad of the province's greatest artists and thinkers, including Oscar-winning director Denys Arcand, writer Paul Warren and screenwriter Louise Pelletier. Especially touching is Walker's exploration of his own family's generations-old history in Quebec and its relationship to his contemporary dilemma of loving a place that feels inextricably rooted in his soul, yet seems so distant all the same. Walker's created a film anyone can call their own. Who has not been touched by a sense of place and at worst, forced to leave it and at best, always fearing what one might do if forced to leave it behind? Walker's film is his history, Quebec's history, Canada's history and by the film's very structure, a history we all share - not just in Canada, but the rest of the world.
A QUIET PASSION (tied with I, Daniel Blake)
Terence Davies is unquestionably the greatest living filmmaker in the UK and amongst the world's best filmmakers - ever. His quietly passionate dramatic film biography of poet Emily Dickinson features his trademark tableaux, gorgeous stately pace and his indelible use of music (here being the music of poetry). Cynthia Nixon knocks the wind out of you with her astonishing performance and an almost unrecognizable Keith Carradine chills to the bone. What might be the films's greatest triumph is that one could go into it knowing NOTHING about Emily Dickinson and emerge with both an edifying cinematic experience AND a reason to get to know her.
SHE'S ALLERGIC TO CATS (tied with Moonlight and Natasha)
Though there is no official genre called "schlubs who get to successfully seduce babes", She's Allergic To Cats would definitely be leading the charge if such a thing did officially exist - it's kind of like a Woody Allen picture on acid through the lens of wonky, nutty 80s video art. I found the picture endlessly dazzling, deliriously perverse and rapturously romantic. Nebbish hero Mike Pinkney has a dream: to make a feature film homage to Brian De Palma's Carrie - with CATS!!! Amidst the slacker/McJob existence he leads, Mike miraculously hits it off with Cora (Sonja Kinski - Nastassja's daughter, Klaus's granddaughter) a mega-babe who happily agrees to a date. The entire love story is mediated through Mike's filmmaking/video-art perspective. The result is a chiaroscuro-like melange of garish "video" colours, cheesy (though gorgeous) dissolves and plenty of sexy video tracking errors.
SUICIDE SQUAD (tied with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Oh, to be a kid again! What pure, unadulterated joy! And I have writer-director David Ayer to thank for this happy blast into my past. Suicide Squad has cool heroes, even cooler villains, high stakes for the world of the film (and its characters) and most of all, it's infused with sacrifice, sentiment and a big heart. It's also gorgeously shot, snappily edited, overflowing with a great selection of immortal classic songs, an original score that pounds with power and replete with a juicy ensemble cast. Seriously. What's not to like? Or, for that matter, love? What we essentially get here is a comic book remake of The Dirty Dozen - one that still manages to resonate with freshness and originality. The simple idea of villains/criminals being used to fight evil drives the picture and Ayer's wonkily wonderful script offers up a fun first third which provides lively origins for the various criminals who will make up the suicide squad of super heroes. And, Jared Leto's rendering of The Joker manages to leave Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger behind like so much dust in the wind. Leto is: THE. BEST. JOKER. EVER. (Well, Caesar Romero comes close, but Leto even blows the Mad Latin Lover to smithereens.)
TONI ERDMANN (tied with The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki)
If you do the wrong math on Toni Erdmann, you might be tempted to assume a 162-minute running time and its country of origin (Germany) will yield an unbearably dreary slog, so whatever you do, don't be a dumkopf in your calculations; Maren Ade's lovely picture yields one of the funniest, most heartwarming and celebratory experiences you'll have at the movies this year. Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is a hangdog retired old schlub who perks up his life (and those around him, when they're so willing) with a seemingly endless supply of practical jokes which he pulls off with costumes (including fake buck teeth) and a totally straight face. His adult daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller), a public relations executive in the field of international relations is less amused. Her poker face in the joy department matches Winfried's in the gag sweepstakes. There's clearly a deep love between father and daughter, but also an estrangement as she's tried to move on and create a life and career for herself. Father-daughter relationships have their own unique complexities and writer-director Ade captures this dynamic with considerable artistry.
UNDER THE SHADOW (tied with The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Dog Eat Dog)
Living in Tehran during the eight long years of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s was terrifying enough with endless bombs dropping. Eventually, with the threat of missiles from Iraq, the city emptied to ghost town proportions. Against this backdrop is one of the most creepy, harrowing and heart-stoppingly scary movies of the year. Writer-Director Babak Anveri displays such control over the proceedings that the visceral moments have the kind of impact we seldom see in contemporary horror films. The film is dazzling and original and one of the few movies that flirts with being genuinely in the same league as The Exorcist.
WEREWOLF (tied with Hello Destroyer and Old Stone)
A young woman seeks to escape a life of homelessness and drug dependency as the young man who loves her spirals ever downward as she ascends. Director Ashley McKenzie’s debut feature is rife with Neo-realist touches, but a wholly original mise-en-scene ultimately rules the day. Placing emphasis on single (and often strange) visual details in every scene is what forces certain mundane realities to eventually take on earth-shattering resonance. That we see ourselves and those we know in a world most of us can only imagine is a testament to the filmmaker's consummate artistry.

Greg Klymkiw's Craft Accolades/Awards 2016
Yes, there are ties here. Don't like it? Screw you!!!

Best Director (Tie)
Marian Ade - Toni Erdmann
Terence Davies - A Quiet Passion
Mel Gibson - Hacksaw Ridge

Best Actor (Tie)
Dave Johns - I, Daniel Blake
Peter Simonischek - Toni Erdmann

Best Actress (Tie)
Rebecca Hall - Christine
Michalina Olzsanska - I, Olga Hepnarova

Best Supporting Actor (Tie)
Jared Leto - Suicide Squad
Tracy Letts - Christine

Best Supporting Actress (Tie)
Sonja Kinski - She's Allergic To Cats
Lori Singer - God Knows Where I Am

Best Original Screenplay (Tie)
Terence Davies - A Quiet Passion
Craig Shilowich - Christine

Best Screenplay Adaptation (Tie)
Barry Jenkins - Moonlight
Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Best Cinematography (Tie)
Simon Duggan - Hacksaw Ridge
Adam Sikora - I, Olga Hepnarova

Best Editing (Tie)
Keiko Deguchi - God Knows Where I Am
John Gilbert - Hacksaw Ridge

Best Musical Score (Tie)
Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans - The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Rupert Gregson-Williams - Hacksaw Ridge

Greg Klymkiw's WORST movies of 2016
(in alphabetical order)