Being a film nerd mostly interested in genre movies writing for a website mostly interested in local culture can be a tricky thing. Oh sure, I love local film as much as the next guy, but it rarely falls into my specific wheelhouse (whatever the hell a wheelhouse is). This is one of several reasons why the Fantasia Film Festival is one of my favorite times of the year: it’s one of the only instances where I can cover the kinds of films I enjoy most and actually follow Forget the Box’s normal schtick of talking about local culture and events.
That magical time will soon be upon us once again, and majority of the 2014 fest’s film lineup has been released on to the internet to a ravenous fandom. This week on FFR, let’s take a look ahead at what we’ve got in store for this year with a look at some of the films I’m anticipating the most.
Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation: Mamoru Oshii
In a lot of ways, my days as an anime geek are behind me. I haven’t watched a full series in ages, and these days my attentions are focused more on live action Japanese television and film. However, some directors will bring the old flame back, and Mamoru Oshii is one of them.
Bursting on to the scene in the late 80s and early 90s as the director of the first two Patlabor films, Oshii quickly moved into his own franchise with the groundbreaking Ghost in the Shell, one of the defining movies of the first wave of the North American Anime invasion and a landmark in the genre.
On opening night (July 17) Oshii will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement award before a screening of a brand new HD print of Ghost in the Shell (the original version, not that heinous new version with the bad CGI added in) that’s never been aired outside of Japan.
The fact that no one ever attempted a live-action Pokemon movie always seemed odd to me. Granted, the franchise is probably past the apex of its popularity, but people would still probably flock to one like seagulls to a dropped french fry, and bring enough money with them to keep Japanese executives eating Sushi off of naked women until the end of days.
Jellyfish Eyes looks to be filling that niche, looking like a Pokemon film in everything but name and the presence of a catchy theme tune. What makes Jellyfish Eyes look like more that an absurdly commercial cash-grab, however, is that it’s set in the aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster, which opens the unspoken possibility that the magical monsters that only the heroes of the film can see are actually signs of radiation poisoning. And I know, that’s an incredibly morbid and depressing prediction for the end of what otherwise looks like a children’s adventure movie but….well, it’s Japan. We should expect the unexpected.
The Reconstruction of William Zero – Dir. Dan Bush
Back in ’07, director Dan Bush delivered The Signal, a smart, atmospheric, funny and all around awesome indie horror gem in a time when horror movies were otherwise far too enamored with torture porn and found footage.
Now, after a lengthy absence from the director’s chair, Bush is returning with The Reconstruction of William Zero, a film we know almost nothing about, but that I’ll probably be first in line to see anyway. The press release gives the barest description of the plot, which involves a scientist waking up from a coma, but the presence of bush and Upstream Color star Amy Seimetz already have my interest piqued.
It wouldn’t be Fantasia without something gruesome and dark about people having their gibblets sprayed all over the place in a variety of disturbing ways, and Let us Prey looks to be more than ready to fill that role this year.
The trailer doesn’t let much on in the way of plot, but the mood, style and production values all look rock solid, and hey, it’s got the Onion Knight in it! That’s enough for me to get interested.
Frank – Dir. Lenny Abrahamson
I’ve had my eye on Frank for some time, and not just because it always intrigues me when established, popular actors who probably have job offers rolling in like a Left 4 Dead horde when somebody gets hit by a Boomer takes on a quirky, low-profile indie flick.
Frank stars Michael Fassbender as a brilliant but troubled indie musician on the cusp of stardom who refuses to remove a giant paper mache head that makes him look like a character our of that old David and Goliath claymation cartoon. It’s an odd turn for Fassbender, one that could either prove his acting chops as world-class once and for all, or could just feel like an overly quirky indulgence. It’s probably that risk that has me interested the most,
Korean cinema has long been a darling of the Fantasia crowd, and while crime thrillers like No Tears for the Dead certainly look entertaining, it’s the offbeat indie fare that will more often grab my attention, like 2012’s Young Gun in the Time or last year’s The Weight.
INGToogie sees two internet rivals take their grief to the streets for a knock-down brawl, something that’s become more and more common in Korea recently as internet trolls meat for “real life player kills” or “hyunpi”. While the prospect of internet trolls beating each other senseless is enough to lure me to a screening, the stylish presentation makes me think this may be more than just mere catharsis.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Dir. James Gunn
Never heard of it. Looks weird. They’ll screen anything these days.