Saturday, 20 December 2014

Greg Klymkiw, presents the The Film Corner Awards (TFCA) in this the year of Our Lord 2014 - Many of these films were first unleashed at such film festivals and venues as TIFF 2014, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Hot Docs 2014, Toronto After Dark 2014, FantAsia 2014, FNC 2014, BITS 2014, NIFF 2014, The Royal Cinema and the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinemas


This will be the first in a series of year-end Film Corner round-ups of cinema in 2014. Below, you will find the citations of excellence from me, Greg Klymkiw, in the form of my annual The Film Corner Awards (TFCA) for 2014. The most interesting observation is that ALL of these films were first screened within the context of major international film festivals which is further proof of their importance in presenting audiences with the very best that cinema has to offer whilst most mainstream exhibition chains are more interested in presenting refuse on multi-screens of the most ephemeral kind. All the citations here came from films unleashed at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2014), the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF 2014), Hot Docs 2014, Montreal's 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival and the 2014 Montreal Nouveau Cinema Festival (FNC 2014). In Canada, only two of the films cited have been released theatrically within the hardly-visionary, downright lazy mega-plex chain Cineplex Entertainment and even those films are being allowed to play on a limited number of screens in an even-more limited number of cities while ludicrous numbers of awful movies are draining screen time at the aforementioned chain's big boxes. It's not as if all the films the chain allows to hog screens are doing numbers to justify this combination of piggishness and laziness. Keep your eyes open, though. The films cited here are all astounding BIG-SCREEN experiences, which will hopefully find BIG-SCREEN exhibition before being relegated to less-than-ideal home entertainment venues. And now, here goes, The Film Corner Awards (TFCA 2014) as selected by your most Reverend Greg Klymkiw. Included are brief quotes from my original reviews  and links to the full-length reviews from the past year (just click on the title).

American cinema, more than anything, has always exemplified the American Dream. Almost in response to this, director David Zellner with his co-writer brother Nathan, have created Kumiko The Treasure Hunter, one of the most haunting, tragic and profoundly moving explorations of mental illness within the context of dashed hopes and dreams offered by the magic of movies and the wide-open expanse of a country teeming with opportunity and riches.

Best Feature Film
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter

This is such a great film. I could have watched all seven minutes of it if they'd somehow been elongated to a Dreyer-like pace and spread out over 90 minutes. That said, it's perfect as it is. The fact that you don't want it to end is a testament to director Matthew Rankin as one of the young torchbearers (along with Astron-6) of the prairie post-modernist movement which hatched out of Winnipeg via the brilliantly demented minds of John Paizs and Guy Maddin. Blending gorgeously arcane techniques from old Hollywood, ancient government propaganda films with dollops of staggeringly, heart-achingly beautiful animation - bursting with colour and blended with superbly art-directed and costumed live action - Mynarski Death Plummet takes its rightful place alongside such classic Canadian short films as John Martins-Manteiga's The Mario Lanza Story, John Paizs's Springtime in Greenland, Guy Maddin's The Dead Father and Deco Dawson's Ne Crâne pas sois modeste / Keep a Modest Head

Best Short Film
Mynarski Death Plummet
(Matthew Rankin)

This is exactly the sort of film that restores my faith in the poetic properties of cinema and how the simplest of tales, at their surface, allow their artists to dig deep and yield the treasures inherent in the picture's soul. When a film is imbued with an inner spirit as this one is, you know you're watching something that hasn't been machine-tooled strictly for ephemeral needs. In Her Place is a film about yearning, love and the extraordinary tears and magic that are borne out of the company and shared experience of women. And, it is exquisite.

Best Canadian Feature Film
In Her Place
(Albert Shin, TimeLapse Pictures)

Avec le temps/Before I Go is 12 minutes long. Director Mark Morgenstern evokes a lifetime in that 12 minutes. It's proof positive of cinema's gifts and how they must not be squandered, but used to their absolute fullest.

The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer by one of Canada's national filmmaking treasures Randall Okita, takes the very simple story of two brothers and charts how a tragic event in childhood placed them on very different, yet equally haunted (and haunting) paths.

Best Canadian Short Film
Avec le temps/Before I Go
(Mark Morgenstern)
-tied with-
The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer
(Randall Okita)

Witnessing these events as captured by Sergey Loznitsa is a moving document of human solidarity in the face of corruption. Witnessing them as a Ukrainian, however, is to experience every beat, word and action as a series of epiphanies. Maidan is a film that places the revolution in the broader context of what is happening in Ukraine now, but in its simple, beautiful and staggering way, it is a film of considerable importance as it expresses how we must all choose revolution when the criminal actions of very few affect the lives of the majority.

Best Documentary
(Sergey Loznitsa)

-tied with-

This film is one of the most harrowing crime pictures ever made. It's no drama, however, but is certainly imbued with a compulsive narrative expertly unfurled by ace documentary filmmaker Berlinger. The picture leaves you breathlessly agog at the utter brutality and sordid corruption of a system that allowed a monster like American gangster James Bulger to get away with his crimes for so long. The film will, no doubt remain a classic of great American cinema long after all of us have gone from this Earth. It's what cinema should be - it's for the ages.

Best Documentary
Whitey: The United States of America V. James J. Bulger
(Joe Berlinger)

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is a thorough delight and comes across as a Korean answer to crossing Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited AwayPrincess Mononoke) with Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles). It's certainly the sort of thing we don't get to see in our soul-bereft North American multiplexes. It's a gem of a movie and I urge all parents and kids to seek it out. They won't quite know what hit them, but when it does, they'll know they want it a lot more than Madagascar 3. That's a guarantee.

Best Animated Feature
The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow
(Hyeong-yoon Jang)

Astron-6 have done the impossible by creating a film that holds its own with the greatest gialli of all time. It's laugh-out-loud funny, grotesquely gory and viciously violent. Though it draws inspiration from Argento, Fulci, Bava, et al, the movie is so dazzlingly original that you'll be weeping buckets of joy because finally, someone has managed to mix-master all the giallo elements, but in so doing has served up a delicious platter of post-modern pasta du cinema that both harkens back to simpler, bloodier and nastier times whilst also creating a piece actually made in this day and age. All that said, the following dialogue from the film says it all:

BLONDE STUD: So where were you on the night of the murder?
BLONDE BABE: I was at home washing my hair and shaving my pussy.

Best Horror Film
The Editor
(Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Astron-6)

Buoyed by intense, intelligent writing from Tony Burgess (Pontypool, Septic Man) in a screenplay that induces fingernail-ripping-and-plucking, plus a great performance by Julian (Hard Core Logo, Cube, Man of Steel) Richings, Ejecta is a movie that plunges you into the terror of one utterly horrendous night in the lives of those who make contact with aliens. They experience a series of close encounters of the third kind, though be warned, you'll find no happy-faced hairless alien midgets gesticulating Zoltán Kodály Hand Signals whilst smiling at a beaming Francois Truffaut here. No-siree-Spielberg, these mo-fos inspire drawer-filling of the highest order.

Best Science Fiction Film
(Chad Archibald, Matt Wiele,
Tony Burgess, Foresight)

With plenty of loving homages to George Miller's Mad Max pictures, helmer Kiah Roache-Turner and his co-scribe Tristan Roache-Turner, serve up a white-knuckle roller coaster ride through the unyielding Australian bushland as a family man (who's had to slaughter his family when they "turn" into zombies) and a ragtag group of tough guys, equip themselves with heavy-duty armour, weaponry and steely resolve to survive. Director Roache-Turner mostly nice clean shots which allow the action and violence to play out stunningly (including a few harrowing chases). He manages, on what feels like a meagre budget, to put numerous blockbusting studio films of a similar ilk to shame. It delivers the goods and then some.

Best Action Film Wyrmwood
(Kiah Roache-Turner)

Movies are so often about dreams coming true, especially American movies and though the dreams don't come true for the characters in the Coen Brothers' Fargo, Zellner makes us believe that Kumiko believes that the film itself can, indeed, make her dreams come true.

Best Director
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter
(David Zellner)

What the Zellner duo have achieved here seems almost incalculable, especially as they eventually infuse you with joy and sadness all at once during the film's final act. One thing is certain, they have etched an indelible portrait of hope in the face of unyielding madness.

Best Original Script
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter
(Nathan Zellner, David Zellner)

Screenwriter Matt Rager delivers a grotesque blueprint to director James Franco that plunges William Faulkner's stream-of-consciousness prose into the same lollapalooza inbred territory as Anthony Mann's overlooked masterpiece of Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre and Elia Kazan's madcap Baby DollAnd good goddamn, I accept this with open arms.

Best Screenplay Adaptation
The Sound and the Fury
(Matt Rager)

Steve Carell's performance as the eccentric billionaire is so extraordinary I managed to suppress Carell was even in the movie until the closing credits.

Best Actor:
(Steve Carell)

Fargo, the movie by the Coen Brothers, is not just the instrument which inspires Kumiko's desires, it's like a part of Kumiko's character and soul and represents an ethos of both America and madness. Kumiko is no mere stranger in a strange land, but a stranger in her own land who becomes a stranger in a strange land - a woman without a country save for that which exists in her mind.

Best Actress
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter
(Rinko Kikuchi)

"If you deliberately sabotage my band, I will fuck you like a pig," barks Terence Fletcher, a jazz instructor at a tony private music conservatory. As played by J. K. Simmons, Fletcher makes Gny. Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket look like your kindly old Granny Apple Doll.

Best Supporting Actor
(J.K. Simmons)

In Her Place quietly rips our hearts to shreds. We are included in the emotional journeys of a daughter whose child can never be hers, a mother whose daughter is everything to her but comes to this realization when it's too late and a woman who has come between them because her own desire to love and nurture is so strong and true.

Best Supporting Actress
In Her Place
(Ahn Ji-hye)

In the ever-accumulating high winds and snow under the big skies of Minnesota, Kumiko gets a bittersweet taste of happiness - a dream of triumph, a dream of reunion, a dream of peace, at last.

Best Cinematography
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter
(Sean Porter)

The editing of Tom Cross leaves you breathless.

Best Editing
(Tom Cross)

Wrenchingly and beautifully scored by Alexandre Klinke, In Her Place is infused with a deep sensitivity that's reminiscent of a Robert Bresson film.

Best Musical Score
In Her Place
(Alexandre Klinke)

The climactic sequence is a musical equivalent to a great action-movie set-piece.

Best Overall Sound

Blasting through hordes of flesh-eating slabs of viscous decay, they careen on a collision course with a group of Nazi-like government soldiers who are kidnapping both zombies and humans so a wing-nut scientist can perform brutal experiments upon them.

Best Makeup/Special Effects

In 1941, the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were besieged by Russians intent upon ethnic cleansing. Thousands upon thousands of innocent people were rounded up and shipped to Siberian concentration camps.

Best Costumes
In The Crosswind

The visual beauty of suffering allows us to experience the indomitability of the human spirit and is finally the thing that gives the film its heart, which is in sharp contrast to that spirit decidedly lacking in the Russian oppressors.

Best Art Direction/Production Design
In The Crosswind