Peter Strickland, known for his daring and provocative films including The Duke of Burgundy is no less outside the box with his sensational In Fabric a sophisticated mind-bending, ironic take on horror. The threatening soundscape and often indirect cinematography create an otherworldly, creepy vibe, giving the sense of being spied upon, over the course of three stories. And Strickland’s villain is a red silk dress! The zany, devilish world of a London department store during the holiday sales is most unusual as its rogue red dress seduces onlookers. Salespeople wear elaborate Victorian mourning costume and speak a strange lexicon in this High Street alternate universe. Widow Marianne Jean-Baptiste buys the dress for a blind date that goes badly. She develops a rash, then “bad sleeping dreams”, domestic upsets and a dog attack. Nonsensical interviews with her bosses let us know she’s the only sane one in this chapter but her voicemail recordings signal quick mental deterioration. Two more red dress victims’ stories are strange and stranger. Strickland regular Sidse Babett Knudsen wears the dress in a sales catalogue and wordlessly, later on, suggesting she was the first victim. This elaborately constructed and utterly astounding story jettisons horror into chaos where intellect, strong character and the desire to be desired prove deadly. Strickland’s genius shines brightly in this mad, bad and dangerous to know gem.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biHUTtV4K40″ width=”500″ height=”300″]
Sophie Deraspe’s Antigone, which won TIFF 19’s Best Canadian Feature is Canada’s official Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. It’s a striking and timely tale of immigrants, poverty and police misconduct centred on Antigone (Nahéma Ricci) a 17-year-old A student about to enter university who lives with her Algerian immigrant family in Montreal. Her traditional grandmother and siblings escaped their homeland when her parents were murdered to seek the safety of life in Canada but that illusion is broken when her brothers are wrongfully detained on drugs and gang violence charges which may result in deportation back to Algeria. As the centre of the family, Antigone puts her life and future on the line to help Polynice (Rawad El-Zein) escape prison and deportation in a stunning move. And even as she risks it all for him, he lets her down again and she is now in law enforcement’s sights. Her plight goes viral tapping into the anxiety of immigrants and the failure of justice and our view of life in Canada for newcomers. This is powerful stuff with a quietly arresting performance by Ricci whose character’s strength shines through again and again. Inspired by the mythical heroine whose name means “worthy of one’s parents” or “in place of one’s parents.”
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo5os3XbZC4″ width=”500″ height=”300″]
Toronto cousins Robbie Amell and Stephen Amell star in Code 8, a crime sci-fi outing shot in their hometown, called Lincoln City. Robbie is Connor Reed, a desperate young man with superhuman powers who must raise money so his seriously ill mother (Kar Matchett) can see a doctor. They live in a dystopian future in which those with special powers are marginalized and forced into a slave subclass because they are feared. And they’re kept harmless through imposed addiction to Psyke, a drug made from spinal fluid. Still, their powers aren’t diminished so the city’s robot police force is called in. And what’s truly scarier than a robotic police force?! Connor finds lucrative work with a criminal gang and vows not to turn bad; the boss sees his “talent” and forces his hand, and after nefarious deeds- realises he’s compromised. Not a standard sci-fi as it addresses real global issues like joblessness, marginalisation, automation and political fascism. The short film on which the feature is based grew out of support from online community groups. In Theaters and On Demand December 6th directed by Jeff Chan.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrX1JJ5dduA” width=”500″ height=”300″]
Octavia Spencer’s true-crime podcaster in Apple TV’s Truth Be Told has a razor-sharp mind and solid instincts in fact, she’s so tuned in to her beat that she now investigates cold cases in person. A famed author is found murdered in his home on Hallowe’en night. A 16-year old boy is tried as an adult and imprisoned. Nineteen years later podcaster Spencer’s Poppy Parnell – a jolly name considering its owners work – discovers that the witness in the case told two different stories about that night, so Poppy’s curiosity is piqued; she interviews the prisoner’s mother who says he’s innocent and the victim’s daughter, now a “death doula” with serious personal problems. And there is a missing twin sister. Poppy does a jailhouse interview with the convicted (Aaron Paul) a manipulative, explosive and hardened man but she stands her ground. Things get really weird from there – identify change, police malfeasance and dark surprises. But still no proof positive. Interesting, Spencer is solid, as ever, but I’ve seen better mysteries and more compelling characters.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjGm7JUc04E” width=”500″ height=”300″]
Nothing brightens a dreary winter’s day like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Season Three has launched on Amazon Prime Video. Emmy and two-time Golden Globe winner Rachel Brosnahan sets out to entertain the troops in the season opener, trusty manager Susie (Alex Borstein) by her side. Tense phone calls with hubby Joel indicate further rifts in the relationship and Midge’s parents are broke. Which means Midge has to find a new place for herself and the children. All this downward trending but the spirt of Mrs. Maisel continues to rise and rise, she can’t help it, she’s a natural optimist and a lesson for us all. And get this – she’s the only USO performer who doesn’t know the words to White Christmas, the big finish number. “Hey, I’m Jewish!” she says with a blinding smile! Strangely her father becomes a fan, of all people, Lenny Bruce and Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) is breathing fire on the horizon. The look and vibe of the series may be nostalgic but its wit, sass and forward-looking attitude give it a heck of a bounce. The characters use real language and plenty of talent has gone into every aspect of the show from writing, content, design, costuming, sets, music and spirit. Definitely a must-see if you’re not already hooked.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osNTNQxzsuI” width=”500″ height=”300″]
OK, people, Hollywood Suite launches a brand new, original film series Dec 8 and film buffs will not want to miss it. A group of Canadian critics, including me, take a deep dive into the movies of 1978, 1983, 1992 and my fave, 2007, curating and delineating the best films of those years and why they worked for that year so well. A Year in Film is a fun post-grad course that will elucidate, illuminate and remind you that great treasures lie in the vaults that demand, your attention. Haven’t seen No Country for Old Men? Why is it the perfect movie to describe the zeitgeist of 2007? It has cinematic, historical, cultural and socio-political integrity. It premieres during HS Free Preview, December 1 to January 5th. HS boss David Kines says “We are so proud of A Year in Film that we want to give every Canadian the ability to see it. It made perfect sense to launch our first-ever original series during this time.” free unlimited access to all four of Hollywood Suite’s HDTV channels and Hollywood Suite On Demand.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uh_Re5qHu0s” width=”500″ height=”300″]
A Year in Film: 1978– In the US The Deer Hunter and Coming Home explored the impact of the Vietnam War, in Canada, a new tax incentive = The Silent Partner and an avalanche of Can-Con. Dec 8, 9:00 pm ET Watch Days of Heaven, Dawn of the Dead, The Deer Hunter, Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It’s Friday.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzZ8phk8yYc” width=”500″ height=”300″]
A Year in Film: 1983 – Consumerism, sci-fi and boomers, respectively with of Return of the Jedi, The Big Chill while in Canada, David Cronenberg scores twice with two iconic films. December 15, 9:00 pm ET. Watch The Big Chill, Staying Alive, Risky Business, Psycho II, Videodrome, The Dead Zone and Scarface.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYD_xxY5wEI” width=”500″ height=”300″]
A Year in Film: 1992 –The year of the rebel filmmaker with low-budgets El Mariachi, Reservoir Dogs, Malcolm X, Boomerang and Candyman. Canada’s Mike Myers makes history with Wayne’s World. December 22, 9:00 pm ET Watch Single White Female, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Boomerang, Malcolm X, Wayne’s World, Batman Returns, El Mariachi and Reservoir Dogs.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIuhsHpcNAU” width=”500″ height=”300″]
A Year in Film: 2007 –America’s dark history in There Will Be Blood, Zodiac and No Country for Old Men. Judd Apatow launches his comic brand with Knocked Up and produces Superbad, and Diablo Cody’s Juno grabs us. In Canada, grown-up Sarah Polley examines ageing and Alzheimer’s in Away From Her. December 29, 9:00 pm ET. Watch There Will Be Blood, Eastern Promises, Zodiac, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, Fido, Superbad, Juno and Away From Her.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNncHPl1UXg” width=”500″ height=”300″]
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI