Author: Nathanael Hood

New York Asian Film Festival 2017: Japan, Southeast Asia, South Korea Sampler

Seeing everything at the New York Asian Film Festival is easier said than done: due to the sheer scope of the programming, it’s impossible unless one has a press pass and about 2-3 weeks of spare time. Although we couldn’t make it to every screening, we were able to attend dozens of  showings from each of the countries represented by the festival. Here we see the non-competition films from Japan, Southeast Asian, and South Korea. They represent only a fraction of the films presented from those three markets, but from them we get a glimpse into their sheer, eclectic...

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New York Asian Film Festival 2017 – Main Competition Slate

Of the 57 films being shown at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), only seven were selected to compete for its prestigious Audience Award, presented last year to Kankuro Kudo’s deranged paranormal comedy Too Young to Die!. In keeping with this year’s goal of increasing the visibility of Southeast Asian cinema—an industry traditionally ignored by Western festivals and marketplaces—three of these films hail from the area. Two of them, Thailand’s Bad Genius and the Philippines’ Birdshot are not only the best of the slate, but also among the best of the festival. (Although sadly, Vietnam’s KFC is...

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New York Asian Film Festival 2017: Mainland China Program

It’s a safe assumption that the majority of Westerners, unless they were lucky enough to live in a big city with a film festival or a small college town with an arthouse theater, have never seen a Chinese movie. Hong Kong movies—in particular the wuxia spectacles of Run Run Shaw and the gun ballets of John Woo—have left an incalculable impact on Western cinema and culture. But Hong Kong cinema and Chinese cinema are two very, very different beasts. Muzzled by state-controlled censorship for decades, the creative and popular resurgence of Mainland China’s film industry is still in its...

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Abu is Underdeveloped Ambition

Overview: Canadian-Pakistani documentarian Arshad Khan recounts his difficult upbringing as a gay Muslim in a fundamentalist immigrant home. TCDM Associates; 2017; Not Yet Rated; 80 minutes. So Close Yet So Far: The most objective documentaries are always the hardest ones to review. Stripped of any kind of creative stamp or focus other than the dry regurgitation of facts, interviews, or images, it’s nearly impossible to review them without simply recounting everything that was shown or said like you were writing lecture notes. At a glance, Arshad Khan’s Abu should be the exact opposite: it’s an intimate recounting of the...

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A Look Back at Funeral Parade of Roses

Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) is one of those rare Japanese films which, while heavily borrowing from the aesthetics and genre iconography of other countries and cultures, is distinctly, unmistakably singular in vision, execution, and impact. Trying to winnow it down into any kind of movement isn’t just inappropriate, it’s outright reductive. Yes, the film feels heavily inspired by the American queer and underground cinema scenes à la Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, and Jonas Mekas, the latter of which is directly quoted by one of its characters. Many of its formal techniques seem pilfered from the creative...

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The Dunning Man is a Rambling, but Charming, Atlantic City Day Trip

Overview: An increasingly harried landlord desperately tries to collect the rent from his possibly villainous, possibly insane tenants. Dedalus Films; 2017; Not Rated; 91 minutes. Eisenstein Wept: Oh, how the old Soviet masters must be spinning in their graves. For with Michael Clayton’s The Dunning Man we have a film where a landlord isn’t just the protagonist but the valorous hero in a story that’s essentially just him trying to collect late rent payments from his tenants. What’s worse: we cheer for him the whole time. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. The landlord, Connor Ryan (James...

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Blame! Is a Bold Step Forward for Netflix

Overview: When threatened by the robots of a murderous, sentient supercity, a group of post-apocalyptic survivors are aided by a lone wanderer hiding a terrible secret. Netflix; 2017; Not Rated; 106 minutes. Brevity is the Soul of Decent Adaptations: As any anime expert will tell you, it’s never a good idea to try and condense a multi-volume manga series into a single feature-length film. Take Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. The film is unquestionably a watershed moment in anime history, completely revitalizing not just the cyberpunk genre, but anime’s reputation as a serious art form outside Japan. Yet in their attempt...

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96 Souls Has 0 Identities

Overview: After gaining the power to see smells following a lab accident, a professor fights to keep his discovery out of the wrong hands. Gravitas Ventures; 2017; Not Rated; 112 minutes. Premiering Tonight at 8/7 Central: Stanley Jacobs’ 96 Souls missed its true calling as an entertaining yet slightly campy kid’s movie. It features the kind of set-up seemingly ripped straight from Nickelodeon or Disney Channel original movies from the late ’90s to the early ’00s: following a lab accident, professor Jack Sutree (Grinnell Morris) accidentally gains the ability to see smells. Eventually his super-sight increases in power to the...

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‘Side A Side B’ Explores a Collapsing Relationship Through Music

Overview: A young Indian couple work out the frayed ends of their deteriorating relationship while on a 44 hour train ride in this unconventional indie musical. 2017; Not Rated; 78 minutes. Lemonade or Chai?: In Sudhish Kamath’s Side A Side B we see a curious variation of the recent movement in African-American culture to blur the line between music, music videos, and cinema. Although Michael Jackson may have popularized this blurring through extended music videos with self-contained stories which transitioned in and out of choreographed song-and-dance segments, this nascent art form reached a recent apex with Beyoncé’s 2016 “visual...

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Criterion Discovery: Canoa: A Shameful Memory

Background: Canoa: A Shameful Memory (Spine #862) is a pivotal piece of Mexican political filmmaking. It’s director Felipe Cazals’s first film in the collection as well as the seventh Mexican film overall to be inducted. Story: During an ill-fated mountaineering trip, several employees of a Mexican university are mistaken by the villagers of the small town of San Miguel Canoa as Communist agitators. Spurred on by the town’s priest—a corrupt strongman who brainwashed the town with fear and religious propaganda—the villagers brutally lynch the employees. The Film: In his brief Blu-ray introduction to Canoa: A Shameful Memory, director Guillermo...

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Criterion Discovery: 45 Years

Background: 45 Years (Spine #861) is a British realist drama examining the self-destruction of an elderly couple’s marriage against the wintry landscape of Norfolk. This is director Andrew Haigh’s second film in the main collection, the first being Weekend (Spine #622). Story: With just a week left before their 45th anniversary, the lives of Kate and Geoff Mercer (Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay) are rocked by the news that the body of Geoff’s ex-lover Katya has been discovered after being frozen over 50 years earlier during a mountain-climbing accident in Switzerland. As Geoff becomes more and more distant over the news,...

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‘A Thousand Junkies’ Balances Lunacy & Pathos

Overview: Three heroin junkies embark on a increasingly ludicrous and dangerous search for a fix in Los Angeles. Falco Ink; 2017; Not Rated; 75 minutes. Just One Fix: Tommy’s done the math. He estimates that if he’s spent about three hours a day waiting for his dealer, that adds up to about 50 days a year of nothing but waiting. Multiply that by 19 years and you have 950 days. That’s almost three years of the prime of his life wasted “waiting to get well.” Not that he misses it much. For a junkie who needs a fix –...

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New Netflix Instant Streaming: Tower Dares An Emotional Connection

Originally published on October 12, 2016. Tower is now available on U.S. Netflix Instant streaming. Overview: Combining archival footage and rotoscope animation, Keith Maitland’s TOWER is a bold documentary on the 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin. Kino Lorber; 2016; Not Rated; 82 minutes. A National Sickness: Orlando. San Bernardino. Sandy Hook. Aurora. Virginia Tech. Columbine. These names resonant deep within the American psyche, each synonymous with one of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings. These attacks may not be unique among First World Countries, but they are unmatched in their frequency. Other countries look at...

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Jackin’ It: ‘The Shining’ and a Tale of Two Damned Jacks

Jack Nicholson turns 80 years old on April 22. To celebrate, we’ll be discussing our favorite Jack Nicholson performances through the preceding week in our Jackin’ It series, a collection of critical love letters penned to Nicholson’s best characters. … Of course Jack Nicholson was the wrong choice to play Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s The Shining. Anybody who’s read King’s novel knows that. Nicholson was, however, the perfect choice to play Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. King’s Torrance was an inherently good man driven to the brink of insanity by isolation, alcoholism, and the evil forces...

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Salt and Fire is a Baffling and Unfocused Mess

Overview: After being kidnapped while on assignment in South America, U.N. ecologist Laura finds herself stranded with two blind children in the middle of a desert on the verge of thermal catastrophe. XLrator Media; 2016; Not Rated; 98 minutes. Lost in Translation: One of my favorite stories about the making of Claudio Fragasso’s accidental camp masterpiece Troll 2 (1990) involves the disconnect between its English-speaking American cast and its Italian-speaking crew. Apparently, the script (written by Fragasso’s wife Rosella Drudi) received a rather blunt-force translation into English. When it came time to shoot, Fragasso insisted that the actors perform...

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