“The Greasy Strangler” Descends into Depravity with the Ease of a Cult Classic

The Greasy Strangler might be what it feels like to go mad.  The film is best described as a kind of John Waters fever dream (or maybe wet dream), that combines a penchant for bizarre sexuality with a tongue-in-cheek slasher film.  The acting is purposely hammy, and each kill more absurd than the last.  There are sequences that physically made me ill, and others that left me utterly befuddled. You can call it weird, disgusting, senseless, or even a fucking embarrassment of a film – but you can’t call it derivative or boring.

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Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” Seeks a Spiritual Deliverance from Racial Injustice

Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation is a remarkable piece of cinema, especially from a first-timer.  Parker controls this entire endeavor as writer, director, producer, and also stars as the slave Nat Turner.  This is a powerful but sad film, though there is a kernel of hope at its center that Parker tries to work from.  Based on a the real-life slave revolt led by Nat Turner in the early 1830s, the film offers incredible acting, but suffers slightly from narrative issues and some muddled thematic material.  Of course, Parker takes some poetic license with the actual history, and while some of these help the story, others are more egregious and unnecessary.  The most definitive aspect of the film is its profound spirituality, which Parker leans heavily on for dramatic justification of Turner’s rebellion, and also as the source of his leadership.  Indeed, this is a film about not only racial injustice, but spiritual deliverance.  Parker is sometimes lost with exactly where to focus the rebellious spirit, but these small mistakes cannot mar the overall poignancy of his message.

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Toronto International Film Festival Reviews

Hey all!  I was fortunate to get a few screeners for some films at the Toronto International Film Festival, courtesy of Courtney Small over at CinemaAxis.com.  Here I collect the four reviews and offer a little blurb about the films, including just how much I recommend each one (spoiler alert:  I liked all the films, but some more than others).

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“The Lobster”: A Sardonic Defense of Individual Choice in Romance

The very best satire establishes absurdity as commonplace, and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language feature film The Lobster is a fascinating example.  Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, this dark romantic comedy imagines a dystopia where single people are sent to a hotel and given 45 days to find a new partner.  Should they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the wild.  Some attendees don’t wait that long, and escape into the bordering forest to live in a kind of fugitive singleness.  The Lobster viciously jests through this dichotomy, exploring the nature of relationships and how societal pressures can paradoxically be the cause of both settling and celibacy.

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Hot Docs Coverage on CinemaAxis

Greetings readers!  I am going to post a quick blog-related post to remind my readers that CinemaAxis.com has started its coverage of the Hot Docs film festival – a festival based in Toronto that focuses on documentaries.  In this month’s State of the Blog post, I mentioned that I was lucky  enough to review three of these documentaries.  In fact, I was offered two additional films, so I ended up with five documentaries to review.  Below I will tell you the films that I got to see, the day the review will be posted on CinemaAxis, and a short synopsis of the flick to whet your appetite.  Here we go!

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Taika Waititi’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”: A Farcical Coming-of-Age Film with Surprising Heart

Wisconsin Film Festival Opening Night

New Zealand director Taika Waititi (pronounced Tie-Ka Why-tee-tee) has created a magnificently funny coming-of-age film in Hunt for the Wilderpeople.  Most known for the HBO series Flight of the Conchords and the mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, Waititi has also directed more standard narrative-based films like Boy and Eagle vs. SharkHunt for the Wilderpeople falls in this category, as it tells the story of an orphan named Ricky being introduced to a new foster family on the edge of the New Zealand bush.

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