What was your favourite film of the festival?
Kurt Halfyard - GOOD TIME
This high energy, deep pathos, nearly avant garde, but full cinematic package from the Safdie Brothers was so good I saw it twice on the big screen at the festival. Watching Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason-Leigh and co-director Ben navigate (and cause) chaos in the downmarket neighbourhoods of New York City is one of the great movie treats of 2017. The soundtrack (and design) is impeccable in ways that make this film as essential to the big screen as something like Dunkirk, as experiential cinema. Good Time proves that budget and theatrical experience are not mutually exclusive.
Jason Gorber - LOWLIFE
Things are changing at many festivals, and with TIFF's 20% reduction of selections and disbandment of the Vanguard section it means even more selections of higher quality can make their way to Fantasia, even added during the fest. Excellent works, from Ghost Story to Cannes films like Miike's Blade of the Immortal and the Safdie's sublime Good Time (with Robert Pattinson driving the locals wide) are all world class films deserving of mention. Yet in terms of a film that's purely a Fantasia product look to Lowlife, Ryan Prows' kinetic ode to Tarantino and Lucha Libre. It may not be a perfect film, but the fact that it was passed on by every other major fest is a bit of a miracle, making for arguably the best film to ever have its world premiere at Fantasia. Raw, raucous and ribald, the film may be average seen on a screener on your laptop but made for one of the fest's most energizing, purely entertaining screenings.
Izzy Lee - THE ENDLESS & 68 KILL (tie):
The Endless is an effective, meditation on sibling alliance, love, and inclusion with splashes of dark comedy and cosmic horror. But 68 Kill could not be different. Trent Haaga's adaptation of the book by Bryan Smith is as ridiculous as it is fun. Action packed and full of blood, it's an absolute thrill ride with delusional characters out to steal $68,000.
Andrew Mack - JAILBREAK
Jimmy Henderson has accomplished what so few directors have done in the action genre: capture action while being active with the camera. A lot of action films go either way. Inactive camera, hopefully pulled back far enough so the action plays in front of us the audience. Or, get that camera so close to the action - often too close - so that you are supposed to feel like you are a part of it. The former is fine. The latter is bullshit. If you want to feel like you are a part of the action go join a dojo. Keep the camera back. Let the martial artists show you their art. Don’t take away from their hard work and talents by getting all up in their grills and ruining their work and the work of their choreographers. I prefer the former but if you can clearly show me all the action on screen and still enhance it with camera motion? Well then, I’ll start naming children after you. Not mine. But someone else’s. Now I roam my neighbourhood naming children Jimmy and seeing to whom it sticks.
What was your biggest discovery of the festival?
Izzy Lee - LOWLIFE:
Lowlife by Ryan Prows is Pulp Fiction on a micro-budget, stylishly mounted with a fresh voice. I loved this crime thriller, and simply cannot wait to see more from this Los Angeles team.
Andrew Mack - LOWLIFE
Someone else (Heck, see Kurt's Review of the film) is going to write something far better about this film than I will. This is my hat. I am throwing it in.
Jason Gorber - SPLIT
This year I was proud to be on the New Flesh jury selecting the best film by first time filmmakers and we unanimously picked Choi Kook-hee's Split as our fave. This fun, sweet and engaging flick mixed Rain Man with a dash of Big Lebowksi to create this terrific melange of gangster flick, sports drama and character piece. It easily could be listed as the fave film of the fest category but given the jury responsibilities it was a real thrill to feel at the forefront of helping "discover" this work for a wider audience and celebrate its triumph.
Kurt Halfyard - NOVEMBER
A miracle of style and substance, completely unique in its execution, while staying true to the tradition of folk-tales. The black and white cinematography here will give you tingles, while the content will make you lean in. And the faces, oh the faces! Estonian men and women taking communion wafers in the film is a glorious thing to behold.
What was your biggest disappointment of the festival?
Andrew Mack - SHINJUKU SWAN II
Boring. Boring boring boring boring boring. Everyone stop talking and start punching everyone. Really I think I just have to give up the ghost on Sono Sion. It was about the time that they were having the pageant in the final act for the hostess girls that I said to myself, ‘Oh riiiight. They’re having a pageant for pretty girls who are hired to keep lonely older men company. I am sad for everyone on the screen right now’. Apart from that this sequel is immensely non-entertaining and does not hold a candle to the first film.
Kurt Halfyard - DEAD SHACK
I like inspired riffs on the Cabin in the Woods genre. This was not one of them. Most of the jokes fell flat for me, most of the cast was wasted, and the ending was simply botched, to put it mildly.
Izzy Lee - DEAD MAN TELLS HIS OWN TALE:
Dead Man Tells His Own Tale was a film with a high budget that at first started off as mildly feminist that became a total MRA piece, complete with Terminator 2 reference about a woman going to save the men from the new matriarchy, because of course.
Jason Gorber - Redacted due to Jury duties
I saw more films this Fantasia than ever before, and some of the most egregious were in my jury selection. For the sake of the victims I'll politely decline to mention which.
What was your favourite Fantasia Event?
Kurt Halfyard - Paperbacks From Hell
Easily one of the best one-man show's I've seen in my life. This was a gonzo pulp riff on Spalding Gray through the sensibility of Grady Hendrix. Weird sexual hangups, mutant babies, nazi-gnomes, mutant animals and the ubiquitous Flowers in the Attic were par for the course with the direct-to-paperback decades of yesteryear, but to hear Grady belt trends and themes out in song, offer astute and hilarious synopses of the novels, and try to elucidate what the hell the readers and the authors were thinking in this genre is utterly, utterly sublime entertainment. This might have been the best 90 minutes I spent at the festival in 2017, or perhaps ever.
Izzy Lee - The Man Who Laughs & Paperbacks From Hell:
An incredible live orchestra providing the soundtrack on a huge screen. I was mildly disappointed that the film was exclusively in French, but a friend --- thanks Morbido Fest's kind-hearted soul Abraham --- translated the entire film for me. Also, Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks From Hell performance was a rousing, hilarious romp through demented horror fiction from the 60s through the 90s. The book of the same name showcasing these mind-blowing insanities to come out on September 19.
Jason Gorber - After Hours At The Embassy
Staying a solid two weeks meant for plenty of moments, but as always it's the Summer Camp vibe of this place, making for reunions with friends even from my own city that I only see at events like this. They host a hell of a gathering in Montreal, and while I've never been more exhausted at the end of my fest I can't help but be energized by the tireless programmers and staff that make the festival truly one of the great cinephilic experiences of the year.
Andrew Mack - My favorite Fantasia event? Coming to Fantasia! Period. Depending who you ask everyone says pretty much the same thing. It is a family reunion. It is Summer Camp for film nerds. Frontieres weekend, once the Fight Club weekend of the entire festival, is the convergence of 400 industry professionals (read 399 alcoholics and one straight edge dude) and a lot of them have become our friends over the years. There were a lot of new faces this year, such a good sign for this burgeoning co-production market, and I was able to put faces to names that I have come to know via our many channels throughout the years. Even if it took three whole days of messaging "Are you at the Irish NOW!?!?". But it is the old faces that are always smiling, warm and friendly that you love seeing every year. This is our family and we love each and every one of them, drunk uncles and all.
What was your favourite non-film Fantasia moment?
Andrew Mack - Metallica in Montreal -
This one is a bit of a stretch but because it has only one degree of separation from the festival and it was with someone who was monstrously integral to the smooth operation of the festival’s volunteer corps in previous years, I am claiming it as valid. Last year as soon as I was boots on the ground in Montreal I was at the first screening I could get into and went long into the night. Five hours on the train from very early in the morning straight into two or three movies, on little sustenance, proved to be a very dumb move. I was completely zonked the next morning and unready to face four hours of pitches at the co-production market. The rest of the week I was nodding off all the time. This year I made a mental note to not do anything film related the day I traveled, to just take it easy that first night. So the plan was to go to a micro-brewery on the Plateau with our friend who left the festival after last year. Being in Montreal and not seeing them was unfathomable so we made plans weeks in advance. Days before I was due to arrive they asked me what my plans were for the entire evening. Nothing. I was theirs for as long as they wanted me around. “Do you want to go see Metallica? Someone gave me tickets”. Uh. Fuck. And Yeah.
Jason Gorber - Bagels and Smoked Meat are not just a cliche. I was happy to continue my tradition of taking filmmakers, critics and friends to the Montreal that lays outside the festival corridor, especially to grab some Schwartz's and Putter pickles during the day, or hot St. Viateur bagels dipped into cream cheese off the hood of my car following a long night at the Irish Embassy pub.
Izzy Lee - Tarot Reading!
Richard Stanley's Tarot-card readings in the wee hours of the night are almost an institution at Fantasia at this point, but this year, my reading was worthy of goosebumps and joy. I hope the cards are on point, because if they are, amazing things are in store for me!
Fantasia Day 3 for me: Got up after only a few hours sleep, did several hours of writing, recorded a podcast, and dropped into Kafein Cafe to socialize with wandering Fantasia souls in the sunshine and construction chaos over a honey'd fruit breakfast. I caught the Shaw Brothers 35mm retrospective screening of The Bastard Swordsman at the De Seve with the rowdy post-Frontieres crowd before walking out to Mile End for a rooftop cocktail party with more friends and great people (including ex staffer/programmer Stephanie Trepanier, filmmaker Buddy Giovinazzo and his marvellous wife Gesine, Susan Curran, and George Mihalka), then hit a book launch a Drawn & Quarterly hosted by Kier-La Janisse & Grady Hendrix (and bought several kilograms of great books), before cabbing back to the D.B. Clarke for the Lifetime Achievement ceremonies for Larry Cohen. Met the director in all his glory, and the wonderful Michael Moriarty in the lower-lobby before the screening. A delay helpfully made my arrival just in time, more or less! After a screening of King Cohen, and a cool, lovely walk along Maisonneuve Boulevard West, we hopped in Jason Gorber's VW-turbo and raced across town for 1am bagels (see above) at St. Viateur in the old Jewish quarter of the city. Still going strong we hitting The Irish Embassy just in time to down three pints of local brew and behold the massive crowd of festival goers on the patio. Closed off the night with the Toronto Army(tm) for bad Italian food (and 'cold tea' wink) at Angela's all night pizzeria. That is how you do Fantasia. God-Damn!