Fantasia 2019: Week 2 Review

For the second week of the Fantasia Film Festival, I was hoping to catch up with some film screenings on my only day of the week that I had off work. The first film I caught can be seen as relevant to the not-so-distant future, and includes questions of “what if we saw space exploration as a commercial enterprise the way billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk have been toying with?” Astronaut from director Shelagh McLeod tells the story of an aging engineer Angus (Richard Dryfus) who has a passion for astronomy. Given his age and his health problems, the idea of submitting his name for the lottery for a chance to win a commercial voyage to space seems quite far fetched. After moving into a nursing home, Angus decides he will not waste the rest of his life and submits himself as a candidate. He wins the lottery and has to convince the people of the Ventura company, their executive Marcus (Colm Feore), and his daughter's family, that he is fit for the space mission. This is a feel good movie, one that I usually tend to avoid from the festival, but it has nonetheless found its way into my heart (along with the great score from Virginia Kilbertus).

Pink hues are the prominent colour of choice can be seen in Knives and Skin, the latest from director Jenifer Reeder, as well as strong David Lynch aesthetics. This mystical teen noir starts off with a dark tone; a young teenager named Caroline Harper (Raven Whitley) goes missing. The students at Caroline’s high school are caught up in their inter-high school politics, while also grieving the loss of their friend. The parents are trying to move on, especially Caroline’s mother, who works as the school's choir director. This movie had great musical interludes, including New Order’s Blue Monday and Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun. The true nature of this movie thematically speaking about feminism comes towards the end of the film, but is hinted all throughout with its aesthetic choices and the dynamic characters which represent their own individuality. A great line from this film, “I need to know there is a way out of this,” comes as a great moment with the light at the end of this Noir.

Black Magic For White Boys from director Onur Tukel is a dark satirical comedy that begs to question what it means to be committed to a relationship, how to live in New York, and also… magic. What happens when we venture towards the dark? Can we turn it all around? Oscar (Onur Tukel) is convinced by his friends to go to a magic show on a double date. The magician performing at the theatre is having issues with the shows not selling well and almost losing the theatre. We are shown the illusion even before it happens of the disappearing individual being lead backstage, providing a very funny set up montage on someone’s first day of work as an assistant. However, the magician has some dark tricks up his sleeves, including a book on black magic. He puts his new abilities to the test by making his fellow theatre assistants vanish and reappear, which he later takes to his shows, making them sell out. Oscar and his friend, a real-estate developer, come to the magician in acts of desperation to use the black magic book to get rid of their problems. This movie is humorous at times, with thought provoking questions about relationships and gentrification in New York. This film is a funny, thought-provoking, dark comedy about the city and the characters who exist within it.

Extra Ordinary from directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman takes every paranormal demonic possession movie and cranks up the laughs to an amusement level on par with an Edgar Wright comedy. Rose (Maeve Higgins), once a paranormal ghost hunter, is now is a driving instructor. She meets Martin Martin (Barry Ward) who at first wants help with his deceased wife that continually haunts him and his home. Will Forte plays an aging rockstar, Christina Winter, whose claim to fame was being a one hit wonder - a performance right out of a Saturday Night Live skit. Winter starts working on his next album, while also trying to renew a satanic pact to ensure his success. When Martin’s daughter becomes possessed, he calls Rose for help, leading on a very comical adventure to try to stop the rock star from using his daughter for his satanic pact. Using some great comedic references to other horror films and having the right comedic tonality of an Edgar Wright comedy, the audience helped to deliver a warm reception for Extra Ordinary at this year’s festival.

I could not catch the viewings of The Crow or First Blood this week because of time and work commitments. However, I do have them cued up for a future viewing. One of the best things about the Fantasia Film Festival is that they bring back these cult gems not only so they can be a first time view for some, but also so they can be experienced with an audience. Last year I got that experience with James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Now that is the magic of going to the movies.

As always: bon cinéma! 

Remi Caron is the host of At the Movies, which airs on CJLO every Tuesday at 8:00 AM.