The 10 Great Movies of Summer 2016

Ah, summer. The time when movies are promoted for hormonal teenage boys and adult males that seem to have grown up for their childhood obsessions with Superman or Captain America. This primarily male demographic is ready to drool over next superhero movie or unnecesary remake. They are the ones that keep pushing the industry to the brink of creative collapse. That's life now at the movies. "Captain America: Civil War" is a good movie, in fact the best of all the barrage of superhero movies we have gotten all of this year. But it feels like it's from a different cinematic universe, one where product placement is key to achieving long-term worldwide success, that feels robotic and untouched by human hands ditto "Finding Dory" the other well-reviewed hollywood film this summer. I'm not down for that. Instead the best movies of summer 2016 came from the small studio system. There were no special effects in these 8 above-average films, nor were there any artistic concessions for high box-office draws.

Sex, drugs and white privilege: "White Girl"

White Girl - Actress Morgan Saylor as Leah

Elizabeth Wood's White Girl was a little perplexing for some people back at Sundance, but I dug it all the same. Think Larry Clark's Kids directed by a woman and starring Homeland's Morgan Saylor as a New York City girl that falls hard in love for a street thug and embarks in the most harrowing of sexual and drug-infused journey's ever seen on film. The wild extremes Saylor goes through are bound to disturb parents all around the country, but once you find out that all the events depicted in the film were based on Wood's actual past, then you're left speechless. This is as feminist a film for 2016 as any I have seen so far this year. But not just that, its also a pertinent and resonant depiction of race in America as you have never wanted to see before. It goes to extremes on gender roles and race and in ways that would be deemed too taboo or hardcore for the mainstream or even indie audiences. You are bound to hear very divisive takes on White Girl in the weeks to come, but Kudos to Wood and Saylor on their singular achievement A-

Thoughts on HBO's "The Night of" finale.

HBO's "The Night of" finale was sheer brilliance! At the end of the day the show was always more about the characters than the actual case. Also I don't think I've ever seen a more thorough, in-depth and informative movie or TV show about the legal system than this.

At the end of the day this show was unlike any I had ever seen. It is easily one of the very best things I have seen on TV this year, right up there with "Made In America: OJ Simpson", "Better Call Saul" and "The Americans."

I was almost dead-on last WEEK when I said there would be no resolution. That would have been the true letdown, if there ever was one. And so, Steve Zaillan has earned some great numbers in my books with this new mini-series. John Turturro has single-handedly proved he can be the lead in a movie and Riz Ahmed has had a career breathrough as Naz. I got a feeling we will remember this series for many years to come. Zaillan and Richard Price should work together more often.

Oscar Predix 8.29.16

With Telluride, TIFF and Venice looming ever so closely it is time to assess the race. Not much has happened in terms of actual films that came out in theaters, but Festivals such as Sundance and Cannes have kicked off the race in unexpected ways. Never too early to predict what will go down, but I will be updating these every few weeks.

We will start with the four major categories:

Best Picture
(1) Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk
(2) Manchester by The Sea
(3) Silence
(4) Loving
(5) Moonlight
(6) Sully
(7) La La Land
(8) Arrival
(9) Patriot's Day
(10) The Birth of a Nation

Best Actor
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Tom Hanks, Sully
Michael Keaton, The Founder
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Actress
Viola Davis, Fences
Ruth Negga, Loving
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Director
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Ang Kee, Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk
Martin Scorsese, Silence
Damian Chazelle, La La Land
Cliny Eastwood, Sully

"Snowden" has definitely screened for a select few critics

Yesterday I reporter that I knew a critic that saw Oliver Stone's much delayed "Snowden." Well now I've gotten another few emails, one of which is another negative view of Stone's film, but there is a positive one and it goes along with what I pretty much expect from this film. This is Oliver Stone, it won't be a boring watch, but cinephiles are looking for more than just that. They want the artful, intriguing Stone that seemed so unpredictable during the peak years (1986-1991) when he released "Salvador," "Platoon," "Born on the Fourth of July," "Wall Street" and "JFK."

"Kate Plays Christine": @PlaysChristine is one of the best documentaries of the year

1970s TV Reporter Christine Chubbuck was infamously known as the reporter that shot herself on TV while delivering the news. This year’s Sundance gave us not one, but two immaculate portraits of the mysterious woman, whose life story still remains a bit muddy. Not much actual video footage can be found of Chubbuck and the infamous suicide video has been locked out in a vault somewhere with no sign of it ever coming out. Kate Lynn Sheil and Rebecca Hall both played Christine — Sheil in a gratifyingly original documentary and Hall in Antonio Campos’ intense film. The fact that both movie managed to come out of Sundance as one of the very best reviewed films of the fest shows just how fascinating of a story this is.

Campos' "Christine" is coming out later this fall, but will be screening as part of the 41st Toronto International Film Festival. I will be there and have an interview lined up with Rebecca Hall, who is most likely Oscar-bound for her incredible performance.

21st Century? Pff. How about the best movies since the 1990s?

Since the 90s:

(1) Mulholland Drive
(2) The Tree of Life
(3) Pulp Fiction
(3) There Will Be Blood
(4) The Master
(6) No Country For Old Men
(7) Spirited Away
(8) Children of Men
(9) Breaking The Waves
(10) Goodfellas

Someone has actually seen "Snowden" and it's not looking good.

"I received an email from a legitimate big paper critic around an hour ago. He had seen "Snowden" and promise to report on what he though it was. The email response I got said "Don't repeat this pls but it's a dud. Oof." Figures, of course. Did anyone think this would turn out okay? My response: What was the last good Oliver Stone movie? "U-Turn" back in 1997? It's been a long time. He keeps tackling these relevant to the zeitgeist topics such as "W." in 2008, "World Trade Centre" in 2006, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" in 2010 and now "Snowden," but he keeps fucking it up. How many chances is this guy going to get? He also managed to make a historical story as riveting as Alexander III of Macedonia into such a stale, boring and laughable epic.

Why is Mulholland Drive the best movie of the last 15 years?

Here is a little something I wrote on Facebook concerning the film, which is also number 1 on my list of the greatest of the last 15 years:

"How about because it's the kind of film that is exactly about why we go to the movies in the first place. A dreamy, surreal, almost unexplained work of art. It intrigues you, frustrates you and passionately reaffirms your undying love for the movies. David Lynch dared us to get inside his bag of magic tricks and the epiphanous result felt like a religious re-awakening. In Scorsese's "Hugo" George Melies says concerning the cinema: "If you've ever wondered where your dreams come from, look around this is where they're made. Come and dream with me." Lynch invited us to dream with him as well back in 2001 and we haven't been able to shake it ever since."

Film critics and one of the producers of “Mulholland Drive” weigh in on the movie’s extraordinary staying power.

Harvey's thoroughbred

I'm not sure when it was said this summer, but Harvey Weinstein gave us a warning about Garth Davis' "Lion" possibly becoming a major contender. Of course, this is Harvey Weinstein. He owns the movie. I do fear he is stuck in the 90s and aughts mindset of what an Oscat contender looks like. These kind of prestigious, lesson-learned, self-discovery epics have not aged well at all. Weinstein practically invented the genre of Oscar bait 101, that is until people caught on and realized it was pure sugar coated emptiness.  That was near the tailend of Miramax's days, but lest us we forget that Weinstein is part of the reason why Indie cinema boomed in the early 90s: "The Grifters," "Reservoir Dogs," "The Piano," "The Crying Game," "Clerks," "Pulp Fiction among many others.

Anyway, Harvey thinks you should watch this. It doesn't look very good, but it does look a lot like "Slumdog Millionaire", the kind of tale that could possibly have audiences cheering in their seats and Academy dilpickles voting for it. Never has Google Maps figured this prominently in a big-budget studio movie. Great product placement  though.

Here’s the official synopsis:

"Five-year-old Saroo finds himself alone and travelling on the wrong train away from his home in northern India. Frightened and bewildered, he ends up thousands of miles away, in chaotic Kolkata. Somehow he survives living on the streets, dodging all sorts of terrors in the process. Eventually ending up in an orphanage, Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple, and finds safety and love as he grows up in Hobart. Not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents’ feelings, he buries his past, his emotional need for reunification and his hope of ever finding his lost mother and brother. But a chance meeting with some fellow Indians reawakens his secret yearnings. With just a small store of memories, and the help of some newly-developed satellite-imaging technology, Saroo embarks on one of the greatest needle-in-a-haystack quests of modern times."

#TIFF2016 @TIFF_NET: This critic's much pondered "highlighted films"

Image result for thinking writer

This looks more or less like the list of films I will be catching at TIFF. I do not believe I will be able to watch all fiftyy or so films, but I'd love 40 by day 10 - The lineup is, again, just spectacular this year. Somewhere in there, lurking slyly. are a few classics in the making.

Re(Assignment), Walter Hill
All I see is You, Marc Foster
American Pastral, Ewan McGregor
Arrival, Denis Villeneuve
the Bad Batch, Ana Lily Amirpour
Barry, Vikram Gandhi
The Belko Experiment, Greg McLean (James Gunn penned screenplay)
The Birth of A Dragon, George Nolfi (Bruce Lee bipoic)
Bleed For This, Ben Younger
Brain On Fire, Gerard Barrett
Buster's Mal Heart, Travis Stevens
The Bleeder, Philippe Falardeau
City of Tiny Lights, Pete Travis (Dredd director)
Chrstine, Antoine Campos
Collossal, Nacho Vigolando
The Commune, Thomas Vinterberg
The Death of Louis XIV, Albert Serra
Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg
Denial, Mick Jackson
Fire at Sea, Gianfranco Rosi
Frantz, Francois Ozon
Free Fire, Ben Wheatley
In Dubious Battle, James Franco
Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog
Jackie Pablo Larrain
JT + The Tenessee Kids
La La Land, Damian Chazelle
LBJ, Robe Reiner
Lion, Garth Davis
The Magnificent Seven, Antoine Fuqua
Mascots, Christopher Guest
Maudie, Aisling Walsh
A Monster Calls, JA Bayona
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins
My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea, Dash Shaw
Neruda, Pablo Larrain
Nocturnl Animals, Tom Ford
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, Joseph Cedar
A Quiet Passion, Terrence Davies
The Promise, Terry George
Queen of Katwe, Mira Nair
Rats, Morgan Spurlock
Raw, Julia Ducournau
The Rehearsal, Alison Maclean
Salt and Fire, Werener Herzog
The Secret Scripture, Jim Sheridan
Sing, Garth Jennings
Snowden, Oliver Stone
The Finest, Lone Scherfig
Things to Come, Mia Hanse Love
Trespass Against Us, Adam Smith
Una, Benedict Andrews
Voyage Through Time, Terrence Malick
Wakefield, Robin Swicord

@Petertravers has seen a few Oscar contenders, including "Sully"

No mention of "Silence," just like in EW's "Fall Movie Preview." That film's prospects are looking slimmer and slimmer by the day. Hopefully we do end up catching Scorsese's latest Opus before the year is done. 

I wasn't holding out much hope for the new Tim Burton and Clint Eastwood's "Sully," but consider me intrigued now by both of them. 

You can catch the entire Fall Movie Preview HERE

A few notes from the article that should be taken down: 

"Don't Breathe" is the scariest movie of the year

Fede Alvarez' "Don't Breathe" comes out this Friday and it's a real kicker. Sitting right now at 92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes this could turn out to be a late-summer sleeper. It has the content and quality to become a cult classic of the genre. I believe it is the scariest movie of the year. "The Witch" is maybe the "better" movie because of its atmospheric virtues, but "Don't Breathe" is a flat-out jolt fest. 

Here is an excerpt of my review from this past summer's 20th edition of the Fantasia Film Festival:

"There are people out there that believe Fede Alvarez' remake of "Evil Dead" is better than the original. It's better conceived, that's for sure. More professionally shot, no doubt overall better? Debatable, but definitely not a ludicrous claim. The original 1981 film is a cult classic, but that doesn't mean it's a great movie. Alvarez tried his best to maintain the B-Movie horrors, but expertly direct the whole thing. Good on him.

"Alvarez is back with "Don't Breathe" which is already being described as the scariest movie of the year. It's a tightly knit and terrifying treat to watch three thieves trying to break into a blind war veteran's home to steal a cool million dollars in cash. Not only does the plan fail, but it turns out the blind war vet is quite capable of taking care of himself. It makes for a claustrophobic film. 80% of the film takes places in the man's Detroit home. A labyrinthine thriller that reminded of this year's other genre-exercise Jeremy Saulnier's "Green Room" in terms of hard-edged technical prowess."

"I wouldn't say that Alvarez' horror film is as masterfully executed as Saulnier's grim B-movie, but damn it if it doesn't come close for almost 2/3 of the movie, more specifically when the film turns to the house invasion. It really turns the screws on the suspense, action and" B+

The best movie I have seen in 2016 finally has a trailer

"The indisputably great movie of Sundance 2016 was Kenneth Lonergan’s meditative film about loss and loneliness. Starring a never-better Casey Affleck, the film was snatched up by Amazon Studios for a whopping $10 Million. A great investment, as this stunner of a bold, sprawling movie got audiences proclaiming the most heralding of words towards its way. The first 100 minutes are better than any movie I saw last year and its final stretch, brilliantly edited by Jennifer Lane, is a masterful display of restraint and intimacy." Taken from my review for "The Young Folks" at Sundance on 1.20.16

What!? Another goddamn list from the @BBC? Of course I'm intrigued.

I love this kind of list-making because it precisely is a very educational study for cinephiles. It's about the movement of cinema, where is it going? what has aged like fine wine? what hasn't? It's always important to reassess the state of the game. Sight and Sound does it every 12 years with their Critics and Director's poll of the greatest movies ever made.

This was how my ballot looked like for the BBC poll. A non-definite ranking because, well, these kind of things change all the time. But that top 10 definitely has the movies that have redefined the language of cinema for me. Each and every one of them. The BBC's list can be found HERE

Podcast time!

It was s pleasure hooking up with Jeffrey Welles over at Hollywood-Elsewhere for his Oscar Poker podcast. His site is a daily blast for many in the industry and for good reason. It's the kind of writing that is richly-detailed, witily humored all that with an anti-PC open-mindedmess that feels very welcome in contrast to much of today's film blogging clutter. This week we tackled quite a few things that resulted in a kind of Fall Movie preview. Telluride, Martin Scorsese's delayed Silence and Personal Shopper were among the topics.

HBO's "The Night Of"

Image result for the night of hbo show

The more "The Night Of" goes along, and now it's headed towards its 8th and final episode next weekend, the more you start to realize that we are not going to be getting any sort of complete closure in the finale. We might not even know who actually committed the crime. It won't matter. The justice system created a murderer in Naz. He's an accomplice to one in jail. That's for sure.

The show is one big fat example of the justice system failing in every account. Everyone's a loser at the end of this. I have never seen such a thorough and detailed account of the justice system and, yet, I feel like 8 episodes is still minimal and that a fuller picture could have been created with the addition of 2 more episodes. Nevertheless, this will do. It's a series with a lot on its mind, sometimes it stumbles, Naz and Chandra kissing was awkward, but it is a work of art.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk going to @TheNYFF

This is very exciting news. Especially that NYFF organizers have found a theater that would accommodate the film's technological advancements. This adds to the list of world premieres the NYFF already have which includes Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women, Ava Duvernays The 13th and James Gray’s The Lost City of Z.

Ang Lee’s film is the most hotly anticipated of the Oscar year after Martin Scorsese’s Silence. With the exception of Scorsese, there is no other Hollywood director releasing a fall film this year with a better filmography: Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Life of Pi, The Ice Storm and Sense and Sensibility are all top-notch, high-grade visual and depth-filled wonders.

The question of Scorsese's 195 minute Silence. Is it getting released this year?

By the way, anyone want to guess how long "Silence" is right now?

Kris Tapley mentioned the other day on Twitter that Scorsese`s Silence, still my most anticipated movie of the year, is going to clock in at 195 minutes. Making it the lengthiest Scorsese movie ever. That is if you don`t count the Bob Dylan and George Harrison docs. That is a lot to chew on. I`m fine with that. I`m ready. This is the film we`ve been waiting for all year: A meditative epic set in Japan that actually means something to its director. I hear it has shades of Kundun. which I didn`t really think highly of, but I`m willing to bet such a simple generalization will come to be untrue.

Is this the Telluride lineup?

I was sent, from a usually reliable source, a list of the films that will be appearing at the Telluride Film Festival at the end of the month. I emailed a contact I knew from the Telluride Film Fest to confirm if this is more or less the lineup. No answer back as of yet, but you can rest assured that 95% of these films are going to be selected based on the TIFF and Venice lineups alone.

"We're going to end up in the Hudson"

How can any true movie fan can not be looking forward to "Sully"? It's Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks. Eastwood is coming off his most successful movie ever "American Sniper," before that he was stuck in a painfully in bad streak ("Hereafter," "Jersey Boys," "J. Edgar," "Invictus"). This could be another return to form for the 86 year-old director who had a fantastic streak going in the 2000s with "Mystic River," "Million Dollar Baby," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Gran Torino," "Changeling." Clint is still the man, but there is something off about "Sully,"

Here is what I wrote on 7.1.16

German-style free styling?

Image result for MORRIS FROM AMERICA

"The screenplay award at Sundance went to Chad Hartigan’s funny and touching film about a African-American teenager growing up in, of all places, Germany with his dad, indelibly played by Craig Robinson who also took the acting prize at the closing ceremonies. First-time director Hartigan’s bittersweet coming of age tale is filled with stylish flourishes and a keen sense of comedic timing. Robinson is a revelation, but so is newcomer Markees Christmas as the hip-hop loving titular nerd with a special place in his heart for German girls. Who can blame him? The culture clash makes for a one of kind film that was the the leading contender for the big award and might have won it if it weren’t for Nate Parker’s film." B

Can Nate Parker be forgiven?

First things first. Here are a few thoughts I had when I saw Nate Parker's "The Birth of A Nation" this past January:

"Recounting the story of Nat Turner, an African American Slave that lead a rebellion in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virgina. There’s blood soaked, sweat induced, passion in every frame of Nate Parker’s flawed film. You can never discount this kind of brazingly ferocious filmmaking, even when it’s by a first-time filmmaker still learning his narrative steps. The aptly titled film is bound to cause a stir when it gets released later this year, choosing the title of D.W Griffith’s grand, but very racist, 1915 masterpiece is a sign that the times might be in fact changing. Winning the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award is a sign that this movie is about to take Hollywood by storm. It was made to piss people off and get them out of their seats shouting, what more could you ask for in a movie?"

"Grand Jury Prize and the Dramatic Audience Prize consolidating a week’s worth of standing ovations in Park City for his ambitious, but flawed The Birth Of A Nation. At the premiere of the film Parker said he wished the film would become an “agent of change,” a kind of cumulative rebuttal to the #Oscarssowhite movement. It seems like that is already the case. One simple Google search of Birth Of A Nation reveals that Griffith’s seminal film has finally been sidelined by the most unexpected of contenders, a film written, directed, acted and produced by a 36 year old African-American journeyman that is finally getting his due and taking the industry by storm at the right place and at the right time."

Where have all the rock albums gone?

Now that I've had time to ponder the Nate Parker case I will post something about it tomorrow.

In the meantime I was chatting with a buddy of mine today, mostly about Jack White and how much of a god this man is, but in all seriousness it led me to ponder where he and Meg's "Elephant" ranks with the best rock albums of the aughts.

Arcade Fire "Funeral," Green Day "American Idiot," The White Stripes "Elephant," Bob Dylan "Love and Theft," The Strokes "This Is It," Eminem "The Marshall Matters LP," Radiohead "Kid A," Wilco "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," Bruce Springsteen "The Rising," and "Magic," U2 "All That You Can't Leave Behind"

Yep this is pretty much the soundtrack of my life in the 2000s, although if I ever had the chance I'd listen to Top 40 radio. One thing that is interesting about this list compared to the ongoing one happening for this current decade is the lack of a clear, concise genre:

"My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," "The Suburbs," "Brothers," "21," "Wrecking Ball," "Yeezus," "Random Access Memories," "Modern Vampires of the City," "Beyonce," "1989" and "Lost in the Dream."

This post has been brought you by the geek inside me.

"Norman" and "Wakefield" might be headed to Telluride

The Toronto Film Festival just announced a bunch of intriguing new titles today. They have actually made the fest this year into a must-see. two of these are quite possibly going to Telluride, there's a new Malick, a boxing saga based on the real Rocky and much, much more.

Laying out all his cards?

Something about this new trailer for Denis Villeneuve's latest magnum opus "Arrival" has us wondering if Villeneuve's film should be taken at face value or if there is something more mysterious lurking beneath the surface. I mean we know the aliens are not your typical Spielbergian crawler, but, at the same time, there is definitely a "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" vibe going on here. I'll give the film the benefit of the doubt for the time being because it got chosen for Telluride, Toronto and Venice. Not many films can claim that this season.

A second look at @ThePlaylist and their "best of" Stephen Frears

With the release of "Florence Foster Jenkins," light, free-spirited, British-humored, but slight film, Stephen Frears continues to defy genre expectations in his career. It is time to figure out if this guy is an auteur or just an opportunistic professionally talented contract man.  The Playlist have published their picks for the best movies of Frears' career, click HERE, and, man, this guy's made a lot of great movies. The problem is does he have an auteuristic touch that bleeds through in them? I don't think he does. Are there any similar, noteworthy touches between, say, "High Fidelity" and "The Queen"? Not really. That doesn't detract from the fact that he is a very good filmmaker that seems to be doing a good job with every screenplay that comes his way. It's an eclectic filmography with what The Playlist's Jessica Kiang calls "a flexible aesthetic." That's a apt description.

Zemeckis' "Allied" is a question mark

IMDB has this:

"While on a mission to kill a German official in 1942 Africa, two assassins (Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard) fall in love, get married and then discover that one is a double agent that the other must eliminate."

All of which basically doesn't really get explained i this teaser trailer. Zemeckis is a technical wizard, if he can find a sharp screenplay for his visual gifts he could truly make a good movie. The problem is this: "The Polar Express,", "Beowulf," "A Christmas Carol," ""The Walk" and "Flight." Those are his last 5 movies. I'll give you this, "Flight" is not bad, but not that memorable. "The Walk" was technically well made, especially in its second half. But really this is not the Zemeckis we knew back in the 80s and 90s with "Back to the Future," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," "Forrest Gump" and, yes, even "Cast Away" specifically when Hanks was stranded alone.  Just sheer exuberant storytelling that he concocted so brilliantly in the 80s with Spielberg and on his own in the 90s. 

Steven Knight wrote the screenplay. That's what I'm really excited about. Knight is responsible for some downbeat thrillers such "Eastern Promises," "Dirty Pretty Things," and "Locke." Knight is also responsible for "Peaky Blinders," which definitely has its effervescent following.  Zemeckis having a writer of this caliber will compliment his visual wonder, but will that be enough?

"Blood Father" and "Gleason"

I finally caught "Gleason" the other day and, boy, was it ever a tough watch. ALS has not really been tackled that much as far as film goes, but if there ever was a film that could define and give cinematic language to the disease it's this documentary about former NFL-er Steve Gleason who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and not too long after found out he was going to be a father. It just so happens that he was filming himself the entire time, from the moment he found out about the diagnosis to the way his body disintegrates into nothingness over the next 4 years of his life. The slow and painful way he loses his motor functions is heartbreaking, but so is the way director Jay Tweel manages to edit and make a coherent movie out of Gleason's personal video journals for his newborn son. His wife Michel turns out to be the heart and soul of the picture, battling her way through the demons that haunt her and the life she never expected she'd have to live as caretaker of Steve's This is a movie that is more important and revelatory than any ice-bucket challenge ever could be. [B+]

Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival" has, err, arrived

I'm from Montreal. An unabashed supporter of Denis Villeneuve's since 2000 and his incredible darkly tragic tale, narrated by a fish no less, "Maelstrom." His talent only got better. "Polytechnique" was about a tragic college shooting in Quebec which had some of the same haunting qualities that definied Gus Van Sant's "Elephant." He followed that up with "Incendies" his best film. His last film in French in fact. That is because Hollywood came knocking and gave him a surprising amount of "creative freedom" or as they call in L.A. "leverage." There was "Prisoners" which had Villeneuve's imprint all over its gloomy exterior, too bad the screenplay wasn't up to his standards, but nevertheless a profoundly interesting depiction of regret and loss. That same year he debut at TIFF "Enemy" which was better than it had any right to be, he turned the screws on its screenplay by, wisely, imitating Cronenberg. Last year was "Sicario" which, in my books, was almost a home run. Now here comes Arrival." It will be at Telluride, it will be at Venice and it will be at TIFF. The three majors have chosen it. A good sign. The trailer barely reveals the details and I like it just like that. Bring it on. Its premiere is supposedly set the first weekend of TIFF, which means between September 11th and 14th. Telluride and Venice will have it screen a week or so before that.

Sundance and Cannes Top 10s

Fall film festivals are about to kickstart another season of frenzy. Chances are if you live in a big city there's a film fest about to happen between September and November. December is Hollywood contenders time. Here are the standouts from both Sundance and Cannes that might/will surely make it to your fest.

54th New York Film Festival lineup revealed

A few points:
Cannes retreads: The Unknown Girl is supposedly a different version than the one shown at Cannes. The Dardennes have edited the film since its May croissette premiere. What I saw back then was a refined, greatest hits type of film from the brothers instead of something fresh and incisive. Same thing goes for Pedro Almosovar's Julieta which which had a lukewarm reception no only at Cannes, but also in his nativ country of Spain where the film was released earlier in the year. As for I,  Daniel Blake, which won the Palme D'or! It has powerful moments infused with mediocre scenes as well. Would I recommend it? You bet I would. Is it Palme worthy? Of course not.
Kent Jones has stated that more surprises would be revealed, which probably means surprise screenings. Scorsese or Ang Lee perhaps.
Notice Barry Jenkins and Moonlight, which is looking more and more like n under-the-radar contender with bows at TIFF and Teluride as well. 
Mean Girls meets disaster flick with comic book writer/artist Dash Shaw’s feature-length animation, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, starring the voices of Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts will also be at TIFF.

Alison Maclean and The Rehearsal. Her first film since Jesus Son back in, wait for it, 1999. Berlin favorities Fire at SeaSon of Joseph and Things to Come have made the cut.

Why is Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" so abnormally intriguing?

So this past Friday we finally caught a glimpse of Christopher Nolan's much anticipated next project "Dunkirk". The fact that Nolan has basically been delving into science fiction/fantasy for the better part of, what, 10 years now ("Batman Begins,""The Prestige,""The Dark Knight," "Inception," "The Dark Knight Rises,""Interstellar") makes "Dunkirk" even more intriguing. This is the first time Nolan has dealt with the "war movie" genre and the first movie where he deals with reality since "Insomnia" back in 2002. We all know he's a great technical filmmaker, sometimes his ideas spin out of control, but there always is that fascinating nature with Nolan about how meticulous and precise his craft is. Like Kubrick. Yes, I need to mention Kubrick because, well, I have a theory that Nolan does aspire to be a Kubrickian figure in cinematic history. Right now he has the talent to make something very special. He just needs the right script. Problem is he writes his own. No knock on his writing abilities, but I do find that his directing abilities far exceed his writing.

Interview: Ira Sachs and his "Little Men"

Here's my REVIEW of "Little Men" which is mixed with an interview of its director Ira Sachs HERE

Little Men

@dontbreathe "Don't Breathe" Scariest movie of the year?

There are people out there that believe Fede Alvarez' remake of "Evil Dead" is better than the original. It's better conceived, that's for sure. More professionally shot, no doubt overall better? Debatable, but definitely not a ludicrous claim. The original 1981 film is a cult classic, but that doesn't mean it's a great movie. Alvarez tried his best to maintain the B-Movie horrors, but expertly direct the whole thing. Good on him.