MIFF 2017: The Work

Twice a year, New Folsom Prison allows members of the public to enter its walls to participate in a four-day group therapy session with inmates facilitated by former prisoners and counsellors. Prisoners begin the four-day intensive with a pact to leave prison rules and gang politics at the door, and the outsider participants find themselves thrust into the world’s most intense psychotherapy session, where white, black, Asian and Native American gang members down their arms and lay bare their most intimate insecurities and anxieties to one another, hoping to find some kind of remedy for the failures, betrayals and mistakes that landed them in prison.

Read this story on The Essential

MIFF 2017: Person to Person

Dustin Guy Defa’s breezy second feature follows a group of characters each navigating an inflection point in their lives during the course of one autumn day in New York City. An ensemble slice-of-life indie that wades comfortably in the still waters of life’s lesser dramas, its web of vaguely connected storylines finds comedy in the earnest search for one’s true, unaffected self.

Read this story on The Essential

In profile: Wesley Morris

For Wesley Morris, a film is never just a film. Whether high, low or middle-brow, each is a message in the great cultural conversation humankind has been having with itself since the first oral storytellers began swapping tales thousands of years ago. Once completed and released into cinemas a film does not suddenly become a static artefact, settled in its interpretation; for Morris it remains something to be actively probed, understood, recontextualised and used as a prompt for further discussion and artistic exploration.

Read this story on The Essential

Everyone Has to Cooperate: Nationalism and Victimhood in Grave of the Fireflies

Isao Takahata’s tragic and poetic Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka) is a war film detached from the heat of battle, focused on innocent people living in war-torn cities. The film is a warning that bullets and bombs are not the only deadly forces in wartime; even among apparently innocent victims, blind patriotism and selfishness wield an equal capacity for killing.

Read this story on Bright Wall/Dark Room

MIFF 2016: The Neon Demon

What does it say about the current crop of emerging independent filmmakers that it took a 45-year-old Dane to distill millennial ennui to its purest form and violently thrust it onto the screen? Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is an affront to accepted ideas of good taste, storytelling and restraint, and it will be hated by almost everyone who sees it. It’s also perfect.

Read this story on The Essential

The banality of brilliance: what Love & Mercy gets right about the depiction of genius

By choosing to make the film Love & Mercy, a mostly factual retelling of the life of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson, director Bill Pohlad and screenwriters Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner chose to bear an unenviable responsibility: translating for the screen the dazzling creative brilliance of one of music’s most revered figures.

Read this story on The Essential

Road to nowhere: the painfully unfunny Vacation

What can you say about a film whose opening joke involves a grown man falling face-first into the crotch of a ten-year-old boy?

Certainly not that it’s operating on any kind of intellectual level. Vacation‘s jokes avoid the brain entirely and make their play directly for the gut, or parts even further south. It has no interest in impressing with its wit, although wit would have struggled to find space to breathe anyway in a script crowded with the comedy writer’s trusty old companion: the projective vomit.

Read this story on The Essential