Thursday, September 24, 2015

VIFF 2015: High Rise, Cop Car, plus the state of cultural overload

Okay, so I've been making no great effort to educate myself on the VIFF this year, but a couple of films look like must-sees.

To be honest, I'm unconvinced - based on only short exposure, I'm an expert on neither - by the genius of either Ben Wheatley or J.G. Ballard, having encountered works by both that didn't impress me very much (respectively, the straining-to-be-strange, occasionally annoying A Field In England and the kind of bloated later novel Millenium People, to say nothing of the unreadable, pleasure-free, perversely clinical exercise that is The Atrocity Exhibition). But people whose tastes I have some respect for (Dan Kibke, Blake Smith, Adrian Mack and Charles Mudede, to name names) have said enthusiastic things about his work, so I'm still willing to give him a chance (and I liked Cronenberg's Crash, after all, though haven't managed to get through it as a novel yet). High-Rise, the film - directed by Wheatley - is definitely on my radar this year. Tom Charity wrote a pretty enthusiastic piece on the film for Cinema Scope, and I've been enjoying Tom Hiddleston lately - Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies, and the lead in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive. It seems like it's at least potentially an essential work for film geeks to take in...

...though god knows it's getting hard to keep track of which films count as must-sees any given year! There is so much cinema out there, so much awareness of it, so many opportunities to see it, so much information on it, compared to the days of my youth - when, to say nothing of my youthfulness itself, you had only a few hundred movies on VHS to choose from at your local video store, besides a handful of theatrical releases at any given time, and no internet to turn to - that you kind of get exhausted, you know? You have to protect yourself a little, or you could spend your whole life lost down the rabbit hole. I rather feel this way about music, too, lately - like I have to protect myself from an impending state of cultural overload by limiting what I will allow in my life. I have no idea how someone like Mike Usinger at the Straight keeps abreast of so much new material; I have a bit of a reputation with him, I think, as the Steve Newton of punk rock - not to diss the Newt - but honest, folks, I can only follow and do justice to a certain number of bands, and I can only eat so much before I get full. Seems like every year or so I can take one or two new acts (not counting local acts, last year it was the Andrew Jackson Jihad, this year it appears to be Titus Andronicus) but I've grown kind of protective of my antennae, if you will - I can't keep them out there in the ether for too long without starting to feel overwhelmed. (My respect to those who can, though - see also this interesting music website run by a guy whose antennae are far hardier than mine). 
However, back to the VIFF, you also get a strong sense that Cop Car - one of this year's Altered States films - could prove to be a genre classic (it certainly has a classic poster). It sounds like it's a very stripped down, lean-and-mean, unadulterated work of genre cinema, and has a very, very promising premise, which I'm doing my best NOT to tell my girlfriend about, since it's such a nice experience to come to a good movie having heard nothing about it, you know? So rare, and so pleasant, to be surprised by a film, to come to it totally fresh; I usually do the opposite with her, even when she doesn't necessarily want me to, like, playing her clips of Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead so she can better appreciate Cabin in the Woods, say - which I'm only playing her as preparation for Joss Whedon's The Avengers - which, really, does not require an appreciation of Cabin in the Woods (or Buffy, of Firefly, or...) to enjoy, but, you know, there's a right way to go about things, and knowledge implies responsibility...   heh...

Anyhow, Cop Car screens at the Rio at 11pm on Sept. 25th. I guess I won't say any more about it here, either, since there's the VIFF writeup and Mack's interview with the filmmaker to be had, and I don't have a lot else to go on myself. I'm sure there are reviews out there, but I haven't read them. Have I mentioned that I usually only read reviews after I see the film? I guess that's not a great habit for an ostensible critic to have, but does anyone actually want to know what someone else thinks about a movie before they see it? "Duuuh, someone tell me what movies are worth watching?" I mean, protective of them or not, my antennae work just fine without anyone's help; the whole gatekeeper function of film criticism, telling you why someone thought a film was good or bad, is far less useful than someone analyzing why a film is interesting, which is a whole other question, because even terrible films can be fascinating, you know? I'll make up my own mind if I LIKE them or not, thanks.

...though, to be honest, I did just read Armond "troll" White's review of The Green Inferno, "Occupy the Jungle," but only because Eli Roth himself came out in praise of it on Facebook, because I already know, given the protracted birth period that this film has had, quite a bit about it, and because White can be so unpredictable and contrary in his opinions that his liking or not liking a film really says very little about it; reading what he writes about a film is like adding a spice to a curry that you've never used before, and then seeing what results. ("I wonder how this will taste if I throw in some fennel seeds?"). Mostly, though, I don't want to know; someone else wrote in a review of the film - okay, okay, I've read a couple, but I'm excited, here - about the use of a bag of weed in the film, and I certainly regret having that fun plot device spoiled for me.

Anyhow, it's almost time to start cooking breakfast... this blogging is what comes of being wakened by my bowels at 4:30 AM. Damn these antibiotics!

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