Fantastic Fest 2017 Review – World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts

Don Hertzfeldt has been ascending as a filmmaker for years – World of Tomorrow felt like the peak of his career, it appears his ascension will continue. World of Tomorrow: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts takes the audience back into Emily Prime’s world, while introducing new versions of her, including Emily 6, who serves the same purpose as a backup hard drive for Emily Prime. Hertzfeldt takes a plunge into new depths of the human spirit, human emotions, and continues the conversation about preserving ourselves for the future.

This film picks up with Emily Prime drawing pictures, and Emily 6 stops in for a surprise visit. Emily Prime is as cute, and innocent as ever. Emily 6 tells Emily Prime her purpose, and reason for existence. Emily Prime is game for the adventure, and off they go. Hertzfeldt finds a beautiful balance of whimsy, joy, and deep melancholy underneath the surface.

There’s much room to discuss our desire to live forever, whether it’s through leaving a mark on this world with something memorable, through the cloning process, or cheap memory banks. Why do we have that feeling? Is the present not good enough for us? A repeated theme is also, “We mustn’t linger. It is easy to get lost in memories.” Some of us dwell on the past – whether it’s a recent past in our lifetime, or in a golden age we long for. We spot these in popular culture every day. Would the works of “It” and “Stranger Things” be as popular if we did not long for something in our childhood? Nostalgia can be a fun thing, it can also set unattainable goals of happiness and expectations from this world. Let’s live in the now!

On a technical aspect, the elephant in the room is the lack of a universal method of preserving our art. Hard drives fail every day. Can artists rely on unreliable hard drives so that tomorrow’s generation can enjoy their work? Who can they trust to backup their works of art? With every new iteration of storage, the films must be converted to that format, and eventually these formats will outlive each artist living today. That is a scary thought! Think about your favorite film, wouldn’t you feel sad if many generations pass in your family, and your family cannot enjoy the same art you held in such high regard? If the purest forms of art hold a mirror to us, we lose a part of ourselves if/when we lose that art.

There is one particular sequence involving the “bog of reality” that was way too real. It’s not the most pleasant place, but simultaneously, Hertzfeldt gives us much hope. Think about some goals and dreams you have not reached, what stopped you? This sequence may terrify some, but Hertzfeldt coats this with delicious sugar that makes this bitter pill easy to swallow. It’s reassuring to realize that you’re not alone in this world, these themes are familiar because they’re so relatable.

Like any great writer, Hertzfeldt is a keen observer of the human spirit. Throughout the film you may recognize emotions that feel so intimate that it feels like he wrote a piece just for you. This film is an emotional rollercoaster! One moment you’ll be laughing at the cute delivery from Winona Mae (Emily Prime and Hertzfeldt’s niece), then you’ll feel the complete desolation of your existence when you consider the vast universe and how small each of us is in the big picture. These emotions often unite together, and left this writer in a constant state of cry-laughing through the runtime.

Hertzfeldt’s technique involved him recording his niece, Winona Mae between the ages of 4-6. He tried a loose script with her, asking her to repeat lines but that was a futile effort. Instead, Hertzfeldt captured quiet moments with his niece on his iPad. He then used all of the clean audio he could find to write the story. This particular technique is daring, and fascinating that he could accomplish such a beautiful story using raw audio footage from his niece. During the Q&A, Don Hertzfeldt whispered “Boyhood” into our ears – hinting that it’s possible that World of Tomorrow could become an episodic telling of Emily Prime’s life as she grows up. WOW. If that’s the direction he wants to take this, we will gladly sign up to witness this delightful series.

Fans of the first World of Tomorrow will find much to love. Any newcomers will be in heaven as they can discover both of these films back to back. World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts demands repeat viewings. Don Hertzfeldt gives us much to think about long after viewing this film. We urge you to support this film whenever it becomes available. Invite your friends and family over to watch the film. This is an absolute, must-see.

Fantastic Fest 2017 Review – The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos’ films do not take place in this world. In his alternate world, people say things that would trigger people from our world. What’s considered inappropriate conversation here, is just another day in the life in the world Lanthimos has created. During The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Steven (Colin Farrell) casually tells his colleague that his daughter is experiencing her first menstrual cycle – he delivers that piece of information as casually as they would talk about what they had for breakfast. The dialogue is delivered in a near monotone voice, there’s little room for inflection in his films. The delivery frequently comes off as deadpan, our laughter acting as a release or as a self-defence mechanism for the squeamish things we’re witnessing during the movie. The Killing of a Sacred Deer goes down some dark paths, and Lanthimos is not concerned with your level of comfort.

The film opens with Steven meeting with a young boy called Martin (Barry Keoghan). Martin admires Steven, he frequently asks him questions, and is hell-bent on playing a larger part of Steven’s life. Steven takes measures to keep Martin a secret from everyone in his life until Martin completely forces him into his life by showing up at his work, and by calling him late at night. Martin is a little off, but he doesn’t feel threatening, until he absolutely becomes a force to be reckoned with. That’s about as far as we want to go with describing the plot of this film.

As previously mentioned, the dialogue delivery borders on monotone. This places a daring challenge on the actors in the film, they’re forced to use deliberate pacing with their delivery, and employ subtle facial expressions to display their emotions. Nicole Kidman plays Anna, Steven’s wife. Kidman is a force of nature. Her outstanding economy of movement gives the audience enough to know when she’s content, excited, or ready to kick some ass. It’s a subtle performance, worthy of much praise. The collective cast is aces. Farrell trusts Lanthimos’ direction, adding another fantastic role to Farrell’s best performances to date. Rising star Barry Keoghan knocks it out of the park with a nuanced role that is simultaneously sweet, innocent, and creepy. Some audience members will recognize him from Dunkirk, where he also delivered a beautiful performance.

Reflecting on the way people talk in this world, one can conclude that Lanthimos wants the collective people in our world to be more open with each other. Being open doesn’t always require 100% honesty, however. The notion of being offended is foreign to this world. There are moments that are crafted to make the audience feel uncomfortable, this is the way to “be the change you wish to see in this world!” Studying his films may offer a book of rules the characters follow with their style of speech.

There’s room to wonder what this film is really about, but this is arguably Lanthimos’ most straightforward narrative to date. This is no slight on the film – on the contrary, the clever plot gives Lanthimos and his team a deliciously wicked sandbox to play in. While watching the film, also consider that Lanthimos is Greek, that will provide many answers for any questions you may raise during and after the film. An underlying moral of this story is that we need to be accountable for the decisions we make. When one of the characters makes a mistake, they must pay the piper. The highest forms of art hold a mirror to society and there’s plenty of room to interpret that we’re all on trial here.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is visually stunning. The tracking shots in particular add to the narrative flow, making this the film equivalent to a page-turner. It feels like we’re peeking around the corner to see what he has cooking up for us next. The set design is pristine, and minimalist. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is beautifully shot by Thimios Bakatakis – who also shot Dogtooth and The Lobster. The camera movements have purpose and add a rich layer to the narrative experience.

Fans of Dogtooth and The Lobster will find much to enjoy with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. While we implied the basis is simple, processing the events we witness couldn’t be farther from simple. You will question motivation, morals, and choices. This film will initiate much discussion, and because each of us come into the movie with unique life experiences, we may all take something different out of the film. Yorgos Lanthimos is among the finest filmmakers working today, it’s refreshing to witness this artist challenge us with each film he makes.

Fantasia Reviews – 78/52, and Assholes


Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho paved the way for filmmakers, and film lovers past and present. 78/52 is a frame by frame analysis of the famous shower scene that has often been replicated, but never duplicated. Alexandre O. Philippe (Director) interviews some of the people directly involved in the film such as Marli Renfro (Janet Leigh’s body double), as well as filmmakers who were inspired by Hitchcock’s craft: Eli Roth, Karyn Kusama, and Guillermo del Toro to name a few. The approach peels back like layers of an onion: the audience learns about the bigger picture, set design, symbolism of the setup, the political climate of 1960, then as the layers are peeled away we learn more about the process, how each shot was captured, and the meticulous way Hitchcock lured in audiences for a terrifying scene.

It’s remarkable to consider the political landscape of 1960. The average American citizen was aware of global threats, but did not consider their own home as a form of terror. Even photographing the toilet was considered off-limits during this time. It’s fascinating to listen to these talented filmmakers, writers, critics, actors, actresses all discuss the brilliance of every frame from this sequence. Psycho is so deeply ingrained into our cultural landscape that it has no doubt changed the way many of us take a shower while we’re home alone.

Part of the fully realized goal of this finely crafted film is to gain a new appreciation of a film most film lovers have viewed many times over. There’s a fascinating sequence where there is a deep discussion of the Marion’s internal struggle over confessing her crimes, and accepting the consequences. Water is a powerful symbol and it can be used to represent life and death.

78/52 is a must-see film for film lovers. Whether you’re looking for insight into a film you adore, or just want to hang out with some friends and participate in the conversation, there is a lot to chew on. Shot beautifully in black and white, this is a visually and aurally pleasing film to watch about a woman getting murdered in the shower.


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch an extreme close-up of two people making out while their mouths are covered in disgusting herpes sores? Me neither! The film opens with Adah (Betsey Brown) talking with her therapist about her family problems, as well as finding someone else who enjoys the same off the wall sex as she does. Lucky for her, the next patient Aaron (Jack Dunphy) explains to his therapist how he fantasizes about aggressive anal sex – voila! A match made in…hell? Aptly named, this film follows the antics these assholes get into – from patronizing her brother in the film, as well as her parents. Watch as these two assholes spit into each other’s mouths, hump on the streets of New York, and give everyone around them a horrible time, including the audience.

Written and Directed by Peter Vack (Brown’s real-life brother, and on-screen brother), it’s difficult to put a finger on the point of this film. The subversive nature is manufactured to shock and upset the audience. The audience can do without repeated close-ups of herpes sores, but Vack goes to that well repeatedly. Is the audience supposed to walk away with a lesson in preventing the spread of STDs? Did we witness a bizarre collective therapy session for Vack and his family? Did we mention that his parents are in the film and witness many of these bizarre sexual acts being performed on their daughter?

There are a few entertaining takeaways, however. Assholes is a well-shot film by Justin Zweifach. While the content may not be appealing, the shot composition is well-planned and beautifully executed. There is a sequence shot in Times Square that looks breathtaking, all while you watch these jerks cause mayhem and hump each other in the streets. This sequence has shining moments that are quite funny.

At the end of the day, Assholes is intended to be a shocking film that some people may dare others to watch. We hesitate to make that same recommendation when there are better subversive films available already.

78/52 and Assholes appear as part of our coverage of the 21st edition of Fantasia 2017.

Fantasia Review: Tokyo Idols

In Japan, the “idol” industry provides a living for young girls, and fulfills desires of much older men. The girls range between the ages of 10-20, and the men appear old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers. The girls perform pop songs, while dancing along to the music while these men dance and cheer for them the way North Americans may imagine young children cheering for boy bands on this side of the globe. Sounds harmless, right? Kyoke Miyake’s (Director/Writer) documentary sheds light on the dark side of this industry.
Continue reading “Fantasia Review: Tokyo Idols”

Fantasia Review: Savage Dog

If you’re familiar with Scott Adkins, you know exactly what you’re getting when you sign up for one of his films: gory action, cartoon villains, countless henchmen, and Scott Adkins kicking ass. Savage Dog has much of the above to offer, but not without its shortcomings. Continue reading “Fantasia Review: Savage Dog”