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12 SycamoresRe: The rest of the year

As a big fan of Dogtooth and The Lobster, I was sort of disappointed in Killing of a Sacred Deer. That deadpan formality of the dialogue in Lobster made sense for that world and made the film feel special, but here it's just trying. Sure, it's good for several moments of black comedy, but in a film taking place in the "real world" this device keeps all the characters at arm's length and I'm left thinking that the whole thing is just Lanthimos going "aren't I kooky?" I mean, kinda? I've seen weirder indie films, bud -- you're not that special. Of course, part of the point of the movie is taking very civilized people and pushing them toward their baser instincts, but again, we get it early, and then it keeps going for two hours. This story definitely could have been achieved, weirdness and all, with a less intentionally-stilted approach.

Also, despite loving the pacing of Lobster, I really think this one should have moved a bit quicker in the second half. Me not being invested in the main character's "choice" (because, again, no one seems like a real person) made everything feel pretty tedious.

Still, some very good performances, an evocative and brutal soundtrack, and Lanthy's camera is just lovely.

I hope I disagree with you on this. Sacred Deer is one of the few new films this year I'm legitimately looking forward to.
Oct 22, 2017 12:34 AM
Janson JinnistanBut American states also have this same impulse to isolate and celebrate their most most unique aspects for cultural value. ?Something, anything, to distinguish themselves from the rest of the neighborhood.

Of course, but there are a couple of factors you aren't taking into consideration here. The first is that, in the case of the different States, there is a considerably deeper pool of artists out there that manage to define their unique cultural aspects. We all can think of umpteen number of artists that embrace the sounds and mood of the places they come from, whether it be New Orleans or Chicago or Memphis or San Francisco and Seattle etc. We don't have an abundance of this in Canada. Many Canadian artists don't really in any way sound of 'Canada' and frequently do whatever they can to sound like they are from anywhere else, Britain or America being the general cultures we ape the mos (you are correct about Montreal, it is very much a culture apart and they are much better at defining their distinctness). There is a serious hesitancy for many musicians, filmmakers, authors from the country to self identify, and as a result they will wipe as many Canadian signifiers as they can from their sound and lyrical content. Part of this is due to the fact that we are generally influenced more by outside artists than internal ones. We often create through emulation. There is also the fact that, considering how much we were forced to listen to Canadian content (a certain percentage of everything played on radio and television was once forced to be purely Canadian, produced performed in recorded in the country) we were overwhelmed with endlessly awful bands that were forced onto the charts. Just horrendous music. Most Canadians from that time period could recognize a Canadian song coming from the opening chords of a song, that thin production, that inherent soulessness, the occasional ill advised shout out to the homeland. It is understandable that a band might want to put as much distance between themselves and the rest of the countries mediocre output. Finally, we are people who seem to have an inability to take ourselves terribly seriously, consistently undervalue our own culture and sometimes even turn out nose up at things which proclaim to be 'proudly Canadian'. There is even an element of insecurity in seeing our culture reflected back at us . It is sometimes like the cringing reaction you may get the first time you hear your own voice on a tape recording. We don't always like being reminded who we are culturally. For many it unfortunately sometimes comes off as tacky, uncool, second rate.

The Tragically Hip seemed to dare against these bias'. There entire sound and identity was Canada to the core. Their lyrics made deeply obscure references to Canadian history and celebrities, street names, phrases and the guys who played in the band all looked like they just come in from playing road hockey. We should have winced at their in you face approach to essentially being an unapologetically nationalistic band, but it was what ended up engraving themselves on our own identities. I remember the first time I heard the band, and my immediate reaction to them was not only 'Ugh, they are singing about Canada' but 'Ugh, they even sound Canadian'. But in time I couldn't help but warm up to them. That sincere vulnerability in showing that deep love towards the expanse of mystery of this country was a beautifully defiant gesture. Finally a band who sounded like us that didn't make us wince.

As for liking or not liking the band, they are not really an easy band to push on anyone not already indoctrinated into their fold, especially with the baggage of 'greatest Canadian band'. The reason is because they weren't the greatest Canadian band. They are really a rag tag bar band, a bunch of scruffy but capable musicians, but ones who don't necessarily have a signature sound in and of themselves. There is nothing terribly special about their guitar work or rhythm section. I also don't think they ever recorded a 'masterpiece'. They put out albums with a lot of decent songs and always a handful of spectacular ones. Lots of bands do that though, and they do it with better production values and better videos. So that specialness that all Canadians seem to talk about inevitably gets put down upon Downey's shoulders.He's as unique a frontman as anyone in the business, his singing style, stage performances and lyrical approach all singular to himself. He also managed to present himself as approachable, an Everyman, regardless of the fact their always seemed to be a mystery about him just hovering above him, an otherworldiness. An aloofness, but an aloofness with enough heart that he could also suddenly seem to be on the verge of tears if the moment overtook him. Even my grandmother, who hates everything modern, coudln't help but me fascinated enough by him and their farewell performance last year to frequently ask me how 'the guy with cancer in his head' was doing. Somehow he even made a mark on her hard and crusty soul.
Oct 21, 2017 4:58 PM
Janson Jinnistanexplain the difference...

Possibly my favourite performance in all of The Last Waltz. I fucking love everything about Rick Danko.

The Band are of the very best, but also weirdly one of the most American sounding of all bands.
Oct 21, 2017 1:45 PM
Janson Jinnistan
crumbsroomI can only imagine that a headline as hyperbolic as that has more to do with how across the board Downey's influence is in Canada, and how pervasive the impact of that band was here. They are like a local band with a deeply fanatical following, but somehow, entirely nationwide. ?I don't think the Tragically Hip ever put out any album nearly as great as top tier Stipe, Dylan, Cohen or even Springsteen (and I'm not even that big a Bruce fan). But their (in particular, his) presence was so deeply ingrained in the culture here (at least for a relatively modern band) that I get what the article is over reaching to say.

My "no offense" was sincere, in that I assume that there are wavelengths that I'm incapable of comprehending. ?I didn't even mention Neil Young, as I thought that may prove way too incendiary in this eulogy.

USA...Canada....if only we had some kind of ambassador to explain the difference...

It is very much the insular Caadian quality of the band that has created the mythos around them here, so it is pretty understandable that they never entirely translated across the border. I think much of this X factor has to do with how we, like any country, have a certain craving for a national identity, but at the same point, reflexively kick against it at times. The notion of Canadian identity has always seemed something many Canadians are either bashful or awkward or maybe distrustful in really proclaiming, and there at times can even be a mild hostility to any song or movie or book that gives off a real reek of trying to be too congratulatory or self aware of this identity. I can remember how, when watching a movie, the entire spell of the thing could be upended if I recognized a scene that was shot in the streets of Toronto, a feeling of 'aw, shit, this is just Canada' and not some other mythic feeling place (New York, the American South etc). Because of this Canadian artists frequently seem to try their best to erase or step around any real cultural signifiers, and I think it is often considered gauche by many when they don't. But Downie was an artist who somehow managed to get away with never hiding his Canadianess, in fact built the entire sense of his band around his country, and he managed to make it feel just as mythic and mysterious and dangerous and surreal as all of those other place we generally imagined as being someplace further away. Others have done this successfuly as well (Young, Cohen), but only to a point. Those artists kept those kinds of details on the sidelines, even if they are deeply Canadian artists, whereas the Hip's music was Canada right at the axis, and they spoke of the country in a personal way that only long time friends of a place can only deeply relate to or decode.
This doesn't mean they are impenetrable to others. They are still a really good band with an exceptional front man (even if the production work on their albums frequently seemed somewhat lacking). It isn't necessary to get all of the inside 'jokes' to have appreciation for them, and I think the music world would be better off if The Tragically Hip became better known abroad. But I doubt many outside of the country will ever get the fanaticism here. Which is entirely fine and almost entirely the point.
Oct 21, 2017 1:43 PM
Janson Jinnistan
TeamCanadaNY Times had a nice piece earlier in the week. Describing to (obviously) probable American readers, paraphrasing: imagine Gord Downie for Canadians as Springsteen, Dylan, & Stipe combined... & you're getting close.

Yeah, but Leonard Cohen is Canadian.

No offense to Gordo, but I felt I should go ahead and point that out.

I can only imagine that a headline as hyperbolic as that has more to do with how across the board Downey's influence is in Canada, and how pervasive the impact of that band was here. They are like a local band with a deeply fanatical following, but somehow, entirely nationwide. I don't think the Tragically Hip ever put out any album nearly as great as top tier Stipe, Dylan, Cohen or even Springsteen (and I'm not even that big a Bruce fan). But their (in particular, his) presence was so deeply ingrained in the culture here (at least for a relatively modern band) that I get what the article is over reaching to say.

Oct 21, 2017 2:56 AM
One of the greatest rock and roll frontmen of the last 25 years. Just because the rest of the world could never figure this out was hardly his fault.

This day was increasingly inevitable, but still horribly depressing. A great man and a great body of work.

Oct 19, 2017 2:25 AM
175. Big Alligator River
Oct 18, 2017 12:04 AM

What "anti"? Both can be good yet one lesser. Your response is like preferring Scorsese movies over Kubrick movies, so if anyone claimed that, they'd be "anti-Kubrick". ?Nonsensical. "I think Shemar Moore is the most gorgeous male actor ever". "Oh, so you're anti-all-others! All other male actors are hags! Why are you so anti-Denzel?!!!"

Or in a more objective take, Jupiter is the largest planet, Saturn the next-largest, but recognizing that isn't "anti-Saturn". Take your strawmen or whatever elsewhere. As if I think Pynchon also isn't a great writer...

And nice cherry-picking. Not Christie, not those shitty poets [I claim]. Hey, maybe Pynchon is indeed better than King and I'm wrong. If so any other disagreements? p.s. you can't even spell "Bickle" correctly. Either a valid typo as all do, or an indication of ignorance. Overall, thanks for your adding to this thread more possible ignorance and illogic.

"I'd ask you to elaborate on this anti-Pynchon shit" Again, I am not anti-Pynchon. And again, ask for that and you will likely receive more than you'd know how to respond so hide in a cave. Do you really want to ask this of me, where I'd spank you yet again?

Christ. Abandon all reason for madness. Lie, why not. Good lord life would be so damned nice if I wasn't burdened with an objective mind and tiny little sense of Logic, per the propositions and such. It's a burden. Same as the ACLU defending Nazis. ?Subjective foolishness, lies at will, cherry-picking, dishonest replies---oh how free that would be....

So you were citing examples of how all critics are prone to some fallacious thinking (ie. early feminists were eugenicists) and the one you chose for literature was that Pynchon is a great writer but objectively slightly less great than King? Okay, great way to drive home your point.

Also, just to be clear, placing Pynchon beneath Stephen King on any kind of critical scale is certainly anti-Pynchon considering how fucking godawful King is once you stop evaluating him next to genre hacks and? stack him up against legitimate writers. Pynchon isn't above criticism, as no artist is, but he's certainly above being dunked in the stink tank along with that dingus Jordy Verrill.

And how the fuck am I cherry picking? I don't care about all of your other points. That's why I didn't comment about them.

Oct 16, 2017 9:39 PM
Symptoms from the same director is quite good.

Oct 16, 2017 3:07 AM

With every character dialing up their performances to a hysterical level where most scenes have everyone just yelling at eachother in funny accents, I guess this could be misunderstood as a comedy (as it bills itself on the cover). But beneath the funny sound effects and the sped up scenes of people running away from the sight of worms, a film that is filled with close ups of people eating with their mouths open is a serious nightmare for me. Having hot dogs garnished with worms is the least of my problems as lips smack away and food juice runs down chins. It also might be misleading to call anything a comedy that has these dashing young men show up


They deserve a nightmare Firefighter Calendar all to themselves.

Oct 16, 2017 1:15 AM
WooleyOh and I remember at one time the feeling on Nightmare City was that it was one of the worst movies ever, but I feel like I remember that opinion being revisited.
Anybody got this one?

I like Nightmare City a lot. It's total junk, but it's enjoyably ridiculous junk.
Oct 16, 2017 1:01 AM
WooleyHey, Night Flight has a buncha cheapo movies for Halloween, where is this group on The Mutilator?

I was probably 13 when I last saw it, and the video I had was a really terrible transfer that made all of the scenes at night almost impossible to watch since you couldn't see anything. It has lingered with me forever though and I've been desperate to rewatch it for years. I know it had a recent re-release (which I'm waiting to show up at the video store I still go to) even though I think Rumpled informed me it is up on You Tube now. I prefer not to watch films on my computer though since the sound is complete shit. If I can't rent it within the next few months though, I imagine I'll eventually cave.
Oct 16, 2017 12:34 AM
146 The Witch Who Came From the SEa
Oct 15, 2017 1:30 PM


Eli Roth tries to split the difference between millenial satire and Cannibal Holocaust tribute and bungles both. The satirical point Roth makes is too shallow and the characters are played far too broadly to merit much interest beyond mild derision, and unlike Hostel, it never manages to ease us into their POV when the horror starts. Also, the digital cinematography is far too clean to be atmospheric, leaving us with a big pile of nothing. At least the guy on the poster looks kind of cool.

I'm at the point that I'm wondering if I'll bother with any more Roth films, and if I'll ever see this one. It's not like I hate him, I liked Cabin Fever, and I even think it's possible he might eventually make something I'll like more than that one. I just feel he's been circling the same target for most of his career, and he just never hits it. He also never misses? the target by enough to make interesting failures. His averageness has become frustrating in its predictability.
Oct 14, 2017 8:37 PM
Literature critics? There are still some thinking that Maya Angelou and Ted Hughes and Robinson Jeffers are great poets. And that Thomas Pynchon is better than Stephen King, or Agatha Christie.

I'd ask you to elaborate on this anti-Pynchon shit, but considering the text eruption that has resulted in you somehow not being aware of the racist undertones of Travis Bickell, I think I'll just settle for you supplying me with a critical blurb worthy of the backcover of The Tommyknockers.
Oct 14, 2017 8:24 PM

I'm sure than more watch of this one will add context to its unsettling mysteries, or (I hope not) unmask its growing surreal paranoia as being in service of not much at all. Either way though, this is a stylish, unique, unsettling film dealing with grief and alienation. Some of the dialogue isn't the greatest, which may be enough to keep this films mix of realism and surrealism from hitting as hard as it should, but this was a real pleasant surprise for a movie I had zero knowledge of beforehand. Also, watching it is kind of depressing when you think how something this good can completely slip through the cracks without anyone coming forward to really champion it. I felt similarly for Invasion (2015). But, hey, who needs new blood in the horror genre when the Wan-nian philosophy of giving back a bunch of tropes you already know your audience will eat up has proven so successful.

Oct 14, 2017 12:49 PM