XConfessions (2014)

XConfessions
Director: Erika Lust
Writer: Erika Lust
Seen on: 10.10.2016

XConfessions collects 9 porn short films (I’ll write about each below) that are based on stories people sent to Lust.She has several of these collections, I think I saw Number 6.

I wasn’t quite as taken with this collection as I was with (S)he Comes for two reasons: one, I found the editing weird in some parts, and two I didn’t think that Erika Lust managed to capture the female gaze/get away from the male gaze as much as Petra Joy. But it’s not my intention to pit Lust against Joy (pun intended) – and both collections have their great moments.

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(S)he Comes (2014)

(S)he Comes
Director: Petra Joy
Writer: Petra Joy
Seen on: 8.10.2016

“Plot”:
(S)he Comes is an anthology of six short porn films, no plot to be found. The pairings are different, but all heterosexual and sometimes it’s “just” masturbation scenes.

(S)he Comes it’s a successful example of feminist porn in various ways. Personally I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a bit queerer, but it’s rare enough that we get hetero porn aimed at female spectators, so I won’t complain at all. In fact, I very much enjoyed the collection.

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Fantastic Shorts Competition at the /slash Filmfestival 2016

A short note on all the short films at the /slash Filmfestival 2016 that were part of the Fantastic Shorts Competition. The winner was Ariane Louis-Seize Plouffe for her short Wild Skin.
Seen on: 25.9.2016
[Reviews by cornholio.]

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Dear White People (2014)

Dear White People
Director: Justin Simien
Writer: Justin Simien
Cast: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P Bell, Brittany Curran, Dennis Haysbert,
Seen on: 15.9.2016

Plot:
Biracial Samantha (Tessa Thompson) hosts a popular radio show on her campus where she tackles racial issues, “Dear White People”. After she wins the election for head of her House, the black only residence on campus, beating out her ex Try (Brandon P Bell), Sam gets a bigger platform for her outspoken activism and things get considerably more heated. The white students, in particular the frat led by Kurt (Kyle Gallner), want to push back by hosting a blackface party and asking Lionel (Tylor James Williams) to investigate undercover in Sam’s House. Meanwhile, Coco (Teyonah Parris) is trying to land a spot on a reality TV show, but they seem more interested in Sam and the tensions surrounding her.

Dear White People started off a bit weird for me, but once the film and I found our groove together and the story really starts, it is an enjoyable, funny film with a very serious core, presenting a perspective that is much too rare in mainstream entertainment.

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Hai-hil [Man on High Heels] (2014)

Hai-hil
Director: Jin Jang
Writer: Jin Jang
Cast: Seung-won Cha, Jeong-se Oh, Som E.
Seen on: 14.9.2016

Plot:
It’s hard to imagine a tougher man than Ji-wook Yoon (Seung-won Cha): a police officer whose preferred work method is to simply beat everybody up, preferably heroically on his own. But Yoon is not only at war with the criminals around him – a gang in particular has sworn revenge after he all but decimated them – he is also at war with himself. Because what he would really like to do is to live as a woman. He even tries to quit his job to start tranisitioning, but his plans don’t work out the way he wants it.

It’s weird writing this plot description/the review calling Yoon “he” throughout, but it’s also rather emblematic of the film that doesn’t really get into the gender politics of the premise but uses it as a gimmick. Thus, calling Yoon “she” would feel completely off, legitimating a very problematic approach. For the rest of this review I shall resort to “they”, even if that doesn’t sit right with me either.

Nevertheless, Hai-hil doesn’t only have strong (and pretty gory) fight scenes, but it’s engaging exactly because of the ambivalence it shows towards (trans*)gender issues. Though that engagement doesn’t come without pain about the often bad representation (at least judging from my pov as a European, cis woman and – hopefully – ally to trans* people).

highheels[SPOILERS]

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Das finstere Tal [The Dark Valley] (2014)

Das finstere Tal
Director: Andreas Prochaska
Writer: Martin Ambrosch, Andreas Prochaska
Based on: Thomas Willmann‘s novel
Cast: Sam Riley, Paula Beer, Tobias Moretti, Thomas Schubert, Carmen Gratl, Clemens Schick, Helmuth Häusler, Martin Leutgeb, Johannes Nikolussi, Florian Brückner, Gerhard Liebmann, Erwin Steinhauer, Hans-Michael Rehberg
Seen on: 22.8.2016

Plot:
A stranger (Sam Riley) arrives in a small village in the mountains. The villagers are suspicious. They don’t know anything about him, they don’t want him or his new-fangled photographic apparatus there. But the stranger who calls himself Greider is not to be dissuaded. He wants to stay over winter. After the six sons of the wealthiest farmer in the village give their okay, Greider is allowed to stay with Luzi (Paula Beer) and her mother (Carmen Gratl). Luzi is about to marry Lukas (Thomas Schubert), but something isn’t quite right there. And it is obvious that Greider has his own motives as well.

The Dark Valley was really successful and got some great reviews, but honestly, I don’t get it. It was boring, confusing where it wasn’t obvious and took some seriously misguided steps in the soundtrack department. Disappointing.

dasfinsteretal[Vague SPOILERS]

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Her er Harold [Here Is Harold] (2014)

Her er Harold
Director: Gunnar Vikene
Writer: Gunnar Vikene
Based on: Frode Grytten‘s novel Saganatt
Cast: Bjørn Sundquist, Fanny Ketter, Björn Granath, Grethe Selius, Vidar Magnussen
Seen on: 18.7.2016

Plot:
Harold (Bjørn Sundquist) has spent his life in his furniture shop, priding himself in the quality items he sells there. But after 40 years of this, Ikea opens a shop next to him and it doesn’t take long until he is out of business. To make matters worse, his wife Marny (Grethe Selius), who was always with him, starts showing signs of dementia. With all of his rugs pulled out from under him, Harold thinks of a desperate plan: he will kidnap Ingvar Kamprad (Björn Granath) and make him pay for all he has done to him.

The trailer for Her er Harold promised many things. Above all, it made me laugh. Unfortunately it seems that the best moments were in the trailer. The movie itself was a lackluster, disappointing affair.

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La rançon de la gloire [The Price of Fame] (2014)

La rançon de la gloire
Director: Xavier Beauvois
Writer: Xavier Beauvois, Etienne ComarMarie-Julie Maille
Cast: Benoît PoelvoordeRoschdy ZemSéli GmachChiara MastroianniNadine LabakiPeter CoyoteDolores ChaplinEugène ChaplinOlivier Rabourdin
Seen on: 20.6.2016

Plot:
Eddy (Benoît Poelvoorde) was just released from prison and is now staying with his best friend Osman (Roschdy Zem) and Osman’s daughter Samira (Séli Gmach). It’s not easy for Eddy to find his footing. Osman is dead-set on staying on the straight and narrow, despite big financial worries: his wife (Nadine Labaki) is ill and the hospital bills are mounting up. And then Charlie Chaplin dies and is buried not far from them. As Eddy watches the international grief, he has an idea: what if they were to hold Chaplin’s body for ransom?

La rançon de la gloire has all the makings of a dark little comedy with its unbelievable story that is actually based on true events, but unfortunately it falls almost completely flat.

rancondelagloire

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Fear is an Option – Short Film Program

Fear is an Option [a play on the VIS motto of Fear is not an Option] was a collection of horror short films curated (among others) by the /slash Filmfestival as part of the VIS Vienna Independent Shorts film festival. They showed the following short films:
The Simpsons Couch Gag [You’re Next] (2015)
Directed and written by: Lee Hardcastle
[Can be watched here.]
The Chickening (2015)
Directed and written by: Nick DenBoer, Davy Force
Based on: The Shining
[Can be watched here.]
Invaders (2014)
Directed and written by: Jason Kupfer
Cast: Ricky Wayne, Jordan Woods-Robinson
[Can be watched here.]
Jack Attack (2013)
Directed and written by: Bryan Norton, Antonio Padovan
Cast: Helen Rogers, Tyler Rossell, Steve Anderson Jr.
Monster (2005)
Directed and written by: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Susan Prior, Luke Ikimis-Healey, Trash Vaudeville
[Can be watched here.]
One Last Dive (2013)
Directed and written by: Jason Eisener
Cast: Catherine Maltais, Peter Allen
[Can be watched here.]
Polaroid (2015)
Directed and written by: Lars Klevberg
Cast: Annika Witt, Thea Sofie Loch Næss, Anne Cloetta
Baskin (2013)
Directed and written by: Can Evrenol, Co-Directed by: Ogulcan Eren Akay
Cast: Muharrem Bayrak, Fadik Bülbül, Gorkem Kasal, Aydin Orak, Remzi Pamukcu
Lights Out (2013)
Directed and written by: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Lotta Losten
[Can be watched here.]
Seen on: 29.5.2016

They put together a strong collection of short films here, some of which were connected to the /slash Filmfestival – where they did show You’re Next, the basis for the Simpsons Couch Gag; both Baskin and Monster were turned into feature films that were also part of the festival program – Baskin and The Babadook respectively; and Jason Eisener had segments in V/H/S 2 and The ABCs of Death, where Lee Hardcastle also made an appearance. The short films ranged from very funny and silly to outright terrifying and most of them were really effective, even if not all worked for me.

fearisanoption

[After the jump I’ll talk about each of the films individually.]

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Pawn Sacrifice (2014)

Pawn Sacrifice
Director: Edward Zwick
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Edward Zinoviev, Alexandre Gorchkov, Lily Rabe, Robin Weigert
Seen on: 16.5.2016

Plot:
Bobby Fisher (Tobey Maguire) loves one thing and one thing only: playing chess. And he’s damn good at it. So good, in fact, that he seems to be the only person who might be able to actually beat the Russians, in particular the current world champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). In times of the Cold War, that victory becomes much more than a simple win in a game. But the pressure that puts on Bobby starts to be too much for his already fractured psyche.

I’m not a huge fan of movies that are yet another take on how closely genius and madness lie together. Usually those films do a great disservice to both. So I probably wouldn’t have seen Pawn Sacrifice if it hadn’t been for Liev Schreiber. Which would have actually been a pity. It didn’t blow me away, but it is a very decent film with great characters.

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