Spoilers will be sporting tuxedos on the red carpet.
First of all I’d like to thank the amazing staff of volunteers and permanent organizers for another brilliant year. The Fantasia International Film Festival doesn’t happen without you.
The official jury awards are granted halfway during the festival. You can find the official full list of awards winners here. The Cheval Noir awards gave Best Film to IDOL (directed by Lee Su-jin). Best Director and Best Screenplay went to Carlo Mirabella-Davis for SWALLOW. The New Flesh Award for Best First Feature went to WHY WON’T YOU JUST DIE. Camera Lucida Award was granted to KOKO-DI KOKO-DA. The ACTION! Award for Outstanding Action Movie was given to THE FABLE.
That’s for the official ones, and now before I go back to living under a rock, let’s get to my own, biased, awards. As always, these are fake, do not expect an award in the mail, yada yada. I will remind you to please keep your speeches under a minute or you will be kicked off the stage. Here we go.
The One-Not-To-Be-Missed: WHY WON’T YOU JUST DIE
If you saw this in Fantasia, chances are you would agree. Yes, it’s bloody violent, it’s bloody bloody but it’s also got so much cinematographic craft in colour, in angle, in long, lingering takes as showdowns are prepared just like in a Sergio Leone western including the guitar plucking. It sets up a basic, limited, brawl inside the same room while keeping the audience rapt in attention, knowing very well the whole thing is going to explode.
It felt unfair to give this one to anything else. Yes, I could have give to IT COMES, THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL, or the great closer THE DIVINE FURY but in the end WHY WON’T YOU JUST DIE took no prisoners and therefore stands at the top.
The Kick-In-The-Balls: WHY WON’T YOU JUST DIE
You’d think since it already won the top prize I’d give this one to another movie. Nope. This is the movie that took the air out of you and left you gasping for breath until the credits rolled in.
There are close contenders. THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL could have taken it any other year. MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY deserves a strong mention here. At the risk of overselling it, only WHY WON’T YOU JUST DIE could deserve this title.
The Badass-Action-Packer: THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL
I reserve this title not for the most violent film, but the one that combines action throughly with a decent premise and some solid performances. Inevitably it must be a film with fighting, gun action and car chases. Technically I could’ve called this one The Don Lee Award and give it to Don Lee in perpetuity so he doesn’t kick my ass. Don Lee makes being the boss of the mafia look so freaking good.
There were contenders, such as WHY WON’T YOU JUST DIE, THE DIVINE FURY and of course, the official Fantasia ACTION! Award for Outstanding Action Movie winner, THE FABLE. I still think my choice was a more all-rounder for an action film. Did I mention it has Don Lee? Can we please not do a US remake?
The Mortal Combat: MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY
Sometimes you don’t need car chases, guns or explosions to create action. You just need a pair of fists and perhaps a couple of melee weapons thrown in. Yes, this is the martial arts film of the year and albeit it even had one late contender, I couldn’t really forget how good this was.
The Chicken Soup For The Soul: DANCE WITH ME
This award goes to the movie that brings the feels and the funny and ends up all cozy and warm. Sometimes it’s drama and comedy, sometimes it’s drama and action, and sometimes it’s a musical that melts your cold, iron-cast heart. I came up with the title for this award the moment I saw this film. It’s a comedy in every sense of the word, but boy does it know how to do a musical number. If they had used popular songs from my side of the world I’d have a hard time not breaking out into song myself.
The Laugh-Till-You-Hurl : THE DUDE IN ME
Perhaps it’s the nerd kid in me that is still hiding from anybody else, but to suddenly become a gangster at your school? No way this was not going to bring laughter, tears and a little cathartic karma justice for the underdogs that have to deal with bullies. With a Freaky Friday premise revamped with some martial arts action to complete the picture, this one brought the laughs without fail.
DANCE WITH ME was also very much a runner-up as it brought the laughs just as well. I really wanted to give this one to EXTREME JOB or even ALMOST A MIRACLE but I still feel I could watch THE DUDE IN ME and laugh my head off again with the right audience.
The Purple Unicorn: PARADISE HILLS
This award goes to the visual concept and overall aesthetic that just makes this movie stand out from the crowd. It doesn’t hurt that it has a decent storyline and some solid acting from its superb cast. The vistas are splendid, the fashion kills, and the message of independence, although hardly new, bears repeating. I can’t wait to see what director Alice Waddington does next.
Hardly anything to compare here, definitely nothing that could top it, I saw no contenders for this film.
The Horrifyingly Fantastic: IT COMES
I don’t consider myself an expert on horror. I know what I like and why I prefer a more smart approach to horror than a cheap jump scare. I think I don’t necessarily consider horror crass, but I always find I enjoy it more with something else thrown in the mix. Comedy is certainly a good one, but tends to dilute it a little too much. And then there’s IT COMES which is basically just horror but it does have a dark fantastic element you can sense. It’s got a world-building aspect to it comparable to a fantasy film.
The Sleeping Pill: SHE
This is definitely a new idea. Not the best, I know. My point is that I can’t really make it through some movies in one sitting. SHE has novel concept and particular style in storytelling based on stop motion and a huge collection of pictures. The animation and concepts are novel, but they can’t remain novel for the length of a full feature film. Once the animation has lost its novelty, it’s really hard to focus on shoes. Yes, this award is for the films where I fell asleep at. Definitely shorter would have made it easier to watch.
The Headache Maker: KOKO-DI KOKO-DA
Very strange of me to give an award to a movie I don’t recommend. The truth is that KOKO-DI KOKO-DA did make my head spin a lot while I digested some very disturbing symbology. It’s not a nice movie to watch, in fact this is a case in which a movie makes us go through a bit of an ordeal but I was not particularly satisfied with the payback or lack of thereof. In the end, I know some people will find it satisfactory to watch, I just don’t think the reward has enough substance for me to absolve the tribulations that the filmmakers demand of their audience.
I will give it props for making me re-evaluate what I saw several times but I’m not going to subject to it again. No contenders.
The WTF-Did-I-Just-Watched: JESUS SHOWS YOU THE PATH TO THE HIGHWAY
Yeah… What? I’m not really sure. At least in pacing it flows a little faster than Miguel Llansó’s previous work EMBERS. Other than that, I’m kinda glad I watched this on the screening room were nobody could see my confused grimace. Still, some of the concepts were strangely alluring to watch although other scenes were cringe-worthy.
Only SHE was possibly a contender, although the concept of it never really changes. JESUS SHOWS YOU THE PATH TO THE HIGHWAY contains several ideas unfolding as it goes. The story is almost an excuse to highlight them.
The So-Bad-It’s-Good-Sort-Of: ALIEN CRYSTAL PALACE
Well… Yeah, this movie intentionally made that way. I think. I hope. For everyone’s sake, it must be. Anyhow, no contenders for this one. Definitely it’s on a class all of its own. The acting is rather on the nose and the vocal performances are dubbed on top. See this one at your own risk, this is definitely an acquired taste.
As for contenders, I would doubt any other film in the selection ever aimed to do a bad film quite like this, so this one was a fit from the moment it was announced.
For all the ones left behind…
Thanks to everyone that makes the Fantasia International Film Festival work, and thank you so much for another great year.
That will do for now.