8. Tragedy Girls (Tyler MacIntyre, USA/Canada)
Cynical comedy and sly social commentary in this teen-centric horror-comedy with a Heathers-like blush, Tragedy Girls. Directed by Tyler MacIntyre (Patchwork), who co-wrote this warped riff on social media fever gone awry with Chris Lee Hill, stars Alexandra Shipp, Brianna Hildebrand, and the always hilarious Craig Robinson, in this tale of teenage angst gone evil.
Thirsting for more online acolytes, troubled teens Sadie (Hildebrand) and McKayla (Shipp) decide to report (and secretly perpetrate) a killing spree. An onslaught of selfies, screams, and blood spray follows and it’s fair to say that Tragedy Girls has “future cult classic” stamped all over it. Check it out here before someone else tells you to check it out.
7. Thirst Street (Nathan Silver, USA)
Back at VIFF 2013 I was marvellously impressed by Nathan Silver’s distinctive brand of John Cassavetes-like indie cinema that was brazenly on display in his artful tragicomedies Exit Elena and Soft in the Head. Silver, thank the American film gods, is back at VIFF this year with a twisted tale amour fou called Thirst Street.
Taking at least a few stylistic and stylistic and storytelling cues from ’70s-era Rainer Werner Fassbinder, as well as Andrzej Żuławski’s unforgettable tale of mental anguish from 1981, Possession, Silver’s latest concerns a grieving flight attendant named Gina (Lindsay Burdge), who falls hard for a charming Parisian bartender named Jerome (Damien Bonnard) after they have a one-night stand. Soon Gina is a neurotic hot mess and in Paris to pursue him, and he’s less than thrilled about it.
The iconic Anjelica Huston provides the film’s narration, Burdge’s performances is winning notices at festivals all over the place, and I’m already waiting in the queue for this one. On se voit là-bas!
6. Lucky (John Carroll Lynch, USA)
Three words: Harry Dean Stanton.
5. The Square (Ruben Östlund, Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark)
Ruben Östlund’s previous film from 2014, Force Majeur, won the Jury Prize at Cannes, his latest film, The Square, took home the coveted Palme d’Or. So obviously, this looks to be one of the biggest draws for cineastes at this year’s VIFF. Another scathing satire of social mores and more, The Square is set in contemporary Sweden, at the Stockholm Palace, where the grand opening of an art gallery is set to occur and curator Christian (Claes Bang) is about to endure an unforgettable run of shit luck and misgivings.
Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman said The Square is “a suavely merciless take-down of the decadence of the contemporary art world,” and with Östlund at the helm, audiences can expect some unpredictable dervishes into some uncomfortable directions, and then some.
4. Happy End (Michael Haneke, France/Austria/Germany)
The latest film from Michael Haneke (Caché, The White Ribbon) reunites the provocative Austrian auteur with his old muse, Isabelle Huppert in the satirical (and one would assume ironically titled) Happy End.
Truthfully, all I need to know is Haneke and Huppert, but that this family-themed Calais-set drama has a timely commentary regarding refugee camps and the petit bourgeois, I’m doubly sold. Don’t miss it!
3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, UK)
Winner of the Best Screenplay at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Yorgos Lanthimos latest mindfuck looks to meddle with genre expectations, namely of the horror-thriller variety, as he once again pairs with leading man Colin Farrell (the lead in his exceptional black comedy from 2015, The Lobster).
Farrell is Steven Murphy, a heart surgeon who befriends the, let’s just say super creepy, teenage son (Barry Keoghan) of a patient Steven lost during a difficult operation.
An absurdist allegorical tale with Lanthimos’ signature strand of jet black humor and pathos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is also bolstered by a strong cast that includes Bill Camp. Nicole Kidman, and Alicia Silverstone, as well as his regular cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis in what’s sure to be a disturbing domestic horror with humor to help alleviate all the mental trauma.
2. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, USA)
Sean Baker’s follow-up film to his brilliant screwball comedy-drama from 2015, Tangerine, looks to be his best film yet. The Florida Project promises a pastel-colored worldview primarily through the eyes of a precocious six-year-old named Moonee (a brilliant Brooklynn Prince), who lives with her cash-strapped mom, Halley (Bria Vinaite) in the dilapidated and rundown Magic Castle Motel that’s managed by amicable man named Bobby (Willem DaFoe, in what’s likely to be an Oscar-winning performance).
This immersive, magical, and tender tale avoids maudlin or mushy while being honest to the spirit and wonder of childhood.
1. Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes, USA)
The latest film from the endlessly fascinating Todd Haynes (Safe, I’m Not There, Carol) is another ambitious, evanescent, and aptly titled New York-set tale of connection, childhood, romance, time travel, and memory. Adapted by Brian Selznick from his 2011 children’s novel, Wonderstruck is set in both 1927 and 1977 and stars Haynes’ most esteemed muse, Julianne Moore, as well as child actor Oakes Fegley, Tom Noonan, and Michelle Williams, as well as the expert lensing of genius cinematographer Edward Lachman, in a film that, surprisingly from Haynes, is kid-friendly, while still exploring his favorite themes of alienation, ennui, and frustration.
Indiewire’s David Ehrlich has asserted that Wonderstruck is “a soul-stirring and fiercely uncynical film,” and he’s not the only one to be moved by what may well be another movie miracle from one of America’s most ambitious, exciting, gifted and provoking of filmmakers.
Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.