7:30 PM, 28th October, 2016
Possibly one of the most controversial choices in the history of the Sundance film festival’s awards was Swiss Army Man’s win for Best Director this year, in part because it had two directors but mainly because it had a record number of walkouts for something winning such a prestigious award.
Some were no doubt due to the film’s occasionally crass humour. Most were due to how weird this movie is – and good riddance to all those closed-minded viewers that expect indie dramedies to be the same bland, angsty but oddly upbeat, fuzzy cam guff about Greta Gerwig or Adam Driver discovering and accepting who they are every time. This one is about Paul Dano (the milkshake kid from There Will Be Blood) discovering and accepting who he is in an angsty but (very) oddly upbeat fuzzy cam movie, with the help of Harry Potter’s farting corpse. To put the plot down on paper makes it sounds more like an Adam Sandler movie than a movie that reinvents the indie dramedy genre, although the latter is very much what Swiss Army Man is.
Hank (Dano) is stranded on an island. Despairing and despondent, his lifeline comes when a corpse (Radcliffe) washes up. Rather than merely being Hank’s version of Wilson from Cast Away, the corpse proves to have as many uses as a Swiss Army knife and helps Hank both survive and find his way home.
9:17 PM, 28th October, 2016
This lovely comedy/drama is based on a novel written by Paula Farias. Paula was a doctor with Médecins Sans Frontières and other humanitarian groups dealing with natural disasters, epidemics, famines, and armed conflicts in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur and the Balkans where this film is set.
The year is 1995, and a group of workers from Aid Across Borders are trying to resolve a crisis by retrieving a dead body. Complications arise due to a difference in languages between the UN peacekeepers and locals, among other logistical issues. A war zone is an unlikely setting for a comedy but this has been likened to M*A*S*H which was set in a different country in a different era. If, like me, you were a fan of that, you will enjoy this. The humour is tender and refreshing. Superb cinematography of the arid mountain landscapes and the war-devastated backdrop further enhances this powerful film, which is authentic in its treatment.
This is a Spanish production, the first in English by accomplished director Fernando León de Aranoa. There isn’t an Oscar for Best Casting Director (yet) but the person who put together Tim Robbins, Benicio Del Toro, Olga Kurylenko and other standouts in the same film deserves to be nominated because this diverse cast works extremely well together.