Friday, July 15, 2022

2021: A YEAR IN MOVIES (…Kind of)

We’re midway in to 2022 and if it isn’t abundantly clear - there won’t be a 2021 year-in-review (for those of you unfamiliar with my blog, I do a yearly movie assessment at the end of every year).

I planned on doing one for 2021 but due to fatherhood & work I just never found the time to put something together that I could stand behind.

For those of you curious about what my top 10 from last year was, here is a list that I contributed to The Toronto Film review blog:

I did reach out to filmmaker/artist Patrick Horvath to do his yearly artwork for my blog and I feel like it wouldn’t be right to not share it even if I don’t have a write-up to go with it.

Please click on the image at the top of the post to get a better look…

Friday, July 8, 2022


A tale straight from the bible...
Snow White /

I don’t mean for all of my writing on Joel Potrykus to be attached to other filmmakers, but given what my blog is partially about (visual comparisons & connections), it’s kind of difficult to not focus on that.
To be clear - references, similarities & homages aside, I’m a big fan of his work. His openness about his influences just makes my appreciation that more heightened. He made a comparison video of his own films himself (click here). 

...but I think I found a few more visual similarities (or I could be reaching).

Last month we touched on a handful of visual similarities between Portykus’s films and everyone from Haneke & Alan Clarke to Murnau & Linklater (click here to go to the article). After exploring all of his feature films and reading a handful of interviews, I came across a few more homages & visual connections that I wanted to highlight…

In my review of The Alchemist Cookbook I brought up his nods to Alan Clarke (click here).

It doesn’t take much to realize I lift the openings to all my films from Clarke’s MADE IN BRITAIN and Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES - Joel Potrykus,

But it appears that his love of Clarke extends a bit beyond opening scene of This Is Britain

Elephant /

The Firm /

Road /

Road /

The way drug use & addiction are casually introduced in Potrykus’ early short film Coyote is similar to how Clarke handles the same subject matter in Christine… 

Christine / Coyote

This connection to Clarke led me to Harmony Korine who Potrykus has shouted in the past…

Gummo / Buzzard

Harmony Korine made it cool to use natural lighting - Joel Potrykus,

This connection makes sense as Korine is also an Alan Clarke Enthusiast…

If there is any British film maker that has influenced me, it’s Alan Clarke. For me he is the most important. He came out at a time in my life when I needed something like that - Harmony Korine, Vertigo Magazine

Rita, Sue& Bob Too /

For me Clarke was the most important filmmaker. He made this movie ‘Christine’, which people don't really talk about much, which is one of my favorite movies - Harmony Korine, Vice

Christine / Gummo

That earlier comparison to Gummo is not much of a reach but Potrykus has made it clear that the spaghetti scene in Buzzard was a reference to Kubrick…

The Movie Mezzanine: In the pantheon of movie spaghetti-eating scenes, you easily knock Harmony Korine's Gummo off the throne. It's this rare moment of happiness for Marty. Was that all done in one take?

JP: That's another really important scene, which is originally lifted from A Clockwork Orange when towards the end, [Alex is] all cleaned up and he's taking a shower and wearing a robe and eating spaghetti. He's happy like he's at home, right before they poison his wine. That scene is really important because that's Marty in a foreign environment, the only time we see him clean, and he's wearing white instead of black, and he's eating essentially real food as opposed to, you know, Hot Pockets or Bugles.
A Clockwork Orange/

The idea of a struggling comic that develops a weird growth on his body in Ape appears to borrow from The Dark Backward… 
The Dark Backward /

The basic premise of the main character with growth forming on his body also reminded me of How To Get Ahead In Advertising which I came to find out was an influence on Potrykus as well…

I saw this one at a young age, and it warped my taste in the best way possible - Joel Potrykus, Criterion 

How To Get Ahead In Advertising /

We touched on this in my review of The Anarchist Cookbook last month, but there’s some early Linklater in Potrykus' films...
It's Impossible To Learn How To Plow... /Coyote

While his latest feature Relaxer is a loose remake of Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel (the basic idea of not being to leave a room in Exterminating Angel is morphed in to not getting off of a couch in Relaxer)...

The Exterminating Angel / Relaxer

...the final scene where the main character takes on the form of a Christ-like figure has the DNA of what feels Bunuel’s entire filmography…

The Milky Way / Relaxer

L’Age D’Or / Relaxer

Simon Of The Desert / Relaxer

I try to steal a lot from Bunuel - Joel Potrykus,
Un Chien Andalou / Buzzard

We also see shades of everyone from Brian DePalma to John Landis…

                                                                  The Fury / Relaxer

I just spent a whole summer watching, like, two-hundred movies. And in there was American Werewolf in London, and that kind of changed a lot of things for me. Seeing that kind of blend of horror and comedy, and [director John] Landis going whatever direction he wanted - Joel Potrykus, 

American Werewolf In London / Coyote

Before the year is over I'll be sharing my thoughts on Buzzard but until then I just wanted to share a few more words (and comparisons) on a filmmaker I've quickly come to admire.

Friday, July 1, 2022


It’s easy to compare the work of Brandon Cronenberg to his father. Especially when it comes to his first film; Antiviral. I’ve certainly done it…

The Fly / Antiviral

eXistenZ / Antiviral

eXistenZ / Antiviral

I remember when Antiviral came out a decade ago there was this almost unspoken/downplayed connection between David & Brandon Cronenberg which I just didn’t buy. I still don’t. Brandon Cronenberg addressed this himself:

I didn’t see much of my father’s films until I was in my 20s because they weren’t age appropriate – and I haven’t seen all of them. The ones I have seen, I’ve mostly seen once. That’s because I’m too close to them, and too close to him to have the perspective, to be influenced by them in the way people usually mean. I can’t see them neutrally - Brandon Cronenberg (

He doesn’t totally ignore his father’s subconscious influence:

He’s my father, so I’m very influenced by him in that sense. We have some of the same genes, I grew up with him and have a close relationship with him – I’ve never rejected him as a means of rebellion. So he’s definitely influenced who I am and my interests, but I wasn’t influenced by his films or him as a filmmaker, because I just don’t have that relationship with them - Brandon Cronenberg (

I get it -no matter how famous & highly influential your father is, you want to stand on your own and not be called out for nepotism. So Brandon Cronenberg downplaying his father’s (possible) influence makes sense (let’s also not forget that the elder Cronenberg is very much influenced by the films, art & literature that came before him. Who isn’t on some level?). I almost appreciate that Brandon works within the same lanes/genres as his father yet tries his best to stand on his own outside of obvious factors he can’t really help.

The basic premise of Antiviral involving “regular” people intentionally contracting the illness or sickness of their favorite celebrity in order to feel closer to them is right out of the book of David Cronenberg. Sickness, body transformation, science fiction, etc. Antiviral has a cool basic plot. It isn’t breaking any new ground but the approach is somewhat fresh. Putting aside the sci-fi & body horror elements of Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg is making an obvious “statement” about celebrity worship and how twisted it all is. Judging by how unhealthily obsessed certain folks are with the personal lives of celebrities now more than ever, it wouldn’t surprise me if some people want to intentionally catch Covid-19, the flu or even an std from their favorite celebrity or IG influencer. Folks already pay for (and sometimes steal) their mail, laundry, trash, etc. Why stop there? It’s clear some people want their favorite celebrities to sneeze and/or spit in their mouths. 

The transition from Antiviral into Possessor makes perfect sense. We go from experiencing someone else’s momentary sickness, pain and/or discomfort (Antiviral) to actually being inside someone else's body for an extended period of time (Possessor). If Brandon Cronenberg is working on an unofficial trilogy I imagine his third film will involve taking over a foreign body permanently (body transformation doesn't appear to be the premise of his next film by the way).
You can do the father/son comparison with Possessor on a very surface level...

Videodrome /

There's a dream/hallucination scene where our two characters detach from one another that is very reminiscent to a dream scene in Dead Ringers...

Dead Ringers / Possessor

deals with the idea of switching & transitioning bodies. Again - sounds quite David Cronenberg-ian. But no matter how influential the elder Cronenberg is, he didn’t create the idea of switching bodies (the basic premise of Possessor deals with “agents” temporarily taking over the bodies of civilians in order to carry out assassinations).

A lot of the ideas reach back to the work of filmmakers like Fritz Lang…

Metropolis / Possessor

The same could be said about Antiviral as well…

Metropolis / Antiviral

Cinematic influences aside, Brandon Cronenberg draws influence from real life events. Horrific ones at that. The opening scene of Possessor involves a young woman of color stabbing a man to death in the middle of a busy underground metropolitan area. For those that are unfamiliar, this scenario is quite similar to the Rohinie Bisesar case in downtown Toronto back in 2015 where Bisesar, a schizophrenic woman of color, fatally attacked a random woman in an underground market.

Possessor even has some subconscious Tobe Hooper-esque imagery...

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre / Possessor

A coincidental Akerman-esque moment perhaps??

Jeanne Dielman... /

Brandon Cronenberg still isn’t above name-dropping a visual reference or influence…

We did look at films as we were working. For instance, we looked at a lot of Argento, Opera, in particular, was a reference for the kind of stvlized elements of the violence - Brandon Cronenberg,

Opera /

It should also be noted that Brandon Cronenberg has collaborated with actors in both of his films that have also worked with his father (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sarah Gordon & Nicholas Campbell). This makes their connection a bit stronger. *MILD SPOILERS* The final scene of Possessor where Jennifer Jason Leigh is unplugged/“pulled out” of her surrogate body is similar to the end of David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ where Leigh is unplugged from the virtual reality video game… 

The similarities don’t stop at Brandon’s feature films. His short film; Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences as They Come to You has a hybrid interrogation/therapy scene that can be traced back to the opening scene of The Brood

The audio design also has similarities to Scanners as well…

Again - I understand wanting to stand on your own without the cloud of nepotism following you around but Brandon Cronenberg not only works in the same lane that his father helped create, but it’s like he’s taking the torch directly from him. Apparently he is in talks to adapt a JG Ballard story (much like his father did over 25 years ago with Crash).

At the end of the day, Possessor stands on it's own a bit more than Antiviral (I like Antiviral overall but to me - it’s almost impossible to not associate that film with his father’s work). Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore feature shows growth & maturity and I’m looking forward to what he does next.


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