Talk Film Society Seal of Approval: Arrival, Swiss Army Man, Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Welcome to the very first column for the Talk Film Society Seal of Approval, one of the most popular and long-running TFS segments, where site users can help determine a consensus over the best and most worthy recent releases in theatres and home media.
If you’re unfamiliar with how it works, voting takes place via Twitter to determine whether or not a film is worthy of receiving the SOA. Each film under consideration needs to receive at least 70% positive approval in order to qualify. So far, a total of 22 releases from 2016 have received the seal.
For this inaugural write-up, we’re looking at three films; one of which just opened theatrically and has captivated a substantial number of moviegoers; as well as two other films that have gathered a sizeable number of supporters since first being screened earlier in the year.
Based on Ted Chiang’s award winning short story ‘The Story of Your Life’, linguist expert Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked by the U.S. military to communicate with an extraterrestrial species alongside theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and the two must work together in order to figure out the reasons behind why they have landed, and the larger ramifications at hand.
This sci-fi drama, in which aliens descend upon Earth in mammoth-size spaceships and set off a global catastrophe, feels tailor-made for the times that humanity is facing at this moment. Many people have described as the rare sci-fi blockbuster with as much emphasis on intelligence as visual work, in addition to dealing with profound themes embedded in affect. Amy Adams has already been praised for her lead performance, with many citing it as being among her best work to date.
Director Denis Villeneuve is no stranger to the TFS SOA – his 2014 Enemy starring Jake Gyllenhaal about a man who quite literally faces his darker half, earned an astonishing 96% approval rating from TFS voters.
Swiss Army Man
Moments before Hank (Paul Dano), a hopeless shipwrecked man hangs himself, he spots a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) washed up on the shores of the beach he is about to end his life on. Upon inspecting the body, he discovers it is highly flatulent, and in the next scene, is riding the body across the water like a jet-ski. It is in this moment that Swiss Army Man basically tells the viewer ‘you’re either on board with this concept or you’re not, - you still have time to stop watching this’.
Coming from first-time feature filmmakers The Daniels, Swiss Army Man caused a sensation earlier this year at Sundance, when it gained notoriety as the ‘Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse movie’ that several people reportedly walked out of. Shockingly enough, the film would go on to win the Directing Award for a Dramatic Feature at the end of the festival. It was scooped up by distributor A24, and given a mid-summer release at the end of June, where it became a summer sleeper thanks to its oddball nature.
While many have praised Swiss Army Man as being a thoroughly strange and unique look at male friendship, it has its fair share of dissidents who feel that its eccentric nature is a major turnoff. Whether or not it’s another cult movie in the making will be up for present and future generations to decide.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi’s oddball buddy adventure comedy concerns a national manhunt for a rebellious delinquent youth (Julian Dennison) and his foster guardian (Sam Neill), after the pair disappears into the New Zealand bush amidst a major tragedy. What ensues is a madcap level of antics and hilarity as they find themselves encountering a host of colorful characters and wildlife, and slowly bonding despite having little in common.
Based on Barry Crump’s book ‘Wild Pork and Watercress’, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has received widespread critical acclaim, since opening in New Zealand in March and quickly becoming a breakout sensation; currently the highest grossing film of all time within the country.
Taika Waititi’s last film, the vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, received the TFS SOA in 2015, where it earned an 87% approval rating.