Jojo Rabbit: a comedy about nazis. What could go wrong?

Director Taika Waititi teaches us to laugh at the idiotic nature of war


No, this isn’t a review for Peter Rabbit 2… Today we’re focused on Taika Waititi’s nazi comedy Jojo Rabbit.

Jojo Rabbit is a film focused on a little boy named Jojo who idolizes his country and its ruler, Adolf Hitler in the midst of World War II. As he trains to one day become a soldier, Hitler appears to him as his imaginary best friend and Jojo dreams of being in his inner circle. However, Jojo has to question his values and priorities when he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house. Written and directed by Waititi, it is certainly an interesting movie when you think about its subject matter in relation to its genre; a comedy about Nazi Germany. Yet, somehow, Waititi pulls it off.

Waititi portrays Hitler with no regard for historical accuracy and instead plays an eccentric figure who encourages Jojo to be the best of the best. He’s exactly what a little boy’s imaginary friend would be, with no relation to the real person. This creates a distance between the actual historical figure and the version of Hitler Jojo has in his mind. This distance makes it clear that Jojo does not really love Hitler, but simply thinks he does. We never see the real Hitler, only the man interpreted through Jojo’s imagination. In that sense, the film poignantly explores ignorance and blind patriotism from the perspective of an impressionable young boy, a theme that carries weight today; through social media, many young people are encouraged to hate others before they even have a chance to learn about them. This can be seen on something as simple as a plethora of hate comments on a YouTube video to entire websites dedicated to hate groups. Jojo Rabbit follows this idea. It does not focus on nazism more than it needs to, it instead focuses on the outcome of its existence. Jojo Rabbit is a comedy with a purpose; to take a child unaware of what he really stands for and to put you in his shoes.

Along with its hilarity, Jojo Rabbit is also a very innocent film because of its perspective. There are many joyful moments as we see the world through a child’s eyes, and only as adults can we think of the repercussions of the situation around him. Roman Griffin Davis gave an excellent performance as Jojo, with great comedic timing and an ability to emotionally connect with the audience. At the age of 12, he’s got a huge future ahead of him, and I look forward to seeing where he goes next. Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Thomasin McKenzie also had notable performances in this film and made for a great supporting cast.

There were frequent and jarring tonal shifts throughout the film, where you would laugh one minute then feel completely shattered the next. Although these shifts were striking, I believe that they were necessary thematically. As Jojo’s perception of the world around him and of himself changes, so does the film.

Jojo Rabbit makes you laugh at the absurdities of hate but still forces you to look at the suffering that comes from that animosity. In that sense, Waititi is a genius. He’s able to make a hilarious comedy about Nazis that retains emotional resonance about its subject matter. Keep an eye out for Waititi in the future, I have a feeling he has tons more in store.



Graphic by @sundaeghost


Artfully showcasing unsettling stories

Highlights from the Festival du nouveau cinéma include striking films from two Canadian filmmakers

The Festival du nouveau cinéma wrapped up on Oct. 15, following two weeks of showcasing some of the best new films of the year. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes

It’s difficult to describe this film as anything but disturbing and violent, but it’s not a bad film by any means. Directed by Québécois filmmaker Simon Lavoie, La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes will stay with you long after you’ve seen it due to its graphic depiction of family abuse, neglect and assault. Teenaged Ali (played formidably by Marine Johnson) was raised to believe she was a boy. The film shows her living in isolation with her brother and volatile father, who beats them senselessly any time they step out of line. Although the film is shot in black-and-white, Lavoie still manages to convey the gruesome details, which only elevate the film’s morbidity. Ali’s father seems haunted by a life-altering event, told only in flashbacks throughout the film. In present day, Ali is not only unaware she is a girl—she also doesn’t understand that her brother impregnated her when he raped her in the woods. When a sympathetic man from a nearby town explains who she is and what happened to her, Ali takes control of her life and fights for survival. But when the truth of her family’s secrets are finally revealed, it feels like a punch to the gut. Despite the heartbreaking revelation, the film ends with a glimmer of hope, making it worth all Ali had to endure.

Sweet Virginia

Jon Bernthal (right) and Christopher Abbott star in Sweet Virginia, a chilling and cinematic thriller.

There is nothing sweet about this film, and that’s what makes its title so effective. Set in a small town where three brutal murders have just taken place, Sweet Virginia tells the story of Sam (played by Jon Bernthal), a tortured ex-bull-rider who now manages a motel, and his friendship with Elwood (Christopher Abbott), a deranged hitman who inserts himself into Sam’s life. Rounding out the main cast are Rosemarie DeWitt and Imogen Poots as Bernadette and Lila—two disgruntled widows harbouring a few secrets of their own. Elwood books a room at Sam’s motel shortly after murdering three men in a local diner, two of whom are Bernadette and Lila’s husbands. Sam befriends Elwood, not knowing who he is, and the two strike up a rapport. The tension between them rapidly builds as Elwood’s motives—and Sam’s connection to one of the victims—becomes clear. Bernthal impresses as the quiet, kind-heart Sam, but Abbott is the true standout here. He showcases Elwood’s increasingly maniacal and sociopathic behaviour through subtle gestures—such as his ever-present and ever-creepy groan—along with an off-puttingly upbeat candor. While the ending is rather predictable, the audience is still jolted out of their seats when the film reaches its climax. Moreover, the film is visually stunning. Director Jamie M. Dagg managed to capture interesting features even in the most mundane settings, such as a motel room or the front seat of a car, through non-traditional camera placement. If you’re into crime thrillers set in moody small towns, then Sweet Virginia is for you.


What’s worth watching in 2013?

2012 was a very strong year for movies. For the first time since its rule change, the Academy Awards might have reason to nominate a full list of 10 films for “Best Picture.” With the close of epics like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises and Spielberg’s thought-provoking, performance-driven Lincoln, 2012 cinema definitely had legs to stand on. The real question now is what is there to look forward to? What will be the films to watch in 2013?

Box Office Blockbusters

Star Trek into Darkness: This follow up to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot reunites the stellar cast of Chris Pine, Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto — Kirk, McCoy and Spock respectively. With what appears to be a darker tone than the first film, Star Trek into Darkness is poised to raise the stakes and the income for this franchise. Add in the enormous presence of Benedict Cumberbatch as the new, shadowy villain and you already have a drastic improvement from the first film’s Eric Bana.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the villain in Star Trek into Darkness

Iron Man 3: The third film of Marvel’s Iron Man series and part of the wonderful world of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 brings Robert Downey Jr. back into the role of playboy-philanthropist Tony Stark. This time, Ben Kingsley plays the arch-villain, The Mandarin. With a new director onboard, this movie could represent the sequel that fans wanted after the semi-disappointing hodge-podge that was Iron Man 2.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-earth continues in this second installment of The Hobbit. While it is still unclear where the break will come, it is very likely that this film will contain the entirety of the Smaug confrontation so those looking for the dazzling special effects of a dragon in full battle need to look no further. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage all return to their roles and welcome newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch as the film’s villain.

Man of Steel: The likely candidate for largest blockbuster that is not a sequel, Man of Steel puts director Zack Snyder at the helm of realizing the Nolan brothers’ vision of Superman. With a far less cheesy approach than 2006’s Superman Returns, it will be interesting to see if this Superman is the right one for this generation. Actor Henry Cavill has big shoes to fill as the titular protagonist.

For Laughs

Anchorman: The Legend Continues: Will Ferrell returns as Ron Burgundy in a sequel that has long been demanded for by fans. With Ferrell’s declining popularity at the box office (Land of the Lost, Semi-Pro), it will be interesting to see if this film represents a return of comedic genius or a last stitch effort to cash in on established property.

This Is The End comes out June 2013.

This is the End: This film starring James Franco, Seth Rogen, Emma Watson, Jonah Hill and a host of other comedic talent, all as themselves, takes a much-needed humourous approach to the Mayan apocalypse nonsense of 2012. If you’ve ever wanted to see how a bunch of comedians would react to the end of the world, give this one a look.


Evil Dead: This remake of the 1981 classic looks every bit as disturbed and bloody as the original. While horror remakes have been genuinely disappointing in the past few years (Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street) this adaptation might be one to watch, despite the lack of Bruce Campbell.

The Award Winners

The Great Gatsby: Based on one of the great works of literature, this drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio looks like a surefire award winner.

Elysium: Director Neill Blomkamp returns from stunning the world with District 9 in 2009. This time, he has a budget and actors like Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. This may very well be the film of the year as science fiction claims an even tighter hold on cinema.

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