Fantastic Fest 2016: cannibals, floating heads and Dolph Lundgren

The raucous alternative during festival season boasted world premieres of new Tim Burton and M Night Shyamalan films but the oddities made it unique

Moments after the world premiere of A Dark Song, a touching Irish film about loss and forgiveness, I was on a school bus headed to a boxing gym where two men fought about the virtues of Rocky IV. This is a fairly typical set of back-to-back events at Austins Fantastic Fest, a marriage of the smartest and edgiest in international cinema blended with madcap hijinks (festival co-founder Tim League introduced Morgan Spurlocks documentary Rats by gobbling a bowl of cooked rat with his own bare hands. Has Cannes Thierry Fremaux done this? I think not!). If cinephilia has a Burning Man, its this annual event, which lands smack dab in the oh-so-serious autumn cycle of the Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York film festivals. I can tell you that attending those noble, grown-up events year after year really does begin to resemble work; Fantastic Fest is my summer camp.

In its twelfth year, Fantastic Fests edgy Venn diagram mixes whacked-out midnight films with more traditional awards season titles. This year saw screenings of Arrival, Elle, Toni Erdmann, American Honey, The Handmaiden and A Monster Calls between the youll-never-see-this-anywhere-again films from far-flung corners of the globe (more on those in a bit). Asking what is a Fantastic Fest movie? is a bit like asking what is jazz? You know it when you see it and, more importantly, some people just arent wired to like it. But for those who do, this mass dosage of unusual offerings is a respite from the glut of predictable Hollywood dross.

Dolph
Dolph Lundgren and Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League. Photograph: Jack Plunkett

Based entirely at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas mothership in Austin, its the best film festival if only because its so easy to catch five screenings in one day, thanks to the theater chains gimmick of delivering meals directly to your seat. And beer lets not forget the beer. The beer was free at the boxing match the Fantastic Debates, they are called where movie lovers argue and then put on the gloves. Special guest Dolph Lundgren emerged from the wings to rally the after-midnight crowd to a froth as we clutched our complimentary suds. All he had to do was say if he dies, he dies (Lundgren was in town to screen one of his latest action slammers, Dont Kill It it wasnt just to pop-in at a strip mall somewhere in the middle of Texas).

The special events are a key component of Fantastic Fest, and this year saw some new additions. Three virtual reality stations, care of Dark Corner studios, showed how this new technology is indeed emerging as its own art form, beyond mere parlor trick or video game enhancement. Most notable was Mule, a short film from the director Guy Shelmerdine in which you, lying in a coffin with an Occulus Rift device strapped to your head, get to experience a heroin overdose in a cheap motel (before you lie down, a VR usher asks if you prefer cremation or burial). Women are often quite taken with looking down and seeing they have a penis, Shelmerdine tells me about his R-rated production.

Another new type of storytelling is found in the current fad of escape rooms, and the Drafthouse converted some of its karaoke rooms into a chamber of satanic horror (Satan and devil-worshipping are recurring themes at the festival, as is cannibalism). Id never done an escape room before, as Im usually of the mind that anything that gains popularity in Los Angeles before it comes to New York is suspect, but game co-designer Landon Zakheim tells me they emerged from Asia, so that shows you what I know. Its a story where you are the protagonist, he says of his extremely clever and meticulously timed experience, in which you start off chained by the hands and feet and, if you win, emerge a disciple of Lucifer. We figured this crowd would be okay with pleasing Satan being considered a victory.

Liam Gavins A Dark Song, which had its debut at Fantastic Fest (along with more mainstream titles like Tim Burtons Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children and the surprise showing of M Night Shyamalans Split) is an emotional, smart horror picture in which satanic rituals help bring a woman closure after the death of her son. Its actually rather tender and poignant and could very well warm the cockles of mainstream Americas heart if it werent for all the blood-drinking and pentagrams.

A similarly smart use of shocks is Julia Ducournaus Raw, which, yes, is about the lust for flesh-eating, but if you look beyond that it is actually one of the more truthful and resonant coming-of-age stories Ive seen in quite some time (and unlike at Toronto, where two weakling audience members passed out, I happily dined on a tasty hamburger with hatch green chili sauce while watching). Ivan I Tverdovskys Zoology feels like an exploitation film at first (its about a woman who grows a tail) but emerges as a finely observed drama about loneliness and misplaced trust.

But not every film at Fantastic Fest is so noble. Bhin Banloerits The Dwarves Must Be Crazy is a bonkers story about demonic floating heads (with dangling intestines!) that terrorize a group of Thai little people by trying to eat their anuses. It is an endless parade of strange gross-outs and Three Stooges-like slapstick. Parts are truly funny, parts are achingly dull, and all of it is strange. Whats key, though, is that this isnt just a bunch of jokers with an iPhone trying to make weird movies. The Fantastic Fest programmers scour the globe to bring titles that puzzle us, but they are always, in their own way, authentic.

By that standard, the far-and-away winner was Bad Black, a production from Wakaliwood, a film-making facility run by Nabwana IGG in the slums of the Wakaliga section of Kampala, Uganda. They may have no indoor plumbing, but they do have a tremendous amount of creativity and humor. Nabwala IGGs movies (and he has made over thirty) are shot on cheap video with horrendous special effects. What makes them so watchable is the glee with which the actors tackle the role, and the running Greek chorus commentary track. While the movie does have dialogue, there is a voice of God explaining and commenting on everything he sees with impeccable comic timing. (This has an interesting origin: when films first came to Uganda they were not dubbed, so when they were projected in video clubs, someone would talk over them to explain the scenes, even if he really didnt know what was going on himself. That tradition has stuck, even as Uganda begins to make its own movies.) When a visiting white doctor turns into a killing machine and starts shooting up the place, our narrator cracks: This doctor needs borders! It got a bigger reaction than Shyamalans twist ending to Split.

IGG made sure to include special messages for the Austin screening of Bad Black, making this no-budget film with a paper-thin story the most unexpectedly touching thing I saw at the whole festival. An early look at Hollywood movies while guzzling beer at parties is one thing, but an invitation to experience something direct from another culture is what I call truly fantastic.

Man rescued at sea as mother presumed dead was suspect in grandfather’s killing

Nathan Carman, saved after he said he spent a week adrift when boat sunk, said he had nothing to do with grandfathers death and did all he could to find mother

A 22-year-old man rescued from a life raft after a fishing trip that left his mother missing and presumed dead had been a suspect in the still unsolved 2013 killing of his rich grandfather, adding to the multitude of questions swirling around him and what happened at sea.

Nathan Carman was picked up by a freighter on Sunday, 100 miles off the Massachusetts coast, after what he said was a week adrift that began when his 31ft aluminum fishing boat inexplicably sank during a mother-and-son outing.

Coast Guard officials interviewed Carman, and police searched his home in Vermont as part of an investigation into the ill-fated trip. He has not been charged with anything.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, he said he had absolutely nothing to do with his grandfathers killing and did everything he could to find his mother, 54-year-old Linda Carman, of Middletown, Connecticut, as their boat went down. He said he blew a whistle and called out frantically for her for hours.

I was yelling, Mom! Mom! Carman said. He added: I loved my mother and my mother loved me.

According to court documents, Carman came under suspicion in the killing three years ago of his maternal grandfather, 87-year-old John Chakalos, a wealthy real estate developer who was found shot to death in his Windsor, Connecticut, home.

A 2014 search warrant obtained by the AP said that Carman was the last person known to have seen Chakalos alive; that Carman had bought a rifle consistent with the one used in the crime; and that he discarded his hard drive and GPS unit used around the time of the shooting.

Carman was never charged. According to court papers, police submitted an arrest warrant to a prosecutor, but it was returned unsigned with a request for more information.

In his will, Chakalos left an estate worth more than $42m to his four adult daughters, including Carmans mother.

Windsor police Capt Thomas LePore said on Wednesday that the case is still open and that Carman remains a person of interest.

My grandfather was like a father to me, and I was like a son to him, Carman told the AP. He was the closest person in the world to me, and I loved him and he loved me, and I had absolutely nothing to do with his death.

In the course of investigating the killing, authorities said in court papers that they learned from family members that Carman had a history of violence as a child, including one incident in which he allegedly held another child hostage with a knife. The documents also said Carman had several alarming episodes while he was a high school student, although no details of those incidents were given.

Authorities would not discuss the investigation into the boating trip.

Mother and son set off from a marina in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, on 17 September, authorities said. Carman told the AP that their boat sank in a matter of minutes around noon the next day after he heard a funny noise in the engine compartment and saw water pouring in.

He said he saw his mother in the cockpit and then saw her pulling in the fishing lines. He said he grabbed three bags containing food, flares and life jackets. But when he looked back, his mother was no longer there, he said.

One minute I was standing on the deck, the next minute I was in the water, he said.

Carman said the life raft self-inflated, and he swam to it, about 15-20ft away, and began calling for his mother.

On Monday, authorities searched Carmans home in Vernon, Vermont, and seized a modem, a SIM card and a letter. Their search warrant indicated investigators think that Carman was handling some boat motor repairs himself and that the vessel might not have been seaworthy.

The investigation has also revealed that Nathan had intended to go fishing further off-shore in a different location than what were his mothers intentions and understanding, the warrant said.

Family members have said Carman has Aspergers syndrome, a form of autism that can be characterized by social awkwardness and repetitive behavior. Experts say people with Aspergers are no more likely than others to commit violent crimes.

His attorney, Hubert Santos, said that Carman cooperated fully with the Coast Guard and that his mothers death was a tragic accident.

Life is richer when we talk to strangers | David Ferguson

Next time youre in an elevator, strike up a conversation with the person youre riding with. It could do you good

I think I must have a kind face. People always talk to me. Im the guy who always gets asked for directions, even in cities where Im a tourist. When people need help reaching something at the grocery store, they ask me. Something about my expression must say: I mean you no harm.

Im all right with that. When I was younger, I always wanted to be one of those devastatingly good-looking people who stopped strangers in their tracks. I worked at a coffee shop with a guy named Alan who was so beautiful that once when he was wiping down the tables out front, a driver rear-ended another car because she was so distracted by the sight of him.

Nobody ever rear-ended a car over me, but honestly, given the choice I think I would take what I have. Having an approachable face has meant that my life has been full of interesting conversations with strangers.

Author Kio Starks new book When Strangers Meet: How People You Dont Know Can Transform You is about her seven-year personal study of her interactions with strangers in New York City. She believes that reaching across the gulf of silence that normally stands between ourselves and the people we encounter on a daily basis is not just essential, but transformative.

In a Ted talk about the book, Stark said: When you talk to strangers, youre making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life and theirs.

Obviously, respecting peoples boundaries is important, but so often when I find myself in elevators and waiting rooms, in line at the drugstore or the deli counter, I will smile at someone and if I receive an answering flickering of friendliness in their eyes, I will strike up a conversation.

Sometimes Ive thought of something funny, sometimes I just remark that its a beautiful night or day. Sometimes I speak up when I admire someones style. Parenthetically, Ive noticed as a gay man that there is a particular way of saying: I love your shoes/lipstick/earrings to women that lets them know Im not a straight man whos trying to sell myself to them like a bad car salesman.

Like Stark, Ive heard some amazing stories, some sad stories and some stories that opened my eyes to worlds Id never thought existed. Some of the best stories Ive heard have been from people in New York City.

In spite of New Yorks reputation for rudeness, I have found that being openly friendly and falling back on my southern manners, saying Yes, maam and No, sir in New York makes people just melt.

Oh, youre from Georgia? they say, as if theyre surprised theres no actual damp cow manure on my boots or hayseeds in my hair. Well let me tell you about my favorite diner/movie house/karaoke bar etc.

The best meals Ive had in London, Chicago, Philadelphia and yes, New York, have been places Ive tried after striking up a conversation with a cashier or a cab driver or someone in a coffee shop. My experience has always been that New York is a city thats itching to tell me its secrets.

Our consumerist, stratified society dictates to us that we live inside our own lines, associating primarily with people like ourselves. We go about our business, buy groceries and order food alongside each other, but we never connect.

In the presidential debate on Monday night, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said implicit bias is a problem for everyone. Our culture inculcates its ideas and prejudices and dogmas into us virtually from the moment we open our eyes.

Part of undoing the fear that separates us, dispelling the hostility and suspicion, is pushing past the lines of race and gender and orientation and political affiliation that divide us and connecting as human beings full of love and desires and fears and aspirations. In this way, communicating with people outside our prescribed societal sphere feels to me like a deliciously seditious act.

When we connect, when we really learn about each other and find out what we have in common, we are fighting the power. When we see each other as individuals and not as representing The Other, were already fighting to stop the next war.

So if you see me out there somewhere, say hello. Lets talk. And if you need me to reach something for you on a high shelf, Ill be happy to.

The Wrong Girl Zo Foster Blake’s bestseller brings Australia into the TV romcom revolution

Channel Ten has the right idea with The Wrong Girl, the TV adaptation of Foster Blakes tremendously fun novel of the same name

As the television landscape expands and forms its myriad cult clusters, there is one genre that has flourished among the many small-screen niches: the humble romcom.

On film the romantic comedy is all but dead and buried at least according to many an entertainment article mourning the loss of the 80s and 90s neo-romantic comedies, your When Harry Met Sallys and Youve Got Mails. Of late the only romantic films that work in the cinema are those with a melodramatic edge, sick-lit dramas like Me Before You or teen romances adapted from John Green novels. Romcoms, once sure-fire hits, have become box office poison.

But now it seems that the romcom is not dead at all, its just moved to the small screen.

In the US critics and the public alike have been salivating over the new TV romcom: shows like Hulus The Mindy Project, Netflixs Master of None and FXs Youre the Worst, as well as British imports Lovesick and the caustic and brilliant Catastrophe.

In Australia, too, successes on TV are, for all intents and purposes, romcoms the critical darling Please Like Me, for example, or the fan favourite Offspring, resurrected this year for an unexpected sixth season.

Now The Wrong Girl has arrived to take its place in the new world order: a romantic comedy pilfered cleverly from the Australian author Zo Foster Blakes bestselling romantic novel.

Starring the gorgeous (and apparently hard-working) Jessica Marais as Lily, a producer on a breakfast television program, The Wrong Girl is light, funny and broadly appealing, well-targeted toward a swath of young female viewers who were likely getting their romcom jollies from streaming services like Netflix and Stan.

Theres no better way for these viewers to return to Australian free-to-air than with the promise of blossoming romance between Lily and Jack (Rob Collins): the celebrity chef hired for a new cooking segment on Lilys show.

The Wrong Girl more or less begins with Lily spoiling her chances at making nice with the new chef, who wears a white T-shirt and a wry smile extremely well. In a fit of drunken revelry with her sparkplug housemate Simone (Hayley Magnus), Lily accidentally sends an office-wide email trashing the breakfast show and snobbish Jacks appointment to it.

In the harsh light of day (and after an hilarious slapstick sequence involving a mad dash across Melbourne), Lily realises her error could cost her her job, and so sets about trying to win Jack over. In the process she discovers that hes not quite as pompous as she first thought. But its too late: hes already locking lips with someone else the wrong girl.

To add to the romantic tangle, Lily is still recovering from an awkward tryst with her longtime mate Pete (Ian Meadows): a hapless barista and wannabe novelist who has his sights set on someone else. Let the romcom hijinks begin!

Ian
Ian Meadows and Jessica Marais as Pete and Lily in The Wrong Girl. Photograph: Greg Noakes/Channel Ten

The first episode bounces confidently along, only tripping up when it feels the need to show how cool and young and Melbourne its subjects are. (Someone at Channel Ten no doubt received a lot of dough for the advertorial money shots of Marais touching on her Myki.)

There is a lot of public transport porn Lily spends an inordinate amount of time travelling on trains and entering/exiting pristine train stations and Meadows Pete reveals himself as the ultimate coffee wanker when he refuses to make a chai latte for an unwitting customer. This feels somewhat surprising coming from TV vet and young-Melbournite-expert Judi McCrossin (The Time of Our Lives, The Secret Life of Us); certainly, McCrossin and her team could have taken a hint or two from the aforementioned Offspring, which does an excellent job of being quintessentially Melbourne without shoving its location too far down your throat.

Utterly
Utterly electric: Rob Collins as Jack. Photograph: Greg Noakes/Channel Ten

Still, its a minor slip-up in an overall sharp and clever opening episode. Marais sparkles as Lily, who is meant to be a relatable everywoman type and so dresses in dowdy street clothes and appears rather humourless at times. Marais appeal saves it: instead of grating, shes lovable.

Shes supported by a fine cast, including the scruffy, adorable Meadows, playing a more downtrodden version of his self-important Moodys character, and the utterly electric Collins. As Lilys housemate, Hayley Magnus brings a welcome shot of verve to Lilys home life. And Kerry Armstrong returns triumphantly to the small screen in a small but brilliant bit at Lilys tightly wound mother.

The story has been altered and expanded from Foster Blakes tart novel, and already Im wondering what divergences McCrossins love plot will take. This is the smart way in which the romcom has overtaken TV: the chance at a longer, more satisfying courting period for our fictional friends.

The Wrong Girl premieres on Wednesday at 8.30pm on Channel Ten

Patrick Vieira brought a vital asset to New York City FC: respect

NYC FC have thrived in the face of adversity and much of that success can be traced directly back to their coach

Foreign coaches cant win in MLS, right?

Wrong.

New York City FC have qualified for the playoffs for the first time in their two-year history and much of that success rests on the back of one man: Patrick Vieira.

Its easy to forget that NYC FC were considered an outlier in the MLS Cup conversation leading into 2016 and with good reason. The signing of Vieira did little to inspire hope. Pundits skewered City Football Group for the appointment of an inexperienced, foreign-born coaching novice to handle its high-profile American arm, especially following the release of the decorated and respected Jason Kreis.

Furthermore, the core of last years disastrous 2015 roster was left nearly intact. Ronald Matarrita, Federico Bravo and Diego Martinez were the only real notable offseason additions, and a standout center-back remained elusive.

But like the 2015 Red Bulls, NYC FC thrived in the face of adversity and much of that success can be traced directly back to their coach.

So what made Vieira successful where Kreis fell short? For starters, he commanded the respect of every player in the locker room. That is a big deal, especially when your roster includes the likes of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo. The offseason purge of MLS veterans such as Chris Wingert, Andrew Jacobson and Ned Grabavoy also gave him a clean slate to work with, offering a smoother transition to his more European minded way of managing the side.

Training became noticeably stiffer. Two-a-days became a way of life. Team dinners occurred with more frequency. And each approach led to a more unified side.

On the touchline, Vieira proved to be both stubborn and pragmatic in his coaching approach. He never compromised his desire to play out of the back, no matter how ugly some matches went (7-0 Red Bull loss anyone?). Despite that approach, he was surprisingly malleable when it came to his tactical deployment, often compensating for the teams defensive deficiencies with multiple fronts. He experimented with everything from a modified 4-3-3 to a 1920s throwback W-M formation, cobbling together three-, four- and five-man defensive lines, sometimes in a single match.

All the while, he stressed competition and a tough-love approach to his team. That quickly steeled the will of youngsters like Jack Harrison and Khiry Shelton while creating the kind of team environment NYC FCs veteran foreign core was accustomed to.

The result? Victories. NYC FC finished 2015 with a league high 58 goals conceded while scoring 49. This year, they are tied for first place with the Red Bulls and Toronto, and have scored a league high 55 goals and conceded 53. Take away the 7-0 loss to the Red Bulls, and the turnaround is all the more impressive.

Yes, Villa has been instrumental in that success and Lampard, indispensable. But make no mistake were it not for Vieiras managerial brilliance, NYC FC would not be where they are today. DM

With defeat to Seattle the LA Galaxy must avoid last seasons fate

The LA Galaxy dont take defeat so well. And so with the full-time whistle still lingering at StubHub Center following their 4-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders the club enveloped itself in indignity. Captain Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard were gone by the time the locker room opened to the media, while manager Bruce Arena did his best bad loser routine. Oh, God. I really have to answer that? Thats a fairly dumb question, he reacted when asked how the Galaxy can cut down on their defensive errors.

This was a damaging defeat for the Galaxy, leaving them five points adrift of FC Dallas at the top of the Western Conference and Supporters Shield standings. Damaging not because it hurts their league position particularly FC Dallas have been favourites in the West for some time now but because it could have an impact on their mentality heading into the play-offs.

Of course, LAs record has been impressive of late. This was their first defeat in seven league outings and their place in the post-season is all but assured, if not locked in. But the Galaxy found themselves in a similar situation last year, performing well until a catastrophic 5-2 home defeat to the Portland Timbers. The defeat rattled them all the way into the play-offs, where LA exited in the knockout round.

Arena must ensure the same thing doesnt happen this season following Sundays home defeat to the Sounders. The same hallmarks were there, with the Galaxy losing their grip of things just as quickly as they did against Portland the year previously. There was a certain raggedness to their performance that will surely give Arena more concern that he let on to the media after the match.

The momentum that seemed to have been gained by Landon Donovans equaliser against Sporting KC the week before has now been lost. Its something of a cliche in soccer, but Arena must make sure the defeat to Seattle is considered as nothing more than a mere blip in the locker room. Otherwise the effects could seep into their mindset at the worst possible time. Sounders 2016 mustnt become Timbers 2015. GR

The Kamaras never lie

Kei Kamaras return to Columbus was the big story going into Sunday nights primetime encounter against the Crew. However, it was the other Kamara leaving MAPFRE with all the glory.

Ola Kamara notched a brace against New England, leading the way towards an important 2-0 victory. Astonishingly, the win puts the ninth place Crew just five points behind DC United for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East with a match in hand.

Individually, the win also adds an important chapter in the ongoing, intertwined tale of Ola and Kei Kamara. No, I did not mean to say Federico Higuain. The fact is Ola Kamara has been more effected by Kei Kamaras trade than anyone on the Crew — Higuain included.

Since that fateful May day, Ola Kamara (who played just 50 minutes through the teams first nine matches) has been asked to fill the boots of the beloved Kei Kamara, and he has delivered. His first 11 matches following the trade saw Ola start 10 times, scoring 10 goals for the Crew. After a brief dip in form this summer, the Norwegian striker has once again cemented his spot in the starting XI, scoring five goals in his last three starts while leading Columbus to a pair of victories.

Kei Kamara has been another story altogether. Unlike Ola, Kei has had a difficult time moving on from his trade to New England. The 32-year-old has scored just five goals in 18 appearances with the Revolution, matching his five-goal output through nine matches with Columbus earlier this season.

And there is another dimension to Keis trade to consider: the emotional aspect. Kei Kamara was a community leader for the Crew. He loved Columbus and Columbus loved him, making the move all the harder for him to accept. Fans were divided on his trade, and that was still evident on Sunday night, with a smattering of boos and cheers following him throughout most of the match.

Ola Kamara? He has been the lone constant of hope in this unlikely Crew postseason run, making him a beloved figure with the Columbus faithful.

The funny thing is, both Kamaras now find themselves in a similar situation. New England and Columbus are searching for a postseason berth, and time is running out. Their form down the stretch may very well dictate their teams fate. And ultimately answer the question who got the better of the deal? DM

The San Jose Earthquakes will have a lot to think about this off-season

When the San Jose Earthquakes made their move for Dominic Kinnear two years ago they did so with one objective in mind: making the play-offs. After eight years with the Houston Dynamo the Scottish-born coach had earned a reputation for himself as a maximiser, making the most of what he had to ensure a certain consistency matched by very few in MLS. Having taken Houston to the play-offs in seven of his nine seasons at the club, making four MLS Cup finals, Kinnear was appointed at San Jose on the hope he would achieve similar success there. It hasnt panned out that way.

Saturdays 2-1 home defeat to Sporting KC – their first to the Kansas City franchise in 16 years – means the Quakes now sit slumped second bottom of the Western Conference, seven points short of the play-off spots with just five regular season fixtures left to play. For the fourth successive year, and the second with Kinnear in charge, San Jose look set to miss out on the post-season. Theyll once again have their face pressed against the window, watching the party from outside.

And so the Earthquakes will have some serious thinking to do this off-season. The move to the shiny new, glittery Avaya Stadium, with all its hospitality suites and pitchside bars, was supposed to signal a shift in identity and ambition at the club. Kinnears appointment symbolised that. Even if he endured something of a difficult final season at Houston, the Scot was still considered MLSs go-to-guy for overachievement.

But should San Jose finish where they currently lie in the Western Conference they will have matched their worst ever MLS finish in franchise history. Their conference title win of 2012 now seems a long time ago and the Earthquakes could now face something of an existential juncture before the start of the 2017 season.

Of course, San Jose could still make the play-offs this season. It may be an unlikely scenario, but with two games in-hand over the Portland Timbers in sixth place they could still secure a post-season spot. The Seattle Sounders have three games in-hand over the Timbers, but its not impossible that the Quakes could make a late run.

However, should the probable ultimately materialise the San Jose Earthquakes must consider whether the club is heading in the right direction. If things are getting worse rather than better could Kinnears job be under threat? What happens when the play-off man no longer makes the play-offs? GR

The picture becomes clearer

There is finally some clarity to the MLS playoff picture.

As week 31 of the MLS campaign comes to a close, four teams have booked their place in the postseason. FC Dallas led the way last week as the first and only team to qualify for the playoffs. This week, they are joined by a trio of Eastern Conference powers: New York City FC, New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC.

All three teams are tied atop the Eastern Conference with 48 points. The Red Bulls and NYC FC share identical 13-9-9 records, while Toronto FC hold a game advantage on both at 13-9-8.

New York City FC proved they were more than just the production of Frank Lampard, unleashing four goals on the Chicago Fire en route to a 4-1 victory. That win, however, was not enough to book their place in the postseason. After watching DC United destroy Jason Kreis and Orlando City 4-1, NYC FC were forced into the uncomfortable role of cheering the New York Red Bulls against the Montreal Impact.

As fate would have it, the Red Bulls 1-0 win not only booked their place in the postseason, but also pushed NYC FC and Toronto into the playoffs as well.

Despite the helping hand, each team has overcome obstacles to reach their position. For Toronto, it is the second time in team history that they have qualified for the postseason and their second consecutive postseason berth. While their roster screams contender on paper, key injuries and streaky play from the likes of Jozy Altidore, Giovinco and Michael Bradley have slowed the potential gains of an otherwise imposing roster.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, have struggled to find consistent winning football. They started the year losing six of their first seven matches. They followed that run with six victories in their next eight. Currently, they are undefeated in their last 13 matches, but seven of those results were draws, with six coming after conceding two goal leads, leaving questions over their consistency.

As for NYC FC, they were never supposed to be here in the first place. A rookie, foreign coach and a near-identical roster to their poor 2015 season seemed to spell doom for the second year club. However, they have exceeded expectations and done what was once considered improbable.

Now, all eyes are on the remaining 16 teams in the chase. DM

Harry ever after: tracing Daniel Radcliffe’s evolution, from Potter to flatulent corpse

With Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe shakes off the last of his tween era with a funny and moving role as a cheese-cutting cadaver

You have to hand it to the stars of the Harry Potter franchise for making it to adulthood in one piece. Judging by the experiences of generations of too-much-too-soon ex-child stars, they should really all be drooling junkies, annoying party monsters or just flat-out dead by now.

But no. Having banked something like $10m each for surrendering a decade of their childhoods apiece, and having borne the weight of their generations pre-adolescent hopes and dreams, their post-Harry lives seem pretty normal and sane. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson appear well-adjusted and happy to take a lower profile.

Daniel Radcliffe is perhaps more ambitious about a post-Potter career. He telegraphed that early on by starring in a revival of Peter Shaffers play Equus a demanding role with a lot of tabloid-friendly nudity before he was even finished with Harry, and then doubled down with his work as young Allen Ginsberg in the proto-beatnik drama Kill Your Darlings.

All that Potter money has given Radcliffe the unique opportunity to bide his time, choose his parts, and get things right. In common with a lot of fresh-faced child stars waiting for the glow of infancy to burn off and the lines and wrinkles to build up which can take for ever: see Leonardo DiCaprio, Kirsten Dunst et al Radcliffe seems keen, understandably, to set fire to his cherubic younger self, establishing a firm demarcation line between all that and whatever comes next.

Marc Jacobs: Cultural appropriation backlash ‘erodes freedom of speech’

(CNN)“One thing I’ve learned,” says Marc Jacobs with a note of exasperation in his voice, “is that there is no winning on the internet. You can’t argue with people online. It is absolutely pointless.”

Jacobs is in London at Claridge’s ahead of the much anticipated, celebrity-heavy party he is co-hosting with his long-time collaborator and Love magazine founder Katie Grand.
    The designer recently sparked controversy when he sent white models down the runway with faux dreadlocks at his Spring-Summer 2017 show. On social media, he was accused of cultural appropriation.
    The day after the show, Jacobs commented on a photo on the Marc Jacobs brand’s Instagram account, dismissing “all who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense'” as “narrow minded,” and claimed not to see color or race.

    Designer

    “funny (sic) how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair,” he wrote, a comment many considered an insensitive false equivalence considering the ongoing politics surrounding women of color — and black women in particular — and straight hair.
    While the designer did eventually take to his personal account to apologize for “the lack of sensitivity unintentionally expressed by my brevity,” he remains disheartened by the reaction, which he maintains was an attack on his freedom of speech and artistic expression.
    “The sad bit of this whole drama is the idea that one has to be careful of what they say, how they say it, and to whom they say it to. All this, just because what you say may threaten someone, and they may get offended or outraged. I think that erodes one’s freedom of speech,” he says.
    “I’ve never felt that I had to live my life thinking ‘Well, I shouldn’t do this because somebody might take offense.’ That’s just sad.”
    He laments how much it bothered him when other parties — including respected Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan — were attacked for defending him.
    “After Robin came out with the article defending me, haters started hating on her too. She was called nasty things like Uncle Tom and the like, and that is an injustice. I mean this is a woman who is a great writer and this just feels like completely wrong,” he says.
    “It’s gotten to the point that the more I express my opinion, the more problematic it becomes, but the hypocrisy feels absurd to me. The people who attack me in effect, are saying one thing but acting completely the opposite way. In other words, they are saying ‘you can’t say or do what you want, but we can.’
    “That,” he adds with a laugh, “is absurd.”

    The future of fashion

    Looking past the controversy, his Spring-Summer 2017 show — held last week at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York — was certainly classic Jacobs, with the theatrics, glitz and glamor that have made him a star in his own right.
    “If I were to consult that crystal ball, I think in five years the runway will absolutely still exist because in my mind there is nothing than can replace the phenomena of a live performance,” he says. “Nothing has the same electrical charge of live theater and live performance, and the excitement of seeing and feeling it, the human interaction. That’s something that is just irreplaceable.”
    And while the industry is anxiously monitoring the rise of the so-called “see now, buy now” shoppable runway espoused by the likes of Tom Ford and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey, Jacobs is not yet sold on it. For him, a luxury purchase is less about immediacy than true want.
    “The things that I really covet and bought are things that I’ve had to wait for months to receive, and I get so excited when they finally come,” he says.
    “I would rather wait for something I really want than something I don’t really care about but is available to me immediately.”

    Atlanta star Brian Tyree Henry: if Trump gets elected ‘it’s going to be Mad Max’

    Smart, timely and unapologetic, Atlanta is one of the biggest TV shows this season, telling how it feels to be a black American in this country right now

    Brian Tyree Henry has a question. Have you heard of the Arctic Apple? he asks in the restaurant of the Ace Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Before I can confess that Ive never heard of it or start Googling, theres an explanation. If you bite it, it doesnt go brown, it stays white. It never oxidises. I was like, this is next to Soylent Green; I bet you were going to start eating people. So yeah, welcome to the future.

    Its a challenge to keep up with Henry. Fans of Atlanta Donald Glovers auteur drama on FX, which drew three million viewers with its season premiere will recognise him as Alfred Miles aka Paper Boi, the laconic would-be rapper around whom much of the action revolves. But theres nothing laconic about Henry, who seems determined to put the world to rights one genetically modified piece of fruit at a time.

    You can put Trump in the White House, but you need to prepare for a revolt because Im going nuts, says Henry, as he waits for his English breakfast a deconstructed version including black pudding to arrive. Its going to be Escape From New York in here and you might as well call me Kurt Russell because Im going to be fucking people up. Its going to be Mad Max.

    From the coldly seething anger to the apocalyptic references, Henrys takedown of the Republican presidential candidate and his possibly cataclysmic consequences could come straight from the script of Atlanta. It has been the most popular of FXs offerings this autumn and one of the most critically lauded of the TV fall debutants. Its been called genre defying, earned comparisons to fellow FX show Louie and The Wire, and was dubbed shrewd, emotional, and impolite by the New Yorkers Emily Nussbaum.

    Its also black. Brazenly so from its cast and crew to its subject matter, to the city in which its set. Atlanta has managed to stand out during a season thats been heralded for embracing diversity. But where other shows such as Luke Cage, Pitch or Queen Sugar may exist in alternate universes or times, Atlanta is set in the here and now, in contemporary America. And that setting, slap bang in the middle of the most divisive election race in recent history, feels apt.

    We should be over this by now but were not, says Henry of race relations in the US. Which is why Im glad were doing our show because were going to be telling you exactly how we feel and exactly where were coming from, and exactly how it feels to be a black American in this country right now.

    Variations on that line have been used by a lot of the cast while promoting the show Donald Glover said he wanted to show white people, you dont know everything about black culture. During the shows first episode, which focuses around a shooting in a car park, the standout moment is when a white friend casually throws around the N-word. Its a scene which finishes on Glover and Henry staring down the camera at their acquaintance, and it feels like theyre also looking at the viewer and America at large. Its as if those scenes are supposed to elicit a knowing nod from African Americans and a wince from white America.

    Jumping
    Jumping the couch: Keith Standfield as Darius, Donald Glover as Earnest Marks and Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles. Photograph: FX

    No one seems give a shit about what they say about any race in this country, says Henry. Which is funny because the last time I checked isnt this the land of immigration? Isnt this where youre supposed to come and be what you want to be? Its like, yeah, but only if we say so, though.

    His words are shrewd, emotional and a little impolite, at least by conservative Americas standards, but his tell-it-how-you-see-it approach began early. Henry was the youngest in a house with four older sisters in Washington DC. Acting was a survival mechanism as much as a hobby. My sisters were teenagers when I was born so the last thing they wanted was a little nappy-headed boy running around, he recalls. I would imitate them or copy things off TV. I would leave the house and be these people.

    That early play turned into something more when Henry started acting at Morehouse College, the most famous of the historically black colleges and the same place Samuel L Jackson caught the acting bug. The first play he auditioned for was August Wilsons classic tale of newly freed slaves, Joe Turners Come and Gone and he landed the lead role of Herald Loomis. Henry still calls theater his first love and after Morehouse he moved to Yale to take part in the acting programme. Uprooting from one of the blackest campuses in the US to one which is notoriously monocultural was a wakeup call.

    At Morehouse I found myself and my voice and I didnt want to lose that at Yale, he says. [At Yale] youre learning Ibsen and Chekhov and you need to learn the Alexander technique, and I was like yeah, but I want to be Brian when I leave.

    Into
    Into the woods: Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles, Keith Stanfield as Darius. Photograph: Guy D’Alema/FX

    That theater background gave Henry connections. Hes the godfather to recent Emmy winner Sterling K Browns child and played Tybalt in Shakespeare in the Park in New York alongside a young Oscar Isaac, who played Romeo. It also saw him land the role of the General in the original lineup of the Book of Mormon (I was like, OK, Im playing a warlord and I get to say fuck and shit on Broadway. Lets do it). He made the transfer from stage to screen with bit parts in The Good Wife, The Knick and Boardwalk Empire, alongside Michael K Williams. Hes in HBOs Vice Principals, but Atlanta is where Henry looks most at home, which isnt surprising considering its where (at Morehouse) he matured.

    But the city itself is important to Henry for another reason: We went there, we created it, we made it a metropolitan, he says. Its the place where a lot of black history happened: Martin Luther King was there, Jim Crow was there, even the Olympics were there.

    Atlanta has become and has always been a place where you create your own universe. Thats what our show is trying to do; create our own universe with these two young men trying to make it in this universe which is still part of this bigger picture. Its still part of America, its still part of Georgia, its still part of the south, but its created its own entity and I love that.

    Talking to Henry, that idea of identity and defining yourself comes up frequently. Whether its talking about his favourite book as a kid, Antoine de Saint-Exuprys The Little Prince ([its about] opening your mind and not letting people limit you), his dress sense (I love wearing a fitted hat because as soon as I put it on people go oh wait, he went to Yale?) or his love of rap (Its the place I feel like black artists have the most room to be who they want to be), its there in the background.

    Questioning, teasing and often provoking, theres an obvious link between the world Henry and Glover have created and the real one they inhabit. So what about the world of Atlanta hip-hop? Its often presented as an out of control, drug-laced trap house where debauchery is next to godliness. For Henry its much more complicated than that.

    In hip-hop you can be anything. What you look like is the least of it: Fetty Wap has one eye. Gucci Mane has an ice cream cone tattooed on his face, and theyre both still great, he says. Thats what I love about hip-hop: it challenges the norms of what we, especially as black men should be and look like. It welcomes the freaks and the ones who havent been heard.

    Is that what Atlanta is doing? I dont want to say its necessary, but it is absolutely necessary, he says. Welcome to the future.

    Atlanta continues on FX tonight at 10pm ET

    Best TV of the week: fall series premieres are finally upon us

    The Good Place, This Is Us, Lethal Weapon, MacGyver, and all the other new shows youve been waiting for are finally here


    Premieres

    Monday 19 September

    Kevin Can Wait

    Havent you been clamoring for Kevin James to return to television so that he can annoy his out-of-his-league wife with his wild macho antics just like he did on The King of Queens? Well, apparently someone has. Here James plays a cop who retires to live the good life but instead ends up sucked into his familys drama. CBS at 8.30pm EST

    The Good Place

    Finally someone created a project worth of Kristen Bells comedic genius. The Veronica Mars star plays Eleanor, a selfish woman mistakenly sent to heaven, and Ted Danson plays Michael, her guardian angel trying to keep her on the straight and narrow. More Kristen Bell is like a gift from God or creator Mike Schur (The Office, Parks and Recreation). NBC at 10pm EST

    Tuesday 20 September

    Bull

    Wanna know what Dr Phil did before he became Oprahs go-to guy and daytimes baldest talkshow host? He ran a jury consulting business and they made this show based on his life. Michael Weatherly plays the Dr Phil character, but with way more hair and far less drawl. CBS at 9pm EST

    This is Us

    Considering this is the most watched trailer of the new fall season, it must mean that people are really excited about a drama about peoples lives connected by nothing but a shared birthday, including a couple welcoming a new child, a TV star ready to quit, his twin sister who is looking for romance, or a man hunting down his long-lost father. Its either that or they really like Milo Ventimiglias bare bum. Either way, this is getting tons of buzz and some of the best reviews of the season. NBC at 10pm

    Wednesday 21 September

    Lethal Weapon

    Replace Danny Glover with Damon Wayans and Mel Gibson with Clayne Crawford and you have a faithful update of the classic movie franchise. As always Murtaugh and Riggs are solving crimes, though not always going by the book. I bet they have to turn in their badge and gun at least six times before the end of the first episode. Fox at 8pm EST

    Designated Survivor

    Every year during the State of the Union address, one member of the cabinet is holed up somewhere in case someone blows up the capital and kills the entire executive branch. On TV, this finally happened and the guy left behind was Kiefer Sutherland. Well, it was actually Tom Kirkman, secretary of housing and urban development who has no clue what hes going to do running a country where the White House staff hates him and America is mourning the loss of their leader. ABC at 10pm EST

    Speechless

    Minnie Driver, complete with her English accent, finally makes the switch to TV as the mother of a son who cant speak and must use a wheelchair because of his cerebral palsy. How does she get him everything he needs and still keep everyone else in the family happy? Its like trying to have it all but even worse. ABC at 8.30pm EST

    Thursday 22 September

    Notorious

    This is the first non-Shonda Rhimes show that ABC has tried on a Thursday night in quite some time and its keeping Scandals timeslot warm while Kerry Washington is on maternity leave. Dont worry, its just as crazy as a Shondaland show , with a lawyer husband and his TV news producer wife (Daniel Sunjata and Piper Perabo) get creative with how they let their jobs influence each other. Its even based on a real story. ABC at 9pm EST

    Pitch

    If you thought it was hard for Jackie Robinson to be the first black player in baseball history, try being Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) the first female baseball player who also happens to be black. Saved by the Bells Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays her catcher. Who knew Zack Morris was such a jock? Fox at 9pm EST

    Friday 23 September

    The Exorcist

    Geena Davis has an Oscar and now she has a ghost show on Fox on Friday nights where she is the mother of a pea-soup spitting girl whose family is being beset by a dark force. Good thing shell have two different priests fighting for her. Fox at 9pm EST

    MacGyver

    During this season where everything old is new again, even the guy that can save the day with a coat hanger, two pencil erasers, and a pack of gum has been taken out of the closet and dusted off. Lucas Till plays the modern incarnation of the hero, who leads a shadowy group within the government that uses science to save lives. CBS at 8pm EST

    Returning shows

    Monday

    The Voice

    Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys put their butts in some spinning chairs for the first time. Its gonna be hard for Miley to twerk on this singing competition while seated. NBC at 8pm EST

    Tuesday

    Scream Queens

    Oldie but goodie John Stamos and youngie but baddie Taylor Lautner join the second season of this Ryan Murphy concoction. This time its set in a hospital instead of a sorority house. Thats like trading Jell-O out for Jell-O shots. Fox at 9pm

    Wednesday

    Empire

    What sophomore slump? The ratings juggernaut is back and bigger than ever as it tries to make everyone forget about season two. Fox at 9pm EST

    Black-ish

    What could possibly make this groundbreaking sitcom better? How about Hamiltons Daveed Diggs as Rainbows brother coming to town. ABC at 9.30pm

    Survivor

    The grandfather of all reality shows returns for its 33rd season and this year the theme is Gen X v Millenials. Lets hope that none of the challenges have to do with Snapchat or naming bands signed to Sub Pop. That wouldnt be fair. CBS at 8pm EST

    Thursday

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Remember what we said about Empire trying to make everyone forget about their second season? Same thing is true here, with a new mystery and, hopefully, a little less insanity. ABC at 10pm EST

    New to streaming

    Easy

    Thanks to all the dating apps and websites out there, finding love and picking up should be absolutely simple, right? Well, maybe not. Noted mumblecore pioneer Joe Swanberg gives TV a try with this eight-part series that looks at what romance is like in the modern day. With an amazing cast and a great trailer, this looks like something you could fall in love with rather easily. Thursday 22 September on Netflix

    Transparent

    The funny thing about coming out of the closet or making a transition is that after its over everything should be hunky dory, right? Not so much. For the third season of this gender and sexually fluid comedy all the members of the Pfefferman clan have exactly the lives that they want. Then why are they all still so miserable? Jill Soloways increasingly complex series tries to figure out why. Friday 23 September on Amazon

    Kevin Can Wait: is Kevin James an acting genius or a one-trick pony?

    His new show Kevin Can Wait is about to hit screens this week and his everyman schtick has divided opinion. Two Guardian writers argue the case


    The case for: He gives a masterclass in screen acting

    Before I begin, let me say this. The trailer for Kevin Can Wait, Jamess new sitcom for CBS, looks awful. The script is lazy, and the chemistry between him and Erinn Hayes is nonexistent. Equally, if you detest him on the big screen, I can sympathize. Whether hes playing the irritating Paul Blart in Mall Cop or Adam Sandlers aw shucks sidekick, I get it. Hes not your cup of tea. But hear me out: Kevin James is hilarious, you just need to dig a little deeper.

    Jamess career began in improv and standup, when after making appearances in Star Search and Jay Leno; his big break came in 1996 at the Just for Laughs Montreal comedy festival. It was then when Ray Romano gave him a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond, which led him to create his greatest character, Doug Heffernan. The King Of Queens, to this day, remains my favorite network sitcom of all time and I watch it every single day. When the pilot was aired in 1998, Variety was less than kind: Fat guys with big mouths are back in primetime, said TV critic Ray Richmond. He called it The Honeymooners minus the charm of Jackie Gleason, but once the season grew in confidence so did the writing. The show had a ridiculously talented cast that included Jerry Stiller, Patton Oswalt and Victor Williams, but its success (it lasted for nine seasons) lived and died on the chemistry between James and Leah Remini. Theres a great moment in season one where Doug and Carrie are arguing in the middle of a cello performance, and no lines are spoken and the scene is performed in complete silence. Its a masterclass in screen acting.

    James is a fantastic physical performer, unbelievably athletic for a man of his size, and this is something we see throughout the show. Another great scene is when Doug shows Carrie how to pole dance and James effortlessly hangs in the air from the pole as if he was a Cirque du Soleil performer. Its one of the funniest scenes in the entire show. James, to me, remains a great comedian, blessed with great timing and screen presence. His achilles heel, however just like Chris Rock has always been catastrophic movie decisions. In King Of Queens, he had the freedom to be charmingly mischievous minus the arrogance, but once he appears on a movie screen, all that goes away as he plays 2D flatpack roles. I dont think we should blame James for that. I just wish he would fire his manager. LME

    The case against: The cinematic works of Kevin James are strictly for the big boy go fall down set

    Onward,
    Onward, to mediocrity! Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Photograph: Startraks Photo/Rex Shutterstock

    All right, Luis. I also watched the trailer for Kevin Can Wait in preparation for this rhetorical exercise. It didnt just make my hair stand on end. It caused my hair to fall out from the nuclearly unfunny blast of crap writing. I do not argue that Kevin James isnt a talented performer. Few people ascend to his level of fame without acting chops. What I take issue with is his choice in projects.

    Whatever you might say about his uncanny ability to contort his face in amusing ways or his comedic timing in the context of a multi-camera sitcom is blunted by his insistence in starring in such woefully misguided films as Grown-Ups, Grown-Ups 2, Here Comes the Boom, Zookeeper, Pixels, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (a movie that aims to be progressive, but achieves the nifty trick of offending people anyway), Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and Paul Blart Mall Cop: 2. Achieving fame seems like it must be a lovely thing. What one does with that fame is something of a test. James has done crap film after crap film, even going as far as making sequels to two of his worst movies. That there isnt a Zookeeper 2 is one of Gods greatest miracles, right up there with the parting of the Red Sea.

    I realize these films are not for me. To expect nuance, cleverness, cultural significance or jokes would be asking too much. The cinematic works of Kevin James are strictly for the big boy go fall down set who cackle anytime James tries to cram his hefty frame into a tiny golf cart. Whereas the late Chris Farley had a knack for wringing pathos and affection out of his weight in SNL sketches like the Chippendales tryout with Patrick Swayze or the movie Tommy Boy, Kevin James uses it as a dumb crutch.

    I cannot be blamed for pointing out his weight here either, as he does so himself multiple times in the risible Kevin Can Wait commercial. He ate four hamburgers! What a cad. When James eats four fake hamburgers off-screen in a sitcom, its hilarious. When I do it at 2am, its sad. Even his good friend, the notoriously slothful Adam Sandler, has stretched his ability on numerous occasions. Sandler was fantastic in Funny People and Punch Drunk Love. Even though they were failed experiments, Spanglish, The Cobbler, and Men, Women and Children were at least experiments.

    What is abundantly clear from all the promotional materials for Kevin Can Wait is that it is yet another iteration of the tired formula of wacky dad who learns valuable lessons from his patient family each and every week. Instead of a grand social trend or some bellwether of renewed interest in the traditional sitcom protagonist, its just another instance of Kevin James showcasing his lack of either confidence or interest in escaping the comfortable box he has built for himself. Im not saying that Kevin James is uninterested in stretching. Im saying that he doesnt care. DS

    Kevin Can Wait starts on 19 Sep on CBS