The film’s first scene intercuts between polar opposite people within a city we can assume is Montreal. It isn’t long until drug dealing Anglo-American Henry Welles (Zach Braff) is driving drunk into the posh neighborhood’s narrow streets and pregnant French Canadian Nathalie Beauchamp (Isabelle Blais) is trying to get to the hospital by herself that we know that he’s going to run her over and their lives will forever change. He tries to find out through his friend who she is, if she’s all right, his conscience suddenly appearing.
She impulsively leaves her husband and moves in with him. His successful attempts in accommodating her and her willingness to befriend a stranger shows how malleable these characters are written. It’s part of the urban condition for them to find each other, as many movies have told before. Nathalie discovers Henry’s version of her city before his secret is revealed. The story’s recycled, but Deboarh Chow extracts raw performances from the leads, reminding us that Braff is a capable actor, and now I have to watch his CV.
- Photos: The best of Canadian cinema in 2010 (thestar.com)
Mom came home with a DVD of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Not the Disney one, the Charles Laughton one nor the silent one. Turns out it’s from a Australian company that released the movie in 1986 and the guy who does the voice for Quasimodo is this Canadian guy who has a lot of acting work in Australia. His Quasimodo sounds like Laughton too. I like the shaded-in quality of the colour, which isn’t the way animation does colour today. The colours that dominate the movie are mostly brown and gray, depicting a Paris gritty like every Medieval European city, centuries before it became fashionable. And the way they coloured the bell is amazing.
This is my first time seeing a full adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. There’s Quasimodo and his damsel of distress Esmeralda, fighting against the mob who judge them for their appearances. Oh, and where all the male leads have to do is talk funny and people think they’re great, Angela Punch McGregor has the difficult task of playing Esmeralda, and she fails. Her tone doesn’t change whether in distress or not. She doesn’t even sound convincingly in distress when needed.
Despite my moods, I have to consider that Ethan Hawke is a great Broadway actor. That Angelina Jolie has knocked it out of the park at least twice. The latter, my favourite performance of hers, is in black face – and yes, I just willed this sentence to existence. That the Patton Oswalt quasi-apology for bad movies exist. The first shot I’ve seen of Taking Lives and with Jolie’s super-dark hair I thought, wait, why is Salt already on TV? My sister is a big Angelina fan for some reason, and she’ll watch any movie of hers, despite being very well aware that it’s crap.
That Gena Rowlands, who plays Mrs. Asher, is awesome, touches anything she wants and ain’t scared. And she dies. After watching KST getting killed off in a movie, there should be a law against icing great actresses.
Olivier Martinez is also in this mess, because they’re using a Frenchman to convince America that this movie’s set in Quebec.
And Kiefer Sutherland, Canadian, in pictures.
Then Costa (Hawke) befriends a random guy and kills him.
Here’s how it ends. Context – Ileana (Jolie) and Costa has sex without the former knowing that the latter is a killer. He’s pretty gross about the sex too.There’s actually decent acting going on here, Jolie’s cry groaning and Hawke’s creepy soft talk surprisingly the right notes for the scene. But they can’t save this movie at all. Ileana gets fired, moves to some winter yokel town to be alone and bear a child, then whoa, Costa’s back! Yeah, assault that pregnant woman!
Stab her in the stomach!
She stabs him in the heart, and reveals that she’s not really pregnant. I’m not an ob-gyn, but she should be swimming in blood had he put his second or third hand on her. The violence, however, is shocking and ridiculous enough to fasten my willing suspension of disbelief.
And U2’s playing, convincing me that my father is wrong and my friends are right about U2.
Xavier Dolan‘s Les Amours Imaginaires, or Heartbeats is about Francis (Dolan) and Maria Callas lookalike Marie. While writing the previous sentence, I just realized why Dolan named his character ‘Francis.’ Marie, however, is the kind of girl who asks ‘Do you think of movie stars when you make love.’ [ETA: Nobody thinks about movie stars during 90 seconds of lovemaking, stop asking. If you find someone who does think of movie stars while making love, shank them. Sex is like a conversation, you think about yourself and the person in front of you. Nobody’s ADD is that bad. Just because movie stars arouse you and sex arouses you doesn’t mean. Worst syllogism ever. And you know what, Angelina Jolie thinks about movie stars while lovemaking because she’s in a civil union with one. I call a fatwa on this question.] Anyway, these socially awkward young adults find a hot Adonis-like guy in their social circle. The latter’s name is Nicolas, seducer yet seemingly wholesome. By including him in Francis and Marie’s friendship, he should be the third wheel, but he manages to make them feel like said third wheel. Francis changes his description of his ideal to fit Nicolas, and tells this in front of another lover. That this is Francis’s first ‘is he gay’ guy makes me wonder how he never went through this in high school. Or buys Nicolas a plain-looking $500 ‘tangerine’ sweater for a birthday present after knowing him for two months, which oh brother. [ETA: I’ll punch my child in the mouth if he ever makes an expensive mistake like this, which tells a lot about how I was raised.]
Nicolas talks about holding a 91 hours a week seismograph job that he looks too twinky to handle, kisses both Francis and Marie in the cheek, kisses a girl’s hand the first time he meets her. Everyone’s nerdy best friend will tell you that this guy’s bad news, but no such character exists in the film. The nerdy best friend within us keeps thinking of the other times when we got rejected and hoping we weren’t this shattered at 20 or 21. Marie does notice something fishy about him in his drunken birthday party but does nothing about it.
An hour or so after watching the film I realize that Nicolas as a character is deliberately posited with a mysterious, impressionistic sheen in trying to make him more complex and less villainous. He’s the ‘other’ compared to the needy kids that dominate the film. He charms and runs. This cycle might say more about his character than anything Francis thankfully didn’t narrate about him. Making him mysterious, however, doesn’t make him any more sympathetic.
There are also interviews of three Montreal hipsters. Girl 1 will live a life of rejection because her patrician nose and glasses come with a perma-scowl. Boy talks about Kinsey. Girl 2 thinks it’s cute that her beau is 39 minutes late for everything. We come back to these people two more times into the film.
So that’s a total of four bitter girls and boy out of six characters keeping a torch for an undeserved love. The film shows both broken hearts and trying to hide the broken hearts underneath a ‘cool’ exterior – the latter done way awkwardly, by the way. There is interestingly more focus on the former, the interior these characters, than the latter. It’s also mean to negate characters’ hurt feelings. But that Dolan’s worldview suggest that 67% of us are sensitive puppy dogs inside, or that if this state of mind is more accurate than we’d like to admit, or that these people aren’t shown doing other things to distract themselves and have little or no intention to move on. They look like they have had lives before this guy has come along. And where are their parents?
- Quebec filmmaker is ready for his close up (thestar.com)
Shot in digital and under natural light, Ingrid Veringer makes her directorial debut with MODRA. Protagonist Lina breaks up with her boyfriend Tyler. Her classmate Laco calls to invite her to a movie and she instead ends up inviting him to Modra, Slovakia, her family’s home town. It’s not the most original film in visual terms – a shot of the Toronto skyline indicating that the film begins in…Toronto, low angle shots looking up a tree indicating an idyllic summer afternoon. Yes, I’m nitpicking. What also distracts me are the portrait close-ups of Lina’s family members with sound from the scene they cut away from, taking away from the scenes’ continuity. I do like the way the film photographs Modra, a clump of red roofs in between a green field, in many scenes in the point of view of the summer couple.
The impressionistic performances of the characters redeems this film greatly, focusing on the two North American teenagers, nonchalant yet have envy-inducing independence. Lina’s a girl who wears unflattering empire waist dresses yet sings like Feist, Laco’s agile, awkward, not loquacious but a gentle soul. Like teenagers, the couple have unassuming exteriors and hidden anger and sadness that only comes out in economical taps. I also like how Lina is mature enough to deal with family secrets that involves her separation from her home country. Lina and Laco also accept that permanence can’t exist, and whatever happens, they see the trip as the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 3/5.
- AUDIO: Modra’s family ties (cbc.ca)
Last Saturday afternoon, I treated myself with a short called Legend of the Beaver Dam, a horror comedy musical. It’s nice to see national treasure Sean Cullen play the worst, most potty mouthed camp counselor to a nerdy kid with amazing vocal pipes, bullying twins, a few Asian girls and the nerd’s blond love interest with braces. There’s also post-production work so seamless I had to learn they used CGI in the credits.
Now on to our feature Fubar II, the sequel to the mostly improvised mockumentary of eight years ago or something. As director, Michael Dowse said on the Q&A, the willing suspension of disbelief is somehow broken by the first film, which means this time we get a film with a more fictional glaze and with one or two fantasy scenes.
Nonetheless, Dean, Terry, Tron and Trish aren’t people I wanna be stuck in a house with, as we clearly see in the first few minutes of the film. The gang celebrates Dean’s health with a party where Terry and Tron demolish the house while Dean, high on acid, accidentally sets his room on fire. This party foreshadows the tests both on Terry and Dean’s friendship as well as Dean’s health.
Like men, they have to get jobs. The gang then heads to Fort McMurray to work on the pipelines. Antics ensue. Did anyone expect a documentary about the Harper era worker exploitation? The movie does touch on those issues, but its Terry and Dean’s oblivious resilience despite their circumstances that has made the audience laugh with them and not at them.
Despite of their redeeming qualities and how immersed the cast is with their work, the Catholic boy within me just can’t love these guys. I’m thinking about exceptions to my ‘I hate crass male characters’ rule, and I came out dry. I gave this a 3/5, but there’s a little part of me that thinks I should have given it a 4.
Un Chien Andalou (1927) – Starting in one place and ending in another.
Looney Tunes (1930-1969) – Pointed out by Brad Brevet. Fight captions, as well as Scott leaving through the window.
A Star is Born ’37 – Lights on a cityscape far-ish away ?
The Lady Eve (1941) – Barbara Stanwyck reveals her many – fictional – exes to her new husband on public transportation. In the original graphic novel, Ramona does this on the Yonge-Finch subway train. Ha!
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – Goofball bursts through painted backdrop. Also, love triangle between histrionic and ‘intellectual.’
Vertigo (1958) – John’s Ferren’s thin white whirlpool. [ETA: Also, zoom in dolly out when Scott and Lucas Lee run to each other and fight.]
Pillow Talk (1959) – Split screen, especially in phone conversations.
Eraserhead (1977) – The white screen.
Hausu (1977) – Asian schoolgirls, one of whom is named Kung Fu, and thus, kicks ass.
Star Wars (1977) – I can’t believe it took me days to realize the swords. Fucking duh!
The Last Waltz (1978) – Sex Bob Omb plays empty room. Also, Young Neil looks like a young Neil Young.
[ETA] Hair (1979) Medium (?) close-up of Knives Chau’s (Ellen Wong) image panning from right to left just like the Asian girl singing ‘Walking in Space.’
Phantom of the Paradise (1980) – Evil rock band contract deals. Final fight scene in rock venue where, SPOILER, both men technically die.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1989) – Scott apparently modeled between Ferris and the other guy.
“Seinfeld” (1990) – I didn’t know Jerry was gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Poison (1991) – A gay guy and a straight in sleeping in the same bed?
Riki-Oh (1991) – Hero fights hunks first before fighting skinny Asian dudes. What the fuck is up with that?
Dracula ’92 – Enemy evaporates at will?
The Big Lebowski (1998) Dream sequence portraying altitude and doors and love.
Rushmore (1998) – Dweeb in a love triangle between white girl and Asian.
American Beauty (1999) – But instead of roses, there’s a shower of hearts.
Fight Club (1999) – Protagonist fights many enemies and eventually has a fight with SPOILER himself.
High Fidelity (2000) – Pretentious CD store with rude customer service – the Sonic Boom people are nice, by the way – and movie about exes and the one true love.
Romeo Must Die (2000) – Guy uses girl to fight other girl, or the other way around.
ETA: Harry Potter (film series) (2001-2011) – Scott’s sister says ‘It’s been over a year since you got dumped by “she who will not be named.”‘
Gerry (2002) – Hazy desert scene. Dead white boy.
Phone Booth (2002) – By the way, there is no phone booth like that in Bloor and Bathurst.
“Arrested Development” (2003) – Apparently Michael Cera and the lesbian ex dated in a string of episodes.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) – Animation interludes depicting violent childhood. Also, fight between velvety voiced white girl and shout-y Asian. [ETA: Scott fighting Lucas Lee’s stunt doubles remind me of the Crazy 88.]
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) – Pirates are in this year!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Dweeb hooks up with girl who changes her hair colour a lot.
Shaun of the Dead (2004) – MegaScott kinda looks like Zombie Ed.
The Fantastic Four (2005) – Chris Evans. Good actor.
The Last Winter (2006) – CGI air animals? We’ve probably seen this before.
Superman (2006) – The unrecognizable Brandon Routh.
[ETA] Juno (2007) – Michael Cera probably loses his movie virginity for the first time here.
Let the Right One In (2008) – The snow and swings. Also, ovaries > balls.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – Jason Schwartzman kinda plays a superhero ?
Up in the Air (2009) – Anna Kendrick reuses her archetypal role as the younger but sane one.
Chloe (2010) – Movie about Toronto, awesome architecture, creepy phone calls.
Armond White is correct, okay? There are tons of movie references. If I wanna over-read these references, most of the recognizable are from movies made in the past decade, which means that these movies are worth referring to. Despite my pessimism, new movies aren’t so bad after all.
Yes, it underperformed at the box office, probably because of apprehensions, as Peter Martin points out, that the references do target the ‘video game generation.’ The first reference I pointed out is from 1927. I don’t know if that helps ‘people over 30’ to be herded into the theatres, but if I could see a relationship to pop culture before video games, hopefully someone else will.
- Michael Cera tries 2 revive his career by making a viral video with Tony Danza (hipsterrunoff.com)