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)
In one the first scenes of “Away From Her,” Fiona Anderson (Julie Christie) puts a pan on a freezer. There’s no music to put this action in context. Fiona’s obliviousness and her husband Grant’s (Gordon Pinsent, voice of God) confusion add to the mix of what I felt as an audience. Do I react in shock? Burst in inappropriate laughter?
After that scene in the kitchen and other after that she is aware of being hit by Alzheimer’s and its consequences and warns Grant about the latter. At times she walks within a room like a ghost, mourning lost memory without crying over it. There is a repeated shot of her looking lost in her vast snowy backyard. The minimal use of the film score, the lack of overwrought crying scenes. Mostly, this movie’s approach is about what’s not being given nor shown nor heard, letting the audience react in their personal way.
I’m thinking of other actresses that might be able to pull of the character, Canadian ones. Mary Walsh would rock the skiing scene. But Julie Christie is a solid statue as Fiona and doesn’t let go, as they say. No one can do elegance like the kind she puts into her character.
That sounds a little dreary to many of you, but there’s some verbally aggressive yet sometimes comic anger from the characters, especially the women. Fiona gives Grant the worst goodbye ever. Miss Montpellier (Wendy Crewson) condescends to him. Kristy gives him a torrential speech about the obliviousness of men, out of character for archetypal customer service characters. Marian’s (Olympia Dukakis) is just rough yet likable. The men get in on the action too. Grant comments on seeing his wife in the aged home, and Fiona’s new boyfriend Aubrey (Michael Murphy) can do so much with a look.
You can look at the film as Grant’s world crumbling just as much as its implied gender dynamics. He’s learning about women and female anger and unwritten institutions of womanhood that he’s been oblivious to. Through Fiona’s degenerative condition, Fiona, Grant and the supporting characters in their lives are feeling the end, and therefore things must be said and revealed.
It’s also a ‘Canadian story for Americans’ narrative, which shows especially in Marion’s words like ‘Kamloops, BC’ ‘Canadian Tire.’ The whole room knew where Kamloops is. There’s also the retired hockey commentator who gives some of the best moments of the film.
The only flaw of this movie is when Grant uses a metaphor to describe Alzheimer’s, like light switches in the house turning off one at a time. Then the film shows their house and the lights turn off the way Grant has described. I believe in showing or telling by not both. The rest of it is a story about loss with comic relief, surprising for director Sarah Polley’s reputation.
Making this list is like finding people for the next season of America’s Next Top Model. Great comparison, actually, since like them, I try picking from the fat in a six month period. You wait till the fall to harvest. Metaphors aside, I started watching new releases diligently, partly because of this blog. Then the festivals came in May, then finances, then Cinematheque. The last new movie I saw was “Mid-August Lunch,” and that’s a technically a 2008 release. Yes, I might have to go back as far as 2008 to make this list. Anyway,
Exit Through the Gift Shop – Banksy shows us his colleague’s terrible art. I never realized that being repulsed by something so banal is an experience I’d feel on film. And there are other feeling in the mix as well.
Greenberg – Noah Baumbach is a master of dialogue. He’s capable enough to shoot and direct that dialogue, too. Ben Stiller can still do drama, even if you kinda laugh at his character.
The Secret in the Eyes – A film that seemed endless yet it satisfied me after just satisfying me. The movie broke my heart.
I am Love – Uniting critics and dividing audiences, the sensory delight in this film will make you think of RealD as bland in comparison.
I hope to fill this list with worthy films by the end of the year. I’m counting on you, Christopher Nolan, Lisa Chodolenko, Julian Schnabel (coming into my city in August), Terry Malick!
Oh my God this blog is turning into a gossip site. I could have been either talking to you about “Undertow,” “Mid-August Lunch” or “Iron Man 2” but things didn’t go as planned. I already bought my ticket for “Hogtown Homos” and God forbid something stops me from going to that screening.
Anyway, there’s commotion in the gay community about Stephen Harper and Tony Clement withholding funds that annually go towards Gay Pride. I’ve been flip-flopping about this, pardon the double entendre.
First of all, we don’t need the money. The money really is an investment since the event and the business will gain it back, unlike the other events, as reported by Slap Upside the Head, that are getting the money. Giving the funds is also more like a gesture of the government’s support of gays in Canada.
But then I found out last Friday while watching “Poison” that Canadian Heritage and Canada Council for the Arts have given funds to the Inside Out Festival, and the government hasn’t turned its back on the gays. I don’t know if that money provided mere tables or the funds to get the new James Franco movie into this medium-sized festival.
But then the first words of an article of the Globe and Mail states that Harper is probably gonna spend A BILLION DOLLARS at the G20 summit. I understand that they need first class SWAT gear, but if a billion dollars is lying around the country’s treasury for emergency purposes, Stephen Harper can give the gays mop and bucket money.
(The G20 summit hilariously coincides with the Pride Parade. I’m gonna divide my time on both AND the World Cup then.)
Why do people always think that horror movies are about teenage girls getting sliced up or about evil cats?
Atom Egoyan has the benefit of a conventionally beautiful Hollywood cast and make them straddle between that and the common non celebrities that they were playing. The bridge in Chloe’s (Amanda Seyfried) nose disappears, Catherine (Julianne Moore) is Freckle City, David (Liam Neeson) looks like the typical British person who moves to Toronto and says “soccer” – yes, those people exist and they piss me off. Michael looks like the Torontonian with one or two weird features. Not saying that white people in Toronto have weird features, the upper middle class are beautiful and Nordic, just like half of the cast members I talked about. And there’s also the name dropping of certain places that makes me feel like this is supposed to be some twisted love letter to Toronto or something.
With that sort of ordinary people look is the ordinary people outlook. Specifically, a robotic, cynical, urban outlook of sex. Catherine is a gynecologist who tells a mousy troubled virgin that an orgasm is just a series of muscular contractions. Appetizing. Chloe narrates that she knows how to touch a man and what words to say, in an unconvincing baby voice but the text should stand in for her character. The sex scene between them is more honest than it is erotic, which I’m glad for that.
Which is why it’s so contradicts how Chloe would fall in love with her female client and stalk her. The arc between professional prostitute to histrionic stalker wasn’t done well, and Amanda Seyfried couldn’t make the material work. She’s the right age in the second half of the movie, but too young for the first half. And she keeps wearing that same jacket every single time and there’s no way that’s warm enough. Chloe and Catherine’s mindset may break down and succumb to the erotic but within two extremes?
Michael, however, is enjoyable to watch as the ungrateful private son and probably has the best put-downs in movie history (“Isn’t my mom your gynecologist?”). But he and Chloe eventually consummate because he’s a horny teenager and she’s just that good in seducing everyone, right?
There is an honestly good scene between Catherine and David putting all the cards in the table. They talk over each other, they say everything with conviction, they’re neither loud or campy enough to get the attention of everyone else in the cafe. But Chloe has to show up and ruin every other scene she’s in.
And I guess it’s my Torontonian cynicism about sex and adultery. Good examples either rationalize the act, that their partners are neglectful or that the adulterers have a memory they like to cling to. Most of the time in this movie I just kept shaking my head at these fucking idiots.
Listen Atom Egoyan. I know where you hang out, and when I see you I will panhandle the shit out of you. At least George Clooney is good enough to those who saw his Batman in theatres.
I often doubt the movies I have watched before I legally become an adult. The Tim Allen/Kristie Alley movies of my childhood? I have abandoned those a long time ago. The ones I watched in my adolescence, however, are more difficult to leave behind.
For instance, the unfortunately named Moonie Pottie (Liane Balaban) would just be an unsympathetic sniveling teen if she wasn’t played by someone with the look and build of a Shalom Harlow. And her relationship with her teacher Cecil Sweeney (Andrew McCarthy) would have been creepy if they didn’t have chemistry, surprising for a first timer like Balaban. She’s on good ground most of the time, taking the script into high and low emotions. Her scene with the town doctor (Mark McKinney) is pretty hilarious as intended.
What I haven’t seen before in other movies about small towns is the insularity that the fictional New Waterford has. The town considers Moonie weird becuase she insists on leaving for New York, an invitation they have received that they strangely declined. There is also an older generation factor when the parents push her on becoming a nurse when she clearly wants to be an artist. The whole town, in other words, is adamant on sledgehammering each other dreams.
Moonie is then slightly obsessed with the train and the people who leave and arrive with it. When Moonie sees Tammy MacDonald go abroad the train teary-eyed, she narrates that Tammy would be visiting her relatives in “Cal-i-for-ni-a.” That would have been impossible because Tammy doesn’t look like the kind of girl who has family outside town. Then there’s Lou Benzoa (Tara Spencer-Nairn) willingly exiled from the Bronx with her family, a girl who would eventually become Moonie’s friend.
It’s with Moonie’s friendship with Lou that she becomes self-aware of her attitudes about her small town. Both of them talk disparagingly about their provenance and romanticizes the places where they want to be. In one of the scenes where Moonie finally socializes with others, she and Lou gather round a fire with the other teenagers. One starts to sing a folk song and Moonie joins too. Planning to escape the small town and on her way into becoming an outsider in New Waterford, joining the sing along gives her a sense of pride for her home turf.
There are other treasured moments and factoids in the film, like Lou’s mother Midge (Cathy Moriarty) complaining about the lack of a deli in Cape Breton. And that her role as a boxer’s wife is a reference to her role in Raging Bull. And this is a film that features versions of 70’s fashions appropriately toned down for a small town milieu. We do get the Benzoas’ animal print and red leather mixed with the wool sweaters and corduroy of Moonie and the rest of the town.
A decade or so after the film, Liane Balaban ends up as Dustin Hoffman’s daughter in a movie, Tara Spencer-Nairn enjoys syndication immortality in “Corner Gas” and Mary Walsh and Mark McKinney are Canadian institutions just like Tim Horton’s.
Like Moonie’s final reluctance to get on the train, I cannot let go of this film, nor do I want to.