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Posts tagged “Quebec

Oscar Animated Shorts

I lied, the Oscar-nominated animated shorts come first. As I was watching them I kept thinking about how the next short was better than the last. Which kind of felt like a cheat because the latest one was probably fresher in my memory. This probably will show my biases about aesthetics but the audience during my screening saw, in the order that they were presented, go from capturing the mundane to portraying the fantastical, from the most rudimentary forms of animation to the most breathtakingly detailed. Oh, and before I talk about each short, I would just like to say that this is the first time I’ve seen these selections.

Patrick Doyon’s Dimanche portrays a titular regular Sunday in rural Quebec. It evokes the cloudy whimsy of childhood with its sensory interpretations of trains and elephants and the protagonist looking up while the adults, presumably his aunts and uncles, have indiscernible conversations. ‘Rudimentary’ is probably a belittling comment to describe this, as it does play with two-dimensionality. There’s also something remarkable with the economy of drawing birds and humans with simple lines and shapes. There’s also a texture that smoothed out, computerized animation hasn’t completely captured, making me miss the paper and pencil animated movie.

Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby’s Wild Life makes my biases resurface because I graduated high school to get away from stories like this ad nauseam. Most versions I’ve heard about Prairie settlement on the Canadian West which are full of Eastern European characters and that’s represented with a vocal cameo by the hilarious Luba Goy. But our protagonist here is a young British man who fancies himself as a cowboy. But just because it’s tenth-grade history doesn’t mean that it has parallels now, that a lot of co-dependent overgrown children still today. Some sequences feel like two frames interchanged to simulate movement but the sound brings that conceit to life. And I’m a sucker for watercolour so this gets a pass.

Contrasting those old school historical Canadian annies are two shiny ones from south of the border. The fourth one being William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the most widely-seen short when it hit online by itself. It’s a bit lengthy and sleepy – what kind of ADD do I have? – but the latter half of the short makes the titular books look tactile. It also hits on the ‘important subject matter’ criteria that may or not be important for the voters in the Academy, but it does touch on the topic of temporal loss and how books can comfort us from those anxieties.

Lessmore reminds me of Up – book balloons! – and so does this last annie, Enrico Casarosa’s La Luna. It’s a 20th century version of a myth, as a three-generational Italian family who look like fishermen are actually out on the sea to work on the moon so they can clean it up. They take us on a journey that includes stars, both shining and exploding, on the moon. And spoilers, they make the moon wax and wane. This short is also the closest thing we’ll have to Melancholia getting an Academy Award nomination, with the moon and all, so it gets my vote. And this short is produced by Pixar and those guys know how to push their stuff so I’m not worried.

Oh and there’s the second one, Grant Orchard’s submission, the most forgettable of the bunch, which is a shame because it mixes both old school black and white and colour computer animation. It also has a gross-out, apocalyptic spin in the end as it envisions a zombie chasing a chicken down the street, a contrast from the earlier scenes when it’s just a man seeing a chicken. It also has the sleek, urban, virtual Fernand Leger that reminds me of that short that won in 2008-2009 I think, I can’t remember the title. Although A Morning Stroll doesn’t evoke that technological aesthetic though.

Yay! These shorts were very popular during Family Day when I watched them so they’ll still be playing from today until March 1st at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Images vis TIFF.

The High Cost of Living

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.

ph. Collider

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.

Canadian Movie: The Wild Hunt

(Viking strumpet. via twitchfilm)

The movie opens with a gritty, grubby scene of the Viking princess Evelyn-ia (Tiio Horn) being kidnapped. A few exchanges of cheesy lines about bravery follow just before they pull the curtain down. It’s a tragicomic look but not the definitive story about Medieval live action role-playing that just so happens in Canada. The switch between fantasy and reality is seamless after that first scene I just described, and it becomes emotionally poignant as some players take the game too far.

Erik juggles handling his ailing father and Evelyn, his very flighty girlfriend. He becomes paranoid about Evelyn being the sole female amidst Medieval nerds on steroids, so he naturally goes up to the rural area where the role-playing happens. He enters the “realm” in a t-shirt and jeans, breaking everyone’s willing suspension of disbelief. He then gives Evelyn a really unglamorous speech about being patient.

But then she gets to be on his side since he shows her and a few other players how unglamorous the past is, despite the nostalgia they try to attach to it. Women weren’t respected, the infrastructure was shit, people didn’t clean up after themselves, too many people died. The latter also effects this masculine bravery that was supposedly innate within the Vikings and the Celts, etc. And those aspect of early civilizations linger within this replica.

Evelyn is the centre of the drama, as both Erik and Shaman Murtagh (the familiar looking Trevor Hayes) woo her. The flirtation between Evelyn and Murtagh is well shot, snowflakes falling on Evelyn as they make out around saturated fall and winter foliage in the Canadian forests? Breathtaking. I can only imagine how Medieval role players can’t even think about the real world because they’ve retreated within nature. Drama and role-playing always gets a boost from a great mise-en-scene. Everything else is captured in perma-dawn, and there are inconsistencies – it would get darker or brighter at certain times within the night scenes.

Going back to Evelyn, she’s both Helena and Cressida on how Shakespeare understands these characters. As a Helena, she’s both the woman who launched a thousand ships although Evelyn’s status as a Viking Princess is constantly questioned. One of the other Celts tells Murtagh that she’s a slut, while one of the female tour guides mock the title that’s given to Evelyn. As a Cressida, her defiance ironically makes her a strumpet. She is forced to choose between fantasy and reality, and some might negate her for not being able to choose. These are aspects of her life and she shouldn’t have to choose between Murtagh pushing her around or Erik tying her to domesticity.

Since there’s a Helena/Cressida in this narrative, there’s also a Troilus. I may have already spoiled the ending by saying that. I’ll go further by saying that the movie ends like “The Departed.” Some of the audience actually got a laugh at the ending. Hours after I saw the movie I started questioning whether anything in the movie had to happen if everybody just calmed down. But then that’s what tragedy is in the earliest sense, and the impulse that drives humans in more violent times also lingers in modern characters.