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Entries in Canada (13)

Wednesday
Dec142011

Critics Prizes Dotting The Map

You may have noticed that The Film Experience never publishes the lists of nominees from small critics organizations. The winners we like to cover, yes. But nominees? This is, in my opinion, the last thing the already crowded landscape of movie awards needs is for each tiny critics organization to attempt to share not just their advocacy for Best of the Best but all the other ones they liked too. If winners announcements are good enough for the three most prestigious societies (NYFCC, LAFCA and NSFC) they should be good enough for the smaller groups. It all becomes too much noise. The multiple daily announcements actually bring one of We Need To Talk About Kevin's best scenes to mind. Tilda's weary mom stops near a construction site to allow a jackhammer to drown out the endless crying of her demon baby. Hilariously wrong but you feel for her. 

But now that we have some winners, here we go! 

San Diego Film Critics Society

Film The Artist
Director Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Actress Brit Marling, Another Earth
Actor Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Supporting Actor Nick Nolte, Warrior
Ensemble Performance Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Animated Film Arthur Christmas
Documentary Project Nim
Foreign Film I Svil
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Editing Oliver Bugge Coutté, Beginners
Production Design Dante Ferretti, Hugo
Original Screenplay Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen
Adapted Screenplay Moneyball by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
Score Alexandre Desplat, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Body of Work Jessica Chastain
Kyle Counts Award Lee Ann Kim, San Diego Asian Film Foundation

Houston, Toronto, Indiana, and the African American Film Critics Association after the jump with more cities to come...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep172011

TIFF: "Jeff...," "Hysteria", "Take Shelter" and "Amy George."

[Editor's Note: Apologies from Nathaniel, I've been under the weather and Paolo, who has been so dependable at sending capsules and reviews our way, now has a log jam of them. So many movies to discuss. Enjoy. TIFF wraps this weekend. -Nathaniel R]

Paolo here, discovering that HYSTERIA, a film about inventing the vibrator, isn't based on the recent Broadway play "In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play" although they tackle the same subject. However, some scenes here still look like you might see them in a stage play, set in offices of upper middle class Londoners. These are  perfectly designed offices, with the requisite deep trendy colours of today's period films. The character played by the unrecognizable Rupert Everett is an electricity geek. A generator occupies his office, a Rube Goldberg like thing connected to a feather duster. However, protagonist Mortimer Granville (a composite of three actual doctors played by Hugh Dancy) sees something else in this feather duster.

The comedy in the film is repetitive; how many 'strong hands' jokes can one take even if Jonathan Pryce, playing Mortimer's boss Dalrymple, delivers them so capably? Dalrymple's daughter Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) enters the plot, a welcome break from the 'paroxysms' of Mortimer's clients. Her story line gets dramatic when her East End connections land her in prison but there isn't enough of a struggle to convince us that something bad might truly happen to her. Gyllenhall plays Charlotte with an optimism rarely seen in her darker films. She's also required to speak in a West End English accent alongside real English actors but she's not enough to elevate this film into a genuine crowd pleaser.


HICK, based on Andrea Portes' novel, is a movie set in the middle of nowhere and ends up there, despite the wishes of a thirteen year old girl named Luli (Chloe Moretz). Luli is very knowledgeable of her  provenance, her mother Tammy (Juliette Lewis) giving birth to her in a bar. Her father's no different, the kind of guy who drives into playground monkey bars without hiding the bottle of whiskey in his hand. She decides to run away to Las Vegas even if she's too young to be part of the workforce. The film from this point forward becomes a road movie,  taking place inside cars or at pit stops.

Chloe's child acress 'rite of passage', Take Shelter Oscar buzz, and endless potato boiling after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep142011

TIFF: ALPS, Edwin Boyd

Amir reporting again from The Toronto International Film Festival where I saw something I frankly can't recall ever seeing on the big screen before: Toronto history.

EDWIN BOYD
I’d watched Edwin Boyd only a couple of hours after Rampart (covered yesterday), but the review had to wait.  Scott Speedman plays the titular character, a serial bank robber in the post-war Canada of the 50s. Boyd, if you haven’t heard of him, is something like a Canadian John Dillinger figure. But I assure you this film is miles better than Public Enemies.

I’d heard the film was a total crowd-pleaser and the reports were true. It’s a clichéd film that uses all the tricks of the gangster genre – bursts of action sequences, romantic subplots, pretty girls, crazy sidekicks – but it doesn’t misuse them. Sure, you’ve seen this stuff before, and yes, the film feels too self-aware of its cinematic qualities as many genre films do, but the two hours go by like two minutes as Speedman charmingly reincarnates Boyd. This version of Boyd’s life is extensively romanticized and many details of his life have been completely eliminated, but from a purely cinematic standpoint, Edwin Boyd was a pleasure.

ALPS
The most significant film of the past two days was my personal most anticipated of the festival, Yorgos Lanthimos’ ALPS (If you’ve ever stumbled upon my blog, chances are you already know the extent of my affection for his last film, Dogtooth.) The good news is that ALPS totally lived up to my expectations. Though it’s hard to imagine Lanthimos finding new fans with this film - I’ve even encountered a few Dogtooth fans who were left cold by it - this signature work moved me in ways I did not expect and it stands high above the lot as the festival’s best offering so far.

ALPS is about a group of four people who get paid to substitute for the recently deceased to comfort their families. No information is given to us about the personal lives of three of them, but for the fact that one is the gymnastics coach of another. The fourth person, Monte Rosa (played by the brilliant Aggeliki Papoulia) is a nurse who’s also taking care of her aging father at home.

Peppered with absurd comic situations and brutal violence similar to what we saw in Dogooth, and boasting even bolder stylistic choices, ALPS reaffirms Lanthimos as a distinctive voice in today’s cinema and a visionary storyteller. He’s maintained his confident directorial control, only this time he adds a more poignant and heartfelt dimension to the film. And partnering with a new cinematographer here, he plays beautiful games with camera focus that he admitted (during the Q&A) weren’t always thought of in advance, but feel so right on the screen.

The real strength of the film however, lies in its script. If Dogtooth raised essential questions about the nature of identity, ALPS asks us to reconsider our perceptions of the identity of those around us. It will leave you thinking about the authenticity of your relationships and wondering how strong the bases of our interactions really are. How difficult is it to really replace someone? On what basis are relationships formed anyway? Do we maintain them by habit or will anybody do, if they wear the right clothes and repeat the same sentences? And so on. These questions are masked by Lanthimos’ surreal approach to storytelling but if you dig deep enough, ALPS is a layered and rich psychological study.

Often times at major festivals, we hear that a screenplay or a director award is given to compensate when a great film misses out on the top prize. Rumours about ALPS’ screenplay win at Venice say the same, but in this particular case, I think we can reject the possibility. This script can stand on its own merits.

Still to come: Andrea Arnold, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Joachim Trier and Tahar Rahim to talk about, so stay tuned!

Friday
Sep092011

TIFF: Biopic Boys will be Boys

Paolo here in Toronto. My first TIFF movies are about real-life men who customarily look nothing like the attractive actors who play them on the big screen.

Edwin Boyd is a step in the right direction for Canadian cinema, since making a heist film like this is both relatively cheap and lucrative. It's about the WWII veteran turned 1950's Torontonian bank robber of the same name played by Scott Speedman. Speedman puts an athletic sensitivity to the role, whether Edwin is inside a singing booth or jumping over the counter to get the loot he wouldn't have gotten in his former job as a kind-hearted bus driver. The story covers him facing and indulging temptations, his addiction to the wrong kind of attention as well as to robbing banks, which he and his gang continue to do despite multiple arrests. There are clichés here, the biggest one is the golden-hearted criminal who also likes to get drunk and play music while celebrating his jackpots. I will give credit to the film's capability on whetting the audience's appetite on period specificities. It's also a treat to watch its grey and white cinematography, capturing the rough surfaces of the city's architecture or his snowy escape from authorities. The supporting cast includes Kevin Durand as Edwin's right hand man and Brian Cox as the protagonist's father.

Also took in the Brad Pitt vehicle Moneyball which is about the baseball team Oakland Athletics in their 2002 season.

The film's first half is has a problematically distinct voice from its second, making it difficult to forget that two writers are responsible for its script. The first, which I'll call the Steve Zaillian half, has Pitt portraying the A's general manager Billy Beane. The script makes him have the same conversation with other people, telling his financier, other GM's, his precocious daughter, her mother (Robin Wright) and her mother's boyfriend (Spike Jonze) that he's fine even if both parties know, through local and national news, that his team is having board room and locker room problems. The A's are having trouble finding 'stars' like Jason Giambi who have left the team. Fortunately, Billy meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a fictionalized version of Paul de Podesta who introduces the idea that instead of buying 'stars,' the team has to 'buy runs.' It's a method that, to someone like me who knows nothing about sports, sounds like cheating.

The underlying tension in many scenes in the film's first half is in anticipating Billy to squirm or get angry under all of these people's microscopes. This half also allows its audience to think about what might have happened if the person originally slated to direct this movie, Steven Soderbergh, had done so. Hopefully I'm not the only person who can see Soderbergh's skills in satire, and he would have highlighted these characters' callousness and childlike stubbornness. 

The second half, when the A's fate turns around, belongs to a writer with a more distinct voice, brainy frat boy Aaron Sorkin. Just like Charlie Wilson's War or Studio 60, this movie has its share of Abbott and Costello-like telephone or office conversations. He also tends to romanticize whatever he's writing about, which is baseball this time around. He even makes Peter, a generally scientifically minded character in the first half, seem emotional later on. But admittedly it still works better here than the affected humanity in The Social Network. Director Bennett Miller, with the help of his male dominated cast (including the surprisingly capable Hill) also negotiates and sutures these two voices well.

 

Wednesday
Aug102011

Peeking through the "Keyhole"

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with some good news for cinephiles! Guy Maddin, the Wizard of Winnipeg, will be premiering his new movie Keyhole at TIFF. It's been four years since My Winnipeg, and for one of the greatest living directors, that's clearly four years too many. Here's the official synopsis for Keyhole via The Playlist:

A gangster and deadbeat father, Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric), returns home after a long absence. He is toting two teenagers: a drowned girl, Denny, who has mysteriously returned to life; and a bound-and-gagged hostage, who is actually his own teenage son, Manners. Confused Ulysses doesn’t recognize his own son, but he feels with increasing conviction he must make an indoor odyssey from the back door of his home all the way up, one room at a time, to the marriage bedroom where his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) awaits.

All of Maddin's usual tropes are here: amnesia, psychosexual tension, overwrought family melodrama, and voyeurism (it's right there in the title). This time around, it looks like he's mixing in some noirish atmosphere and hints of the supernatural. Furthermore, he's stacked the deck by casting his favorite actress Isabella Rossellini along with Lars von Trier's lucky charm, Udo Kier. All in all, this sounds like about the most characteristically Maddin-esque movie that Guy Maddin's ever made.

Does that mean he's repeating himself, though? I doubt it. Over the past two decades, Maddin's proven himself extraordinarily inventive and versatile, jump freely between war dramas, musicals, and autobiographical "docu-fantasias." According to Rossellini, Keyhole is "crazier than a Turin horse." I can't wait to see it so I can figure out what the hell that means.

Udo Kier and X-Ray via Guy Maddin

Are you a fan of Canada's weirdest son? Which of his snowy dreamscapes have you visited?

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