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Review: Beauty & The Beast (2017)

"I found much of this version charming, diverting and moving. But it's not a patch on the 1991 masterpiece" -Ian O

"I begrudge the decision of executives when it comes to casting a movie like this. They didn't need a 'star' to fill the seats. They needed someone who could elevate the material..." -Jones

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Entries in Hot Docs (14)

Monday
Apr272015

Hot Docs "Best of Enemies"

Amir continues his coverage of Toronto's Hot Docs festival. Will he spot any future Oscar nominees?

It is hard to imagine today that there was once an America where political debates in the media were sensational, not just sensationalized. Harder yet is to envision a time when conservative political commentators weren’t complete buffoons, but rather eloquent, smart thinkers. That is exactly the time that Best of Enemies transports us to, Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s film about the televised debates leading up to the 1968 Republican and Democratic national conventions. ABC, then trailing as America’s third network and in search of a ratings boost, decided to pit two of the country’s most famous commentators against one another: the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F. Buckley Jr. The two were known to dislike each other and their pairing on live TV was sure to cause a stir.

Their prediction proved to be correct when on the 8th night of a series of incendiary discussions, Buckley reacted to Vidal’s name-calling and being labeled a “crypto-Nazi” with a momentary burst of anger...

Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the face and you’ll stay plastered.”

 

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Friday
Apr242015

"Listen to Me Marlon"

The Hot Docs 2015 Film Festival started in Toronto yesterday. Our Canadian correspondent Amir is on hand to cover the proceedings.

The best film of last year’s Hot Docs festival was Robert Greene’s Actress, a rich and moving film about the life of The Wire’s Brandy Burre. It went on to become one of the most praised films of the year; and it’s easy to imagine the same level of acclaim for this year’s buzziest title at the festival, the similarly actor- centric Listen to Me Marlon. As the title suggests, British director Stevan Riley’s film is about Marlon Brando, and it defies any expectation one might have going into a documentary about a deceased actor.

That this film has been made is something of a miracle to begin with. Brando apparently recorded more than 200 hours of audiotapes about himself, of which none has been available to the public heretofore. Riley has been granted access to these by Brando’s estate and has assembled and edited them for the voice-over narration of his film. There is no new footage and no interviews shot for this film, only archival material from Brando’s performances, his television interviews and some behind the scenes footage and rare videos of his personal life. The result, a raw and immensely personal look at the actor’s life, is absolutely mesmerizing...

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Sunday
May112014

Hot Docs '14: The Possibilities Are Endless

[Amir, our Canadian correspondent, is reporting on The Hot Docs Film Festival which wrapped last week. Reviews will continue for the next few days.]

When Scottish singer-songwriter Edwyn Collins suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 2005, his movement became restricted, his memory was lost and his speech became limited to four phrases that he repeated over and over again: “yes,” “no,” “Grace Maxwell” (the name of his wife) and “the possibilities are endless.” There was little chance of him getting his health back on track, let alone restarting his career, but that last phrase in his small vocabulary proved to be prophetic. With the help of his ever-caring wife and son, Edwyn gradually began to piece his memories back together, took on painting and slowly began to form new sentences again, recalling and even singing his old lyrics...

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Tuesday
May062014

Hot Docs '14: Beyond Clueless, The Secret Trial 5

[Amir, our Canadian correspondent, is reporting on The Hot Docs Film Festival which wrapped Sunday. Reviews will continue this week.] 

In the history of cinema, there are few genres that receive as little acclaim or critical analysis as the high school film does. British critic Charlie Lyne's (of Ultra Culture blog fame) visual essay is therefore a treasure for enthusiasts of recent film history. In Beyond Clueless, he examines teenage characters in a wide variety of films produced between 1996 and 2004. Little of the titular film is shown, though its influence over the films that came after it looms large. From The Craft to Mean Girls, from The Faculty to Rules of Attraction, via Spider-man, Final Destination and everything in between, the high school student is analyzed through the tumultuous process of entering that period of adolescence and exiting it unscathed and transformed.

Beyond Clueless itself takes on the narrative arc of a teen movie. Divided in five chapters that are designed to embody the high school experience, it begins with ‘Fitting In’ and ends with ‘Moving On.’ No new material is added to the clips taken from the films discussed, but crucially, the lengthy essay is narrated by Fairuza Balk, star of The Craft, whose somber but familiar voice instills the film a teen personality of its own. [More...]

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Saturday
May032014

Hot Docs '14: In the Spotlight

[Amir, our Canadian correspondent, is reporting from The Hot Docs Film Festival, the biggest documentary festival in North America currently underway in Toronto.]

 One of the tendencies that festival-goers develop over time is finding connecting threads between films that might otherwise be completely unrelated. This unconscious search for umbrella themes, even if unintended by festival programmers, intensifies when you sit down to write about the films. At first glance, there is little connecting three films about aging Belgian transsexuals, Argentinian civilians on camera, and Turkish-American political pundits. Beneath the surface, though, all deal in some way with a desire for self-expression in the spotlight.

Before the Last Curtain Falls follows a group of gay and transsexual performers who get together in the later years of their lives to put on an avant-garde show called Gardenia. When the film begins in the hauntingly beautiful city of Ghent in Belgium, where the performers hail from, the show has already become a massive international success and it is returning home for one final performance after more than 200 outings. Director Thomas Wallner combines interviews with the cast members with footage of the show to paint a portrait of each of them, drawing on their experiences of sexual identity struggle, social oppression and therapeutic theatre work.

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Wednesday
Apr302014

Hot Docs '14: Actress

[Amir, our Canadian correspondent, is reporting from The Hot Docs Film Festival, the biggest documentary festival in North America currently underway in Toronto.] 

Where does an act end for a performer? What happens if the persona seeps in so deep that the performer can never shake it off? Can an actress adopt the traits of the characters she once embodied so deeply that she permanently remains in their skin? How far can passion for the craft take an artist? These are all questions that Robert Greene’s intelligent, artfully constructed documentary, Actress, poses to the audience in the first few minutes.  

The subject, Brandy Burre, played the part of Theresa D’Agostino, a recurring character over a 15-episode arc in the third and fourth seasons of The Wire. She was never a star, but her future seemed bright, having taken a prominent role in one of television’s best reviewed series...

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Monday
May062013

Hot Docs Wrap-Up: Favorites and Oscar Prediction

Amir here, to wrap up my coverage of the Hot Docs international documentary film festival. The festival is regarded as TIFF’s younger, less glitzy sister here in Toronto but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an abundance of great films on display.  The real difference is in the pleasure of discovery, since most of the titles come to Hot Docs with very little advance buzz. Coincidentally, though, my favorite film happened to be one of the most anticipated. I still have a couple interviews and screeners but with the festival now over and about 35 films under my belt, it’s as good a time as any to wrap things up. 

Favorites
The audience prize winner was Muscle Shoals, a documentary about the titular town in Alabama that became the spiritual and creative inspiration for many influential musicians of the 20th century. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film. It’s quite entertaining but it owes its prize more to the magical music of the artists it features than the film that encases them.

my favorites and the Oscar hopefuls after the jump...

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