Friday, February 26, 2010

At last - a funny Canadian movie!

I just came across a write-up of Jay Baruchel (Night at the Museum, Knocked Up) the star of the Montreal-made movie The Trotsky, release date May 14. I caught the flic at last fall's Festival of New Cinema in La Belle Province......I have to tell you, this is actually a funny Canadian movie. I know, seems rather impossible, doesn't it?.....The film is about an ernest young radical (Baruchel) who thinks he's the reincarnation of Leon Trostsky the Russian revolutionary (ice-picked to death but that's another story). Even his dad (played hilariously by Saul Rubinek) is a scumbag factory owner.....This 17-year-old, being of capitalist pig parents, is used to attending elite private schools (ah, the contradictions!) but is forced to lower himself and attend a public one. He can't stand the conditions. So he starts organizing the otherwise space cadet students. He leads a revolution against high school principal Berkhoff (does that rhyme with anything?) played by Colm Feore....Also in the flic are Genevieve Bujold, and Michael Murphy as a kind of  apathetic 60s-era radical lawyer.....If you're a political Lefty you're going to LOVE this movie. For the rest of us it's just enough to see a Canuck film that isn't an angst-ridden tale set in the Canadian North.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Hurt Locker will take Best Picture

Finally saw The Hurt Locker. It’s the best H’wood film I’ve seen in awhile. By best I mean intense, riveting, suspenseful, terrific acting and ultra realism. It’s been awhile since I have watched a film – any film – that has glued me to the screen like this one did. But it’s been even longer for an American film. European films, that’s another matter. It’s one of the reasons I go to film festivals. I want to see terrific movies. I want movies that spellbind me. I want movies where, when they come to an end, I haven’t realized two and a half hours have passed. I want to be sucked into the vortex of a picture. The Hurt Locker does that. I have seen perhaps better dramatic pieces and better overall films. But I’ll give The Hurt Locker kudos for moving me far in that direction. The movie of course is nominated for nine Oscars, has won 19 Best Picture awards from other groups and 22 Best Director awards for Bigelow. It has made 260 critics’ Top Ten lists. Jeremy Renner as Staff Sgt William James has won six Best Actor awards. My prediction: The Hurt Locker will take Best Picture.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Notes from all over

Here's another stab at Up in The Air (sorry, couldn't resist). Poor Walter Kirn (did he really write the novel the same way this morally questionable movie made the story out to be?) won't be attending the Oscars after all. Despite his celluloid namesake being up for six awards the author of the 2001 novel will have to watch the ceremony on TV. Kirn was so happy his story got made into a film he has seen the picture eight times! He told the AP he didn't even particularly care if the filmmakers changed some of the content. His only requirement was that the movie keep the title, main character and "worldview." The story went from being "about a man who was trying to figure out his place in the world" to "a movie that spoke to hundreds of thousands of people who had lost their jobs." But the author tweeted this week he was dismayed at not being invited to the March 7th ceremony, saying "when you get a break, are you not allowed to enjoy it?".......One of my favourite theatres in Toronto over the years was the Carlton Cinemas on Carlton St. just east of Yonge (on the same block as the old Maple Leaf Gardens.). The Carlton had been a special place for screening independent and art house films in Hogtown. Cineplex Entertainment closed it Dec. 6th. The theatre was a mini multiplex with nine screening rooms. The fact there were so many screens in one place - all showing art house material - was an oasis in the middle of the city. My complaint about the Carlton was that the seats were uncomfortable (you thought the old DFT seats were bad!) and lines-of-view extremely poor. The complex dates from 1983 and had the modern plastic look of that pre-stadium-seating era. Now word comes that Edmonton's Magic Lantern Theatres chain is riding to the rescue. It will remodel the theatres and reopen them in June. Yes, there is some justice..... Screenwriter Carl Kurlander (St. Elmo’s Fire) returned home to Pittsburgh from Hollywood to teach at a local university. Looking around, he saw his once great city had fallen on hard times. He set out on a “Don Quixote quest” to make a movie to help it. The result? My Tale of Two Cities. It will screen Feb. 26, 7 pm at Windsor's Capitol Theatre. A panel discussion on revitalizing Windor's core will follow (more about this on the News Backgrounder page of my web newspaper

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Smith, Hopper and the depravities of film

Poor Kevin Smith. I had no idea he was such a big guy. But as the world has heard from poor Kevin's Twittering by now, the H'wood helmsman was too big for Southwest's seat. So the discount airline said buy two tickets or you aren't flying on their informal skies. Kevin complained and complained. Wah! IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM SOUTHWERSTAIR. He of course made the movies Clerks, Chasing Amy, etc. Methinks this director protests too much. He's got the bucks. He should pay up. And unless he's got a med problem, he should DIET!.....Now here's someone I'm genuinely concerned about. Poor old Dennis Hopper. Not only does he have terminal cancer of the prostate, he's in the middle of a divorce from his (count 'em) fifth wife. He wants to be rid of Victoria Duffy - who's alarmed at where she fits into his will despite, he says, lavishingly her royally in the past - before he gives up the ghost. He wants to spend the rest of his days in peace and quiet "with children and close fineds"......Dennis will always be remembered for his role in Easy Rider, the quintessentinal Sixties counter culture film. But he has starred in 199 films including more recently Crash and An American Carol. He's directed eight films including Easy Rider......And he's one of the few political conservatives (at least admittedly) in 'H' town..... God bless you, Dennis. I can only wish you a serene send off.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow's iconoclastic appeal

I have always had respect for Kathryn Bigelow. This is based entirely on seeing only one of her films (Blue Steel (1990) with Jamie Lee Curtis, someone whose work I also like)..... Perhaps what I like most about her is her refusing to fit directing stereotypes. She doesn't make schmaltzy romantic movies or even necessarily ones about "relationships." There are other female directors who don't either of course. But Bigelo brings a kind of iconclastic edge to her movie topics, such as Point Break (1991 with Keanu Reeves), another crime picture, or  K-19: The Widowmaker (2002 with Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard & Harrison Ford), set in the claustrophic confines of a nuclear sub. However, The Weight of Water (2000 with Catherine McCormack, Sean Penn & Elizabeth Hurley) has overlapping crime and relationship - though of the introspective kind - themes...... She has broken the mold again with The Hurt Locker about an Iraqi bomb disposal team......This is the only film that has come out of the U.S. which isn't avowedly anti-war or anti-U.S- invasion. Audiences on both sides of the political spectrum have praised it..... From all reports the film is really about the human drama of the disposal team itself and the searing intensity of being in the malestrom of battle. It packs an edge-of-seat, emotional wallop...... For this Bigelow is the toast of the film world. The picture is nominated for nine Oscars, tieing ex-husband James Cameron's boffo box office Avatar. It has already won 30 awards.....Bigelow's bio is interesting. She came to film from the art world, as a painter and fellow at New York's Whitney Museum. At Columbia she studied criticism and theory under Susan Sontag.....I'm hoping she will win both best picture and director on March 7th but I suppose it would be a stretch for the Academy to give her both, given Avatar's mass rankings......Nevertheless Go Kathryn!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another blow to Up in the Air

Good to see another attack on Up in the Air, a film I've really taken a dislike to because of its maliciousness and questionable morality.....The NY Times has a piece which interviews reps of outplacement agencies.....Of course the major point of the film is to attack these kind of firms - the symbol for the cowardice of big business writ large. George Clooney (he's also known as "Comrade" Clooney in certain circles) plays Ryan Bingham, an outplacement hack who jets around the country firing workers hither and yon - in other words doing the dirty work the dastardly capitalists who employ these workers won't do themselves. (See my earlier posts.).....The Times piece interviews outsourcing firm executives who say they never do this kind of work, that firms themselves directly "fire" (a loaded term) or layoff workers.....Lynda Doty of DBM in Houston says, "I didn't see any resemblence for what we do" and employment lawyer Stephen Fox said everything from management 101 says you don't conduct business that way.....What's more - the title of the movie refers to the Clooney character's skybound vagabond life (well, it's also a kind of metaphor for Bingham's personal life). Bingham flies so much he reaches the elite 10 million air miles club. Said Doty, "I don't even have 100K."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

An (unbelievable) Education

There's something that irritates me about Lone Scherfig's film An Education, nominated for best picture in this year's Academy Awards. Perhaps it's the fact that the subject matter has all been done before - in particular, the now-hackneyed nostalgia for the early-1960s, and in particular the story itself......On the surface there is really nothing wrong with this movie. It's comptently made and the acting sufficient...... But this is one too many films set in the late-1950s & early-1960s which, while ostensibly being a critique of the social mores of that period, in many ways seems nostaglic for it (the women's clothes, men's svelte mannerisms)......As for  the film itself, a reasonable attempt has been made with the costumes, but the gleaming period cars taken out of storage, look like they've been taken out of storage. The few blocks of  the vintage-era streetscapes also look contrived..... The plot itself is tired. Bored teenage girl (Carey Mulligan as Jenny Miller) with intellectual and artistic aspirations wants to escape from humdrum suburban London life, which must have been really humdrum in pre-Beatles Britain. SPAM anyone (and I don't mean email)? She has a dominating father (Alfred Molina as Jack Miller) who's more than a little over the top as a disciplinarian......The story itself seems improbable though I understand it's autobiographical based on a memoir by Lynn Barber. So who am I to argue?..... But the fact Jenny ends up cavorting with a rich artsy grifter (David Goldman played by Peter Sarsgaard) seems far-fetched. David opens Jenny's suburban eyes and fulfils her intellectual if not romantic dreams. Despite her fascist-of-a-father Jenny's parents still let her out of the house, which is difficult to believe. Only Jenny, in the end, can discover the validity of the world to which she has been exposed.....This film has the look (confined sets, short takes) of a made-for-TV movie. Oscar material, I don't think so.