Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Mon festival du cinéma favori'

Sorry for indulging myself but I have to show you the poster for this year’s edition of my very favourite film festival, the Montreal World Film Festival (WFF), Aug. 26–Sept. 6......Yes I will be going. I have been attending since 1977. I’m not crazy about the art chosen for the poster. But, hey, it’s a film festival. It’s all about art, right? And you know those artists can be pretty crazy people.....Here’s what the festival says about the poster, designed by art student (who else?) Huber Samson: "The act of seeing is nicely synthesized in this image of a person with multiple eyes, a symbol, at once, of the variety of views expressed in the Festival's program and of the subjective gaze of each spectator. The blurred contours of the person's body suggests that he is quivering: affected, shaken, moved by what he is seeing. This vibration brings to mind, as well, the throbbing of the light as it passes through the film and onto the screen. A beautiful evocation of the 'motion picture'. Bravo!" .....Okay, whatever.....This is still a great festival and I can hardly wait to be there.....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Eighth year for Windsor Jewish film fest

The eighth annual Windsor Jewish Film Festival gets underway tomorrow at Devonshire Mall cinemas, and for the first time Windsor festival planners have selected films exclusively......They used to choose collaboratively with the Detroit Jewish film festival. But being in a separate country logistically made it easier to order directly from distributers, said Sandi Malowitz, the Windsor Jewish Community Centre’s program director. “We’re very excited,” by the selection, which covers a range of topics and genres from drama to comedy, and includes award winning titles, she said......Monday’s opening film is Brothers (Israel 2009) at 8 pm. It explores the clash in values between secular and Orthodox Jews in modern Israel......On Tuesday at 2 pm there are two short films The World Was Ours (USA 2007) and I Will Not Die (Canada 2009), films about Holocaust experiences in Vilna and Czechoslovakia.....At 5 pm there is Bad Faith (France 2006), about Jewish-Muslim acceptance. At 8 pm there’s the comedy A Matter of Size (Israel-Germany) about dieting and, well, Sumo wrestling, set in Israel of course......On Wednesday at 2 pm there’s HAG: The Story of the Hassidic Actors (USA 2008). Writer, director and star Yisrael Lifschutz, who has consulted on films like The Chosen and Pi, will attend and discuss the making of the film......Anita (Argentina 2009) at 5 pm is about a family caught up in events surrounding the terrorist bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center in 1994......Lemon Tree (Israel-Germany-France) at 8 pm – which won the Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival - is about a Palestinian woman who takes her fight over her plot of land to the Israeli Supreme Court......On Thursday at 2 pm Beau Jest (USA) is also about religious intolerance but done up in an hilarious way......Galilee Eskimos (Israel 2006) 5 pm is about the dream or “demise” of Zionism seen through a group of senior citizens veterans of the kibbutz movement......Closing out the festival at 8 pm will be Saviors in the Night (Germany-France) about German farmers during the Second World War who saved a family from deportation to the extermination camps......Tickets are $10 each available at the cinema.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Serious Man deserved more buzz

I’m sorry I missed the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man (2009) when it was released in theatres several months ago. Not that that is especially tragic. One can always rent the DVD version a few months later as I just did.....What I’m sorry about is that I missed such a great film first time around. This film is terrific on several fronts. It captures dead-on the suburban world of 1967 from clothes to hairstyles to home decor to some of the best period street scenes I've seen in any picture. Not to mention the incredible acting from a cast of largely unknown TV actors with some pedigree. And then there's the pathos and black humour suffusing almost every scene......Did I miss something or why didn’t this film gather the kind of buzz Coen films usually do like No Country for Old Men (2007), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Big Lebowski (1998) and Fargo (1996)? Maybe because it’s so Jewish?.....Yes, I had some vague recollection central character Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) was a middle class Jew perplexed by events assailing his life. I just had no idea how Jewish this film is. Indeed it might be inaccessible to a non-Jew or someone unfamiliar with Jewish culture. (Hilariously, at the end of the credit roll you can read, “No Jews were harmed in the making of this motion picture.”).....Interesting to note that in looking up still shots for this film not one shows the various rabbis from an old Polish shtetl or any especially religious or rabbinical/synagogue scenes. Was this to deflect the Jewish theme for mass audiences?.....So what’s the movie about? The opening lines of a very famous song by a very famous rock group from 1967 say it all.....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

See British theatre on screen

Gee, I’ve never seen theatre on a movie screen before.....Tomorrow night British playwright Alan Bennett’s acclaimed new play The Habit of Art will be screened throughout Canada at Cineplex theatres. This includes Windsor’s Devonshire Mall theatres.....According to Cineplex the play will be “filmed live” at London’s National Theatre and broadcast at 7 pm ET......The Habit of Art is about the relationship between composer Benjamin Britten and poet W.H. Auden – “two difficult men”..... Richard Griffiths is Auden and Alex Jennings, Britten.....The play "reflects on growing old, on creativity and inspiration, and on persisting when all passion’s spent: ultimately, on the habit of art."

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Maple Theatre and beyond

For 20 years I have been coming to the Maple Theatre to watch art and independent films. When I returned to the Windsor-Detroit area in 1990 it was the only suburban Detroit art house. The Main Theatre in downtown Royal Oak would soon join it. Indeed both are now members of the Landmark Theatres chain. In the early Nineties however the Maple was still an AMC theatre. According to the Cinema Treasures web site the theatre was opened in 1974 and still has the AMC logo on the seat arm cupholders (I never noticed)..... The house has an endearing quality to me, despite the long drive from the border up the Lodge Freeway and then Telegraph Rd to Maple in West Bloomfield. The countless times I have been there with friends, on dates, alone - summer, fall, winter, spring - for afternoon matinees or late screenings, getting back to Windsor at 1 am with a Monday work day looming.....The theatre of course is located in the Bloomfield Plaza. The plaza's Machaus Red Fox restaurant (now an Andiamo) was the last place Teamster Jimmy Hoffa was seen alive..... I never had been that impressed with the before-and-aft dining in the area. (Yes there is the renowned Steve's Deli but somehow I wasn't tuned in enough to the Detroit zeitgeist to ever frequent it.) But lately things have picked up with Crust Pizza & Wine Bar. Last Saturday prior to the 9.15 screening of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev 2010) the place was packed..... I used to hang out at Barnes & Noble across the street. Last Saturday we ventured into that plaza and noticed the former bookstore was darkened. Barnes & Noble had vamooshed! How depressing. As for the Maple itself it's starting to seem a little frayed around the edges, the restrooms especially..... Landmark has positioned the Maple and Main for slightly different types of screenings, with the Maple showing more classic period pieces and the Main edgier work. That's reflective of the Maple's older retired clientele and the Main's location in trendy Royal Oak..... Despite Barnes & Noble being closed, Crust Pizza and the Maple still made for an agreeable combo  (though thumbs down on the Tattoo flic).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Disappointing audience for new indie cinema

The Palace Cinemas complex in downtown Windsor is having problems filling its seats for its new art house series. The Palace should be much applauded for bringing the series. It’s been a long time since Windsor had any sort of repertory theatre. Remember the – in my view – greatly lamented Windsor Film Theatre down by the university which closed – when, more than a decade ago?....Theatre manager Andy Stockwell says a couple of the films of the series that started screening in March have had good audiences. These were the Oscar buzz ones like Young Victoria and The Hurt Locker. (Finally, those who missed it first time around could actually see what all the huge Oscar fuss was about, right?). But others haven’t fared as well. Among the screenings have been everything from Me & Orson Welles (Richard Linklater 2009) to Michael Hoffman’s The Last Station (2010) with Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren and Paul Giamatti, to Precious (Lee Daniels 2009).....”They don’t do very well, unfortunately,” says Stockwell, manager at the Palace’s sister Lakeshore Cinemas but who is overseeing the art series.....There hasn’t been a great deal of advertising. Stockwell says info about the series has been mainly word of mouth, an ad in the St. Clair College newspaper The Saint, and flyers distributed in downtown coffee shops and at the university and college.....This week The Cove (Louie Psihoyos 2009) and Antichrist (Lars von Trier 2009) are being screened. Next week Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009) and Margaret Pomeranz’s The Prophet (2010) will screen.....Stockwell has no problem getting the films. He orders from Independent Booking and Theatre Services in Cambridge, Ont. which books films into more than 300 theatres across N. America.....Ticket prices are cheap in keeping with the Palace’s overall discount box office: $6.50 adults and $4.20 seniors, kids and for weekend matinees.....The independent series may be pressed a bit as summer comes on. Distributors can demand summer blockbusters run for a minimum number of weeks, squeezing out other films, esp indies.....Those in Windsor (and Detroit for that matter, since Motown can also use a more robust indie cinema scene – no offence to the DFT, Landmark’s Main & Maple, and Burton Theatre) who love art house films and support events like the Windsor Intl Film Festival, should get out and support the Palace.....It’s only ours to lose...... for the schedule.....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kick-Ass, about a mild-mannered high schooler who decides to step out of his comfort zone and become a comic book hero, has sneak previews Thursday at 10 pm at Windsor's Palace and Lakeshore Cinemas.....The film opens Friday.....Directed by Matthew Vaugh (Stardust, 2007) he's better known as a producer (Swept Away, 2002 & Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, 1998) with Nicolas Cage (might be worth going to see for him alone) and Aaron Johnson..... In early reviews the movie seems to be living up to its name with a 77% Rotten Tomatoes rating.....Comments range from "Defiantly irreverent and gleefuly violent," to "If only Kick-Ass were as nervy and entertaining as its brazen title.".....You be the judge.....Then again, who cares? The theatres will be PACKED by those of a, well, certain age. Make sure sufficient cleaning staff are on hand......

Looking for a few good volunteers

Windsor's Media City intl fest of experimental film and video art returns May 25-29 with screenings largely in downtown Windsor but also in Detroit......The fest has been running since 1994...... Each year it screens about 50 new films & videos. It hosts retrospective screenings and holds discussions with featured artists. Exhibitions are at the Art Gallery of Windsor and other sites.....The festival is looking for volunteers. You can help sell tickets, provide technical assistance, usher, do promotion, even drive artists to and from Detroit airport.....To sign up, e-mail Indicate areas of interest in the subject line and include your full contact info and dates available....The website is