Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Film clips

Love Crime, a new film starring Kristin Scott Thomas was to have opened this Friday at The Main in Royal Oak but has been rescheduled for Oct. 28. Watch for the review closer to opening from yours truly. Given the general offerings of films released this fall it’s a bit of a standout.....Otherwise opening over the next two weeks at Landmark's Detroit properties are: The Hedgehog at the Main, and Life, Above All at Landmark's Maple in West Bloomfield, and the following weekend Dirty Girl at the Main and Toast (watch for the review here) at the Maple.

Let there be...well, fewer kinks in the Toronto International Film Festival and its Bell Lightbox, the spectacular new theatre complex (above pic from the TIFF website) in TO’s entertainment district, which features several screening rooms, a museum, library, swanky restaurants and bar, in a modernistic – yes – box of a building where those in it at night appear as shadows to people outside. All so film noirish, right? The building, which admittedly is exceptional (I'm still dying to see it), had its first full try out at this month’s TIFF and the reviews were not all rosy. The complaints? Apparently no one thought of constructing more than two slow and rather small elevators to go among six floors, many of which can be jammed with people at festival time. “This building was designed for the festival, by the festival, and it doesn’t work,” a photographer who has long covered TIFF told the National Post. One filmgoer said she was surprised there were obstructed views “for a theatre that’s” so devoted to film. Not to despair. Fest co-director Cameron Bailey put his spin on it. “It creates the conditions for these happy accidents, collisions between people … which is really what this festival should be all about.” But he acknowledged kinks will be worked out. “We’re still figuring [the Lightbox] out," he told the Post. "It’s kind of like a musical instrument.  We’re just learning how to play it.”

Von Trier, Wenders – new films from these vanguard European directors will be featured next month at Montreal’s Festival of New Cinema, which I usually attend but won’t this fall. Also, Pedro Almodóvar will have a new flic in this true cinephile fest, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary! (Even the Montreal and Toronto world festivals aren’t that old.) Von Trier’s Melancholia has Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg (who was in his 2009 Antichrist), a film about the end of the world. Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In has his favourite Antonio Banderas as a depraved plastic surgeon. But, yes, cheeriness is apparently on the horizon with Wenders’s Pina, a film in 3-D dedicated to the late German choreographer Pina Bausch. Despite this festival’s rarefied films and audiences it will screen almost 300 movies including 11 world premieres.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sean Connery's beastly side

There are many dimensions to Sir Sean Connery, I suppose. But for me the stereotype is Agent 007, the classy, tuxedo-clad, sophisticated womanizer – neat and tidy to a T. But watching A Fine Madness (Irvin Kershner, 1966) where Connery plays frustrated poet Samson Shillitoe, his role is that of a crazed beast of an artist, a self-obsessed cave man who has no patience for anyone outside of his egocentric bubble. It’s an incredible performance. Connery (photo shows scene from movie) here is anything but the suave gentleman although womanizer he remains, though he’s not the cause of it, as his character fully admits. It’s just that women are so aroused by his bullying and beastly good looks they can’t resist throwing  themselves at him.....This is another of Kershner’s mid-1960s movies about philandering men – usually creative types who are trapped in marriage. In this case Connery’s on screen wife is played by Joanne Woodward. In Kershner’s 1970 film Loving (see Aug. 30 post below) George Segal is the unhappy writer, also married to a bombshell, Eva Marie Saint, but finding no satisfaction in domestic life. Arguably, however, in A Fine Madness Connery’s character is more afflicted with writer’s block than anything else and the film dissolves into a kind of madcap romp where psychiatrists try to cure him, “try” being the operative word..... This film is also great for the large number of Manhattan street scenes. Anyone who wants to get a feel for how New York looked in the mid-1960s should see this. Many of the scenes have the film’s characters mingling among the regular Manhattan street crowds with panoramic crane shots looking down on streets like Park Avenue.....The Warner Brothers DVD I watched had as an extra segment – an hilarious short film called Mondo Connery, which is worth watching just for itself. It’s not a trailer but shows Connery behind the scenes as he makes his way around Manhattan. When he finally climbs aboard a New York Airways helicopter atop the then Pan Am building for a flight to JFK (remember that?) the droll announcer says that with Connery’s departure Manhattan will never be the exciting place it was with his presence.

And, the Toronto International Film festival is over. Hurray! Now Toronto can get back to its non self-obsessed self.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pink ribbons for what?

I have very little interest in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Well, of course there are great films screened there. But every year Toronto goes into a kind of orgasmic frenzy over their fest which is really hard to stomach. “George Clooney in Hazleton Lanes!” Gag me! But I did come across a story about one particular film screened at TIFF on a subject about which I have some interest. This is the breast cancer Pink Ribbon campaign.....Acclaimed Quebec filmmaker Léa Pool was commissioned by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to make a film based in part on writings by noted feminists Barbara Ehrenreich (“We used to march in the streets; now we run for a cure”) and Samantha King. The two have long questioned what the film, Pink Ribbons Inc., describes as the poster child of cause-related marketing, with the ubiquitous pink ribbons in all manner of merchandising and even the colours worn by burly NFL football players. Yet, says the film, despite the fact pink ribbon campaigners maintain we are closer to a cure than ever, mortality rates have essentially not changed in 60 years.....Women, the movie says, “are the most influential market group, buying 80 per cent of consumer products and making most major household purchasing decisions. As they walk, shop, run, jump and race for the cure, corporations continue to boost their bottom line. Yet the money raised through all these efforts is unevenly allocated - treatment and cure are favoured over primary prevention, to the virtual exclusion of the latter”.....I find Pool a fascinating director and she has made numerous dramatic and documentary films. I caught her 1999 Emporte-Moi (Set Me Free) on late night TV several years ago and couldn’t turn it off, the depiction of working class family life in a 1960s Montreal flat was so realistic.....Said producer Ravida Din, who recruited Pool and who herself had been treated for breast cancer, “The question I was intrigued by was, ‘How did we get to this kind of breast cancer culture that privileges shopping (as a solution) as opposed to getting angry and asking for change?' ” (Picture from film courtesy NFB)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hollywood continues misfiring reports that attendance continues to slide for Hollywood movies this summer with a projection of 543 million tickets sold, the lowest number since 1997 when 540 million paid at the local cineplex. That’s now four consecutive summers with declining attendance. But revenue will be higher – projected at $4.38 billion domestically or one per cent - only because of increased ticket prices. .....A New York Times analysis of movie attendance showed that big name stars seem to be losing their appeal. Johnny Depp still attracted moviegoers in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. But Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks failed to garner audience for Larry Crowne. Jim Carrey also couldn’t pack them in for Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig didn’t stir the masses for Cowboys & Aliens.....Sure there were big hits but only a few such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and some superhero movies such as Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. Thank goodness. Because prior to these lighting up the silver screen box office attendance had been down 20 per cent for the first quarter.....Meanwhile, wonder why H’wood keeps making bland sequels like Kung Fu Panda 2 and Disney-Pixar’s Cars 2? It’s because of the international market. Those emerging countries' filmgoers like those in China and Russia don’t frequent the movies as much as N. American audiences and are therefore less jaundiced. Said’s Phil Contrino, “America used to set the course – if a movie disappointed here, then it was done. That’s simply not the case anymore. America is just another territory now.”.....The two biggest summer bombs were Cowboys & Aliens and Green Lantern losing at least $100 million.....Of popular movie themes crude comedies ruled the hot summer days and nights. These included Bridemaids, Bad Teacher, and Horrible Bosses. But the Change-Up – which had an opening scene of a baby defecating into Jason Bateman’s mouth (thanks guys!) lost about $12 million......And surprise, surprise, H’wood found out the hard way that when it makes sophisticated adult movies audiences will come out in droves. The Help has garnered $122 million and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (poster above) – a true delight – took in $53 mil.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dearborn's Fordson figures in Arab-American experience

I missed Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football and The American Dream at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival, though I did see some of the Fordson high schoolers with their football jerseys on at the awards’ ceremony. Maybe I should have made more of an effort to see it. The film is set at Dearborn’s Fordson high school, built by Henry Ford in 1922 and which is now almost 100 per cent Arab-American. The film has won several awards including at Traverse City and best documentary at the Detroit-Windsor Film Festival. Directed by Rashid Ghazi it follows Fordson’s football team as it prepares for a critical game against its crosstown rival during the last 10 days of Ramadan. The film looks at the players as they try to reconcile their Arabic roots with their role in present day American society. The movie is now being released widely in 11 AMC theatre markets including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago on Sept. 9, just in time for the 10 year recognition of the 9/11 attacks. In this area it will be screened at the AMC Star Fairlane and AMC Star Southfield.