Saturday, January 25, 2014

Festival celebrates 20th, changes dates

Media City, the world-renowned experimental film festival that is probably still under the radar for most Windsorites, is changing its schedule. The festival, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, moves from the spring to a mid-summer date. Perhaps because of that and the fact the festival is adding another day, “we considered it would be beneficial to give ourselves more time” for organizing, according to festival co-producers Jeremy Rigby and Oona Mosna. It’s hard to believe but this event has been taking place since 1994. Experimental film might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But in filmmaking circles the event has cred and has put little old Windsor on the international map. Every year it attracts filmmakers and audience members from around the world. The producers said another reason for moving the festival to July is because of scheduling conflicts. “Late May jammed us up a bit with a few other events that also happen in the spring,” they said. “Moving to July gives us a solid month of distance and that's beneficial for both practical reasons and for our identity.” The switch will be permanent. Media City will be held July 8 – 12.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Believable look at love in the future

Spike Jonze’s Her is interesting from the POV that so much of its subject matter is relevant to the present. Theodore Twombley’s (Joaquin Phoenix) world is set slightly in the future where instead of play station screens your living room becomes a hologram, and where you advise your computer through ear buds to check email and what’s trending on your favourite websites. Not a stretch - people talk into their Bluetooth today. Socially the values of the present seem very much the same, with talk denigrating carbs and Theodore complimented for his metrosexual (i.e., female) values. Los Angeles also is dominated by Asians to such an extent that English takes second place on signs. But other things don’t seem so real. The cityscape looks like Shanghai, an agglomeration of alienating high rises and unlimited concrete. I thought we were moving to a more decentralized and “green” world. This is a trap filmmakers fall into. Jonze didn’t have to use skyscrapers to reinforce anomie. But where the movie excels is the story line and superb acting. Phoenix is a standout as usual. And Scarlett Johansson as the disembodied computer voice is as real as if you could see her on screen, which is the point. Twombley falls in love with Samantha, the voice of his new operating system. (Get ready for the future, folks, when software will have enough intelligence to mimic real persons with thoughts and feelings.) Twombley, recently divorced, lonely and disconnected, warms to this virtual person who seems to like and understand him. Their love affair is believable. The story takes the present version of dating a few notches further. We can already date through websites and have our first connections by text messaging. And there have always been physical objects to substitute for the real. But Samantha is also jealous and even dispatches a real person Isabella (Portia Doubleday) as a surrogate to improve their relationship. Otherwise she acts exactly like someone in a real love affair with all the sweet talk, sexual sighs, and insecure moments of any paramour. In the end the sadness stems from the fact this object of desire cannot be real. She breaks down and tells Theodore she has 641 lovers just like him. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

A drought at the cinemas ... until, until

I was all ready to write a post about how there’s absolutely nothing of interest at the local bijoux to take myself to this week or next. 47 Ronin? Japanese historical adventure flicks don’t turn me on. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: I’ve never been a fan of these fantastical worlds not even in book form. Frozen is for kids even if it’s the “coolest” comedy-adventure and after this week’s Arctic blast who needs “eternal winter?” The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is part of what I consider a rip off (see Dec. 15 post) and likely inferior to the original as only a North American teenage classic can be. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has more potential. Based on James Thurber’s famous short story it stars Ben Stiller, whom I’m getting a bit tired of. I think the 1947 version with Danny Kaye is likely a lot funnier. Danny Kaye was truly hilarious, not like today's comedians. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones? Ho-hum. Horror films are usually mediocre. And Rotten Tomatoes' 39 per cent approval just confirms that. Ok, I saw Anchorman and it was funny enough. But Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues? Perhaps it’s just me but I’m tired of the 1970's even send-ups of said decade. Which brings me to American Hustle, which has been getting pretty good reviews. But I don’t want to see 1970's era outrageous shirts, fluffy hair and wide collar jackets, and I’ve increasingly soured on period movies. There’s Grudge Match, also getting fair reviews. But this is a movie about has-beens starring has-beens, which seems to be the only role Robert De Niro gets these days. Sad. There’s Lone Survivor, a kind of Band of Brothers featuring Navy SEALs stuck in the Hindu Kush. Been there, done that if only through news headlines. If I was a kid I’d like Walking With Dinosaurs. If I had kids I’d probably take them to see it. Saving Mr. Banks is about the making of Disney’s Mary Poppins, so why didn’t they call it that? It has respectable Emma Thompson and Tom Banks but do I really want to see a movie about this? There’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s promising and directed by the respectable Martin Scorsese. But it’s this decade’s version of The Bonfire of the Vanities. And I’m so tired of movies attacking Wall Street and what (rich) filmmakers believe  the American way of capitalism. 

And then, and then, I open the online newspaper today and what do I see? I almost fell over when I saw three decent films opening ALL IN ONE WEEKEND AND ALL IN WINDSOR. It’s positively unheard of, at least in recent years at the big boxes!….. There’s Spike Jonze’s Her, featuring Joaquin Phoenix and current flavour of the month Amy Adams. Now this is a movie I could sink my virtual teeth into since it’s about a man’s over the top love affair with our increasingly over the top hi tech world. And Phoenix is in it, worth seeing for that reason alone. ….Also, there’s Inside Llewyn Davis by the Coens but which I already saw in Detroit (Dec. 23 post), and August: Osage County, with the star-stunning cast led by Meryl Streep but which strikes as a tour de force of family anger and angst, and so I will probably take a pass, thank you very much.