Monday, November 24, 2014

Catching WIFF misses, Lakeshore cinemas' art series

I missed Whiplash and Mommy at the recent Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF). But did manage to see Whiplash last week at The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, and Mommy – surprisingly! – at Lakeshore cinemas’ on Windsor’s far east side……

First Whiplash, which got WIFF's Peoples’ Choice Award and certainly was all the buzz at this month’s festival. It’s a terrific movie alright and something you don’t see a lot of in films these days – fast-paced, in-your-face dramatic action, all the more stunning since this is Damien Chazelle’s directorial debut. (“So there!” I say to all the people who scoff at film festivals featuring first time directors’ films.) The story is about music (drums) student Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) being under the tutelage of jazz instructor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, a Detroit native and star of Farmers Insurance commercials and numerous dramatic film & TV roles). A Nazi-inspire drill sergeant might be more like it. For Fletcher gives no ground in seeking absolute perfection with a P. The story is fictional but in 2014 I didn’t know there could still be instructors like this. I used to have teachers who threw chalk; this instructor throws furniture, and curses and harangues, and makes you stay after class to practice hours on end until you get it right! In this era of touchy-feely education this method, not really Socratic, is a throwback indeed. The film doesn’t question Fletcher’s techniques and seems ideologically to support them. For, as Fletcher says, it’s the only way to achieve outstanding art……Then it was off to the Lakeshore to see Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, where even on a Tuesday cheap night it just goes to show that art films in good ol’ Windsor (apparently outside of WIFF) can’t draw an audience. Yes, dear readers, I was the only person in Lakeshore Auditorium 3. Despite its critical acclaim I found Dolan’s 2012 Laurence Anyways overproduced. But in Mommy (Canada’s entry into next year’s Oscars), the film hits the mark in extracting terrific performances from leads Anne Dorval (as mom Diane) and Antoine-Olivier Pilon (as son Steve). Here is a story about a delinquent, incorrigible young man - with numerous psychological hangups - and his relationship with his tough as nails mom who might have been the same way at his age. This film isn’t for everyone. But it has ferocious non-stop shout out loud emotionally charged performances, making you wonder how the actors could sustain it. Suzanne ClĂ©ment as Kyla, the across-the-street neighbour, is a charming bonus. 

Speaking of the Lakeshore I was surprised to discover that owner Imagine Cinemas has been running a Monday night Art Series, which started in October and ends Dec. 8. On tonight, for instance, is Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014, Peter Chelsom) with the outstanding Simon Pegg, and Rosamund Pike of Gone Girl fame. In previous weeks the series has shown John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary (recently at WIFF), Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip to Italy, and Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. I hadn’t seen any publicity about this series and you have to go to Imagine’s website’s “Specials” section to find the schedule. A box office person told me the series might be extended next year. The website is

And finally, it’s good to see that the iconic 1950s Cinerama wide curved screen brand has been resurrected in a stunning renovated theatre in Seattle. It’s the baby of film buff and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Check out today’s NY Times piece at

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