Halifax film screening picks — Feb 8-14

08 Feb
February 8, 2016

Are you a cheap valentine? Why spend $125 to buy the John Cassavetes box set for your special someone, when you can take him or her to see all five films this weekend for seven bucks per person per movie? That’s the irresistible value proposition from Kazan Co-op starting this Friday evening, as they screen the Blu-ray editions of Opening Night, Shadows, A Woman Under the Influence, Faces, and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie at The Waiting Room in a weekend event they are calling Valentine to Cassavetes. Advance tickets are available if you want to avoid a Valentine’s letdown.

This week kicks off with two of the best screenings of African Heritage Month: the Radical Imagination Project is showing The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 at the Central Library on Monday, and the Dal Art Gallery continues its Tuesday screenings of “First Films by Black Filmmakers” with Dear White People. The gallery’s Wednesday evening noir series continues as well, this week with the Fritz Lang Graham Greene adaptation Ministry of Fear.

Update: Due to the Feb 8 storm closure, Black Power Mixtape has been rescheduled to Feb 22.

Carbon Arc has a Friday screening of Laurie Anderson’s extremely well-reviewed cine-memoir of her late beloved piano-playing and finger-painting dog LolabelleHeart of a Dog.

In Wolfville this week, Fundy Cinema has a Valentine’s Day screening of 45 Years. Charlotte Rampling is up for a Best Actress award at this month’s Oscars for her performance opposite Tom Courtenay in this film, but that hasn’t garnered a fraction of the attention that she has gained for some shockingly retrograde comments on the Oscars’ diversity deficit.

Cineplex’s “Great” Digital Film “Festival” continues through Thursday at Park Lane with a mix of ’80s-centric cult-y and blockbuster-y action-y stuff.

  • In theatres, seen & recommended:
  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (Feb 8) — The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, Halifax Central Library, 6:30pm, free. Göran Olsson, Sweden, 2011, 100 minutes. Update: Due to the Feb 8 storm closure, Black Power Mixtape has been rescheduled to Feb 22.
      Runaway Train, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:50pm, $6.99. Andrei Konchalovsky, USA, 1985, 110 minutes. More Great Digital Film Festival screenings here.
    • Tuesday (Feb 9) — Dear White People, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 5pm, free. Justin Simien, USA, 2014, 108 minutes.
      — Mad Max: Fury Road, Cineplex Park Lane, 5pm, $6.99. George Miller, Australia/USA, 2015, 120 minutes. More Great Digital Film Festival screenings here.
    • Wednesday (Feb 10) — Ministry of Fear, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Fritz Lang, USA, 1944, 86 minutes.
      The Thing (1982), Cineplex Park Lane, 9:55pm, $6.99. John Carpenter, USA, 1982, 109 minutes. More Great Digital Film Festival screenings here.
    • Thursday (Feb 11) — Runaway Train, Cineplex Park Lane, 12:25pm, $6.99. Andrei Konchalovsky, USA, 1985, 110 minutes. More Great Digital Film Festival screenings here.
    • Friday (Feb 12) — Heart of a Dog, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 7pm, $7. Laurie Anderson, USA, 2015, 75 minutes.
      Opening Night, Kazan Co-op @ The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon St., 7pm, $7, advance tickets available. John Cassavetes, USA, 1977, 144 minutes.
    • Saturday (Feb 13) — Shadows, Kazan Co-op @ The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon St., 2pm, $7, advance tickets available. John Cassavetes, USA, 1959, 87 minutes.
      — A Woman Under the Influence, Kazan Co-op @ The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon St., 7pm, $7, advance tickets available. John Cassavetes, USA, 1974, 155 minutes.
    • Sunday (Feb 14) — Faces, Kazan Co-op @ The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon St., 2pm, $7, advance tickets available. John Cassavetes, USA, 1968, 147 minutes.
      — The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Kazan Co-op @ The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon St., 7pm, $7, advance tickets available. John Cassavetes, USA, 1976, 135 minutes.
  • Annapolis Valley screening pick for this week:
    • Sunday (Feb 14) — 45 Years, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Andrew Haigh, UK, 2015, 95 minutes.

Barton Fink; O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Netflix Canada picks)

05 Feb
February 5, 2016

Films come and go on Netflix (ok, lately, there’s less come and more go), but you can usually find a sampling of the Coen brothers oeuvre, and right now, perhaps to help hype this weekend’s release of Hail, Caesar!, the sampling is pretty strong: The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Raising Arizona, Inside Llewyn Davis. But the long-underappreciated Barton Fink continues to be a favourite of mine. A completely unblocked film about writer’s block (sharing that honour, and Judy Davis, with Naked Lunch), and a thoroughly uncompromised film about artistic compromise, it remains one of their least financially successful films, and a Rosetta Stone that unlocks much of the rest of their work. If you haven’t seen these performances by John Goodman and John Turturro, you haven’t seen everything they can do.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is an equally intellectually devious concoction, but one that audiences found much more easily consumable, partly due to some memorable comic moments, but in large measure due to its fantastic soundtrack—a record that rebooted a whole genre of folk, perhaps at the expense of being massively overplayed. But watching the film’s series of set pieces flow along over these songs remains a treat, as are its callbacks to The Odyssey and Preston Sturges’ Sullivan Travels—from which it borrowed its title, its period setting, and a scene setup or two. It is quite simply a masterclass in how to build on layers of reference without making that the whole point of the exercise.

A note about transfers—O, Brother, with a lifetime box-office 9 or 10 times that of Barton Fink, has fared well in home video, and the version on Netflix seems to be taken from the same master as the 2011 Blu-ray. Fink, however, has still not received a proper clean-up or domestic Blu-ray release, though the comparatively shoddy disc that was released in Europe in 2012 is region-free and thus watchable here. The Netflix version appears to have been pulled from the 2003 DVD master, which, though lacking the contrast and detail of the Blu-ray, is pillar-boxed and thus retains the full, uncropped image that viewers saw in theatrical release.

 

Halifax film screening picks — Feb 1-7

01 Feb
February 1, 2016

This past Wednesday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and presumably not coincidentally, Cannes 2015 Grand Prix winner Son of Saul arrived in Halifax on Friday. I was extremely impressed with the film on first viewing, and the method it adopts to present events in a Nazi concentration camp, its “atrocities taking place just out of view with the film’s careful sound design filling in the gaps in our comprehension.” But something didn’t quite sit right with me as I thought about it afterwards, for reasons that have perhaps best been articulated in this Adam Nayman response. I do, though, continue to think highly of the film’s intelligence and craft, and I definitely encourage you to see it and consider your own response.

Hey! Carbon Arc is back for a winter season!  This Friday’s kickoff event starts with Hitchcock/Truffaut, a doc about Francois Truffaut’s weeklong 1962 interview with Alfred Hitchcock, and continues with a live taping of the podcast Lens Me Your Ears, hosted as usual by Stephen Cooke and Carsten Knox. On Saturday there are two screenings of Boy & the World, nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at this year’s Oscars. Those screenings are fundraisers for this effort to bring a Syrian refugee family to Halifax.

For African Heritage Month, the Dal Art Gallery is adding a series of 5pm Tuesday screenings: “First Films by Black Filmmakers.” This week’s choice is the film that launched Spike Lee’s career, She’s Gotta Have It. The Wednesday evening noir series continues as well, this week with the 1944 Otto Preminger classic Laura, with Gene Tierney.

In Wolfville this week, Fundy Cinema notably has two films by women about women: on Wednesday, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, which I haven’t seen but have been totally sold on by the trailer, and on Sunday, the Brazilian domestic drama The Second Mother, which previously played Carbon Arc.

Finally, can someone please explain to me Cineplex’s Great Digital Film Festival, which puts “sci-fi, fantasy and cult films back on the big screen”, which presumably might appeal to many university-age viewers, and programs many of the screenings in the daytime—the week before those viewers are actually off from school. Yeah there’s some crap on the list but I’ll concede there’s a choice nugget here and there as well.

  • In theatres, seen & recommended:
  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Tuesday (Feb 2) — She’s Gotta Have It, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 5pm, free. Spike Lee, USA, 1986, 84 minutes.
    • Wednesday (Feb 3) — Laura, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Otto Preminger, USA, 1944, 88 minutes.
    • Friday (Feb 5) — Hitchcock/Truffaut, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 7pm, $7. Kent Jones, France/USA, 2015, 79 minutes, followed by podcast taping at 8:45pm.
      Looper, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:55pm, $6.99. Rian Johnson, USA, 2012, 118 minutes. More Great Digital Film Festival Friday screenings here.
    • Saturday (Feb 6) — Boy & the World, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 7pm & 9pm, price TBD. All Abreu, Brazil, 2013, 80 minutes.
      Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Cineplex Park Lane, 7:30pm, $6.99. George Miller, Australia, 1981, 94 minutes.
      Mad Max: Fury Road, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:55pm, $6.99. George Miller, Australia/USA, 2015, 120 minutes. More Great Digital Film Festival Saturday screenings here.
    • Sunday (Feb 7) — Labyrinth, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:55pm, $6.99. Jim Henson, UK/USA, 1986, 102 minutes. More Great Digital Film Festival Sunday screenings here.
  • Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Wednesday (Feb 3) — Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Lisa Immordino Vreeland, USA, 2015, 95 minutes.
    • Sunday (Feb 7) — The Second Mother, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Anna Muylaert, Brazil, 2015, 112 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — Jan 25-31

25 Jan
January 25, 2016

So, despite being measurably the best-reviewed film of 2015 (and despite receiving six other Oscar nominations), Carol is not nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. It’s no longer playing in Halifax theatres, but if you care to drive an hour to see it, the Fundy Film Society has two screenings this Sunday in Wolfville. If you have seen it and were as taken by its visual artistry as I was, I strongly urge you to check out this podcast of a live-audience discussion with cinematographer Ed Lachman—he’s downright fascinating on the film-to-digital shift.

I should also mention that, armed with 4 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Room is back at Scotiabank Theatre Halifax in Bayers Lake for its first Halifax screenings since mid-December.

And speaking of the Fundy Film Society, and the Oscars, Theeb, nominated for Best Foreign Language film, will have a Wednesday evening screening in Wolfville—likely your only chance to see it until it hits home video mid-May.

Wednesday evening in Halifax you can see one of last year’s nominees for the same award—Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is offering a free screening, co-presenting with the Alliance Française.

Last, but definitely not least of your Wednesday screening options, the Dal Art Gallery film series is back with a second round of noir classics, kicking off with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in This Gun for Hire—a film that pleased NY Times critic Bosley Crowther greatly on its 1942 debut.

  • In theatres, seen & recommended:
  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (Jan 25) — Sabrina, Cineplex Park Lane & Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $6. Billy Wilder, USA, 1954, 113 minutes.
    • Wednesday (Jan 27) — This Gun for Hire, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Frank Tuttle, USA, 1942, 80 minutes.
      Timbuktu, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, 7pm, free. Abderrahmane Sissako, France/Mauritania, 2014, 96 minutes.
    • Sunday (Jan 31) — Sabrina, Cineplex Park Lane, 6:50pm, $6. Billy Wilder, USA, 1954, 113 minutes.
  • Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Wednesday (Jan 20) — Theeb, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Naji Abu Nowar, Jordan/UAE/Qatar/UK, 2014, 100 minutes.
    • Sunday (Jan 24) — Carol, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Todd Haynes, USA, 2015, 118 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — Jan 18-24

18 Jan
January 18, 2016

Greetings on Blue Monday, the day which, we are informed on a thoroughly pseudoscientific basis, is the very nadir of seasonally-cyclical depression—a fact which is not without its film-related marketing opportunities. If film lovers are bummed right now it’s probably because both commercial theatres and screening series are in a bit of a lull right now.

Well, Carbon Arc and the Dal Art Gallery film series will be back soon—the latter with a second round of classic noir that looks even better than the first.

Monday at the Halifax Infirmary’s QEII Royal Bank Theatre, Novel Tech Ethics continues its current mini-series of screenings with panel discussions about Alzheimer’s and aging. This edition features the very highly regarded Spanish animated feature Wrinkles.

Out of town, in Wolfville, the Fundy Film Society has a Wednesday screening of Al Purdy Was Here, “a timely reminder of those golden pre-Harper years decades ago when culture played a key role in Canadian nation-building, and poets led the charge.” On Sunday, it’s Michelle Williams and Kristin Scott Thomas in Suite Française.

Cineplex Park Lane has a late Friday screening of The Raid: Redemption, the Indonesian action film that has gathered quite a cult and won over at least one prominent critic ever since it won the TIFF 2011 Midnight Madness audience award.

  • In theatres, seen & recommended:
  • In theatres, watch-listed/notable:
  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (Jan 18) — Wrinkles, QEII Royal Bank Theatre – Halifax Infirmary, 1796 Summer St entrance, 7pm, free, panel discussion to follow. Ignacio Ferreras, Spain, 2011, 89 minutes.
    • Wednesday (Jan 20) — Sabrina, Cineplex Park Lane & Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $6. Billy Wilder, USA, 1954, 113 minutes.
    • Friday (Jan 22) — The Raid: Redemption, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Gareth Huw Evans, Indonesia/USA, 2011, 101 minutes.
  • Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Wednesday (Jan 20) — Al Purdy Was Here, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Brian D. Johnson, Canada, 2015, 90 minutes.
    • Sunday (Jan 24) — Suite Française, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Saul Dibb, UK/France/Belgium, 2015, 107 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — Jan 11-17

11 Jan
January 11, 2016

If Roman Holiday made Audrey Hepburn a star, it was Sabrina that inaugurated her lasting relationship with Givenchy and thus the style we now think of as uniquely hers. This Sunday you can check out Cineplex Classic Film Series matinee screenings of Sabrina at Dartmouth Crossing and the Oxford.

Out-of-town screenings this week include, at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool, the latest cinematic adaptation of Macbeth, which notably features Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and—appropriately for the Scottish Play—Scottish accents across the board, which have been variously described in the British media as “almost-perfect” and “mangled.” On the same night in Wolfville, the Fundy Film Society has Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home.

Cineplex Park Lane has seen fit to add a Tuesday screening of the 25th anniversary edition of Goodfellas, and this Friday has a late-night screening of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. There’s an Oscar push on for Lily Tomlin’s work in Grandma, so that film is back in theatres, and Park Lane has that as well.

This week in Halifax is front-loaded with a series of social issues & justice screenings with panel discussions, all free. Monday at the Halifax Infirmary’s QEII Royal Bank Theatre it’s Still Alice, with a panel discussion on Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, family caregivers, and coping; Tuesday at the Central Library it’s the documentary The Hunting Ground, an exposé of rape crimes on U.S. college campuses—the cover-ups, and the toll on survivors and families—with a discussion on sexualized violence on Canadian campuses; Wednesday, also at the Central Library, it’s The Wanted 18, an ingenious doc, complete with talking cows, about the efforts of Palestinians in Beit Sahour to start a small local dairy industry during the First Intifada, followed by a Q&A with director Paul Cowan and guests. That one is presented by the Radical Imagination Project along with Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace and Independent Jewish Voices Halifax.

  • In theatres, seen & recommended:
    Carol, Todd Haynes, USA, 2015, 118 minutes — Halifax screening times
    Joy, David O. Russell, USA, 2015, 125 minutes — Halifax screening times
    The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino, USA, 2015, 167 minutes — Halifax screening times
    Brooklyn, John Crowley, Ireland/UK/Canada, 2015, 112 minutes — Halifax screening times 
  • In theatres, watch-listed/notable:
    Grandma, Paul Weitz, 2015, USA, 92 minutes — Halifax screening times 
  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (Jan 11) — Still Alice, QEII Royal Bank Theatre – Halifax Infirmary, 1796 Summer St entrance, 7pm, free, panel discussion to follow. Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland, USA, 2014, 101 minutes.
    • Tuesday (Jan 12) — Goodfellas, Cineplex Park Lane, 6:10pm, $6. Martin Scorsese, USA, 1990, 145 minutes + 30-minute documentary “Scorsese’s Goodfellas”.
      The Hunting Ground, O’Regan Auditorium @ Halifax Central Library, 6:30pm, free, panel discussion to follow. Kirby Dick, USA, 2015, 103 minutes.
    • Wednesday (Jan 13) — The Wanted 18, O’Regan Auditorium @ Halifax Central Library, 6pm, free, discussion with director to follow. Amer Shomali & Paul Cowan, Palestine/Canada/France, 2014, 75 minutes.
    • Friday (Jan 15) — A Clockwork Orange, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Stanley Kubrick, UK, 1971, 136 minutes.
    • Sunday (Jan 17) — Sabrina, Cineplex Oxford & Dartmouth Crossing, 12:55pm, $6. Billy Wilder, USA, 1954, 113 minutes.
  • South Shore and Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Wednesday (Jan 13) — Macbeth, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Justin Kurzel, UK/France/USA, 2015, 113 minutes.
      Coming Home, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Zhang Yimou, China, 2014, 111 minutes.
    • Sunday (Jan 17) — Brooklyn, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. John Crowley, Ireland/UK/Canada, 2015, 112 minutes.

The Hateful Eight: an SMS review

06 Jan
January 6, 2016

special guest appearance in grey bubbles by McNutt Against the Music
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Halifax film screening picks — Jan 4-10

04 Jan
January 4, 2016

It may be only the 11th film in history to be made in Ultra Panavision 70, but if you want to see the roadshow version of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight projected in 70mm, you are SOL in Halifax. Only four theatres in Canada are screening it in that format, and in fact the nearest option for Haligonians is in Boston. Yes it is a Tarantino film, with all that implies—a lot of blood, gun violence, faces and heads blown off, copious use of the n-word… It’s so easy to criticize him for his tendencies that it seems pointless to do so, but the film is also a reminder that, as a director, he brings more than those excesses.

Speaking of OTT violence, the 25th anniversary 4K-remastered edition of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas has a couple of screenings at Park Lane this weekend, with an additional 30-minute making-of documentary.

Update Jan. 6: Also this weekend at Park Lane—late-night screenings of the 1988 Tim Burton classic Beetlejuice.

As the new year begins, few of the regular screening series have yet started up (the exception being the Fundy Film Society in Wolfville, which has the Mavis Staples doc Mavis! on Wednesday, and the Dalton Trumbo biopic Trumbo on Sunday). But some of the year’s best are in theatres, so it seems like the right moment to change up the format of this column a bit, and separate out those screenings from the one-offs.

  • In theatres, seen & recommended:

    Carol, John Crowley, UK/USA, 2015, 118 minutes — Halifax screening times
    Joy, David O. Russell, USA, 2015, 125 minutes — Halifax screening times
    The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino, USA, 2015, 167 minutes — Halifax screening times
    Brooklyn, John Crowley, Ireland/UK/Canada, 2015, 112 minutes — Halifax screening times 

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Friday (Jan 8) — Goodfellas, Cineplex Park Lane, 8pm, $6. Martin Scorsese, USA, 1990, 145 minutes + 30-minute documentary “Scorsese’s Goodfellas”.
      Beetlejuice, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Tim Burton, USA, 1988, 92 minutes.
    • Saturday (Jan 9) — Beetlejuice, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Tim Burton, USA, 1988, 92 minutes.
    • Sunday (Jan 10) — Goodfellas, Cineplex Park Lane, 3pm, $6. Martin Scorsese, USA, 1990, 145 minutes + 30-minute documentary “Scorsese’s Goodfellas”.
  • Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Wednesday (Jan 6) — Mavis!, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Jessica Edwards, USA, 2015, 80 minutes.
    • Sunday (Jan 10) — Trumbo, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Jay Roach, 2015, USA, 124 minutes.

Ten of the very best films of 2015 are already on Netflix Canada

02 Jan
January 2, 2016

Some of the films on year-end best-of lists will take months yet to show up on streaming services, but here are ten from the cream of the 2015 crop that you can watch right now.

Clouds of Sils Maria

Directed by: Olivier Assayas (Carlos, Something in the Air)
Notable performances: Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche
Honours & Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Kristen Stewart)—César Awards 2015, NY Film Critics Circle 2015
Watch because: from first frame to last, this is an absolutely incandescent performance by Kristen Stewart. Juliette Binoche is no slouch either.

Ex Machina

Directed by: Alex Garland (screenwriter: 28 Days Later, Sunshine)
Notable performances:
 Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson
Honours & Awards: Best British Independent Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Outstanding Achievement in Craft—British Independent Film Awards 2015; Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: striking visuals, and three very strong acting performances, drive a science fiction narrative that actually cares about ideas.

White God

Directed by: Kornél Mundruczó (Johanna)
Notable performances:
Zsófia Psotta, 250 dogs
Honours & Awards: Prix un certain regard—Cannes Film Festival 2014
Watch because: where else can you see 250 dogs storming the streets of Budapest in a canine uprising—without CGI augmentation.

Girlhood

Directed by: Céline Sciama (Tomboy)
Notable performances:
Karidja Touré in a breakthrough
Honours & Awards: Nominated for Best Director, Most Promising Actress (Karidja Touré), Best Sound, Best Music—César Awards 2015
Watch because: “Raw and insistent, bold and brawling, Girlhood throbs with the global now, illustrating the ways an indifferent society boxes in the people who grow up in project-style boxes.”

The Duke of Burgundy

Directed by: Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio)
Notable performances:
Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna
Honours & Awards: Best Composer: Cat’s Eyes—European Film Awards 2015
Watch because: it’s, oh, just another “densely layered, slyly funny portrayal of the sadomasochistic affair between two lesbian entomologists.”

The Salt of the Earth

Directed by: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado (Nauru: An Island Adrift), Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire; Paris, Texas; Pina)
Honours & Awards: Un Certain Regard Special Prize—Cannes Film Festival 2014; Best Documentary—César Awards 2015
Watch because: this is one case where “epic emotional journey” a) is not an inflated description and b) unexpectedly describes a documentary about a photographer. Without doubt the most deeply moving film I have seen this year.

It Follows

Directed by: David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover)
Notable performance:
Maika Monroe
Honours & Awards: Nominated for Best Director, Best Editing, Best Cinematography—Independent Spirit Awards 2016; Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: it’s for anyone who likes their creep-outs smart, aware of film history, socially astute, but most of all—actually scary.

While We’re Young

Directed by: Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha)
Notable performances:
 Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin
Honours & Awards: Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: in a film comedically juiced by clever casting and spot-on X-er/millennial collisions, the ultimate highlight is a Ben Stiller performance that (at least for its runtime) will make you forget all about his career bloat.

Wild Tales

Directed by: Damián Szifron (The Six Billion Dollar Manyes that is happening in 2017)
Notable performances:
 several, spread across 6 different stories—my fave is Érica Rivas as the bride, Romina
Honours & Awards: Best Spanish Language Foreign Film—Goya Awards (Spain); nominated for Best Foreign Language Film —2015 Academy Awards
Watch because: “in its vibrant lunacy, and with its cartoonishly brash violence, it’s a little bit Almodóvar, a little bit Tarantino”—and probably a little bit Buñuel too, if less psychoanalytic and subversive.

Iris

Directed by: Albert Maysles (Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens)
Honours & Awards: Best Documentary Feature (Audience Award)—Hamptons International Film Festival 2014
Watch because: this biopic/slice-of-life doc portrait of fashion icon Iris Apfel, she of the enormous chunky glasses and bracelets, gains added poignancy from its scenes of the 100th birthday of her husband Carl (since deceased), and a couple of brief glimpses of legendary director Maysles (also since deceased).

Velvet Goldmine; I’m Not There (Netflix Canada picks)

31 Dec
December 31, 2015

Velvet Goldmine – Todd Haynes, USA, 1998, 124 minutes

I’m Not There – Todd Haynes, USA, 2007, 135 minutes

One of two Todd Haynes features that I did not see in theatrical release, Velvet Goldmine is a winning discovery on Netflix, with more than enough glam rock indulgence and rock-opera-esque twists to compensate for whatever it lacks in character specificity. The original songs are stylistically true enough that when we hear the first actual song from the era—T Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer”, nearly an hour in—it blends seamlessly rather than distracting. In retrospect it’s not surprising that the film continues to generate a cult with successive generations of viewers. As the director points out in a recent interview, the fluidity of sexual identity continues to be a subversive, relevant topic.

The other Haynes film to be found on Netflix Canada, I’m Not There, was a happy rediscovery. Sure I remembered that it features six different Bob Dylans, notably Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, and Christian Bale… but I’d forgotten that we also get Ben “Q” Whishaw as poet-Dylan, and a remarkable performance by Heath Ledger, in another reminder of what a loss he represents, opposite a soulful Charlotte Gainsbourg. The meta-biopic approach holds up really well on repeated viewing, and only lags in the last ten minutes or so, which needs to find individual endpoints for six different Dylans. A persuasive and surprisingly coherent riot of surfaces, the film is carried along by an inspired soundtrack and a number of creative casting choices, including a funny yet weirdly appropriate David Cross as Allen Ginsberg.