Archive for month: November, 2015

Halifax film screening picks — Nov 30-Dec 6

30 Nov
November 30, 2015

The Fundy Film Society brings two award winners to Wolfville this week: the 2014 Golden Lion winner A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, and Sundance 2015 Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award winner Me and Earl and the Dying Girl—this Wednesday and Sunday, respectively, at the Al Whittle Theatre. The other out-of-town screening of note this week is this Wednesday at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool99 Homes.

There are a couple of social-justice doc screenings in Halifax this week—the Attawapiskat documentary After the Last River is presented Monday at the Central Library by the Radical Imagination Project, and Lia Tarachansky’s On the Side of the Road, on Nakba denial, screens this Thursday at Saint Mary’s University. That one is sponsored by Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Canadians, Arabs, and Jews for a Just Peace (CAJJP), and Students Against Israeli Apartheid at Dalhousie University (SAIA Dal).

As well on Thursday—which happens to be the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities—it’s the kickoff of “Atlantic Canada’s first disability film festival,” the Bluenose-Ability Film Festival (BAFF). The kickoff party will feature a screening of Scars of Shame, which played the most recent Atlantic Film Festival, and will be followed by a varied program of events on Friday and a closing showcase of submitted/awarded films on Saturday. Free tickets here.

This weekend’s late-night pop-cult screening at Cineplex Park Lane is the 1982 John Carpenter classic The Thing.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Monday (Nov 30) — After the Last River, O’Regan Auditorium @ Halifax Central Library, 6:30pm, free, presented by the Radical Imagination Project, followed by special guest speaker Sherry Pictou. Vicki Lean, Canada, 2015, 86 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Dec 1) — Room, Cineplex Oxford, 3 6:30pm &‎ ‎9:15pm‎, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Lenny Abrahamson, 2015, USA, 118 minutes.
  • Thursday (Dec 3) — On the Side of the Road, Sobey Building Room 225 @ Saint Mary’s University, 7pm, free, followed by presentation by director. Lia Tarachansky, Israel, 2013, 83 minutes.
  • Friday (Dec 4) — The Thing, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. John Carpenter, USA, 1982, 109 minutes.
  • Saturday (Dec 5) — The Thing, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. John Carpenter, USA, 1982, 109 minutes.

Here are my Annapolis Valley and South Shore screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Wednesday (Dec 2) — A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Roy Andersson, 2014, Sweden/Norway/France/Germany, 100 minutes.
    99 Homes, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Ramin Bahrani, 2014, USA, 112 minutes.
  • Sunday (Dec 6) — Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, 2015, USA, 105 minutes.

Wake in Fright; Quest for Fire (Netflix Canada picks)

27 Nov
November 27, 2015

Wake in Fright – Ted Kotcheff, Australia/USA, 1971, 109 minutes

Quest for Fire – Jean-Jacques Annaud, Canada/France/USA, 1981, 100 minutes

Wake in Fright, summarized by the distributor as “the nightmarish story of a schoolteacher’s descent into personal demoralization at the hands of drunken, deranged derelicts while stranded in a small town in outback Australia,” is a unique fragment of movie history. It has moments of paranoia and confusion that feel like the best science-fiction, horrifyingly real scenes of a cruel nighttime kangaroo hunt, and an awkward detour into homosexuality that in contemporary terms is in some kind of grey zone between memory repression and date rape. So a “quintessential Australian exploitation film,” yes, but one that, in the social identity questions that it opens, evokes shades of its unlikely cinematic cousin Lawrence of Arabia, complete with a protagonist played by Gary Bond, more than convincing as a poor man’s Peter O’Toole. Genuine film classics of the ’70s are few and far between on Netflix, which makes this all the more essential as an add to your watch-list. Netflix is streaming a pristine transfer of the recent meticulous restoration.

Speaking of awkwardness, and shades of science fiction, how about the Canadian-financed and filmed Quest for Fire, which Roger Ebert memorably introduced in his review as “either (a) the moving story of how scattered tribes of very early men developed some of the traits that made them human, or (b) a laughable caveman picture in which a lot of lantern-jawed actors jump around in animal skins, snarling and swinging clubs at one another.” He was surprised at how the film went from “b” to “a” for him, as it pulled him into its world—and so was I. This is a story that seems like it shouldn’t work, and looks like it isn’t going to—and then does. The image quality is not the greatest, with some visible artifacting and damage that mostly settles down after the opening minutes.  It’s more than watchable—probably the same transfer that was used for the 2003 DVD—but here is a film that deserves and could use some restoration work and a high-def release. In the meantime I recommend Netflix (or Shomi—same transfer) as your best viewing option.

Buñuel retrospective summer 2016 at TIFF Lightbox?

25 Nov
November 25, 2015

The ICA in London is about midway through a massive-jealousy-inducing retrospective of the films of Luis Buñuel, that has had me wondering for some time whether it might, like past retrospectives of Pasolini and Kubrick, eventually find its way to Canada.  So, feel free to tell me that I’m seizing on the thinnest thread of evidence, but I got more than a little excited when I discovered these tweets from Guillermo del Toro:

It’s hard to believe that the TIFF Lightbox would screen a lesser-known Buñuel film like Él in isolation. It seems to me much more plausible that del Toro is in talks with them to be one of a number of special guests in a full retrospective series this coming summer.

This isn’t really the sort of blog that is generally about rumour-starting, but, fellow film nerds—let’s start this one.  This has to happen.

In the meantime here’s the trailer for that ICA exhibition.

Update December 5: The latest tweet from Guillermo del Toro drops an even clearer hint at a larger Buñuel event—he says he’s giving a “3 day mini seminar” on Buñuel’s films:

Halifax film screening picks — Nov 23-29

23 Nov
November 23, 2015

Decent film picks are few and far between this week with Carbon Arc and the Dal Art Gallery both on breaks this week. There are recent Bollywood and Japanese anime productions screening this week, but scanning the reviews I don’t think I can recommend either. However Monday does offer one last chance to catch Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, and Kim Novak on the big screen (Park Lane, Dartmouth Crossing) in a Cineplex Classic Film Series screening of Pal Joey.

The best bets this week are out-of-town screenings: 99 Homes (with the ever-intense Michael Shannon) in Annapolis Royal on Tuesday, Lily Tomlin in Grandma at the Astor in Liverpool on Wednesday, and the highly-regarded Canadian coming-of-ager Wet Bum in Wolfville on Sunday.

This weekend’s late-night screener at Cineplex Park Lane is Spaceballs. May the schwartz be with you.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Monday (Nov 23) — Pal Joey, Cineplex Park Lane & Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $6. George Sidney, USA, 1957, 109 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Nov 24) — Room, Cineplex Oxford, 3 6:30pm &‎ ‎9:15pm‎, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Lenny Abrahamson, 2015, USA, 118 minutes.
  • Friday (Nov 27) — Spaceballs, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Mel Brooks, USA, 1987, 96 minutes.
  • Saturday (Nov 28) — Spaceballs, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Mel Brooks, USA, 1987, 96 minutes.

Here are my Annapolis Valley and South Shore screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Tuesday (Nov 24) — 99 Homes, King’s Theatre (209 St. George St., Annapolis Royal),  7:30pm, $8. Ramin Bahrani, 2014, USA, 112 minutes.
  • Wednesday (Nov 25) — Grandma, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Paul Weitz, 2015, USA, 78 minutes.
  • Sunday (Nov 29) — Wet Bum, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Lindsay MacKay, 2014, Canada, 98 minutes.

Blu-ray diary: I, Geoffrey Chaucer (Pasolini 10: The Canterbury Tales)

17 Nov
November 17, 2015

Canterbury Tales BFI Blu-ray cover imageI’m feeling a bit silly and regretful. If I had my Pasolini watch-through to do over again, I never would have let myself get knocked off course by the impenetrability of his Medea, which made me back up, read the play, and then watch the movie a second time. Based on that experience, I decided to read each of the source texts for the Trilogy of Life (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights), and then at least part of the multiple sources of Salò, before attempting the films.

Reading The Decameron was pure enjoyment but it took a long time, and although I got a start on re-reading The Canterbury Tales, which I hadn’t touched since painfully, slowly making my way through portions of the original text as an undergraduate, I fell off the wagon, and so did my Pasolini viewing project.

This week I decided to just take the plunge and watch Canterbury, Arabian Nights, and Salò, and I now realize that my fretting and delay was all for naught. The films are all, like Decameron, perfectly comprehensible without knowledge of their sources. It’s now clear to me that Medea is an outlier in the Pasolini oeuvre. Yes his films are intellectual rigorous, yes they display a supreme cinematic intelligence, but Pasolini never talks down to the viewer, and is never willfully obscure. Knowing what I know now about his films, my advice to the first-time viewer is this—with that one exception, you really don’t need to know the sources to enjoy and grasp any of his literary adaptations, so just go ahead and watch them already.

That advice goes double for The Canterbury Tales, which moves with a breezy delight that belies its rigorously-conceived underpinnings. If Pasolini’s was a painterly approach to filmmaking, then the middle film of the trilogy represents his quickest, tightest, and surest strokes.

That extends to his self-casting as Geoffrey Chaucer, on which he commented: “As an actor, I had decidedly more fun in this role than as Boccaccio’s Giotto, who’s always so worried about his work… Here I joke and mock my own human ‘inventions.'” In fact early reviews were not favourable to this portrayal, which was seen as not representative of the range of tone of the original works. But his choice to shape the character and the work to his own purpose has been largely validated by critical consensus over time.

With the whole Trilogy, and especially with this film, Pasolini was creating images of sexuality that were simultaneously daring in their explicitness, polymorphous in their content, and innocent and playful in tone. Thus it was extremely disappointing for him when the success of the films led to a whole new exploitation subgenre that was predicated on the perception of his films as being lurid and transgressive—as detailed in the excellent 36-minute documentary Pasolini and the Italian Genre Film, included with the BFI Blu-ray release of this film.

Pasolini Six Films Blu-ray box set BFI coverI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the release, a couple of weeks ago, of the new British Film Institute box set of six Pasolini films on Blu-ray. I can recommend it without reservation even though I won’t be purchasing it myself—it simply collects the six of his films that the BFI has already released on Blu-ray disc, five of which I own already (the sixth, Salò, I have in its Criterion release, but will likely double-dip for at some point just to lay my hands on the additional special features). If you love cinema, and you don’t own these already, and you can play Region B Blu-ray discs, you need this, it’s as simple as that.

Halifax film screening picks — Nov 16-22

16 Nov
November 16, 2015

With the Jewish Film Festival done and Carbon Arc on hiatus until the new year it’s fair to say that film pickings are rather more slim this week. However, there are a few notables this week starting with the first local screening since the Atlantic Film Festival of the Naomi Klein documentary This Changes Everything, directed by her husband Avi Lewis. That’s being screening on Monday at the Central Library by the Radical Imagination Project.

A festival crowd favourite, the widely praised—though not uncontroversial—novel adaptation Room has moved in at the Oxford, and although I do have some reservations about the film I do recommend it, on balance—and of course encourage people to see it and make up their own minds about it.

On Tuesday there’s a one-off screening at Cineplex Park Lane of the Japanese anime The Anthem of the Heart, which is the latest from the creative team behind 2013’s Anohana Movie. If that’s your niche then here’s a rare opportunity.

Dal Art Gallery continues its Wednesday sci-fi series this week with the 1980 nugget Altered States, and I think I’m breaking some kind of rule by saying this but Friday and Saturday, Cineplex Park Lane will have late-night screenings of Fight Club.

If you missed the recent Carbon Arc screening, on Sunday in Wolfville the Fundy Film Society has Court.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Monday (Nov 16) — This Changes Everything, Halifax Central Library, 6:30pm, free, presented by the Radical Imagination Project, followed by a panel discussion w Catherine Abreu, Catherine Martin, Kiki Wood. Avi Lewis, Canada/USA, 2015, 89 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Nov 17) — Room, Cineplex Oxford, 3 6:30pm &‎ ‎9:15pm‎, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Lenny Abrahamson, 2015, USA, 118 minutes.
    The Anthem of the Heart (Kokoro ga sakebitagatterunda), Cineplex Park Lane, 9:25pm, $6.99. Tatsuyuki Nagai, Japan, 2015, 120 minutes.
  • Wednesday (Nov 18) — Altered States, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Ken Russell, USA, 1980, 102 minutes.
  • Friday (Nov 20) — Fight Club, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. David Fincher, USA/Germany, 1999, 139 minutes.
  • Saturday (Nov 21) — Fight Club, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. David Fincher, USA/Germany, 1999, 139 minutes.

Here is my Annapolis Valley pick for this week:

  • Sunday (Nov 22) — Court, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Chaitanya Tamhane, India, 2014, 116 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — Nov 11-15

11 Nov
November 11, 2015

So the Atlantic Jewish Film Festival is back for another annual instalment—an event that I’ve appreciated over the years for bringing in interesting films that would otherwise never play here. And indeed there are some excellent choices on this year’s program, but also a couple of head-scratchers, including a French film that was deemed too racist for distribution in the English-speaking worldSerial (Bad) Weddings, according to the National Post’s movie critic Chris Knight, is “something truly sickness-inducing”—its “humour sometimes strays across the good-taste divide and into actual racist remarks” and “often isn’t funny at all.” “The awkwardness and clichés about race and religion come out in this film” says the festival website. Indeed. As well, there is a Sunday afternoon screening of a documentary called Above & Beyond, about the early days of the Israeli air force, that looks to be a piece of straight-up propaganda about the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. “By including an extended, fairly one-sided account of the founding of Israel, complete with an interview with Shimon Peres, and placing it within the heroic yarn-spinning of American WWII vets, the filmmakers conjure the illusion of a national destiny linked to the United States, unchanged in its trajectory to the present,” says Ronnie Scheib in Variety. That one is co-presented by the Atlantic Film Festival. Hmm.

That’s the bad news, but the good news is that there are some really solid choices as usual, especially the closing film Gett: the Trial of Viviane Amsalem, which played the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in 2014. This widely lauded courtroom drama critiques the effective veto power over divorce that husbands have in Israel. Matt Zoller Seitz’s review says that in this film, director siblings Ronit and Shlomi Elkmbetz “prove that they rank with the finest filmmakers alive.” I’m also intrigued to see that there is a Friday morning screening of the 1938 Yiddish film classic Mamele, which has been recently restored by the National Center for Jewish Film. The Saturday evening screening of the doc Deli Man looks like a fun way to kick off the Gala party, and there is also a Friday afternoon co-presentation with Carbon Arc of Dough which looks a similarly feel-good experience. “A pokey, cliché-filled, completely unadventurous movie if ever there was one… It’s also impossible to resist,” says a reviewer who attended the Asheville Jewish Film Festival.

Speaking of Carbon Arc, the fall screening series wraps up this week (early, yes, due to repair work set to commence at the Museum of Natural History) with the (possibly final) Ken Loach film Jimmy’s Hall and the Chernobyl documentary The Russian Woodpecker.

The Cineplex Park Lane weekend late night screening this Friday and Saturday is the Coen brothers’ most cultish film, The Big Lebowski.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Friday (Nov 13) — Mamele, Museum of Natural History, 11am, tickets. Joseph Green & Konrad Tom, Poland, Yiddish w English subtitles, 1938, 97 minutes.
    Dough, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 2pm, tickets. John Goldschmidt, UK/Hungary, 2015, 94 minutes.
    Jimmy’s Hall, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 7pm, $7. Ken Loach, UK/Ireland/France, 2014, 106 minutes.
    The Russian Woodpecker, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 9pm, $7. Chad Gracia, USA/UK/Ukraine, 2015, 80 minutes.
    The Big Lebowski, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Joel Coen, USA, 1998, 117 minutes.
  • Saturday (Nov 14) — Deli Man, Museum of Natural History, 2pm, tickets. Eric Anjou, USA, 2014, 92 minutes.
    — The Big Lebowski, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Joel Coen, USA, 1998, 117 minutes.
  • Sunday (Nov 15) — Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Halifax Central Library, 7pm, tickets. Ronit Elkabetz & Shlomi Elkmbetz, Israel/France, 2014, 115 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — Nov 2-8

02 Nov
November 2, 2015

I’m pretty pleased to see that Carbon Arc has two screenings of two films over two nights this week—featuring a pair of widely-lauded/highly-regarded films. Tangerine, a story of transgender L.A. sex workers, shot with three iPhones, has been called “a textbook example of how indies can tell groundbreaking stories in a way that Hollywood simply can’t match” while Court, the story of a 69-year-old folk singer on trial in India for singing anti-state lyrics, and purportedly goading a listener to suicide, has been described as “one of the strongest debut features in years.” The two films will flip between the early and late timeslots on Friday and Saturday, so check the schedule below. (With renovations to the Museum of Natural History’s ventilation system starting the week of November 16, the last screenings of the fall film series will be on November 13.)

The Dal Art Gallery film screening series is also doubling down this week—on classic science fiction. Fantastic Voyage (the 1966 film that was later kinda-sorta remade as Innerspace, and which James Cameron keeps threatening to remake again) screens on Tuesday, and Nicholas Roeg’s David Bowie vehicle The Man Who Fell to Earth on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, if you’re on the fence about eating meat vs. going vegan, maybe the sight of “a cow being brutally loaded onto a bulldozer for slaughter, and a sustainably-reared duck being bloodily beheaded by a blunt axe” will be your tipping point. Yep, the Radical Imagination Project has the Leonardo-DiCaprio-funded vegan-gelical doc Cowspiracy in a free screening on Monday at the Central Library.

Speaking of science fiction, and bloody shifts in the food pyramid, it occurs to me that I’ve never seen Ridley Scott’s Alien on the big screen—looks like this Friday or Saturday at Park Lane I’ll have a chance to rectify that.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Monday (Nov 2) — Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, Halifax Central Library (room 301), 6:30pm, free, presented by the Radical Imagination Project. Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, USA, 2014, 91 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Nov 3) — Fantastic Voyage, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Richard Fleischer, USA, 1966, 100 minutes.
    — Grandma, Cineplex Park Lane, 3:35‎pm, 6:50pm &‎ ‎8:55pm‎, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Paul Weitz, 2015, USA, 78 minutes.
  • Wednesday (Nov 4) — The Man Who Fell to Earth, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Nicholas Roeg, USA/UK, 1976, 139 minutes.
  • Friday (Nov 6) — Tangerine, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 7pm, $7. Sean S. Baker, USA, 2015, 88 minutes.
    Court, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 9pm, $7. Chaitanya Tamhane, India, 2014, 116 minutes.
    Alien, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Ridley Scott, UK/USA, 1979, 117 minutes.
  • Saturday (Nov 7) — Court, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 7pm, $7. Chaitanya Tamhane, India, 2014, 116 minutes.
    — Tangerine, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 9pm, $7. Sean S. Baker, USA, 2015, 88 minutes.
    — Alien, Cineplex Park Lane, 11:30pm, $6. Ridley Scott, UK/USA, 1979, 117 minutes.

Here are my Annapolis Valley and South Shore screening picks for this week:

  • Tuesday (Nov 3) — This Changes Everything, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Avi Lewis, Canada/USA, 2015, 89 minutes.
  • Wednesday (Nov 4) — The Second Mother, Cineplex Cinemas Bridgewater (349 Lahave St, Bridgewater), 4pm & 7pm, $8. Anna Muylaert, Brazil, 2015, 112 minutes.