Archive for month: December, 2017

my 2017 top 10

31 Dec
December 31, 2017

This time of year I typically post up a list of some of the best films of the year that are already streaming on Netflix. Unfortunately the shift that Netflix has undergone to proprietary content, among other factors, seems to have resulted in a smaller such crop this year. So instead I offer you a more conventional list—my ten favourite films of 2017.

You can hear me break down my top five on episode 3 of Flaw in the Iris, a new podcast by Carsten Knox that he has just debuted as an audio companion to his long-running blog by the same name.

Good Time10. Good Time
Good Time marks the emergence of the filmmaking Safdie brothers into the mainstream, sort of, and the certification of Robert Pattinson as a ridiculously talented actor (if Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars, among others, didn’t convince already). It’s the quintessential almost-can’t-watch-but-can’t-look-away film.

The Big Sick9. The Big Sick
This convention-busting rom-com “tells a great story with waves of deep feeling and questions of identity and makes the whole thing feel like a breeze,” and for me just felt like a breath of fresh air for a tired genre.

Lady Bird8. Lady Bird
“You might think you’ve seen this all before. You probably have, but never quite like this,” said A.O. Scott in the NY Times, which encapsulates well how I feel about this film. It’s been weeks since I saw it and the characters are still with me. As a piece of cinema, what impressed me the most was the tight pacing and editing—first-time director Greta Gerwig seems to have a knack for picking just the right small moments to represent larger swathes of narrative.

7. The Florida Project
Sean Baker’s “brilliant, buoyant, and ultimately heart-wrenching” follow-up to the remarkable debut Tangerine seemingly draws a dash or two of inspiration from The 400 Blows and strikingly takes the point of view of its youngest characters in its timely portrayal of impoverished residents of a Florida welfare hotel on the outskirts of Disney World.

Columbus6. Columbus
This debut feature from a well known name, ok, pseudonym in cinephile circles—Kogonada, master of the supercut—is impressive for its formal acumen but also for its original and heartfelt story. “Few performances—and few films—glow as brightly with the gemlike fire of precocious genius.

Werewolf5. Werewolf
The debut feature by “the fearless Ashley McKenzie” is a made-in-Cape-Breton substance-abuse drama that had just two screenings in Halifax in 2017, but notably four sold-out screenings at the Berlin International Film Festival. I can’t think of a more accomplished or original film made in Nova Scotia in the 21st century.

4. Call Me By Your Name
All it took was a gem of a script of from the master himself, James Ivory, to unlock the full potential of the director Luca Guadagnino. Everyone is talking about Michael Stulhbarg’s remarkable speech as the scene that takes it over the top, but the film really won me over with its wonderful dialog that joyously bounces from English to French to Italian, and back again. The partners in the central romance, played by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, perhaps look respectively younger and older than the 17 and 24 years of age specified by the script, but the charm here is irresistible and I bought in fully.

Get Out3. Get Out
I still can’t say enough good things about Get Out, the wholly original directorial debut from Jordan Peele. This “gloriously twisted thriller that simultaneously has so much to say about the state of affairs in post-Obama America” is something special, delivering scares, laughs, and insight in equal, generous measure.

Faces Places2. Faces Places (Visages Villages)
This deserving winner of the TIFF People’s Choice Documentary Award is a remarkable collaboration between veteran filmmaker Agnès Varda, now 89 and, as the film documents, experiencing diminished vision and mobility, and the giant-photo-wall-pasting activist artist JR. It is genuinely touching, irresistibly funny, and grounded in the weight of experience—and still somehow free. There was no other festival film this year that I can so confidently recommend to absolutely everyone.

Zama1. Zama
The most opaque and complex film I saw at TIFF was also unquestionably the year’s best, for me. Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel has finally returned nine years on from The Headless Woman with her most ambitious feature yet. With its incredible sound design and elaborate reconstruction of indigenous cultures wiped out centuries ago, this stylized, sophisticated head-trip of a colonial period piece strikes me as a film I will return to again and again in years to come—but maybe not before reading the novel on which it is based, recently, belatedly made available in English translation. I’m seeing evidence that the film’s release to theatres in the USA has been delayed (perhaps due to it not making the Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar?) but hopefully soon more people will have the chance to experience it. (Toronto peeps, note that it will be screening at the Lightbox in February again, along with her acclaimed Salta trilogy La Ciénaga, The Holy Girl, and The Headless Woman.)

Halifax screening picks—December 25-31

25 Dec
December 25, 2017

The Shape of Water, the latest from Guillermo del Toro—and winner of the Golden Lion at Venice—has finally arrived in Halifax. The film has generated a pile of glowing reviews, but also some dissenters including David Edelstein, who calls it “an utterly lovely, complacent movie, too comfortable with itself to generate real dramatic tension,” and Rex Reed, who calls it “Maudie Meets the Creature From the Black Lagoon.”

Halifax screening picks—December 19-24

19 Dec
December 19, 2017

I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is, in the first instance, “a good movie,” but I have to say I’m fascinated by the backlash reaction amongst a vocal minority of fans. The film is being actively review bombed on Rotten Tomatoes, which is being misunderstood to mean that audiences generally don’t like the film, which is completely untrue. And so another weird front opens in the ongoing culture wars.

Like the 1977 original Star Wars, Last Jedi references several other films, especially those of Akira Kurosawa, and takes inspiration from others that are less obvious.  It was shot on film, mostly in 35mm, but with some key scenes on IMAX, so it’s worth taking the trouble to get to Bayers Lake for an IMAX screening.

Perennial seasonal downer-upper It’s a Wonderful Life is back for daily screenings for the next few days, which provides you with the opportunity to compare and contrast with Neptune’s production of the stage adaptation.

Halifax screening picks—December 18

18 Dec
December 18, 2017

Due to a scheduling/logistics issue, I’ll be posting screenings picks for the coming week by 1pm Tuesday, December 19.

Halifax screening picks — December 11-17

11 Dec
December 11, 2017

Some four years ago, we began to see longform/in-depth articles about the “worst movie ever made,” The Room, so I suppose it was inevitable that we’d get the movie about the making of the movie, The Disaster Artist. Polling says that about half of the early audiences are familiar with the 2003 original, so it’s safe to say the strong cast is playing an equally important role in turning chicken shit into chicken salad.

Halifax screening picks — December 4-10

04 Dec
December 4, 2017

I don’t usually highlight short films in this column, but tomorrow’s free screening, presented by AFCOOP at the Central Library, is so topical this week that it’s hard to ignore. “Reflections on the Halifax Explosion in New Local Films” will feature Halifax Explosion: The Deaf Experience, the 45-minute documentary that won Best Canadian Deaf Film at the Toronto International Deaf Film Arts Festival (TIDFAF), as well as new shorts that AFCOOP commissioned from five local animators (Becka Barker, Carbon Arc’s Siloen Daley, Josh Owen, Jim McSwain and Sam Decoste) in honour of the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.

In other free screenings this week, on Wednesday there’s a Thrillema screening of Donnie Darko and a Strange Adventures Dartmouth screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

  • In theatres, seen & recommended:
  • Halifax screenings this weekend:
    • Monday (Dec 4) — Thelma, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:15pm, regular pricing. Joachim Trier, Norway, 2017, 116 minutes.
    • Tuesday (Dec 5) — Thelma, Cineplex Park Lane, 4:15pm, regular pricing. Joachim Trier, Norway, 2017, 116 minutes.
      Reflections on the Halifax Explosion in New Films, Central Library, 7pm, free. Various directors, screening + Q&A, 2 hours.
    • Wednesday (Dec 6) — Howl’s Moving Castle, Japanese w English s.t., Cineplex Park Lane & Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $12.95. Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 2004, 119 minutes.
      The Nightmare Before Christmas, Alderney Landing Theatre, 7pm, free, doors at 6pm, presented by Strange Adventures Dartmouth, with work by local artists available to view. Henry Selick, USA, 1993, 76 minutes.
      Donnie Darko, The Thrillema @ Natural History Museum, 8pm, free advance tickets available. Richard Kelly, USA, 2001, 113 minutes.
      Thelma, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:35pm, regular pricing. Joachim Trier, Norway, 2017, 116 minutes.
    • Thursday (Dec 7) — Thelma, Cineplex Park Lane, 4:15pm, regular pricing. Joachim Trier, Norway, 2017, 116 minutes.