Author Archive for: c0v3yf17m

Like Father, Like Son (Netflix Canada picks)

08 May
May 8, 2015

Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2013, 120 minutes

It can hardly believe it’s been 10 years or so since the Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda first came to my attention with the absorbing drama Nobody Knows, in which a family of four children try to hide the fact that they have been abandoned. In Like Father, Like Son, we have a similarly improbable, yet drawn from real life, dramatic hook—two boys have been switched at birth and the error comes to light six years on. As with his other films, the delight comes not from the destination but from the sheer craft of the storytelling. There really is no Western analog for the Kore-eda way of filmmaking—so understated and careful in approach; so fulsome and satisfying in effect. At Cannes in 2013 it was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the Jury Prize—for me it was quite simply one of the very best films of that year.

Halifax film screening picks — May 4-10

04 May
May 4, 2015

With Montage of Heck not scheduled to screen on HBO Canada at any time in the foreseeable future, the only legal way to see the Kurt Cobain documentary in this country is to go to a one-off theatre screening tonight at 7pm.

Cineplex has a number of other special event screenings this week as well, including a live Rifftrax commentary-screening of the love-to-hate-it indie The Room on Wednesday, as well as family-friendly screenings this weekend of The Wizard of Oz and Oklahoma!.

There are just 3 weeks left in the Dal Art Gallery noir series and this week’s selection is noteworthy for being in colour and directed by the Canadian-born Allan Dwan—Slightly Scarlet, with John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, and Arlene Dahl.

The Mayworks Halifax festival continues this week with an AFCOOP-presented showcase of short films—Reel Justice.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Monday (May 4) — Montage of Heck, Cineplex Park Lane & Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, regular pricing. Brett Morgen, USA, 2015, 132 minutes.
  • Tuesday (May 5) — While We’re Young, Cineplex Oxford, 6:45pm &‎ ‎9:15pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). ‎The highly-regarded latest feature from Noah Baumbach stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. USA, 2014, 97 minutes.
  • Wednesday (May 6) — Reel Justice (Mayworks Halifax Festival short films presented by AFCOOP), Halifax Central Library, 6:30pm, free. 11 films, 94 minutes total running time, details here.
    Slightly Scarlet, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Allan Dwan, USA, 1956, 99 minutes.
    — Rifftrax Live: The Room, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax, 9pm, regular pricing. The MST3K guys give the treatment (one time broadcast via satellite) to ” the most baffling and hilarious independent film ever produced.” 120 minutes, info and trailer here.
  • Saturday (May 9) — The Wizard of Oz, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax & Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing & Cineplex Lower Sackville, 11am, $2.99. Victor Fleming, USA, 1939, 101 minutes.
  • Sunday (May 10) — Oklahoma!, Cineplex Oxford & Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing, 12:55pm, $6. Fred Zinnemann, USA, 1955, 145 minutes.

Noah (Netflix Canada picks)

01 May
May 1, 2015

Darren Aronofsky, 2014, USA, 139 minutes

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah was such a divider of film-opinion and religious opinion alike that I was rather surprised to notice recently that it had made back three times its production budget in global box office. But the first surprise was seeing it when it was released to theatres—the bombastic trailer (as per usual, excerpting all the trailer-ready lines… “IT BEGINS,” puh-lease) had primed me for a cynical contempt-watch, but instead I was watching something so deeply thought out at every level that I was shocked into pure enjoyment.

I often say that I love spectacle/action movies but they don’t love me back—I’m always disappointed by scripts that are about one-tenth as meticulously engineered as the visual effects. But here we have a screenplay co-written by Harvard-educated neurobiologist Ari Handel, who had been working on the script with Aronofsky for more than a decade, and who clearly has thought deeply about canonical and extra-canonical Hebrew scriptural tradition, existential and ethical philosophy, creation and evolution (bombastic polemic on both sides of that culture war is common—creative mashups of both narratives, not so much), and our present environmental crisis. Recasting the narrative as a LOTR-era fantasy spectacle seems an audacious and insightful move to me, drawing on a close contemporary equivalent to Axial-Age-era myth-making.

The much-commented-upon CGI rock-monsters, the Watchers, have a back-story mined from the obscure ancient texts of 1 & 2 Enoch (not Gnostic writings, despite complaints to that effect from the evangelical right), and the crisis of ethics that transpires on board the ark manages to incorporate the core conflict of the later biblical story of Abraham & Isaac in a way that pushes to a hard point the dire implications of the story of a deity prepared to wipe out nearly all of humanity for its sins. There’s been an onslaught of apocalyptic fictions in the last few decades, from zombie horror to science-fiction Armageddons, and pop-science books describing what our world would be like post-environmental-disaster or post-humanity. In all of them there is a sense, latent or manifest, that if humanity were extinguished, it wouldn’t be completely unjustified. It’s in that context that Noah skillfully defossilizes one of the central quandaries of monotheism, putting it to the viewer as a question of surprising immediacy.

Halifax film screening picks — April 27-May 3

27 Apr
April 27, 2015

This Wednesday is Canadian Film Day, and there are two or perhaps three screenings happening to mark it. Carbon Arc has its final screening of its spring film season with On the Trail of the Far Fur Country, a documentary that follows what happens when the 1920 (two years before Nanook of the North!) silent documentary film The Romance of the Far Fur Country is rediscovered and taken back to the communities where it was shot. The Atlantic Film Festival is presenting an afternoon screening of the Don-McKellar-helmed Newfoundland comedy The Grand Seduction, and if the Canadian Film Day website is to be believed, the Scotiabank Cinema in Bayers Lake has a 7pm screening of the Daniel-Radcliffe-starring rom-com The F Word—though this has yet to be confirmed on the Cineplex website.

The Radical Imagination Project is back with another gentrification-themed Monday documentary screening at the Central Library, this time with a local angle. This screening includes Shelagh Mackenzie’s 1991 doc Remembering Africville, along with the 2012 documentary My Brooklyn.

The Thrillema is back this week as well—with a planned screening of The Road Warrior shut down by the Warner legal department, the replacement is Streets of Fire (1984)—”a rock n’ roll fable of motorcycles, mayhem, street gangs, and Willem Dafoe.” All this and Diane Lane, too.

The latest instalment in the Dal Art Gallery noir series is 1955’s The Big Combo—an especially visual striking instance of the genre.

Last but definitely not least, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, which is screening in a number of Canadian locations as part of Canadian Film Day, is screening here the next day at the opening of the Mayworks Halifax Festival, at the Central Library. The 2013 feature is a historic-fictional story of revenge, focusing on a Mi’kmaq Indian youth thrown into a residential school. It won the Best Canadian Feature Film award at the 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Monday (Apr 27) — My Brooklyn & Remember Africville, Halifax Central Library, 7pm, free. Kelly Anderson, USA, 2012, 85 minutes | Shelagh Mackenzie, Canada, 1991, 35 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Apr 28) — Streets of Fire, The Thrillema @ the Museum of Natural History, 8pm, free advance tickets. Walter Hill, USA, 1984, 93 minutes.
    —  It Follows, Scotiabank Cinema Bayers Lake, 12:05‎pm, 2:25‎pm, 4:50pm,‎ 7:40pm,‎ 10:00pm‎, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continuing through Thursday (at least). David Robert Mitchell, USA, 2013, 97 minutes. Smart-horror sensation in the fifth week of its Halifax run.
  • Wednesday (Apr 29) — The Grand Seduction, Halifax Central Library, 2pm, free. Don McKellar, Canada, 2013, 115 minutes.
    —  On the Trail of the Far Fur Country, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, 7pm, $7. Kevin Nikkel, Canada, 2014, 80 minutes.
    The F Word, Scotiabank Cinema Bayers Lake, 7pm. Michael Dowse, Ireland/Canada, 2013, 101 minutes.
    — The Big Combo, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Joseph H. Lewis, USA, 1955, 84 minutes.
  • Thursday (Apr 30) — Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Halifax Central Library, 7:15pm, preceded by opening address and All Nations Drummers at 6:30pm, free. Jeff Barnaby, Canada, 2013, 88 minutes.

Blu-ray diary: Roberto Rossellini—The War Trilogy (BFI limited-edition Blu-ray box set)

26 Apr
April 26, 2015

rossellini_the_war_trilogy_coverFilm disc collectors often talk guiltily, or regretfully, or occasionally scornfully, about “double-dipping”—buying a new Blu-ray edition of a film previously purchased on DVD or on an inferior Blu-ray. But if there was ever a case for it (as well as for owning a multi-region player), it’s this brilliant new Region “B” numbered edition of 3000 from the British Film Institute.

The restoration work for the films transferred here was performed, as one might expect, by the nonpareil Cineteca di Bologna, in 2013, and the image is a substantial upgrade, as you can see in the comparison screenshots in DVD Beaver’s review. What you can’t see is the even more remarkable improvement in sound. I did a little toggling between this edition and the Criterion DVD set from 2010, and the audio restoration is a massive step up in fidelity and clarity.

Because Rome, Open City is important not just to film history, but to history in general, and likely because it is more conventional than Paisan or Germany Year Zero in its construction, it has tended to overshadow the other two films. And yet the latter two are more representative of Rossellini’s particular genius. So the presentation on these discs perhaps levels the playing field, allowing all three films to be better appreciated as the masterpieces they are.

What makes the 2010 Criterion DVDs still worth having is the incredible forest of extras, several hours’ worth, which really help to illuminate the films and their context.

The BFI Blu-ray set brings forward perhaps the best of these—a half-hour visual essay about the entire trilogy by Rossellini biographer Tag Gallagher called “Into the Future.” It also has two features that the Criterion box lacks: a 2005 documentary Children of Open City in which Roma: Città Aperta lead kid actor Vito Annicchiarico, nearly six decades on from the film, goes on a surprising journey of reminiscence, and, remarkably, a freshly restored transfer of Rossellini’s Amore (1948), a two-part anthology film that showcases the incredible acting talents of the great Anna Magnani. The first part is from a play by Jean Cocteau, and the second is scripted by, and features an appearance by, Federico Fellini, complete with a remarkable blond dye-job.

While the 2010 DVD box is being target-marketed to me via Facebook for “only” $69 at amazon.ca (before tax&shipping), the new BFI box came from Amazon UK for $56 all in, thanks to the continuing relative strength of the Canadian dollar against the UK pound. (Canadian collectors note: Amazon UK is a fantastic source of Blu-ray deals, especially, but not only, if you invest in a multi-region player.)

So, the Criterion box may be the winner on extras, but if you want the most pristine presentation of these historic films, the new BFI box is a slam dunk. The time may come when Criterion releases a set that combines the best of both, but in the meantime, this is the Blu-ray release of 2015 so far.

Goodbye to Language; Film Socialisme (Netflix Canada picks)

25 Apr
April 25, 2015

Goodbye to Language / Adieu au Langage – Jean-Luc Godard, France/Switzerland, 2014, 69 minutes

Film Socialisme – Jean-Luc Godard, France, 2010, 102 minutes

When I saw recently that Goodbye to Language had been added to Netflix Canada, I wondered whether there would even be a point to a 2D viewing. Godard’s 42nd feature film is notably his first in 3D, and having seen it through the glasses at two different film festivals (incidentally using two different 3D technologies) I can confirm that it is very much about its own experimentation with the format. But it turns out that a 2D viewing is fully engaging in its own way—flattening the image makes it less disorienting, which clarifies the overall structure. That said, you’ve got to have tolerance for obliqueness if you’re to enjoy Godard’s late period in the first place, so it’s generally best not to expect to understand all the referencing on first or second viewing. And really there’s no harm or shame in seeking out an explanation of the structure of the film, any more than there is in reading the Bloomsday Book in order to figure out the plot of Ulysses. To illuminate the framework of the film is not necessarily to reduce it, but still those who prefer films with neater, more explainable puzzles are probably best served by sticking with Christopher Nolan.

Film Socialisme, on the other hand, has always struck me as a perfect Netflix film. Godard’s first HD video feature, it screens really nicely on flatscreen TV or on a tablet or laptop with headphones. I especially recommend the latter approach for appreciating the inventive/experimental sound mix. That said, what makes this film a must-see, quite apart from its pure creativity, is the unplanned aura of tragedy that hangs over the entire first part of the film—due to its having been filmed on a cruise on the Costa Concordia. Other highlights include a cameo appearance by Patti Smith and an enigmatic turn by a llama (possibly one-upped in Goodbye to Language by Roxy the dog). As a study of civilization itself, it manages to be cryptic, dogmatic, and self-deconstructing all at once, but who would expect less from the most challenging director still working?

Halifax film screening picks — April 20-26

20 Apr
April 20, 2015

There is a pretty confusing event listing in The Coast that suggests there are Monday and Tuesday screenings of the documentary Highway of Tears this week—but both screenings are on Monday—6pm at Spatz Theatre, and 7PM at the Bus Stop Theatre. This documentary, which premiered at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Toronto last year, chronicles the notorious, decades-long string of murders and disappearances of young Indigenous women along British Columbia’s Highway 16. These are fundraiser screenings for the Loretta Saunders Scholarship Fund, and there will be post-screening Q&As hosted by director Matt Smiley with Loretta’s sister, Delilah Saunders.

It’s a good week for fans of short films by emerging filmmakers.  The week kicks off with a screening of short films by NSCAD film students at Cineplex Park Lane, starting with thesis films at 6pm (see this article in The Coast), and then the Film 1&2 shorts at 7:30pm.

Then the Emerging Lens Cultural Film Festival opens Wednesday, 6:30pm at the Central Library, and continues through Saturday with free screenings at daVinci College on Thursday and the Black Cultural Centre on Friday and Saturday. Opening night features a five-film lineup that includes the notable 12-minute short “Righteous” by the estimable Cory Bowles.

The Dal Art Gallery noir series continues this week with the only classic film noir to be directed by a woman—The Bigamist (1953), directed by and starring Ida Lupino.

The Novel Tech Ethics screening of Waltz With Bashir, originally scheduled for March 19, is now happening this Thursday. The politically problematic yet widely praised animated war documentary will be followed by an expert panel discussion on the topics of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, memory, and coping & resilience.

Carbon Arc will wrap up its spring series of Friday screenings this week with Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame, a documentary about legendary bike racer and bike builder Giuseppe Marinoni.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for selected days this week:

The Tempest (2010) (Netflix Canada picks)

17 Apr
April 17, 2015

Julie Taymor, France, 2010, 120 minutes

Listen, I dig a superhero CGI-fest as much as the next person, but I feel the gender imbalance when it comes to roles, scripts, writers and directors is nothing short of egregious here in 2015. I’m at least relieved that, following the exit of Michelle McLaren from the Wonder Woman film, her replacement appears to be Patty Jenkins, and not, you know, some dude. While we wait for that one to drop we still have Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, in which Helen Mirren—as you would expect—kicks ass and effortlessly carries this spectacle that looks way more expensive than its $20 million budget. The striking visual effects are by Kyle Cooper, who made his name creating title sequences (most notably Seven) but who went on from here to supervise the effects for Tron: Legacy, Prometheus, and Iron Man 3. Prospera is an appealing superhero, depending on brains and techno-magical mastery to seek redress for past wrongs to her and her family, as well as on her sidekick Ariel who with his teleportation, invisibility, telekinesis and weather control is like a bunch of X-Men rolled into one. The film has its flaws, including a jarringly genre-hopping music score by Elliot Goldenthal, and a hounds-of-hell chase sequence pitched awkwardly somewhere between Lord of the Rings and Benny Hill. But the casting is brilliant across the board (yes, even Russell Brand is an inspired choice here), and so seamlessly has the origin story been wound around Mirren’s Prospera that you would never believe that a certain previous draft of this script featured a male lead. Did I mention that that previous draft was by William Shakespeare?

Halifax film screening picks — April 13-19

13 Apr
April 13, 2015

Inescapably this week’s major film story in Halifax is the provincial Liberal government’s ruthless and shortsighted gutting of the local industry in last week’s budget. Seems like the right time to rally around and celebrate one of the classics of local production of the past two decades. Thom Fitzgerald’s docu-drama homage to mid-2oth-century muscle magazines premiered at Sundance in 1999, and this Sunday there’s an opportunity to have a fresh look—there’s a special OUTEast Film Festival benefit screening at the Company House. This is a $10/ticket fundraiser in support of a couple of local plays that will be travelling to the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival in May.

Speaking of revisiting mid-20th-century myth-making, The Radical Imagination Project has another screening at the central library in their gentrification-themed film series tonight. The well-regarded 2010 documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth seeks to unearth what really happened in the large-scale urban renewal projects of the time, specifically the titular redevelopment in St. Louis, and to reinstate its residents as worth protagonists in their drama of survival and adaptation.

Ever seen Joseph Losey’s remake of Fritz Lang’s M? Yeah, me neither, but even the concept of having Losey take a crack at that story seems pretty intriguing to me. Dal Art Gallery’s film noir series, artfully curated by Ron Foley MacDonald, offers up this 1951 version at this Wednesday’s screening.

Carbon Arc this Friday has the Zellner brothers’ English/Japanese Fargo-referencing meta-fable Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter, which I haven’t seen either but which looks thoroughly intriguing. I dig this pull-quote from Todd McCarthy: “A work of rigorously disciplined eccentricity, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is at once entirely accessible and yet appealing only to a rarified crowd ready to key into its narrow-bandwidth sense of humor.”

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Monday (Apr 13) — The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, Halifax Central Library, 7pm, free, presented by the Radical Imagination Project. Chad Freidrichs, USA, 2011, 79 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Apr 14) — It Follows, Scotiabank Cinema Bayers Lake, 2:10‎pm, 4:50pm,‎ 7:35pm,‎ 10:00pm‎, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continuing through Sunday (at least)—times changing slightly on Friday. David Robert Mitchell, USA, 2013, 97 minutes. Smart-horror sensation in the third & fourth week of its Halifax run.
  • Wednesday (Apr 15) — M, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Joseph Losey, USA, 1951, 88 minutes.
  • Friday (Apr 17) — Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, 7pm, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, $7. David Zellner, USA, 2014, 104 minutes.
  • Sunday (Apr 19) — Beefcake, 7pm, The Company House – 2202 Gottingen St, $10 advance tickets here. Thom Fitzgerald, Canada, 1999, 97 minutes.

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Netflix Canada picks)

10 Apr
April 10, 2015

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky

Michel Gondry, France, 2013, 88 minutes

I like to think the world subdivides into people who think like Michel Foucault, people who think like Noam Chomsky, and, I suppose, people who don’t think in much of a structured way at all. I’m probably a natural Foucauldian but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the Chomskyian way as well. But, even more, I appreciate hand-drawn film animation—especially when it is as artful as this, illustrating a fascinating and humanizing conversation with the beloved linguistic theorist and political activist, without become overly distracting on the one hand or overly didactic on the other. All of Gondry’s films have a certain eccentric, artisanal quality but this may top them all as a transparent labour of love. I can’t think of another documentary film like it.