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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Ararat (2002)

* * * 1/2

Director: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Arsinee Khanjian, David Alpay, Christopher Plummer, Marie-Josée Croze

What is truth and is it so delicate that it can be lost in the telling? Many of Atom Egoyan’s films center around this idea, the concept that truth can never quite be absolute, that it shifts according to perspective and is sometimes lost completely. Ararat is no different and is perhaps Egoyan’s most intense attempt to engage with that idea. Centering on the Armenian genocide which, depending on who you ask, did or did not happen, Ararat is an intricate and moving film.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

* * * 1/2

Director: Bansky

Is it real or is it a hoax and does it matter when it’s this entertaining? Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy’s documentary about street art, raises this question, though judging from the reactions from the film’s producers, it does not do so on purpose. Personally, I think that it was perhaps conceived as a mockumentary and then accidentally became true in a The Producers-like twist. Either way, I’m pretty sure Banksy is having the last (and best) laugh.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Easy A (2010)

* * * 1/2

Director: Will Gluck
Starring: Emma Stone

I can pinpoint the exact moment when Will Gluck’s Easy A completely won me over. It’s when our heroine Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) announces to her parents that, for the first time ever, she’d been sent to the principal’s office and her mother responds by saying, “Oh? Did you win a medal or something?” To me, that is the best cinematic parental response since the scene in Almost Famous when Frances McDormand questions why it’s a bad thing to be called a “narc.” Well done, movie.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ebert's Greats #9: The Firemen's Ball (1967)

* * * *

Director: Milos Forman

Milos Forman won Oscars and international acclaim for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, but 1967’s The Firemen’s Ball is arguably the film that has had the greatest impact on his life and career. Made during a particularly politically fraught time, the film ended up being banned in what was then Czechoslovakia and Forman was forced to emigrate or face 10 years in prison. Nevertheless, the film managed to nab an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and became a seminal film from the Czech New Wave, one of the richest and most interesting artistic movements of the 20th Century.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Elizabeth Taylor Performances

#5: Giant

George Stevens' epic tale of multiple generations of a Texas family enduring social upheaval stars Taylor opposite fellow icons Rock Hudson and James Dean. Taylor plays beautifully off of both of them and expertly guides her character through decades worth of character development.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Heartbeats (2010)

* * *

Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri, Niels Schneider

Heartbeats is Xavier Dolan’s follow-up to his brilliant debut I Killed My Mother. He’s an extremely talented filmmaker but is, at this point, perhaps a little too enamoured with his own style. Heartbeats has an interesting (albeit somewhat thin) premise but by the end it begins to buckle under the weight of the stylistic flourishes that Dolan mixes in. It is not a bad movie by any means – it is, in fact, rather good – but there is a distinct lack of balance between the visuals and the content.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Great Last Scenes: Amadeus

Year: 1984
Director: Milos Forman
Great Because...: It’s simply magnificent. After years spent lamenting his position, his shortcomings as a composer, and seething with jealousy over the abilities and the fame of Mozart, Salieri finally embraces his status and with the film’s final words – “Mediocrities everywhere, I absolve you. I absolve you. I absolve you all.” – gives people everywhere permission to accept their limitations, to glory in adequacy when greatness is out of reach. After all, if everyone in the world was a genius, then it wouldn’t mean anything to be a genius.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)

* *

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones

About midway through Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, I realized what the problem was: every element of this film is just a watered down version of something from one of Allen’s better films. So, by all means, save yourself the trouble and just watch one of his better films instead of this one, which ends up being little more than a demonstration of how to completely waste a cast of incredibly talented actors.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: Animal Kingdom (2010)

* * * *

Director: Ben Michôd
Starring: James Frecheville, Jacki Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn

Ben Michôd’s crime drama Animal Kingdom begins with a startling scene. A teenage boy sits on a couch watching TV. Beside him is a woman slightly slumped over. A moment later two paramedics show up and the boy calmly confirms that the woman – who is his mother – has had an overdose. As the paramedics go to work on her, the boy glances back and forth between the attempt to revive his mother and the television. This scene will be mirrored later when his grandmother calmly steeps her tea while five feet away two of her sons are being arrested by a crew of police officers. If nothing else, I suppose the family should be commended on their ability to deal with stress.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Guilty Pleasure Movies

#5: The Brady Bunch Movie

Trust me. This movie is hilarious at 2 o'clock in the morning. Jennifer Elise Cox is a genius.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Incendies (2010)

* * * *

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette

Denis Villeneuve’s brilliant Incendies is the kind of film that you just can’t stop thinking about after you see it. It burrows into your head and haunts you so that you find your mind returning to it again and again. I think this is the kind of movie that it’s best to go into knowing as little about the plot as possible, so if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to, I recommend waiting to read this review because I’m going to touch on some major spoilers. I honestly can’t stress this enough: go into the movie cold; it will be a much more fulfilling experience that way.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: Haxan (1922)

* * * 1/2

Director: Benjamin Christensen

Benjamin Christensen’s Haxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages) is a strange little movie. A documentary-fiction hybrid, it examines the superstitions and lack of knowledge about the nature of mental illnesses that led to the witch hunts of the middle ages, and though much of it is stark and brutal, there are also some surprisingly light moments. Haxan is a history lesson and an entertainment, a film quite unlike any other.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: Cyrus (2010)

* * *

Director: Jay and Mark Duplass
Starring: John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill

Cyrus is a film that builds itself around an incredible sense of awkwardness. Just when you think it can’t get more awkward or, at the very least, that the film will give you some respite by looking away from the awkwardness, it instead proceeds to the next level and just keeps watching things unfold. Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, two of the founders of the mumblecore film movement, Cyrus unfolds in a simple, unfussy way and is never afraid to get a little bit weird (or, you know, a lot weird).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: The Roommate (2011)

* / * * * *

Director: Christian E. Christiansen
Starring: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly

Everything you need to know about how serious The Roommate intends to be can be summed up in the following sentence: the social network that the characters use to connect with each other is called “Frienderz.” Frienderz! You actually have to try in order to come up with something that stupid; it doesn’t happen accidentally when you’re trying to come up with something good. The Roommate is a bad movie that aspires to nothing more than merely existing, though if you go into it with the right attitude, it ends up being far more entertaining than it has any right to be.