Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Lianna (1983)

* * * 1/2

Director: John Sayles
Starring: Linda Griffiths

There aren't a ton of films that you can honestly say are really ahead of their time. Films, by and large, actually tend to be just a little bit behind trends (because, of course, you can't capitalize on something until it's happened) and tend to be less the harbingers of change than confirmation that changes in society have already occured. John Sayles' Lianna is a film that really was ahead of its time, so far ahead that in certain respects there are movies made today that don't match its intelligence and sensitivity regarding its subject matter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Plots So Profound They Require Multiple Movies In One Year

#5: Lovelorn Mall Cops (2009)

They get no respect, they get no chicks - except, I would imagine, by the end of their respective movies they've rectified that second thing - but they have jobs that give them the illusion of power. It's a recipe for hilarity.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2009)

* * *

Director: Michele Hozer, Peter Raymont

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould is a comprehensive biography of Glenn Gould, the celebrated Canadian pianist who, like many a genius before him, died tragically early. In putting the film together, directors Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont make use of archival interview and performance footage of Gould, interviews with people who knew him well, and footage from home movies. They give a satisfactorily clear picture of Gould though it should be noted that despite its title, the film really can't penetrate into the inner life of the musician.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Unsung Performances: Rosemarie DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married

Seeing The Company Men recently got me thinking about one of my favourite unlauded performances from recent years: Rosemarie DeWitt's fantastic turn as the eponymous character in Rachel Getting Married. The nominees that year were Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Amy Adams and Viola Davis for Doubt, Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler, and eventual winner Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. That's a good lineup, to be sure, but DeWitt could give them all a run for their money.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Of Gods and Men (2010)

* * * 1/2

Director: Xavier Beauvois
Starring: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale

Do you stay or do you go? To stay means risking death, but to leave means undercutting the whole point of ever having been there in the first place. Xavier Beauvois' Of Gods and Men, based on events which took place during the Algerian Civil War in 1996, centres on the conflict between doing what's best for yourself and doing what you think is best generally. It's a thoughtful and often powerful film with plenty to recommend it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: The Company Men (2010)

* * * 1/2

Director: John Wells
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper

There are casualties in every Oscar season, films that fly too far under the radar and just generally have bad timing. If the release of John Wells' The Company Men had been handled differently, if it had been given time to find an audience and develop some momentum, it probably would have secured a nomination or two. Coming a year after the similarly themed, and much more tightly focused, Up In The Air it probably wouldn't have cracked the Best Picture lineup, but its individual elements could have garnered some much deserved attention.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Films That Were Never Made

#5: Leni Riefenstahl's Penthesilea

Moral judgments aside, Leni Riefenstahl was an extraordinary visual stylist, which is why it's a shame that she was never able to realize her proposed adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist's play about the Amazon Queen Penthesilea. By all accounts it would have been a lavish epic shot on location in Libya, but then a little thing called World War II happened and it had to be scrapped.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: Purple Noon (1960)

* * * *

Director: Rene Clement
Starring: Alain Delon

It's funny, given that European films are often regarded as going where Hollywood films never would, that the French adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley is the one that, in Highsmith's own words, ends with "a terrible concession to so-called public morality that the criminal had to be caught." Despite that, however, Rene Clement's Purple Noon is still a wonderfully suspenseful and moody film about the totally amoral con man whose stories have inspired a number of well-received films.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great Last Scenes: Memento

Year: 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Great Because...: It demonstrates an elegant about-face in terms of how it asks us to view the protagonist. Thoroughly sympathetic up to this point, we're suddenly asked to see Leonard as the architect of a self-fulfilling (and perpetual) prophesy of violence.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Things To Watch This Weekend Instead of Zookeeper

Because life is short, guys

#5: Grass Grow

It's summer, it's nice out, why not?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Barney's Version (2010)

* * *

Director: Richard J. Lewis
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman

Mordecai Richler's Barney's Version is the kind of novel that is difficult to adapt becasue it explores such a great span of time and such a wealth of relationships. Inevitably, when a book like this gets adapted, it ends up feeling more like a survey course - you get the whole picture in terms of the facts, but you have to sacrifice the smaller details, the little bits of narrative texture that make a work poignant, resonant and engaging. The film adaptation of Barney's Version doesn't escape this trap, but it manages nevertheless to be a very enjoyable and engaging film.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Unsung Performances: Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Sure, it's hard to feel too bad for Cate Blanchett. She does already have an Oscar (for The Aviator), plus 4 other nominations (for Elizabeth, Notes on a Scandal, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and I'm Not There). Plus, 2008 had a pretty strong slate of Best Actress contenders (though, as I mentioned when I wrote about Sally Hawkins' performance from that same year, I don't think it would have been a tragedy if Angelina Jolie had been passed over for The Changeling). But Cate Blanchett is so very, very good in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, it's a shame she went unrecognized.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: 300 (2007)

* *

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler

This is not the place for subtlety.
This is not the place for non-gratuitous nudity.
This is not the place for nuanced characters or thematic depth.
This. Is. Spar-taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: Thelma and Louise (1991)

* * * *

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Brad Pitt

It's weird, isn't it, the way that a movie can be released, make a big impact, fade away, and then come roaring back into the zeitgeist? 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of Thelma and Louise and during the past couple of months the film seems to keep coming up, in magazines (Vanity Fair had an article about it a couple months back), online, and lo and behold, it was on TV over the weekend. 20 years later it still holds up really well - though it's bizarre, from a 2011 standpoint, to see Brad Pitt get seventh billing and behind Stephen Tobolowsky to boot.