Monday, October 12, 2009

Film Circuit Summary 2009

OK, gang. Here is what I think of the fifty films I saw at TIFF and Cinefest ... and a few this summer too and my recommendations for Gallery Night at the Movies and the Owen Sound Reel Film Festival this year.

You can download a three-page summary if you want a print version. Links go to the description on the TIFF or Cinefest website if available. You can also scroll down the page to see my initial reaction to the film.

YES: Movies that should go over well with our audience:
  1. Sticky Fingers: Quebecois movie filmed in South America (standing in for Spain) about a gang of bank robbers who are trying to retrieve the money from a bank heist by traveling a pilgrim's route in Spain. Hilarity ensues. Reminds one of the "Carry On" movies.
  2. Mid-August Lunch: Subtitled Italian movie about a man looking after his aged mother who comes on hard times and agrees to look after a couple of other aged ladies for a weekend to pay his debts. Stunning cast, story, and situations. Very funny and touching take on old age.
  3. Cairo Time: Good choice. We already have this for October.
  4. An Education: Intriguing story of a late-twenties young man's romance of a sixteen-year-old girl in the early sixties and the scandal that ensues. The lead reminded people of Audrey Hepburn. I found the last half hour (where all the ends of the plot are tied up) rather predictable and some people might be put off by the age difference.
  5. Creation: Story of Charles Darwin wrestling with whether he should publish his theory of the Origin of Species at the same time as he is coming to terms with the death of his daughter. Great stock footage, good story, excellent acting. Slow pace seemed just right.
  6. The Waiting City: A young Australian couple go to Kolkata, India to get their adopted child from a Mother Teresa orphanage but things drag on and they are forced to confront secrets and habits in their lives while waiting for the adoption to be finalized. This perfect movie with a wonderful story arc was my thirty-third of TIFF. After this, I decided I'd had enough and went home for the weekend.
  7. Videocracy:Impecible documentary about our celebrity culture using Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi's media empire as an example. Made by a Swedish director who was allowed incredible access to the lives of the rich and famous and those who make them rich and famous. A bit scary, actually.
  8. Cole: The director and lead actor actually lived in the town of Lytton, BC while making this film and it shows up in the film. Story of a small-town young man who wants to be a writer going to a creative writing class and finding a soulmate in a fellow student who lives a more privileged life. The contrast creates some of the drama. Excellent Canadian film by the director who also gave us "Emile."
  9. Jean Charles: UK/Brazilian film about the young electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes, a young Brazilian immigrant to London who was misidentified as a terrorist and fatally shot by police. Some of the actors in the film play themselves in this re-creation of the life of this young man. Even though you know how it ends, there's still enough suspense in the film to make the ending a shock.
  10. Capitalism: A Love Story: Michael Moore does it again, this time by telling us about the lengths to which greedy corporations will go. It can't miss, but it may show up in Owen Sound anyway.
  11. The Joneses: David Duchovny and Demi Moore head this family of trend setters with a purpose: to make the neighbours emulate them. Amazingly simple story that shines a mirror on our consumer culture. Witty script and fun to watch -- but I wish it had ended thirty seconds earlier to prevent the dumb ending.
  12. How to Fold a Flag: Documentary made by the people who showed "Gunner Palace" at an earlier TIFF. Follows the lives of several Iraq War veterans.
  13. Triage: Colin Farrell is the star of this movie and does a fabulous job. He's helped along the way by a great supporting cast: Christopher Lee (who says he had more lines in this move than all his earlier movies combined), and Paz Vega. I don't know why more is said about the fact that Farrell lost forty pounds to play the part then that his acting is superb.
  14. Colony: Documentary about the loss of bees in colonies all over North America and the effect it's having on beekeepers. Great real people. Not for monthly movie but great as the one documentary at our winter film festival.
  15. V.O.S.: Based on a stage play, this Spanish movie is definitely a film. Actors stay in character as the camera moves back to show the film being made then zooms back in on the action. The fourth wall comes down ... and so does the fifth wall. Unique movie.
  16. Huacho: Grim movie about the grim life of a peasant family in Chile. Each character becomes the main protaginist in the separate chapters of the movie and we learn their secrets and how they cope with their meager existence. Not for monthly movie but great as one film at our winter film festival.
  17. The Young Victoria: Not a lot happens but it's fun to see the costumes and life in the court of Victoria. You know they're going to get together in the end but Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are fun to watch, but it's a bit hard to believe that she was so naive.
  18. Welcome: This was not at either film festival but it should have been. It takes place in France where refugees gather to try to find their way across borders. However, it's a crime for French citizens to aid these people. A young Kurdish man decides the only way to get to England to join up with his girl friend is to swim the channel and a swimming instructor with marital problems who tries to teach him about the futility of his quest.

YES: Movies I didn't think were all that great but would probably play well with Film Circuit audiences:
  1. Get Low: Robert Duvall and Bill Murray are stellar in this movie about a hermit in Tennessee who decides he wants to arrange his funeral party before he dies. I found the ending a bit tedious since it was telegraphed in the early scenes and not so much of a surprise, but it's a great story nontheless.
  2. Micmacs: If you liked Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Amelie" you'll love this one. Very clever sets, situations, and camera-work with the kind of unique characters that populated Jeunet's earlier movie. The audience was rolling in the aisles, though it was a bit too cute for me. Should go over well in Owen Sound.
  3. A Serious Man: It's the Coen brothers so many people will love this one but I didn't think it was as clever or funny as their previous offerings. Got great critical reviews. Absolutely perfect re-creation of life in the sixties but some of the humour went way over my head.
  4. Bright Star: We have this for November. Many people will love it.
  5. Broken Embraces: Not as good as his previous films. I didn't feel there was that much chemistry between people who were supposed to be in love and the plot was so complicated that it was a rush to tie up all the loose ends in the last act.

MAYBE: Movies that I rated highly that might not go over well because of risqué topics or too much violence:
  1. Excited: It's about premature ejaculation but the characters are unique and cleverly written and acted. Lots of fun if the subject doesn't bother you -- and even has a deeper point.
  2. Eyes Wide Open: Intriguing look at life in conservative Jerusalem about a butcher who has an affair with a young man who comes to work for him. Almost a documenteary. Great acting.
  3. High Life: Based on a stage play about a group of misfit robbers who decide to rob an ATM -- takes place at a time when ATMs were first introduced. Violence and language might put some people off but it's a perfectly acted and written movie -- and it's hard to believe this was a stage play. It's a perfect movie.
  4. J'ai tué ma mère: Because it's the Canadian entry in the Oscars, this movie might be worth programming. But be aware that by the middle of the story many people might become irritated with the main character's actions; however, it's worth staying till the end when all will probably be forgiven.
  5. A Single Man: Another sixties movie impeccibly staged. It's more about relationships and grief then about gay life and if people can see that, they'll be taken in by Colin Firth's extraordinary acting. Some unique movie techniques also help tell the story. Directed by designer Tom Ford.
  6. Puck Hogs: Is it a mockumentary when it's about the making of a documentary? Absolutely hilarious movie about a small-town hockey team trying to win a championship. Great stock characters -- and some entirely unique ones too. The off-putting part of this is the gratuitous sex-scene in a car that doesn't do enough to further the plot.
  7. Three Blind Mice: About three Australian sailors and the night before they're shipped out to the Gulf. Great acting. Some people left the movie early because of the preponderance of the F-word.
  8. 25 Carat: Along the lines of "Lock, Stock, and Smoking Barrel," this Spanish movie was made for a million Euros in six weeks. Great acting, though the characters and situations might be too gritty for some. Some plot turns are also a bit overly violent but that didn't detract from the enjoyment for me.

NO: Movies I would recommend we just pass over:
  1. The Private Lives of Pippa Lee: Another love story with couples without much chemistry between them. The women's roles are spectacularly written and acted -- the men are cardboard cutouts that even excellent actors couldn't bring to life.
  2. The Men Who Stare at Goats: This will probably open wide anyway but it's a great and funny film along the lines of "Catch 22." Anti-war flick, anyone?
  3. The Band that Wouldn't Die: Great. Great. Great. Unfortunately it was made for ESPN-TV and broadcast on October 13th. This is an absolutely spectacular documentary. It's hard to believe it wasn't made up. About the Baltimore Colts marching band which didn't stop performing in 1984 when the team left town and continued performing till Baltimore got a new football team in 1996. You absolutely don't have to be a football or sports fan to love this movie.
  4. Humpday: Perhaps, but not really. About a couple of guys who decide to enter a porn-making contest by filming the two of them having sex.
  5. Cooking with Stella: This is absolutely brilliant at the beginning but they ran away from me in the last half hour when the plot turns fantastic and the Indian cops are made to look Keystone.
  6. The Happiest Girl in the World: Slow, meandering story that looks as if it was made up as they went along.
  7. The House of Branching Love: Not as funny to me as the film-makers thought it was. About a breaking up relationship that doesn't break up after all. More mean-spirited than funny.
  8. I Am Love: Yes, it's operatic. But that's not enough for me to want to see it. And it has one of my favourite actors, Tilda Swinton, speaking Italian. Although the art direction is superb, the cinematography is dreadful and the film could use some drastic editing to remove extraneous shots.
  9. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: Even Heath Ledger couldn't save this one. Part Monty Python, cartoon, and drama -- it's not good Monty Python, it's not a good cartoon, and it's not a good drama.
  10. Independencia: Black and white obscurist drama.
  11. The Last Days of Emma Blank: Based on a stage play, this film is a bit too absurd when brought to film.
  12. Leaves of Grass: I have real mixed feelings about this one and was not sure where to put it. I loved Edward Norton and all the other characters, but some of the violent plot twists were too graphic and pointless for me.
  13. Life During Wartime: Todd Solondz movie about a pedophile getting out of jail.
  14. Police, Adjective: Another Roumanian movie going nowhere -- it could have been a lot shorter to come to the same conclusion.
  15. Same Same but Different: Bland true story starring beautiful vapid people.
  16. The Search: Pointless Chinese movie that can't decide if it's a documentary or a starring role for the director.
  17. The Time that Remains: Pointless United Kingdom/Italy/Belgium/France movie that can't decide if it's a documentary or a starring role for the director.
  18. Vincere: Brilliantly operatic Italian movie about Mussolini's other wife. I enjoyed it, but it's not for us.
  19. Year of the Carnivore: Sorry, tedious people.
  20. Je Me Souviens: Couldn't make it to the end. Boring story. Difficult to follow with sub-titles. (And when you fall asleep.)
  21. Détour: Sorry, I didn't believe the actors portraying these roles and I didn't believe the plot twists either. Might have made a better play.
  22. The Coca-Cola Case: Good, but long documentary that doesn't say anything new.
  23. Unmistaken Child: OK. It's a bit interesting, but not too many people will be intrigued by the story of the search for the re-incarnation of a Buddhist lama.
  24. Like You Know it All: A bit too in. Also gratuitous rape scene does nothing to make the main character any more endearing.

OK. That's it for now ... hope you find it interesting. Feel free to leave comments and criticisms.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another 17 Films to Think About

Below I have listed the seventeen films I saw at Cinefest in Sudbury. Some I may have changed my mind about, but here is how they came out immediately after viewing.

Perhaps I was too hard on Bright Star. Most everyone else who saw it thought it was great, but when I sighed at the end and Sandra said to me, "You sighed because it was so wonderful?" I replied, "No, I sighed because I'm tired and glad it's over." It was so slow and I had no love for any of the characters. They were all tedious people.

Glad I saw these nine:
Sticky Fingers, Excited, J'ai Tué Ma Mère, Mid-August Lunch, Puck Hogs, Humpday, Cairo Time, Three Blind Mice, Unmistaken Child.

So so two:
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Coca-Cola Case.

I wouldn't recommend these four:
Year of the Carnivore, Je Me Souviens, Bright Star, Détour.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sticky Fingers

In brief:
Roy Dupuis and his gang pull a heist then lose the money and try to get it back. Lots of fun.

Plot twists are a bit over-the-top, but that can't spoil the overall fun. Great characters. Reminds me a bit of the British Ealing comedies.


In brief:
Bruce Sweeney does it again. Splendid acting and well-developed plot. Perhaps a bit racy, but then it was about premature ejaculation.

Characters were very believable. Close, but no one went over the top. Recommended.

Year of the Carnivore

In brief:
Did she make it up as she went along? Interesting lead character and actor but plot was not much fun.

Is it any worse or better when the men are forced into sex by a woman?

Je Me Souviens

In brief:
About strikers and communism and other things. Wordy script. No reason to see this one. I left before the end.

I talked to others who said it got worse.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

In brief:
Great visuals ... plot meandered ... just so/so.

Heath Ledger didn't save this one.

Bright Star

In brief:
Like watching paint dry.

No redeeming features.

J'ai Tué Ma Mère

In brief:
I was getting a little tired of the characters about three-quarters of the way through, but it was worth sticking it out to the ending which paid off and saved the movie.

Canada's Oscar nominee. Lead actor was also the director and writer. Twenty-one years old. Incredible talent. The closeups shot the wrong way bugged me to no end. You give the actors room .... on the side they're looking.

Mid-August Dinner

In brief:
Absolutely wonderful Italian story of a mother and son and their "new" friends. The actors are perfect and believable.

One of my favorites of the festival.

Puck Hogs

In brief:
Very funny docu-drama about a hockey team in a small town. Well worth seeing, though a bit racy.

The actors are standouts. It never goes too far over the top for this kind of mocumentary -- but it does come close every once in a while.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


In brief:
Story about macho-posturing that was saved by excellent acting by the two leads.

What could have been merely funny was also touching. Difficult to describe without giving away a lot of the plot. Not many people in the audience. A pity for them. It was not quite as advertised -- but much more.


In brief:
A Woody Herman look-alike has an adventure that is more than he bargained for.

Interesting story idea that goes too far in the graphic violence and is spoiled by over-the-top acting by two of the leads. I don't think the director or actors were always on the same page -- is this a comedy or a thriller -- I don't think they could decide and they sometimes seemed as if they were acting in different movies.

Plot twist(s) were obvious but badly executed. What could have been funny was not.

The Coca-Cola Case

In brief:
Interesting documentary about Coke's union busting in Colombia is very much like any other doc about corporate greed.

NFB was a partner in producing this. CEO of Coke makes as much in one hour as a Colombian worker could make in two years.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cairo Time

In brief:
Excellent love story told almost effortlessly. Couldn't imagine anyone else than Patricia Clarkson doing this one.

Long Q & A after the film added to the experience. This one works at all levels. Great cinematography, acting, story. Well worth seeing.

Three Blind Mice

In brief:
Well-done film about sailors and "today's navy," though set in Australia could have happened anywhere.

Some people left early because of the preponderance of the f-word. Was actually at last year's TIFF but I missed it then.

Multi-layered and many stories told but it never seems overly complicated. Excellent acting, editing. Documentary style cinematography adds to the realism.

Unmistaken Child

In brief:
Close up look at the belief in re-incarnation in Buddhist culture that occasionally lacks focus but in the end reveals a mysterious world.

It's difficult to imagine the weight on the shoulders of a two-year-old boy. The adults seem to be so deep in their beliefs. Another one from last year's TIFF where I missed it. Great look at village life. Wish I'd seen this before my trip to the Himalayas this summer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

An Education

In brief:
I followed this one and loved the characters till about a half hour from the end. Then it fell kind of flat as they tied up the plot loose ends.

At the end, this just seemed like a typical love story movie with all the loose ends tied up in a bow. Absolutely loved the main character. I heard someone remark "She looks like Audrey Hepburn." Perhaps, but she certainly showed maturity beyond her supposed age. Not a great movie but a good one.


In brief:
One word for this one is "gentle." Not sure why, but I bought into it completely and felt satisfied when it finished.

Great stock footage added to the story. Were some of the animals animatronics? There was a credit at the end of the movie. Paul Bettany's hairline was a sight to behold as his forehead increased and decreased as the story went back and forth in time.

Well worth seeing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


After seeing thirty-three films in a row, you can't help but compare them and categorize them. I also am interested in why certain ones affected me one way and others in a different way.

I liked them at first
In a couple of films I felt blind-sided. I would be rooting for the main characters and then they would change inexplicably and end up not being what I had thought they were. This happened in a couple of movies. More comparison below.

Two Movies set in India
Both "The Waiting City" and "Cooking With Stella" were shot in India -- in fact, I saw them one right after the other -- but I had a negative reaction to "Stella," made by a Canadian and absolutely loved "City," made by an Australian.

Now, "Stella" is a comedy and I noticed that none of the comedies I saw at the festival were on my list of favorites. "City" is a human drama which is the type of movie I gravitate toward.

I was willing to laugh at the petty thievery at first, but things that made me uncomfortable were the depiction of the Indian police, the lack of scruples of the Indian staff, the instant change of character of the Indian nanny, the gullibility of the Canadians. I also found it hard to believe the final plot twists which seemed contrived, fantastical, and a strange way to wrap up the story.

Two Movies with Violent Plots
Both "Leaves of Grass" and "High Life" dealt with crime, criminals, and punishment. However, I bought into "High Life" but did not enjoy the last half of "Leaves of Grass."

Was it because the production values were so high ... or was the violence so graphic and thoughtless ... not sure, but I couldn't accept it in "Leaves of Grass." In "High Time" it was just as pointless but the movie was shot with a grittier style and I accepted it more easily. Not sure why.

More comparisons to come.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

38 (Oops 37) TIFF Films

Glad I saw these eighteen:
The Young Victoria, Huacho, V.O.S., Colony, The Band that Wouldn't Die, Eyes Wide Open, Triage, How to Fold a Flag, The Men Who Stare at Goats, 25 Carat, The Joneses, Capitalism: A Love Story, Jean Charles, A Single Man, Cole, High Life, Videocracy, The Waiting City.

So so ten:
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Broken Embraces, Like You Know it All, I am Love, Same Same But Different, Get Low, Leaves of Grass, Micmac, Vincere, Cooking with Stella.

I wouldn't recommend these ten nine:
Happiest Girl in the World, The House of Branching Love, Independencia, A Serious Man, Life During Wartime, The Last Days of Emma Blank, The Time that Remains, Police, Adjective, The Search.

Coming up next week in Sudbury another seven TIFF films:
Creation, An Education, Unmistaken Child, Three Blind Mice, Cairo Time, The Coca-Cola Case, Humpday, Mid-August Lunch, J'ai Tué Ma Mère, Bright Star, Imaginarium, Excited, Sticky Fingers, The Damned United

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Waiting City

In brief:
In my estimation this was a perfect movie. Great plot, great acting, something to say.

After I had seen this, I decided that I'd had enough. Plus I lost the ticket for the next movie so that must have been a sign.

Shot in Calcutta in a Mother Theresa's orphanages about an Australian couple who try to adopt a child from the orphanage. Much more satisfying meeting of the cultures than "Cooking with Stella."

Cooking with Stella

In brief:
They had me in the palm of their hand(s) up until the plot twist which lost me entirely and left me with a bad taste.

I'm not sure if it's just a misunderstanding of cultures that bothered me so much.


In brief:
Untold story of Mussolini's other wife with great acting. Told in an operatic style which seemed more suitable for this than when it was used in Tilda's movie.

Even though I sat beside the lead actor at last night's screening of "Videocracy," I couldn't recommend this one to others. Some people will find it just choppy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


In brief:
Unbelievable access to Italian media whores and an ordinary guy who wanted to be one too.

Is this what politics has come to? Very frightening film about celebrity culture.

Although it takes place in Italy, it reflects the American election of their celebrity president.

The Search

In brief:
Another film with long takes and people talking. Very wordy film ... with sub-titles that kept you reading and reading.

I think the director got caught up in portraying himself on camera. The was probably about love but I couldn't stay for the Q & A to find out if that was true.

Police, Adjective

In brief:
Another Romanian film with long takes of nothing happening and the plot not being pushed ahead. I don't see the point, though I did want to stay till the end and see what happened.

The movie actually had a point. Sorry I didn't have time to stay for the Q & A. Discussions about Romanian grammar and reading from a Romanian dictionary don't make for a very gripping film.


In brief:
If you loved "Amelie," I'm sure you'll love this one too. I didn't like "Amelie" so ... Just too cute for me.

In case you didn't notice, the cinematographer had a crane available and used it at every opportunity. The audience was rolling in the aisles but maybe I just don't have a sense of humour. Not for me.

High Life

In brief:
Spectacular heist film with outstanding performances by all the actors. Though based on a stage play, it is a movie through and through.

Canadian movie filmed in Winnipeg. I couldn't imagine anyone else playing each of the roles. Why do I accept the gory details of this one but not the Edward Norton film I saw yesterday? It's the cinematography and art direction. This one is grittier and somehow the death and battle scenes are not "sanitized."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


In brief:
Excellent movie directed and filmed by Carl Bessai about life in a small town. Excellent cast and story.

Highly recommended Canadian story written by an American.

The Time That Remains

In brief:
Very obscure absurdist movie highlighting four periods in Palestinian history.

The director was still explaining the movie fifteen minutes after it was finished when I left for the next film.

Leaves of Grass

In brief:
Edward Norton plays very different twins very well.

This movie was a bit too graphically violent for me.

But I had some more thoughts about it the next day. The look of this one is very clean and the violence is very graphic -- in crystal clear detail. Would I have accepted it more easily if it had been a grittier looking movie? Not sure; however, a grittier look was precluded by the fact that Edward Norton played two roles and the cameras had to be locked down to make that easier to accomplish.

Get Low

In brief:
Robert Duvall as a hermit. Story kept my interest till the last half hour when it ran out of steam. The final explanation wasn't very captivating.

I figured out most of the plot before the end. Didn't really care for the long explanation by Robert Duvall. By then Bill Murray, one of the best characters in the movie, faded into the background as did all the other characters.

A Single Man

In brief:
Christopher Isherwood book adapted and directed by Tom Ford. A bit of a grim story but Colin Firth was excellent in the lead role.

Creative consultant was Don Bachardy. Very impressive work with the colour saturation of the video which went from grey to high saturation depending on Colin Firth's mood or interest.

Good supporting roles including Julianne Moore as best friend.

Andy Malcolm does foley in LA now? I have read the book but didn't remember it as such a depressing portrait of a gay character, though it certainly captures the mood of the 60s.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jean Charles

In brief:
True story of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot in error as a terrorist by the English police on July 22, 2005.

Excellent performances by the pro and amateurs (some of whom were playing themselves).

Capitalism: A Love Story

In brief:
Michael Moore is taking on the corporations once again. Thoughtful documentary as usual.

His on-camera scenes were a bit long, but his selection of personal stories were, as usual, very captivating.

The Last Days of Emma Blank

In brief:
This one got me thinking about my response to absurd situations in movies. A great take on what people will do for money.

It was too realistic. Kurt said the other day (about another movie), "Don't take it literally." But the way this movie was shot, it was difficult not to take it literally.

However I loved a previous movie by the same writer, "The Waiter." For that one I bought into the absurdity of the situation quite readily and it was one of my favorite movies of the festival a couple of years ago. But this time, I couldn't harmonize the absurd with the real.

In retrospect, my reaction is tempered now as opposed to my immediate reaction of "Huh?" immediately after it ended.

The Joneses

In brief:
Great take on the consumer society. Highly recommended. Pitch perfect art direction.

Too bad I knew the premise before the movie's first few scenes. Would have made them more shocking. I was completely taken in by the story. It should have ended 15 seconds earlier. It was a perfect script except for those last fifteen seconds which were completely unnecessary and ruined the credibilty of the two main characters. Even so, I highly recommend this one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life During Wartime

In brief:
Todd Solenz puts a lot of characters on the screen that I wouldn't want to invite to my house.

Many disjointed scenes. Perhaps it would have helped to have seen "Happiness" more recently to figure out some of the plot and inter-connections between the characters. The boy who played the main character was the best thing in the movie. Three sisters -- so what?

Same Same But Different

In brief:
Flat and uninspired telling of a true story that wasn't helped by lackluster performances. Cameron Bailey said this was the only real romance movie at the festival ... if this is romance it was not very passionate.

The setting and music were more interesting than the actors. The scenes outside the plot were certainly interesting and would have made a great documentary.

A Serious Man

In brief:
I was so looking forward to seeing this but I honestly didn't think it was very funny at all, though many of the audience were rolling in the aisles.

Absolutely stunning re-creation of a 1967 American suburb. Great artistic design. Many bad things happen to good people but I couldn't relate to the situations. It might have helped to be Jewish since many of the jokes were in Yiddish or Hebrew.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

25 Carat

In brief:
Absolutely great first film. If you like movies like "Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrel" you'll love this one.

Director said it was shot in six weeks and made for a million Euros. Great main characters. Great situations. Constant surprises.


In brief:
"Artistic" movie that will have a difficult time finding an audience.

Apparently it was meant to look amateurish. It did that well. A bit too far out for me.

The House of Branching Love

In brief:
Very uneven acting and implausible changes in the characters make for a choppy divorce movie.

Female star spoils this one. Her acting (or is it the script) is all over the place. It's hard to believe or understand her motivations a lot of the time -- except that it makes for funny situations. Her role is a victim to the plot.

People laughed a lot, though I didn't find some of the situations that funny. I wouldn't recommend this one.

The Men Who Stare at Goats

In brief:
Great story, well told.

Well worth seeing but needs lots of time to think about. In the middle of a film festival there's not enough time. Can't really say much more right now.

How to Fold a Flag

In brief:
Another great documentary from the duo who did "Gunner Palace." This time they look at what happens when the soldiers who fought in Iraq come back or don't come back.

Four absolutely riveting characters are highlighted. Seamless editing. Great cinematography. Emotional stories.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


In brief:
Colin Farrell giving a stellar performance in a movie that takes a look at how war photographers deals with PTSD.

It is written as a mystery and more of the story is revealed as the movie progresses but it's too bad that the plot will be told and there will be no surprises for the audience by the time this movie opens. Main reason I love seeing films at festivals.

All the other actors and especially Christopher Lee are exceptional too. Great story.

Eyes Wide Open

In brief:
Story that sometimes looks more like a documentary about a tradition and fundamentalist Jewish community in Jerusalem and how its members cope with those who veer from the path.

Director told us that the cinematographer came from a documentary background. Shot on location. Excellent performances. Sometimes the narrative rambles a bit. Similar story-arc to "Brokeback Mountain," but the main character is more difficult to relate to than the Heath Ledger tortured soul -- perhaps because his day-to-day life is so dissimilar to anything a North American would understand.

It really need another title so people won't confuse it with the Stanley Kubrick film.