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.

1 comment:

  1. What a list! Did you purposely avoid 'Antichrist' at TIFF or was it a case of no tickets available?