Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Quick Shots

Saw 4 movies this weekend at The Fest. All of them good. And 1 tonight.

The Bothersome Man

Andreas is dropped off at a service station in the middle of nowhere. From here he is driven to a city, and given an apartment and a job. He has no idea what's going on, but he dutifully goes into work, where he has a seemingly great boss, goes to a bar, and goes home. Everyone is friendly, he makes friends at work, moves in with an interior designer, has sex, etc, etc.. All of it is flat. There's no passion, nothing tastes like it should (a man in men's room stall rants on about how hot chocolate has no taste anymore), there are no children, no animals, and you can't even commit suicide to escape it.

The movie is about Andreas' search to feel... anything. It's a brilliant commentary on modern life and society. It's not fast-moving, and there's minimal emotion throughout, yet it resonates with its audience in a way few films do. The cinematography is stunning, and the subtle aural cues throughout add the dimension the rest of the film purposefully lacks. All this said, it's not a heavy film, there are many comedic scenes, and one scene of very dark humour that had the audience both cringing and laughing simultaneously.

Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo Del Toro's take on the time after the Spanish Civil War. Franco is in power, and his Captains are routing out the remaining guerrillas in the forests. We meet 12 year-old Ofelia and her mother Carmen on their way to join Carmen's new husband (and father of her unborn baby) - Captain Vidal. Vidal is stationed at an old mill, between a small village and rebel forces. Behind the mill lies an ancient stone labyrinth, which Ofelia finds her way to the centre of. Here, she find's a towering, ancient faun, who tells her she is the lost princess of the Underground Realm, but to prove herself, she must perform 3 tasks...

The film seamlessly moves between the fantastic (faun, fairies, and monsters) and the real (family, soldiers, and war), as Ofelia tries to balance the two. The creatures are visually stunning and original, and the characters are strong and rich. Captain Vidal is hard and merciless, yet his reasons for being so are made clear. Ofelia is smart and fearless; Carmen has obviously done what she feels is best for her family; Mercedes (Vidal's servant) is one of the strongest female characters you'll see, and received cheers and applause, during the film, for her later scenes. Overall, a beautiful fairy tale that speaks of various horrors and the way we deal with them.

The film, and Del Toro, received a long standing ovation and shouts of "Bravo!" at the Elgin Theater as the credits rolled. They were deserved.

For Your Consideration

Fans of Christopher Guest have been awaiting this film since A Might Wind. Leaving behind his trademark "mockumentary" style, Guest has once again assembled his favourite actors for a comedy that takes aim at a group that takes themselves a bit too seriously - this time it's the cast of a small film that gets hit by Oscar buzz. This is the 4th film that's been co-"written" (one can be assured that the majority of the dialogue and scenes are the result of improv) by Guest and Eugene Levy, and as usual, it delivers in spades.

Two fading stars are in a small, personal film named "Home For Purim". Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) hasn't had a major role in over twenty years, and Victor Allen Miller (Harry Shearer) has been in the business for40 years... but is best known as a weiner in a popular series of commercials for kosher hot dogs. An online movie critic suggests that Marilyn might be up for Oscar consideration based on the scene he watched when he snuck on set. This spec of buzz quickly grows and encompasses the cast, the producers, and the launches the film from small little nothing to media sensation. Guest skewers the hype machine of Hollywood in this one. From the clueless PR director and near-brainless Producer (a once again fantastically ridiculous Jennifer Coolidge) to the brilliantly-played Entertainment Tonight-esque hosts (Fred Willard and Jane Lynch), we see how much can be made of nothing.

The cast is great as always, and the small cameos throughout are amusing. That said, this isn't the strongest outing from this team. The film was by no means bad... but it failed to live up to the expectations I had for it. It was uneven, and seemed to run out of ideas after a strong first 2/3 of the film, rushing through the final act and epilogue. I'd put it below A Mighty Wind and Best in Show in the Guest library. It is definitely worth seeing, is full of laughs, and actually seems to have a message about the vapidness of hype in Hollywood... and those that get left in its wake.


Before all the noise about Death of a President started last week, THIS was the biggest controversy of the fest. John Cameron Mitchell's exploration into relationships, honesty, and sex has caused its own stir. To put it mildly... this film won't be at your local megaplex, and some people may want it relegated to the porn houses.

Let's get this out of the way first - there is a lot of sex in the film. It is hardcore, and it is authentic. The cast is actually having sex... full-on, hardcore sex. Turns out, it's not all that titillating. The sex, while central, isn't the point of the film. It simply serves as a means to revalations and epiphanies. It's used for different purposes by different people... but it's all portrayed as liberating, and ultimately, healing.

On top of that, the visuals are often stunning, especially the method used to move around New York. The finale is rousing, and the whole film makes you want to do exactly what John Cameron Mitchell wanted - start a band, make art, or do SOMETHING great. A great film that everyone involved should be proud of.

The Last Winter

Saw this tonight. It was my last choice as an alternate, almost entirely because it stars Ron Perlman. It came in at about expectations. There's a good movie in there... unfortunately, its climax and denouement is severely lacking. There's some interesting camera work, and some odd directorial choices. Ron Perlman plays the best Ron Perlman he can... and the acting is generally fine. The tension is built well, and the false shocks are also good. However the real shocks are lacking... oh, did I mention this was an ecological horror film?

It part The Thing, part The Abyss, and I guess part On Deadly Ground, only substitue Steven Segal and Martial Arts with a pissed off Inuit Nature Spirit... or something. It wasn't horrible... but it wasn't great. I hope it finds an audience.

Tomorrow is Renaissance, a film I'm really looking forward to. I expect great things.

Oh, and because I can't seem to keep these completely poker-free... I was out first in the Hoy tonight when my pocket Jacks ran into a blind-protectors pocket 6s.. which became quads.

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