Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Now Playing: Dec 27 - Jan 4

THE GODFATHER has been restored under the supervision of director Martin Scorsese, and it's showing at the VanCity through January 4.

It's Christmas, which means lots of terrific end-of-the-year movies in the stocking, and me making many lists and checking them twice as often as any sane person should. Soul Food Movies currently on Vancouver screens include DOUBT (featured on many critics' top ten lists), SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Danny Boyle's suitcase-full-of-money theme takes on clear spiritual overtones played out in the slums of India), and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (director Scott Derrickson spoke at Regent College a few years back, and considering his other films (HELLRAISER: INFERNO, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE) it's no surprise he's turned to this 1950s B-movie sci-fi classic with Christological overtones).

Lots of other Best Of 2008 films now showing: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON and GRAN TORINO are new, WALTZ WITH BASHIR looks amazing, FROST/NIXON reprises the superlative cast I saw on Broadway, THE READER and MILK continue, and SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK won't be hanging around much longer at the Granville 7.

For your smaller screens, many of the year's best-rated films are available for rent from Videomatica:
Silent Light Soul Food, RR#1
In Bruges Soul Food, RR#2
Shotgun Stories Soul Food, RR#3
Redbelt RR#7
Son Of Rambow RR#8 Bella (most video stores) Soul Food, RR#9
Paranoid Park RR#11
The Visitor
Man On Wire
The Fall
My Winnipeg
Dark Knight
Edge Of Heaven
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
Iron Man
Encounters at the End of the World
Standard Operating Procedure
Be Kind, Rewind
Burn After Reading
Chop Shop
Tropic Thunder

Dec 27 - Jan 1: The Godfather at VanCity

An almost Shakespearean tragedy, THE GODFATHER documents the loss of a man's soul against the backdrop of religion, with a climax that makes a visceral connection between the business of crime and the reality of Evil. What a privilege to see the film's extraordinary photography not only on the big screen, but in a print restored under the supervision of Coppola himself. Can't wait to see all those oranges...

Dec 28 29 30 | Jan 1 @ 4:00 & 7:30 (note: no show New Year's Eve)

“Possibly the greatest movie ever made.” Stanley Kubrick

Let us make you an offer you can't refuse: spend the holidays by seeing Francis Ford Coppola's epic Academy Award-winning film The Godfather again, on the big screen, in a way that Coppola himself originally intended it. For years all 35mm prints of The Godfather (and the sequel, The Godfather II) have been literally pale imitations of the landmark film as it first appeared in the 1970s. Supervised by Paramount Pictures, both movies underwent extensive frame-by-frame examination and restoration using state-of-the-art digital technology. Robert A. Harris of the Film Preserve supervised the restorations under the direction of Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis. The difference is stunning—indeed, almost as stunning as the film itself. This limited run of The Godfather at the Vancity Theatre—a film that is so indelible on the history of film that it need not even be described—will be f ollowed up next program by exclusive screenings of The Godfather II, the sequel that may be even better than the original. Reserve your tickets in advance.

Read more

The new restoration: Cinemascope

The restoration process: The American Society of Cinematographers

New York Times
"The Godfather films remain the 20th-century answer to Shakespeare’s plays of royal succession, with the twist that here Prince Hal grows up, not into Henry V, but Richard III."

USA Today

The Films of 2008: Combined MCN + indieWIRE Lists

I've combined the Movie City News tabulation of year-end critic lists (Dec 25 version) with the indieWIRE Critics' Poll to come up with a more comprehensive tally of critical favourites for 2008.

This is a dumb list for three - make that four - reasons.
1. There are a number of critics whose lists have been included in both the Movie City News and the indieWIRE polls, so their votes are counted twice.
2. Movie City News gives 10 points for a first-place movie, while indieWIRE gives 15. A tenth-place mention gets 1 point from MCN, but 5 from iW. So the indieWIRE list gets weighted more heavily.
3. This is not the final MCN scoreboard.
4. Who cares, anyhow?

Still, for the little it's worth...

The Films Of 2008 Meta-List
(Total points = MCN + indieWIRE)
Boldfaced titles are likely Soul Food Movies

1 . Wall-E ( 837 : 469 + 368 )
2 . Christmas Tale ( 633 : 179 + 454 )
3 . Flight of the Red Balloon ( 586.5 : 91.5 + 495 )
4 . Milk ( 573 : 368 + 205 )
5 . Happy-Go-Lucky ( 541 : 195 + 346 )
6 . Wendy and Lucy ( 533 : 167 + 366 )
7 . Dark Knight ( 507 : 351 + 156 )
8 . Rachel Getting Married ( 495.5 : 228.5 + 267 )
9 . Synecdoche, New York ( 462 : 172 + 290 )
10 . Wrestler ( 447.5 : 255.5 + 192 )
11 . Paranoid Park ( 436.5 : 101.5 + 335 )
12 . Let the Right One In ( 422 : 185 + 237 )
13 . Slumdog Millionaire ( 418.5 : 314.5 + 104 )
14 . Still Life ( 396 : 66 + 330 )
15 . Silent Light ( 381 : 71 + 310 )
16 . Waltz with Bashir ( 371 : 88 + 283 )
17 . In the City of Sylvia ( 324 : 68 + 256 )
18 . Man on Wire ( 323.5 : 158.5 + 165 )
19 . My Winnipeg ( 319 : 71 + 248 )
20 . Edge of Heaven ( 305 : 102 + 203 )
21 . Curious Case of Benjamin Button ( 293.5 : 206.5 + 87 )
22 . Hunger ( 280 : 82 + 198 )
23 . Ballast ( 233 : 56 + 177 )
24 . Che ( 221.5 : 75.5 + 146 )
25 . Gomorrah ( 188 : 56 + 132 )
26 . Reprise ( 185.5 : 44.5 + 141 )
27 . Duchess of Langeais ( 184 : 24 + 160 )
28 . The Visitor ( 173 : 123 + 50 )
29 . Frost/Nixon ( 171 : 140 + 31 )
30 . Encounters at the End of the World ( 162.5 : 61.5 + 101 )
31 . Class ( 153 : 62 + 91 )
32 . Frozen River ( 143.5 : 85.5 + 58 )
33 . Woman On The Beach ( 140.5 : 18.5 + 122 )
34 . France, La ( 132.5 : 29.5 + 103 )
35 . Trouble the Water ( 129 : 28 + 101 )
36 . Standard Operating Procedure ( 124.5 : 38.5 + 86 )
37 . Before I Forget ( 124 : 19 + 105 )
38 . Vicky Cristina Barcelona ( 122.5 : 55.5 + 67 )
39 . In Bruges ( 120.5 : 86.5 + 34 )
40 . 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days ( 119.5 : 51.5 + 68 )
40 . Burn After Reading ( 119.5 : 42.5 + 77 )
42 . Last Mistress ( 114 : 17 + 97 )
43 . Exiles ( 108.5 : 24.5 + 84 )
44 . Frownland ( 106 : 20 + 86 )
44 . Order of Myths ( 106 : 30 + 76 )
46 . Gran Torino ( 100 : 45 + 55 )
46 . Revolutionary Road ( 100 : 81 + 19 )
48 . Momma's Man ( 94 : 21 + 73 )
48 . Secret of the Grain ( 94 : 24 + 70 )
48 . Tell No One ( 94 : 49 + 45 )
51 . Chop Shop ( 93.5 : 29.5 + 64 )
52 . Romance of Astrea and Celadon ( 84 : 0 + 84 )
53 . Doubt ( 83.5 : 68.5 + 15 )
54 . Ashes of Time Redux ( 82 : 19 + 63 )
55 . Mister Lonely ( 79.5 : 25.5 + 54 )
56 . Reader, The ( 77 : 77 + 0 )
57 . I've Loved You So Long ( 75 : 75 + 0 )
58 . Changeling ( 74.5 : 37.5 + 37 )
59 . Boarding Gate ( 73.5 : 13.5 + 60 )
60 . Tropic Thunder ( 70 : 42 + 28 )
61 . Boy A ( 68.5 : 10.5 + 58 )
62 . Razzle Dazzle: The Lost World ( 68 : 0 + 68 )
63 . Shotgun Stories ( 65 : 14 + 51 )
64 . Witnesses ( 62 : 9 + 53 )
65 . Pineapple Express ( 61 : 38 + 23 )
66 . Alexandra ( 60 : 13 + 47 )
67 . Be Kind Rewind ( 58.5 : 12.5 + 46 )
68 . Iron Man ( 57.5 : 57.5 + 0 )
69 . My Father My Lord ( 57 : 13 + 44 )
69 . Up the Yangtze ( 57 : 4 + 53 )
71 . Silence Before Bach ( 53 : 16 + 37 )
72 . Mary ( 52 : 0 + 52 )
72 . Pool ( 52 : 18 + 34 )
74 . Cadillac Records ( 51 : 22 + 29 )
75 . Funny Games ( 50 : 22 + 28 )
75 . Taxi to the Dark Side ( 50 : 15 + 35 )
77 . W. ( 48.5 : 9.5 + 39 )
78 . Dear Zachary: A Letter To a Son About His Father ( 48 : 31 + 17 )
78 . I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar ( 48 : 0 + 48 )
80 . Summer Palace ( 47.5 : 12.5 + 35 )
81 . Band's Visit ( 47 : 16 + 31 )
82 . Fengming: A Chinese Memoir ( 44 : 12 + 32 )
83 . Other Half ( 42.5 : 11.5 + 31 )
84 . Opera Jawa ( 42 : 11 + 31 )
85 . Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind ( 41 : 0 + 41 )
85 . Snow Angels ( 41 : 17 + 24 )
87 . Redbelt ( 40 : 13 + 27 )
88 . Fall, The ( 39.5 : 39.5 + 0 )
89 . Speed Racer ( 38 : 19 + 19 )
90 . Unforeseen ( 37 : 0 + 37 )
91 . Love Songs ( 32 : 0 + 32 )
91 . State Legislature ( 32 : 0 + 32 )
93 . Stuck ( 28 : 0 + 28 )
94 . JCVD ( 27 : 0 + 27 )
95 . My Blueberry Nights ( 26 : 0 + 26 )
95 . Savage Grace ( 26 : 0 + 26 )
97 . Married Life ( 23 : 0 + 23 )
98 . Of Time and the City ( 22 : 0 + 22 )
99 . Battle for Haditha ( 20 : 0 + 20 )
99 . Mad Detective ( 20 : 0 + 20 )
99 . Mukhsin ( 20 : 0 + 20 )
102 . Defiance ( 18.5 : 18.5 + 0 )
103 . Operation Filmmaker ( 18 : 0 + 18 )
103 . Young At Heart ( 18 : 18 + 0 )
105 . I Served the King of England ( 17 : 0 + 17 )
106 . Elegy ( 15 : 15 + 0 )
106 . Heartbeat Detector ( 15 : 0 + 15 )
108 . Secret Life of Bees ( 14.5 : 14.5 + 0 )
109 . Jar City ( 14 : 14 + 0 )
110 . Surfwise ( 13 : 13 + 0 )
111 . Appaloosa ( 12.5 : 12.5 + 0 )
112 . Miracle at St Anna ( 12 : 12 + 0 )
113 . Boy in the Striped Pajamas ( 11.5 : 11.5 + 0 )
114 . Australia ( 11 : 11 + 0 )
114 . Cloverfield ( 11 : 11 + 0 )
114 . Seven Pounds ( 11 : 11 + 0 )
117 . Bank Job, The ( 10 : 10 + 0 )
117 . Bolt ( 10 : 10 + 0 )
117 . Twilight ( 10 : 10 + 0 )
117 . Une Catastrophe ( 10 : 10 + 0 )
121 . U23D ( 6 : 6 + 0 )
122 . Quantum of Solace ( 5.5 : 5.5 + 0 )
123 . Girl Cut In Two, A (Chabrol) ( 2 : 2 + 0 )

Friday, December 26, 2008

IndieWire Critics Poll

For comparison, another tally of critic Top Ten lists. This list tilted in a less commercial direction, consisting of film writers invited by indieWIRE to participate in their year-end poll. I like it because SILENT LIGHT, my favourite film of 2008, places at #8, while only managing #28 on the Movie City News chart.  

"A total of 105 leading North American film critics participated in the third indieWIRE Critics' Poll, surveying the best in film for 2008. This poll was created to continue the tradition of a national survey of critics, by calling attention to the year's best -- and, in many cases, most overlooked -- films, providing a meaningful counterpoint to much of the year-end hoopla."

Dec 25: MCN Critics Chart #4

Here are the top 50 from the latest Movie City News chart, compiling Top Ten lists from 125 film critics and groups. In total, 193 films are listed, with 72 having appeared on only a single list: you know, PARAGUAYAN HAMMOCK and FUNKY FOREST: FIRST CONTACT, stuff like that.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dec 22: MCN Critics Chart #3

There's a new Movie City News chart. Looks like they got my email (one among the millions pointing out the error, I'm sure): SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is just one movie now, and without its votes split, it lands at number nine. HAPPY GO LUCKY bumps into the top ten (bah, humbug), followed by both WENDY AND LUCY, up from #19 to the eleventh slot. MILK (a good film marred by an ill-suited, pushy Danny Elfman score and too much Robert McKee in the last act) leapfrogged over SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (a terrific, energetic film), but they're only 3.5 votes apart, and both still in the top four. IN BRUGES and DOUBT both dropped five places (grrrr), but SILENT LIGHT suddenly dawns, starting its charting at #28! Flanked by MY WINNIPEG and PARANOID PARK - viva les auteurs! CHE makes his first appearance at 18 (and will keep climbing), with THE CLASS making its debut at #25 (complete with Cannes accolades).

Last chart tabulated 43 lists, this one adds another 19. For notes on what's playing in Vancouver, check that previous post.

Merry Christmas!


IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946, USA, Frank Capra, screenplay with Frances Goodrich / Albert Hacket / Jo Swerling / Dorothy Parker / Dalton Trumbo / Clifford Odets, from Phillip Van Doren Stern's short story "The Greatest Gift")
Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?

I know. For many it's pretty much just one of those sentimental Christmas favourites, a harmless exercise in seasonal nostalgia that kind of makes them feel nice. Warm apple cider for the soul.

That's not my experience. Somehow I managed to reach my early forties – and something akin to early onset midlife crisis – never having seen this holiday classic. Somebody happened to rent the video, and I sat down blithely for a taste of some sweet, easy-to-digest Capra corn.

Frank blindsided me completely. By the last half hour, my face ran with tears. Eventually I was sobbing. Not because of sweet platitudes about how everything will always work out, not because Christmas will always be cheery, but because of the opposite. It showed me my life, which didn't feel so wonderful.

I saw a man make a lifetime of small sacrifices that led him to... Well, despair. George Bailey is a man who doesn't live out his dreams. He lives something very different than the life he imagined for himself, and when he comes to the end of it all he can't quite see that it's been worth the trouble. Ouch. And they show this thing at Christmas?

It astounds me that people think of this as a gentle little Christmas hug of a movie. Bah! It's a sucker punch - no surprising, really, with uncredited screenplay contributions from Dorothy Parker, Dalton Trumbo and Clifford Odets, none of them known for their sentimentality. Critics for the TimeOut Film Guide write “Take a closer look at Capra’s IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, one tough movie for much of its running time. The climactic affirmation of genuine friendship and mutual reliance is so affecting precisely because it’s so darn hard-won. Although the picture has become synonymous with homespun, small town values, it achieves its profound emotional resonance precisely by stressing their limitations. The 'unborn' sequence is chilling not because it's morbid fantasy, but because Pottersville was and is so much closer to contemporary society than the nostalgic gentility of Bedford falls. For both Capra and Steward, Wonderful Life was their first movie after serving in WWII, and it's riven with their anxieties on coming home. Regardless of whether or not you believe in angels, it's a wonderful movie."

So, yes, they do show this thing at Christmas. A time when refugees shelter in animal sheds to give birth, when politicos protect their power with mass murder, when God sends messengers to keep saying over and over, "Fear not." A time when, against all odds and all fears, a baby is born, and lives long enough to make a difference.


Available at Videomatica

from "1000 Films To Change Your Life"...
Take a closer look at Capra’s It's A Wonderful Life, one tough movie for much of its running time, since it shows how irrepressibly decent James Stewart has had to sacrifice his own dreams of travel and achievement to sustain his family's loan company on which the local community depends. Decades of self-denying service lead him to, well, contemplate suicide from a bridge at Christmas since his insurance policiy seems the only thing able to rescue the operation from financial doom. Not such a wonderful life then after all, until Henry Travers's passing trainee angel shows him the corruption and misery which would have overrun his home town Bedford Falls had he not been bonr. The climactic affirmation of genuine friendship and mutual reliance is so affecting precisely because it’s so darn hard-won. The triumph over – and thus sublimation of – the fear of loss is at the heart of Capra's film.
Trevor Johnston, "Joy: A User's Manual" in Time Out: 1000 Films To Change Your Life

Some of the most heartening films are also the most heartrending: does It's A Wonderful Life move us so deeply because we believe in miracles, or because we know the cluastrophobia and frustration of dreams unrealised? If it's the latter, could it be that the movies' greates gift is just this: the expression of our repressed emotions, our secret and silent sorrows? Further, that films operate on identification and empathy, and that this empathy is – in a cinema – a shared experience a recogntion that we are all in this together? (Preston Sturges put it very eloquently: 'I like the movies. You get to hold hands.')
Tom Charity, "Celluloid Sorrow" in Time Out: 1000 Films To Change Your Life

"This story is the lousiest cheese..." Capra admitted to his star after making a rotten pitch. Stewart stuck by his favourite director. "Frank, if you want to do a movie about me committing suicide, with an angel with no wings named Clarence, I'm your boy." Although the picture has become synonymous with homespun, small town values – values Stewart personified and Capra obviously cherished – it achieves its profound emotional resonance precisely by stressing their limitations, even to the point of suicide. This is the tragedy of a man who deams of travelling the world, building cities and making love to Gloria Grahame, who never leaves his hometown, works in his dad's office, and marries Donna Reed. The 'unborn' sequence is chilling not because it's morbid fantasy, but because Pottersville was and is so much closer to contemporary society than the nostalgic gentility of Bedford falls. For both Capra and Steward, Wonderful Life was their first movie after serving in WWII, and it's riven with their anxieties on coming home. For Stewart, it paved the way for Vertigo and The Naked Spur; for the director it was in effect his testament. That Capra relents and 'saves' his hero is but bitter-sweet consolation. Regardless of whether or not you believe in angels, it's a wonderful movie."
Tom Charity, Time Out Film Guide 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 17: Now Playing / MCN Critic Poll

The charts are up at last, the Movie City News compilation of critic top ten lists. They'll keep updating it every few days until early January, and you can expect things to shift around. But count on Wall-E, Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire staying in the top five or so. Gratifying for me that In Bruges, a personal favourite, hasn't been forgotten at year end, even though it debuted in late winter: pity that SILENT LIGHT and SHOTGUN STORIES have been so little noticed, due to limited distribution. 

DOUBT is new this week, a definite Soul Food must-see: Pacific Theatre didn't manage to get the rights for John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer play, so you'll have to settle for Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in place of Gina Chiarelli, Kyle Rideout and Rebecca Deboer. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE relocates director Danny Boyle's fascination with the spiritual effect of sudden wealth to the slums and televisions of India - terrific film. 

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL remake is also new in town: director Scott Derrickson spoke at the film festival Regent College held a few years back, and considering his other films (HELLRAISER: INFERNO, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE) it's no surprise he's turned to this 1950s B-movie sci-fi classic with Christological overtones

Here's more of the MOVIE CITY NEWS list...
(With the numbering corrected, plus other bits and pieces)

1 . Wall-E (Videomatica)
2 . Dark Knight (Videomatica)
3 . Slumdog Millionaire (5th TT) Soul Food, RR#6
4 . The Wrestler (limited US release Dec 17)
5 . Milk (5th Scotia etc)
6 . Curious Case of Benjamin Button (new: RC 5th SC etc)
7 . Rachel Getting Married (gone: DVD not yet available) Soul Food, RR#10
8 . Christmas Tale (G7)
9 . Frost/Nixon (TT)
10 . Synecdoche, New York (G7)
11 . In Bruges (Videomatica) Soul Food, RR#2
12 . Let The Right One In (gone: DVD not yet available)
13 . Edge Of Heaven (Videomatica)
14 . The Visitor (Videomatica)
15 . Man On Wire (Videomatica)
16 . Happy-Go-Lucky (gone: DVD not yet available)
17 . I've Loved You So Long (gone: DVD not yet available)
18 . 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (Videomatica)
19 . Wendy & Lucy (limited US release Dec 10)
20 . The Reader (limited US release Dec 10, wide release Jan 9)
21 . Revolutionary Road (limited US release Dec 2)
22 . Pineapple Express (DVD Jan 6)
23 . Iron Man (Videomatica)
24 . Changeling (G7 SC etc)
25 . Doubt (new: 5th SC) Soul Food
26 . Frozen River (gone: DVD not yet available)
27 . Waltz With Bashir (Dec 26)
28 . Encounters at the End of the World (Videomatica)
29 . Standard Operating Procedure (Videomatica)
30 . Gran Torino (limited release Dec 12, wide release Jan 29)
30 . Vicky Cristina Barcelona (TT)(DVD Jan 27)  

Appaloosa (DVD Jan 13) RR#5
Australia (TT SC Park Rio etc.)
Ballast (NY release Oct 1)
Be Kind, Rewind (Videomatica)
Bella (most video stores) Soul Food, RR#9
Boy In The Striped Pajamas (gone: DVD not yet available)
Burn After Reading (DVD Dec 23)
Che (limited release Dec 12, wide Jan 24)
Chop Shop (Videomatica)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (SC RC Oak Scotia P&T etc) Soul Food?
Defiance (limited release Dec 31: wide Jan 16)
Fall, The (Videomatica)
Four Christmases (TT SC RC P&T etc)
I.O.U.S.A. (limited release since August)
Miracle at St Anna (gone: DVD not yet available) Soul Food?
My Winnipeg (Videomatica)
Paranoid Park (Videomatica) RR#11
Redbelt (Videomatica) RR#7
Shotgun Stories (Videomatica) Soul Food, RR#3
Silent Light (gone: DVD not yet available) Soul Food, RR#1
Son Of Rambow (Videomatica) RR#8
Tell No One (gone: DVD not yet available)
Tropic Thunder (Videomatica)
Trouble The Water (limited release since August)
U23D (gone: DVD not yet available) Soul Food, RR#4
Valkyrie (new: SC Dunbar etc)
W. (gone: DVD not yet available)

5th = Fifth Avenue
G7 = Granville 7
Oak = Oakridge
P&T = Park & Tilford
RC = Richmond Centre
SC = Silvercity
Scotia = Scotiabank
TT = Cinemark Tinseltown


PS Here's the previous chart, the first of this year's MCN scoreboards, from December 15. Just for the record.

HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000, USA, Derrickson)

HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000, USA, Scott Derrickson, screenplay with Paul Harris Boardman)
This is the life you chose, Joseph. All the people you hurt, all the appetites you indulge. You have allowed your flesh to consume your spirit.

In Volume Five of the low-budget, high-gore horror series launched by Clive Barker, Christian writer/director Derrickson sought to introduce elements of the gospel into what is basically a cheap exploitation fright flick. Pinhead fans were unhappy that the monster-geek "star" of the franchise has less than three minutes screen time, and that Derrickson moves things in something of a detective thriller direction, but other viewers may appreciate his efforts to make a more psychologically and spiritually significant silk purse out of a slasher movie sow's ear. Derrickson: "The more frightening and sort of dark and oppressive a movie is, the more free you are to explore the supernatural and explore faith. I became very interested in it for that reason, and The Screwtape Letters was the beacon."


Monday, December 15, 2008

cries and whispers

"Sheer discomfort may play an unacknowledged role in recent resistance to the celebration of Ingmar Bergman as a great director. For the cosmopolitan, often cynical breed of critics and cinephiles, Bergman, who died last year, was too earnest, too death-obsessed, too literal-minded about the scaffolding of visual art - symbols, dream imagery, stark photographic schemes. Yet here, as a rebuke, is CRIES AND WHISPERS, from 1972, a radical masterpiece of an almost punitive intensity. A wealthy, religious spinster is dying of cancer in a formal nineteenth-century manor house, attended, in her final agonies, by her two worldly sisters - a tense, enraged, masochistic diplomat and a ripely sensual adulteress - as well as by a peasant maid who bares her flesh to comfort the dying woman, whom she loves. The movie, enclosed in tight spaces and colored in deep red, seems to take place in the veins and arteries of a long, painful dream. The women's skin is tactile, the camera erotic in its intimacy."

by David Denby
The New Yorker, December 15, 2008

Agnieszka Holland at MOMA

"Throughout her career, the Polish-born director Agnieszka Holland, who went to film school in Prague, has taken on the turbulent issues of modern history. MOMA's retrospective features her more familiar films, such as EUROPA EUROPA, and her American films, including TO KILL A PRIEST, THE THIRD MIRACLE, and SHOT IN THE HEART, as well as the episodes of "The Wire" that she directed." New Yorker, December 15, 2008

Through January 5: The films of Agnieszka Holland.

JULIE WALKING HOME "The Healer" (2002)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Critical Consensus: The Films Of 2008 (early days)

If you're looking for some real consensus about the films of 2008, it's far too early. Late December / mid-January will see the Movie City News tally of critic Top Ten lists pretty much complete, which is one fun way to keep track. There are others.

But if you're just looking for tips on what to watch (on big screens and small) over the next couple months, here's a start for you. A compilation of Roger Ebert's year-end list, the Gurus Of Gold Oscar-prediction list at Movie City News, the Independent Spirit nominees for best picture, and - destroying all credibility and statistical legitimacy, but just because I feel like it - Jeffrey Overstreet's comment that such-and-such a film "would be my #1 pick if I had to choose today." And if I'm going to privilege Mr O's comment in so cavalier a fashion, I'll also toss in the three or four titles that currently top my own list and will almost certainly end up in my Top Ten. PS Added a few days later: Yes, Shotgun Stories is fine, fine, fine. Just like Mr Overstreet says.

(Vancouver venues: Fifth Avenue, Tinseltown, Granville 7, Hollywood, Silvercity, Richmond Centre)
1. Rachel Getting Married ( 40 points ) 5th G7
2. Ballast ( 32 ) NY release Oct 1
2. Shotgun Stories ( 32 ) Videomatica
2. Slumdog Millionaire ( 32 ) 5th
5. Frozen River ( 31 ) This week only at The Hollywood, 7:30 nightly
6. Milk ( 30 ) 5th Scotia
7. Frost/Nixon ( 29 ) limited US release Dec 5
8. Revolutionary Road ( 28 ) limited US release Dec 26
8. Wrestler, The ( 28 ) limited US release Dec 17
10. Dark Knight ( 27 ) Videomatica Dec 9
11. Doubt ( 26 ) limited US release Dec 12
12. Reader, The ( 25 ) limited US release Dec 10, wide release Jan 9
13. Silent Light ( 21 ) played VanCity in June: DVD not yet available
14. Curious Case of Benjamin Button ( 20 ) wide release Dec 25
14. In Bruges ( 20 ) Videomatica
16. Wall-E ( 19 ) Videomatica
17. Wendy & Lucy ( 18 ) limited US release Dec 10
18. Che ( 16.5 ) limited US release Dec 12, wide release Jan 24
19. Appaloosa ( 14 ) DVD Jan 13
20. Gran Torino ( 13 ) limited American release Dec 12, wide release Jan 29
21. Australia ( 12 ) TT SC RC etc.
21. U23D ( 12 ) played Imax Jan/Feb: DVD not yet available
23. Band's Visit ( 11 ) Videomatica
23. Chop Shop ( 11 ) Videomatica
23. Encounters at the End of the World ( 11 ) Videomatica
23. Fall, The ( 11 ) Videomatica
23. Happy-Go-Lucky ( 11 ) played Vancouver in November: DVD not yet available
23. I.O.U.S.A. ( 11 ) limited release since August
23. Iron Man ( 11 ) Videomatica
23. Man On Wire ( 11 ) Videomatica
23. My Winnipeg ( 11 ) Videomatica
23. Standard Operating Procedure ( 11 ) Videomatica
23. Synecdoche, New York ( 11 ) TT
23. Trouble The Water ( 11 ) in limited release since August
23. W. ( 11 ) played Vancouver Oct/Nov: DVD not yet available
36. Defiance ( 9 ) limited US release Dec 31: wide release Jan 16
37. Visitor, The ( 7 ) Videomatica
38. Redbelt ( 6 ) Videomatica
39. Valkyrie ( 5.5 ) Videomatica Dec 9
Be Kind, Rewind | Videomatica
Boy In The Striped Pajamas | TT 5th
Burn After Reading | G7
Changeling | TT SC etc
Day the Earth Stood Still, The (Derrickson) | wide release Dec 12
Four Christmases | TT SC RC etc
I've Loved You So Long | 5th
Let The Right One In | G7
Tell No One | G7
Tropic Thunder | Videomatica

Sunday, December 07, 2008

$9.99 The Movie

"From director Tatia Rosenthal, 
$9.99 is a stop motion animated feature 
which offers slightly less than $10 worth about the meaning of life. 
From the short stories of Etgar Keret."

Soul Food friend, HollywoodJesus film critic and stop-action animation expert (hey, he wrote the textbook - literally) Ken Priebe points us to $9.99 The Movie, commenting "...looks like it could be deep, spiritual and a huge step for animated film." All that and a Language / Brief Nudity / Sexuality warning too! Not bad for Claymation - HOWARD THE DUCK meets THE MIRACLE MAKER?

Los Angeles Times blog: "On Dec. 12, $9.99, a beautiful stop-motion animated film by Israeli filmmaker Tatia Rosenthal, will be released in American theaters, having already played to great acclaim at the Toronto and Rome film festivals. As you can get a sense from the trailer... the film is a bit of an existentialist, surrealist story - an animated SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK if you will - that was weaved together from several short stories by revered Israeli writer Etgar Keret (who himself co-won Cannes' Camera d'Or last year for the Israeli film "Meduzot") ..."

The screenplay is adapted from the ultra-short stories of Etgar Keret - who must be great, because one of his pieces was featured on This American Life. Also on This American Life.  Oh, and also This American Life and This American Life

There's a trailer for the movie at the Official website. Goes into limited release December 12. We'll keep our eyes open.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Best Of 2008: Roger Ebert

It has begun. The year-end movie lists are upon us. Presaging that wonderful time of year when the whole city turns into one big Film Festival for a couple months.

You gather everybody's Best Movies Of The Year lists - your buddies, critics, whatever you can find - and between the end-of-the-year releases that are hoping for Oscars, and the good stuff from earlier in the year that comes out on DVD in time for Christmas, November through early February turns into Movie Season.

I've seen fewer movies this year than in any of the past five or six, and haven't been devouring the movie magazines (Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment) the way I normally do, or talking movies every day with my friends over at A&F. So I'm especially eager to catch up on what's worth seeing, now that it can be seen.

For starters, Roger Ebert....

The best films of 2008... and there were a lot of them
by Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun Times, December 5, 2008

In these hard times, you deserve two "best films" lists for the price of one. It is therefore with joy that I list the 20 best films of 2008, in alphabetical order. I am violating the age-old custom that film critics announce the year's 10 best films, but after years of such lists, I've had it. A best films list should be a celebration of wonderful films, not a chopping process. And 2008 was a great year for movies, even if many of them didn't receive wide distribution.

Look at my 20 titles, and you tell me which 10 you would cut. Nor can I select one to stand above the others, or decide which should be No. 7 and which No. 8. I can't evaluate films that way. Nobody can, although we all pretend to. A "best films" list, certainly. But of exactly 10, in marching order? These 20 stood out for me, and I treasure them all. If it had been 19 or 21, that would have been OK. If you must have a Top 10 List, find a coin in your pocket. Heads, the odd-numbered movies are your 10. Tails, the even-numbered.

I have composed a separate list of the year's five best documentaries. They also may be described as "one of the year's best." And this year's Special Jury Award goes to Guy Maddin's "My Winnipeg," which stands between truth and fiction, using the materials of the documentary to create a film completely preposterous and deeply true. Another of "the year's best."

"Ballast" A deep silence has fallen upon a Mississippi Delta family after the death of a husband and brother. Old wounds remain unhealed. The man's son shuttles uneasily between two homes, trying to open communication by the wrong means. The debut cast is deeply convincing, and writer-director Lance Hammer observes them with intense empathy. No, it's not a film about poor folks on the Delta; they own a nice little business, but are paralyzed by loneliness. At the end, we think, yes, that is what would happen, and it would happen exactly like that.

"The Band's Visit" A police ceremonial band from Egypt, in Israel for a cultural exchange, ends up in a desert town far from anywhere and is taken on mercy by the bored, cynical residents. A long night's journey marked with comedy, human nature, and bittersweet reality. Richly entertaining, with sympathetic performances by Sasson Gabai as the bandleader and Ronit Elkabetz as the owner of a local cafe. Written and directed by Eran Kolirin. Was at Ebertfest 2008.

"Che" The epic journey of a 20th century icon, the Argentinian physician who became a comrade of Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolu- tion and then moved to South America to support revolution there. Benicio del Toro is persuasive as the fiercely ethical firebrand, in a film that includes unusual and unfamiliar chapters in Che's life. Steven Soderbergh's film is 257 minutes long, but far from boring. (Opens Jan. 16)

"Chop Shop" The great emerging American director Ramin Bahrani finds a story worthy of "City of God" in a no-man's land in the shadow of Shea Stadium, where a young boy and his sister support themselves in a sprawling, off-the-books auto repair and scrap district. Alejandro Polanco and Isamar Gonzales seem to live their roles, in a masterpiece that intimately knows its world, its people and their survival tactics. It will be featured at Ebertfest 2009.

"The Dark Knight" The best of all the Batmans, Christopher Nolan's haunted film leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy. The "comic book movie" has at last reclaimed its deep archetypal currents. With a performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker that will surely win an Oscar, a Batman (Christian Bale) who is tortured by moral puzzles and a district attorney (Aaron Eckhart) forced to make impossible choices.

"Doubt" A Catholic grade school is ruled by the grim perfectionist Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), whose draconian rule is challenged by Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). A young nun (Amy Adams) is caught between them, as the film shows how assumptions can be doubted, and doubted again. Viola Davis, as the mother of the school's only black student, has one significant scene, but it is long, crucial and heartbreaking. Davis goes face to face with Streep with astonishing conviction and creates reasons for doubt that may be more important than deciding the truth. John Patrick Shanley directed and adapted his Tony Award-winning play. (Opens Friday)

"The Fall" Tarsem's film is a mad folly, an extravagant visual orgy, a free fall from reality into uncharted realms. A wounded soldier during WWI tells a story to a 4-year-old girl, and we see how she imagines it. It has vast romantic images so stunning, I had to check twice, three times, to be sure the film actually claims to have absolutely no computer-generated imagery. None? What about the Labyrinth of Despair, with no exit? The intersecting walls of zig-zagging staircases? The man who emerges from the burning tree? Filmed over four years in 28 countries. It will be at Ebertfest 2009.

"Frost/Nixon" The story of a duel between a crafty man and a persistent one. How many remember that the "lightweight" British interviewer David Frost was the one who finally persuaded Richard Nixon to say he had committed crimes in connection with Watergate and let his country down? With his own money riding on the interviews, Frost (Michael Sheen) is desperate after Nixon finesses him in the early sessions, but he pries away at Nixon's need to confess. Frank Langella is uncanny as RMN. Ron Howard directs mercilessly. (Opens Friday)

"Frozen River" Melissa Leo should be nominated for her performance. She plays an hourly employee in a discount store, struggling to support two kids and a run-down trailer after her husband deserts her with their savings. After making an unlikely alliance with a Mohawk woman (Misty Upham) who was stealing her car, she finds herself a human trafficker, driving Chinese across the ice into the United States. A spellbinding thriller, yes, but even more a portrait of economic struggle in desperate times. Written and directed by Courtney Hunt. It will be at Ebertfest 2009.

"Happy-Go-Lucky" Here's another nominee for best actress -- Sally Hawkins, playing a cheerful schoolteacher who seems improbably upbeat until we win a glimpse into her soul. No, she's not secretly depressed. She's genuinely happy, but that hasn't made her stupid or afraid. Mike Leigh's uncanny ability to find drama in ordinary lives is used with genius, as the teacher encounters a driving instructor (Eddie Marsan) as negative as she is positive. Not a feel-good movie. Not at all. But strangely inspiring.

"Iron Man" Like "Spider-Man 2" and "The Dark Knight," another leap forward for the superhero movie. Robert Downey Jr. and director Jon Favreau reinvent Tony Stark as a conflicted, driven genius who has a certain plausibility, even when inundated by special effects. So successful are they that in the climactic rooftop battle between two towering men of steel, we know we're looking almost entirely at CGI, and yet the creatures embody character and emotion. Downey hit bottom, as everyone knows. Now he has triumphantly returned.

"Milk" Sean Penn, one of our greatest actors, locks up an Oscar nomination with his performance as Harvey Milk, the first self-identified gay elected to U.S. public office. At age 40, Milk was determined to do "something different" with his life. He's open to change. We see how the everyday experiences of this gay man politicize him, and how his instincts allow him to become a charismatic leader, while always acknowledging the sexuality that society had taught him to conceal. One of the year's most moving films.

"Rachel Getting Married" After seeing this film, people told me, "I wanted to attend that wedding" or "I wish I'd been there." It's that involving. Jonathan Demme doesn't lock down one central plot, but considers the ceremony as a wedding of close and distant family, old and new friends, many races, many ages, many lifestyles, all joined amid joyous homemade music. His camera is so observant, we feel like a guest really does feel. Rosemarie DeWitt as Rachel and Anne Hathaway as her sister generate tricky sibling tension.

"The Reader" A drama taking place mostly within the mind of a postwar German who has an affair at 14 with a woman he later discovers is a war criminal. Her own secret is so shameful, she would rather face any sentence than reveal it. The film addresses the moral confusion felt in those who came after the Holocaust but whose lives were painfully twisted by it. Directed by Stephen Daldry, with David Kross as the younger protagonist, and Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes as the older ones. (Opening Dec. 25)

"Revolutionary Road" The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and his wife find hell in the suburbs. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, in two of the best performances of the year, play a young married couple who lose their dreams in the American corporate world and its assigned roles. Sam Mendes reads minds when words aren't enough, and has every detail right -- including the chain-smoking by those who find it a tiny consolation in inconsolable lives. (Opens Jan. 2)

"Shotgun Stories" You'll have to search for it, but worth it. In a "dead-ass town," three brothers find themselves in a feud with their four half-brothers. It's told like a revenge tragedy, but the hero doesn't believe the future is written by the past. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, it avoids the obvious and shows a deep understanding of the lives and minds of ordinary young people in a skirmish of the class war. The dialogue rings true, the camera is deeply observant. The film was the audience favorite at Ebertfest 2008.

"Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle's improbable union of quiz-show suspense and the harrowing life of a Mumbai orphan. Growing from a garbage pit scavenger to the potential winner of a fortune, his hero uses his wits and survival instinct to struggle against crushing handicaps. A film that finds exuberance despite the tragedy it also gives full weight to. The locations breathe with authenticity.

"Synecdoche, New York" The year's most endlessly debated film. Screenwriter Charles Kaufman ("Adaptation," "Being John Malkovich"), in his directing debut, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theater director mired in a long-running rehearsal that may be life itself. Much controversy about the identities and even genders of some of the characters, in a film that should never be seen unless you've already seen it at least once.

"W." To general surprise, Oliver Stone's biography of George W. Bush is empathetic and understanding, perhaps because Stone himself is a blueblood Ivy League graduate who could never quite win his father's approval. Josh Brolin gives a nuanced portrayal that seems based on the known facts, showing the president as subservient to Vice President Cheney and haunted by old demons.

"WALL-E" The best science-fiction movie in years was an animated family film. WALL-E is a solar-powered trash compacting robot, left behind to clean up the waste after Man flees into orbit. Hugely entertaining, wonderfully well drawn, and, if you think about it, merciless in its critique of a global consumer culture that obsesses on intake and disregards the consequences of output.

* * *

Every year I name a winner of my Special Jury Prize, so named in honor of the "alternative first prize" given by juries at many festivals. This year (roll of the drums) the honored film is:

"My Winnipeg" Guy Maddin's latest dispatch from inside his imagination is a "history" of his home town, which becomes a mixture of the very slightly plausible, the convincing but unlikely, the fantastical, the fevered, the absurd, the preposterous, and the nostalgic. Oddly enough, when it's over, you have a deeper and, in a crazy way, more "real" portrait of Winnipeg than a conventional doc might have provided--and certainly a far more entertaining one. Will be at Ebertfest 2009.

Five documentaries in equal first place:

"Encounters at the End of the World" Werner Herzog moseys around to see who he will meet and what he will see at the South Pole. The population here seems made of travelers beyond our realm, all with amazing personal histories. In a spellbinding film, Herzog finds a great deal of humor, astonishing underwater creatures, permanent occupants such as seals and penguins and the possibility of a bleak global future.

"I.O.U.S.A." A film to make sense of the current economic crisis. The U.S. national debt has doubled in the last eight years, we can't make the payments, the world holds our mortgage, and it can't afford for us to default. So the same unsupported currency seems to circulate one step ahead of disaster. Not a partisan film. Experts of all political persuasions look at our bookkeeping and agree it is insane.

"Man on Wire" On Aug. 7, 1974, a Frenchman named Philippe Petit, having smuggled two tons of equipment to the top of the towers of the World Trade Center, strung a wire between them, and walked back and forth eight times. The doc combines period footage and re-created scenes to explain how he did it, and mystically, why. We know he made it, so how does this film generate such suspense?

"Standard Operating Procedure" About what photographs are and how we see them, focusing on the infamous prison torture photographs from Abu Ghraib. Errol Morris' scrutiny reveals what was really happening, and why, and how the photographs do not always show what they seem to. He introduces the name of Charles Graner, who always stayed in the shadows, but without whom there might have been no photos at all.

"Trouble the Water" A few days before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, a young couple from the Ninth Ward named Scott and Kimberly Rivers Roberts bought a camcorder. As the rains began to fall, they began to film, even while trapped by rising waters inside their attic. Their astonishing footage, unlike any other, is incorporated by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin into a documentary that shows why Brownie was not doing a great job, not at all. This film also will be at Ebertfest 2009.

Looking back over the list, I think most moviegoers will have heard of only about 11, because distribution has reached such a dismal state. I wrote to a reader about "Shotgun Stories," "I don't know if it will play in your town." She wrote back, "How about my state?" This is a time when home video, Netflix and the good movie channels come to the rescue. My theory that you should see a movie on a big screen is sound, but utopian.

And he didn't even mention my favourites so far: SILENT LIGHT, IN BRUGES, APPALOOSA, U23D, REDBELT...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hamlet Goes To Jail

Heard this from my pal Mike Mason: "I just learned that ACT V (the "This Americal Life" Hamlet/prison piece) is being made into a movie. Screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks. Learned this on one of my fav podcasts, "New Letters on the Air." Throughout August they did a series on "Authors at the Movies." You can subscribe here."

Don't know if you know about "This American Life," a weekly radio show from Chicago that pulls together all kinds of stories, fiction and non-, clustered around a different theme each week. Someday I'll post a list of favourite episodes, but right at the top would be ACT V, about a prison production of the final act of HAMLET. (You can download a copy for 95 cents via the "This American Life" website. Best 95 cents you'll ever spend.)

Could make an amazing film.

Here's a photo of the cast (from the Prison Performing Arts website).

Which got me thinking, who would I cast in the film version?

playing The Director,
Patricia Clarkson

Casey Affleck

Kevin Bacon

Sean Penn

Ethan Hawke

Jackie Earle Haley

Djimon Hounsou

Michael Clarke Duncan

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Billy Bob Thornton

Chris Cooper

Denzel Washington

Barry Pepper

Sam Rockwell

And a buddy of mine...

J.P. Allen

Might as well toss Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagah into the mix, just for fun.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Videomatica!

They're as old as we are!  (Just a little older, actually. Pacific Theatre is in it's 25th season, but our actual birthday will be next June. Or August. Or September. Or November. Depends when we decide we were actualy born.)  They opened their doors in 1983, and whatever other accolades they may have earned over the years, surely none is more coveted than the title Ron's Favourite Video Store.  I was a fan even before I started up with Videomatica.ca - now "fan" has crossed over into "fanatic," as the coolest movies in town show up in my mailbox any given day. (Tell me - what's the last thing that arrived in your mailbox that you got excited about? Bills? Flyers? Letters from Pacific Theatre asking you for money?)  Just this morning it was EDUCATIONAL ARCHIVES VOLUME SIX: RELIGION - including the Rolf Forsberg classic, STALKED!

Anyhow, I just got an email celebrating the grand occasion (Videomatica's birthday, not the arrival of my DVD).  Look at the fab stars who've rented from VM!

Knowing I'm sounding like an ad, I'll still say it - you really ought to subscribe to videomatica.ca. Almost every Soul Food Movie I've written up in my blog over the past years can be rented at their store, and with the subscription, they send them to you in the mail. My subscription is about $30 a month, which means at any given time I've got three dvds signed out. When I finish one, I put it in the postage-paid envelope they provide, pop it in the mail, and a few days later my next movie arrives in the mail - whatever has made it to the top of the queue of movies I've created on their website, which I can change whenever I learn about another movie I want to see. Honestly, it's the coolest thing.


Happy birthday, Videomatica!


PARABLE (1964, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

Commissioned by the New York City Protestant Council of Churches for their 1964 World's Fair pavilion, this 22 minute clown-Christ circus allegory is better than you might expect, a film without dialogue that aims for something like Fellini or maybe Bresson. Controversial in its day – even the fair's director asked for it to be withdrawn! – the film was big in church rentals for the rest of the decade, and you can still find it through some mainline church media libraries.



STALKED (1968, USA, Rolf Forsberg)
Flesh. In motion. Flesh. Illogical. Unpredictable. To me, a vastness of fools. Fools to be exploited, not pitied...

Between his breakout hit PARABLE and the seventies Christian Scare Classic THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, Rolf (under the influence of Fellini, Bergman and possibly other hallucinogens) created this astonishingly weird short film, sort of a CARNIVAL OF SOULS for Christ. "The Man" needs a break from his day job sculpting gruesome Bible scenes for house of wax, so he flies to Europe, only there's nobody there to meet him. I mean nobody. Except a guy in wooden shoes, who ends up following him through the streets of Amsterdam, dancing and pounding on doors. I think he's supposed to be Jesus: you'll never hear "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" in quite the same way again. A stranger religious ed film was never made – more's the pity. Available on Fantoma's "The Educational Archives, Volume Six: Religion."


ANTKEEPER (1966, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

ANTKEEPER (1966, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

His wife helped found Second City, Rolf made distinctly weird short films for the Lutherans. Here a gardener sends his son to teach the ants in his garden how to live peacefully. SPOILER: The ants kill his son. Voiced by Herman Munster.


PS I'd dearly love to get hold of a copy of this. Anyone?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ends midnight, Monday Nov 24: Criterion 40% Off Sale

Criterion is changing websites, and they're selling all their in-stock DVDs at a 40% reduction. (Frankly, I'm guessing it has more to do with switching over to BluRay, but what do I know?) Wow. Lots of Soul Food titles from the cognoscenti site. Here are some examples, but you'd be best just to head for the site and start searching. Bresson, Tarkovsky, Kurosawa, all the usual suspects (not including THE USUAL SUSPECTS).