Thursday, March 27, 2008

Apr 2-9: 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

The Palme d'Or winner is coming soon, for a one-week run at the VanCity. #12 on the Movie City News critic poll. (And hey: once I've seen it, I'll have seen all of the top 22 MCN picks. Cool.) Closes two days before BELLA opens, another of the abortion-themed films of 2007.
April 2-9

Weds 7:00pm, Thurs 8:45pm, Fri 7:00pm, Sat 8:45pm, Sun 7:00pm, Mon 8:45pm, Tues 7:00pm, Weds 8:45pm

Romania 2007 // Director: Cristian Mungiu // 113 min // 35mm

Buy tickets for 4 Months 3 Weeks & 2 Days.

There are too many awards and accolades to list for the most acclaimed foreign film of 2007, but it began with the Cannes Palme d'Or and continued through year-end top-ten lists. Cristian Mungiu's intensely gripping and immaculately shot story of the procurement of an illegal abortion in communist-era Romania deserves to be seen on the widescreen if you missed it at last year's VIFF.
"Harrowing and brilliantly acted... Generates almost unbearable suspense."—The New York Times

This film is not rated. No children under 18.

Apr 11: BELLA opens in Vancouver

People - including people closely involved with the film - have been tying this film to a strong pro life campaign, and following a PASSION OF THE CHRIST church marketing plan.  But word is, the film is plenty good standing on its own, and is less agenda-driven than the promotional context might suggest. (Just to be clear, I'm not commenting on this particular agenda. I'm only suggesting that when agendas drive films, the film usually stink). BELLA did very well at TIFF, and distribution is through regular channels.  Here's the press release;

BELLA, winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, stars Latino heartthrob Eduardo Verástegui (Chasing Papi) as José, a strikingly handsome and charming young soccer star on the rise – when a tragic accident cuts his career short and changes his life. Now a cook in his brother’s restaurant, José retreats from the world until Nina (Tammy Blanchard, The Good Shepherd, Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows), a beautiful waitress struggling to make it in New York City, discovers something about herself that she’s unprepared for. In one irreversible moment, a simple act of kindness brings them together and turns an ordinary day into an unforgettable experience. Before the day is through, José must confront his haunted past to show Nina how the healing power of love can help her embrace the future. Inspired by true events, BELLA is a heartwarming story about friendship, family and our capacity for love in the face of the unexpected.

BELLA, the feature directorial debut from Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, became “the fall’s biggest surprise” according to the Wall Street Journal and finished the year as one of the top 10 highest grossing independent films of 2007.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

NOW PLAYING: Soul Food Movies onscreen in Vancouver

Just got back from U2 3D at the IMAX theatre downtown.  Now there's an Easter film: listened to 40 on the drive home, I've Eastered.  "I will sing, sing a new song..."  (Not that 40 is in the film, just so you know. With Or Without You closes the concert, so I left the theatre with another near-Biblical phrase running through my head, "And you give yourself away, and you give, and you give, and you give yourself away..."

The movie I've been telling everybody to see is IN BRUGES, which is at the Scotiabank Theatre (damn, I can hardly bring myself to type that: I can't recommend a movie without advertising a fucking bank?!).  The movie's as crude and crass as that sentence, funny as hell, and ends up serious soul food.  I've already seen it twice, in the theatre: I don't do that too often.

ATONEMENT is at Denham Place at 9:10 each night: doesn't completely work, but the opening is complex and well-observed, and what follows has stayed with me and won my admiration in retrospect, though it didn't play well for me while watching.  THE DIVING BELL & THE BUTTERFLY is the most thoroughly cinematic film of 2007, made from an unfilmable memoir: so much for words like "impossible" and "can't" and "wouldn't work."  NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THERE WILL BE BLOOD hang in there, both stories that tell tough truth in portraying real evil (though I wish the gospel had been something but a sham in the latter: still, should have expected - nobody who makes movies has much time for healing evangelists except maybe Robert Duvall).  

Of course, the soul food feast is at the video stores these days, INTO THE WILD chief among them.  They say IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH does more than just reference David and Goliath in the title, and the flawed apocalyptic actioner I AM LEGEND, which goes out of its way to name-check God. GONE BABY GONE works its way to one heck of an ethical dilemma, I haven't seen AUGUST RUSH - has a pretty "not-quite-bit-almost-straight-to-video" vibe, but I guess it's set in or around a storefront church? Docs: IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON invokes wonder and even some capital-T Transcendence, while LAKE OF FIRE looks at Roe v Wade, church v abortion stuff.  And then there's THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD and I'M NOT THERE, cinematic masterpieces that may or may not contain traces of soul food.  And Danny Boyle's SUNSHINE got overlooked, but I was sad to see it vanish before I could see it: I'll let you know what I think when I get round to it, hopefully soon. And of course it's become obligatory to see JUNO and ONCE, two big-hearted small films that have ended up with huge word of mouth bordering on hype: don't let that put you off, they're terrific little movies, just let them be what they are and enjoy.  Oh, and LARS & THE REAL GIRL belongs on that list as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Funny Games: Haneke a Puritan?

One film I don't think I'll be able to bring myself to see is Michael Haneke's new English language remake of his gruesome European original FUNNY GAMES. But I'm almost tempted - almost - after reading this excerpt from a Gabriel McKee article, posted by Peter Chattaway;

The real reason it makes so much sense for Haneke to remake this film, then, is that its attitude toward sin is so thoroughly Puritan. The film essentially adapts Matthew 5:28 to a different sin: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” Jesus states. Haneke is basically saying: “Anyone who watches Saw IV has already committed murder in his heart.” He makes the case for a direct link between watching torture porn and being complacent to real torture, if not actually committing it.

For a thoroughly progressive filmgoer who is nonetheless a big Dirty Harry fan, that can be a tough pill to swallow. But it’s not exactly a new argument: after all, the early Christian church objected to the theater as much as the gladiatorial arena. . . .
It’s difficult to look at a film like Funny Games in the traditional terms of a film review, or even a casual discussion. You can’t really like or dislike a movie like this; it doesn’t work that way. In that regard, it’s similar to another recent film that is both about the depiction of violence and an example of it, a film that similarly seeks to make its audience complicit in the brutality onscreen: Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. As with Gibson’s film, there are those who will hate Funny Games, but that’s generally because they’re looking at it as a movie among other movies. Ebert is onto something when he states that “this isn’t a movie, it’s a thesis,” but by that token it’s difficult to discuss in the terms of a movie review. Its goals and its methods are entirely elsewhere. But it’s not exactly a thesis—it’s a sermon. Haneke admonishes us to hate sin; unfortunately for him it’s a sin that most of us Dirty Harry fans aren’t willing to give up.

Gabriel McKee, Religion Dispatches, March 17

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Faith & Film Critics Circle: Best of 2007

The votes are tallied, and here are our results. FFCC members whose names you might know include Rob Johnston, Catherine Barsotti, Peter Chattaway, Jeffrey Overstreet, Matt Page, Steven Greydanus and moi - among others.

Most Significant Exploration of Spiritual Themes: Into Great Silence
"Into Great Silence offers an implicit challenge, not so much to the trappings of modernity — modern technology crops up here and there in the monks’ world, occasionally to humorous effect — as to the spiritual disconnectedness and social fragmentation of a world in decay, to the postmodern incapacity for commitment and sacrifice, to the dissonance and haphazardness of life as we know it. It is not for us, perhaps, this life, yet it isn’t something irrelevant or unrelated either. The silence of the monks has something to say to us, if we have ears to hear." Steven D. Greydanus, Decent Films Guide
Other nominations:
•After the Wedding
•Amazing Grace
•Into the Wild
•Lars and the Real Girl

Best Narrative Film: There Will Be Blood
Other nominations:
•The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
•The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
•Lars and the Real Girl
•No Country for Old Men

Best Documentary: Into Great Silence
Other nominations:
•The Devil Came on Horseback
•In the Shadow of the Moon
•The King of Kong
•No End in Sight

Best Film for the Whole Family: Ratatouille
Other nominations:
•The Bridge to Terabithia
•Dan in Real Life
•In the Shadow of the Moon

Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood
Other nominations:
•Brad Bird – Ratatouille
•Joel and Ethan Coen – No Country for Old Men
•Todd Haynes – I’m Not There
•Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Performance by an Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
Other nominations:
•Christian Bale – Rescue Dawn
•Russell Crowe – 3:10 to Yuma
•Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
•Ryan Gosling – Lars and the Real Girl

Best Performance by an Actress: Ellen Page – Juno
Other nominations:
•Amy Adams – Enchanted
•Julie Christie – Away from Her
•Marion Cotillard – La Vie en Rose
•Laura Linney – The Savages

Best Performance by a Child: Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Other nominations:
•Dillon Freasier – There Will Be Blood
•AnnaSophia Robb – The Bridge to Terabithia
•Ed Sanders – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
•Thomas Turgoose – This Is England

Best Supporting Performance by an Actor (tie): Casey Affleck – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Other nominations:
•Paul Dano – There Will Be Blood
•Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson’s War
•Hal Holbrook – Into the Wild

Best Supporting Performance by an Actress (tie): Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
Jennifer Garner – Juno

Other nominations:
•Emily Mortimer – Lars and the Real Girl
•Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
•Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

Best Ensemble Cast: Lars and the Real Girl
Other nominations:
•The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
•I’m Not There
•Michael Clayton

Best Cinematography: Robert Elswit – There Will Be Blood
Other nominations:
•Roger Deakins – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
•Roger Deakins – No Country for Old Men
•Eric Gautier – Into the Wild
•Janusz Kaminski – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody – Juno
Other nominations:
•Brad Bird (et al.) – Ratatouille
•Todd Haynes & Oren Moverman – I’m Not There
•Anders Thomas Jensen & Susanne Bier – After the Wedding
•Nancy Oliver – Lars and the Real Girl

Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen – No Country for Old Men
Other nominations:
•Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard – Gone Baby Gone
•Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood
•Andrew Dominik – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
•Ronald Harwood – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
•Sooni Taraporevala – The Namesake

Best Original Score: Dario Marianelli – Atonement
Other nominations:
•Klaus Badelt – Rescue Dawn
•Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
•Michael Giacchino – Ratatouille
•Jonny Greenwood – There Will Be Blood
•Philip Sheppard – In the Shadow of the Moon