Saturday, December 27, 2014

YEFF 2014 | Movie City News + Metacritic | Combined List

Each year, Movie City News compiles tons of critic top ten lists at the end of the year and comes up with a pretty good tally of what was great. This year Metacritic is doing the same. The lists differ somewhat - they've input some different lists - so I've totalled the number of points each calculated to come up with a very unscientific Top Twenty. (I've posted brief notes on some of these over here). Unscientific because there are undoubtedly lists that show up in both tabulations, and other lists that show up in only one.  For now, so what: it's a swell guide to films worth seeing, and with several key films only just recently released - Inherent Vice, Mr Turner, etc - there'll be lots of shifting around over the next few weeks. But for what it's worth... 

1. Boyhood (381.5)
2. Grand Budapest Hotel (197.5)
3. Birdman (173.5)
4. Under The Skin (135.5)
5. Whiplash (129.5) probably in its final week at International Village

6. Selma (124) hasn't opened here yet
7. Ida (116.5) Dec 30 only at VIFF
8. Inherent Vice (84.5) hasn't opened here yet
9. Gone Girl (77)
10. Foxcatcher (76.5) 

11. Citizenfour (72.5) gone
12. Goodbye to Language 3D (72) 
13. Mr Turner (68.5)
14. Nightcrawler (67) gone
15. Snowpiercer (59)

16. Force Majeure (58) gone
17. LEGO Movie (51.5)
18. Only Lovers Left Alive (49.5)
19. Two Days, One Night (47.5)
20. The Immigrant (41) Dec 29 only at VIFF

Those in red are screening over the next week in Vancouver, those in black boldface are available on Canadian Netflix or iTunes.

Three other films figured in the MCN Top Twenty;

#12. American Sniper
#15. We Are The Best
#20. Interstellar

Here are some other films now playing in Vancouver or online that also show up on the lists;

Theory of Everything
Imitation Game
Mommy Jan 1 only

Saturday, December 13, 2014

YEFF 2014 | Movie City News | The First List

The Year End Film Festival kicks into higher gear with the first MCN tabulation of critic top ten lists (12/10). The results are always highly skewed this early in the process: not only a small sample size, but also it's early, nobody much has seen Inherent Vice yet (for example), but once they do it'll be top five, dontcha think? Mr Turner? Etc. But it has begun: a fine guide to the movies not to miss. (Red are my top picks. I've also added results from Metacritic's tally of Top Ten Lists (to 12/12): as MCN and Meta tally more and more lists, I bet their rankings will converge.)

1 Boyhood | iTunes, VIFF Jan1
d. Richard Linklater, summer release. Twelve years in the making, tracks a family through the son's school years. Sight & Sound #1, Guardian #2, Metacritic #1.
Extraordinary. My #2.

2 Whiplash |  Intl Village etc
Training of a jazz drummer. Guardian #4, Meta #6.
Next on my watchlist. Can't wait.

3 Birdman | 5th Ave, SilverCity etc
d. Alejandro González Iñárritu. Meta #6.
Wow. Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, especially Edward Norton! My #3.

4 Selma
Historic civil rights march. Meta #8, New Yorker Top 30.

5 Grand Budapest Hotel | NetflixCDN, VIFF Dec26
d. Wes Anderson. Sight & Sound #6, New Yorker #1, Meta #2, Guardian #9.
I loved it, second only to my beloved Moonrise Kingdom among Wes's works. My #4.

6 Nightcrawler | IV, SC etc
Jake Gyllenhaal as L.A. crime journalist who crosses the line. Guardian #7, Meta #8.

7 Snowpiercer | iTunes
d. Joon-ho Bong. Gritty sci-fi, lots of fans. Meta #12

7 American Sniper
d. Clint Eastwood. New Yorker #6, Meta#17.

9 LEGO Movie | iTunes
Guardian #10.

10 Interstellar | Park, SC etc
d. Christopher Nolan. My friend Rick Bonn's absolute favourite. Meta #17.

11 Under the Skin | NeflixCDN, VIFF Dec27
Extremely stylized Brit flick. Sight & Sound #5, Guardian #1, Meta #3..

12 Theory of Everything | 5th, SC etc
Stephen Hawking biopic. Meta #11.

13 Gone Girl | IV, SC etc
d. David Fincher. New Yorker Top 20, Meta #10.
Lots of strong elements: in true Fincher fashion, ends up being about more than just the story. Still, didn't stick with me.

14 Only Lovers Left Alive | NetflixCDN
d. Jim Jarmusch vampire pic. Meta #12

15 Calvary | Black Dog, iTunes
d. John Michael McDonagh, brother of In Bruges guy. Surprised this ranks so high: it won't last. Definite Soul Food: film maker sets out to tell story of a good priest, and - for all the fallen humanity - sticks to it. And Brendan Gleeson's portrayal is memorable. Refs Diary Of A Country Priest. But I found the script mannered, and the story remarkably lacking in drama despite the high stakes, ultra-dramatic premise. Then found it pulled together in the last lap, very much so in the home stretch, and in retrospect even find myself interested in seeing it again, to my surprise.

16 Imitation Game
Alan Turing cracks Enigma code, WW2.

17 We Are The Best | iTunes, VIFF Dec28
d. Lukas Moodysson. Rambling, sweet-spirited story of three high school girls, wannabe punk rockers in eighties Stockholm. I liked it fine: not Top Ten material.

18 Fury | SC etc
Brad Pitt in a Sherman tank.

18 Edge of Tomorrow | iTunes
Tom Cruise vs aliens.  Huh?

20 Inherent Vice | Toronto release Dec 25
d. P.T. Anderson. Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson. Guardian #3, Meta #5.
Dying to see this, judging only by the trailer. Even moreso reading Indiewire 10 Films To Watch Before You See Inherent Vice, including Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, To Live And Die In L.A., In A Lonely Place, Breathless, Cutter's Way. But this one looks much funnier.

Listed, not yet Top 20, notable;

Olympic runner in a life boat and a Japanese prison camp. Chariots Of Fire / Life of Pi / Bridge On The River Kwai? But everyone insists it's good.

Foxcatcher | IV, 5th
Best Director, Cannes. Strange biopic about multi-squillionaire and Olympic wrestlers(!). Movie pal Peter Norman's #4, Meta #12.

The Babadook | VIFF Dec27
Debut feature of Aussie director about anguished single mom, monstrous six-year-old, and storybook bogeyman. VIFF: "Most impressive debut feature of the year also happens to be the scariest. At different times will remind you of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Rosemary's Baby and Repulsion, Poltergeist, Don't Look Now, Paperhous and Candyman, The Shining, Psycho and The Exorcist."

Two Days, One Night 
Dardenne brothers. Guardian #6.


Non-MCN Top Films of 2014

1,000 Times Good Night | Dec 13 15 17, Jan 3
d. Erik Poppe, Norway. I liked his Hawaii, Oslo. Juliet Binoche as war photographer.

Citizenfour | IV
Snowden doc. Met #12.

A Girl Walks Home Alone
Top VIFF recommendation from my pal Karen.

The Homesman
d. Tommy Lee Jones.
My #1 favourite of 2014: alas, gone from the cinemas, not yet available elsewhere.

Ida | VIFF Dec30
Sight & Sound #9, Guardian #8, Meta #12.

The Immigrant | VIFF Dec29
New Yorker #5. VIFF: "Arguably the most underrated US movie of the year." Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard, mean streets of 1920s New York.

Russian reworking of Book Of Job. Sight & Sound #3, Guardian #5.

Mommy | VIFF Jan1
Canadian winner of Cannes Jury Prize, Canada's Best Foreign Language Oscar nom. Troubled mother-son, visually stunning.

Mr Turner | Dec 19 limited release
d. Mike Leigh. Timothy Spall won Cannes Best Actor as Brit landscape painter. Sight & Sound #11.

National Gallery  | VIFF Dec 26 27 28 31, Jan 3
Doc about London's National Gallery. Sight & Sound #11.

The Overnighters | VIFF Dec 17 30
Doc about crisis when North Dakota pastor opens church to homeless migrant workers. VIFF: "The Overnighters is remarkable for taking social documentary into the realms of ethics and morality, asking if the lip service our society likes to pay towards forgiveness, tolerance, rehabilitation and compassion holds up in the real world. It’s also ultimately a very moving portrait of a man embracing the example of Jesus Christ, but bound to fall short."

Winter Sleep | VIFF January 16 17 18 19 20 22 23 26 29
d. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey. Cannes Palme d'Or. Sight & Sound #7.

Friday, December 05, 2014

top 2014 films | dec 5 + 6 etc | force majeur + babadook

The YEFF is upon us. Lots of the year's top films show up on local screens from mid-November through mid-January, and year-end Top Ten lists appear to help ferret out the best films we've missed during the rest of the year.

Two that may be showing up on such lists are Force Majeur and Babadook. Both onscreen today and tomorrow at the Vancouver International Film Centre (aka VanCity).

(aka TURIST, 2014, Sweden, Ruben Ostland)
fri dec 5 @ 8:20
sat dec 6 @ 4:45
mon dec 8 @ 6:30
thu dec 11 @ 8:20
sun dec 28 @ 3:45

VIFC: "If you enjoyed the psychological intensity of Denmark’s The Hunt you must check out this riveting Swedish drama, another film about a middle-aged man whose world crumbles around him. In this case the inciting incident is an avalanche at a ski resort. It’s a near-miss for Tomas, his wife Ebba, and their two young children. But their narrow escape is over-shadowed by Tomas’s instinctive urge to run for his life without a second thought for his family. It’s a sight Ebba just can’t shake… Tomas, for his part, is inclined to deny it ever happened. “It’s very interesting,” he says. “You have your perspective, but that’s not how I experienced it.” Unfortunately this belatedly brave stab at historical revisionism can’t persuade his wife to love him or his kids to trust him, and over the next few days the ski holiday comes to resemble a kind of three-star purgatory of humiliation, dejection and rejection for all concerned, but especially the red-faced patriarch. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Force Majeure is how funny it is. Admittedly the humour is rather uncomfortable, especially if you’re a husband and father and not entirely confident of how you’d react if push came to shove and a wall of snow, ice and rock was hurtling down on your head*, but fast-rising writer-director Ruben Ostlund (Play, 2011) has fashioned what amounts to a comedy of manners here – or perhaps the opposite, because there’s nothing like a brush with mortality to make good manners look irrelevant."
* the avalanche, incidentally, is a cameo from Whistler-Blackcomb’s snowpack, and very impressive it is too.

"An ice cold knockout. Brilliantly perceptive and frostily funny." Aaron Hills, Village Voice

"Damning, frequently hilarious study of imploding male ego." AV Club

"Visually stunning. Emotionally perceptive." Variety

(2014, Australia, Jennifer Kent)
fri dec 5 @ 10:35
sat dec 6 @ 10:15
fri dec 12 @ 10:40
sat dec 13 @ 10:30
sat dec 27 @ 9:30

VIFC: "The most impressive debut feature of the year also happens to be the scariest. This tale of an anguished single mom (an incredible performance from Essie Davies), her monstrous six-year-old, and the storybook bogeyman who terrorizes their home is guaranteed to chill you to the bone.
Jennifer Kent is clearly well schooled in horror movies. The Babadook at different times will remind you of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, of Rosemary's Baby and Repulsion, Poltergeist, Don't Look Now, Paperhouse and Candyman, The Shining, Psycho and The Exorcist. Yet she has synthesised these influences into something organic and original, a movie that is at once a psychological study of mental breakdown and a grisly fable, a film about grief and parenthood that is also a movie about horror movies — why we are drawn to confront the darkness, and why we shrink from it."

"What's been delivered here is a potent brew of psychological terror mixed with a genuinely spooky story, making The Babadook easily the best horror movie of recent years."
George Byrne, Irish Independent

"Manages to deliver real, seat-grabbing jolts while also touching on more serious themes of loss, grief and other demons that can not be so easily vanquished."
Scott Foundas, Variety

Monday, June 02, 2014

jun 2/4/5 | we are the best! | lukas moodysson

Three chances to see this one, featured in the May issue of Sight & Sound. "A pair of disgruntled punks - shy 13-year-old Bobo and outspoken 12-year-old Klara - have a mission, even if they have slightly missed the boat on punk's glory days: they will form a band. It doesn't matter that they can't play a note because they have a plan: to press-gang their serenely friendless Christian classmate Hedvig - who can actually play the guitar - into joining their group."

We Are The Best! 
Vancouver International Film Centre (VanCity)
Mon Jun 2 06:30
Wed Jun 4 06:30
Thu Jun 5 06:30

In We Are The Best!, music is treated as an essential form of self-expression but is also fertiel ground for discussing a variety of issues, including spirituality. Moodysson is a committed Christian and includes a number of scenes - alternately hilarious and touching - in which the girls wrestle with issues of faith. Young Klara has a near-messianic commitment to atheism, and declares of Hedvig: "We'll influence her away from God... That's what punk's all about - influencing other people." For an ostensibly light film, it's weighty stuff.

Lukas Moodysson (Together; Show Me Love) adapts his wife Coco’s graphic novel about three young misfits growing up in early ’80s Stockholm. Pixieish, mohawk-sporting Klara (Mira Grosin) and her best friend Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) are 13-year-old rebels looking for a cause. Despite having no instruments-or discernible musical talent-the two put all their energy into forming an all-girl punk band, recruiting their shy, classical guitar-playing schoolmate Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) as the third wheel. With tender affection for his young characters and the period in which his film is set, Moodysson paints an ebullient and sharply observant portrait of DIY spirit and growing up different.

"A joyous, heart-swelling tale of youthful rebellion." Manohla Dargis, New York Times

"A joyous time capsule. Captures the DIY empowerment of punk rock and the bond of female friendships in one blissful swoop. For those of us who’ve been hoping that Lukas Moodysson would return to the tender touch of early movies like Show Me Love and Together, the wait is over." David Fear, The Village Voice

"A gloriously funny coming-of-age comedy – although age itself is squeezed almost entirely into the margins, crowded out by the film’s raucous, window-rattling love of being young." Robbie Colin, Daily Telegraph

Friday, May 02, 2014

may 2 & 16 | sagrada

This puts me in mind of the first fully staged Pacific Theatre production, in the spring of 1985. THE ZEAL OF THY HOUSE, Dorothy Sayers' play about architect William of Sens and his construction of Canterbury Cathedral. 

Sagrada - The Mystery of Creation
VanCity / VIFC
May 2 @ 5pm
May 16 @ 3pm

"Arguably the most popular building site in the world, the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona is still a work in progress, 125 years after the first stones were laid. Designed by the controversial Catalan genius Antonio Gaudi, the Sagrada is a testament to Faith… Faith in God, in the natural forms that so inspired the architect, and also in man, for Gaudi always knew this work would have to be completed long after his life-time." VIFC

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Season One just arrived at Black Dog. As I said when I first heard about this from Jeff Overstreet, it might just slip past my aversion to television. If I can find a place I can view it. And free up the eight (?) hours to watch it. (How do you TV people find the TIME?)

"Anne and I have finally reached the end of the BBC murder mystery miniseries event BROADCHURCH and... wow. It's not just good — it's Gospel. Do not miss it. I thought TOP OF THE LAKE was the best series of this kind, but BROADCHURCH is better. The acting and writing are excellent throughout. David Tennant (Anne's favorite Doctor) is great, but this is Olivia Coleman's show. She's awesome. BROADCHURCH is be the most beautiful, truthful depiction of grief that I've ever seen. It's also a harrowing depiction of the havoc wreaked by tabloid-news culture. The writing in the closing episode surpassed my highest hopes." Jeffrey Overstreet

Friday, March 21, 2014

the police officer's wife

from "A Tale Of Two Festivals: Venice" by Olaf Moller
Film Comment, Nov/Dec 2013

"...the Special Jury Prize for Philip Gröning’s The Police Officer’s Wife — outraged the middlebrow arbiters of taste for daring to demand something from their viewers instead of simply giving them what they supposedly want...

"...Which brings us back to the bruised bodies and battered souls of ... The Police Officer’s Wife. For all the unease and disquiet it provokes, [the film] is a remarkable achievement: a darkly cruel antipode to Gröning’s lightly festive 2005 documentary about monastery life, Into Great Silence. This tale of domestic violence escalating to infanticide is also structured around seasonal and religious cycles and rituals. The aesthetic device of beginning and ending every chapter with a title card was maddening to most—and there are a lot of chapters, some consisting of only one or two shots. Gröning’s rigor might look self-serving or vain, but these fade-ins and -outs are the film’s meter: regardless of what happens in the scenes and from one scene to another, these identically timed intervals recur with absolute regularity—another ritual, so to speak. As religious cinema, The Police Officer’s Wife is an extraordinary meditation on suffering and sacrifice as the bedrock of Christian belief..."