Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year End Film Festival 2016

Manchester by the Sea

The YEFF has begun! The outbreak of watchable movies that heralds the coming of the new year. Since 1995, somebody or other has compiled a tally of critic Top Ten lists for the preceding year. From 1995-2000, the DIY era of the internet, a guy named Alex Fung did it (all praise and honour to you, Alex, whoever and wherever you are); in 2001 and 2002, I did it on a very limited basis; then Movie City News started in 2003, and as they trailed off the past few years Metacritic took up the torch. The following list comes from them, though I recalculated it to align their scoring system with previous years and so more films would be included. In brackets, the film's score according to the revised point system, followed by the position on the actual Metacritic chart. After the brackets, a place where the film can be viewed by Vancouverites: IV = International Village, 5Ave = Fifth Avenue, SC = SilverCity, VC = VanCity (often one screening only). You could sure make a couple days of it at the VanCity, Dec 29 and Dec 31!

I've boldfaced films that show up on my own 2016 Faves list, which I'll include at the bottom of the post. Silence is highlighted in red, a film I've been looking forward to for literally decades - Martin Scorsese's film treatment of Shusaku Endo's classic novel about Jesuits in 17th century Japan.

Hell or High Water

Metacritic Best of 2016: Film Critic Top Ten Lists
(recalculated Dec 27))

1. Moonlight (1638.5, 1) IV
2. Manchester by the Sea (1146, 3) 5Ave, IV
3. La La Land (1130, 2) Park, SC, Scotiabank
4. Hell or High Water (660, 5) VC Dec 29 8:00, iTunes 5.99
5. Arrival (635.5, 6) Scotiabank
6. Toni Erdmann (594.5, 4) opens Jan 27, no iTunes/Netflix
7. O.J.: Made in America (532, 7) Black Dog? no iTunes/Netflix
8. The Handmaiden (508.5, 8)
9. Paterson (466, 11) opens Feb 3, no iTunes/Netflix
10. Jackie (447.5, 10) 5Ave, Rialto

11. Elle (439.5, 9) gone, no iTunes/Netflix
12. American Honey (280.5, 13) iTunes 5.99
13. The Lobster (274, 12) iTunes 5.99
14. Silence (270, 13) opens Jan 6
15. Cameraperson (241, 15) VC Jan 1 8:20, iTunes pre-order
16. Everyboday Wants Some!! (238.5, 16) VC Dec 29 1:45, iTunes 6.99
17. Love & Friendship (237.5, 21) iTunes 5.99
18. The Witch (235.5, 17) iTunes 5.99
19. I Am Not Your Negro (229.5, 17) no iTunes/Netflix
20. Loving (211.5, 21) opens Dec 30 at Rialto

21. Green Room (208.5) iTunes 0.99
21. Sing Street (209, 20) iTunes 5.99
23. Certain Women (185.5, 21) no iTunes
24. 13th (171.5) no iTunes
25. Fences (171) IV
26. The Fits (168.5, 21) VC Dec 29 4:00, iTunes 5.99
27. Krisha (167) iTunes 5.99
28. Zootopia (157) iTunes 4.99
29. Weiner (149) no iTunes
30. Nocturnal Animals (147.5) 5Ave

31. 20th Century Women (146.5, 17) opens Jan 6, iTunes pre-order
32. Things to Come (145) VC Dec 31 5:00, no iTunes
33. Sully (143.5) iTunes 5.99
34. The Edge of Seventeen (137.5)
35. I, Daniel Blake (127) no iTunes
35. Kubo and the Two Strings (120.5)
37. A Bigger Splash (109.5) iTunes.99
38. Embrace of the Serpent (109) iTunes 5.99
39. Hail, Caesar! (107) iTunes 9.99 buy
40. Aquarius (104.5) VC Dec 30 7:00

41. Midnight Special (103)
42. The Nice Guys (102)
43. Knight of Cups (96)
44. Deadpool (94)
45. Fire at Sea (93.5)
46. Hacksaw Ridge (90) Hollywood 3 Pitt Meadows
47. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (86) VC Dec31 1:00, iTunes 5.99
48. Son of Saul (85.5)
49. Tower (85)
50. Julieta (84)

Neither Heaven Nor Earth

Ron's Favourites (So Far)

1. Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan. His first film, You Can Count On Me, was superb: human scaled, true, and featuring the first performances I'd seen by either Laura Linney or Mark Ruffalo - wow. I also liked the fact that, while it wasn't a film about Christian faith, the church was matter-of-factly just a part of the characters' lives. Kind of like the real world. His troubled second film, Margaret, (Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon) reached further and fell shorter: on my first viewing I considered it a masterpiece, on second viewing I saw why many critics thought it a failure. It's probably neither, but when it's working, it is phenomenal. Manchester by the Sea (Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams) is perfect. A friend called it "a Pacific Theatre movie," which I take to be a) high praise indeed for Pacific Theatre, and b) perfectly accurate.

2. Neither Heaven Nor Earth
Earlier in the fall, the VanCity/VIFF screened this French film about the Afghan war and I was mesmerized, stirred. It evoked in me the fear of God - not a common emotion in our safe North American Christianity, not something we're comfortable considering. God is all grace and reassurance, right? I wonder. Worth noting that a friend despised it, finding it pretentious and nonsensical. Consider yourselves warned.

3. Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater drops us in the middle of another world: college baseball, frosh weekend, 1980. Glorious fun, terrific ensemble acting, sharp portrayals of so many fascinating characters. Somehow I found the end-of-high-school hijinks depressing in Dazed and Confused; why I bought in to the start-of-college shenanigans and had a blast in this film, I couldn't say.

4. Hell or High Water
I love genre pictures where the characters stay human. Here, a bank robbing crime spree pic is also a convincing film about two brothers whose lives have gone different directions - as well as an indictment of a financial system where banks are the ones robbing ordinary citizens. Suggest why gangsters were Depression-era heroes.

5. Hail, Caesar!
Probably a minor entry in the Coen Brothers oeuvre, but I got a huge kick out of it - and saw, beneath the shaggy-dog tale of a mid-century studio producer, something about vocation and calling. Like O Brother Where Art Thou!, this Coen film has Sullivan's Travels as its touchstone.

6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Such imagination, and so much fun!

7. The Confessions
Outstanding Italy/France VIFF entry about a modern Father Brown in the midst of the world's financial and political elite.

The Lobster


Monday, February 15, 2016

mar 2 + 4-10 | numb | jason goode, aleks paunovic

Pacific Theatre audiences will remember Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and Aleks Paunovic's frightening, vulnerable performance - directed by Jason Goode, a friend of PT for a long time. A year ago Jason shot a feature film here in BC, with Aleks in the lead. It premiered at the Whistler Film Festival, and now the show gets a Lower Mainland run! 

Landmark Cinemas 10, New Westminster | tickets
Sneak Preview: Mar 2
Regular screenings: Mar 4-10

When a couple in financial distress discover GPS coordinates that promise to lead to stolen gold they must partner with a pair of mysterious hitchhikers to enter the remote winter wilderness to recover the coins.

DIRECTOR: Jason R. Goode

Aleks Paunovic (iZombie, This Means War)
Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Gallactica, Law & Order UK)
Marie Avgeropoulos (Tracers, The 100)
Stefanie von Pfetten (Cracked)


Saturday, January 16, 2016

jan 17 | ingrid bergman & roberto rossellini at viff | stromboli & journey to italy

Ingrid Bergman & Roberto Rossellini at VIFF
Sun Jan 17
Stromboli | 3pm
Journey To Italy | 6:50pm
both screenings at the VanCity

When I was immersed in writing about Soul Food movies, there was one European master of cinema whose work was virtually unavailable. Occasionally on the big screens of art houses, and any time on the small screen in your home, it was easy enough to see pretty much anything by Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky, Karl Theodor Dreyer, Krystof Kieslowski, or – if your tastes ran to a distinctly nordic brand of angst and doubt – Ingmar Bergman.

But Rossellini? Good luck. Almost no prints available for public screening, and many titles not available at all. On video, aging VHS tape or low-budget worse-quality semi-legal DVD copies, all of them badly subtitled - when you could find them at all.

In the fall of 2006, Cinematheque Ontario hosted the first major retrospective of Rossellini's films. I blogged about the month and a half series, which moved on from Toronto to Los Angeles and New York, writing "whether it will ever reach Vancouver remains to be seen. For now, we'll just have to enjoy the catalog, and try to restrain our envy…" That post includes curator James Quandt's notes on Making The Rossellini Retrospective as well as a passage from another of his essays, dealing with Rossellini's Catholicism.

For those of us who couldn't get to Toronto, New York or Los Angeles I transcribed everything Martin Scorsese had to say about Rossellini in his very personal film essay My Voyage To Italy. It's great stuff: here's a link.

In spring 2007 I made my first trip to New York, and spent time at MoMA looking at the rare posters, photos and papers relating to the Rossellini Retrospective that was finishing up there. The photos in this post are from that visit.

In 2010, Criterion made Rossellini's War Trilogy available on DVD; Rome Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany Year Zero (1948). "This is a momentous occasion. We have been working on our five hundredth release for either ten or twenty-five years, depending on how you look at it. No project has been more challenging than this one, but we could not be prouder to mark our twenty-fifth birthday by offering you spine number 500, Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy…" More about Rossellini and that DVD set here.

Even then, the New Yorker's Richard Brody wrote "But there’s one boxed set, a natural to compile, that doesn’t exist, and its absence from home video is perhaps the single most grievous cinematic blind spot in the marketplace: the five features and one short film that he made with Ingrid Bergman (whom he married in the course of their collaborations), between 1949 and 1955."

Eventually Criterion released 3 Films By Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman; Stromboli, Europa '51, and Journey To Italy. And tomorrow, an opportunity for Vancouverites to see two of those films on the big screen at the home of the VIFF; Stromboli screens at 3pm, Journey To Italy at 6:50.