Archives for the month of: March, 2014

“Frozen” is an animated film direct by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, written by Chris Buck Jennifer Lee and Shane Morris, screenplay by Jennifer Lee, inspired by the story “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen.

So, finally saw this, my niece was finally interesting, willing and able to see this movie in a theatre and yours truly snagged an invite.

I don’t know that I can say anything about this movie that hasn’t already been said…great music, engaging characters, excellent animation, a taking snowman and not one, but TWO princesses!
I loved it.

More importantly, my niece loved it.

The movie was not without tense moments – death of the parents and an ice monster – of course I’m not sure if they were truly tense moments or if my niece is just super sensitive, she left her seat three times during the movie…

But I think that everything jokes, songs, characters was suitable for children and enjoyable for adults. I’m only sorry that it took me so long to see it!

There has been some amount if discussion about how this Disney film is one of the first where the princesses doesn’t end up being saved by a prince or prince-like male character. I don’t really know what to say, it is about time that Disney got with the times. There was also a wonderful theme if familial love that I really enjoyed and gave the movie a wonderful depth and soul.

See and enjoy!

I should also mention that this movie was preceded by “Get A Horse!” which was a fun little short that starts off looking like a vintage Mickey Mouse picture and quickly turns into a fantastical shattering of the “fourth wall” as the characters spill out into the theatre – very fun use of 3D. Again, my niece loved it! And I liked it too…

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“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is directed by Wes Anderson, story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, screenplay by Wes Anderson, inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig.

So, here is my attempt to be somewhere near objective. About one of my favourite directors.

I’m not sure how well I’m going to do, I’ve been waiting for the follow-up of “Moonrise Kingdom” to see what was next for Anderson, which direction would he take his storytelling and what visual feasts would he offer this time.

What was the result of this time out?

A far, far darker and thematically adult movie.

Visually the colours are still bright and saturated, he still used models for interesting and amusing action sequences and he still offers up touches if whimsy at every turn. Characters are still human and engaging and there are plenty if delightful details to engage the audience, most of whom, I should note , are diehard fans…

But, the film is darker. It is like…he took the darkest elements from “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” (am I the only one who remembers that those farmers are trying to kill our fox-friend,kids’ movie or not, Roald Dahl is dark…) and the deliciously flawed characters of “Moonrise Kingdom”, put them in a blender and added some violence, sexuality and adult language.

Wes Anderson offers us a grown up movie.

I should clarify, I don’t think that a grown up movie requires swearing and sexuality or violence, but I do think that this movie is not so sweet and innocent as his most recent offerings. There were a couple of scenes that I jumped in my seat, the violence and suggested violence was surprising.

So too, were the swear words. To my ear they a bit…out of tune, something I wasn’t ready for in a Wes Anderson film and to be honest, one if the things that I’ve really liked about his films is the lack of swearing, many of us just choose not to express ourselves with certain words, not out of prudishness but out of choice. That being said the language was very nicely balanced between the poetic, the surprising and the mundane. So, no, I wasn’t offended by the language, it was just surprising and I have to say I felt bad about, just two days I commented to a friend “Wes Anderson doesn’t usually have language it that you need to be concerned about as a parent”. There are way worse film, but I there was enough that I noted the change in language.

The film was another fine example of how, in the hands of a skilled storyteller, devices such as “a story within a story” , are completely effective. It reminded me if a puzzle box, unfolding and revealing new treasures.

Visually stunning. Anderson continues to create films that delight the eyes and excite the senses. I’m not sure what his visual inspiration is, but his work reminds me of a painting come to life, he finds beauty in unconventional places and humour in absurd and unexpected moments.

This time out, I must note, that I found it to have a vein of touching humanity, in spite of the violence.

This film is packed with new comers to his world while his regular actors – such as Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Jason Schwartzman – have their roles reduced to single scenes and few lines. Adrien Brody still had a sizable role…I wasn’t bothered by this but in the theatre you could hear the reactions from fans when certain actors finally appeared on-screen. The “new” actors to the Anderson world – Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum – do so with grace and humour and enrich the world.

Anderson’s evolution as a film maker continues to fascinate me, he continues to express a visual style far different from others and his films have a solid stylistic language of their own. I will be honest that I don’t think I love this film as much as the previous two, but I will see it again in theatre, the colours and visuals are just too tempting to pass up.

I think emotionally it is a bit of a chillier movie, there isn’t a lot of sentiment going on and the affection is quite pragmatic even in romantic relationships. I love the restrained emotions of the characters and the lack of sentimental expression or over expression.

I can’t tell if this movie is one to see. If you do see it, see it theatre, although there aren’t explosions or heavy visual effects, the colours and animation are best served by a large screen.

Another fine film by Wes Anderson . I hope he doesn’t make us wait as long for the next one…

“Like Father, Like Son” (original title “Soshite chichi ni naru” is directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, screenplay by Hirokazu Koreeda. The film is in Japanese and I saw a subtitled version at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. I couldn’t find information about who did the subtitles.

The film takes on the old question “nature vs nurture” by telling the story of a workaholic father who finds out that his 6-year-old son was switched at birth. He and his wife, along with the family raising their biological son, negotiate through their differences in income, parenting styles and dispositions to choose how to deal with this unthinkable situation – do they stay as they are or do they switch children so that the biological families are together? Added to the problems is that it turns out that this wasn’t an accident but a deliberate act by one of the nurses – this isn’t a spoiler, this was widely known as part of the story, but I guess a few people in the audience didn’t know…

As I find typical of Japanese films, the emotion is greatly restrained and understated, the actors are skilled at hinting to deep hurts and thoughts and turmoil without delving into the same dramatics as actors from Western traditions. You aren’t going to find screaming, shouting and deep conversations, but you will find looks, quiet conversation and lip trembling to keep tears at bay – lovely.

This film got me right in the heart – there were many moments where my heart was in my throat and I thought it would break – the child actors are charming and engaging and expressive and you grow to care about them and the mourn the lack of information they are being given by the adults in their lives. The sorrows and struggles of the families are gripping and so sad.

The adults struggle as much as the children, even they know they are in charge and making these decisions, it seems that they are as much as victims of circumstance as anyone else. No one is spared either, the families are wrecked and wreck each other with great delicacy and devastation.

I loved the design of this film – clothes, living spaces, toys – which served to underscore the economic differences between the families.

It will be no surprise that the film doesn’t fully answer the question or solve the debate of “nature vs nurture”, but I don’t think that it really needed to, it ends with a true open ending, you are hopefully for the families especially children, but it leaves you with a sense that things are truly broken in ways no one truly understands yet.

This is a film to see, it was wonderful in pacing, acting and story.

 

“The Shining” is directed by Stanley Kubrick, screenplay Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson, based (apparently loosely) on a novel of the same name by Stephen King.

“The Shining” was released in 1980 and we saw a screening of it as part of the “Kingdom of Fear: Stephen King on Screen” series at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

As this review is of a film originally released in 1980 it contains spoilers.

So the first time I saw this film, it was on the small screen, probably a rental, and it seriously disturbed me. I didn’t have a clear sense of what was going on, what the film was about or how I supposed to connect or care about the characters in any meaningful way. But, I knew that scared and disrupted my sleep for many nights. And I couldn’t figure out why.

I can’t say, after that first viewing, that I loved the movie. I also can’t say why I was supposed to love the movie…

The movie “Room 237” (reviewed by me), inspired me to see this movie again. But, I was waiting for a special occasion, a reason to see it again and hopefully gain some deeper insight. The special occasion was this series and a misunderstanding.

See, strangely, this movie is my climbing partner’s favourite film – she loves scary movies and she thinks this one is the scariest. I told her about this screening and she thought I was inviting her to come with me to see it – apparently she thought that somehow I had become brave! – by the time I realized the miscommunication not “come and see this with me!” but “hey, I saw this and thought of you”, I had already committed to buying the tickets, joining her and her friend for dinner and rearranging our climbing session to make for less commuting…

Very quickly it was clear that people at this screening were hard-core fans – many of the conversations that I overheard involved theories, details of when and where they had seen the film, speculations about meanings. I was told numerous times the screening was sold out.

So.

Yeah, I still don’t know what the film is about, not really. I mean, I think it is about the decent of a father into madness, but then what is up with all the ghosts? And the sea of blood from the elevators? What is up with room 237 and who is that women in the bathtub? And how on earth does Shelley Duvall outsmart a crazed Jack Nicholson? And what is up with the closing shot?!

What I know is this movie terrifies and upsets me. I barely slept at all last night and when I dreamed, I dreamed of blood gushing from elevator doors, twins that weren’t twins, ghosts and Jack Nicholson chasing me through a hedge maze.

I still don’t have a clear idea of what is going on this movie – I mean, it sometimes is slow and then suddenly it is terrifying, you watch a kid ride around on a Big Wheel across wooden floors and carpets and there is something so weird about it makes a ton of noise on the wooden floors and then goes silent on the carpets…I don’t know.

I think, as a horror film, a movie that has the purpose of scaring a person, it is one of the best. And I think a big part of that induced fear is the ambiguity and I think another part of it is all the crazy little “problems” with continuity. It unsettles and confuses me. I think the lack of explanation allows viewers to fill in the gaps for themselves and anything that we think and imagine is way more terrifying that any clarity that Kubrick could offer audiences.

If you love film and haven’t seen this one, I suggest you do so. It routinely makes it on “Greatest Movies of All Time” lists and fans and critics love it. Scary films aren’t really my thing and I can’t say that I love this film, I think it does exactly what Kubrick sets out to do – it scares the heck out of us.

“The Wind Rises” was released under the original title “Kaze tachinu”. I will refer to the film as “The Wind Rises” as this is the title under which I saw the movie.

“The Wind Rises” is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, written Hayao Miyazaki comic and screenplay.

So.

My favourite school of philosophy, The Kyoto School, was/is made up of Buddhist philosophers. One of the biggest criticisms that was leveled against the “school” was that the philosophers supported Japan’s involvement in World War 2 and, after it was over, it was thought that, as Buddhist thinkers, the school should have condemned involvement. I remember my prof telling us that some of the philosophers could never reconcile themselves in their support of the of the war.

This film delves into some similar themes – the main character, Jiro, wants to fly, and when prevented from becoming a pilot by near-sightedness, becomes an airplane designer, who then has to face the certainty that those designs will be used for war and, to logical conclusion, killing people.

The story is told through a combination of dream-scapes, where Jiro interacts with his idol Italian aeronautical engineer Caproni as, in his life he navigates through historical events such as the Great Kanto Earthquake 19 23, the Great Depression, TB epidemic, rise of Nazi Germany and Japan’s involvement in World War 2 and his own life and love.

I love these Studio Ghibli films – they evoke fantasy and whimsy while still keeping a root in reality. The film is nicely textured and with typical Japanese restraint. The characters offer wry lines and moments of humour and they are always 3-dimensional, complex beings. You feel for them, their hopes, dreams and loses.

Although not graphic, there are scenes in the movie that suggest the violence of war and death. I thought that it was nicely handled in abstraction and left it to the viewer’s imagination to understand what is going on and come to their own emotional conclusions.

This film has more in common with the most recent Studio Ghibli film “Up On Poppy Hill” which doesn’t contain any magical or fantastical creatures that are touchstones of Studio Ghibli films – this film is about reality and remains fully aware that a more realistic style is appropriate.

In conversation about this film with a friend, I noted that just because a film has a PG rating and is animated doesn’t necessarily mean that it is film for children – the themes and emotions are complex, yet restrained, so the content of the film are appropriate for all ages, the themes may be a little boring for children, The pacing too, is quite relaxed and there are many jumps through the passage of time, without guidance.

I loved it.

I do have one issue with this movie – according to the schedule, I was supposed to see a Japanese-language film with English subtitles. What I saw was a dubbed film in English. Now, I think the English-speaking cast did a great job, always good to hear the talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but I actually wanted to hear the Japanese and read the English. So, for the people who did up the schedule and posted the information inside the theatre – wish you guys would have gotten this right on behalf of people who wanted to hear the original Japanese, I would have seen another screening given the chance.

 

So after what felt like a never-ending day at work, I got my stuff, walked with a friend out tithe parking lot, opened my car door, put my stuff inside and started up my car.

Then I noticed it.

There was a pack of chocolates on my windshield!

Open the door, get out and grab them, put them on the seat beside me and drive over to the restaurant where I’m have dinner with friends.

My brain is filled with questions: who put them there? Did a friend out them there? Did someone who knows my car put them there? Are they safe to eat? Are they dangerous to eat?

I get over there and tell my friend about what I found. She is stumped. I have my list of suspects…the amount of people who know my car is very limited. The number of people who know I like chocolate…is massive. The amount of people I’m friends with is few, the amount of people who would leave poisoned chocolate on windshield is…debatable.

Our other friend arrived at the table and I told her what had happened. W looked at each other and I said “you put it there right?” She did.

For the record she was my only suspect.

Case closed.

This detective stuff is easy!

“Tim’s Vermeer is directed by Teller and produced by Penn and Teller. Um, yes that Penn and Teller.

So, second post today, second post on the ole’ iPhone…

I saw the trailer for this film when I saw “Inside etc etc” and this looked a film to interest me – a doc about a guy who is obsessed with painting a “Vermeer”. This guy, call him…”Tim ” because that is his name…takes a leave of absence from work and tries his hand at doing a reproduction of a Vermeer painting.

Only.

Well, get this, he isn’t a painter!

This sounds exactly like my kind of thing…

The film itself is well textured – it shows the unlikely process and events that occur as Tim tries to first discover a possible way Vermeer was able to paint the paintings he did and then follows him throughout the process.

His journey, this obsession, brings him into contact with scholars and authors and professors and painters as he shows his suggested technique and gadgets along his journey.

This is a great film for anyone interested in art, docs and most especially obsession.

Quite a few years ago when I was in university and studying theatre, there was this one tutorial where we ended up taking about obsession and how it was something that people didn’t admit and was seen as something undesirable and dangerous.

Perhaps this has changed, the world seems to be much more interested in the obsessions individuals have and more willing to engage people in their obsessions and passions.

The film captures the successes and frustrations of having ones obsessions documented. At one point in the film he responds to the question if it wasn’t a film would he give up and he answers that he would. It comes down it, I guess resilience and persistence.

In a fun bonus, this film was part of the “film and talk” series they are doing at TIFF, which was an interesting experience, this time around I was by far the youngest in the discussion group and got to talk with an exciting mix of people – artists, Vermer buffs, film lovers and others whose stories I don’t know. Excellent conversation and wonderful that TIFF is hosting these events for film goers and lovers. Film lovers, I mean.

Funnily, I got asked again “so are you a student or what?” In a surprising moment I stuck withy previous answer ” I’m an adult!”

I think next time I’m just going to say “oh, I’m a superhero. My superpower is being awesome.”

Great times.

If you do get the chance see this movie, it us fascinating and engaging, a very fun time. It may even make you feel good about your own obsession.

Or inspire you to paint your own Vermeer.

This is a new thing for me, using the iPhone to post something, so please excuse my errors, they are mine alone and should not be blamed on the tech that I (mid)use.

No climbing today means a day of “catch up” and feeding the…dare I say “soul”?

Joined to 10am line to the AGO to the “The Great Upheaval” exhibit which is in it’s final two days.

This exhibit features a couple if my favourite artists so, for me, it was no to be missed.

I read an interesting article earlier this week, ok I read a few interesting articles this week…one being about how nature helps relieve various behaviours in children and another about how if we are collecting art we should focus on how we feel rather than monetary value.

So.

For me, it is worth it, waking up early, paying an admission to stand in front of the few Chagalls and Kandinskys that were on display. (The Miro was a surprise and I enjoyed the Mondrians too. Modigliani has never let me down either…)

There is something energizing to stand in front if paintings that I love. I can feel my heart beat change and my spine straighten, I feel a gladness, a sense if joy and well-being, stimulated and thankful. It operates on my whole self – my body, intellect and emotions. It moves me.

I can’t tell if it is about colour or structure or why I respond this way to some paintings and not others and I don’t know why some artists I love more than others.

I know it is true and real.

I must be hilarious to watch in a gallery – I find the artists I live best first, visit them then experience all the other paintings, then I go back to my favourites again. Some kind of homing instincts I guess.