Browsing: Editor’s Pick

Editor's Pick nebraska-web

Courtesy of Next Projection and TIFF Bell Lightbox, I was able to attend an advance screening of Nebraska (2013). Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) was in the house and was led in an introductory interview and post-show Q&A by TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey. Providing information about his filming process and the film itself, the comments throughout the event shored up a much richer experience of the film, which I will share with you amidst my review.

The latest feature by the Academy Award winning director is certainly amongst his finest achievements. Shot in black and white with cinemascope lenses from the 1970s, Payne’s Nebraska is a highly affectionate, nostalgic, and ultimately sincere depiction of family, relationships, and sentimentality. While I previously commended Payne’s rhythmic timing in The Descendants, stating that “the film leaves the viewer with a lingering flow of images,” I must state that he has outdone himself here. Nebraska, yet another road film by Payne, shares a journey, and while episodes bring elements together to enrich the journey, the movement of the journey never relents. There is a sense of changing, of becoming, that is an essential aspect of the film, and while the landscape changes, so too do the amiable characters that are portrayed.

Editor's Pick Annex - Davis, Bette (All About Eve)_04

It is hard to deny a better performance by tough-as-nails actress Bette Davis than in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1950 classic All About Eve, the bitterly comedic story of showbiz betrayal that screened today at TIFF Bell Lightbox’s new Bette Davis retrospective “The Hard Way”, which started this Friday and runs until December 8.

Like in the eerie, claustrophobic, and tonally schizophrenic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Davis embodies a bygone actress. Although her performance is highly memorable, Davis is not Eve, thus this story is not all about her. Davis plays Margo Channing, a broadway star who at the age of forty becomes overshadowed by her own understudy Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a name bequeathed today to people who social-climb and backstab others to achieve success (if you ask me, there are far too many Eve Harrington’s nowadays).

Editor's Pick payne-1

What is it about the films of Alexander Payne that hold us so closely to people we wouldn’t otherwise care about? It is possibly the way he deftly blends the comedic with the dramatic, possibly the way he ensures that each and every character is a full person and not a caricature, or it could be that the characters he chooses to tell his stories about are closer to us than we think they are. In many ways, he is a more accessible and commercially viable Wes Anderson. No disrespect to Anderson, he’s one of my favorite filmmakers, but his films are not for everyone and Payne’s are fairly universal.

Cork Film Festival 2013 Halley-2012

“Illness and sin are one” is what’s intoned by a preacher at the halfway point of Halley, a horror movie that’s wholly committed to rendering in realist terms the life—or is that death?—of a zombie. If that sounds like material for a comedy, it shouldn’t; much as Harold’s Going Stiff proved with warmth and wit how these cadaverous characters can be played for laughs, it’s much more the concern of Mexican director Sebastián Hoffman to exploit the idea of zombification for a psychological and philosophical study of our relationship to death. No doubt his protagonist Beto would dispute the preacher; the state of prehumous decay in which he starts the movie is nothing if not punishment without provocation.

Editor's Pick 74255_front

Frances Ha is one of the most adorable, smart, and clever films of 2013. The film has a winning formula: sharp script, terrific direction, bold lead performance, memorable supporting cast and an overall positive message.

Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a New York woman struggling to make it in the real world. She’s an apprentice for a dance company, she teaches ballet lessons to young girls and spends her free time with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), they’re the same person with different hair. When Sophie decides to find another place, Frances must relocate, make new friends and find a new home. She’s a 27-year-old woman with no long-term goals and after her opening scene breakup, has no significant other. It’s at this point the audience may be divided in two: those rooting for Frances, and those rooting against Frances. This film is very much a glass half-full/half-empty kind of film. Some will connect with the Frances’ carefree, zero consequences approach to life. Others may find her immature behavior appalling.

Blu Review citylightsblu

Criterion continues its marvelous series of Charlie Chaplin Blu-Ray releases with a new edition of Charlie Chaplin’s understated masterpiece, City Lights. In defiance of the popularity of talking pictures at the time of its release, City Lights stands out as definitive proof of film’s ability to expose the fragility of the human soul with its most basic elements of light and movement. The film semi-facetiously describes itself as a “comedic romance in pantomime” but it manages to push the potential for those reductive terms to their furthest limits.

Editor's Pick

After watching Thor: The Dark World, I have come to realize that I have a natural love for this particular storyline in the Marvel Universe. While I thoroughly enjoy the other films in the franchise, Thor has proven to be the one I love to talk about the most. However, that does not mean I am blind to the faults of the first film, or this one; it just means that the negatives are not enough to hamper my immense appreciation of the positives.

Therefore, I have created a list that describes the five things I loved about the film and the five things I felt that took away from it. I will begin with the negatives as I feel it is always best to get the bad news first and then hear what good comes out of it:

Editor's Pick White-Material-2009

Enigmatic in a style only proffered by Claire Denis, White Material (2009) uses smoke, dust, and oblique images to endow the viewer with a subjective consciousness that resonates with the experiences of the closely examined characters. In her usual formal sensibility, Denis chooses to use close-ups and point-of-view shots to support personal expressivity in her characters. In effect, much of what occurs outside of the protagonist’s direct engagements—including the name and exact location of this war—are made incidental, as it is personal experience that is primarily worth exploring here. For this reason, the camera tends to stick with the character whose life it is capturing, and everything else falls by the wayside. This is not to say that the context is not important, but that Denis brings the context into the picture through absenting it in the image. What is out of the frame speaks to the scenario, but what is in the frame tends to speak to the substance and emotion which Denis wishes to express through her characters.

Editor's Pick Blackfish-2013-blu-ray

The cinema expose of the year, that wasn’t really an expose for those familiar with animal welfare movements. Animals in captivity have been the subject of many exploration documentaries and one that always comes up trumps as the most memorable is The Cove (2009). The documentary follows the work of Richard O’Barry, the original Flipper the dolphin trainer turned animal rights activist. When he saw the potential of the growth of the performing dolphin industry and the largely negative impact it was having on the quality of life in captivity for marine animals he began a crusade to stop the artificial impulse of support for capturing marine mammals. He’s now banned from entering Japan by authorities for his film footage and guerrilla war tactics for interviewing and spread of the word on what’s know as the cove. O’Barry witnessed the mass capturing and slaughter of dolphins in an annual event by Japanese fishermen out to get good revenue for selling the dolphins on as performing animals to sea themed parks around the world. The rest of the catch are slaughtered and sold on as mercury damaged ‘whale’ meat that’s widely sold and eaten by the Japanese public unaware of its origins. The documentary is a fantastic but graphic watch that really serves the purpose of alerting the masses to where performing ocean mammals come from. Blackfish is surely off the back of the success of The Cove and the global demand for revelations behind the corporate masks of Seaworld and attraction parks that keep Orca whales.

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