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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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Bears

"Bears" could have used a lot more science; more substantive information in the place of wacky one-liners. Still, the images trump everything.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#125 July 25, 2012

Marie writes: Once upon a time, a long time ago and in a childhood far, far away, kids used to be able to buy a special treat called a Frosted Malt. Then, with the arrival of progress and the subsequent destruction of all that is noble and pure, the world found itself reduced to settling for a frosty at Wendy's, at least where I live. Unable to support a "second rate" frosted malt for a second longer, I decided to do something about it!

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A love letter to Iran

May Contain Spoilers
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These days when you mention Iran, we think of a nation on the brink of war. Extremist images come to mind, full of concealed women and bearded militants. Such stereotypes are useful in the drum up to war. But rarely do we step back to remember when Iran was as European as Europe, or that an autocracy does not necessarily reflect its people. We've forgotten how hundreds of thousands of Iranians risked their lives for the Green Revolution, long before the Arab Spring. There's more to Iran than Ayatollahs and Nuclear Weapons.

Iranian Cinema has always been one of the world's best, reflecting the country's incredible artistic heritage. This year saw Asghar Farhadi's A Separation take the much deserved Best Foreign Picture Oscar. Farhadi himself reminded us not to forget his people's shared humanity.

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A teacher wins the Cannes film festival

Director Laurent Cantet accepts the Palme d'Or, surrounded by his cast.

For the first time in 21 years, a French film has taken the top prize at the Cannes film festival, and in a rarity for Cannes, the Palme d’Or was awarded unanimously. The prize could have easily been named “The Golden Apple” rather than the The Golden Palm since it went to “The Class” ("Entre Les Murs"), the Laurent Cantet film about a young teacher who tries to reach his class of primarily immigrant children in a school on the outskirts of Paris. Confronted with their apathy and sometimes outright hostility, he questions them in a Socratic fashion until they begin to ask themselves if perhaps an education might be relevant to them. This film moved me to tears and so of course I thought that, in the grand tradition of Cannes, it had no chance of winning the top prize.

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TIFF 2007 Wrap: Personal best & indelible images

View image Roger & Chaz Ebert, with Roger's second sidewalk star. (All photos by Jim Emerson. Thanks to Kim Robeson for the use of the camera on this one!)

View image Man Push Dog. Anyone will tell you that one of the joys of TIFF is the street food. I was inspired to take this after seeing "Chop Shop," Ramin Bahrani's second film after "Man Push Cart." Want green olives on that dog? I do.

On average, I saw two to four movies a day at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival -- and, incredibly, I didn't see a bad movie. That's nine days and 20-something pictures (less than one tenth of the total screened), but I don't think I've ever had a run of good movies like that in my life. No, I didn't write about everything I saw -- but I also liked Ira Sachs' "Married Life," Chaude Chabrol's "A Girl Cut in Two" (figuratively and literally), Gus van Sant's "Paranoid Park," and those other movies I saw, except for the one I walked out on (the third in a four-movie day) that was not so much bad as doleful and predictable. And there was the Woody Allen movie I accidentally half-saw, without knowing I was half-seeing it.

View image Toronto Film Festival Co-Founder Dusty Cohl with Roger Ebert. Ya got a coupla stars here.

View image Ingmar Bergman's Death (center, rear) welcomes ticketbuyers, lined up at the TIFF box office in the Manulife Centre, which is being remodeled (nice duct-work, eh?) and currently looks like something out of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." The woman in orange (center, foreground) is one of the fest's fantastically friendly and organized volunteers.

On the other hand, I also didn't take all that many risks. Most of what I saw was by familiar directors I like, or came recommended by fellow critics or other film festivals. There were some movies I wanted to see just because they sounded interesting (not because I'd ever heard of the filmmakers), but I couldn't squeeze them in, and in that sense I did not have the full experience a festival has to offer.

View image They do love their celebs up in Toronto. Last year, air-polluting, environment-destroying Sean Penn smoked at a press conference and it was a huge scandal. The paparazzi couldn't wait to catch him with a cigarette this time. And when they did -- front page news!

View image The "Juno" guys.More photos after the jump...

Anyway, although I fear some of the films I saw even ten days ago are no longer as vivid in my memory because of the ones I've seen since, here were my ten favorite Toronto movies, in very rough order of preference:

"No Country for Old Men" (Joel & Ethan Coen)"I'm Not There" (Todd Haynes)"Chop Shop" (Ramin Bahrani)"Secret Sunshine" (Lee Chang-dong)"Eastern Promises" (David Cronenberg)"Atonement" (Joe Wright)"The Orphanage" (Juan Antonio Bayona)"Persepolis" (Marjane Satrapi & Vencent Paronnaud)"Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon" (Eric Rohmer)"4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days" (Cristian Mungiu)

More photos after the jump...

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TIFF 2007: Girl of Iran

View image They could be nuns. Those could be habits. But they're burkas.

What is that supposedly ancient Chinese curse? "May you live in interesting times"? The proverb may be of dubious origin, but it captures the fate of Marjane, the heroine of "Persepolis," in a Persian nutshell. The precocious Iranian girl is born during the reign of the Shah (Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi), witnesses his overthrow during the Islamic Revolution, becomes enamored of pop music and punk rock (and Bruce Lee) as powerfully disruptive and liberating political forces, and experiences a new world of sexuality and materialism in Europe. "Persepolis," based on the autobio-graphic novels by Maryjane Satrapi and co-written and co-directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, is absolutely enchanting -- a history lesson, a fairy tale, and a girl's-eye-view of growing up. It's a movie that makes you feel glad to be alive.

I wasn't familiar with Satrapi's work, but from what I've seen since, the (mostly black-and-white animation renders her style beautifully: a mix of charming, early Hanna-Barbera coloring-book simplicity, and more atmospheric watercolors or charcoals that suggest a '60s and '70s European sensibility. The delicately modulated tones of "Persepolis" are similarly sophisticated. It veers from hilarious to poignant, sweet to terrifying, abstract to concrete, personal to political, cynical to rhapsodic... and back again.

Our guide is the stubborn, courageous, effervescent Marjane herself, a smart and instinctively rebellious girl who (like most young Westerners) instinctively cobbles together her identity through pop culture and politics. Or make that pop culture as politics. The privately and publicly expressed preference of ABBA over the Bee Gees (or Iron Maiden over both) is just as important -- and in many respects equivalent -- to favoring the Revolution over the Shah. Marjane isn't always admirable (who is?), but we unfailingly empathize with her emotional, philosophical and ideological struggles. (And she has the wisest grandma in the world -- who also disapproves of her granddaughter's actions at times, but never offers anything less than unconditional love.)

"Persepolis" streams by in no time, yet manages to convey the sense of an entire childhood into early adulthood. Upon getting back to my room I immediately ordered the books, "Persepolis" and "Persepolis 2."

(Thanks to Ken Lowery for recommending this movie. It was just the nudge I needed to reshuffle my screening schedule.)

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Toronto #1: 2nd city for film festivals

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TORONTO, Ont. -- And now the ecstasy and madness begins. The 32nd Toronto Film Festival opens Thursday with no fewer than 15 films, and that’s before it gets up to speed. The Trail Mix Brigade is armed with their knapsacks, bottled water, instant snacks, text messengers and a determination to see, who knows, six, seven, eight films a day.

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