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Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas

Not particularly keen on nuance or subtlety, this is a film in which everything, especially Stevens’ decidedly manic take on Dickens, is pitched as broadly…

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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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* 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.

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Woody Allen speaks; confessions of a white Southern Christian racist; YouTube cofounders launch new video service; Pixar discovers animal rights; David Gordon Green a go-go; druglord Rafael Caro Quntero released from prison; trailer for Spike Jonze's new movie.

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#173 June 26, 2013

Marie writes: There was a time when Animation was done by slaves with a brush in one hand and a beer in the other. Gary Larson's "Tales From the Far Side" (1994) was such a project. I should know; I worked on it. Produced by Marv Newland at his Vancouver studio "International Rocketship", it first aired as a CBS Halloween special (Larson threw a party for the crew at the Pan Pacific Hotel where we watched the film on a big screen) and was later entered into the 1995 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It spawned a sequel "Tales From the Far Side II" (1997) - I worked on that too. Here it is, below.

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#165 May 1, 2013

Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Khan has sent us the following awesome find, courtesy of a pal in Belgium who'd first shared it with her. "Got Muck?" was filmed by diver Khaled Sultani (Emirates Diving Association's (EDA) in the Lembeh Strait, off the island coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Camera: Sony Cx550 using Light & Motion housing and sola lights. Song: "man with the movie camera" by cinematic orchestra.

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A comedy beyond time and space

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Paul Rudd walked by me on Main Street in Park City wearing reflective sunglasses so I couldn't see if his eyes could see that my eyes saw him and were staring. I knew it was him from the way he walked. I can recognize a gait a mile away. But I didn't know yet that "Prince Avalanche" was a masterpiece or I could've had a good conversation starter.

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#114 May 9, 2012

Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Kahn discovered the following Danish designers "Monstrum" who make extraordinary playgrounds for children. I think they're the stuff of dreams, whatever your age. Indeed; behold the Rahbek kindergarten in Frederiksberg, Denmark, and Monstrum's first playground...

The Rocket and The Princess Tower! "Just like a set design, a playground must have an inspiring front that attracts children, and a functional backside with climbing, sliding and relaxing options. The idea of the playground is to combine a girl's mind with a boy's approach into one big common playground. The princess tower consists of three floors, and the rocket has two floors. From the top floor of the Rocket, you can slide down the 6 m long double slide together with an astronaut friend." (click to enlarge.)

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#90 November 23, 2011

Marie writes: club member Sandy Kahn has submitted the following and I salute her web skills for having found it. Namely, an upcoming auction of film memorabilia the likes of which you rarely if ever see...

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#75 August 10, 2011

Marie writes: I attended three different elementary schools; St. Peter's, Our Lady of Mercy (which was anything but) and finally St. Micheal's; where I met my Canadian-Italian chum, Marta Chiavacci (key-a-vah-chee) who was born here to Italian immigrants. We lost touch after high school, moving in different directions til in the wake of a trip to Venice and eager to practice my bad Italian and bore friends with tales of my travels abroad, I sought her out again.We've kept in touch ever since, meeting whenever schedules permit; Marta traveling more than most (she's a wine Sommelier) living partly in Lucca, Italy, and happily in sin with her significant other, the great Francesco. I saw her recently and took photos so that I might show and tell, in here. For of all the friends I have, she's the most different from myself; the contrast between us, a never-ending source of delight. Besides, it was a nice afternoon in Vancouver and her condo has a view of False

(click images to enlarge)

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#74 August 3, 2011

Marie writes: I love illustrators best in all the world. There's something so alive about the scratch and flow of pen & ink, the original medium of cheeky and subversive wit. And so when club member Sandy Kahn submitted links for famed British illustrator Ronald Searle and in the hopes others might find him interesting too, needless to say, I was quick to pounce; for before Ralph Steadman there was Ronald Searle... "The two people who have probably had the greatest influence onmy life are Lewis Carroll and Ronald Searle."-- John LennonVisit Kingly Books' Ronald Searle Gallery to view a sordid collection of wicked covers and view sample pages therein. (click to enlarge image.) And for yet more covers, visit Ronald Searle: From Prisoner of War to Prolific Illustrator at Abe Books.

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I have lunch with the mayor

May 20, 2009-The premiere of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" will likely dominate the international press for days. The screening itself was a bit less than a crazy event than I had been expecting. After experiencing the wild, all-out adoration of Tarantino fans at a special Cannes screening of "Kill Bill I and II" some years ago, in which the audience consisted largely of French locals, I was prepared for anything.

The guards opened the Grand Theatre Lumiere a half-hour early, and even though I arrive at 7:55 am for the 8:30 am screening, it was already half full. Mild excitement was in the air, some cheers and applause were heard as the lights went down, and another smattering of applause when Tarantino's name appeared on the screen.

I was waiting for some kind of massive reaction at the end, but there really was nothing out of the ordinary. I've never been overwhelmed by Tarantino's films, although the crazed eclecticism of his work is a lot of fun. "Inglourious Basterds" worked for me as a satisfying whole better than most of his other films. He pulls together everything in his arsenal: action, extreme violence, misogyny, film history, pop music and pop culture, and a plot based on a wild premise that rewrites history.

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I walk the red carpet with no ticket

Tonight's premiere movie is Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock," starring one of my favorite comedians Demetri Martin. Although I don't have a formal invitation to the red carpet premiere, I've decided to try my luck getting into the screening on different terms. Many companies give away extra tickets to the young people who stand outside the Palais with signs requesting them. Although it's not imperative that I see the movie at it's premiere, I think the experience will be fun whether or not I actually get a ticket.

Technically, I can see the movie tomorrow afternoon in a smaller theatre without this hassle. I just won't get to walk the red carpet, see Emile Hirsch (and Ang Lee), take pictures, dress up--and basically it won't be as good. Fingers crossed!


I arrived outside of the Palais all dressed up at 9 pm for the 10 o' clock showing of "Taking Woodstock." I made a sign using a sheet of paper from a legal pad and an ink pen, saying "Invitation to Taking Woodstock, SVP! ☺."

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Frost/Nixon/Milk: Get Real

Michael Sheen and Frank Langella are swell as David Frost and Richard Nixon in the adapted-from-the-stage-adaptation movie, but I feel -- and I believe the above clips demonstrate -- that these five minutes provide more compelling drama and suspense (and adrenaline) than the entire feature film. Frost presents himself as a much stronger, more flamboyant "prosecutor" than he is in the movie. And watch the incredible range and focus of Nixon's performance: the deliberate rhetorical emphases and repetitions; the flashes of steely anger and startling shifts into unctuousness/condescension when he seems like he could burst into inappropriate laugher or tears or flames; the (strategic?) digressions and circumlocutions; the hand-gestures, head-shakes, eye-blinks; the splintered syntax and mispronunciations-under-pressure when he gets flustered... At least you can tell (unlike certain modern politicians one could name) that he's actually thinking as he talks, sifting through evidence and debate tactics and talking points in his head, not just going blank and letting his lips flap. THIS is an endlessly fascinating character in peak performance mode...

* * * *

"Frost/Nixon" and "Milk" are glossy products of the Hollywood awards season, prestige pictures in the grand red-carpet tradition of fashioning uplifting, larger-than-life entertainments out of semi-fictionalized semi-recent historical events. The thing is, both have been treated far more thrillingly on documentaries that are available on DVD. Think "Frost/Nioxon" provided compelling drama, suspense and astoundingly rich performances? It can't approach the actual interviews , which have just been released as "Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews." Think "Milk" was a moving look at a charismatic public figure and a key period in American civil rights? You have not begun to be moved until you see Rob Epstein's Oscar-winning "The Times of Harvey Milk" (clips after the jump), which is also a more complex, less hagiographic portrait of the man and his heady times.

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TIFF 2007: What did I know and when did I know it?

View image There are movies being shown in six or eight theaters in the building on the left. That's all I know. (photo by Jim Emerson)

Film festivals allow you the opportunity to see movies without knowing much of anything about them in advance. If you don't want to, that is. The problem with this is that, unless you have a festival catolog (the hefty TIFF 2007 one is 480 pages and sells for $37), you also have no idea of what you don't know about. Today, I arrived more than a half-hour early for a screening of Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There," only to discover that the previous film (something about "Cassandra") was running about 45 minutes late. The Toronto festival is quite punctual, so this was a most unusual occurrence. The staff person allowed some of us into the theater to sit through the end of the previous movie, in which case we would be able to retain our seats for the one we'd actually come to see.

Now, normally I'm like Woody Allen in "Annie Hall" and I don't go into movies late. I rarely leave early, either, even if I think the movie's terrible. In this case, I thought I'd just go in and rest my eyes, since I knew nothing about the film I was about walk into the middle of. It soon became apparent that it had Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell in it, as two brothers who were involved in some kind of murder scheme. It was thoroughly mediocre, and I wondered how some first-time commercial filmmaker had lured such a cast, especially with this lackluster script. (Tom Wilkinson showed up, too.) But, I was also seeing it from the middle, sometimes with eyes wide shut, because I was only there to have a seat for the next movie.

When it ended (badly), the credits appeared and I immediately recognized the typeface. It was Woody Allen's latest movie. Surprise.

I write this not to report on a movie I only saw the last half of, but because as I was sitting there I was thinking about how little I have known -- quite deliberately -- about the films I have seen before I have gone to see them. (Of course, I hadn't intended to see even part of this one. That was just an accident.) For the most part I'm trying to maintain blissful ignorance, going into these films with no preconceptions except that I may know who the director is, or who one or two of the cast members are. Or somebody I trust has recommended it. That's as much as I want to know.

Some people at the press and industry screenings seem to know everything about them before the lights go down, but I don't listen to them. So here, in the interest of full disclosure, is how much I knew about some of this year's TIFF movies going in (including a few I haven't yet seen):

"Eastern Promises": David Cronenberg movie with Viggo Mortensen. Not a clue as to what it was about, who else was in it, what it was based on (if anything), or what the title meant.

"Michael Clayton": George Clooney wearing a suit and tie. Nothing else.

"4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days": Romanian film about an abortion that won at Cannes.

"Chop Shop": Second film by Ramin Bahrani ("Man Push Cart"). Unaware of where it was set or what it was about, except I thought there was a kid in it.

"Redacted": Brian De Palma. Something about Iraq.

"Secret Sunshine": Asian film (I don't even know what country) that won an award for something somewhere (I think it was Cannes). A friend said I should see it.

"The Orphanage": Mexican. Produced by Guillermo Del Toro. Appeared to be kinda creepy, and somebody had compared it to "Pan's Labyrinth."

"Margot at the Wedding": Written and directed by Noah Baumbach ("The Squid and the Whale"). Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, and Jennifer Jason-Leigh. That's all.

"Persepolis": Black and white. Animated. No idea of language or subject.

"Atonement": Based on Ian McEwan novel I haven't finished (but have at home). Don't know who directed it or who's in the cast.

"The Man From London": Directed by Bela Tarr.

"I'm Not There": Todd Haynes' movie in which several people play Bob Dylan. I knew Cate Blanchett was one of them.

"No Country for Old Men": A Coen brothers movie, based on Cormac McCarthy's book (which I'd read). Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem were in it. Roger really liked it.

"Into the Wild": Sean Penn-directed adaptation of Jon Krakauer's biography of Christopher McCandless, which I read about ten years ago and really liked. I knew Emile Hirsch was the main character, but I couldn't recall any movies I'd seen Emile Hirsch in before.

(Once again, my brain is so full of movies I want to write about that I can't concentrate on any one long enough to finish writing about it. I've got about four posts partly written. Hope I'll get a chance to within the next 24 hours. In the meantime, there are more movies to see...)

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TIFF 2007: Grizzly boy

View image Emile Hirsch as Alexander Supertramp. A star is (re)born.

Ladies and gentleman, writer-director Sean Penn has not ruined the story of Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, in his big-screen adaptation of Jon Krakauer's nonfiction book, "Into the Wild." The movie has awkward patches (is it too late to get rid of the strident Eddie Vedder songs?), devices that just don't work (lose the distracting handwriting from Alex's diary scribbling across the screen), and it leans toward romanticizing what is known about a life that is more ambiguous and mysterious in Krakauer's necessarily fragmentary, journalistic chronicle.

View image The last known photo of the real Chris McCandless.

But Penn's empathy with his driven hero is unmistakable and deeply felt. Alex (as he renamed and introduced himself to those he met on the road) was a kind of Holy Fool, a young man whose rebellion against his parents' values -- indeed, their very lives -- grew into a wholesale rejection of society and the culture of materialism that he found empty and meaningless. His contempt for the hypocrisy of the world into which he was born transcended the teenage bellyaching of Holden Caulfield. Alex's literary models are Thoreau, Tolstoy and Jack London. Shortly after fulfilling his parents' expectations by graduating from Emory University in 1990, he donated all his savings (about $24,000) and disappeared into the wild, heading west to Colorado and California, south to Mexico, and eventually north to Alaska, as a "leather tramp." Shoe leather, that is.

His journey -- like most quests -- was as relentlessly internal as well as geographical. He was driven, in every sense of the word. Was he running away from something or in search of something, or both? And was that thing, in either case, himself?

Of course, the answers to these questions are unknowable -- as, fundamentally, was Chris/Alex, perhaps to himself and to all who met him. But his idealism, his motivation, his disillusionment and disgust with convention, animated him and sparked a flame in others, who tended to see part of their better selves in him. Penn's adaptation falters when it tries to simplify the character, to suggest answers to questions that, to be honest, must be left open.

The film attempts to draw a direct "through-line" (or, if you prefer, "character arc") from a philosophical youngster who tells an old man that the value of life does not come from human relationships, to a supposedly wiser (but not much older) young man, isolated in the wilderness, writing between the lines in a Russian paperback novel that happiness is meaningless unless it is shared.

By then we already know that some of Alex's happiest moments were when he was alone, and that while he cared for other people, he didn't rely upon them to give his life meaning. (And who says he was primarily interested in finding "happiness," rather than some kind of larger truth or awareness?) I think the movie presents this notion of "shared happiness," in the section captioned "The Getting of Wisdom," as a breakthrough, a moment of enlightenment, rather than simply a moment -- one of many notes to himself Alex left behind. This is not simply a story of Christopher McCandless reinventing himself as Alexander Supertramp, only to better understand and accept his identity as Christopher McCandless again. To see it that way is to mistake fractional evidence for a shapely scenario (think of the case for invading Iraq, SP).

I read Krakauer's book about ten years ago, but I don't recall any evidence to indicate Alex refused to have sex with a girl he befriended because she was underage. Chris/Alex's apparent lack of interest in sex was a mystery to everyone. He seems to have channeled his drive into other areas. At any rate, the way the scene is presented here (girl undresses and presents herself to him on a mattress) doesn't play. It feels like a development presented explicitly to explain or illustrate, to address a particular question about the character rather than to explore it.

Now I realize I've spent four paragraphs about what I don't think works in the film, when I started off by announcing that it I liked it, was moved by it, and that it wasn't the misfire I had feared. I say that not because I had any reason to think it would fail, just that I felt so strongly about the source material that I really, really didn't want to see a disservice done to it.

View image The abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness where the real McCandless camped.

Two things immediately impressed me about "Into the Wild":

1) The diversity of the locations so vividly (and often spectacularly) captured by Penn and cinematographer Eric Gautier. Each place registers an emotional and psychological impression. These aren't just landscapes Alex happens to pass through; we seem to be entering them through his experience, and to absorb something from them as he does. Appropriately, the place that seems the least distinctive is the one he left behind, the world of his parents (school, suburbia) that he rejects.

2) The equally vivid, lived-in feel of the performances. Emile Hirsch has never quite registered with me before, but this is a star-making role. He has to hold the entire movie together, while everyone else passes through his life. Hirsch may now be where Leonardo DiCaprio was around the time of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "The Basketball Diaries." The movie goes right to the verge of making Alex/Chris too saintly, but Hirsch suggests the naivete and self-possession/selfishness of a young man who, perhaps, can't accept love and doesn't know quite how to express it. But he does recognize its expression in others.

View image North to Alaska, deeper into Denali.

From the moment Brian Dierker appears, I figured he was either a great actor or not an actor at all. Turns out this is his first screen credit, and he's a veteran Grand Canyon river guide. Penn must have recognized the real thing when he saw it. As Rainey, one of the "rubber tramps" (on tires, in an RV) who picks up Alex, he's startlingly authentic, an old hippie who's learning that life isn't what he's thought it was, or would be. This is one of those rare nonprofessional turns that is so real, so lived-in, that it deserves recognition -- even if the guy isn't "acting." He's absolutely genuine in his own skin. Many professionals would give their eye teeth to achieve this level of authenticity on the screen.

Of course, Catherine Keener, as his old lady, is one of the few pros who can match this level of unforced naturalness, and her scenes with Dierker are heartbreaking. She is the emotional center of the movie: Alex is the son she lost, and she's the mother he wishes he had had. They both recognize this bond subconsciously from the moment they meet, and it's as if they've each found a missing part of each other.

Alex is blessed with a series of influential, much-needed father figures. In addition to Rainey, there's Vince Vaughn (funny and poignant) as a factory farmer, and Hal Holbrook (eloquent beyond words) as a widowered leather-worker. It seems trite to mention Hollywood awards in the face of such affecting work, but when the Screen Actors Guild nominates their "best ensemble cast," everybody here deserves to be in the running.

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