Toronto Film Festival Photo Gallery 2012

Posted in Canada, Cultural Mining, Jeff Harris, Movies, Photo Gallery, TIFF, Toronto by CulturalMining.com on September 17, 2012

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TIFF12: Daniel Garber talks with Bruce Sweeney about his new film Crimes of Mike Recket

Posted in Canada, Crime, Cultural Mining, Drama, Movies, Sex, Thriller by CulturalMining.com on September 14, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM. 

What happens when the details of a secret friendship / relationship involving a middle-aged man and an older woman come to light — who will that affect? What will the truth reveal? Was there love involved? How about sex? And death? Well a new Canadian movie called Crimes of Mike Recket explores these and other plot lines in an unusual combination of police procedural and social drama. Vancouver-based director/writer and TIFF favourite Bruce Sweeney explains it all for you in this telephone interview.

September 14, 2012. “This is a BIG festival…” Movies reviewed: Spring Breakers, Kon-Tiki, Blancanieves

Posted in 1920s, Adventure, Cultural Mining, drugs, Fairytales, Movies, Norway, Polynesia, Spain, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on September 14, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Spring Breakers photo by Jeff Harris

TIFF is monumental, vast and confusing. Three critics I spoke to this week – from NY, one from L.A. and one from Australia – all said Toronto isn’t like the other film festivals they go to – it’s a “really big one”. And all the huge-ness that goes with it.

Let me give you an example, a weird thing that happened to me. Picture a floor to ceiling black-velvet curtain. At TIFF they have a photo-op area right beside a press conference area, but they’re separated by that black curtain. I was on the press side, so I caould hear everything happening but not see it. Basically, when the celebs show up there’s a frenzy of rabid shouting photographers snapping pics like crazy and shouting out their names. So you can see a non-stop barrage of flashes in the ceiling above the curtain and hear what sounds like vicious digs tearing a famous actor apart and then eating him alive. Very weird. Then 1 minute later they cross to the press side, and quietly sit down at the table on the stage.

The press conference where I witnessed this was for Harmony Korine’s new movie is called Spring Breakers as in SPRING BREAK FOREVAH… Bitches! (the movie’s catchphrase)

It’s an impressionistic look at a fantasy version of the annual florida bacchanalia where college students get drink, have sex, and gather in huge numbers. It’s full of the glowing neon and pastels, jiggling bodies, vespa scooters, red camaros and white baby grands. Into this fiesta are three blond university students — candy, cotty and brittney (Ashley Benson, Vannessa Hudgons, Rachel Korine) who want to go wild, and their god-fearing friend Faith (Selena Gomez) who tries to stay the path to the straight and narrow. The Candy and Brit rob a chicken shack to pay for their trip, and soon the four of them fall under the sway of Alien (James Franco) a white stoner gangsta rapper living the life of riley with his club-kid identical twin sidekicks in his drug fueled beach-side mansion. The three bad girls take to him like honey, don matching pink balaclavas and wave their heavy-duty machine guns in the air in Pussy-Riotous triumph.

The movie is less about story than impression, with lots of improvised lines, repetition, and a constant background beat. It’s mainly about bodies in the sun and guns at night… a satirical, fantastical college collage… I love this like I love all of Harmony Korine’s movies. This is his most accessible one and feels like lying in the sand while reading a glossy fashion magazine with a great ipod mix in your ears. Spring Break…!

Anyway, there are hundreds of movies at TIFF this year, but I thought I’d tell you about a few that really struck my fancy, for very different reasons. One’s about a boat trip to the South Pacific, another about  fighting bulls in Seville.

Kon-Tiki

Dir: Joachim Rønning

It’s after WWII and Thor Heyerdahl wants to test his theories about Polynesia where he had lived fora decade with his wife, Liv. The polynesians say their ancesters followed the winds and the tides from the east (South America), not from the West (Asia). So he vows to make the crossing in the same way to prove it was possible. Without funding or academic backing he gathers together 4 more men in Peru, including an anthropologist with a movie camera, an engineer who was a fridge salesman, a sexton operator who knows his directions, and a morse code radio operator, and set off from Peru.

The movie follows the adventurers across an ocean, their encounters with glowing creatures, dangerous sharks, and wales, all beneath their balsa wood raft and moved by Tiki himself, the god’s image painted on the canvas sail. They set out in suits and ties, but gradually pare down into saggy long underwear. These five sun-burned and blonde-bearded buddies are always growling on the verge of a fight, but without a hint of macho. It’s up to thor to keep the faith, follow the sun god’s path and be true to Tiki. Will they all survive and can they make it all the way? This is a really fantastic family movie, thrilling, funny, scary and exciting. It’s by the director of Max Manus, another Boy’s Own style adventure about WWII resistance fighters. __is the norwegian Spielberg and gets all the cliff-hangers, shocks, and special effects dead-on. There must be some CGIs involved but it really felt like you were out in the pacific ocean with them battling the elements. I loved this one, too.

Blancanieves

Dir: Pablo Berger

It’s Seville in the 1920’s, a city of long narrow alleys and whitewashed houses, black-laced flamenco dancers and massive crowds at the bullfights. But when the great Matador Antonio is felled by a satanic bull just as his wife carmen is giving birth to their child, the baby, Carmencita loses her parents. A sinister nurse Encana connives to take over the matador’s wealth power and riches. When young carmen finally moves in with her pet chicken Pepe, she is made into a cinderella and only sees her father on the sly. He teaches her how to be a matadora from his wheelchair, careful to avoid the wrath of the evil stepmother. Will she escape from her evil clutches? Later, she is found in the woods by a handsome dwarf who takes her in with his travelling circus troupe. She has amnesia and can only remember how to raise the cape and to keep her eye on a bull. So they rename her Blancanieves — Snow White. Will she ever remember her past? Will she become a Matadora in the ring? What about Encana – who will triumph – the innocent snow white or the closet dominattrix? And who will be her handsome prince?

This is an unbelievably beautiful retelling of the snow white story in glorious Black and white. It’s done in the old style of a silent movie, with lush music and occasional cards to show dialogue. Maribel Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Pan’s Labarynth) is fantastic as always, this time with a pale face,  black hair, dark lips, and the high collar of the Walt Disney Queen. Newcomer Macarena Garcia is just as beautiful and steals the screen. Even though I knew (more or less) what would happen in this dark retelling of a well-known fairytale in a 1920’s Seville, it didn’t matter: it left me feeling shocked, thrilled and passionately moved. It’s a magnificent looking film.

All of these films are playing at TIFF. Log on to tiff.net at 7 am to get new tickets on sale for the day.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

The Secret Disco Revolution: Daniel Garber interviews Jamie Kastner about his new tongue-in-cheek documentary, having its world premier at TIFF

Posted in 1970s, 1980s, Canada, Cultural Mining, Dance, Docudrama, documentary, drugs, Manhattan, Music, TIFF, Toronto, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on September 7, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM

What is it that some people call a movement, others a musical form, a fad, a plastic commercial fraud, or a subversive political revolution? I’m talking about Disco, and a new, tongue-in-cheek documentary having its World Premier at TIFF looks at its history, its origins, and perhaps an aspect of it you never considered. It’s called The Secret Disco Revolution, and its director, well-known Toronto filmmaker Jamie Kastner, tells me all about it.

You’ll hear about disco’s origin, the academic perspective, the musical side of it, why disco doesn’t really suck, and how a love of Pinter’s plays led him to explore disco music. Confused? Listen!

September 7, 2012, TIFF! Love Stories in French. Movies Reviewed: Amour, Rebelle, Rust and Bone PLUS Comrade Kim Goes Flying

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on September 7, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

TIFF 2012, the huge film festival that starts tomorrow, is readily apparent in downtown Toronto. People here are usually withdrawn and polite. But with so much glitz and glamour in town, everyone wonders if that person in dark glasses is really an actor or director. Usually I’m anonymous — I’m a radio broadcaster — but suddenly every passerby around the TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Hyatt Hotel (that’s where the TIFF registration offices are) seems to study my face… just in case I am famous.

If you’ve never been there, let me tell you a few things about it, First, it’s huge, with more than 300 movies from 65 countries playing over the next ten days. I just saw a totally surprising film from one of those 65 countries: North Korea!

I wandered into one unusual film today, Comrade Kim Goes Flying. It’s a comedy-drama about a young coal miner’s daughter with her head in the clouds. She wants to be a trapeze artist, so she goes to Pyonyang to spend a year near the circus. It’s a fascinating glimpse at an idealized vision of North Korea where everyone is rich, well-fed and ecstatically happy just to mix cement or dig up coal. The characters have unusual lines that sound like: “But the willpower of the working class will always save us, Comrade Secretary!” And yet, it works as a classic hollywood drama, something like Rocky. It just goes to show you that (although not all the movies are perfect), even picking a film at random might lead to an unexpected surprise.

So don’t be intimidated by the magnitude of TIFF. Just find a few you really want to see, pursue them and you should be able to land a screening. Check online (tiff.net) at 7 am to see what new tickets are on sale.

Today I’m going to talk about two great French language movies. One’s an Austrian film about an elderly French couple who choose to live out their lives in their own home; a Canadian film about a child in central Africa torn from her home to fight in a war; and a Belgian single father and MMA boxer who might end up making a new family with a legless Orca trainer.

Amour
Dir Michael Haneke

Georges and Anne, a retired married couple in their eighties (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva) have a nice apartment, attend concerts, read books, share meals, and generally just enjoy their lives. They used to teach classical music and are pleased to see their former pupils becoming musical superstars. Life is peachy until one day… everything changes. Over lunch Georges tells Anne the sat shaker is empty, expecting her to refill it. But, instead, she just sat there, unresponsive. Although she later snapped out of whatever it was, it shook up the power dynamic of their traditional roles. Soon, following doctors’ tests, they discovered she is ill. But Anne makes Georges promise never to send her back to a hospital. She wants to live at home.

She entrusts her future with Georges – he’s a monster sometimes, she says, but a very kind one.

Gradually, she begins to deteriorate, physically, mentally and in her ability to communicate, due to a debilitating stroke. Georges is unrelenting in his devotion to her, but is heartbroken watching the formerly regal pianist, Queen-like even, slide from a connoisseur of Beethoven’s Bagatelle in G minor to a child chanting sur le pont d’avinon. Anne is deeply humiliated by her failure at maintaining perfection. She doesn’t want anyone seeing her in that state. Isabelle Hupert appears occasionally as their sanctimonious but ineffectual daughter, but most of the movie is just the two of them in their apartment. Like a lost pigeon that flies into their home, Georges realizes he holds both the power and the responsibility over the fate of his wife.

Austrian director Michael Haneke’s movies (Funny Games, White Ribbon, Cache) are always demanding, but often just thumb their collective nose at the characters, as if to say there is no morality, and even if their were people are just selfish, evil hypocrites. (Haneke’s a bit like Lars von Trier.) That’s why I was surprised by the level of love and despair apparent in this (mainly) uncynical movie. And the acting by the two stars is absolutely flawless.

Amour is a crushingly devastating study of love, age and death. Unforgettable.

Rebelle
Dir Kim Nguyen

Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is a young girl, about 12 years old, living with her parents in a village central Africa. But she’s torn away from that life when a rebel army passes through and whisks her away to fight against the government. But she’s haunted by what happened to her parents, and they appear for her now, as painted white ghosts of the dead. They warn her whenever government troops are about to attack. Komona thinks they appear whenever she drinks “magic milk”, the baby formula she squeezes out of plastic bags. Word gets out and the local military leader takes her under his wing, as a protected one, since, he believes, she is a witch with magical powers.

She is schooled by another boy, a storyteller known as Le Magicien (the magician: Serge Kanyinda) who knows which shamanistic talisman to use, and how to place them, just so. He is albino and hence an outcast from his village, a witch, but also a target of bounty hunters. He wants to marry her (he’s maybe 14), but first she sends him off on a wild goose chase – well, actually a white rooster chase. If he can find her one of those, she’ll believe in his valour. The two of them escape from the rebel camp and its leader, the violent but superstitious rebel leader (Alain Lino Mic Eli Bastien), and make their way back to her home village.

Their picaresque journey is mystical, absurd and surprising, with children’s games and lovely scenic shots interspersed with terrible violence on her slow trip home to face her ghosts.

Rust and Bone
Dir:

(COMING SOON)

These are three original, loving movies.

Rebelle, Amour, and Rust and Bone are all playing at the Toronto Film festival this year – go to www.tiff.net for details, showtimes and tickets.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

August 31, 2012. TIFF! Victims and Rights. Movies reviewed: The Hunt, West of Memphis, Blackbird PLUS The Central Park Five

Posted in 1980s, Canada, Cultural Mining, Denmark, documentary, Drama, Good Ol' Boys, Goth, Movies, Prison, TIFF, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on September 1, 2012

VICTIMS AND RIGHTS

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Ever heard of Victims’ Rights? It’s a government policy within the justice system to consider the victims of the crimes, not just the crimes themselves – an admirable idea. But what happens when the only victims are the accused? This week I’m looking at three movies playing at TIFF that touch on this topic. There’s a Danish drama about a town’s reaction to a Kindergarten teacher accused of a crime; a Canadian movie about a high school non-conformist who finds himself unfairly trapped within the youth justice system; and an American documentary about the West Memphis 3 – high school students charged with Satanic, ritual murder of children.

The Hunt

Dir: Thomas Winterberg

Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) teaches at a small town Danish kindergarten. Since his divorce he’s been a bit lonely. He goes to drinking parties with his buddies, plays with his dog Fanny, and goes hunting for deer. But things are looking up: his son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrøm) is preparing to move back in with him, and he’s preparing him for the coming of age ceremony where boys are first allowed to join in The Hunt. And Lucas has a new girlfriend, a Swedish-speaking woman who works at the same school. But when his best friend’s daughter, Klara, an imaginative five-year-old he’s been helping, gets mad at him, she sets off a series of events with an accusation that changes his life. She tells a teacher Lucas “showed her his willy” at school – a serious crime.

The accusation spreads like wildfire in the small town, until everyone knows the rumour – except Lucas, who is kept in the dark. Her story continues to escalate as it’s passed around, until soon all the kids are saying terrible things happened to them too. Lucas must be some kind of monster – except that he didn’t do anything! He is successively baffled, offended, angered and terrified when, in a kafka-esque series of events, his friends, neighbours, and even the local shop-keepers lash out at him, violently and filled with venom. And they transfer their anger to his teenaged son, who is attacked by a thuggish, blond giant. Can Lucus ever be cleared of a non-existent crime so he can return to his normal life? Or will his former friends continue to serve as the judge, jury, and executioner?

Mads Mikkelsen as Lucas, is terrific in this subtle movie, a harrowing and upsetting fable about misguided anger.

West of Memphis

Dir: Amy Berg

Two decades ago, the bodies of three young boys who had been brutally murdered were found in the woods near West Memphis, Arkansas. But when supposed experts were brought in by the police prosecuters, they somehow decided the children were killed in a satanic ritual. And they quickly arrested, tried and convicted three local boys who dressed in black, and liked heavy-metal music and posters. The documentary series Paradise Lost (Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky) exposed this miscarriage of justice to the world. Since then, widespread interest in the case has led to the first “defense by crowd-sourcing’, with countless people investigating online and exposing all the consistencies of the original case.

While this new documentary offers little new evidence, it is compelling nonetheless. It’s long, but very well done, very methodical. I’ve been following the case since the first documentary came out, so I found it fascinating. It brings the story up to date. It shows what happens to the politicos and police  behind the prosecutions; what is the fate of the three accused boys – Damien Echols, John Byers, and Jessie Misskelly; who the potential, new suspects might be; and it talks to the original witnesses, all of whom have since recanted their testimony. And new evidence – like a forensic sequence about animal bites – is quite amazing and terrifying.

(I have to say, though, it’s seems strange for a documentary-maker to make a new film on a subject made famous by someone else’s documentaries…)

Blackbird

Dir: Jason Buxton

Sean (Connor Jessup) is a gothy-looking adolescent who goes to school every day wearing a spiky leather jacket torn-up skinny jeans, and a cloud if attitude. He likes his pet lizard, red wiccan stars, and camo sheets. He’s actually a big city boy, but his mom has pawned him off on his small town Nova Scotia dad, now that she’s remarried. Dad’s lives for hockey and works as a Zamboni driver; he’s not comfortable with his son always dressing up for Hallowe’en as he calls it. He says it’s not a smart thing to do in a small town. It also attracts the school bullies – the alpha-dog hockey players. He could just stay away from them but he really likes hockey bunny Deanna (Alexia Fast) who rides the bus with him. He’s attacked and humiliated by the school bullies, and Deanna doesn’t defend him. But when his guidance counsellor tells him to express his anger in story form, things turn from bad to worse. The police get a hold of his notebook, his website, and the short films he made on his cell phone and he’s arrested for supposedly plotting to kill everybody. And his lawyer tells him to plead guilty to cut down his jail time.

Blackbird is divided between a very realistic portrayal of life as a pariah in a small town, the even rougher stay in a juvenile detention centre, and his ongoing relationship Deanna. Equally compelling is the in-prison run-ins with the unstable psycho-killer Trevor (Alex Ozerov) who labels Sean “Columbine”. Jessup is fantastic as Sean, as is Ozerov as Trevor, and the understated performances of Alexia Fast and Michael Buie as Sean’s goirlfriend and dad serve as good foils for the main character. I really like this movie. And it’s the first Canadian film I’ve seen about the youth justice system (it looks like it was actually filmed on location at the Waterville detention centre).

These movies leave you with a lot to think about… as does another doc at TIFF, The Central Park Five, about the five black and hispanic youths from Harlem who were wrongly blamed for the terrible rape of a woman jogging in Central Park in Manhattan in 1989.

West of Memphis, Blackbird, and The Hunt are all official films at TIFF. Check out these and all the other movies playing at TIFF this year, at tiff.net. They also have daily last-minute deals for tickets and special offers for people under 25. And two movies I talked about last week, Lawless and For a Good Time, Call… open today Check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

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