Reality in Italy. Movies reviewed: Reality, Diaz: Don’t Clean Up this Blood

Posted in comedy, Cultural Mining, Italy, Politics, Protest, Psychology, Reality, TV, Uncategorized, violence by CulturalMining.com on June 28, 2013

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.

Canada PostSummer is here — makes you want to get out of the sun and sit in a nice, air-conditioned movie theatre, maybe curl up with some popcorn and a warm body or two. Or maybe just stay outside all night long. Well, for the outside crowd, Secret-Disco-Revolution-Postermovies are popping up everywhere. Every Tuesday they’re showing free outdoor movies once the sun sets at the Yonge-Dundas Square. Crowd pleasers like Edward Scissorshands, Napoleon Dynamite, and this coming week Sam Raimi’s classic Army of Darkness starring Bruce Campbell and a chainsaw. Or check out the Toronto Palestine Film Fest’s outdoor screening of TIFF Demy umbrellas of cherbourgthe popular Checkpoint Rock at the Christie Pits on July 15th – also completely free!

It’s also Canada Day weekend – but what if it rains? Check out the Umbrellas of Cherbourg on Saturday night at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, as part of a bitter-sweet Jacques Demy retrospective. And it’s also Pride Day weekend; if you want to shake your booty, don’t miss the throbbing beat in Jamie Kastner’s new tongue-in-cheek documentary The Secret Disco Revolution.

icff squarewhitelogoAnd finally, Toronto’s Italian Contemporary Film Festival is open now (downtown and up in Vaughan), So this week I’m looking at two very different dramas about life in recent Italy under right-wing media mogul Berlusconi. One’s a dark comedy about a man in Naples who will do anything to be on a reality TV show; the other a historical drama about a group of protesters in Genoa who want to escape their own grim reality.

reality_02_mediumReality

Dir: Matteo Garrone

What is reality? A new film by the Neapolitan director of the great gangster movie Gomorra asks that question. The movie starts with a golden, horse-drawn carriage arriving at a lavish rococo palace. A well-dressed couple runs through the gilt-lined hallways to prepare for a big event. Who are these rich powerful people? Royalty? CEOs? Celebrities? Nope…it’s all artifice. They’re just guests at a wedding.

Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a well-liked fishmonger in modern-day Naples. He’s a fast talker with a sense of humour – a born entertainer. Muscular and tattooed, he has a fish stall in the marketplace and knows everybody. His time is filled with his job, his family, and his wife Maria (Loredana Simioli). They’re also involved in a complicated scam involving white- elephant robots that make pasta. Surrounded by his odd-looking extended family in the ruins of Naples, he manages to eke out a living.

But, after a brief encounter with Enzo, a minor TV celebrity at the wedding, he decides to go to a local audition for Big Brother. Big Brother is a grotesque reality show, popular in Europe, where contestants give up all privacy to live together in a glass house filled with cameras and microphones. Their day-to-day lives are edited and broadcast to the adoring but cruel public.

The audition goes well and he gets sent to Rome for the second round. But when reality_03_mediumLuciano gets a first-hand glimpse of fame and adulation, it turns on a switch in his head that he can’t turn off.

As time passes, and he still hasn’t received the call, he decides to follow Enzo’s vapid catch phrase: Never give up! He becomes convinced that he’s being spied on – just like on the show – by TV executives from Rome who are judging his character. He abandons his parsimonious ways, and becomes lavishly generous to everyone he knows… even to strangers.

Luciano’s character becomes more and more erratic and nonsensical as his obsession with TV takes over his life. Is it all an illusion? Or will Luciano actually become a part of the surreal world of reality TV?

I enjoyed Reality – it’s a good absurdist take on the effects of mass media. As in Gomorra, Garonne casts strange, interesting locals for many of the supporting roles and shoots it in locations all around Naples. But this dark, absurdist comedy — with none of shocking violence and tension of Gamorra — leaves you feeling the emptiness of mass media, as detached as the character Luciano.

Diaz5Diaz: Don’t Clean Up This Blood

Dir: Daniele Vicari

In 2001, the G8 summit in Genoa, hosted by then Prime Minister Berlusconi, attracted protesters from across Europe. What happened there is the subject of this truly shocking historical drama.

Street protesters became angry after a local student, 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani, was shot dead by the Carabiniere (military police). Protesters threw beer bottles while police used tear gas. Then came the incident which the movie concentrates on. Many activists, students and protesters – as well as all of the reporters covering them – are camped out in the empty Armando Diaz schoolhouse.

A huge number of police, many brought in from outside areas, descend on the school in the middle of the night. They attack students and journalists alike, men and women lying in their sleeping bags. They go wild, breaking bones, cracking skulls, kicking, and clubbing everyone they see. Dragged down stairways, herded Diaz 1into vans they are brought, en masse, to police stations. The least lucky are sent to the now infamous town of Bolzaneto, where they are subject to humiliation and torture. Women are stripped naked, men chained up and treated like dogs.

This is an extremely shocking drama, based entirely on existing footage and first person testimony given afterwards. Although different in style, it evokes scenes from Pier Paolo Pasolini’sSalo: 100 days of Sodom, Denis Villeneuve’sPolytechnique or even the infamous photos from Abu Ghraib.

Diaz 15The movie is presented as a drama. You get to meet some of the individuals: a young female protester from Germany, a French journalist, a sympathetic local policeman who hears screams through the bathroom pipes, a local conservative reporter caught up in the attack. This makes it easier to identify with what happens to them, and all the more moving. But most of the film is a record of the harrowing incidents themselves and their effect on the participants. (And it makes you wonder: far from being held up as an unmitigated disaster, police seem to be intentionally repeating the techniques of Genoa like clockwork at each successive G8 summit, ensuring mass arrests and horrible violence.)  Diaz is not a fun movie to watch, but it is an important one and a real eye-opener. (I reviewed an Italian documentary on the same topic last year: Black Block).

Reality and Diaz are both playing at Toronto’s Italian Contemporary Film Festival (go to icff.ca for details). And the Bitter/Sweet Jacques Demy retrospective and The Secret Disco Revolution are both on now.

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

Women vs Tentpoles. Films Reviewed: Frances Ha, Fill the Void, World War Z

Posted in comedy, Coming of Age, Cultural Mining, Dance, Depression, Drama, Family, Israel, Movies, Uncategorized, Zombie by CulturalMining.com on June 22, 2013

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.

Where is cinema heading? Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recently gave a speech at USC. They said the movie industry is about to implode.  It will split into two halves: big-budget, well-promoted potential blockbusters; and personal, smaller projects. The big movies, the “tent poles” are supposed to keep the money flowing, while the indie movies bring in the film buffs and adults. They say these indies will be relegated to Pay-on-Demand apps on your iPad, while movie theatre movies will be the equivalent of going to a Cirque du Soleil performance.

I can’t predict the future, but for now, at least, there are still lots of small movies on the big screen. And there are many other indie (or semi independent) movies being made and shown. Lots of them, not just the “tentpole” movies. And they are all playing on the big screen.

This week I’m looking at two polished, low-budget movies about women, and one Tent Pole behemoth about zombies – all of which can be seen in movie theatres, starting today.

FRANCES HA Greta Gerwig, Mickey SumnerFrances Ha

Dir: Noah Baumbach

Frances and Sophie (Greta Gerwig and Mickey Sumner) are best friends. They went to a liberal arts university together and now they’re roommates in Manhattan, pursuing their dreams. Frances likes to dance – maybe she’ll become a choreographer — while Sophie is in the publishing world. They do everything together; they say they’re like an old lesbian couple… except no sex.

But their best friendship starts to crumble when Sophie moves in with her dull boyfriend, Punch, leaving Frances with nowhere to live. And her dance ambitions are tanking. She starts couch surfing with friends of friends, looking for work.

Great Gerwig is perfect as the gangly and awkward but pretty Frances. Going through FRANCES HA Greta Gerwig, Michael Zegen, Adam Driverpostpartum depression from losing her best friend, she becomes aware of her dismal life: she’s in the arts, she’s poor, and — as Benji (Michael Zegen) one of the guys she sublets a room from, keeps telling her — “undateable”.

Will Frances find success, sex, love or maybe an apartment? And can she find a new best friend? Frances Ha, shot in glorious black and white, is a fun, light social comedy looking at the lives of smart, white, urban women in their twenties. It’s basically identical to the TV show Girls, even sharing some of the same faces (like Adam Driver). If you like “Girls” (I do) you’ll like this movie, too.

Fill The Void

Wri/Dir: Rama Burshtein

Enter the Void Hadas Yaron, Renana Raz,  Irit Sheleg, Razia Israeli Photo by Karin BarShira (Hadas Yaron) is an ultra-orthodox young Jewish woman in Tel Aviv. She plays the accordion. Her aunt is acting as match maker spying on potential grooms without them noticing. “He’s in the dairy section” she tells her in a supermarket. But when Shira’s sister dies in childbirth, she steps in to help her brother-in- law Yochay (Yiftach Klein) with the baby. Soon a plan is hatched to get teenaged Shira to marry the much older Yochay, her own family. She doesn’t want to. A family rivalry erupts in her family between the disabled Aunt and the other matriarchs. It spreads quietly to the whole community, over marriages, responsibilities and obligations. Who will Enter the Voidmake the sacrifice? Will Yochay move to Europe? And will Shira defy her elders?

Directed by an ultra-orthodox woman, Fill the Void gives a peak at a largely insular world, rarely seen in mainstream films, and almost never from the point of view of women. Despite all its religious trappings, much of the film is actually about the relationships and customs in the completely non-religious, day-to-day life of these women. Fill the Void is a very good, subtle drama.

WORLD WAR ZWorld War Z

Dir: Marc Forster

Gerry (Brad Pitt) is a former UN civil servant who lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters. One day they go for a drive and get caught up in a massive traffic jam. Something is causing major gridlock. It turns out there are fast-running zombie-like people throwing themselves off of the roofs of buildings, and wildly attacking cars and people. The disease is spreading and it seems to be infecting everyone. Ten seconds after you’re scratched by zombies, you twitch, your eyeballs cloud up, and boom – you’re a zombie too!

The family escapes to Newark where the human looters – even the cops –are running WORLD WAR Zwild. Confusion, fear, panic, mayhem. Somehow, due to Gerry’s status, the family gets picked up by helicopters and sent to somewhere safe – an aircraft carrier in the mid-Atlantic.

The UN Secretary General asks Gerry to save the day. He’s a Jack Bauer with a hotline to the top brass. He flies off – with some Navy Seals to guard him — to find Patient Zero, and somehow stop this zombie apocalypse. It morphs into a military PR movie, as he flies around the world to military bases. It’s sort of a Zombie Dark Thirty (with monsters replacing terrorists).

This is where the best special effects come in. The zombies turn into a human wave, splashing against walls and careening down city streets, like they’re running the bulls of Pamplona. Really amazing.

Then it changes into a We Are the World, Hurrah for the U.N.! -type movie. He meets Segen (Daniella Kertesz) a strikingly beautiful female Israeli soldier with a buzz cut. She joins him in a UN sponsored quest to cure Zombie-ism. Gerry is the smartest agent in the world, but one that constantly forgets to turn his cell phone to vibrate (so as not to wake the dormant zombies). And, oh yeah, he seems to think wrapping magazines around his forearms are better protection than, say, the bulletproof vests he could have easily got from the military.

This is a weird, confused movie. I was quite disappointed. It looks like it’s going to be another zombie/horror movie, but it is missing the gore, the blood and the cannibalism. These zombies don’t eat brains. They don’t seem driven by hunger, and don’t do anything except run around and infect other people. There’s no blood, no sex, no real romance either. World War Z is a dull, family-style contagious disease drama… with excellent special effects.

Me the Bees and Cancer John Board PosterFrances Ha, Fill the Void and World War Z, all open today, check your local listings. Coming next week is the Italian Contemporary Film Festival; and to see a truly low-budget film, check out one from the 1000 dollar movie challenge: Me, the Bees and Cancer (John Board’s personal look alternative medicine) playing tonight at the Royal Cinema to benefit the Actor’s Fund of Canada.

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

NXNE 2013. Movies Reviewed: Filmage, All Out War PLUS Dirty Wars

Posted in B-Boys, Cultural Mining, documentary, Drones, Music, Punk, Uncategorized, US, War by CulturalMining.com on June 14, 2013

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.

NXNE is Toronto’s annual indie music festival. It works like this: Right now, all across the city, on the hour, in dozens of nightclubs and spaces, a different band sets up and plays one intense set, straight through. Then, at the next hour, another band plays, and so on and so on. Plus some really famous bands, like the National, playing for free tonight at Yonge-Dundas Square.

There are hundreds of bands in town for this, from across the country and around the world. Punk to dubstep, indie to experimental, folk rock to hip-hop… you name it, it’s here. And there are also music-related movies (that’s my territory), plus art shows, digital workshops, and even comedians. Quite the experience – you should check it out.

So this week I’m going to talk about two entertaining docs having their world premiers at NXNE, plus a very important one that’s in the news.

FILMAGE_movie_coverFilmage
Dir: Deedle Lacour, Matt Riggle

NXNE is full of rock docs, so you should choose one with music you enjoy. I liked this one, about a largely unknown 80s band called the Descendants. They played non-political, non-scene driven punk-pop like nobody’s business. Eschewing the standard punk clothing and song subjects, they hand scribbled their album covers and dressed however they wanted. They sang about life, love, farting and frustration: songs with non-stop guitars, bass and always, always drums. Their most famous album was Milo Goes to College.

Some of them were only 15 when they started, but the band Milo CU by Atiba Jeffersoncontinued on and off, in different guises for another couple decades. It’s said that they were a decade and a half too early. Listen to the music and judge for yourself. While Filmage isn’t exactly a thrilling documentary, it does have lots of great tracks, cartoon bits and vintage pics to complement the frequent talking heads.

NastyRayAll Out War
Dir: Robert Pilichowski

What was called break dancing or breaking in the 80’s was a form of impromptu street-side dancing that started up alongside rap, graffiti, and other elements of hiphop culture. That was then – this is now. All Out War is about some current B-Boys who engage in the dance form as an intense, corporate-sponsored competition.

Matches are set up, judgements are made, winners and losers are decided on. Dyzee, a Filipino-Canadian from Toronto wants to make something with his life, but has to watch out for competing crews who start gang fights to depose him. TheNessRoof2 Machine — rural, African-American – is doing well. In the deep south where he’s from, the machine says you prove your worth with the three B’s: B-Ball, B-Boy, and BBQ. Caspar’s a white kid from Hollywood, forced by his stage mom to earn money dancing in ridiculous costumes for TV appearances. And Alienness, an old-skool Latino breaker, once part of the rock-steady Crew is trying to get into Canada for the big competition, the All Out War, the King of the Ring.

If it sounds like a boxing competition, then they’re succeeding in their sports metaphor. The whole event is staged just like a boxing (or MMA) match, complete with an elevated boxing ring, a loud announcer, referees and judges who declare the winners. It’s a sudden- death competition, with each match eliminating one of the competitors.

But it makes you wonder – why did they choose boxing as the genre to imitate? Why not, say, skateboard competitions as the model? Or pole dancing? Or figure skating? If anything, it looks most like the Brazilian dance martial art capoeira. It’s almost as if they had to prove that while it’s a dance form it’s still completely macho and manly and all that (there are no women in this competition). Whatever, excellent precise, sharp photography shows some unbelievable moves, spinning on heads, tying themselves into knots and then flipping back to their feet: incredible. All Out War is a fun, wow-worthy competition to see.

From staged competition of all out wars to the nitty-gritty…

Jeremy Scahill in Somalia DIRTY WARS 1 Courtesy Mongreal MediaDirty Wars
Dir: Rick Rowley

Daoud, an Afghan policeman in Gardaz is shot dead at his home by American soldiers, along with three women (two pregnant), when he ventured outside from a birthday party. Then, unidentified special forces (described as “men with beards and muscles”) then dug the bullets out of the dead bodies with knives (to cover up the evidence) and left them to die. At first it was completely denied by the US government

Jeremy Scahill in Yemen DIRTY WARS 3 Courtesy Mongreal MediaThe movie follows investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill (the man who broke the Black Water scandal in Iraq) as he connects the dots, from Afghanistan, back to Iraq, and onward to Yemen, Mogadishu, and all over.

His big revelations made in this new movie, may be somewhat familiar to you, as the things he uncovered have made it to the front pages of newspapers:  the White House has made frequent statements, promises or out-and-out denials about Scahill’s work.. He shows how secretive special ops, like the previously unheard of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) have spread around the world. Set up by Bush, they have run rampant Jeremy Scahill in Afghanistan Dirty Wars 4 Courtesy Mongrel Mediaduring Obama’s reign, operating in places where the US is not even at war, Like Yemen, sometimes even assassinating US citizens in their operations. The film outlines the war crimes he uncovered in a series of episodes. It’s a combination India Jones journalistic adventure, and a sad testament to the excesses of undeclared wars. And shows how it may be the special ops and drone attacks themselves – the dirty wars of the title – that are fueling the anger of future jihads.

Dirty Wars opens today in Toronto, and Filmage, and All Out War are both playing at NXNE this weekend. Go to nxne.com/film for details.

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

Daniel Garber speaks with VIBRATO the Human Vibrator Shawn Bordoff about the doc NO JOKE premiering at NXNE 2013

Posted in comedy, Cultural Mining, documentary, Fetish, Movies, NXNE, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on June 14, 2013

https://danielgarber.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/daniel_interview_june14.mp3ImageHi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? And if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound? How many hours have armchair philosophers and grade 10 stoners wasted discussing riddles like this?
But has anybody ever asked: what if you told a joked… and no one laughed?
Well one filmmaker, Matt Frame, decided to look at this question in detail. He launched a troupe of “special” stand-up comics (ones who drew silent responses from audiences) on a trip across North America. Along with manager Shawn Bordoff — aka Vibrato ‘The Human Vibrator’ — he decided to see how long comics could survive without a laugh, and what they could do to change their delivery. The results are in a new film called NO JOKE that has its world premier at NXNE on Saturday, June 15 at 6:30.
And I’m pleased to have the Human Vibrator himself (co-producer Shawn Bordoff) here in the studio to talk with me. Shawn explains what the tour was like, why they did it, what young comics can learn from their experience…. and what it’s like being a human sexual vibrator!

Daniel Garber talks to Chen Kaige about Yellow Earth, Farewell My Concubine, and Caught in the Web

Posted in 1930s, China, Cross-dressing, Cultural Mining, Movies, Music, Politics, Poverty, Uncategorized, 中国电影 by CulturalMining.com on June 7, 2013

Chen KaigeHi, This is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

The TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto is launching a Century of Chinese Cinema, a mammoth series that runs all summer. As part of this series, New Waves looks at the Fifth Generation directors in post-Mao China in the eighties.

One director’s work stands out, spanning the eighties to the present day and including such crucial Chinese films as Yellow Earth and Farewell My Concubine. In this interview, director CHEN KAIGE tells about Yellow Earth CREDIT FRL_mediummaking films in the 1980s, the 1990s and today, and talks about traditional culture, Chinese politics, whether Chinese films should “serve the people”, social networking, and more.

Lost Memories. Movies Reviewed: New Women, Free the Mind, Before Midnight

Posted in 1920s, Cultural Mining, Denmark, Mental Illness, Movies, Mysticism, Romance, Shanghai, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on June 7, 2013

June 5 2013_Yang Fudong_New Women credit SONIA RECCHIA, WireImage for TIFF_mediumHi, 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.

Lost memories – should they be buried, and forgotten? Or is it better to preserve them… or even recreate versions of them? Do you find yourself unconsciously repeating half-forgotten conversations? Will bringing old memories to the surface help us purge them and get on with our lives?

This week I’m looking at these questions in three movies that treat memories in very different ways. One is a film/art installation that recreates titillating images of women in pre-war Shanghai; one’s a documentary about ex-soldiers who confront and purge past memories through breathing exercises; and a drama about a couple on vacation in Greece, and the memories the trip brings up.

June 5 2013_Yang Fudong_New Women 2 credit SONIA RECCHIA, WireImage for TIFF_medium_New Women

Dir: Yang Fudong

New Women is an art/film installation at the TIFF Bell Lightbox with five large movie screens in a darkened chamber. Black and white video projections show languorous women, wandering around in recreated scenes of old Shanghai. Or, rather, not Shanghai locations but the false photo sets and backgrounds that were popular in that era. The models seem to be trapped in a seductive opium-haze, and they lounge around, draping themselves over art deco New Women_ CREDIT Courtesy the Artist and ShanghART_mediumfurniture, sprays of cherry blossoms, immaculate Roman ruins and feather boas. Shanghai glamour girls were idolized in the 1920s and 30s, their images selling cigarettes, alcohol and candy. But these models, save for their elaborate make-up, hairstyles and jewelry,  are completely nude in these unusual soft-core porn projections.

Each scene is reflected and echoed across the chamber, not synchronized, but staggered and varied, giving the whole exhibition a drifting, dream-like quality. You should check out this show.

Free the Mind 1_Main_still_Rich_with_electrodesFree The Mind

Dir: Phie Ambo

Will is a 3-year-old foster child who is terrified of elevators. He feels trapped there if the doors closed and doesn’t know how to press the buttons. It makes him feel bad in his belly. He also gets into fights easily and doesn’t get along with the other kids. Doctors say he has ADHD and should be medicated.

One ex-soldier is plagued by constant guilt and uneasiness for the cruelty he showed. And another veteran’s marriage is collapsing — he can’t shake the memory of the deaths he feels responsible for in Iraq. They both suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Should they drown their lives in activities? Or start on a program of prescription drugs? Free the Mind 9_Will_listeningOr self-medicate themselves to oblivion – masking their troubles with alcohol or pot? Or is there another way to free the brain and body from the worries that plague them?

This documentary suggests that breathing and meditation exercises, constantly repeated, can actually reform the thought patterns in the brain. While the movie doesn’t make a strictly scientific argument, it’s still too early to offer proof, it does show the results of a test case at the University of Wisconsin: the session seems to change moods and sleep patterns. In word-association tests the patients shifted from negative, doom-and-gloom responses to a much more positive mindset. And it’s heart-warming to see the little boy Will gradually adjusting.

This is a fairly conventional documentary in form (plus a bit of animation and some psychedelic scenes) but its topic is fascinating.

Before Midnight 8 Delpy HawkeBefore Midnight

Dir: Richard Linklater

Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy) are on vacation in Greece. Jesse is a successful American novelist with a son from a previous marriage. He’s seeing him off at the airport after spending some time with him on their vacation. Celine is from Paris and her career is finally taking off. And their beautiful blonde daughters are there, too.

Their Greek friends have booked them a hotel room to spend an evening alone, awayBefore Midnight 5 Delpy Hawke from their kids, their friends, their work and their responsibilities – just the two of them, alone.

But it doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to. Their harshest thoughts and their biggest worries resurface, and the arguments about a potential break-up looms large. Do they still find one another attractive? Can an American man and a French woman with ties on two different continents actually stay together? Do two people with different views on religion, truth, and jealousy, on men and women have enough in common to keep the spark of love alive? And will they still be together after another twenty years?

Before Midnight Delpy HawkeMy bare-bones outline does not do this film justice. Although it’s really just an extended conversation (in beautiful settings) it’s still a really good, totally engrossing movie about relationships.

Before Midnight is the third film in a series by Linklater that started twenty years ago, with Jesse and Celine meeting for the first time at random on a train to Vienna. The second film was shot ten years later, and this third one after another decade. All the hints brought up in the first film – about their imagined future, about how people in a time machine would look back at these times — are revisited in Before Midnight.

Before Midnight has a lot of oblique references and in-jokes which I appreciated and liked but didn’t quite get… until I saw the films that led up to it. (I watched the series in reverse order.) But I really liked it without having seen the previous films, and once I saw them – whoa! Great series, great film.

Before Midnight and Free the Mind open today, and the art exhibit New Women, along with cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s __ are now open at the TIFF Bell Lightbox – free admission. And coming soon, NXNE.ca starts next week – don’t miss its fantastic selection of bands and performances allaround the downtown, with added art shows and stand-up comics this year, and of course… movies! Also starting next week is the Toronto Japanese Film Festival. And rounding off the month is Italian Contemporary Film Festival with lots of great films by and about Italy its people and culture.

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

Odd Jobs. Movies reviewed: Pieta, C.O.G., Now You See Me PLUS Inside-Out

Posted in Cultural Mining, Family, Gay, Korea, Magic, Movies, Poverty, Psychology, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on June 1, 2013

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.

We’ve all had some pretty strange if short-lived jobs. I’ve worked as a newly-hatched chick crate stacker (horrifying… they kept on dying) and handing out government information pamphlets dressed as the letter “i”, with an enormous round, foam ball over my head (as the dot).

Well today I’m talking about three movies where the main characters have very unusual jobs. There’s a violent sort of insurance adjuster in Korea; a stuck-up Ivy League grad student who decides to be a migrant fruit-picker; and a group of magicians who try to rob banks.

PIETA_key still (2)Pieta

Dir: Kim Kiduk

Kang-do is a tall, baby-faced man in his thirties who lives in a rusty, dusty industrial district of Seoul. Most of the factories there are tiny shops with zero employees outside the owners. Maybe there’s one machine punching out metal parts. So it’s a constant scramble for cash. It’s a poor area, and only Kang-do (Lee Jeong-jin) seems to be doing well. He sells the one thing everyone needs: money.

He’s just an ordinary a loan shark. But he collects his payments in an extraordinary way. He makes them sign up for insurance, and then pay back their debt according to what the insurance form pays: a broken leg, an injured hand, the loss of a finger. He casually pushes people off abandoned buildings, but only from the second floor. He’s selfish, cruel and emotionless, without even a shred of conscience – the devil incarnate. He has no one to answer to except his boss – no pesky extended family to hold him back: his mother abandoned him when he was a child.

But who shows up at his door one day, offering to cook and clean, but a stranger (Jo Min-soo) — PIETA_key still (4)an older woman – who says she’s his mother! She sings him his childhood lullaby. She wants to make up for abandoning him. He is still bitter and untrusting but she won’t give up. She even helps him in his cruel debt collection – since it’s all her fault for not teaching him right from wrong. It’s up to Kang-do to learn to trust, change his ways and open his heart to the only one who cares for him. Is the strange woman really his mother? Why did she choose to come back after all these years? And will the introduction of love – and a conscience? — upset his equilibrium and his job?

Pieta, like most of Kim Kiduk’s movies, has a neatly symmetrical storyline with a twist, coupled with extreme violence, and largely unsympathetic, over-the-top people. The ending is very good, the quirky, extreme characters are played well, and I love the gorgeous industrial look of the film, but it’s so grim, so relentless, so nnngggrrhhh that it’s just not a lot of fun to watch, except perhaps for its schadenfreude. It’s disturbing. I appreciate the way the story plays out, but I can’t say I loved this movie.

Groff COGC.O.G

Dir: Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Sam (Jonathon Groff) has just finished his MA at Yale but doesn’t want to live with his estranged mother. So he decides to earn some money communing with The People – apple pickers on a farm out west. Unfortunately, he studied Japanese in University, not Spanish. He expects to meet up with a classmate but he soon finds himself abandoned without friends. He’s soon brought down to size. The entitled, intelligent and successful rich kid soon learns the reality of real work, alienation, low wages, and unfair bosses. Next he’s working in the factory sorting fancy apples. A sympathetic employee, Curly (Corey Stall) offers him a promotion, but the benefits come with unstated duties, chez Curly. Finally he is driven to stay with an evangelical jade carver Jon (Dennis O’Hare) who is preparing for the county fair. Can a gay, cynical intellectual accept Jesus into his heart?

Groff Stoll COGThis is a really funny – not laugh out loud, but a grim humour – movie about the calamities hapless Samuel lands in, and the hard-to-take people he encounters. He’s made fun of as much as the people he meets. It’s based on a story by David Sedaris, and is just as funny but the movie exists, perfectly, outside of his book, as its own entity. Groff is great as an understated Sam, and Corey Stall (as Curly) has perfected the affable but skeezy guy – similar to his role as Russo on the TV show House of Cards. This is a very good movie.

NOW YOU SEE MENow You See Me

Dir: Louis Leterrier

Four people, entertainers all, receive tarot-card invitations from a mysterious source. There’s a conjurer (Jesse Eisenberg), a hypnotist / conman (Woody Harrelson) an escape artist (Isla Fisher) and a spoon-bender and pickpocket (Dave Franco). They meet up in New York City where they are dubbed the Four Horseman (not “of the apocalypse” – it’s just a name) and trained as a new act. Their gimmick? They can rob banks halfway around the world and give the loot to a screaming audience.

Their act is a huge media success.

As good magicians, they understand the point of a long-range trick, or a years-long setup, so NOW YOU SEE MEthey follow their directions perfectly. Soon they are being financed by a millionaire (Michael Caine), chased by an FBI detective who swears he’ll catch them (Mark Ruffalo), and also pursued by a man who earns his living debunking magicians as frauds (Morgan Freeman). And everyone wants to find out who is the fifth horseman? Is he one of the magicicians themselves? An unknown rival? A member of an illuminati-style cult? And what will the magicians’ final revelation bring?

OK. Some of the lines in this movie are pure cornball, the CGIs are often distracting, the actors are much better than the roles they’re playing, and there are a few too many twists to the plot. But never mind all that… I thought Now You See Me was a completely enjoyable, big-budget popcorn movie. A lot of fun.

Now You See Me opens today, and Pieta will be at the TIFF Bell Lightbox starting today. C.O.G played at Inside-Out Film Fest which continues through Sunday. Ghost in the Machine – a documentary about another strange job also opens today. Directed by Liz Marshall and beautifully shot, it follows an animal rights activist who, instead of freeing caged animals, takes their photos and shows their suffering to the world. And Lore, the amazing Australian movie about young German woman, a displaced person trying to find her way home right after WWII, also opens today, at the TIFF Bell Light Box.

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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