Daniel Garber talks to filmmaker Kevan Funk about Hello Destroyer

Posted in Canada, Depression, Drama, Hockey, Morality, Movies, violence by CulturalMining.com on March 10, 2017

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

Tyson Burr is a minor league hockey player in Prince George, BC. He’s a rookie at his first job but is already getting a reputation as a destroyer, an enforcer who keeps the other teams’ players at bay. Violence on the ice is strongly encouraged. But when an overzealous fight sends a player to hospital, Tyson falls from hero to zero overnight. He is forced to move back home, work at manual labour and try to pull what’s left of his life back together in the rise, fall and rise again of a hockey destroyer.

Hello Destroyer is a first feature which premiered at TIFF16 and was chosen as one of Canada’s Top Ten Films of 2017. It’s a thoughtful and impressionistic examination of violence and self-worth in a distinctly Canadian setting. The film is written and directed by prize-winner Kevan Funk, and opens today in Toronto.

I spoke with Kevan Funk, in studio, about hockey, violence, masculinity, Canadian machismo, Todd Bertuzzi, hockey movies…  and more!

O Canada. Films reviewed: Hello Destroyer, Maliglutit

Posted in 1910s, Canada, Depression, Drama, Hockey, Indigenous, Inuit, Nunavut, violence by CulturalMining.com on January 7, 2017

the-true-north-the-story-of-capt-joseph-bernier-tc-fairley-charles-e-israel-illus-james-hill-1957Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Happy New Year! It’s the sesquicentennial. You’ll be hearing that word a lot. It means it’s been 150 years since Canada’s Confederation in 1867.

CRTC chief Jean Pierre Blais thinks Canadian TV should be designed to appeal on the world stage – we shouldn’t worry about Canadian culture. Writer Charles Foran, in the Guardian, calls Canada the world’s first post-national country. He’s quoting Justin Trudeau, but I think they’re missing the point. There is a strong the-rivers-end-by-james-oliver-curwood-triangle-press-circa-1946national identity. It’s just not an ethnic-based nationalism. It’s not a jingoistic nationalism. It’s not an exclusive identity, it’s an inclusive one that is welcoming and tolerant and multifaceted. But we do have a distinctive Canadian culture.

And part of our identity is Canadian literature, art, music and film. In this Sesquicentennial year look out for lots of chances to consume Canadian culture. The NFB has put thousands of films and documentaries online. And there’s Canada on Screen, a nationwide retrospective running all year with 150 of the best docs, animation, features and TV. All screenings are free!

This week I’m looking at Canadian movies playing as part of the annual Canada’s Top Ten series. We’ve got a hockey drama out of the far west, and a western from the extreme north.

hellodestroyer_still_05Hello Destroyer

Wri/Dir: Kevan Funk

Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahamson) is a minor league hockey player in Prince George, BC. He’s a rookie at his first job. He’s welcomed by a hazing where the players hold down the newbies while they forcibly shave their heads and pummel them. It helps them feel “part of the team”. Violence builds manhood and comradery. He’s known as a destroyer, an enforcer who keeps the other teams’ players at bay – fighting on the ice is just another part of the game. Tyson is at his physical peak and on top of the world. But he admits to another rookie that he has doubts and fears of hishellodestroyer_still_09 own.

The coach (Kurt Max Runte) tells the team they should aim to be heroes. You’ve got to hammer your steel into excalibur! We are fighters, brawlers, men! That’s when they’re winning. But when they are losing he bawls them out and tells them to fight back – aggressively. Tyson does just that, and sends a player to hospital.

hellodestroyer_still_07The coach and team lawyers, rather than reaching out to him, throw Tyson beneath the proverbial bus. They make him read a prepared statement talking all the blame, all the responsibility. Suddenly he plummets from hero to pariah. He gets kicked out of his home, suspended – temporarily they say – from the team, and is forced to move back in with his parents.

He’s also plagued with guilt – he wants to apologize to the guy he hurt, to tellhellodestroyer_still_04 him he didn’t mean to, but that doesn’t fit with the league’s plans. From beating players on the ice, his new job at a slaughter house, hacking at bloody carcasses in the cold.

He seeks solace and solitude with another guy who has fallen on hard times, and doesn’t hold it against him as they salvage an old shack. Can Tyson face his hellodestroyer_04doubts and regain his self-respect, or will he continue in a downward spiral of loss and self-destruction?

Hello Destroyer is a moving look at violence and self doubt in the world of professional sports. But don’t expect to see a conventional, movie of the week type drama. This is an impressionistic, introspective art-house movie. No slow-mo punch fights or zooms at key moments. No reaction shots. The camera hellodestroyer_02always stands back, following Tyson from behind, or capturing a conversation through a half-open doorway. Dialogue might be muffled or turned off entirely. Jared Abrahamson carries the whole movie – the frustration, anger and self-loathing – on his shoulders, and pulls it off admirably. This is a good first film.

maliglutitsearchers_02Maliglutit (Searchers)

Dir: Zacharias Kunuk

It’s 1913, in Igloolik. There’s a party going on in a large igloo with singing, storytelling and all around good times. But there’s friction as well. A couple of foul mouthed men are openly groping The father’s wife and not sharing the food they caught. Those are both against Inuit law. The offenders are kicked out, and ride off on their dog sleds. But they haven’t seen the last of them.

Following a spiritual forecast, the hunters – father and son – head out to catch caribou, leaving the kids, women and elderly behind. And while the hunters are away they hear dogs barking and strange noises outside. Is it a bear attack? No it’s something worse. The bad men are back, breaking down the walls of their home, attacking and killing almost everyone. They rope up the mother and maliglutitsearchers_04daughter and tie them to their sleds, as bounty. But the women refuse to cooperate and “be nice”. They fight back.

Our heroes spot their home through a telescope and know something is terribly wrong. There’s a gaping wound in its side. In the igloo, dying grandfather passes him a bird talisman. He summons the bird’s call to help him track the attackers. Who will survive this life and death battle?

maliglutitsearchers_01Maliglutit is a great movie — part mystery, part western, part historical drama — with information you might only get in a documentary. It captures an era after western contact and technology – they use a telescopes and rifles, and drink tea – but before Christianity, snowmobiles, forced resettlement and the killing of dog teams. It loosely follows the classic John Wayne The Searchers, a so-called Cowboy and Indian movie, but this time from the indigenous point if view. Like all of Kunuk’s movies it is stunning to watch with its arctic vistas and intense whites, blacks and blues, punctuated with the occasional splash of red blood or the glow of fire.

See NFB movies at nfb.ca; Canada’s Top Ten starts on January 13th – go to tiff.net/seethenorth for details;  and for information about the year-long, sesquicentennial retrospective go to tiff.net/canadaonscreen.

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

Small Town Blues. Movies Reviewed: At Any Price, Blackbird

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.

Sometimes ordinary people find their trajectories at odds with the people around them. Suddenly they have to get out of extraordinary situations, ones that affect not just their own lives but that of their friends and families.

This week I’m looking at two movies when small-town fathers and sons land into terrible trouble.

At Any Price 2 QuaidAt Any Price

Dir: Ramin Bahrani

Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) lives in Whipple, Iowa, on the family farm. His corn grows as high as an elephant’s eye. Those genetically-modified seeds he plants sure work wonders! He should know – he’s the top seed salesman in seven counties. But in order to succeed it’s grow or die, your farm has to get bigger and bigger just to survive. So Henry’s also a land shark, snatching up any acres that come available at local funerals.

Then there’s his family. He’s happily married… but fools around on the sly. His older boy is groomed to take over as soon as he comes home from college. Then there’s Dean (Zac Efron), the black sheep, the prodigal son. He’d rather hang out with his girlfriend Cadence, and drive his car in figure-eights. Forget farming, corn sucks. He’s gonna find his fortune as a champion stock car racer.

But things aren’t quite right. First, the older son never comes home – he’s in South America somewhere finding himself. And a competing seed salesman is infringing on his territory. Henry might loses Decatur county! And that same salesman’s son is a wannabe Nascar racer, too. So he’s an instant rival to Dean. Like father, like son: a two-generation feud. Henry wants to open up to Dean. But how can he get Dean to talk to him? Or even look him straight in the eye? It’s clear: Dean hates his dad.

And on top of all this, the GMO seed company hears a rumour that At Any Price Efron QuaidHenry is washing his seeds and reselling them – a normal farming practice, but a copyright violation if it’s a GMO seed. He could lose everything. His Dad already looks down on Henry, what would he do if he lost the farm?

At Any Price is a hard movie to grasp. Is it a family drama? A grain-conspiracy thriller? A rural slice of life? This movie interests me because the director, Ramin Bahrani, made a really good, low-budget super-realistic movie Chop Shop just a few years ago. Chop Shop was a neat little movie that almost felt like a documentary about a homeless kid who lives in a junkyard in Queens N.Y. So I thought this would be “Chop Shop in the Cornfields”. It’s not. It has big stars, bigger budget.

There are some good, drawn-out scenes – the movie conveys some emotions and events visually – no talking. This is no TV movie about life on a farm – it’s cinematic, it has big skies and endless fields.

The problem is it’s just not that good. It’s really slow, it’s really long and the plot just drags its way through all these convoluted relationships. It gets exciting (or at least dramatic) and heavy toward the end – in a good way — but that doesn’t redeem the blah-ness of most of the movie. The acting was very good, especially Dennis Quaid as Henry, and Maika Monroe as Cadence, the young woman who is both Dean’s girlfriend and Henry’s apprentice. I don’t want to completely dis this movie, since it has a sophisticated and satisfying ending, but if you see it go prepared for a long and slow film about father/son relations.

blackbird_02_largeBlackbird

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 of 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 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. Through no fault if his own, Sean is caught in a whirlpool of injustice with only his father and potential girlfriend to save him. The victim of bullying is painted as the criminal.

Blackbird is divided among a very realistic portrayal of life as a pariahblackbird_03_medium 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 girlfriend and dad serve as good foils for the main character. And it gives an eye-opening, stark portrayal of Canada’s youth justice system. I really like Blackbird – it’s one of the best things I saw at TIFF last year, and it’s an impressive debut for writer/director Jason Buxton.

At Any Cost and Blackbird both open today in Toronto. Also opening is another father/son drama, this one a Canadian psychological thriller called A Good Lie. When his mum dies, a young man (Thomas Dekker) discovers his late mother had a secret – his dad is not his biological father. That was dangerous criminal who had raped his mother. And Workman Arts is showing an interesting  series of short films dealing with addiction and mental health.

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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March 30, 2012. Lovers in a Dangerous Time. Daniel Garber interviews May Charters about her new film

Posted in Art, Canada, Cultural Mining, Hockey, Movie Theatre Trends, Movies, Music, Romance, Rural, Toronto, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on March 31, 2012

May Charters and Mark Hug co-wrote, co-directed, and co-star in a new movie, Lovers in a Dangerous Time, opening next week (April 6th, 2012).

It’s a romantic drama about a Toronto woman, Allison (May Charters) a book illustrator returning to her home town in rural Creston, BC for a high school reunion.

There she meets up with her childhood friend Todd (Mark Hug). Todd’s little brother / rival is now a rising young hockey star, but Todd has failed to live up to his potential.

It’s a visually and musically really pretty, (and seldom-seen) realistic look at life in small-town, rural Canada.

I speak to May in Los Angeles by phone about how they made the film, life in a small town, bush parties, Canadian-ness, her co-star, her art, how to shoot a feature with almost no crew, and the future of independent movies.

(Opening music: Lovers in a Dangerous Time, a new version of Bruce Cockburn’s song, performed by Montreal’s JBM)

October 28, 2011. Hallowe’en! Films Reviewed: Paranormal Activity 3, Rabies, Anonymous PLUS Guillermo del Toro’s Devil’s Backbone & Cronos, NFB, Face-Off 40th Anniversary re-release, and Stop Concussions!

Posted in Canada, Darkness, Drama, Dreams, Hockey, Horror, Israel, Mexico, Shakespeare, UK, Uncategorized, US, violence by CulturalMining.com on October 30, 2011

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, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference

I’m going to dive right with some movies to watch this Hallowe’en weekend ’cause there’s lots to cover.

Now, I know about the weird phenomenon of Holiday Creep (where one day celebrations get stretched into month-and-a-half long marketing seasons) and that hallowe’en has been totally commercialized and stolen from kids so the grown-ups can have a good time, but I’m not complaining. We get to act like idiots, eat poorly, imbibe substances in excess, and disguise our identities. Anonymity rules the day. So get ready to stuff your faces with peanut-free snacks, put on your zombie blood and stripper outfits, and swarm out, en masse, to some hallowe’en movies. Go with someone who can handle a nails-in-the-palm hand squeeze. Because they’re scary. This week I’m talking about a ghost story caught on tape, a horror story in the woods of Israel, and a historical drama about anonymity and disguise. Plus some movie classics.

Paranormal Activity 3

Dir: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

Julie, her two kids, and her boyfriend Dennis have moved into a new suburban, California home. Dennis likes video cameras – he works as a wedding photographer, so he’s always in a room editing VHS tapes. But when they try to film a provate sex tape, something scary appears on the footage. And her youngest daughter Kristie Rey’s imaginary friend Toby… might not be imaginary. So Dennis sets up cameras around the house to try to catch some paranormal activity on tape. But he might uncover some stuff he shouldn’t mess with.

This is the third of the Paranormal seres, and it’s pretty scary, with little surprises, shocks, and lots of red herrings. The idea is, the two little girls will grow up to be the young women of the first two pictures. And that this whole movie is just excerpts of found footage from a box of old 1988 VHS tapes. So it jumps around, sometimes even in mid sentence, to the next tape, or fast forwards in the middle of scene, like we’re watching the private videos but someone else holds the remote control. Lots of things are never explained they’re just there and they’re scary. But, strangely enough, it’s completely understandable, even though it’s all over the place, like watching youtube. It’s the building tension that’s great, and wondering what’s happening just off camera that you can hear but not see. The scenes shot by a camera taped to a slow moving oscillating fan, that pans left and right, left and right, are really good and scary. If you want to have nightmares on Hallowe’en, this is the one to see.

Rabies

Wri/Dir: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado

Two young men in tennis shorts clothes and two women in track suit tops and white skirts drive down some out-of-the-way road as they look for tennis courts. They meet up with a guy named Ofer – after hitting him with their SUV — who is trying to rescue his sister who is trapped in a hole – possibly an animal trap –underground. Meanwhile, a middle- aged forest ranger is out inspecting the reserve when his German Shepard disappears. And a truly sinister killer in a green jumpsuit is doing various bad things.

So the three guys go out to search for the missing girl and the women stay behind to wait for the cops. But one of the cops is a skeeze-bag molester who insists on a full-body search, which puts the girls in a- uncomfortable position. From there, most of the characters end up splitting-up and and gradually either getting killed or doing the killing in various gruesome ways, involving things like bear traps, explosions, knives and rocks. Is it the woods, or the blood, or is it something in the air? I’m not saying. But they all seem driven to extreme behaviour. In between, everyone communicates using static-y walkie-takies, adding to the surreal feel.

The killings are mainly off-camera, but they spare no expense on blood splashes and missing body parts. Afterwards you get to see people so mushed-up they look like extras in a zombie movie… but no zombies here.

Rabies is a comic mystery/horror/ slasher movie, apparently the first of its kind ever made in Israel. Like most horror movies, it’s partly for the thrill and the shock and the tension, and partly just to show attractive, scantily dressed actors running into trouble on screen. It’s more gross than it is scary – but it’s shot in the daytime which gives it a good, creepy and eerie tone. Its great, all-star cast includes Henry David (Restoration) as Ofer, Ania Bukstein (Secrets) as the tough-assed tennis player Adi, and Ran Danker (Eyes Wide Open) as Mikey.

Anonymous

Dir: Roland Emmerich

This movie is about a rich nobleman, Edward De Vere of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (played by Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson as the old and young Queen) who, because of his status, must disguise his writing talent. He gets a commoner, playwright Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto), to anonymously mount the plays Edward writes. Johnson, in turn, passes them on to a talentless, greedy, bumbling and illiterate actor named… William Shakespeare!

Edward has to deal with an evil, manipulative father-and-son team of the puritanical and art-hating Cecil family who are the Queen’s closest advisors, and his biggest rivals. IN his youth, he has an affair with the so-called Virgin Queen and unknowingly leaves an illegitimate child. Will a pretender succeed Queen Elizabeth? Will he be able to continue his writing undetected? Or will the Globe theatre be closed down for it’s political plays? And will the nefarious Cecils or the good Edward emerge triumphant?

So it sounds like a good movie – there are a few good scenes, and I’ll admit, it kept me interested, more or less, for the whole movie. Enough not to walk out. Problem is, it’s just a hard movie to watch. It has flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks, with tons of similar-looking characters (the men all seem to have little black van-dyke moustaches) emerging during different time periods, with different actors playing the same role. Especially for a movie about Shakespeare, the lines are not particularly beautiful or clever – they often sounds like ESL; the plot’s muddled, the score is intrusive, the motivations are confusing, and it is one of the gaudiest movies I’ve ever seen: Every pole has a vine around it, every wall has distracting tapestries, every crowd scene has extras in tableaux from Breughel or Hals, every outdoor shot has to have a bit of mist or fog floating past, every chimney has CGI smoke… Give it a rest! It made me long for a scene without neck ruffles and flickering candles. You’ve heard of minimalism? This movie is maximalism.

Anonymous is historically revisionist. It says a common person like Shakeseare could never have been so great — only a member of the nobility. And women in power (even a Queen) were all helpless biddies who can be easily manipulated by men.

It does have some shockingly unexpected plot twists, but not enough. You should leave this movie to an anonymous fate.

The Devil’s Backbone and Cronos

Dir: Guillermo del Toro

In Devil’s Backbone, Carlos, is a kid placed in an old orphanage during the 1930’s Spanish civil war, who meets a strange boy in a closed off part of the building. He might be a ghost who holds the untold secrets of the place, and he caries a warning.

In Cronos, a kindly old antique dealer finds a mechanical gold bug that can bring eternal life, but at a frightening cost – the bug attaches itself to a person and makes him do bad things.

If you’ve seen Pan’s Labrynth, you’ll recognize a lot of the character types from these movie– the stern but beautiful middle-aged woman, the kindly grey-bearded older guy, the cruel but handsome fascist soldier, and the quiet, observant child – a boy in Backbone, a girl in Cronos. I loved both these movie, and they rarely play on the big screen. They’re on Sunday night as a double feature at the Bell Lightbox. Go to tiff.net for details.

Also on, this weekend only, at the NFB is a free animated film show, showing New short cartoons. It’s on everyday this weekend. For more information go to www.onf-nfb.gc.ca.

And coming next week, right after the release of the sequel to Goin’ Down the Road, is the first release on dvd of another Canadian classic, Face-Off, about a small-town player who joins the Maple Leafs. Tagline: He’s a Rookie, She’s a Rocker! It’s especially apropos now with all the controversy about hockey goons and head injuries. The message now is avoid head trauma at all costs. Speaking from personal experience, the last thing you want is to injure your brain in any way. So there’s a special charity screening of this movie next Thursday at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Go to stopconcussions.com for more info.

Paranormal Activity is playing now, Anonymous opens in Toronto today, check your local listings, and Rabies is playing one show only, on Sunday, October 30th at 8pm at Innis College. For more information go to www.tjff.com.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies for CIUT 89.5 FM, and on my web site, Cultural Mining.com.

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