Flashback. Films Reviewed: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Rings, Shepherds and Butchers

Posted in 1940s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, Canada, Coming of Age, Horror, Montreal, Movies, Prison, Seattle, South Africa, Trial by CulturalMining.com on February 3, 2017

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUTflashback-film-fest 89.5 FM.

If the 1970s was Hollywood’s golden age then the 80s and 90s were its tin foil age —when a series of corporate takeovers placed short-term profits over creativity, and the Oscars celebrated forgettable, middle-brow pap. Even so, there were some fun and popular movies from 80s and 90s. Films like Alien, Shallow Grave, and Starship Troupers are playing at Cineplex’s Flashback Film Festival (FBFF) across Canada starting today, giving you a chance to revisit favourites on the big screen.

This week I’m looking at flashbacks. There’s a rerelease of a Canadian coming-of-age classic from the 70s, a flashback to a courtroom drama set in apartheid South Africa in the 80s; and a new sequel to a Japanese horror movie from the 90s.

duddy_kravitz_4colThe Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974)

Dir: Ted Kotcheff Based on the novel by Mordecai Richler

It’s the 1940s in a poor, Jewish section of Montreal. Duddy Kravitz (Richard Dreyfuss) is a teenager recently graduated from Fletcher’s Field (a.k.a. Baron Byng) High School. MBDAPOF EC001He lives with his widowed father Max (Jack Warden) who works as a taxi driver and part-time pimp, and his big brother Lennie. Lennie is a smart and sophisticated med student at McGill. But Duddy has neither the brains nor the inclination to study.

He’s a boorish and loud, nervous and uncouth, always sweating and scratching, jumping MBDAPOF EC008and cussing. He has a filthy mouth and an intrusive manner. With no friends or admirers he just wants to get rich quick. His idol is a gangster known as The Boy Wonder (Henry Ramer), and his favourite retort is kiss my Royal Canadian Ass.

He gets a summer job at a holiday resort in the Laurentiens, but is relentlessly put down by rich kids from Westmount and Outrement. He makes friend with a pretty waitress named Yvette (Micheline Lanctot). They fall for each other and she takes him to a secret spot beside a pristine lake. He’s struck by its beauty and vows to buy it, but is blocked by Québécois farmers who never sell property to jewish people. And Yvette is turned off by his constant drive for profits and MBDAPOF EC006wealth.

Duddy sets off on a series of impossible ventures he thinks will make enough money to buy the land: Importing Pinball machines with his friend Virgil, an American he meets on a train (Randy Quaid); and producing films with an alcoholic British communist (Denholm Elliot). But in his quest for success, he risks alienates his friends, his lover and his family. What will he learn from his apprenticeship with the real world?

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a hilarious and audacious drama from the 70s which deserves to be seen on the big screen. It’s a dark slice of Canadian life, a world full of bigotry, snobbery, selfishness and deceit, tempered with the glorious freedom of a young man pursuing his dreams.

15871828_1198279710249685_2066179248684362877_nRings

Dir: F. Javier Gutierrez

Julia (Matilda Lutz ) is a high school grad in small town USA. She’s sad because her pretty, but dumb-as-a-post boyfriend (Alex Roe) is heading off to university in Seattle. Don’t worry, Holt says, I’ll skype you every night. But when the calls stop coming and he doesn’t answer her texts, brave Julia heads off to Seattle to investigate. And she finds something strange: there’s an old black-and-white video everyone tells her to watch. Everyone she meets tell her to watch. What she doesn’t know is that anyone who watches this video will be dead in seven days. But if you trick someone else into15844158_1196804380397218_3255840937653140664_o watching it, you get another seven days added to your life.

Like Orpheus in the underworld, Julia decides to forge ahead, rescuing her boyfriend from Hell. She intentionally watches the dreaded video, and using her powers of second sight – she’s clairvoyant — she decides to follow a ghost to its point of origin. But first she has to deal with a secretive professor named Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) and a blind graveyard custodian (Vincent d’Onofrio).

Can Julia rescue Holt, defeat a ghost with long black hair, and figure out the meaning behind the cursed video tape?

Rings is a reboot of the scary Japanese movie Ring and its sequels. Last week I interviewed two ghosts from that era, Sadako vs Kayako. In the American films, Sadako is Samara, and urban Japan becomes a village somewhere in Washington State. More than that, Rings trades the chill feel of video static for a more conventional American ghost story.

Is it scary? A little, especially towards the end as Julie’s visions start to pay off. But the story is so ridiculously disjointed it’s laughable. It treats the original Ring just as a jumping-off point for an unrelated story, discarding much of what made the original so scary.

29_img_8235Shepherds and Butchers

Dir: Oliver Schmitz

It’s 1987 in Apartheid-era South Africa. Leon Labuschagne (Garion Dowds) a white Afrikaner, is arrested for murdering seven black African members of a soccer club in a quarry. The seven bodies were found neatly lined up in a row. The accused refuses to defend himself or even to say anything about what he did; he says he can’t remember. It’s an open 08_img_6438and shut case. Or is it?

In walks the famed jurist Johan Webber (Steve Coogan), a staunch opponent to the death penalty. While not contesting the actual crime, instead he says it is the brutal South African justice system that led to the crime. A church-going shy kid turned into a mass murderer in just a few years? Preposterous!

It turns out Leon since age 17 has been forced  to work on death row in a maximum security prison. His work is like a shepherd, tending to the needs — food, showers, and prayers — of  men  “on the rope” (waiting to be hanged). But he’s also a butcher, forced to 32_img_6718kill — en masse, often seven at a time — the same men he takes care of.

His story is told at his trial in a series of gruesome and realistic flashbacks. Johan goads him into recounting what he – and the prisoners — has been through. This film shows the horrors of capital punishment, and particularly 47_img_9027the mass executions held in South Africa, in graphic detail. It is horrifying and extremely hard to watch, because it brings you the viewer  right into the gallows itself. Shepherds and Butchers is a touching story about an important topic, but believe me, it is not for the faint of heart.

Rings and Shepherds and Butchers both open today in Toronto; check your local listings. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is playing for free this Sunday as part of the Canada on Screen series. Go to tiff.net 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 talks with Adam and Andrew Gray about their new documentary FLY COLT FLY

Posted in Action, Canada, Crime, Cultural Mining, documentary, Folk Hero, Indigenous, Kids, Seattle by CulturalMining.com on February 14, 2014

Andreew Gray_Adam Gray_ Fly Colt Fly phptp © February 14 2014 Daniel Garber at the MoviesHi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Just a few years ago, one TV news story went viral: a teenager in Washington state was living in the woods with his dog, feeding himself with food stolen from homes and convenience stores.

The young man was identified as Colton Harris-Moore, dubbed the Barefoot Bandit for his shoeless robberies.
His notoriety grew as he outwitted countless police efforts to catch him. And when it Colt and Dog woods from Fly Colt Fly Colton Harris Moorewas revealed that he escaped in borrowed prop planes that he’d taught himself to fly, his reputation soared. He was chased across the continent until he was finally caught in the Bahamas.
A new documentary called FLY COLT FLY tells his story in a combination of reenactments, animated sequences, news clips, and interviews with the people he met along his journey.
The movie is having its world premier this weekend at the TIFF Next Wave film festival, and opens in theatres on February 21. I speak with the filmmakers, brothers Adam and Andrew Gray, who tell us the saga of trickster, traveller, flyer and folk hero Colton Harris-Moore.

 

June 22, 2012. Square Pegs. Movies Reviewed: Your Sister’s Sister, Kryptonite!, Alps.

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.

Can square pegs fit into heart-shaped holes? This week I’m looking at three movies about odd-balls adjusting their lives to fit into new families and relationships. There’s an indie rom-com from Seattle about a middle-aged slacker caught between two beautiful women; an Italian drama about a bullied 9-year-old who explores 70’s hippie culture; and an experimental Greek film about people trying to temporarily replace the dead.

Your Sister’s Sister
Dir: Lynn Shelton

Jack, (Mark Duplass) is depressed, unemployed, single, and stuck in a bottomless pit of negativity following his brother’s death. So to cheer him up, his friend Iris (Emily Blunt) – who was also his late brother’s ex-girlfriend – offers him the use of her family cabin, off on some island in the Pacific North West.  But when he gets there, he sees an attractive woman inside, coming out of her shower. And after a clumsy confrontation involving a wooden paddle, Hannah, a lesbian who has just broken up with her long-time lover, gets into a drunken confessional with this stranger, Jack. He’s a lumpish, impulsive ne’erdowell; while Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a strikingly beautiful, but acid-tongued meat-is-murder vegan. Is there a spark there? Uh, oh… Sometimes things that happen in the night are best forgotten in the morning.

Who shows up but the next day but Iris – who it turns out is Hannah’s half-sister! She’s been through a series relationships with swooshy haired, skinny jeaned, rock- and-roll hipster boyfriends… but could she also harbour feelings of her own toward her platonic best friend Jack? All these new complications throw a wrench into their mutual relationships.

Your Sister’s Sister is a really good, extreme-low-key romantic comedy. It’s mainly about the characters, not the plot, with most of the dialogue improvised by the actors themselves. The three of them work very well together and Mark Duplass is everywhere! (He was in another low-budget, Seattle-based comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed, just last week. Anyway, this movie’s worth seeing if you’re looking for a Left-coast romcom.

Kryptonite!
Wri & Dir: Ivan Cotroneo  (I Am Love)

Peppino (Luigi Catani) is a 9-year- old school kid in Naples in the early 70’s. He wears glasses and that’s enough to get picked on by his schoolmates. When he plays soccer, he‘s stuck being the goalpost. So, aside from his father who works in a sewing machine shop, and his loving mother he turns to his eccentric uncle Gennaro (Vincenzo Nemolato) who thinks he’s Superman.

But things start to go wrong. His mom (Valeria Golino) discovers her husband is having an affair. Instead of making a scene, she collapses and becomes bed-written until sent to psychoanalysis. His dad shoos him away so he can spend time with his secret girlfriend. And Genarro is found dead, hit by a car. So, without a functional family, and to keep him out of trouble, he’s lent out to his many uncles and aunts. They’re Neapolitan hippies, given to wearikng eye makeup and dancing to Ziggy Stardust and Nancy Sinatra.

They introduce him to their own new world of bra-burning, acid tripping, folk-dancing, nudity and mass love-ins. And the Superman Genarro periodically returns

from the dead to impart words of superhero wisdom to the bullied and “different” Peppino, as he struggles to understand and appreciate his differences.

Kryptonite! is a really great coming-of-age drama. It has a complex, but easy-to-follow story with a dozen main characters; Visually and aurally it’s a fantastic feast of eye- (and ear-) candy, including sets, costumes, amazing locations and seventies music.

ALPS
Dir: Giorgos Lanthimos

Something’s strange: why is a moustachioed EMT worker asking a dying patient about their favourite movie star, instead of allergies and past illnesses? Well, he’s gathering data for his second job: it’s a private enterprise where he and his colleagues – a nurse at his hospital, a competitive gymnastic dancer and her coach – rent themselves out to take the place of recently dead or injured people. This way their families and friends can ease more gradually into their new lives, and cope with the large gap. The business is called “Alps” (to evoke the steadfastness and immovable nature of the Alps mountains), with each of the four answering to a secret code name based on a famous Swiss peak (Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa…). The bossy paramedic declares himself the highest peak of the Alps.

Their role is ambiguous, lying somewhere among therapist, actor and prostitute.

They memorize pat dialogue, likes and dislikes so they can pretend to be the missing ones. But the four of them have different aims. The gymnast yearns to leave stodgy classical ribbon dancing and move onto modern pop sounds… like Prince. But she’s is kept tethered by a cruel coach who says he’ll break every bone in her body if she deviates from his orders. Meanwhile the paramedic is a petty dictator, a suspicious popinjay who wants to keep the others members in line with his power scheme. But the nurse would rather fall in love — even artificially — and if the process involves sex, all the better. So the two men want more control, while the women want more freedom.

This is the same director who made the great movie Dogtooth and ALPS shares a lot of its style: intentionally stilted dialogue, long pauses, long takes; a story about vainglorious adults behaving like adolescent bullies and their oppressed victims; and an unnervingly dated and outré look to everything. I guess I’ve adjusted to Lanthimos’s style since Dogtooth, as it no longer bowls me over, but it’s still funny and absurd and shocking with an amazingly strange story. The acting and the characters still grab my attention.

Your Sister’s Sister, and ALPS both open tonight in Toronto, check your local listings; and Kryptonite! plays the opening night of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival next week – for details go to icff.ca . Also opening is the excellent but heart-wrenching documentary 5 Broken Cameras, about the Israel/Palestine conflict from the point of view of a Palestinian activist in a small village; the experimental Indian drama Patang (aka Kites), co-starring Seema Biswas; and the Toronto Korean Film Fest, featuring great Korean classics from years past, like The Tale of Two Sisters; Mother; and Old Boy. Go to TKFF.ca for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

June 16, 2012. Indie Music, Indie Films. Movies Reviewed: Jobriath A.D., My Father and the Man in Black, KMS: Jewish Negroes, Safety Not Guaranteed

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.

Gruff, screech, pitta-patta, swoosh, grind, boom, buzz, scratch… (thank God I’m not a music writer) these are some of the sounds you hear at a club, on stage or under the open sky. And it’s what NXNE brings to you.

NXNE is Toronto’s monumental indie music festival, but it’s also a film festival, playing movies, videos, documentaries and feature films — all with a musical element to them: this means the good movies always have amazing soundtracks.

So this week I’m talking about two documentaries on famous musicians and their managers; another one about a hiphop team with zero turntables and a microphone; and an indie comic-drama about a would-be journalist meeting a would-be time-traveller.

Jobriath A.D.
Dir: Kieran Turner

Who the hell is Jobriath? I vaguely remember seeing the name on covers in record delete bins, but that’s it. But it turns out he was this openly gay pop-rock performer in the 60’s and 70’s, who had a tumultuous rise and fall. This amazing documentary — with a wicked glam-rock soundtrack – delves into his history as a small town boy, who moves to LA, stars as the sexual character Woof in the famous hippie musical HAIR, records orchestral folk/pop songs, composes music, and then, under the wing of bigtime promoter Jerry Brandt, launches as a glam rock superstar. He imagines a Parisian extravaganza with him climbing the empire state building on stage in a King Kong suit, fighting off airplanes and transforming into Marlene Dietricht. His rise and fall and rise again – as a moustachioed Cole Porter-like piano player in Manhattan – is documented in this very cool biography of a little-known musician ahead of his time. Maybe there are too many clips of other musicians giving their opinions on hiom, but its more than made up for with vintage TV and film recordings and very cool animation sequences that illustrate each stage of his life.

While there are a few too many talking heads for my taste, this is a really great documentary about an otherwise forgotten pop/rock legend.

My Father and the Man in Black
Dir: Jonathan Holiff

When London, Ontario promoter / manager Saul Holiff committed suicide, he left behind a storage locker packed with transcripts and recordings of his day-to-day life with Johnny Cash. He was the guy who got the singer out of jail, who booked him to play in Folsom prison, who introduced him to June Carter – who made him a superstar and turned his life around.

But he’s also the guy who more or less abandoned his wife and kids as he travelled around North America with the C&W singer. This fascinating and unusual documentary was made by his son Jonathan, and it delves into the strange and sometimes bitter relationship between the drug-addicted and later born-again Johnny and the hard-driven, pragmatic Saul. The film uses beautifully-shot, silent re-enactments with recorded voice-overs, along with period footage, snapshots and documents, and filmclips taken from the director’s dad’s collection, to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on Johnny Cash.

KMS: Jewish Negroes
Dir: Moran Ifergan

In the news a lot these days is the plight of East African migrants and refugees living in Israel, some of who are facing discrimination, violent attacks or forcible removal.

This movie is about a different group, a largely ignored population – Israeli-born citizens of Ethiopean background who have fallen by the wayside. It concentrates on three hiphop artists, “KMS” band, rappers living in a grim, run-down housing project in Rehovot. This is a raw documentary that follows the three of them through impromptu performances with just an ipod and a microphone, their travels to the big city, and encounters with police, and their largely hostile neighbours. Very interesting movie.

Safety Not Guaranteed
Dir: Colin Trevorrow

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is fairly miserable. Her dad says she’s carried a black cloud around with her since her mom died when she was 14. Now she’s in her 20s, struggling with her unpaid internship at a Seattle magazine. Then she gets her big chance to follow a story – a newspaper classified ad asking for a companion to travel through time: “This is not a joke!”

So Jeff (Jake M Johnson), a douche-y magazine writer, Darius, and the other intern Arnau — a meek, sexually repressed nerd – climb into a car and drive out to the small town to find the guy who placed the ad and write a story about him.

Darius poses as the companion but soon becomes a real friend with the paranoid conspiracy-theorist Kenneth (Mark Duplass). He works in a Big Box store, but claims he has found the secret to time travel – and that’s why the feds are chasing him. Well, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you: turns out there really are men in trench coats following him around!

The story wavers between adventure/comedy and simple romance: Kenneth and Darius may become more than just time travelers; obnoxious Jeff may find love with a woman he had sex with in highschool; and meek Arnau might come out of his shell when he meets some small-town Goths looking for fun. And what about the time travel? Is this science fiction or the newly popular genre faux-science fiction? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Aubrey Plaza and Marc Duplass are a great team. Safety Not Guarateed is a good, cute very low-budget film – much more fun than the average rom-com.

Safety Not Guaranteed, and the great art documentary I reviewed last week, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present both open today, check your local listings; Jobriath, My Father and the Man in Black, and KMS: Jewish Negroes, (plus the wonderful Slaughter Nick for President) are all playing at NXNE straight through the weekend and are included with festival passes or bracelets – go to NXNE.com for details. And Ingrid Veninger, the Toronto director of the sweet romance Modra and the biting art satire I am a good person I am a bad person, is showing her films at the Royal, and is holding a $1000 dollar feature film challenge for prospective low-budget filmmakers! Go to punkfilms.ca for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

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