The price of dreams. Movies reviewed: Foxcatcher, Heartbeat

Posted in Canada, Cultural Mining, Drama, Family, Mental Illness, Movies, Music, Romantic Comedy, Sports by CulturalMining.com on November 28, 2014

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.

A movie can warm your heart or chill your spine. This week I’m looking at one of each. There’s a heavy American drama about a wrestler who learns fame and fortune comes with a price; and a light Canadian drama about a musician who learns that giving up her dreams may not be the best solution.

FOXCATCHERFoxcatcher (based on a true story)
Dir: Bennett Miller

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is a champion wrestler. He and his brother Dave (Mark Ruffallo) both won Olympic gold at the 1984 games in LA. But while his older brother has settled down to a nice family life, Mark is still just scraping by. He plays second-fiddle when his brother can’t make it to low-rent speeches. He lives in a depressing worldFOXCATCHER of peeling paint, empty gyms, fluorescent lights and crushing debt.

So when reclusive zillionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) invites him to train at his vast country estate he is puzzled, but goes to check it out. Middle-class Mark is in awe of the money and power he’s exposed to. And he likes the chance of being his own man, not just under his older brother’s shadow. So he signs up. The estate is called Foxcatcher, because it’s where the aristocratic du Ponts still go fox hunting. And it’s controlled by the elderly, but formidable, matriarch Jean (Vanessa Redgrave in a fantastic performance). Civilized people shoot foxes; plebes wrestle. John, though, doesn’t like horses, or his mother. He sees himself as a coach, and FOXCATCHERwants to be known as a winner, not a sclerotic, talentless 10th generation chemical heir. So, to bolster his claim, Dupont hires a whole bevy of wrestler-type yes-men to train alongside Mark Schultz. But Mark’s life is changing, too. In a series of creepy but funny scenes he gradually morphs from ordinary wrestler to kept boy within a rich sultan’s harem.

So to ground himself, Mark decides he needs his brother Dave there to coach him, and live and train at Foxcatcher. This upsets the insecure and increasingly nutty John’s plans to be alpha male in his tiny world. Will this rivalry lead to an ultimate showdown?

Foxcatcher is getting a lot of attention, but for the life of me, I don’t know why. The director is heavy FOXCATCHERhanded, constantly drawing attention to his style – which is slow-moving, flat, and anodyne. It’s a bland, two-and-a-half-hour movie about a creepy but insecure rich guy and a wrestler. Followed by a very intense final three minutes.  It’s beautifully shot, with nice music. And Tatum is great as the wrestler, with Rufallo  good in his supporting role. But I’m baffled by all the attention given to comedian Carell, with his aging makeup and prostheses. All he does is speak s-l-o-w-l-y and without emotion. Creepy, yes, but great acting? I don’t think so.

But despite the fact that it’s way too long, weird, and not particularly interesting, I can’t say this is a dreadful movie, just one I didn’t like. And wouldn’t wish on you.

31f23bf8-ffc1-449f-a905-2a79e2ad7c02Heartbeat
Dir: Andrea Dorfman

Justine (Tanya Davis) is a creative soul trapped in a boring cubicle job in Halifax. She lives in her late grandmother’s house, and though still a young woman, dresses like a retired pensioner in old-school dresses, plastic glasses and a brutal haircut. She gave up her musical ambitions when she fainted on stage. Meanwhile, her social life is falling apart. She still sleeps with her ex-boyfriend Ben since he dumped her, but she has to keep it undercover. Ben’s an artist (Stewart Legere) and doesn’t want 47487869-9e61-491f-8ea9-57de7bc57d42anyone to know. Her best friend is married now and only wants to talk about their new baby. And the boss at work uses her as a sounding board for the minutiae of suburban life. But what about Justine?

Then one day she happens upon a woman named Ruby (Stephanie Clattenburg) jamming in the window of her favourite music store. There’s a musical attraction. And 0add1c3a-49d3-4e28-8867-b9e8402ff442maybe something more. In the dark of night, with no-one but the two of them around to hear, she picks up her guitar. She finds she can play her beautiful tunes for Ruby, and they jam. Ruby is pretty, sexy and street smart. Justine’s ex has relocated to some distant place, sending her clues he paints on paper postcards. So she is finally motivated to Esty-fy her wardrobe and Arts-and-Crafts her love life.

Exploring Ruby’s world, she finds shared houses, pop-up bands, and cool people. And some unexpected sex… But are they a thing now? Or just a moment’s fancy? Will she ever see Ben again? Is she a musician now? And can she embrace a new future?ba520a3e-8537-4d4d-9d3d-1d35f0b9787d

Heartbeat is a wonderful, low-budget Canadian film. When I say low-budget, I mean even bicycle crashes happen off camera – can’t afford the stuntmen! Instead the money is put into pretty camerawork, great music, and unexpectedly lovely animation that spring from Justine’s thoughts and daydreams. The acting is touching and real and the characters work well together. Director Andrea Dorfman is especially good at inserting assorted ethnicities, transgenders and sexualities without comment, without ever pointing it out to win extra points. They just are.

Heartbeats starts slowly but toasts like a marshmallow on a stick, ending up strangely shaped, but crispy, gooey, warm and delicious.

Foxcatcher and Heartbeat both played at TIFF this year and both open today in Toronto. 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

Stars as Commodities. Film Reviewed: The Congress PLUS TIFF14 Whiplash, Mommy, Heartbeat

Posted in Animation, Canada, Cultural Mining, LGBT, Mental Illness, Movies, Pop Art, Quebec, Queer, Science Fiction by CulturalMining.com on August 28, 2014

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.

Are movies and movie stars and their images commodities? Things that can be bought sold and traded, just like stocks and bond, like bitcoins and pork belly futures? In some ways, they are. International film festivals — like TIFF, which opens in Toronto in less than a week — are partly there to put films on the market. This week I’m going to talk about an unusual new film about movie stars as commodities, and, first, three must-see films coming to TIFF.

One movie that jumped out at me and slapped me in the face is

282f0eaa028d2851cd1689724e8a76deWhiplash
Dir: Damien Chazelle

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a 19-year-old drummer just starting at a prestigious music conservatory who is spotted by Fletcher a music teacher (JK Simmonds). He’s allowed to audition for their award- winning jazz band, and feels everything is turning out great. But he soon discovers that Fletcher is a cruel and twisted perfectionist, who brings his players up to the top, and then has them crash down into the dirt again. He treats them worse than the toughest marine sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. The acting, the passion and the relentless tension in this movie is just incredible… you gotta see it. Don’t want to say Oscar bells are already ringing, but… Whiplash definitely deserves one.

434c654375241fb0e9419d0e7af58f03Mommy

(Dir) Xavier Dolan

Another great movie is Quebecois director Xavier Dolan’s latest, Mommy. It’s a reworking of his first film J’ai Tue Ma Mere, but takes it to a new level. Steve-o (Antoine Olivier-Pilon) is a working-class, foul-mouthed teenager with ADHD. He’s kicked out of boarding school and sent home to his single mom Diane (Anne Dorval) who is as gutter-friendly, violent and sexually charged as her boy. It’s up to Kyla, the psychologically-damaged ex-school teacher next door, to try to fix things and keep Steve from being locked up. Dynamic, shocking and hilarious performances from all three actors, Mommy is not to be missed.

Also catch a gentle, quirky, musical story called

ad8a5b8174106f7e916e8a3c98a356afHeartbeat
Dir: Andrea Dorfman

Justine (Tanya Davis) is a creative soul trapped in a boring cubicle job in Halifax. Her best friend is in babyland, her artist-boyfriend-with-benefits Ben has dumped her, and she dresses in her late grandma’s wardrobe. But when she starts jamming with Ruby (Stephanie Clattenburg) she met in a music store window, things begin tot look up. Justine starts to Esty-fy her wardrobe and arts-and-crafts her love life. Heartbeat starts slowly but toasts like a marshmallow on a stick, ending strangely shaped, but crispy, gooey, warm and delicious.

Look out for Heartbeat, Whiplash and Mommy at TIFF.
Robin Wright Congress Affiche
The Congress
Dir: Ari Forman

Robin Wright (Robin Wright) is an over-the-hill movie star who just ekes out a living. She lives beside desert airport with her jaded hollywood daughter Sarah and her innocent but ill son Aaron (Kodi Smit-McFee). She needs money to keep him safe. One day her agent (Harveyt Keitel) makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

A studio wants to buy her name, face, image, voice… basically everything, to turn her back  into a superstar. And theyre giving her a huge contract and a starring role in countless big budget action movies. The catch? She’s not allowed to act or appear in public ever again. Huh?

You see, they want to scan her to make a CGI image that will take her place in all 1233023_407824875984836_624904373_ofuture roles. A star who never ages, never gets into scandals, and never has tantrums on-set. It’s all digital.

Will she do it? 20 years in the future, they up the ante.

They invite her to give a speech at a mysterious Congress, where she — like everyone else — exists only as an animated image of herself. Sort of a Second Life only more so. With the help of Dylan (Jon Hamm), a handsome cartoon character 1048616_380428355391155_743806434_owho created her image himself, she tries to escape from this strange psychedelic cartoon version of her world, and maybe save her now-adult son.

This is a super-bizarre movie, filled with glorious animation modeled on Max Fleischer-type characters from the 1920s and 30s mixed with 1960s psychedelia. At parts I’m totally into it, but other parts have dismally awful lines. Its flawed, not perfect, but worth seeing if your into mind-stretching and super-weird fantasy epics.

The Congress opens today, check your local listings, and Heartbeat, Mommy, and Whiplash are all playing at TIFF which starts up next Thursday. Details at tiff.net.

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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