Dogs and toys. Films reviewed: Child’s Play, Paris is Burning, Dogman

Posted in 1980s, Animals, Crime, documentary, Drama, Horror, Italy, Kids, LGBT, violence, Women by CulturalMining.com on June 21, 2019

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

Pets, toys and dressing up are the innocent parts of childhood that supply endless bouts if nostalgic memories. That’s also what makes them useful fodder for shocking or surprising scenes in adult movies. This week I’m looking at three movies – a horror, a doc and a drama. There are drag balls run by fashion houses, a dog kennel run inside a house, and a kid’s toy ruining another kid’s home.

Child’s Play

Dir: Lars Klevberg

Andy (Gabriel Bateman) is a hearing-impaired kid who has just moved into a low-rent apartment. No dad, no friends, no one to keep him company except a mean old cat. His mom (the hilarious Aubrey Plaza) is trying her best to raise him, but her thankless job in a big box store takes up most of her time. So when a disgruntled customer returns a defective new toy – a first-generation robot named Buddi – she sneaks it home and gives it to Andy as an early birthday present. Buddi – who calls himself Chucky – is the ultimate high tech best friend. Like Siri or Alexa, Chucky records everything Andy says or does and adjusts his personality to suit it. Problem is, this particular toy has a defect – it’s missing the digital safeguards that stop it from things like using foul language.

Andy starts to make friends with people in his building, like Detective Mike (a hapless cop who visits his elderly mother down the hall) and juvenile delinquents Pugg and Falyn. Together, they watch campy slasher movies on TV, laughing at the gory parts. But what they don’t realize is Chucky takes in everything at face value. Lacking a moral compass, the robotic toy sees that violence makes Andy happy, so he begins to replicate the actions just to please his best friend.

And as the unexplained dead bodies start to pile up, it’s up to Andy to stop the toy from killing everyone around him. Will anyone believe Andy that a kid’s toy is actually a homicidal maniac? And is Andy strong enough to stop him?

Child’s Play is an updated remake of the classic horror movie from the 1980s and its many sequels… and I think this version is even better. In the original, a voodoo spell puts an adult criminal’s evil soul into a kid’s inanimate doll who cynically manipulates the hapless child. But in this version Chucky is an actual robotic kid who genuinely wants to please his best friend, but is missing the parts that tell right from wrong. It’s also a cautionary tale about the dangers of the rampant technology, surveillance, and artificial intelligence controlled by huge corporations. It is also hilarious, with great acting, and horrifically grotesque scenes used for comic effect. It includes constant pop culture references, from Tupac to driverless cars. Child’s Play is a perfect dose of schlock for a Saturday night.

I liked this one a lot.

Paris is Burning

Dir: Jennie Livingston

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate LGBTTQQIAAP Pride Day with a movie, you cannot do better than watching the documentary Paris is Burning. Shot in the late 1980s when HiV was decimating the gay community, this movie shows the drag balls run in NY City by various competitive houses. It is shot from the inside, not as exploitation but as celebration of the players. It features the queens and kings of drag, mainly black and brown people, back when their world was kept down low. Since this film was made, many of its subjects have died of plague or were murdered on the streets (black and brown transwomen are  particularly vulnerable to violence.) These are people who have had an enormous influence on mainstream TV, music, fashion, language and culture.

Paris is Burning is definitely one of the ten best documentaries ever made, so if you have a chance, be sure to check out this newly-restored 4K version.

Dogman

Dir: Matteo Garrone

Marcello (Marcello Fonte) is a hardworking, dimunitive man in his thirties who lives in a run-down section of Naples. He is dark, wiry and scruffy. Marcelo is own as the Dogman, also the kennel where he cares for and grooms dogs. He is a respected member of the local business association and shares drinks with the other men in the piazza. And he hangs out with his best friend Simone (Eduardo Pesce). But friend ship doesn’t clearly describe their relationship.

Simone is a musclebound bruiser, a competitive boxer and cokehead twice Marcelo’s size. He bullies him, steals from him and forces him into embarrassing and often dangerous situations. Marcelo regards him with equal parts fear and awe. Simone is a selfstyled gangsta who needs a constant flow of cash to fuel his extravagent tastes and drug habit. Marcelo plays along, lending a hand for petty burglary in expensive mansions. But when Simone wants him to rob a shop in his own neighbourhood, he has to take a stand. Can Marcelo use his skill with animals to stop Simone from ruining his life? Or will this alpha dog prove to be too big to tame?

Dogman is a terrific drama, Matteo Garrone’s latest, about the period of unequal friendship of two men and tied to local loyalty. It’s funny tender, surprising and moving. Like all of Garrone’s movies, it’s shot on location in the same poor Naples neighbourhood, and with lots of local faces and dialect. Many of the roles are played by non-actors which gives it a gritty realism you can’t always get with movie stars. This is a great film.

Paris is Burning is now playing with Dogman at the Tiff Bell Lightbox. Child’s Play also opens 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.

It Takes a Thief. Movies Reviewed: Mona Lisa is Missing, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, The Rover

Posted in Action, African-Americans, Art, Australia, Crime, Cultural Mining, documentary, Italy, Movies, Thriller, Trial, Uncategorized, violence by CulturalMining.com on June 20, 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.

Pickpockets, muggers, robbers and burglars… are people, too. Or so say these movies. This week, I’m looking at films with sympathetic portraits of thieves. There’s a car thief in Australia, a jewel thief from the US, and an art thief from Italy.

Mona Lisa is Missing Poster 2ff8bf_9878fe15b22b4418aabce26c8607bcd4.jpg_srz_244_215_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzMona Lisa is Missing
Dir: Joe Medeiros

Vincenzo Perruggia is a name that lives on in infamy as the man who stole the Mona Lisa in 1912. This documentary looks at the theft with a new eye.

Peruggia is an Italian migrant in France in the early 20th century. He works as a house painter – a very dangerous job, because of the constant exposure to lead paint. Some people say it made him addle-brained. Later, he takes a job as a security guard at the Louvre in Paris. But Parisians look down on Italian labourers, calling him “macaroni” and treating him like a fool.

But he shows them. He single-handedly walks out of the museum carrying Leonardo Da Vinci’s La Giaconda – now known as the Mona Lisa – under one arm. He keeps it hidden for two years, evading the most famous detective in Paris. He is only caught when he tries to repatriate it back to Italy.

Is he an idiot? Or a genius? An Italian patriot or just in it for the money?Mona Lisa is Missing Celestina Peruggia

This documentary has a light, humorous tone, but is meticulously researched. The filmmaker goes back to the original sources – letters, police files, period photos – and even tracks down his 80-year-old daughter, Celestina. What I found most interesting is that the Mona Lisa’s current fame is, in a large part, due to the publicity generated when it was stolen. Before Peruggia, it was just one painting among many. Now, it’s The Mona Lisa.

The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne Red021611The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne
Dir: Kirk Marcolina, Matthew Pond

Doris Payne was born to an African-American father and a Cherokee mother in a poor, coal-mining town in West Virginia. She’s a beautiful child – too beautiful. Her dad tries to beat the prettiness right out of her. So she vows to get out of there, erase her past and create a new one.

She establishes herself as a gentle, elegant, upper-class woman. And how does she support herself? As an international jewel thief, jet-setting to London, Paris and Monte Carlo. She’s a lover, not a fighter. No one is harmed, no weapons, no hold-ups. She steals from famous stores, never individuals. She’s actually a con-artist, and when things go right, the jewellers the life and times of Doris_Payne_3don’t even know something is missing until after she’s long gone.

Her techniques are fascinating. She’s like a magician, moving the jewelry around, palming but never pocketing her prey. As long as the jewel is in her hand she can always dispose of it. She tells stories about her past adventures, like a clever escape involving a nun, a pair of scissors and a needle and thread. She’s a master of disguises.Using merely a scarf or a wig she can turn herself from a haughty aristocrat into a humble nurse in seconds.

If her life sounds like a Hollywood caper, that’s because it is – or will be. They’re developing a film about her (starring Halle Berry). The screenwriter tells part of her story. But this is a documentary about — and starring — the wanted poster Doris and Babe The Life and Crimes of Doris_Payne_2real Doris Payne. And her current life is far from glamorous.

She’s still stealing jewels, at age 80! The movie follows her – and her defense lawyer — during a trial about her latest alleged theft (she denies everything, of course.)

Will Doris ever come clean? Has she really given up that life? And what can she do without the thrill of the Steal? This is a fascinating documentary, about a strong-willed and unrepentant black woman, and her rise and fall as the world’s best jewelry thief.

_ROW8158.tifThe Rover
Dir: David Michôd

A grizzled, angry man (Guy Pearce) sits in his dusty car by the side of the road. It’s the Australian outback – mining country: vast deserts punctuated by ramshackle aluminum huts. (Not a kangaroo in sight, just menacing birds of prey.) He goes into a roadside shop to wash up. At the same time, a jeep is powering down the highway, with three men inside having it out. They’re fighting. One of them, Henry, wants to turn back to save his brother. They left him dying on the road after a shootout. The others say no. And in the scuffle, the jeep plows through a pile of roadside junk. It’s stuck. So they steal a nearby car – the one left by grizzled, angry man – and off they go.

Out comes the first guy — he wants his car back. He climbs into the stalled jeep and gets it moving again. And so begins a violent, 90-minute road movie/chase scene/shoot out. On the way, he passes your typical outback The Roverattractions: gambling dens, gun runners, an all-male brothel, a crucified man… Wait. What?!

That’s where you realize: this isn’t normal Australia. It’s some futuristic, post-apocalyptic, Mad Max Australia. Only US dollars taken here. Chinese is the language of commerce. And if you kill someone there is no police, no army there to arrest you. It’s like the old west, but without any White Hats.

On the way he meets Rey (an uglified Robert Pattinson) the brother left dying on the road. Grizzled guy would just as soon shoot him as save him, but he needs information. So he brings him to a doctor and nurses him back to life. The two of them form an unwitting pair of road buddies – the angry and bitter older man, and the younger, idealistic slow-talker. (Rey’s a hapless oakie looking for a new father figure.) Will they find the three men – and the missing car?

_ROW3868-Edit.tifThis is a chilling, eerie and extremely violent movie. It feel like a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Pearce is excellent as the nameless, hollow-hearted drifter. Pattinson (the Twilight heartthrob) is unrecognizable as Rey — and I mean that in a good sense. Even though the story makes you want to curl up and die — is that all there is? — it’s still worth seeing.

The Rover and The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne both open today in Toronto – check your local listings. The Mona Lisa is Missing played at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival. Go to icff.ca for details.

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

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.

Interview: Daniel Garber talks with Ivan Cotroneo about his new film Kryptonite!

Posted in 1970s, comedy, Coming of Age, Cultural Mining, Drama, Italy, Movies, Toronto by CulturalMining.com on July 6, 2012

https://danielgarber.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/garberjune28-12-interview-2-unedited.mp3Ivan Cotroneo is a noted scriptwriter, novelist and translator, originally from Naples, whose first movie (as a director) Kryptonite! recently played at Toronto’s Italian Contemporary Film Festival. Kryptonite! is a coming-of-age drama about an innocent 9-year-old boy from a dysfunctional family in Naples in the 1970’s, who is thrown into the counterculture there by his young aunt and uncle.

I spoke with Ivan in detail about his new film (by telephone in Toronto).

Interview: Daniel Garber talks to Monica Nappo about her new films Kryptonite and To Rome With Love

Posted in 1970s, Acting, comedy, Cultural Mining, Italy, Movies, UK by CulturalMining.com on July 5, 2012

Toronto’s recent Italian Contemporary Film Festival showed a number of notable films including its opening night feature, Ivan Cotroneo’s Kryptonite!, and its closing film, Woody Allen’s To Rome, with Love.

But only one person appears in both of those films — noted Naples-born, London-based Italian film and theatrical actress Monica Nappo. I spoke with her by telephone in Toronto about working with two very different directors, the parts she plays in both movies, her acting style, her influences, her background as a stand up comic… and her experience with butoh!

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