Sunday, March 08, 2015

Seen in February 

scene from Blue is the Warmest Colour
Blue is the Warmest Colour

It seems I keep posting these later and later… by May, I'll be posting in August. For whatever reason, I didn't see as many films this February, probably because it was the coldest February in Toronto on record so you could understand simply wanting to stay home and put my head under the sheets.

Oscar Animated Shorts
A program that assembles the five Oscar nominated short films as well as a few other honourable mentions. It seemed obvious that the Disney short "Feast" would win as it was cute, short, expertly animated and sentimentally emotional. The Canadian nominee Me and My Moulton while very accomplished was probably too simple and modest a story to win. Other worthy nominees were presumably unseen by the Academy.

Pride & Prejudice
After reading the Jane Austen classic I had to watch this definitive BBC six-part version. Colin Firth’s career has been both defined and formed by his role as Mr. Darcy, the stubbornly distant and refined wealthy snob who descends his lofty perch for the woman he loves. It should be said, his initial proposal to the beautiful Ms. Elizabeth Bennet (played by Jennifer Ehle) is probably the worst marriage proposal in the history of English literature. The only shame of this series is that having been broadcast in the early 90s, it is pretty lo-fi, standard definition. I think it would be worth it to take the original film and re-master it in higher-resolution digital format if possible. It was clearly lovingly filmed in exquisite and lush sets, costumes and locations and it’s too bad to see it in a 4:3 ratio on a screen where so much more is possible.

Set in 1960s East Germany, a talented doctor is being punished by the Party by being re-assigned to a rural hospital. Despite being spied upon by Stasi agents she plans to leave the Communist East to be reunited with her boyfriend in the West. Though she attempts to maintain a distance from her colleagues who are frankly reporting on her she forms an attachment with a troubled teen patient and a fellow doctor who has a knack for making the best of a bad situation.

Wreck-it Ralph
Disney’s tale of a video game villain who’s determined to realize his dream of being a hero for once - unfortunately his quest brings havoc to other games in the arcade. There are plenty of Disney-esque themes of being your own hero, realizing who your true friends really are, accepting your own talents etc etc. Yet, in this new age of family cartoons, there are plenty of jokes for both kids and their parents. Additionally there are plenty of fun throw-back references to those classic 8-bit video games of the eighties both visually and in the delightfully synthetic score and soundtrack. Lots to like for everyone, especially the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Alan Tudyk.

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Described as Taratino meets James Bond, which isn’t really accurate but I will say it’s one of those odd films that found a way to mesh style, thrills, action and laughs without going too far. In some ways they could’ve toned it down a tad, but by removing the f-bombs, some blood splashes and sex gags (all of which would have changed an R-rating to a PG-13) this movie would’ve lost a lot of its élan vital, if you will. It’s also a lot of fun to see Colin Firth as a lethal killing spy machine. Oh my, Mr. Darcy, indeed!

What We Do In The Shadows
Hilarious “mock-umentary” from New Zealand about a group of vampire flatmates. If you’re familiar with Flight of the Conchords you’ll recognize some of the cast and know how funny this could be. A couple of actors from that series, such as Jermaine Clement, appear here as vampires or werewolves (“we’re werewolves not Swear-wolves”). It’s not the lines alone but that awkward and clumsy, seemingly improvised delivery that is the real nail in the coffin.

And The oscar Goes To…
I watched this overview of the Academy awards show as a primer for a TIFF movie quiz night. It actually helped me answer one question about James Cameron’s Titanic year but otherwise it was pretty much a hokey promo for the increasingly boring night of awards.

Blue is the Warmest Colour
This critically acclaimed story of two young women, Adele and Emma, falling in and out of love is surprisingly hard to watch. First, it’s three hours long. Second it has some infamous near pornographic love scenes. Now, I should say, um, seeing two beautiful ladies “gittin’ it on” is normally fine with me, but these scenes are weirdly intimate, intense and oddly long and drawn out making you feel like an awful spying perv, and there are other scenes that seem uncomfortably misogynist. But, if you can survive it, you will feel Adele’s sadness all the more profoundly.

Hello Ladies: The Movie
This is really just a feature length version of Stephen Merchant’s very funny HBO series in which his lonely forlorn protagonist finally finds a modicum of happiness in L.A.

Big Hero 6
I read mixed reviews of this film but I can’t really see what’s not to like (neither could those who gave it an Oscar). Visually, it is very rich and detailed and it’s a whole lot of fun, to (re)boot. You don’t really have to be a fan of super-heroes and robots to enjoy this story of a young robot enthusiast who finds himself befriending the marshmallow of a robot built by his older, deceased brother. It definitely follows in that strange Disney oeuvre of a young boy finding his true self without a mother or father figure to guide him but don't worry, his new friends become his family along with his well-meaning but overtaxed aunt (there's always an aunt or uncle).

The Secret of Kells
While in San Francisco I saw an exhibit that included art and concepts from this animated film which inspired me to see it. It’s the medieval story of a young boy, Aidan, living within the walls of a monastery, with a group of monks. Aidan eventually becomes a limner and helps create and protect one the most beautiful books the world has ever known. This traditionally animated film was nominated for an Oscar the year it was released and it’s easy to see why. It’s a striking film with a unique design and is one of those rare movies that any age could enjoy.

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