MUN Cinema Series
Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.
January 13 Animal Kingdom (Australia 2010) 113 min. [IMAGE] You might think from the title that this is a genteel doc narrated by David Attenborough, but no, this ain't no teddy bears' picnic. ANIMAL KINGDOM is the brilliant debut crime drama by Australian David Michôd, a Sundance Jury award winner and a festival crowd pleaser. It's all about the Codys, a crime family based in the suburban sameness of Melbourne. But there is nothing ordinary about this family which is headed by a matriarch who makes Ma Barker look like a Sunday School choir conductor. Jacki Weaver plays Smurf Cody, terrifying mom to a trio of brooding good-for-nothing armed robbers. She's got some rotten bunch of cubs to manage, and, to be sure, she knows exactly how and when to keep them crazy in their psychic cages. Narrating the story is the figure of J, a youngster when he first comes to live with his scary grandmother and her charges. J's more detached and rational point of view helps frame the story after the fact of so much dread and destruction. Doomed by a life of chaos and nihilism, the Codys play out their fate in riveting, explosive ways. ANIMAL KINGDOM so deliberately demystifies the gangster figure that you'll never again understand the romance of the Godfather.
January 20 Jack Goes Boating (USA 2010) 89 min. [IMAGE] "Offbeat" actor Philip Seymour Hoffman tries out his directing skills in this unadulterated indie gem, an awkward-boy-meets-awkward-girl story. Hoffman plays a hapless limo driver, a forty-something nowhere man without much of a clue, girlfriend, or ability to swim. His best buddy, Clyde, works hard at socializing him, fixing him up with his wife's work colleague, an equally hapless misfit named Connie. The film tracks the uneasy courtship of these two brilliant actors against the backdrop of a questionably married couple, their friends Clyde and Lucy. Adapted from a successful off Broadway play, JACK GOES BOATING has the decided feel of a NY storywritten for adults who are less than glamorous, more than familiar.
January 27 You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (USA/Spain 2010) 98 min. [IMAGE] It's been a while since we have screened one of Woody's annual metaphysically inflected gifts to the cinematic pantheon, and so here we are. The Woody themes are familiara bunch of urban middle class people roam through the world in search of happinessbut the actors are always a bit different, the situations slightly varied. This time we are in London, where, among other challenges, an older woman must deals with her husband's abandonment for younger stuff. Her married daughter Sally has her own problems, not the least of which is her brooding husband. Life is a series of disappointments and doomed quests, but what's the alternative? Typically, happiness is pretty illusive in Mr. Allen's repertoire. The older he gets, the more fatalistic he becomes, or as Woody himself has said elsewhere, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying." Check out the A-list actors and the gorgeous travelogue of London, worth the price of a good psychiatrist alone.
February 3 Tales from the Golden Age (Romania/France 2009) 155 min. Romainian with English subtitles [IMAGE] There are several directors identified here because this is an anthology film, literally a bunch of tales from the time of the Ceausescu dictatorship, not golden so much as ridiculous when viewed through a certain lens. What's really amazing about these five very different stories is that they share in some way a vein of humour about such a repressive and dark time, probably the effect of time and detachment. Award-winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days director Cristian Mungiu managesthat is, co-directsthe entire set of stories with a keen eye for visual detail and a fine blend of the tragicomic. The result is a rich and highly entertaining festival of stories about a time and place we thought we knew something about. If Chekhov were Romanian he might have penned these short revealing dramas.
February 10 Inside Job (USA 2010) 120 min. [IMAGE] Are you just like the rest of us, wondering how Wall Street really works and just who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in the whole sub-prime mortgage recession inducing economic meltdown? Even if you don't wonder, this highly entertaining and critically acclaimed documentary will take you on a wild and angry ride through the US financial district. Amoral, and greedier than Gordon Gekko on speed, the wizards at companies like Lehman Brothers shamelessly defrauded the little guys, people who couldn't really afford mortgages. The CEOs lived like sheiks, commanding enormous salaries and, to make things worse, were awarded multimillion-dollar settlements after their firms when bankrupt. What circle of hell is this, and who is running it? In a closed, unregulated marketplace it turns out they are. INSIDE JOB is terrific in so many ways, also showing us the insane cocaine-driven culture of the 2000s, in which high-priced hookers flourished, helping to keep the manic machinery of Wall Street working. What a world. What a jungle.
February 17 Blue Valentine (USA 2010) 114 min. [IMAGE] By now you should certainly know a lot about this acclaimed indie gem, a study in love and marriage and everything that follows. Described as the "perfect" film about contemporary relationships, BLUE VALENTINE traces the romance of two startlingly original individuals, played adroitly by Gosling and Williams. Subtle in its storytelling, immaculate in its details, the film moves back and forth between then and now, with only 6 years spanning the life of the relationship, short enough to be startling, long enough to make a difference. What goes wrong? As is so often the case, it's not about just one thing: it's a steady, incremental shift brought on by the sheer fact of time. Shift happens, all right, and if these two actors don't get nominated for Oscars we'll eat all our V-Day chocolates in one sitting.
February 24 Fair Game (USA/UAE 2010) 108 min. [IMAGE] It's astonishing how recent the events this film covers are, but there's nothing like a great dramatic re-enactment to put the complexities into perspective. Remember Valerie Plame? She was outed as a CIA agent during the Bush-Cheney administration by someone who wanted to get at her husband. Why? Ambassador Wilson reported that he found no evidence that the country of Niger had sold uranium to Iraq. In other words, his report undermined the whole excuse to go to war. Cheney's assistant Scooter Libby was tried, convicted, and then taken off the hook for obstructing justice. FAIR GAME shows us what Plame was really up to in the Middle Eastessentially doing CIA business running networks, information gathering, and so on, all in a good day's work. When her cover was blown a lot of her informants were killed. Plame and Wilson wrote the book on which this remarkably candid film is based. It's their spin, of course, but how can one disagree with what we now know to be true? That there was no good or real reason for the US going to war and killing thousands of people. And Dick Cheney is still walking around. How fair is the game, after all? This is a riveting account of what went down behind the scenes the media painted.
March 3 Somewhere (USA 2010) 97 min. [IMAGE] Perhaps not surprisingly, the talented daughter of a Hollywood family is intent on making movies about the emptiness of fame. Golden indie girl Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) here extends her existential study of emptiness into the hood of the celebrity, the place where good young men drift and pout. Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a purposeless movie star residing at the famous Chateau Marmont. Sex and drugs come and go but there's no real fun in any of it. Having recently won the Golden Lion at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, SOMEWHERE has nonetheless taken a lot of heat for being about nothing important. But if you consider just how much celebrity culture informs our values and attitudes then you will appreciate Coppola's unrelenting stare at a life like no other. Johnny might be depressed, or simply typical of what happens when your life is overtaken by publicists, agents, and the staff at hotels. There is no there there, which is, after all, the somewhere of the title. Consider this latest film to be Lost in Submission.
March 10 Incendies (Canada 2010) 130 min. [IMAGE] Well, aren't we lucky? We get to see what few English Canadians will ever have a chance to appreciate, genius director Villeneuve's Oscar-worthy masterpiece. If you see only one film this season this is it. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's tough love drama about twin siblings Jeanne and Simon who travel to Lebanon to discover the history of their mother (Azabal), INCENDIES is unforgettable. Their journey for love takes them into the heart of war and conflict. And what a journey it is. The plot twists and turns the siblings through some pretty tough terrain. The film is unsparing in its look at the depths of humanity. It is also demanding in that it asks us to consider the possibility of forgiveness for such horrors. INCENDIES shows us what cinema is and probably should be all about. There's no journey like this brilliant one into the heart of darkness.
March 17 Made in Dagenham (UK 2010) 113 min. [IMAGE] We love an entertaining solidarity movie, and MADE IN DAGENHAM sure delivers. Based on real events of 1968, the film dramatizes, with brio and wit, the struggle women workers waged for equal pay in a British Ford plant. Even their own union was against them. Guess why? Doh, could it be that the same guys who ran the country, the Ford Motor Co. and the union were, well, guys? The film features the unsinkable Sally Hawkins in the role of rabble rouser Rita O'Grady. She's mad and hot as hell and she's not gonna take it anymore. Her battle comes with a price: an angry husband, lots of bullying, and even a disapproving Parliament. But Harold Wilson was a total idiot about all of this and ultimately, as we know, Rita won her fight. Hawkins brings the same lively spiritedness she brought to last year's Happy Go Lucky. No one brings down the house with more charm. Have you driven a Ford lately?
March 24 Nowhere Boy (UK/Canada 2009) 98 min. [IMAGE] Imagine all the people living for today who know very little about John Lennon, and certainly even less about the early years. NOWHERE BOY is a superb, detailed account of the young working-class man who grew up in the same neighbourhood as his mother (remember "Julia"?) but did not know who she was until a late epiphany. The film was co-written by Lennon's half sister so you know it's richly real. It follows the emergence of a man whose identity was shaped by the two women who claimed him: the aunt who raised him and the mother who couldn't. Brilliantly nuanced and lovingly performed, this truthful drama inspires so many memories, so many tunes, and so much meaning behind the working-class hero who was something to be.
March 31 Waste Land (Brazil/UK 2010) 90 min. [IMAGE] Unlike the title, this doc about beauty, truth, and art is upliftingly gorgeous. This film turns its lens on what humanity can do when it's on its best behaviour. The place is Rio de Janero, more specifically a huge landfill into which garbage is furiously pored. Tião, an impoverished Brazilian catadore, or trash picker, is one of the protagonists on whom the camera directs its interest. He is proud and resourceful, if occupying an underworld far removed from the mainstream of middle class Brazilians. The organization Tião helps run sorts the mounds of garbage methodically, scavenging with a view to recycling and earning a few dollars a day to survive. Talk about fragments shored against the ruins! But the really galvanizing turn happens when an artist, Vik Muniz, who famously works with familiar and recycled materials, engages the team. The power of change comes from what he learns from the catadores, not necessarily the other way around. What a transformative experience they all have! If you don't feel better after watching this movie you'll never believe lilacs can breed out of the dead land.
April 7 Another Year (UK 2010) 129 min. [IMAGE] If we had to choose a MUN Cinema series director above all it would be Mike Leigh, whose films are reliably intimate, charming, forceful, provocative, intellectual without being dull or preachy. Above all, Leigh is interested in the seemingly infinite capacity of humanity to endure, despite the odds, working-class destiny, or lousy weather in London. Unusually, the film focuses on a persistently happy couple. No, they are not idiots; they are enduringly happy with each other, a rare model of domestic bliss lo these many years. Surrounded by a much unhappier lot, Tom and Gerri try to tolerate the transparently miserable souls around them, and in particular their friend Mary who would make a social moron squirm. Leigh is so brilliant at capturing the human condition in all the small social stuff, revealing character and situation in a line of dialogue, a dinner party, a failed slice of dialogue. There's no one quite like him, and ANOTHER YEAR testifies to his wonderful, irrational faith in that condition, regardless of the odds.