MUN Cinema Series
Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.
January 12 Capote (USA 2005) 97 min. Rated R for some violent images and brief strong language. [IMAGE] A stellar cast with an Oscar-worthy lead actor make CAPOTE the first must-see film of the series. Hoffman turns in an astonishing performance as the southern self-invented little man about town, the late and troubled Truman Capote. Capote was most famous for In Cold Blood, his searing thriller about the murder of a Kansas family by a couple of surly young guys, one of whom Capote found particularly attractive. Perry Smith, that brooding psychopathic killer, is shown here to be drawn into a weird dynamic with the author who would make him famous, although the film also asks us to consider just who is drawing in whom? Set against the nineteen fifties American heartland, CAPOTE packs a hard thrilling punch of realism. Bets on Hoffman as Oscar's½Best Actor.
January 19 Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (USA 2005) 103 min. Rated R for language, violence and sexuality/nudity. [IMAGE] The title is an arch reference to a well known comment by the great New Yorker film critic, Pauline Kael. These four words, she wrote, "are perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of the movies." Yes, indeed, this is a wonderful tour de force about the movies, strictly for movie lovers. In fact, if you love film noir, detective novels, Bogart, and Americana, you will simply love KISS KISS, BANG BANG. The whole idea is inspired and the casting is sheer genius. Consider, for example, Val Kilmer as a gayish detective and Robert Downey Jr as the crooked sidekick, an actor playing a crook playing an actor playing a cop. There sure are a lot of doubles in the film, as these two guys prowl LA in search of cops, corpses, and clues. The plot is more convoluted than The Big Sleep but that's the point: it's all about the journey, not the payoff. This is as BAD ASS, BAD ASS a film as you're ever going to see: you'll love, you'll love it. Really, really.
January 26 Good Night, and Good Luck (USA 2005) 93 min. Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language. [IMAGE] It was the nineteen fifties (see CAPOTE above), and Senator Joseph McCarthy was on a tear to reveal every left-leaning commie pinko civil-rights-loving American he could find. Not many took on the feisty Senator the way broadcast journalist Edward Murrow did. Gorgeous talented liberal dreamboat George Clooney honours Murrow's memory in this vintage-look and most excellent tribute to a man who lived in a time somewhat like our own--that is, America's own. Fearless and articulate, Murrow challenged McCarthy in the medium he knew best, reaching out to the public through the privately owned CBS network, raising necessary questions about the relationship between democracy and freedom of speech. Straithern turns in an almost certainly award-worthy performance, stalwart and purposeful. The real achievement here is Clooney's light directorial touch, avoiding sermons in favour of the crucial human element. What a gorgeous talented liberal dreamboat he is.
February 2 Lie With Me (Canada 2005) 92 min. Rated R. And we do mean Restricted. [IMAGE] If you like sex and don't mind watching it with a large group of strangers then this is the movie for you. LIE WITH ME starts hot and gets positively hard on/core. Lauren Lee Smith plays the role of a somewhat distraught young woman. Her parents are divorced and she lacks faith in love. She does believe in lust, however, and that faith leads her to connect with a studly do-right Torontonian. He's also young and just as inarticulate, but what they can't seem to verbalize they manage very well with each other's bodies. The actors obviously went full frontal with their courage in making this movie, which essentially aims at exploring the blurry line between sex and love. Adults get either too tired or too indifferent to remember where the line is. Youth, even in Toronto, are obsessed by it. In some ways this is a shocking piece of art house cinema, so hot you'll need at least a few cigarettes afterwards to discuss if it was, ahem, good for you. Do not even think of bringing your inner child, let alone anyone under 18.
February 9 The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico (Canada 2005) 86 min. [IMAGE] Sharing the prize at TIFF for Best Canadian First Feature this hilarious mockumentary is a totally inspired debut for director Michael Mabbott. Brilliant in concept, the film manages to wrangle bad boy c&w rock artists such as Kris Kristofferson, Levon Helm, Ronnie Hawkins, and Merle Haggard to comment on a completely invented character named Guy Terrifico, the ostensible '70s lunatic who made them all look bad. Played by the shaggy haired Matt Murphy, Guy (born Jim Jablowski) graduates from prairie polka tunes to loud Grand Ole Opry electric on a bold streak of luck and fist-pumping energy. Along the way he encounters the world of glamorous possibility, reaching for the top but ultimately falling down the stairs. There are truly side-splitting moments here, punctuated by excellent music and an almost hypnotic realism. You will believe in Guy Terrifico after only one viewing or your money back.
February 16 Where the Truth Lies (Canada/UK/USA 2005) 108 min. Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity, drug use and language. [IMAGE] Arguably our most stylized filmmaker, Atom Egoyan has unintentionally gathered a lot of controversy around his latest feature, especially following its well received debut at Cannes. Labeled a three-way orgy flick by prigs and fools, WHERE THE TRUTH LIES is really a postmodern homage to film noir. Indeed, when you have a dead waitress in an Atlantic City bathtub you're not in Kansas anymore. Egoyan likes to play with our heads, and here he works a plot as tangled as any brainteaser. Set in both 1957 and 1972, featuring a Martin-Lewis kind of variety act and a blond with a heap of jigsaw pieces, this film hits all the director's favourite themes with a colorful palette. As always, he is most interested in how innocence gets corrupted, how power uses sex, how fate works to draw parallel lines together, and, of course, where the truth lies. Fortunately, it lies in an Empire Studio near you.
February 23 Everything is Illuminated (USA 2005) 106 min. Rated PG-13 for disturbing images/violence, sexual content and language. [IMAGE] Naomi Watts' boyfriend, indie brainiac Liev Schreiber, directs this amazingly intelligent film based on a sometimes inaccessible novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. Wisely stripping the obscure complexity away for the sake of good movie-making, Schreiber casts Elijah Wood (who goes by the novelist's name) as a hapless seeker of human contact and family roots. Compelled to remember the horrors of the Holocaust that shaped his family's destiny, he journeys to Odessa in the Ukraine to track down a living connection, a woman with a story of rescue and salvation, or so he hopes. There he runs into a character who is in some ways his hilarious alter ego, a translator with a growing if stilted vocabulary and his allegedly blind car-driving grandfather. EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED is anarchic, clever, and sometimes coy, an entertaining contrivance about identity and the cultural ethnocentricity of Americans. Jonathan is naive, but experience in the world of others forces illumination. He is as charmed by that knowledge as we are by this movie.
March 2 The Squid and the Whale (USA 2005) 88 min. Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic dialogue and language. [IMAGE] Pure Sundance gold, this superbly written film is nothing less than a serious tragicomedy about a family irretrievably directing itself towards self destruction. These aren't the Kramers squaring off in a 'seventies courtroom, however. These people are smart, well educated, verbal, caustic, and deft at drawing on anyone from Nietzsche to Godard to make a point. Jeff Daniels is terrific as the fallen novelist and deeply flawed Bernard, married to the equally powerful, vulnerable Joan, a rising star writer played with finesse by Laura Linney. You can almost forgive the adults for being ultimately failed and painfully human, but the film's poignancy is intensified by focusing on the kids, specifically the young Walt who is confused, anxious, and obviously going to be permanently affected by his parents' nasty break up. Director Baumbach has admitted the film is semiautobiographical and it shows. There is no way to protect kids from the messes their parents make, and Baumbach is obviously drawing on vivid painful memories to bring the message home.
March 9 C.R.A.Z.Y. (Canada 2005) 127 min. [IMAGE] Exhilarating, Oscar-worthy, a masterpiece, this is the one to line up for. When a director can take a tired coming- of-age framework and transform it into something like this you are bound to renew your faith in civilization. The film practically soars with lyrical power. Zac is the child on whom the story centres, a sensitive young boy with his family's dysfunction swirling around him like a surreal acid trip. Growing up in the 'seventies had its moments, after all, and Zac experiences them all with a wild imagination. The Beaulieu family boasts five boys and a Patsy Cline-loving dad. Indeed, the father-son relationship is the moving heart of the story, as one can't seem to accept the special difference of the other. As he emerges into the eighties, Zac must face his essential identity as openly as he faces the music. And when interest in the Rolling Stones yields to David Bowie, the times they sure are changing. C.R.A.Z.Y. is arguably the absolutely best piece of Quebec movie-making -- ever.
March 16 The Passenger (Professione: reporter) (France/Italy/USA/Spain 1975) 119 min. [IMAGE] Yes, it's that Passenger, back in a theatre near you after thirty years of languishing on film course syllabi. A newly minted print of the director's preferred version of his 'seventies masterpiece was too irresistible to ignore. Repeat viewers will feel nostalgic and moved by the film's lush landscapes and existential thematics. Younger first-timers will finally see what all the fuss was about, and gasp at the buff body and weary soul belonging to a younger Jack Nicholson's American tele-journalist, provocatively named David Locke. THE PASSENGER was the third of Anontioni's trilogy of lefty philosophical-political masterpieces, Blow-Up and Zabriskie Point being the equally acclaimed predecessors. Nicholson's performance as the in-over-his-head American and Maria 'Last Tango' Schneider's beautiful presence as the younger woman with a heart of desire are worth the whole ball of yarns. That said, the film is perhaps most famous for its amazing final shot, a tour de force of technical skill and, for its time, the single most spectacular rule-breaking 360-degree pan in cinematic history.
March 23 Paradise Now (France/Germany/Netherlands/Israel 2005) 90 min. Arabic with English subtitles. [IMAGE] Called 'ingenious' and 'superior,' PARADISE NOW is one of the most exciting thrillers you will see this year. Two old pals, Said and Khaled, are terrorist-trained suicide bombers on what is almost always a first and last mission. They have 48 hours to do their committed deed. The film brilliantly simulates the feel of real time, as we move through the anxious paces, uncertain how the film will end until we finally get there. Paranoia and suspense hang over the whole movie-going experience like dark twins. It is impossible to stop watching, especially because the characters are so humanized, heaven bent on death as they are. Challenging a post 9/11 view that all bombers are demented and possessed, PARADISE NOW shows what we might dare to call the softer side of terrorism. The doubt and fear these men are humanly bound to experience is almost always aggravated by a totally suspicious and incriminating Middle East context. The trick here, of course, is not to glamorize terrorism so much as to help us understand it, and even to challenge it. It's a delicate line, but Israel-born Palestinian director Abu-Assad manages to come out on the side of civilization, no matter how illusive it appears to be.
March 30 Neil Young: Heart of Gold (USA 2006) 103 min. [IMAGE] Well, either you like that nasal twang or you don't. Either you grew up listening to the penetrating lyrics of one of Canada's most illustrious songwriters or you didn't own a stereo system. This 'Prairie Wind' concert movie is so fresh it's still dripping. Shot in Nashville as recently as August 2005, only days before Neil Young had brain surgery for an aneurism, you get the feeling he was all too conscious he might not be back for an encore. Well he survived and is thriving, as we know, and this film is permanent and proud testament to the man and his musical influence. Acclaimed director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, Silence of the Lambs, Stop Making Sense) has produced an intimate portrait of the man and the musical family who adore him almost as much as we do.
April 6 The Rowdyman (Canada 1972) 95 min. [IMAGE] In some ways the story that started it all, this is Gordon Pinsent's unforgettable gift to maritime myth. A beautiful remastered print in glorious 35mm and a special screening attraction at TIFF, THE ROWDYMAN requires many repeat viewings to fully appreciate its wit and wiliness. Pinsent invented a character he knew well, that noisy rapscallion Will Cole, as spirited a man as Candide, as bumbling a boy as a young Mr. Magoo. Yes, it's all a bit melodramatic and sentimental, but the young raggedy-mopped Pinsent transcended the sometimes cloying script to convey one of the most endearing figures in all of Canadian cinema. Over three decades later, Pinsent is in some ways still playing the part, having turned Will Cole into a brilliant success story. You won't get to see this wonderful star-making movie on the big screen again, and so catch it while you can.