Fall 2011

Sep 15  Beginners
Sep 22  Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times
Sep 29  Jane Eyre
Oct 6  Life, Above All
Oct 13  Submarine
Oct 20  Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy
Oct 27  Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Nov 3  The Tree of Life
Nov 10  Win Win
Nov 17  The Trip
Nov 24  The Future
Dec 1  Bill Cunningham New York
Dec 8  Project Nim

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MUN Cinema Series

[IMDb] Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.

September 15   Beginners (USA 2011) 105 min.
What better start to a movie series than with a film about new beginnings? Two of the strongest actors in the business, Plummer and McGregor, share the glory of this wonderful script about starting over. At 75 and recently widowed, Hal announces to his son that he is gay—born that way. Oliver is probably the last to know, but as played by McGregor we do believe in his stunned, confused response. The outing occasions a shift of perspectives and a brave new way of taking on the world. Oliver is challenged by the change he must face in his father's true identity, while Hal rejoices in his liberation from a life of secrets and lies. Clearly, the filmmakers are aiming for the power of positive people. With these two fine actors we can almost believe in the promise of such radical personal transformations.

September 22   Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times (USA 2011) 88 min.
If you like the movies in this cinema series then you have always liked the New York Times. For many, the newspaper is a diary of everything meaningful, a chronicle of what's important to us, a statement about the world itself. At a moment when newspapers are persistently threatened with extinction it is fascinating to witness the army of people dedicated to keeping it going, from the reporters on the lines to the guys who place the paper on the stoops of America. To give shape to the giant of an industry, director Rossi focuses on three reporters in the media room, each dedicated and as different from each other as the sports and food pages. PAGE ONE is not a hymn to nostalgia, however. It is more interested in what the paper can offer for the future, what its legacy can still help deliver, than it is about the past. Newspaper stories have long been the stuff of movies. This one shows us all the news that's fit to film. And, yes, Carl Bernstein shows up, you bet.

September 29   Jane Eyre (UK/USA 2011) 120 min.
Is there anything more delicious than the gothic strains of repression and desire? Well, if so we don't know what it is. Charlotte Bronte didn't need no stinkin' vampires to get her story started. She practically invented the romantic template: a young innocent woman falls in love with a darker, older figure, someone dangerous and possibly, mysteriously, corrupt. There have been many adaptations of this dark brooding page-turner for a reason: JANE EYRE hits a nerve we love to feel, the one touched by forbidden love. The cast here is strikingly perfect. As the indomitable housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax, Dame Judi has enough Oscar power in her eyebrows to hold the screen forever. But as the smoldering Rochester, Fassbender is definitely the new tall dark handsome guy on the block, worth Jane's overwrought conniptions. Bella Swan/Cullen--eat your heart out. Uh, maybe we should put that another way, actually.

October 6   Life, Above All (South Africa/Germany 2010) 100 min.
This is a rare and unflinching look at life in South Africa through the eyes of a young girl, Chanda, who must bear more responsibility than most adults ever have to shoulder. Her township community is superstitious and rife with gossip. AIDS isn't mentioned very much, because it is too real, too present, but you know the disease hangs over everyone's house like an unshakeable curse. Chanda not only deals with the day-to-day in such a village, but she must also bury a sibling, locate her stepfather, and get to the root of her mother's own sickness. Support comes in part from a friendship with a friend, Esther, but even that relationship feels the pressure of deprivation and the force of poverty. Gorgeously shot, buoyed by a strong musical score, and driven by a fierce narrative realism, LIFE, ABOVE ALL will move you right out of your post-Apartheid complacency.

October 13   Submarine (UK/USA 2010) 97 min.
Described by one critic as being "close to perfection," SUBMARINE tells the story of one young Oliver Tate, an imaginative British teenager with a serious capacity to think too much on the event. Like most adolescents, his goals are modest — get the attention of a girl or two, have some arousing kisses, see where it all goes, but, man, does he ever sweat the wrong details. As the narrator of his own coming-of-age story, Tate is inadvertently hilarious, more or less deluded by real events, projecting himself incorrectly into his own developing story. We see his parents and their floundering marriage through his eyes, a perspective that lends him some sympathy, sure, but for the most part the film tugs at the ironic distance between Oliver and us. Was adolescence always so misinformed? Many have compared Ayoade's approach to US-based Wes Andersons' films — Rushmore, and so on. There's a British sensibility operating here, however, that takes the dialogue up more than a witty notch or two, and that's the way we like it.

October 20   Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy (Canada 2011)
In collaboration with the St. John's International Women's Film Festival. With acclaimed producer Joni Cuquet in the exec producer's chair, this startling debut feature qualifies for the women's festival and steals the show. Following in a strong drug-addled line of continuity from author Welsh's Trainspotting, this dynamic dark comedy lives fully up to its title. Where once we say how heroin played havoc with the bloodstream, here we are caught up in the charms of tiny powerful pills—methylenedioxymethamphetamine for all you scrabble players. The rave scene of Edinburgh takes centre stage, a buzzed urban playground where people like Lloyd Buist mean well but fall prey to the dark side of so much red bull. If you want to know what E really feels like without having to stay up all night, have we got a film for you! The screen pulsates intensely with the techno beat of crowded halls and happy, sweaty bodies. Lloyd easily escapes in that world for obvious reasons: his father can't get off the couch, work is scarce, and the future is less certain than a Scottish bank. We follow Lloyd as he both surrenders to and tries to transcend that world. X sure marks his spot. Get ready to rrrroll your Rs and crrross your eyes. ECSTACY will right through you.

October 27   Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Canada/USA/France/Germany/UK 2010) 90 min.
Ah, Werner, where would film criticism be without you? Everyone buzzed about this amazing doc from the German maestro last year at TIFF, an experiment with 3-D like you wouldn't believe. The beginning of human symbolic representation is often located about 32,000 years ago, in a cave in southern France. The famous cave paintings came to the light of day in the 'nineties, as French archeologists blazed a trail to the bowels of the earth. Herzog's camera takes us on that journey, in glorious 3-D, where every bump in the cave wall seems just at our reach. Needless to say, getting even a glimpse of the paintings, let alone a whole camera crew, took the kind of Herculean effort only a Herzog could marshal. Restrictions were intensely imposed but Herzog defied them all, managing to deliver this remarkable hymn to our own creative past. Never has the upper Paleolithic Era looked so familiar.

November 3   The Tree of Life (USA 2011) 139 min.
It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's another long awaited feature from genius conceptualist Terrence Malick. Worth the wait, to be sure. Many have so far been baffled by the sheer awesome panorama of the film, its metaphysical hints, its existential provocations. Best advice is just to let it be. TREE OF LIFE is set squarely in the American Midwest, as we follow the diurnal round of the O'Brien family. It's the late 'forties and life happens, lemonade flows, the sun dapples the landscape. Three O'Brien boys are being raised by stern dad (Pitt) and nurturing mom (Chastain). They play, suffer, love, grow up—the usual stuff. Malick sets this family against nothing less than the history of the world. There is no hard explanation for what we are or where we came from; we just are. The Big Bang or God—what's the diff? Are these really days of heaven? Rarely has any artist dared to suggest that very question. Rarely has Brad Pitt been so persuasive an actor.

November 10   Win Win (USA 2011) 106 min.
Donchya love Paul Giamatti? He almost always projects a schlemiel's life, someone to whom iffy things happen. Here he plays Mike Flaherty, a New Jersey lawyer—small-town New Jersey, that is. This director brought us the endearing indie films The Station Agent and The Visitor, and so you know we are in competent hands. Mike needs a bit of money, is looking for some options. When things more or else play out on his side in court, he seizes the day and starts a chain reaction of events, implicating him deeper, and comically, into the lives of others and vice versa. As is typical of McCarthy's movies, the characters who support or swirl around Mike are engaging enough for their own films, especially Cannavale and Tamboor, two great comic actors of the American screen. Ultimately, as the title suggests, this comedy works things out for the greater good, but it's all about the complicated, uneasy journey, right?

November 17   The Trip (UK 2010) 107 min.
Man, this is good, one of the funniest movies of the year. When the Brits are funny no nation is better or more bitterly wickedly caustic. Coogan, playing himself, it seems safe to say, is sent by The Observer to investigate foodways in Northern England. His chauffeur companion, Brydon, is a stand-up on wheels, riffing from one impression of one famous actor to another, replete with profane and witty asides, hilarious bons mots, and insanely hysterical suggestions. The two are also entangled in relationships which trail their journey like bad smells. There's an astonishing amount of superbly arranged food on their plates but these guys barely notice. We do, that's for sure. THE TRIP is just that — a trip for the audience that envies their opportunities, laughs at their genius, and admires their talent.

November 24   The Future (Germany/USA 2011) 91 min.
Cat lovers, please note. Finally someone has made a movie about life from a feline's point of view. You asked for this film and you got it. We love Miranda July, anyway. She defines quirky indie intelligence and THE FUTURE certainly lives up to her reputation. She also usually acts in her own films as a more or less lovable eccentric. Here she plays one side of a rather low-energy twosome; Sophie and Jason are a wannabe free-spirited couple who by impulse and inclination end up on the verge of adopting a cat. This inevitability propels them into thinking about how life is about to change — all the freedom they will be surrendering when Paw Paw comes home from some much-needed healing. You can substitute any of baby/roommate/spouse/pet for cat, and the same existential crisis would likely kick in. There is both humour and a lot of sadness here, as we explore the limits of loneliness and the desire for freedom. It's rare to see real adults dealing with real-life problems, but that's what THE FUTURE promises.

December 1   Bill Cunningham New York (USA/France 2010) 84 min.
Some of us have long been devout followers of fashion photographer Bill Cunningham's weekend photo shoots in the NY Times—now deliciously online as video narratives. What could be more appealing than a window on what people are wearing on the really interesting streets of New York City? The guy behind the weekly feature is himself an object of much curiosity. Fashionable New Yorkers know him as a familiar figure on a bicycle, always clad in his working man's denim jacket, gracefully peddling to catch the trends and patterns of urban sartorial splendor. This engaging doc tracks the man and the mystery of his personality—a recluse, a bachelor, who lives as piously as a monk while focusing on the spectacle of indulgence. It's a contraction devoutly to be watched.

December 8   Project Nim (UK/USA 2011) 93 min.
We have had many requests for this amazing documentary, too. It tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone on the upper West Side in the 1970s. The chimp is none other than the famous Nim Chimsky (yeah, you heard right), a precocious animal who in the 'seventies was reared by 'foster parents' like a child, with all the valuable middle-class lessons of behavior and language. It is both shocking to us now, and yet strangely fascinating, to see how humanized Nim could be. Indeed, he emerges with more integrity than just about anyone else in the film—that is, if integrity means anything to a chimp! Nim was part of a doomed experiment, of course, one with arguably good hippie intentions. Just what were these people thinking? Jane Goodall must be rolling in her hammock.