Daniel Garber talks to IGOR DRLJACA about his new film Krivina

Posted in Art, Bosnia, Canada, Clash of Cultures, Cultural Mining, Drama, Migrants, Refugees, TIFF, Uncategorized, War by CulturalMining.com on January 26, 2013

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

Director_igor_DrljacaWars lead to dislocation, death, displacement. Refugees move to safe havens and leave people and places behind, but they live on in their minds.

A new experimental Canadian film called KRIVINA
looks at all of this, but reworks it into a new examination of art and emotions. It played TIFF, is opening soon at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and is playing now at the ROYAL CINEMA on College St in Toronto.

Krivina looks at traces of war remaining in the psyche of a Bosnian-Canadian named Miro. He lives in Toronto but feels compelled to return to his former land in search of a friend, Dado, from his childhood.

This movie is a stark example of cinema that combines
history with extreme realism, documentary, drama,
and magic realism. And I’m very pleased to have
this film’s director, IGOR DRLJACA here in studio
to tell us some more about his film.

Igor talks about war, remembrance, realism, improvisation, new cinema, Bosnia, Canada, his influences as a director… and more.

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Drive in movies. Films Reviewed: A Haunted House, Parker

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on January 26, 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.

It’s that cold as ice season when the Oscar contenders are already out, so new movies are either low-budget indies, or else B movies, genre movies, the kind that would look at home on a drive-in screen. So this week I’m looking at two genre pics, a comedy and a thriller.

A Haunted House Wayans AtkinsA Haunted House

Dir: Michael Tiddes

Malcolm moves into a nice suburban LA house with his girlfriend Kisha (Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins), but they soon discover something is not right – strange activity at night. Malcolm says it’s people, Kisha is sure it’s a ghost. So, with the help of a racist security guy (who is also a wannabe reality show star) he installs hidden cameras all around the house to capture any Paranormal Activity while they sleep.

But things get worse. The invisible creature, whatever it is, may be interfering with their after-hours sex. And their best friends, a white couple, keep bugging them to participate in some wife swapping or a “Mandingo Party”. So, to set things back in order and to rid themselves of evil spirits, they enlist, in sequence: a pudgy gay psychic who only has eyes for Malcolm; some over-the-hill gangstas; and finally Rev. Doug (Cedric the Entertainer), an ex-con exorcist.

A Haunted House is a found-footage horror movie that’s not scary. So what does it have to offer? A few laughs, I guess. This is a mediocre comedy, the latest from the Wayans

Clan, who have cornered the market in cheap, horror movie parodies. (Marlon co-wroteA Haunted House Cedric the Entertainer the Scary Movie franchise). But it’s honestly not that funny, relying on the usual things that make 14-year-old boys giggle: fart jokes, potty humour, gay jokes, stoner jokes, and most of all, sex jokes.

OK I admit it, I laughed occasionally, and I appreciated the various dead-on references to Paranormal Activity movies 1-4 (I’ve seen them all). But it was less a parody, than a wholesale plundering of someone else’s low-budget movie ideas.

On the plus side, it dares to play with racial stereotypes, with Malcolm/Marlon occasionally reverting to old-time racist Hollywood portrayals of google-eyed, scaredy-cat black men. I trust that the Wayans (who also did In Living Color back in the 90s) are well aware of what constitutes a racial stereotype, and what’s just for a laugh – so they do make you think just a little bit.

And at 86 minutes, it’s a quick movie. I have to admit, I was never bored by it. But you can only roll your eyes and grimace so many times before you realize this is just not a very funny movie.

Parker StathamParker

Dir: Taylor Hackford

Parker (Jason Statham) is a career criminal. He doesn’t steal from people, just from big businesses; he doesn’t hurt innocent bystanders; and he never, ever tampers with an agreed-upon deal. They say there’s no honour among thieves, but Parker proves them wrong.

So when a State Fair heist (arranged by Hurley, his girlfriend’s dad) goes wrong, he takes it very personally. He decides to devote himself to getting revenge on the gang of thieves who double-crossed him. They are a motley crew headed by the bald-headed tough-guy Melander (Michael Chiklis). But they also have a weenie guy in their gang who is well connected to a Chicago crime family. So while he’s chasing them, there’s a professional Chicago hitman out to kill him. Parker follows them from the rural Midwest, down to New Orleans, and finally to West Palm Beach, Florida, the most gated of all gated communities.

He disguises himself as a Texas oilman to get the lay of the land. There he meets Leslie, Parker Lopeza middle aged woman (Jennifer Lopez) who is living with her mom (Patti Lupone) and is days away from getting her car repossessed. A local cop is always hitting on her, but she shooting for bigger game. So when she smells something rotten with this oilman, she volunteers to help him with his mission – to catch the thieves and foil their planned Palm Beach heist. She’ll be his local contact.

Parker is a brand new action/thriller, but it could have been made in the 1970s. It really feels like a 70s mystery novel – a plot-driven story with lots of twists and turns. We don’t even meet Jennifer Lopez’s character until a third into the movie – something you rarely see anymore. This really has an old-fashioned feel to it: small-time hoods, rich people at charity auctions, State Fairs, people in clown costumes… things like computers, cell phones, security cameras barely play a role.

Parker Statham LopezThat said, I really liked this movie. Statham doesn’t act, per se, but I love him as a hard-as-nails, Die Hard-style tough guy. And Jennifer Lopez is fun as his foil (though not as dynamic as in Out of Sight). But the characters are really enjoyable: Patti LuPone is terrific as her Florida mom, Nick Nolte as Hurley, looks like a hood who spent the past 20 years in a pickling in jar of hard boiled eggs, and Michael Chiklis is really good as the unsympathetic villain. Chase scenes, shoot outs, fights, suspense – all great. Who cares if it seems old-fashioned – Parker is a fun and exciting wintertime thriller.

A Haunted House and Parker both open today in Toronto. Check your local listings. And, if you haven’t caught them yet, there are some terrific European movies still playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, films like Barbara and Amour –one of the best movies of the year.

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

Mothers and Daughters. Movies reviewed: Hello I Must Be Going, Mama.

Posted in Cultural Mining, Feminism, Ghost Busters, Horror, Movies, Romania, Romantic Comedy, Thriller, TJFF, Uncategorized, US, Women by CulturalMining.com on January 26, 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.

Hollywood has turned into a place where women are treated as an afterthought. It’s not unusual to see movies with 10 or 20 main characters with only one woman. So this week I’m looking at two genre movies that are usually male-oriented, but in this case are both told from a female point of view (though both have male directors). One’s an indie rom-com about hidden love under their parents’ gaze, the other is a chiller-thriller about surrogate moms.

hello i must be going poster Hello I Must be Going

Dir: Todd Louiso

Amy Minsky (Melanie Lynskey) hates her life. She hasn’t been outside her parents home or changed her ratty T-shirt for about three months. Why? Because her career-driven entertainment lawyer husband dumped her and she has nothing to show for all those years of marriage. She let her own interests slide (she used to be an MFA grad student, a photographer) to support him and now she has nothing. Nothing!

So she’s back with her parents just as her dad setting up a big contract that will let him retire and to travel with mom (Blythe Danner) around the world. So Amy has to dress up pretty for a dinner party so she won’t spoil the deal.

At the dinner party she meets the deal partners’ son Jeremy, an actor. He’s also moved the wigglesback to his therapist-mom’s house after years on a children’s TV show like The Wiggles. (He’s Mr Green)

Amy and Jeremy are both mortified by their parents’ conversations and find common ground.

Christopher_Abbott_and_Melanie_LynskeyShe’s awkward. He’s an actor. Sparks fly.

They bond, and later enjoy passionate sex. Amy’s life seems to be turning around. But the last thing Amy wants is to ruin he dad’s deal, so they have to keep it hush-hush. She visits him in the middle of the night to throw pebbles at his window. They go skinny dipping and make out in the backseats of cars. It’s like she’s living as a teenager again, complete with nosy parents and furtive dates.

Oh yeah – I forgot to mention. Jeremy, though an accomplished actor and an adult… is a teenager! (He’s 19.) Oh, also his accepting mom, a therapist (c’mere, give me a hug!), thinks he’s gay. Christopher_AbbottHe’s actually a closet heterosexual who doesn’t want to upset his mother’s plans.

Can Amy and Jeremy’s relationship last? Will her parents ever respect her and treat her as an adult? What will the future bring? I liked this movie — Hello I Must Be Going (the title is a reference to a song in a Marx Brothers movie) is a very sweet, realistic romantic comedy, with a nice, indie feel (It played at Sundance last year).

The acting is good all-around. Melanie Lynskey is a Kiwi, who started as a girl in the fantastic movie Heavenly Creatures. Blythe Danner plays Amy’s mom in a not-so-sympathetic but multifaceted way; and you probably recognize Christopher Abbot, who plays Charlie, one of the boyfriends from the TV comedy Girls (He’s the one who gets dumped on for being way too nice and accommodating but in a smarmy sort of way. He looks and acts totally different in this role.) This is a fun, different kind of indie movie to see.

mamaMama

Dir: Andres Muschietti

Two girls are found by their uncle Lucas in a cabin in the woods. They’ve been missing for five years after a violent incident involving their parents. Somehow, they managed to survive there on nothing but wild cherries. But they went feral, and now run around like foxes or chimps or Linda Blair in the Exorcist, except without the crabwalk. The two girls barely talk to outsiders and know no basic social rules. So they need surrogate parents to raise them and a psychologist to study them.

So Lucas (Danish actor Nicolaj Koster-Waldau) gets his wild-ass girlfriend Annabel to move in with him and help take care of the kids. Annabel (Jessica Chastaine) is a rocker with a full sleeve tat and a foul mouth. She’s in a band, and does all the irresponsible things rock musicians are supposed to do. But when something happens to Lucas, she’s suddenly the de facto mother of these two crazy girls – Victoria and Lily (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse).

Victoria was older when she disappeared so she can communicate, but Lily is nearly a lost cause. They are used to a world of bugs and plants and dirt, of hollows they can hide in, not clean, lit rooms. But things are transforming around them. There are strange cracks that appear on walls, moths that fly out of holes, strange noises you hear through vents in the house.mama2 chastain

The shrink says there’s an imaginary mother – they call her Mama – who they turn to for help. But is she real, imaginary, or something else? It’s up to Annabel to find out who is helping them, and where this Mama came from, if she actually exists.

This is a very good, female-centred chiller-thriller, where the girls, their heroine, and her nemesis are all women. It’s a B-movie, a genre pic, but it’s a good one. Mexican Guillermo del Toro, one of my favourite directors, was a producer for this one and it carries a lot of his trademarks: sounds through vents, scary houses, the possibly imaginary, and other-wordly lives of small girls, nice creepy production values, and lots of good, scary scenes. This is director Muschietti’s first feature, and I’d go to more of his movies.

Mama opens today, and you can catch Hello I Must Be Going at a special screening on Sunday, January 27th, as part of the Chai, Tea and a Movie series, sponsored by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. Go to tjff.com for details.

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

January 10th, 2013. Political Context in Action Thrillers. Movies reviewed: Zero Dark Thirty, A Darker Truth

Posted in Army, CIA, Cultural Mining, Death, Environmentalism, Protest, Thriller, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on January 26, 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.

Many people complain that action movies are vapid, pointless pablum, just meaningless flashes and a driving score to keep people distracted. Maybe so. But does adding a political context make an action movie better? This week I’m looking at two movies – both basically action thrillers – that are told within a political context. One’s a celebration of a CIA agent’s role in the assassination Osama Bin Laden, the other’s about a Canadian multinational messing things up in South America.

zero-dark-thirtyZero Dark Thirty

Dir: Catherine Bigelow

Maya (Jessica Chastain) is an up-and-coming CIA agent, with a delicate personality and whispey red hair blowing in the wind. She finds herself in a secret dark site. It’s post- 9/11 and the CIA is trying to find out where the next terrorist attack is going to be, and how they can stop it. She turns to the ruthless Dan (Jason Clarke) as her mentor. He’s a laid-back kinda guy with a scruffy beard who likes to say things like “It’s cool bro… everyone breaks eventually” to the people he’s torturing. He raises cute little monkeys in a cage, right beside the suspects, also kept in zoo-like cages. So she’s soon happily stringing up people, stripping them naked, putting black hoods on them and waterboarding the prisoners, just like the rest of the agents. Pretty grim stuff.

But she’s doing it to save America. As one character says in a dramatic speech: Al Qaeda attacked us from the air, from the land and by sea. We must stop them! And when she personally witnesses a bombing that kills her colleague she makes it her lifelong goal to kill that terrorist mastermind, Osama Bin Laden. (And it’s not a spoiler to say that he’s killed in a Navy SEAL raid on Pakistan in May, 2011.)

Zero Dark Thirty is a very long movie that traces the CIA’s violent, twisted and bumpy path toward getting Bin Laden. Gradually the public and the government seem to lose their original goal of catching the culprit of 9/11, but it’s Maya’s dogged pursuit that gets him in the end.

I thought it was a too-long, and not all that interesting, action movie telling a story we already know, completely from the Jessica Chastain zero dark thirtypoint of view of a CIA agent. It’s not one-sided – it is unsparing in its portrayal of torture – but it seems to make it all just seem like an episode of the TV show “24”, where there’s always a ticking time bomb or a planned terrorist attack ready to happen. If they can get the bad guys to talk – however they do it – any method is OK. The thing is, in real life torture is not OK, and it doesn’t work. Among other things, it talks about the 3000 innocent people killed on 9/11 – a terrible tragedy — but doesn’t seem to mention any of the 100,000s of innocent people, completely unrelated to that event, who were killed by the US and its allies in retaliation. (It does casually mention drones in Afghanistan, but just in passing.) It also portrays terrorism as a constant, never-ending threat, killing people all over the world. And its portrayal of Muslims and especially Arabs was especially simplistic.

(One of the most annoying scenes in the movie looks like it was written by someone who had never met a Muslim. It involves a group of women in black robes and hijab, their faces veiled with niqab. And what happens? Well, in this movie, any woman who covers her face must be up to something devious or sneaky; naturally, they end up being male assassins disguised as women who pull out weapons and mow someone down… Really?)

As a movie, the acting (especially Chastain, Clarke and Jennifer Ehle as another CIA agent) is very good, and the storyline is initially compelling, though its subject matter is extremely disturbing.

But it gets boring in the second half — just people walking through the steps taken to “get” bin Laden. Fun if you’re into Navy Seal recruitment videos, but boring to everyone else. I also thought its portrayal of good guys and bad guys – Us vs Them – overly selective. Every suspect turns out to be a terrorist, who can’t be trusted and is there just to kill us. Not just that, but we should make them hurt bad, not just because it’ll save lives, but because they did bad things to us and our friends and should pay for it. And that torture works.

Zero Dark Thirty is not a good movie.

Another action thriller is

Dark-truth-poster-1A Darker Truth

Dir: Damian Lee

Morgan (Deborah Kara Unger) is a ribbon-cutter, a Toronto heiress at a multinational resource corporation, who cuts ribbons and launches benevolent charities in the company’s name. But when she has an alarming run-in with an Equadorian on the lam her eyes are opened. She decides to investigate her company’s actions in South America where they may be responsible for poisoning water and killing locals, all for the sake of the bottom line. So she hires local talk show host Jack Begosian who has long rallied against what he calls the Great Transformation: corporate commoditization of necessities like water, land and air. Jack’s radio call-in show is called The Truth, but he’s pretty secretive about his own truth – he may have been a CIA agent in his past.

So Jack has to go to Equador, uncover the truth, and bring the Campesino revolutionary Francisco Francis (Forest Whitaker) to safety in Toronto. Francisco and his wife Mia (Eva Longoria) are the only ones speaking up for the endangered locals. But it’s not so easy.

A sniper-assassin named Tor (Kevin Durand) has been hired by the Canadian company to kill Jack and everyone else involved in order to protect their profits and image. Who will live and who will die? Who can be trusted? And will the truth ever be released?

A Dark Truth is another interesting-sounding action thriller that loses some of its steam due to an overly complicated plot. Parts are exciting and dramatic, with a good shoot-out and some interesting plot turns. But some parts are glacial in their painful slowness, like Jack’s scenes with his family wife and son. There are also far too many subplots to care about. The story keeps jumping back and forth across continents, with way too many flashbacks and tons of confusing images (like the heiress lying in a bathtub fully dressed – what does this mean and why do they keep showing it?) The acting is mixed. Durand, Garcia, Unger and Devon Bostick as the young Equadorian are all good, while the usually great Forest Whitaker seems bafflingly flat and uninteresting.

It’s nice to have Toronto playing itself for once, and important topics — like eco-revolutionaries and international intrigue – are rare to see on the big screen, but A Dark Truth is just so-so as an action thriller.

Zero Dark Thirty and A Dark Truth, both open today. Check your local listings. Also opening is Michael Haneke’s fantastic Amour, one of my top ten movies of the year.

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

2012 Top Ten Movies!

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on January 26, 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.

TOP TEN OF 2012

At the end of every year movie critics are supposed to choose ten movies as the best of the year. Why 10? I think it’s because we live in a decimal culture, with ten fingers and toes, decades, ten dollar bills, and a decimal-based number system.

And what are the criteria? I haven’t a clue. It can’t just be well made movies and it can’t just be enjoyable movies… it has to be some combination of the two. I guess they also have to have played in this city, at least at a film festival… and I suppose for me to call it one the best films of the year, it has to be something I’ve already reviewed.

Keep in mind, I don’t agree with a lot of the fans or critics. John Carter is considered the year’s biggest flop, but I quite enjoyed it. Similarly, I liked Lawless and Hysteria which also got largely poor reviews. But the ones I chose as my top ten are all movies with a good and interesting story, fine acting, and in some way emotionally moving – in short, a movie that stuck in my head long after I saw it. I see a couple hundred movies a year, so the ones that keep coming back must have something to them.

OK, with no further ado, let me present my top ten movie list for 2012:

Amour

A devastating drama about an elderly couple who vow to avoid all hospitals and live at their lives in their apartment no matter what. As the wife gradually loses her grip, the husband has to decide what to do.

Blancanieves

This is a dark retelling of the Snow White story, but it’s set in Seville in the 1920′s, and she’s the daughter of a bullfighter and a flamenco dancer. The evil Queen is a nouveau riche nurse. When she loses her memory she is adopted by a travelling band of little people and becomes a toreadora. Silent, in B&W.

Cabin in the Woods

The most meta of all meta horror movies, about a bunch of University friends drive out to a cabin in the woods. They have to fight scary monsters even as they’re watched in a laboratory by technicians in white coats.

Holy Motors

An absurdist comedy about a day in the life of a man who takes on various personalities as he is driven around in a white stretch limo.

In the Family

A slow-moving drama about a man who struggles to get back custody of his young son after his common-law husband dies. It’s a long movie and visually plain – the camera never moves – but it carries an emotional wallop that makes up for that.

Kon Tiki

It’s after WWII and Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl wants to test his theories about Polynesia – that the natives there came not from Asia but from South America. He gets some friends together and they ties some logs together with rope and set off for the South Pacific. The movie follows the adventurers across an ocean, their encounters with glowing creatures, dangerous sharks, and wales, all beneath their balsa wood raft and moved by Tiki himself, the god’s image painted on the canvas sail. Based on a true story, this is a fantastic Norwegian epic.

Rust and Bone

A drama about the relationship between a Belgian drifter/boxer who’s a single Dad and a French Orca trainer at Marineland. I loved this movie.

Rebelle

A child soldier in Central Africa tries to get back to her village when she’s troubled by visions of the dead.

Simon and the Oaks

This is a sweeping historical drama about two families in Sweden around WWII.

Stories We Tell

Dir: Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley’s wild, blonde actress mother Diane died when she was a child, so she was raised by her kindly, stiff-upper-lip dad, Michael. So to find out more about her past and that of her mother, she enlists her brothers, sisters, family friends and relations to tell their versions of their past, and illustrates it all with found Super-8 footage from her dad’s collection. This is an amazing family story told by an unreliable narrator and with lots of misleading half-truths, myths, lies and legends.

Honourable mentions:

Spring Breakers

Lawrence Anyways

The Hunt

Blackbird

John Carter

Kryptonite

Lawless

Hysteria

The Raid: Redemption

Project X

The Secret World of Arriety

Chronicle

Dark Horse

Tchipatchoulis

Queen of Versailles

Guilty of Romance

And many others…

Amour opens next week, and keep your eye out for a new silent movie series starting at the Projection Booth. This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

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