Daniel Garber talks with Donnie Dumphy and Nik Sexton about their new film How to be Deadly

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on September 25, 2015

How to Be Deadly Poster - LargeDonnie Dumphy lives a comfortable life in a remote corner of St John’s, Newfoundland. On Thursdays, he picks up his government cheque and invests in essentials for the weekend: pot and beer. For the rest of the week he survives on breakfast cereal and free coffee creamers. He hangs with his HowToBeDeadly_Nik-and-Marybuds Jimmers, Tom and the rest of the gang. But his true loves are his longtime girlfriend Brenda and his midget dirt bike… not necessarily in that order. But can Donnie win a dirt bike competition? Or will his arch-rivals Versace and the HowToBeDeadly_Ice-cream (1)Dirty Daggers beat him at his own game? And will we ever understand a word he says?

You can find out the answers tonight in a new movie called How to be Deadly. It just won Best Feature Film at the Canadian Comedy Awards and is showing in Toronto — for one night only — at the Cineplex Yonge Dundas Theatre at 7 pm.

I spoke to Donnie Dumphy and filmmaker Nik Sexton by telephone in Toronto. They told me how to be delicious and deadly, and shared their views on dirt bikes, wolves, mainlanders, creamers, CODCO, the 1980s, Jon Bon Jovi, Rick Mercer, Rex Murphy, St. John’s Nfld, Tommy Sexton, chastity jeans, youtube, bingo… and more!

Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Revenge of the Jocks?

Posted in Breasts, College, comedy, Feminism, Good Ol' Boys, Movies, Sex, Sex Trade, Strippers, Women by CulturalMining.com on November 13, 2009

beer in hell

Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
Dir: Bob Gosse

Tucker Max (Matt Czuchry) takes his two sidekicks, Drew (Jesse Bradford) and Dan (Geoff Stults) on a drive to a faraway strip bar for a bachelor’s party the night before Dan’s wedding. They get drunk, act like boors, break things, and insult women while ogling their breasts. The End.

Is it funny to watch a rich, privileged, southern, white, good ol’ boy and his buddies enjoy the good life at the expense of everyone else? Not particularly. Is it unusual for someone like Tucker Max (the man, not the character) to enjoy describing his pick-ups and sex life in detail on a blog (www.tuckermax.com)? Unfortunately not.

In fact, is there anything, anything at all, distinctive or worthwhile about such a patently offensive movie? Maybe a little. It has a few very funny lines, and there’s an engaging round of competitive insults between the abusive, depressed gamer Drew and a smart stripper; and affable acting by the actor playing Tucker Max. But on the whole, jokes with audaciousness but no irony — humour that takes the side of the bullies instead of the underdogs — quickly begin to grate. Ten-minute potty jokes are better written down than shown. It’s supposed to be funny when he happily tosses bills off a wad of cash to get poor people to do unpleasant things for him. And you do laugh at the awfulness of his mindset. But it’s not meant to be self-deprecating; you’re supposed to think of him as a hero for his unparalleled honesty.tucker max with ex-girlfriend

Tucker Max is touring the continent with campus previews of his film (earlier this week at Innis College, University of Toronto) and surprisingly he attracts as many female fans as males. His Q&A this week after the screening was funnier than the movie — he’s a good stand-up comic. But he’s the type of guy who gets his laughs by insulting insecure students in the audience: “I liked you in Harold and Kumar, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The most surprising thing about Tucker Max may be the fact that he doesn’t get beaten up.

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Where the Wild Things Aren’t Wild

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on October 24, 2009

where_the_wild_things_areWhere the Wild Things Are
Dir: Spike Jonze

Max (Max Records), a boy who lives with his mother (Catherine Keener) and sister, likes to run around in an animal suit, growling and burrowing. He runs away after he breaks some things, messes up his house and bites his mother. Max sails across the ocean to an island where the wild things are. The wild things are scary-looking Pufnstuf-sized animated monster-puppets who live in cool huts of woven twigs. They crown Max as their new king so he can solve all their problems. Their goal is to stop fighting and breaking things, and to join together in a warm and furry eternal group hug.

I really wanted to like this movie. It’s written by Dave Eggers, the experimental (though over-rated) creative novelist, directed by the interesting (though over-rated) video and movie director Spike Jonze, and based on the amazing children’s book by the fantastical (and under-rated) children’s illustrator and writer Maurice Sendak.wild things illustr

Unfortunately, the movie sucked. It was unbearably boring and slow, with a painfully obvious plot, and an inexplicably drawn-out pace designed to suck the life out of even the most dazzling scenes. Who can enjoy a movie like this? It can’t be made for kids, since there’s no suspense and almost nothing happens. It can’t be made for grown-ups, since the simplistic dialogue is like a whiney self-help power point presentation. The monsters, while initially scary, are quickly revealed to be a set of aging stoner hippie-monsters living in a failed commune with their ADD kids and drop-out emo teens.

This may be the first escapist movie that panders specifically to kids’ parents. Not to kids and not to adults, nor even to adults who remember loving Sendak’s lush jungle fantasy as a kid. It’s only aimed at parents of wild kids who just wish for some peace and quiet.

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Coco Chanel: the surly years

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on October 20, 2009

Coco before Chanel (Coco avant Chanel)
Dir: Anne Fontaine

In an old house in France,
all covered with vines
Lived 12 little girls
in two straight lines.

Little Gabrielle Chanel, dressed in stern grey and white, grows up in a Catholic orphanage run by nuns wearing black and white habits. She spends the rest of the movie trying to make French women lose their flouncy, feathered hats and red dresses, and dress more simply, just like at the orphanage.
Coco before Chanel covers the early stages of the career of the successful, self-made French designer. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (Audrey Tautou) — nicknamed for a dancehall number about a little dog that she performs in a bar with her sister Adrienne — wants to rise up from her humble origins. She tries valiantly to launch her career by becoming the mistress of Count Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde), a rich dilettante, and Boy Capel (Allesandro Nivola), a French-speaking, upper-class Englishman. She shows her independence by smoking cigarettes, riding horses in men’s breaches, and pouting and sulking amid her rich friends’ decadence. In between parties, she chops frilly lace off of gaudy dresses, flings whalebone corsets to the floor, and makes tiny black dresses to wear to the ball — paving the way for French women to be free from loud clothes.

But the movie is over by the time she’s made the transition from rags to riches, leaving out the really interesting parts of her life that followed. I would have liked to have seen the years she spent shacked up in the Ritz with her high-ranked Nazi lover in occupied Paris; or the aftermath, where she was forced to flee France in disgrace for her war crimes. Instead, the movie tiptoes gingerly from the rebellious young woman to the rehabilitated grande dame. See this movie if you enjoy looking at costumes, horses, stately mansions and old furniture. But if you’re looking for an exciting story, don’t look here.

“Enter the Void” is like dying in slow motion on DMT

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on October 7, 2009

enterthevoidEnter the Void
Dir: Gaspar Noé

Psychonauts — DMT aficionados — say that one puff of that extreme, psychedelic drug is so powerful it can make you collapse before putting down the pipe. The reaction lasts just a few minutes but might seem like hours, or even days. They say the brain’s pineal gland excretes a large dose of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) right before you die. It makes your whole life pass before your eyes, just before you expire. That’s what they say.

Gaspar Noé’s new, spectacularly, overwhelmingly trippy movie Enter the Void, is a 2.5 hour hallucinogenic experience, seen directly through the eyes of a Canadian druggie living in Tokyo. Oscar rarely appears (except when looking in a mirror) but you see everything he thinks, remembers, sees, or imagines, as repeated loops of his life and death are projected on the screen.

Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a low-level drug dealer, and his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta), a stripper, live in a Tokyo entertainment district resembling Dogenzaka. They have been close since a childhood blood-oath, but are separated when a failed drug deal at a bar, The Void, tears Oscar free from his body. Like in the book The Tibetan Book of the Dead that he leaves in his apartment, Oscar is in limbo. He is now forced to perpetually view strobing neon, sordid sex, drugs and violence as he floats through solid walls and bends time and space. Stove burners morph into drains and psychedelic star bursts; aerial cityscapes turn seamlessly into handmade, day-glo models of Tokyo buildings and back again.

Enter the Void is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It is an extremely absorbing and mind-blowing — but looooong — work of art. Each time you prepare for the dream’s inevitable ending, it introduces a new tableau. French enfant terrible Gaspar Noé has surpassed his earlier, drastic films by moving beyond the simple, horrific violence and shocking scenes and flashbacks that fueled Seul contre tous (1998) and Irréversible (2002). Enter the Void is his best and most ambitious film to date.

Happy Families: Dogtooth

Posted in comedy, Cultural Mining, Family, Movies, Psychology, Sex by CulturalMining.com on October 2, 2009

Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

Younger Brother is sitting. He is sitting on his bed. He is wearing his tennis clothes. Younger Brother likes to play. Father is bringing a stranger for Younger Brother to meet. She will teach him how to have sex. Younger brother may not tell this to Older Sister and Younger Sister. It is very unusual to have visitors come inside their fence. Father will bring her by car because no one can step on the ground outside the fence. Younger Brother must follow directions or Father will punish him. Mother is locked in her room. She is watching her secret TV tapes. Younger Sister and Older Sister are in the bathroom, learning new words today to improve their vocabulary…

Dogtooth is an unusual film from Greece, a fantasy about a control freak of a father who regards his three children as tabula rasa, to be filled with his ideas and no one else’s. And no one will ever contradict him since he keeps them isolated in a fenced-in compound with no outside contact of any kind. The twist is that the “kids” are adults now but still live as children, not realizing there is any other type of existence. The film shifts back and forth from the black humour of social satire to the pathos of a disturbing family drama. It leaves you with a strange, uneasy feeling.

lifeduringwartime_04Life During Wartime
Dir: Todd Solondz

Todd Solondz’s dark comedies alternate between two New Jersey families, the Weiners (Welcome to the Dollhouse, 1995; Palindromes, 2004) and the Jordans (Happiness, 1998, Life During Wartime, 2009). The characters continue their depressing lives, while the actors who play them come and go. In this movie we join the three new Jordan sisters, ten years later.
Weepy, hippy Joy (Shirley Henderson) loves helping the needy, but this has landed her an unbearable fiance. He asks for her forgiveness for his latest transgression, so Joy seeks out her family for advice. Her mother Mona in Miami is no help, so she moves on to suburban Trish (Allison Janney) who is dating again. But Trish discovers her pedophile husband has been released from prison and is also seeking forgiveness. Sister Helen (Ally Sheedy), a Hollywood star, is bossy and self absorbed and not much help either. Poor Joy resorts to asking advice from ex-boyfriends from her past, like Andy (Paul Reubens).

The cast is as uniformly excellent as the story is relentlessly, painfully sad. Solondz is an expert at inflicting the unvarnished cruelty of family dynamics on his moviegoers. While there is nothing earth-shattering or different in this movie, it still holds its own as a funnily sympathetic (and pathetic) black comedy in his distinctive, ongoing saga.

1001 Good Mornings

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on September 28, 2009

scheherezadeScheherazade: Tell Me a Story
Dir: Yousry Nasrallah

Scheherazade: Tell Me a Story is a wonderful melodrama about women’s lives in urban Cairo. Hebba (Mona Zaki) is a TV talk show host who is married to Karim, an ambitious journalist. They live a western-style life in a luxury condo replete with expensive gadgets, and dine in exclusive restaurants. But one day Hebba’s eyes are opened by a viewer who questions her superficial interviews. She decides to change her outlook by addressing politically controversial women’s issues, problems never mentioned on TV before. Like Scheherazade, the storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights, Hebba brings new tales to her show each day, with stories of lust, greed, love and betrayal.

Hebba invites a series of ordinary women, both rich and poor, with unusual lives to tell about their strange situations: an ex-con taking care of her former jailer, a beautiful woman living in an asylum, and an educated professional launching a one-woman protest. Each guest tells an even deeper and more fascinating tale about how she ended up where she is now. The audience follows each story as it shifts from the bland TV stage to the rich dramas of the guest’s recollections. And in between her interviews, Hebba’s home life is gradually revealed. Scheherazade: Tell Me a Story is a great movie with an excellent script (by Wahid Hamid), good acting and fascinating characters, showing women’s lives in today’s Egypt.

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Who ya gonna call…? Trash Humpers!

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on September 24, 2009

trash humpersTrash Humpers
Dir: Harmony Korine

In Harmony Korine’s latest film, a gang of marauding, hideously deformed old people terrorize suburban Nashville in their wheelchairs. They smash fluorescent bulbs and drag baby dolls behind them on their bikes. These trash humpers literally hump large plastic trash bins on the street. They fellate shrubbery leaves and masturbate cylindrical objects they find. They are known to engage in cruel pancake thuggery, and siamese twin bullying.

This is not a conventional movie by any means — there’s only the barest of a narrative. It’s shot on coarse video, with PLAY and RECORD occasionally appearing on the screen. Sounds, words and songs (about angels and devils), are constantly inserted into the soundtrack, seemingly at random. At the TIFF screening, Harmony explained Trash Humpers like this: Everyone probably knows Field Of Dreams — “if you build it, they will come”. This movie is the opposite: “If you destroy it, they will come on you.”

Trash Humpers is a nihilistic piece of art, somewhere between a film and an installation, like a non-stop, giant youtube clip projected onto a movie screen. It’s terrible, and it’s brilliant.

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High School Confidential

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on September 22, 2009

Precious_1Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Dir: Lee Daniels

To win the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, a movie has to have certain qualities. It should be something unusual and new. It should have a straightforward story, not an ambiguous or ironic one. It should be a moving look at a character who overcomes great obstacles. And it has to feature great, dramatic moments by its actors or characters.

Usually the film will go on to win big at the Golden Globes and Oscars. Past People’s Choice winners include Slumdog Millionaire, Tsotsi, Amelie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Shine, Roger and Me, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Precious — this year’s winner — fits all of these criteria.

Clareece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe) is an overweight 16 year-old girl with a heart of gold who is functionally illiterate, and pregnant with her second child. It’s the 1980’s, and Precious lives her precarious existence in a Harlem apartment with her abusive mother Mary (Mo’Nique). She survives the daily suffering and violence by escaping into vivid fantasies where her life is like a fairy tale and everybody loves her. She is placed in a girls’ alternate school among other drop-outs where a kind teacher and role-model helps her rebuild her life and encourages her to record it all in a small, black notebook.

Sidibe and Mo’Nique manage to give strong performances (the movie is a bona fide tear-jerker) without being mawkish. While it’s simple to tell who the good guys and villains are, the strength of its characters makes this more than just a movie-of-the-week or an interview on Oprah.

Tanner Hall directed by Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini
Tanner Hall
Dir: Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg

Another film about an all-girls’ high school in the 1980’s played alongside Precious at TIFF, but two stories couldn’t be more different. In Tanner Hall, rich, privileged girls carry on their mothers’ legacies at an exclusive New England prep school. They order pizza, embroider clothes, gossip, and play practical jokes on teachers. But the idyllic lives of three best friends are disrupted when a death-obsessed, scheming English girl elbows her way in. She uses her knowledge of their secret trysts (on and off campus) to insinuate herself into their more innocent lives, spurring them on toward maturity.

This first film, written and directed by prep-school grads Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg, seems at times more concerned with the girls’ clothes and hair than their hearts and heads, but the story is still watchable. Aside from an execrable opening scene about a little girl letting a bird out of a cage, the movie is not that bad. Comic relief is provided by Amy Sedaris and Chris Kattan as two teachers trying to improve their sex lives.

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Yo Mama!

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on September 18, 2009

Dir: Bong Joon-ho

A desperately poor Korean mother (Hye-ja Kim), who is committed to her only son’s well-being, makes her meagre living selling traditional herbal medicines and practicing acupuncture. Her son, Dong-joo (Bin Won), is a social misfit with a very slow mind who hangs out with manipulative hoods. When he is arrested for the death of a
neighbourhood girl, his mother is the only one willing to look out for him. She becomes a single-minded crusader and amateur detective, stopping at nothing to find the real killer.

The mother and son, at first, seem like comical caricatures, playing out the type of extreme vengeance drama so popular in Korean pop cinema. But as their motivations and history gradually reveal themselves, the characters gain depth and become more sympathetic . The great acting, uncomfortable characters and gripping mystery/detective plot make this a cinematic treat. Director Bong Joon-ho (The Host) is as good at mysteries as he is at making big-budget action movies.
CLARA PALARDYJ’ai tué ma mère
Dir: Xavier Dolan

Another new mother/son movie at TIFF, J’ai tué ma mère, is a great family drama, this one set in Quebec. Hubert (Xavier Dolan) is a teenager who does not get along with his mother (Anne Dorval). He is smart and well read, but is not doing well in school — he’d rather spend his time at his boyfriend Antonin’s house than in his own home. Hubert and his mother both try to win each other’s affection, but most of their conversations quickly devolve into explosive shout-fests.

This low-budget movie was written and directed by the 19-year-old who plays Hubert, and is partly based on his own experiences. Dolan has packed his movie with visual references to Quebecois and French artists (like Pierre + Gilles), poetry and songs. Characters named after Rimbaud quote Cocteau. Anne Dorval is excellent as his mother, and the two make a formidable team. This is a great first film.

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