Last week, Toronto filmgoers were given a very special treat courtesy of James McNally and his labor of love since late 2009, Shorts That Are Not Pants. The latest edition of the screening series, which is exclusively devoted to short films and occurs at various points throughout the year, was held in a brand new venue for the first time: the newly renovated Carlton Cinema, located in the heart of Toronto near Yonge-Dundas Square. With the closing of the series’ previous home, the NFB Cinematheque, and the recent announcement of the Worldwide Short Film Festival’s indefinite hiatus, such events devoted to independent and short films are more important than ever in a city that seems to be becoming increasingly problematic for film programmers and festival curators outside of established players like TIFF and Hot Docs. But thankfully, all the signs point to Shorts That Are Not Pants only continuing to thrive, as not only did last week’s screening get a great turnout, but all seven films shown were very well-made and enjoyable and the whole program clocked in at just under seventy minutes, a perfect running time for a shorts program. There’s no doubt that James has cultivated a real knack for preparing these marvelous events, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll have planned for the program’s next edition, which will hit Toronto in January 2013. Until then, here are some of my thoughts on the assorted gems I recently got to see.
Winter is coming. We’ve heard this quite a bit over the last few months and with the release of “Game of Thrones” on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this week and the premiere of season two only a few weeks away (clear your calendar for April 1st), winter isn’t slowly creeping on us but coming at full speed and in full force.
So while some of us power through book two and try to squeeze out time to re-watch season one, the Vancity Theatre has taken it upon themselves to up the ante. On Friday, March 23th, the theatre will open it’s doors at 8AM and for the next 10 hours, will set about screening the entire first season with the season finale airing at 6PM. All of this, at zero cost.
If having the opportunity to check out the show on the big screen for free isn’t enough, the day will have some additional bonuses like contests, photo opportunities with the Iron Throne (eek!) and costumed characters from the show. Seriously. Double win!
I am serisouly considering taking the day off.
Thanks to Andrew for bringing this item to my attention, even if it is a bit of a tease. To coincide with an upcoming 15th Anniversary Blu-Ray release of Heavenly Creatures, small British distributor Peccadillo Pictures is going to give it a limited theatrical re-release. Peter Jackson’s Oscar nominated departure from splatter comedies (Braindead, Bad Taste, Meet The Feebles) is likely the main reason (along with The Frighteners) why New Line Cinema gave him the massive, in budget and scope, Lord of the Rings project (after the Kiwi director campaigned for actively.) Of course, it being Kate Winslet’s film debut is also of interest to many fans and admirers of her work over the past decade and a half. The fact that she is an excellent and nuanced performer right out of the gate should come as no surprise. Here she plays one of two girls accused and convicted of patricide. Melanie Lynskey (Up in the Air, The Informant!) has the role of narrator Pauline Parker, from whose diary the film is adapted. The girls obsessive relationship around literature and popular culture in 1950s New Zealand is compelling stuff when combined with Jackson’s flair for whimsical (and gritty) visuals.
Considering the similarly themed (and titled) The Lovely Bones which ended up more or less a popular and critical failure, it is safe to call Heavenly Creatures his best written film, but despite it being more of a drama, it doesn’t eschew his penchant for high-fantasy and big special effects, only they are used much more sparingly here. Coupled with some nice film and musical hommages, this makes for great viewing on the big screen, so you folks across the pond should head out to your cinema on September 12th if it is playing in your neighborhood. We’ll overlook the math on this announcement, considering the film original came out in 1994, perhaps it took it an additional two years to get to the UK while Miramax (at their peak in terms of indie prestige) in the US jumped on it pretty fast.
On a side note, this film seems to be plagued with poor and half-assed DVD releases, I know my early Miramax release is possibly the worst looking film I have in my collection (inexcusable for such a handsomely shot picture) and while it has been out in Canada on Blu Ray for some time, apparently that release is pretty bare bones and in the wrong aspect ratio to boot. We will see if Peccadillo’s eventual release is done with as much TLC as them giving the film a theatrical repertory release.
Just for fun on a Sunday, you can see how an 8 year old boy and a 6 year old girl react to a first time viewing of The Wachowski Brothers critically slagged but mightily interesting Speed Racer after catching it in the Cinema (at Toronto Underground’s Defending the Indefensible Series). Expect more (‘adult’) conversation on this weeks cinecast, but for now children’s perspective on the mach-speed-eye-candy. The video is embedded below. Enjoy.
Hurray! The fine folks at the Revue Cinema have given me a reason to leave the house next week.
Next Wednesday kicks off a three-night series showcasing the work of Toronto-based special effects artist Gordon Smith. His work in JFK, X-Men and Jacob’s Ladder will be on the screen and on display as the cinematic experience is fleshed out with choice props and Q&A’s with the man behind the visuals. I am especially interested in the JFK evening which includes a life-size effigy of the deceased president on display. I have, as of late, become something of a JFK nut, not quite to the point of holidaying in Dallas but enough to know the name of Oswald’s landlady (and own the quite terrible Martin Sheen miniseries). I look forward to revisiting Oliver Stone’s film theatrically.
Here is the press release for the event:
BODIES OF WORK: FROM JFK TO X-MEN
A Special Effects Show and Tell at The Revue
TORONTO — Gordon Smith has always been unnerved by the sight of blood. He calls it a serious phobia. That’s what makes his journey from stage actor to master of prosthetic makeup and special effects for the movie industry all the more remarkable.
Smith and his Toronto-based company, FXSmith, helped recreate the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Oliver Stone’s JFK. He’s responsible for vampire gore in Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, the nightmarish hallucinations in Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder, the visual realities of war and death in Stone’s Platoon and Salvador and mutant designs in the first and second X-Men.
In the course of his career, Smith has revolutionized his industry, a remarkable accomplishment for a Canadian who never moved to L.A. His silicone prosthetic technology is now the special effects makeup standard for filmmakers around the world.
The Revue Cinema is proud to present Bodies of Work, three evenings with Gordon Smith, in what can only be described as the ultimate show and tell.
He will introduce three films for which he designed and executed the special makeup, bring appropriate props for the audience to see up close, explain how he built them, entertain with behind-the-scenes anecdotes and be on hand for post-screening questions from the audience.
1. JFK, Wednesday, March 16, 7 p.m.
The life-sized effigy of Kennedy, which Smith refers to as Jack in the Box, has resided at Smith’s studio since the filming of JFK. He will bring it to the cinema for viewing. To build the body, Smith conducted his own forensic study, compiling information from all available sources, even some not made public. He could only conclude that the findings of the Warren Commission had little to do with the truth.
2. X-Men, Wednesday, March 30, 7 p.m.
A presentation mannequin of the blue character Mystique will attend the screening. Her last appearance was at MOMA in New York as the centerpiece for the “Superheroes in Fashion” show. X-Men was one of the easier films to pull off, Smith says: “If the character is blue with a tail, no one’s going to compare him to all the other blue people with tails.”
3. Jacob’s Ladder, Wednesday, April 13, 7 p.m.
Working with the film’s British team, which fully appreciated his work, was an exceptional but stressful experience, so much so that Smith broke out in hives. “Unfortunately, we were filming in New York. I thought it was bed bugs,” he recounts.
Smith’s 30 years in the film industry leave him a wealth of stories to tell: hair-raising experiences, like the heart that inexplicably began to inflate in Threshold (1981), starring Donald Sutherland as a cardiologist; Hollywood politics and a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse at Academy Award nominations; industry trends; and powerful personalities like Oliver Stone.
Smith considers his greatest accomplishment to be the prosthetic technology he developed, thereby raising the bar for an entire industry. In Toronto, he was able to assemble an exceptional team, including sculptor Evan Penny, whose arrestingly realistic work has gained international recognition.
Tickets for the event are $10 for Revue members and seniors; $12 for non-members. The doors open at 6 p.m.
Ten years after its theatrical debut, Christopher Nolan’s neo-noir thriller told in reverse, Memento is getting a celebratory ONE NIGHT ONLY re-release on February 17th, 2011. Screening in select digital cinemas across North America, these screenings will feature an exclusive Q&A with writer/director Christopher Nolan speaking with acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. Did you miss Memento when it debuted to an almost instant cult following upon its limited release? Here is your chance to check out a crisp HD version in the cinemas.
Confirmed CITIES/THEATRES include:
New York, NY City Cinemas
Atlanta, GA Studio Movie Grill
Boston, MA Nat’l Amusements
Dallas, TX Studio Movie Grill
Houston, TX Studio Movie Grill
Los Angeles, CA Rave The Bridge
San Diego, CA UltraStar Mission
Washington DC Rave Fairfax Corner
Toronto, ON Cineplex Varsity
Vancouver, BC Cineplex Scotiabank Theatere
More may be added, so you can check here if you are curious if your city has a screening.
Heads up podcast lovers; with everyone talking endlessly about TIFF and VIFF around here, let’s not forget the smaller guys!
Our regular Cinecast co-host Matt Gamble is hosting a live podcast tonight featuring some great indie filmmakers including Bill Elverman (The Wintress), Gregory Kallenberg (Haynesville) and one of our “local” favorites, Gary King (What’s Up Lovely).
They’ll talk about some of the action that will be happening at this year’s 2nd annual Flyway Film Festival including some schedule announcements, film highlights and activities/gatherings taking place. Beyond that, there will definitely be some talk on the indie filmmaking scene straight from the horse’s mouths so to speak. Looks like there will be some good ol’ fashioned movie banter happening as well.
As mentioned, the show will be live, so feel free to call in when prompted and ask questions or make comments. The call in number is (347) 857-3783 and the whole thing gets underway at 7pm (I am guessing that is 8pm EST?).
Head over to the main podcast page for all of the details:
Sorry for the local push here, but this is kind of neat. If you’re in the Minneapolis area and are interested in a little something different for your cinematic thirst quenching throughout October, head over to The Walker and check out their marathon of Olivier Assayas: Between Love & Terror
Olivier Assayas has brought his seemingly effortless virtuosity to an extremely diverse range of more than 20 films. This daring filmmaker pioneered the globalist thriller genre, but catches many viewers by surprise with his quieter dramas. The core of his work is a celebration of everyday life’s intimate moments—a legacy of the French New Wave. His most recent work, Carlos, stormed this year’s Cannes film festival with yet another foray into new realms: a five-hour take on the life of Carlos “the Jackal;” a Venezuelan Marxist revolutionary who terrorized Europe in the 1970s, setting the stage for today’s international terror network. That film receives its Minneapolis premiere at the Walker as part of Assayas’ Regis Dialogue and Retrospective.
10-01: Irma Vep
10-02: Late August, Early September
10-08: Les destinées
10-09: Cold Water & demonlover
10-15: Summer Hours
10-20: Regis Dialogue w/ Olivier Assayas & Kent Jones
10-23: Clean & Boarding Gate
10-28: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Now I’ve only seen a small handfull of Assayas’ work but I’ve mostly enjoyed the ones I have seen and even those I’ve not liked so much I still appreciated for what they were. So I’m more than intrigued in checking out his latest work: “The Bourne Identity with more substance, or Munich with more of a pulse.”