After the Credits Episode 51 – Interview: RiP: A Remix Manifesto Director Brett Gaylor



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Podcast co-host Dale (Digital Doodles) speaks with director Brett Gaylor whose documentary RiP: A Remix Manfesto won the audience choice award at the prestigious International Documentary Festival Amsterdam and just finished playing at the Whistler Film Festival, where it won the Audience Choice Award and honorable mention for Best Documentary.

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WFF Review: Pontypool

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[Film was originally reviewed by Kurt as part of our TIFF coverage. Review is being reposted as part of our Whistler Film Festival coverage.]

Pontypool One Sheet

Now that Don LaFontaine is narrating trailers for the big guy in heaven, I would like to nominate actor Stephen McHattie as the logical successor to the phrase, “In a World, where…” Bruce McDonald’s latest film takes the omnipresent zombie subgenre and turns it on its ear (literally). Yes, ladies and gents, this is the first ‘talk radio’ zombie picture, a film in which so little is actually shown on screen, the viewer is left questioning (for much of the films runtime) whether or not the attacks are even real. Violence and intestine pulling gore are replaced with a plethora of science fiction and social ideas which are very much to the pictures benefit. Like Vincenzo Natali’s single room sci-fi/horror picture Cube, keeping the visuals to a minimum lets the minds eye soar with the strange questions and possibilities raised here. What communication mechanisms case raving mobs to spontaneously form? What is the difference between hearing and understanding? Is language itself a virus? Can talk radio save the world or is it really the pestilence? That the titular Pontypool (besides being a small Ontario town, is itself an interesting linguistic confection) wears its brains on its sleeve, in no way makes it less of a thriller, or for that matter, a great actor showcase (McHattie tears up the screen). Bruce McDonald and screenwriter Tony Burgess surprisingly inject a lot of playfulness along the way. As genre flicks go, Pontypool is the full package deal.

Pontypool Movie StillMorning radio personality Grant Mazzy is having a bad month. His career from Toronto radio personality has been diminished to broadcasting small town radio from the basement of a church; a task he makes bearable by thinly veiled sarcasm and small town mockery. His producer wants him to talk about school closings and traffic hick-ups. He wants drama a controversy. With a three person crew running Pontypool’s “The Beacon,” there is already a fair bit of tension in the room. The level rises significantly when reports start coming in of some sort of mob attacks. The traffic reporter confirms that there is indeed a mob attacking the local psychiatrists office, and there is much blood and murder on the scene. Not your average day in Pontypool. While Grant, more than a bit of an egotist, at first thinks the locals are playing a practical joke, when calls from the BBC start coming in asking for details (they think it is a French separatist terrorist attack), he begins to believe that he is nearly at ground zero of a major story. Determined to keep broadcasting even when the infected come up to the front door, The Beacon is pretty much the radio broadcast that the characters in every other zombie flick tune into for a little it of exposition. But what if the language itself is spreading the disease?

When the camera pans across a random desk in The Beacon’s recording studio, where a copy of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash is prominently displayed, that is the clincher. The film is going to bounce a few ideas regarding science and philosophy of communication amongst the zombie apocalypse. A lot of the headier stuff comes from a certain psychiatrist who pops in and out of the radio station, Guerrilla style, not unlike Robert DeNiro in Brazil. Some may see this as a bit of a handicap to the film, but things are as much about babble (note the mangled ‘rural Ontario’ French) as they are about communication. The mumbled pontifications (pontifications? Pontypool?) of Dr. Mendez, probably a fan of the The Leiden School, who believes that languages are a form of benign parasite in the brain (this being a horror picture, what if they weren’t so benign). Seeing someone start to lose their ability to speak, in the form of a babbling breakdown, is as creepy as losing sight, hearing or going numb, and this is milked quite effectively here. As the film runs its course, the balance of engaging ideas, chills, thrills and even laughs make this one of the more effective genre-mashing films (and it is Canadian no less) to come along in a while. Highly recommended.

**Note: When this movie winds its way into the cinema, be sure to stay until the end credits for a fun non-sequitur credit cookie. Something which I am nearly sure takes place in the Metaverse, Neil Stephenson’s full-immersion virtual reality world.**


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WFF Review: Who Is KK Downey?

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[Review is graciously provided by Dr. Nathan care of our friends at Quiet Earth.]

Who is KK Downey? One Sheet

Who is KK Downey? Careful, that might be a trick question. Although we actually do discover who KK Downey is, or isn’t, it probably doesn’t matter much in this wildly well-done satire of our culture’s sick fascination with fame and fortune and the nasty things some people will do to achieve an illusory success. Perhaps it’s best to say KK Downey is also the imaginary door that opens into the dark world of money, power, fame and, oh yeah – ball-busting satire.

Our story revolves around the irresponsible and/or genius antics of two 20-something suburbanite losers, Terrance and Theo, who discover that sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. Their quest to be something more than they are is helped and hindered by Terrance’s ex-girlfriend Sue, her narcissistic boyfriend Connor, and Frankie, a drugged-out gay transgendered drifter. The story is effectively simple: the boys are fixated on becoming rich and famous but are predictably getting nowhere fast. Theo, the chubby submissive, has written a book called Truck Stop Hustler about a serious sexual deviant he calls KK Downey. Unable to get the book published – “nobody wants to read a book by a white kid from the suburbs”, they decide to turn it from fiction to autobiography, with Terrance dressing up as KK, and Theo as The Manager. Then the fun begins.

This movie is very well-written, so I’m not going to give away all the giggles, but like all satires, it does reveal its dark side – in this case, the well-paced transformation of Theo Huxtable from a polite, self-effacing momma’s boy into a coke-snorting, gun waving, posse-packing madman who now calls himself “T-Hux” and is willing to sacrifice all for moolah and the power that apparently comes with it. Theo’s rise and fall represents the message of the movie, and now that we’ve got that over with, we can wallow in the rather unlikely wackiness that fits like a new dust jacket over this novel comedy.

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WFF Review: Waltz with Bashir

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[Film was originally reviewed as part of our VIFF coverage. Review is being reposted as part of our Whistler Film Festival coverage.]

Waltz with Bashir One Sheet

It has been years since my last trip to the theatre led to uncontrollable sobbing. Yes, there’s the occasional tear at seeing something sweet but for the most part, I haven’t lost my cool since Amistad. Until now. When the final images of Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir turned from animation to footage of the massacre, the dam opened. I’d been holding on the brink for 20 minutes but those images where the breaking point. Ten minutes of uncontrollable crying followed by another ten minutes to gather myself enough to get up.

The film is a documentary about Folman’s search for information on his mission to the first Lebanese War – a period of his life that he’s wiped from memory. He sets out to fill in the blanks and does so by speaking with comrades and friends who were with him at the time and as he digs deeper and uncovers more information, he begins to remember images, particularly a haunting beach image which is so magnificently captured in the film’s trailer.

Folman has said the film was always meant to be an animated documentary, mostly because talking to a bunch of old guys would have been boring, but I’m not sure that the film would have the same impact had it been live action. The animation keeps the viewer at bay and even when violence is taking place, there’s a disconnect; it doesn’t feel real even if you know it’s a documentary. There’s only so much violence a mind can handle, as is proven by Folman’s mental wipe of the hardships he saw while in Lebanon, but the animation here serves to keep the viewer engaged and taking it all in, slapping the “this really happened” sticker at the end of it with the actual footage. But Folman’s choice to close the film as he does doesn’t cheapen what came before it instead, one can’t help but marvel at the fact that through the entire film you knew exactly what was coming yet managed to keep it out of mind.

Though I feel the need to watch it again, I’m not sure my psyche can handle the powerful emotions that Waltz with Bashir dredged up but regardless of whether I can convince myself to go through the emotions again, this is a beautiful, engaging and haunting film and one that screams to be seen.

Trailer

WFF Review: Fifty Dead Men Walking

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[Film was originally reviewed as part of our VIFF coverage. Review is being reposted as part of our Whistler Film Festival coverage.]

Fifty Dead Men Walking One Sheet

Earlier this year I caught up with Kari Skogland’s film The Stone Angel (our review), one I thought showed great potential for the up-and-coming director. Skogland’s follow up couldn’t be more different. Based on a novel and the real life of Martin McGartland, a young man recruited by the British Police to spy on the IRA, Fifty Dead Men Walking has all the trappings of a great film, except it isn’t.

The film features some excellent performances from up and comers Jim Sturgess in the lead role of McGartland and Kevin Zegers is excellent as his best friend Sean. It’s the supporting performances that lack a fair bit. Ben Kingsley is mediocre at best as McGartland’s police contact Fergus (his hair was hot topic of conversation after the screening) and Rose McGowan is laughably bad in her Irish accent. But even with the mixed performances, the real problem with the film is that it goes no where mind you, it does so stylishly.

Skogland’s film is pretty to look at, great cinematography from Jonathan Freeman and excellent production design, but it lacks any heart. The story forges ahead yet there’s never a feeling of angst, fear or excitement; something which is particularly hard to swallow when one considers how fantastically dramatic McGartland’s story is. The problem is partly due to the direction but also the editing which badly breaks up the film’s pacing. Compensating for the lack of emotional connection with music doesn’t do the film any favours either and by the time the credits rolled, I was relieved: I’d had enough of the music which drown out nearly every scene.

Fifty Dead Men Walking was the festival’s biggest disappointment for me. Though the film looked great and I had big expectations from Skogland, I was thoroughly disappointed. I may have been on my own: the film took home the Citytv Western Canada Feature Film Award.


Trailer removed at request of studio.

After the Credits Episode 49 – Interview: Carts of Darkness Director Murray Siple

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Marina speaks with director Murray Siple whose film Carts of Darkness is playing at the Whistler Film Festival.

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After the Credits Episode 48 – Interview: The Sweetest Embrace Director Najeeb Mirza

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Marina speaks with director Najeeb Mirza whose film The Sweetest Embrace: Return to Afghanistan is playing at the Whistler Film Festival.

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WFF Review: Surveillance

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[Review is graciously provided by Bob Doto care of our friends at Quiet Earth.]

Surveillance One Sheet

Every five minutes while watching Surveillance, my appreciation of the film shifted. My first thought after having seen roughly 15-20 super low-budget shorts over the course of a weekend, was “Oh. This is a ‘real movie’ with a budget.” Then I thought “But, it’s kind of got a low-budget feel to it. I like that.” Then I’m thinking to myself “Why is Bill Pullman acting like he’s got to go to the bathroom all the time?” Then I was like, “This movie is soooooo dramatic.” After which I thought, “Why are they making it so obvious that I’m not supposed to see certain key clues in the story? That’s annoying.” Then of course, “God. Did you have to show me all that violence in such detail?” And finally as the ending started to unfold, “Ooooooh. Now I get it. You got me. Now I like it.” What a frickin’ rollercoaster.

What’s amazing about writer/director Jennifer Chambers Lynch (Boxing Helena, daughter of David and Peggy Lynch) and writer Kent Harper is not that they convinced me to loath every single character in their film (including that practically mute and supposed to be likable pig-tailed wunderkind), but that I actually stayed around to see what became of their fates. Frankly, when you’ve seen as many films as I have at this year’s NYHFF, you just don’t get off that easy. If your story revolves around the lives of absolutely despicable and heinous beat cops, a heartless lying junky and her equally stellar boyfriend, and a family of oblivious yuppies you’ve got to give me something besides beautiful Southwestern desert to keep me from bailing.

How did they do it?

Well, A. I’m a sucker for the way this film is shot: nice and wide, naturalistic, scenically understated. B. The characters were so awful to one another that I almost couldn’t leave without seeing if what I was in fact seeing was true. C. Bill Pullman’s twitchy mouth. Weird! And D. I just wasn’t sure if what I was watching was an example of dramatic genius or totally ignorant as to what makes character relations believable. I THINK it leans closer to dramatic genius, but it is held back by its overt occultation of information.

And what, may you ask, is “overt occultation of information?” That is the annoyance of a movie that doesn’t show you what the little girl in the interrogation room drew with crayons when everyone else in the film sees it and practically craps their pants. It’s also when the same little girl whispers into someone’s ear something really profound, but you don’t get to hear it because we’re obeying the laws of third-person semi-omniscience (but only when it’s convenient). It’s a ten-cent trick suitable only for the worst of television drama.

So, what’s to think about this film? I can’t give it more than seven, because it exemplifies the worst of manipulative dramatic cinema, but I can give it a solid seven because the film is rather stunning to watch and the story will definitely catch you off guard.

Trailer

WFF Review: Carts of Darkness

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[Film was originally reviewed in April 2008. Review is being reposted as part of our Whistler Film Festival coverage.]

Carts Of Darkness Onesheet

Westcoasters may complain about the weather but ask anyone who has lived in Vancouver for any significant amount of time and they’re likely to agree that moving is out of the question. Sure there’s rain, high living costs, a mediocre transit system but to balance it off there’s the gorgeous mountains, access to world class skiing, kayaking, mountain climbing…all in the “back yard”. It’s no wonder so many folks on this side of the coast are obsessed with the outdoors.

Director Murray Siple was one of those guys. He’d been on the edge, participating in extreme sports and making skateboarding and snowboarding videos until a car accident ten years ago left him unable to walk and removed him not only from partaking in the sports he loved but also from making films. And then he met Big Al.

Carts Of Darkness Movie StillNorth Vancouver isn’t exactly slumming it. One of the pricier neighbourhoods in BC, the city is full of prized mansions and million dollar views but hidden amongst those riches is a group of roamers – individuals living on the streets, collecting bottles and participating in the most extreme of extreme sports: shopping cart riding.

Carts of Darkness shares many similarities with extreme sports films: high octane action, loud pounding music, crashes and war stories but there’s a much more intimate story at play here. This isn’t just Siple sharing with us the tragic and sometimes funny stories of some of these ‘free birds’, it’s also a film about himself and his self discovery and re-birth and where some documentaries might fail miserably at incorporating the film maker, Siple’s story feels genuine and all of stories and emotions within the film the culminate into an equally sad, heartwarming and exciting film.

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