Mamo #177: For the Love of Mid-Festival Rantings

Wanna hear a really short Mamo? We only had 16 minutes to talk between screenings  at the Toronto International Film Festival, and we got interrupted by a lovey member of the festival staff at the midpoint, too. So what? Plenty to get through, and we are able to talk fast. Plus, special guest star Fingerless Hobie says “Hiyooo.”

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Film on TV: September 13-19

The Virgin Spring, playing on TCM on Thursday.

Pretty sparse when it comes to newly featured stuff this week. Best bets there are Laurence Olivier’s moody take on Hamlet and Ingmar Bergman’s savagely beautiful The Virgin Spring, both on Thursday, and then a double dose of suspense on Sunday in Wait Until Dark and Dial M for Murder (which TCM has played before since I started doing these columns, but not for quite a long time). Still some very solid repeats, including two from my best-of-the-2000s list (Pan’s Labyrinth on Wednesday and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days on Thursday), plus a whole series of Claudette Colbert films on Monday, including multi-Oscared It Happened One Night, Billy Wilder-scripted Midnight, and Preston Sturges-directed The Palm Beach Story.

Monday, September 13

6:15am – TCM – It Happened One Night
In 1934, It Happened One Night pulled off an Academy Award sweep that wouldn’t be repeated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, snagging awards for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Colbert is a rebellious heiress, determined to run away and marry against her father’s wishes. Along the way, she picks up Gable, a journalist who senses a juicy feature. This remains one of the most enjoyable comedies of all time, with great scenes like CBolbert using her shapely legs rather than her thumb to catch a ride, Gable destroying undershirt sales by not wearing one, and a busload of people singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”
1934 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert.
Must See

8:35am – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
Must See
(repeats at 2:50pm)

9:30am – TCM – Midnight
Solid Billy Wilder/Charles Brackett-penned screwball comedy that ought to be better known than it is. Claudette Colbert ends up in the middle of a millionare-wife-gigolo triangle, paid by the millionaire husband to break up the wife and gigolo by impersonating a baroness; meanwhile, a poor taxi driver she’d met previously is smitten with her and seeks her out, only to find her in her new guise. Sparkling dialogue and a strong cast give this a sophisticated twist that doesn’t quite match Lubitsch at his best, but is on the same track.
1939 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Francis Lederer.

9:35am – IFC – Sleeper
One of Woody Allen’s early films, and a rare attempt at science fiction on his part, has meek Miles Monroe cryogenically frozen only to wake in a totalitarian future as part of a radical movement to overthrow the government. A rather different film for Woody, but still with his signature anxious wit and awkwardness.
1973 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory.
(repeats at 2:35pm, and 4:30am on the 14th)

1:15pm – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this Preston Sturges film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.
1942 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor.

12:45am (14th) – TCM – A Face in the Crowd
A rare film role for homespun comedian Andy Griffith really shows his chops as he plays an Ozark hobo who becomes an overnight sensation on radio and TV; when the fame and power starts going to his head, the film shows the cynical dark underbelly of media sensations. One of the recently late Patricia Neal’s best roles, too, as the girl who discovers him.
1957 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Walter Matthau, Lee Remick.

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TIFF Review: The Four Times




Fair warning was given to the audience before the screening of The Four Times: “The viewer must do the work”. Since this was issued by Michelangelo Frammartino, the film’s director, it was taken pretty seriously. However, given the description of the film as being “inspired by Pythagoras’s belief in four-fold transmigration” and that it was “a genre-defying work of cinematic transcendence”, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to anyone. This certainly isn’t a narrative story, character study or even a fable with a strong moral. This is a slow, meditative look at a small Italian mountain village, how all nature is interconnected and an exploration of the idea of soul transference from human to animal to vegetable to mineral. By the end of the movie, that work you invested is indeed repaid in full.

From the dust in a church that an old goat herder accepts as payment for his milk deliveries (and which he consumes at night with his glass of water) to the smoke and ashes that bookend the film, it’s a beautiful take on “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. It’s obviously a look at the movement of the spirit through its different stages, but can also be seen to simply show how life sustains life and how mother nature constantly moves forward. All the while, it paints a lovely picture of the unrushed pace of this village, seemingly caught in time decades ago.

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Review: Resident Evil: Afterlife


It’s a little bit pointless to review Resident Evil: Afterlife, which is why I didn’t even bother seeking out the Rotten Tomatoes score or any other reviews before rushing off to see it opening night. I mean, this is the fourth Resident Evil movie, with basically the same team behind all of them, though directors have changed a few times. You pretty much know what you’re getting into when you buy a ticket for this. If you expect much more than Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter looking hot and kicking ass while spouting ridiculous dialogue in a series of loosely tied together scenes, you’ll probably be disappointed. If not, enjoy it for the even sillier-than-most B movie it is.

Resident Evil: Extinction ended with classic sequel bait, with Alice (Milla Jovovich) promising to find Umbrella Corp bossman Wesker in his underground Tokyo lair and wipe him out, with the help of the army of clones Umbrella had been building to try to find a cure for the T-virus. Resident Evil: Afterlife picks up the story right there, with an all-out attack on Umbrella Tokyo. But Wesker gets away, destroying the facility behind him, and Alice (re-humanized by an injection that neutralizes the T-virus in her) sets off to find the rest of the Extinction group who had left to find Arcadia, a promised infection-free haven. Things don’t go as planned, Alice and Claire (an awesomer-than-I-expected Ali Larter, almost upstaging Milla a time or two) end up with another small group of survivors and eventually face off with Wesker again.

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TIFF Review: Super



Do not let the sprightly pencil crayon song-and-dance credit sequence fool you, James Gunn’s latest film, a send-up of amateur vigilantes called Super, wants to give you some awkward, messy violence for your entertainment dollar. The drama is mostly of the sad-sack variety, the laughs are mostly of the gallows kind, and while the film seems a bit late to the party (despite being written years ago) it will satisfy the culty niche that considers Watchmen was too glossy and Kick-Ass too mainstream. The line between superheroes and sociopaths has for some time been a blurry one, but Super takes great pleasure in kicking the line completely out of existence.
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‘Hereafter’ is Eastwood’s ‘spiritual chick flick.’

“At the age I am now, I just don’t have any interest in going back and doing the same sort of thing over and over, that’s one of the reasons I moved away from westerns,” Eastwood recently told the LA Times. “The question about what happens after we die is something that we all ask and when I read the script by Peter Morgan it was so intelligent and I knew right away that I wanted to do it.”

Well, I guess you can’t fault Clint for trying something different. Hereafter, which opens up on October 22, follows three “battered souls searching for answers about the afterlife” – a psychic (Matt Damon), a young London boy (Frankie McLaren), and a French journalist (Cécile de France) who have all dealt with death heavily in some aspect of their lives.

“It’s a spiritual story but there are no real religious connotations to it,” Eastwood went on to say about his film. “The [major religions] are kind of unsatisfying to the kid in our story because he’s looking for something that can answer his questions. He wants a straight answer and he can’t seem to find anything from people who turn out to be either psychics looking for a fast buck or people just talking … you don’t really see movies like this these days that have a spiritual aspect or a romantic aspect. And it is romantic. These days you have a lot of movies about people jumping on each other in the sack but we don’t have that. This is more about attraction.”

Now, after having heard from the man himself, I have just one thing to say: the trailer hasn’t sold me on it. I love Clint more than I don’t though, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it just is strange to see something like this coming from him. I don’t know. It premieres at TIFF though, so I am sure we are going to here plenty more about it in the coming days.

TIFF Review: Fubar II



The second trip with Dean and Terry, the west-Canadian uber-Hosers who like their music loud, their beer cheap and their women stripping, proves to be a classic sequel. While the characters are now familiar (well to the growing cult of fans of the first film), the film is bigger, louder and scope a little larger though director Michael Dowse remains married to the ‘faux doc’ style, here playing a lot more fast and loose with it (there is even a significant special effects shot) than the original. Fubar the sequel may not ‘breathe’ as much as the first one, but that is only because the boys are on a bender to end all benders. With a carefree filmmaking attitude that matches the characters overbearing yet lovable cluelessness, the film is a big sloppy kiss with no pretensions other than making its audience groan and giggle at the buddy antics of its metal-head heroes.
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