Wednesday 21 November 2007

The Oscars - Final 15 Candidates for Best Documentary

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences released their list of the final 15 candidates for this year's Best Documentary Oscar. In alphabetical order:

  • “Autism: The Musical”
  • “Body of War”
  • “For the Bible Tells Me So” (review at Toronto Screen Shots)
  • “Lake of Fire” (review at Toronto Screen Shots)
  • “Nanking”
  • “No End in Sight” (review at Toronto Screen Shots)
  • “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”
  • “Please Vote for Me” (my review)
  • “The Price of Sugar”
  • “A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman”
  • “The Rape of Europa”
  • “Sicko”
  • “Taxi to the Dark Side”
  • “War/Dance”
  • “White Light/Black Rain”

AJ Schnack has a terrific breakdown of the candidates as well as a pretty damning statement about the Academy. I've only seen "Please Vote For Me" (which was great, but a big surprise), but certainly expected "No End In Sight" to be in the running and am not surprised at "Lake Of Fire" and "For The Bible tells Me So" (from what I've heard about them and their subject matter). But there seems to be an absence of, I don't know...something different, something to root for...something like "Audience Of One", "Helvetica", "Wordplay" or "The Bridge". I can't say if any of these are more worthy of a spot than the others (or even if they would have qualified this year), but I certainly would have welcomed them.

I agree with Schnack and others (like Allison Willmore on the IFC Blog) that In The Shadow Of The Moon really should be in the running. My bias is clear here, but it's such a terrific document of not only the events and the time period, but of the fascinating intelligent men that went through it.

Friday 16 November 2007

Short-Film Week Blog-a-thon

The deadly duo of Ed Howard (Only The Cinema) and Jeff Ignatius (Culture Snob) will be hosting a Short-Film Week Blog-a-thon coming up December 2nd to the 8th.

According to Culture Snob: "Commercials, music videos, movie trailers, and episodes of television programs are all fair game, as are proper short films". This creates a wide open field of possibilities - but I have no idea what I might focus on.

As an aside, it got me thinking of movie trailers I like. This recent trailer for the new horror film called "[rec]" is pretty cool and makes me want to see the film (which is kinda the point...). It simply shows scenes of an audience while they watch the film and their reactions to it:

Looks fun to me!

Thursday 15 November 2007

October Horror - The Fun Continues!

Though I tend to pack mostly Horror films into my movie viewing during October, I'll watch 'em any time. And since I built up my "to watch list" much more than I shrunk it last month (thanks Cinebeats!), I thought I would continue to pack 'em in throughout November as well. Here's a couple of note that I've seen this month already:

  • The House With Laughing Windows (Pupi Avanti - 1976) - This easily would have made my Top 31 Flicks That Give Me The Willies if I had seen it in time. Avanti creates tremendous tension and superb visuals during the film and packs it with some pretty unsettling characters. This was so good I immediately moved another of his films ("Zeder") to the top of my list. I demand a revote!

  • Tales From The Crypt (Freddie Francis - 1972) - Another fine and entertaining anthology film from Amicus Productions. 5 strangers get sealed into a room and are told stories about their deaths by the keeper of the crypt they were visiting. Each person's story is around 15 minutes, moves at a good clip and gives them a nice gruesome end...Good clean fun! I'd review it further, but Final Girl already did an awesome job. These are screenshots from each of the 5 stories:

  • The Vault Of Horror (Roy Ward Baker - 1973) - For some strange reason, people always compare this film with "Tales From The Crypt". I just don't get it...Sure it's an entertaining anthology film from Amicus Productions with 5 strangers sealed into a room where each person's story about their death is around 15 minutes, moves at a good clip and gives them a nice gruesome end. But the stories of their deaths are from their own dreams - No crypt keeper here. That's like totally different...

  • The Fall Of The House Of Usher (Roger Corman - 1960) - Another of the Roger Corman and Vincent Price collaborations using an Edgar Allen Poe story (this was their first I believe). Beautiful sets, glorious colours, ominous atmosphere and Price doing his typical great job.

  • The Descent (Neil Marshall - 2005) - The creatures were pretty hideous and made for some quality jump scares, but the most frightening aspect of the film is the thought of being trapped in a cave. Even worse, trapped in a narrow passageway in a cave.

  • Madhouse (Jim Clark - 1974) - This was silly fun from the moment someone discovers a woman has been murdered when they touch her shoulders and her head falls off (a sure sign you've got a fun-filled movie on your hands)...It's not as good as some of Vincent Price's other films of the period ("Theatre Of Blood", "The Abominable Dr. Phibes", etc.) mainly because the story wanders all over the place, but it makes great use of some clips of some of his older films.

  • The Whip And The Body (Mario Bava - 1963) - Man, Bava can sure flood the set with great colours. It really helps to create the surreal atmosphere for the ghost story that follows. The acting and dubbing is not so hot here, but it's just a beautiful film to look at.

Some other horror films I'm hoping to see this month:

- More Bava (via box set 1 and 2)!
- Warner's Twisted Terror Collection
- Hammer Horror Series
- Amicus Collection
- Tombs Of The Blind Dead by Amando de Ossorio
- Demons by Lamberto Bava
- The Blood Spattered Bride by Vicente Aranda
- Horror Hotel (aka "The City Of The Dead") by John Llewellyn Moxey
- Cinderella by Man-dae Bong

Well OK...Maybe not ALL of them this month...

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Fantasy Worldwide Film Festival

The Third Annual Fantasy Worldwide Film Festival will be running in Toronto from December 4th to the 8th. It will be showing 5 feature films, 2 full length documentaries, 13 short films (including the terrific "Un-Gone" which played at Toronto After Dark) and 17 short animated films (including "Codehunters" which played at the Worldwide Short Film festival).

I hadn't heard of the festival previously, but it looks like a really interesting and fun lineup. You can see the entire line up on the web site, but some of the ones I'm curious about are:

Done The Impossible (The Fan's Tale Of Firefly And Serenity) - USA

A documentary about the rise and fall of Joss Whedon's short lived, but much loved TV series (and film).

Expiration Date - USA

From the Festival site - "A black comedy about Charlie Silvercloud III, whose father and grandfather were killed by milk trucks on their 25 th birthdays… and Charlie is about to turn 25. He has accepted his fate and is going about shopping for caskets and returning his library books when he meets a girl who won't let him die in peace."

Extended Play - Greece

From the Festival site - "Tassos is jealous… very jealous! But his is also very… dead. He returns to earth, invisible and incorporeal, with one thought – to win his girl back. He has been given a total of 5 minutes grace by God, an extended play, to turn everything upside down in real life. A comedy of mistakes and jealousy incurable even after death."

The Cream - France

From the Festival site - "On Christmas, one of the gifts Francois Mangin receives is a small jar of cream which makes whoever uses it… famous! His life is about to change… and so is his fate."

Sunday 11 November 2007

Esoteric Picks #25

It's about time I got back to doing these...


Various - The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto (1986)

The "beat" referenced in the title of this compilation of South African pop music doesn't have a lot to do with what many would consider to be typical African drumming. In fact, the drums are pretty low key throughout most of this collection (which actually kicks off with an a cappella tune). But make no mistake, each tune has a strong and sometimes even urgent beat mixed with the lovely melodies and great vocal work. Most of the pulse of the music stems from circular guitar patterns and insistent bass lines that pull you in and then bore into your skull. There's a feeling of joy that permeates this music and a sense of confidence every line sung. The beat goes on...

Classic English Language Film

And Soon The Darkness (1970)

Two young English girls are on a bicycle tour of France when they have an argument by the side of the road. After splitting up, one of the girls simmers down and tries to find her friend - but she's disappeared. Though this initial section of the film is quite slow and the entire story happens in the daylight of a single afternoon, it's an excellent example of how you can bring tension and dread to simple situations. Throughout the rest of the film other characters get introduced but you never quite feel at ease with any of them and this helps keep the outcome of the film in doubt right up to the end. A fine early 70s suspense film.

Recent English Language Film

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus (2006)

Director Steven Shainberg seems to have an affinity, or at least some empathy, for people whose "tastes" wander outside acceptable social norms. In his previous film "Secretary", Maggie Gyllenhaal's character found happiness in a sadomasochistic relationship. His recent effort, based around a fictional take on photographer Diane Arbus' life, again finds someone who is confined within parameters set by others - and is obviously suffocating. When she meets a boarder who is covered head to toe in hair (Robert Downey Jr.), she begins to allow her true self to come out and discovers a whole wide range of people outside the norms of society. This becomes the springboard to her art and a life led in pursuit of it.

Foreign Film

City Of Violence (2006)

Though a bit slow at the beginning and slightly confusing with the cast of characters, this Korean film evolves into a wild cacophony of flying kicks, sticks and fists. A young detective returns to his hometown after an old friend is found dead. He reconnects with his old buddies to figure out what happened and they find out some surprising secrets about each other. I started getting into the film once we see a second flashback of the murder - this time though it ends a bit differently because of the additional information we have. The film ends with two long set piece fights involving hundreds of people attacking our main heroes and the very last scene has a terrificly simple single last word summation by one of the characters. A great deal of fun.


Circus Of Horrors (1960)

Aah, that's the stuff...While wading through a few not so great horror films in the middle of October, I came across this old British film - not a scarefest by any means, but just great entertainment in the style of Hammer. A plastic surgeon trying to break new medical ground has to flee England after some botched operations and settles in France as the director of a circus. He continues his practice by helping criminals and the fringe of society by performing reconstructive surgery on them and then having them stay on with the circus. But whenever a member of the troupe decides they want to leave the circus, it seems that yet another horrific accident befalls the show. The authorities suspect something is amiss, but just can't quite prove it...