Archives For November 2011

Review: The Muppets

November 17, 2011 — 7 Comments

Words are useless for reviewing this movie.

Completely useless.

Instead, here’s a close approximation of my facial expression during the entire movie: Click to read more

This is it. My 100th post. It’s a special occasion, sort of, but not really, but kind of, so I’m doing a meta post about it. What am I using this post for? It’s really just a marker. A signpost on the road. Why am I marking it? Why not? I started this blog on June 27th. It was meant as a way of freeing myself from the obligation of a more “professional” site. I think I’ve succeeded with that. I don’t feel tied down by this blog. It’s a place for me to express myself in writing, and it has allowed me to be less self-conscious about what is expected of my writing. I write just to write. Kind of like this post. If I feel I have something to say, I’ll say it. If I don’t get worked up about what I’m saying I’ll just keep silent. Then again, I’m writing this post and I have nothing to say. You’re probably wasting your time reading this. My ramblings are basically useless anyway. Come back when I have something more interesting to say. Maybe in post #101.

Until then, take care!

Corey Atad

Oh, wait, no! Stop! Before you go, I’m going to pull a Ryan McNeil and ask you for a favour. If you’re a follower of my writing, maybe you have some opinions on it. What kind of posts do you like best? Do you have any topics you’d like me to write about? Maybe some new feature posts? Maybe some advice about the look of the blog? Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re thinking.

Board games are fun. Obviously. But maybe not so obviously. Board games are also the bane of good friendships and family stability. They are explicitly designed to create competition, and competition leads to people getting frustrated with each other. It’s a wonder that family murder-suicides are not more commonly sparked by long games of Monopoly. That’s why I was so impressed when I sat down with some friends to play a few rounds of the game, Pandemic. Instead of fostering intense competition, it encourages intense cooperation, and it’s fun as hell. Click to read my full review

Honestly, I don’t have much at all to say about this film, so I’ll keep it relatively brief. Watching Olympia I could see the talent behind the camera. Leni Riefenstahl, lover her or hate her, knew what she was doing. Olympia is impressive on two technical fronts. The first is in how much it resembles modern sports coverage, which is remarkable because this film covers the Olympics of 1936! The second is that in may of the events, Riefenstahl forgoes standard sports highlight coverage in favour of showing off the human form and the beautiful feats it is capable of accomplishing. These sequences are definitely quite beautiful to watch, in particular the diving sequence at the very end of the three and a half hour, two-part film.

But honestly, as well made as it is, it’s basically three and a half hours of Olympic highlights made for those who wanted to re-live the games or who couldn’t catch them on a television set. Just as I wouldn’t care to pick up a set of highlight footage from a modern Olympics, I don’t really care all that much to see the highlights of the 1936 Berlin Olympiad. There are a couple cool notes, like the fact that Canada won some medals, and that the US and Germany won lots of medals, and that Hitler got really excited during some of the track events. But other than that, it was kind of just like watching two weeks of Olympics coverage condensed down to under four hours, with only some of the beauty left over and none of the suspense.

The last note is about the context of the film. Riefenstahl, no matter how much she claimed otherwise, was a part of the Nazi machine. Without understanding the historical context, Olympia is a fairly simple highlight reel that gives more than its fair share of time to covering the other countries competing, especially the US. But within a historical context, Olympia is a film with a mission that was made within the Nazi propaganda apparatus and was used at the time to show off the glory and “peacefulness” of a Germany under the Third Reich. Leni Riefenstahl would have been aware of this, and this is extremely troubling. While it isn’t as inherently despicable as her clear propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, and while it can be viewed as a perfectly okay movie to watch without that context, I do still think it’s important to note.

It’s difficult to properly review a film of such elusive nature as Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique. Every time I think I’ve grasped a bit of it, it all just slips through my fingers. There’s a shape to the film, though its progression is quite shapeless. Images appear and reappear or don’t reappear. There are scenes that would seem to make no sense only to make sense with a certain perspective or in the context of other scenes in different parts of the film. The Double Life of Veronique is the kind of film that I am sure requires a second viewing to really wrap your arms around, but at the same time I doubt whether anyone could ever wrap their arms around it too tightly. Click to read more

There have been a lot of reports lately about the death of film. Panavision has ceased production on 35mm film cameras and now it’s only a matter of time before the only reasonable way to shoot a film is digitally. I would like to say that I’m disappointed in this, as though there is something irretrievably magical about film. Once it’s gone we will never get it back. Well, it’s partly true, and I do mourn for the end of a format that has defined my favourite art form for over a century.

There’s a problem with mourning too heavily, though. The truth is, film has died many times since its inception. What do I mean by this? Well, let me show you a bunch of still-frames from films made through the last century and maybe you’ll pick up on what I’m talking about: Click to see the images and read more

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of watching Nicholas Ray’s 1955 classic, Rebel Without a Cause. It was a fairly nice 35mm print presented at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (there is another screening on Tuesday, Nov. 8 and if you life in Toronto I highly recommend going). I had never seen the film before, but obviously the James Dean is iconic in the film, as is his distinctive red jacket. I had no idea what the story entailed, but having seen Bigger Than Life, another Nicholas Ray film, I knew to expect a healthy dose of melodrama and beautiful cinematography. Rebel Without a Cause did not disappoint. It’s a beautiful film, and it showcases one of the best performances I have ever seen in film.

Going into the film I knew all about James Dean’s method acting training, and I knew that he has been held up as one of the shining examples of that method alongside Marlon Brando. Yet I found myself completely unprepared for just how good James Dean was. His performance in Rebel Without a Cause is so good that he somehow manages to make every other actor in the movie look bad while simultaneously raising them up and making the whole film better as a result. Without Dean, the film would play as great melodrama, but by bringing an unparalleled sense of naturalism through his acting, Dean’s performance makes that melodrama so much more personal and powerful. Click to read more

Last night I make the trek down to the beautiful TIFF Bell Lightbox to watch a 35mm print of Say Anything… It was a “one night only” screening and the house was packed. I was excited to see it not because it’s a favourite of mine, but because I had just realized earlier that day that I’d never seen it before. Say Anything… is a movie that’s been played on TV so many times, and I’d seen so many different scenes from it that I had somehow convinced myself over the years that I had actually seen it from start to finish. It’s another case of my mind playing tricks on me. In fact, I had never actually watched the film before. Some key scenes from throughout the film and that’s it. When this dawned on me I realized I could not turn down to see it on the big screen.

But has this phenomenon ever happened to you? Are there films you’ve thought that you had seen, but really hadn’t. I’m not talking about movies you pretend to have seen just to seem cool in front of other cinephiles. That’s a whole different ballgame. I mean movies that you were convinced that you had seen, and maybe even enjoyed, only to find out it was all an illusion?

It’s happened to me once before. It was another movie from the 80s. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I first saw the film when I was in high school. And late into high school at that. But before I finally sat down to watch it from beginning to end I was sure that I’d seen it before. Of course, it turns out it was another case of delusion based on the fact that TBS used to play the film endlessly. When I did really watch it there were tons of scenes I knew already, but I realized that I had never before seen them in their proper context.

I think the iconic quality of some of these films, combined with their endless airings on TV has created this syndrome. A movie becomes so ingrained in the culture and its most memorable images and scenes become such a big part of the collective consciousness that even those who have never seen them before become convinced that they have. It’s like a form delusion-by-ubiquity. Maybe somebody out there who has never watched The Matrix thinks that they have. Or maybe there are adults out there who were deprived of The Wizard of Oz, but don’t know that’s the case because they can remember certain famous scenes. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Maybe I’m just alone in having this happen. So let me know, does this sort of thing happen to you with movies (or books or songs or TV shows)?

PS. Now that I have actually seen it, I can say without reservation that Say Anything… is a great movie and Llyod Dobler is the man!

We all love Pierce Brosnan. He’s a handsome, charming man. He was a really good James Bond, and starred in one excellent Bond movie. He was the asshole boyfriend in Mrs. Doubtfire. Basically, Pierce Brosnan has earned an unlimited supply of goodwill from myself and most others, which is why I find it odd that when The Matador was released I actually avoided it. What can I say? It’s just looked bad. Now, after watching the film for the first time, I am happy to report that I will never again doubt the promise of a mustachioed Pierce Brosnan.

The Matador tells the story of a high-priced assassin in a stort of midlife existential crisis who intrudes on the life of an amiable business man trying to close a deal in Mexico. There is a little bit more to the story, and a little bit of mystery manufactured through some non-linear structure, but mostly it’s pretty straightforward. Pierce Brosnan is Julian, the assassin, and Greg Kinnear is Danny, the man who becomes his friend.

The pleasure of The Matador comes from two places. The first is the writing. It’s a real cracking script. Wonderful dialogue and a black sense of humour that keeps the film light on its feet, even when it threatens to get bogged down by some more serious subject matter. The second great pleasure comes from watching Brosnan deliver what has got to be his best performance ever. We already know the man has charm to spare, but here he puts all of into a brilliantly funny and wild character. He’s a womanizing drunk assassin with practically no filter. He intrudes on Danny’s life but is so charming as to make that intrusion fluctuate constantly from slightly annoying to totally endearing. And Brosnan nails it all perfectly. He’s a joy to watch on screen.

I wouldn’t say that The Matador is a great film. It’s a little bit too simple, and that non-linear construction is slightly cheap. If you want a great film about assassins you can look to In Bruges. But if it’s not a great film, it’s at least great fun. I enjoyed the heck out of The Matador. I just had a great time with it, and with Brosnan and Kinnear. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had with a movie in quite a while, in fact. For that reason alone I can easily recommend The Matador to just about anyone.

Oh no! Shame got saddled with the awful NC-17 rating! The film will now never be seen by a living soul! All memory of its existence will be wiped from history! Or maybe, just maybe, Fox Searchlight will charge the brigades and lead the offensive against the unjust stigma the NC-17 rating carries. That stigma which has ruined chances of so many brilliant films. Woe is Hollywood, the sad institution hampered by the creativity-destroying NC-17. Such a terrible world we live in when the NC-17 is stigmatized.


Fuck all that shit.

People, please, let’s be honest about this. There is no “NC-17 stigma.” It doesn’t exist and it never has. Yes, the X rating gained a stigma, due entirely to the re-appropriation of the letter X by the porn industry. The stigmatized a whole LETTER! “NC-17” is a weird combination of symbols that most people haven’t even heard of let alone understand. Sure, film fans know what it means, but nobody else does. R is the highest rating anybody knows or cares about. It’s as simple as that. There have been so few NC-17 movies widely released that it’s fucking a non-entity. Click to read more