Archives For Margaret

Last night, I finally re-watched Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret, the long-in-post-production film, shot in 2005, released in late 2011. I ‘d seen the film here in Toronto when it was released for exactly one week in the Fall. I fell in love with what I saw, ultimately naming the film my #2 of 2011, a ranking I’m still extremely comfortable with. Interestingly, before I saw the film I was aware of its tortured history, in which the Lonergan was unable to get it down to the contractually obligated 150 minutes maximum running time. This had led to years of edits and re-edits and fighting back and forth and litigation that is still ongoing. What I remember at the time was a beautiful film that had some idiosyncratic cuts, but also some areas where it truly felt like chunks of story were missing. I’d remarked at the time that it felt like a longer movie cut down to size, but my main takeaway was that I could’ve spent far longer in the world Lonergan had created. The movie was 150 minutes, but I’d just as easily have sat through a 4-hour cut of the film or longer.

The version of Margaret I saw last night is a nearly 3-hour cut available on the upcoming DVD. It’s not clear that this is a true “director’s cut” because it’s only officially referred to as and “extended cut.” It’s quite possible that while Lonergan put this cut together and approves of it, there is a still longer version out there that he’d be even happier with. Or not. Who knows. Directors can be fickle. Importantly, at roughly thirty minutes longer, the extended version of Margaret doesn’t feel any longer. In fact, in some ways it feels quicker, smoother and better paced than it did back in the Fall. Subplots that were previously dropped in confusing fashion are now transitioned out of in a more delicate way. The story has a flow, a more natural progression. It’s not just a case of the longer version being better because it adds more detail, but because it actually ends up feeling like a tighter film, and without feeling any longer. I said that I would gladly watch four hours of Margaret and the same remains true. It’s a breezy three hours.

All this got me thinking about long films. Click to read more.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion recently about whether this New Golden Age of TV has surpassed cinema as the best, most important mass art form. I can understand the arguments. While I don’t think there have been nearly as many great TV series as there have been films, the great TV shows of late have been quite extraordinary. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that did for me what HBO’s The Wire did. There wasn’t a single film last year that had me gasping for air like Breaking Bad‘s fourth season. Neither of these comparison’s are fair, though. First of all, these shows are exceptional. They’re also long form fiction, which allows much more time to build stories and develop characters. Film just can’t do that, but it does do other things well. There’s a benefit in the short form. The precision of storytelling in film almost always surpasses what’s possible in a TV series over multiple episodes.

Arguing which format is better is essentially pointless. We can all agree that they’re both capable of greatness. That said, that movies and TV are very different doesn’t mean they have nothing to learn from each other. I think that TV has done a great job of adapting the qualities of cinema. Shows look grander and more cinematic, a direct result of widescreen and HD. Series have also become more serialized, which isn’t really a cinematic technique, but the approach of essentially making a movie that happens to be cut up into 10-20 hourlong acts is distinctly a response to how films are crafted. Click to read more.

I think I need to preface this list by saying that I hate lists. I’ve discussed this before. I had ranking films. It’s the worst thing ever, and it’s almost always arbitrary. I could labour over my rankings for hours and then be switching things back around the next day. But hey, it’s the end of the year and if I’m going to talk about my favourite films, might as well put them in a list, rank them, and earn some praise and scorn.

(As a side-note, I tried to leave off films from TIFF that haven’t gotten a theatrical release yet, but there are a few exceptions in cases where I really wanted to highlight them.)

Also, I think it’s appropriate now to comment on what kind of year 2011 for film. Well, I think it was a pretty phenomenal year, but also an odd one. There weren’t really any films that stood out as obvious #1s, but I think a lot of that is because there were so many amazing films that were all great for very different reasons.

To give you an idea of just how good I thought this year was, while my top film is pretty well solid, any of the films in my 2-15 would likely have been Top 5 level any other year. In fact, there are a couple of films that just missed my Top 20 from earlier this year that I swore would make my Top 10. It’s been THAT good a year. Anyway…

On to the list! Click to read more