Archives For Shame

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.

Yeah…

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

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TIFF’11: The Great Wrap-Up!

September 23, 2011 — 4 Comments

Well, after about a week’s distance, I think it’s time to take stock of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. There were highs and lows; there was a lack of sleep; there were friends and beers; there was plenty of malnutrition; there was a ton of waiting in line-ups.

All in all TIFF’11 was the best TIFF year for me so far. The primary reason for this was not the films, though there were a few good ones, it was the friends. Prior to the festival, Courtney Small, from Big Thoughts From a Small Mind, invited me to a monthly Toronto film bloggers meet-up. Through that meet-up, and another during the festival, I got to enjoy drinks with a ton of really awesome film bloggers. The result was that, other than a couple of screenings, I did not see any movies by myself. Many of the people I met were actually at several of my screenings. Here’s a list of some of the people I got to hang out with:

Ryan McNeil, from The Matinee (@matinee_ca)

Bob Turnbull, from Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind (@TheLogicalMind)

Shannon the Movie Moxie (@MovieMoxie)

Sasha James, from Final Girl Project (@FinalGirlProj)

Matt Brown (@tederick) and Matthew Price (@mattmovies), from the wonderful Mamo Podcast

Julian Carrington, from a Healthy Disdain (@aHealthyDisdain)

James McNally, from Toronto Screenshots (@toscreenshots)

Leora Heilbronn (@leoraheilbronn)

Shane McNeil (@come_back_shane)

Andrew Parker, from Criticize This! (@AndrewJParker)

Titania Plant, from Classic Flick Chick (@classicflikchik)

Danielle D’Ornellas, from blogTO (@ellstar)

That’s quite a list of people. I might have missed a few names—I probably did—so if you feel slighted, just leave a comment and I’ll add you. And to all of you, I say thank you. Sincerely, I mean it. Thanks for making this my first real social TIFF experience. It was a lot of fun, and I cannot wait to do it again next year, along with all the monthly meet-ups in between.

As for the festival itself, the movies are the movies. Some were great, some were terrible. C’est la vie.

I’d like to do a list of Best and Worst from TIFF’11, but first I will simply list off all the movies I saw, with links to my reviews.

A fair number of films and one heck of a festival.

Continue to the next page to read my choice for the TIFF’11 justAtad Awards!

TIFF’11 Review: Shame

September 21, 2011 — 1 Comment

Maybe it was unreasonable to expect so much from director Steve McQueen’s sophomore feature film, but then, Hunger is one of the best art-house films of the last decade. Yet, with Shame, a decidedly more accessible film than Hunger, McQueen somehow lost his insightful edge. What we get instead is a film that tries so hard to say so much, but ultimately says very little, and says even less effectively.

Shame tells the story of Brandon, played by Michael Fassbender, a man with some form of sexual addiction. This gives way to the first problem, which is that the film never really presents him as much more than a guy who likes having non-committal sex and masturbates maybe a little too much. Brandon’s life is given a bit of a shake-up when his sister, Sissy, played by the great Carey Mulligan, shows up at his apartment. This leads to the one thing about the film that really does work: the relationship between Brandon and Sissy.

It’s not entirely clear what went on in their past, though there are some hints of bad things, and maybe even incest. The upshot of this is that their scenes together are amazing. First of all, we are talking about a couple of the best actors to come about in recent years. The tension between them is amazing, and it makes every interaction between them weirdly touching and suspenseful.

I also think McQueen managed to build on some themes of private shame. Brandon is clearly ashamed of his addiction, but he also seems to be ashamed of his life in general. Again, it’s not clear what went on in the character’s past, but it is very obvious that nothing was peaches and cream. Brandon has an inability to connect properly with women, and he keeps his apartment like something of a private prison. When Sissy comes into the picture, his level of discomfort with her being there, living off his things, getting closer to him, skyrockets.

But that’s about all that works well. I suppose it would be inaccurate to label a film ‘pretentious’, but Shame does fit the bill. Scenes like a five-minute blues rendition of “New York, New York” or epically scored sex scenes seem to be there to add meaning and pathos, but end up feeling completely forced and meaningless. Whatever meaning might have been held is lost in a sea of self-indulgence. The majority of the film plays out this way, and yeah, it’s quite a shame.

I wouldn’t call Shame a bad film. There are certainly great aspects, the performances being a good example. But Shame is definitely a big disappointment. It does not work on the whole, and worse still, the air of high-mindedness betrays any real exploration of the issue of sex addiction or even the complexity of the lead character. It’s paint-by-numbers “art”, and that’s not something I can get behind.

You can listen to me discussing Shame with TheMatinee’s Ryan McNeil in his Matineecast TIFF dispatch series here.