KCFF18 – three more movies – two comedies and one that was unsettling.

Let’s get the unsettling movie out of the way first.

Black Cop has certainly been the talk of this Kingston Canadian Film Festival in 2018.  It played to two sold out screenings to audiences that found it somewhat unnerving.  We were warned when the creator/director, Cory Bowles (Trailer Park Boys) introduced the film, ending with  “Enjoy the film” then corrected it to “Enjoy the experience”.

Black-Cop-movie--623x350The movie, all shot in Halifax, is about a black policeman who is finding his work as a policeman to be challenging when people of color are in trouble with the law, or accused unfairly of being lawbreakers.  At one point when he is off duty, he is “carded” by another cop and treated badly, simply because he is a person of color.  He snaps and starts to turn the tables, stopping white people and being abusive and hostile in his interactions with them. This gave our predominantly white audience a feeling for what it would be like to have the shoe on the other foot, to be suspected and abused simply because of your skin color.  It was startling to experience and a provocative but very effective way of creating understanding of movements like Black Lives Matter.

Both Bowles and the film’s star, Ronnie Rowe, were at a Q&A after the screening.  It was clear that the audience was a bit stunned and needing some time to take it all in and the frank discussion about racial profiling and being a person of color in Canada was both welcome and complimented the film.   Everyone should see this film. Don’t watch it alone. You will need a chance to debrief afterward as there is a lot of overwhelming content to process.

MV5BZTNmOTliNjItMmE2MC00NjFiLTlhODgtZTQ4MTIyZjA5ODA0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU1MDYyMDE@._V1_UY1200_CR85,0,630,1200_AL_The two comedies were both fun but paled in comparison to Black Cop.

Room for Rent, shot in Winnipeg,  is about a young man, Mitch Baldwin (played by Mark Little), who won a lottery, blew all the money (and in the process a lot of relationships) and who is now living at home with his parents.   When his father (Mark McKinney) loses his job and they think they will have to sell the house the family decides to rent a room to make some money. Enter Carl Lemay (Brett Gellman), an assertive loose canon of a guy who complicates Iife for everyone, particularly Mitch.

 

Unknown-5Another Kind of Wedding was filmed in Montreal.  I loved the familiar locations including the bagel shop where Tara Foods gets their bagels.  Kingston was also mentioned by none other than Kathleen Turner.   Even though the line was a bit negative “Who would want to spend a week in Kingston?”, the audience loved to be acknowledged on film by this superstar.

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William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1981) one of my favourite films.

 

Body Heat (1981) is one of my all-time favourite movies and I have always found Kathleen Turner to be “hot”.  She is now in her mid-sixties and has put on 50 pounds but she still exudes a sultry, classy, confidence that is oh so sexy.    And she is great in this movie as one of the mothers of the groom.

I think the title of this film is unfortunate and not appealing but it has already been changed from Someone Else’s Wedding so I guess the producers are struggling to find a wedding title that has not been taken.

I realized that it takes more to make me like a comedy than a drama.  They tend to be shallow and often work too hard to make us laugh. Wedding movie comedies usually follow a pattern – introduction, complications, affairs, family feuds, disruption, and then a sudden turn around where everyone comes out OK in the end.  This movie also follows that formula but the characters were all interesting and varied and I think that saved the film for me. I liked it better than Room for Rent and it was a light and pleasant way to spend my Sunday morning.

For each of the films that I mentioned today, I have naturally started with where they were filmed.  This is part of the fun of seeing Canadian movies where Canadian cities are presented as themselves, not as a substitute for some American town or New York.   It adds a sort of familiarity to the film that increases the appeal for a Canadian audience.  Canadian locations do look like home to Canadians.  Like our accent or “eh” or “sorry”, we do have a look to our cities and towns that a Canadian can indentify.  What fun to spend the weekend watching films that embrace that.  Thanks to the KCFF18 for providing this treat.

Kingston Canadian Film Festival 2018 – 1

One of the things I like about film festivals is that, in addition to feature films or short films, I can see documentaries that I would otherwise not have encountered and seeing them in a theatre, rather than on a small screen from the couch at home, is much more engaging.

At the first full day of the Kingston Canadian Film Festival I included two documentaries on my schedule of four films for the day.

Both of these related to events of the 1960’s and to some these may have been historical documentaries but for me and others my generation they were reminiscences of times we lived through and remember well.

Unknown-4Expo 67: Mission Impossible was a behind the scenes look at the seemingly unachievable task of putting together a World’s Fair on two yet-to-be-constructed man made islands in the St. Lawrence River in the heart of Montreal.   It was indeed an Herculean task to build this site from the ground up at an escalating cost and with the skepticism of much of Canada outside of the province of Quebec, that it could be completed on time.  Even the computer estimates suggested a probably completion date of mid 1969… two years too late.

I enjoyed being reminded about how things were in the mid 60’s and seeing the clothing, the masses of paper in the offices, the large machines for typing computer punch cards to enter data into the grand computers run with tape input,  the ubiquitous cigarettes and cigars and pipes with smoke billowing up in meetings or at public events. And, of course, I remember, along with 55,000,000 other attendees  at Expo 67 – Man and his World – gawking in awe at the 90 pavilions , the centrepiece being  the geodesic dome designed by Brockminster Fuller  that was the U.S. pavilion with that  “modernistic” monorail running right through it and a real space capsule at the top.

The film, however, was just an historical rehash, interesting to document the events leading up to Expo and a great summary with archival footage.   It could be something that makes a 2 hour CBC special on TV.

Ninth_Floor_MovieThe documentary, Ninth Floor, that I saw this morning, however, was something special.   This film told a story of the crisis at Sir George Williams University in Montreal in 1969 when students protested lack of action by the University on charges of racism.   Now, I was a university student at UWO at that time so it was people my age making a statement and demonstrating to correct a wrong that they perceived.  Canadian filmmaker Mina Shum is a great story-teller with diverse talent as evidenced by her film Meditation Park that was shown last night as the opening film of the festival.  Ninth Hour, although a documentary, was also a very adeptly-crafted story combining present day interviews with now much older protesting students who were involved in 1969 (one of whom is now a Canadian Senator), archival montages of news coverage and film shot while the crisis was unfolding, and very cleverly-integrated film shot recently that fleshes out the story and seeming timeless.  Shum was very careful not to include elements in the recent film that would date it in any way.  Some of the images are quite beautiful and even arty but every one contributes to the story.

Ninth-FloorThe elders being interviewed (all protesters during the crisis) are wise and eloquent and intelligent and have the benefit of years of living and  a unique and personal perspective on racism in Canada.  I particularly liked the one fellow commenting  with a smile, “Canadians are racist but they apologize for it.”

I watched this film with a friend who just turned 20 and it struck me that I was his age when all of this was taking place.  I wonder if Dylan will be watching a movie (or whatever medium tells stories in 2068) that will be historically documenting  how young people who are determined to fight for a cause like the students in Florida today advocating for gun-law legislation in the U. S. or the current Black Lives Matter movement, can be the pivotal influence to make political change.  I wonder what the youth of 2068 will be having to lobby for in order to get the older generation to act on some other outrage.  Or whether racism will still be an issue.   A film like this one, looking back, causes one to think about what is happening today and wonder about the future.  Does anything really change?

I also wondered if my friend Stephen Moiko, a Kenyan who did post-graduate training at McGill experienced racism in any overt or subtle ways in Montreal five years ago.  Although Stephen and I have talked for hours about many things, we have not touched on racism in Canada.  I plan to visit Stephen and his Maasai family in April and I am going to bring this up.  Get ready, Stephen.

Screenshot 2018-03-02 17.04.08Now, you may not be lucky enough to see Ninth Floor in a theater but you are able to see the film on the National Film Board web site – free and downloadable.  I recommend it highly and if you are a certain age it will give you pause to think about how things were unfolding in Canada in 1969 and how oblivious we all were to it in many ways.   Here is the link to the entire film, available free on the NFB site.  https://www.nfb.ca/film/ninth_floor/

 

 

Shum’s film, Meditation Park, opened the KCFF last night and was well-received.  Shot in Vancouver, it also has a theme that explores mixed cultures and race in a Canadian neighborhood. I found it to feel a bit disjointed and contrived but the overarching story was engaging and felt very “Canadian” even though the protagonist couple were Chinese and conversed much of the time in sub-titled Cantonese.   And who doesn’t like Don McKellar who plays their neighbor?

On a movie binge this week

Last year I missed my usual binge of movies at TIFF or while vacationing over the New Year but I have made up for it in the past couple of weeks. For what it is worth, here is what I thought if four Oscar nominated films (and one more as a bonus.)

Ladybird

img_2159-1Although I did like the film, I think it resonates more with a younger audience. I felt more connected to the parents than Ladybird, particularly Tracy Letts who plays her father. Letts is the playwright for some pretty edgy stuff including August Osage County, Bug and Superior Donuts (currently being staged in Kingston at the Yacht Club by the way). I had never seen him act and liked him a lot for his gentle understanding fatherly role – nothing like the material he writes in his plays. There were lots of great moments between Ladybird and her mother as well and Ladybird’s friendship with Julie would resonate with lots of young women. Altogether a satisfying film. One you will enjoy on Netflix soon.

Call Me by Your Name.

This is another movie about a teenager and his family and exploring his relationship as and sexuality. I was ready to like this film but it was way to slow-moving to me. img_2156Or maybe, once again, I am just two generations away so it is hard to relate. An arty film with some great Italian scenery background, good music, including a couple of songs by Sufjan Stevens that I ended up finding on iTunes when I got home. Competent acting by the main character, young Timothée Chalomet (who also appears in Ladybird). I liked the last 20 minutes of the show very much, including the credits. But I found myself checking my watch a couple of times mid-way through and that is never a good sign. I really liked the little fatherly talk given by Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) to his son Elio near the end of the film.  Wish it didn’t take so long to get there.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

img_2157This one was more edgy and had lots more action, story and plot twists.  Frances McDormand plays this perfectly as do all the other supporting cast. I liked Sam Rockwell a lot – his performance, not his character who was really objectionable in so many ways. A friend asked me yesterday if any of these films were funny. Although the humour in this one is certainly of the darkest variety, I did laugh out loud several times –one of those “Did he really say that?” kind of laughs.  I would classify this film as a (very) dark comedy.  I tend to like that genre so I enjoyed it more than the previous two. Can you pick out someone in this film that was also in Ladybird?

The Shape of Water.

Well, this one turned out to be a cross between King Kong, Phantom of the Opera and E.T. It had all the elements that make cinema appealing – sentimentality, violence, fantasy, love, an alien creature, political commentary and even some suspense. Throw in a lot of old standard musical background to round it out. And it was shot in Toronto and Hamilton! ShapeOfWater_FBThis film premiered at TIFF in the theatre that is featured in the movie. How cool is that? It is safe to say that, of the four mentioned, this was my favorite. Great entertainment. I will be surprised if it does not get either the Best Director (Guillermo del Toro – whose movie Crimson Peak had scenes shot in Kingston with many of us playing background roles for a day) or Best Picture – or both – at the upcoming Academy Awards. By the way, Michael Stuhlbarg, whose work I mentioned in Call Me by Your Name also has a significant role in this film.

The bonus film is Murder on the Orient Express. If you like Agatha Christie and don’t want to be too bombarded with the angst that comes with watching the four films above, this one is entertaining and fun. I really liked the cinematography in this films. I liked the long shots that ran from window to window along the train or through the train cars. There are lots of great well-known actors with roles in this film and it is lighter than the others but sometimes that is just what hits the mark.

So, based on these films, I would chose The Shape of Water and Guillmero Del Toro as the Best Film and Best Director, Frances McDormand as Best Actress, Timothée Challmet as Best Actor, Sam Rockwell as Best Supporting Actor and Laurie Metcalf (Ladybird’s mom) as Best Supporting Actress. There are still other nominated films and performances that I have not seen but these movies seem to be leading the pack.  I will have to say that in the previews for I,Tonya I love what I see of Allison Janney and want to see that film soon as well.

Next up – the Kingston Canadian Film Festival on the first weekend of March.  I always enjoy seeing a whack of Canadian Films at this Festival only a few minutes from home.  I bought my pass today!

I am also very excited to learn this week that Netflix will be making a movie of my coffee-shop-friend Iain Reid’s book,  I’m Thinking of Ending Things.  Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) will be working with Iain to adapt the book to the screen and will also direct the film. Iain will co-produce with Kaufman. When I read this book, I could see it as a movie.  Now I can not wait to see it on the screen.  Congratulations, Iain.