Two more KCFF18 movies

Coming of age movies seem to be popular. Two of this year’s nominees for Best Picture are Ladybird and Call Me By Your Name, both about teens discovering themselves and their relationships, including with their parents. Last year my favourite Canadian film was Weirdos. In all of these films, my aging self is having more trouble identifying with the teens but I tend to do relate to the parents.

Adventures in Public School is also a film in the coming of age genre but with a quirky comedic twist. Liam is a teenager who has been home schooled by his mother (played by Judy Greer – “Say goodbye to these” – Arrested Development) who has educated him but smothered him and protected him from any outside influence, including other kids. He goes to the local secondary school to write his final exams so he can go to Cambridge to become an Astronomer” like Stephen Hawking”  but sees a one-legged young woman at the school who catches his eye, He bombs the test on purpose so he can go to the school to get to know her. Of course, this does not sit well with the mom who then takes it on herself to instruct Liam (who ends up taking the class place of a girl named Maria Sanchez and then having to take all her classes using her name) in what she figures is the usual coming of age stuff like drinking alcohol, sex and smoking marijuana.

The movie is pretty silly but not to the point of being annoying. I found myself laughing a lot and there were quirky little moments that were both humorous and endearing. Not an award-winning film but entertaining and “cute”.


Today, I really enjoyed Cardinals. It was a slow burn, somewhat understated film that dealt with a woman released from jail ten years after killing someone in a car accident and being charged with impaired driving.  I thought it was impeccably written and unfolded slowly but with purpose.  Never tedious but always crawling ahead. The writer and directors (Grayson Moore, Aiden Shipley) are two young men whose work shows maturity beyond their years.  I can’t say too much about the plot because you have to experience it as it unfolds. I was trying to find some way of describing how the movie feels – like peeling an onion, watching a slow striptease or lava bubbling up from a volcano. None of those analogies did it justice. I realized that it felt very much like reading a good book. Something happens to advance the plot then there are a couple of pages of descriptive to flesh it out and then you turn the page and there is something else revealed. A jigsaw where you suddenly find a piece that clarifies a section.  I really liked the mood and the performances. The cast includes many talented Canadian actors and an added bonus for me was that one of the lead actors is Grace Glowicki, who I know from hanging out with her on a movie set , Nightrunners, shot in Kenya, three years back.


Grayson Moore and Aiden Shipley at a Q&A after the KCFF screening of Cardinals.

Here is a scene from the movie to whet your appetite. Watch for it. I suspect it will eventually appear on Netflix. Also keep and eye on Grayson Moore and Aiden Shipley. They are talented young Canadian film-makers.



Get Out!

I went to see Get Out this evening, another Oscar contender for best picture, and my head is still spinning. Guess Who’s Coming  to Dinner it is not!  It is difficult to talk about the film without spoilers.

Unknown-1In the initial half hour of the movie, I was disturbed by the blatant racial overtones.  It seemed like it might be one of those point-out-all-the-racial-tension,  feel-embarrassed-by-the- white-folks and empathy-for-the-black-dude-who-tolerates-it-all movies that then has some sort of epiphany that brings it all around into a feel-good ending.  That’s how the tongue-in-cheek first part seemed.  That is not how it  eventually went.  (Sorry for all the dashes – my mind must still be in staccato mode.)

It is hard to imagine, given the promo photos, that this film has been described as a high-tension satirical horror film – with comedic elements.  Quite the mix.images-1

Although horror is not usually my thing, I did enjoy this film. But then I have a twisted sense of humour and like material that is edgy and startling.  It has also been a long time  since I have been at a movie where the audience burst into applause at one juncture.  We were obviously being sucked right along.

I went with friends who had seen the movie before.  I thought that part of the pleasure was in not knowing what was about to happen and being surprised but they said that they enjoyed it just as much, if not more, the second time because they could anticipate what was coming and how the plot line was developing.  I look forward to chatting with them some time about the various subtle and  not so subtle racial (not necessarily racism) themes and symbolism.


If you like this genre of film, it is a good one.  If you are not for creepy suspense and  graphic violence, á la Silence of the Lambs, then it may not be your “cup of tea”.





When I walked up to the ticket booth at the movie theatre yesterday, I wasn’t sure if i would opt for Passengers, another futuristic space movie  or Fences, a critically acclaimed drama adapted from a  1987 Pulitzer prize-winning play by August Wilson.  I had my fill of space vehicles with Rogue One and opted to go for Fences.  And I am very glad I did.

Denzel Washington directs and stars in this film adaptation of the Broadway play that won many awards when it was presented several years ago.  James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader in the early Star Wars films won best actor Tony award for this role in 1987. It turns out that Denzel Washington and several others in the small cast were part of a short Broadway revival of the play in 2010.  It showed.  They knew the characters intimately.  The play is set in the 1950’s in Philadelphia.  Troy Maxson is a 60ish black sanitation worker who is unhappy, unsettled and not satisfied with his life now, or in the past.  He is an African-American Willy Loman.  His wife, played by Viola Davis, is a patient, stoical, supportive pragmatist who is, to a point, willing to overlook her husand’s shortcomings.  Her portrayal of this character, Rose, was sensitive and emotional …no, it was gut-wrenching.  She almost had me sobbing out loud. Bring kleenex. 

Each character – the neighbour, the two sons, Rose, the handicapped brother and Troy – have scenes where they get to express themselves intimately. We learn why they are the way they are. There are a lot of words. But they all contribute to the picture and never once feel unnecessary. More than half the movie takes place in a small Philadelphia back yard. It gives the feeling that you are watching a play. Or more that you are just eavesdropping on this family as they struggle. Although we spend a lot of time in this back yard, the camera captures many points of view so it is never boring. And yes, Troy spends time building a fence around his yard and also, it turns out, around himself.

The film is loaded with symbolism – fence-building, baseball, gardens, flowers, Fridays, Gabriel, the Blues, garbage. And there is lots of talk about Death – compared to “a fast-ball on the outside corner”. I will want to see the film again after a bit of a break to take all these references in.

For the last couple of years, the Academy Awards have been criticized for not acknowledging people of color.  This year, with Birth of a Nation,  Loving,  and Fences there will be no lack of accolades for African American film-makers and actors. And if Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are not at the top of the list, I will be shocked.  For my money, Viola Davis gave the female actor performance of film in 2016, hands down.

The movie is emotionally draining and because it is so intense it may feel about fifteen minutes too long – but I don’t know what you could cut.   I highly recommend Fencesas a fine, intense piece of theatre/film.  4.5 out of 5

Interstellar – not that stellar for me.

I wondered, as I watched the movie Interstellar, how award-winning actors like Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon and Michael Caine could deliver such corny dialogue with straight faces. The movie was certainly an epic. Big. And long. Full of loud noise that virtually shook the theater, expansive visuals and swelling musical accompaniment to enhance the drama.

The movie tried too hard to be cerebral. The monologues on themes of time and love and parenthood and saving the world were just too implausible for me to believe. Some of the technical language and explanations didn’t ring true for me either. Maybe I’m just not a fan of this genre of film, whatever that might be.

imageIt didn’t help that my movie admission came with a large popcorn and a gallon of root beer which, after nearly 3 hours in the theater caused my bladder to be the size of a basketball. Was all the talk about relativity of time and different dimensions to help me understand that the two hour and 48 minute running time was only feeling like four years? And I really shouldn’t have been yawning when they were making that umpteenth docking attempt with all that noise and music or rolling my eyes at some of the dialogue or plot twists.

I would find it difficult to recommend this movie although I am sure that there are people who enjoy science fiction and space who would find it enjoyable. If you go, it might be best to choose the 3-D version to see because the visuals certainly are stunning and would be even more so in the 3-D format. The musical organ references to 2001 A Space Odyssey did make me smile.

I would give the movie three stars out of five.

I loved 2001 A Space Odyssey when it came out in 1968. It was ground-breaking. And this music gave me goosebumps. Still does when cranked up loud.

Movie magic – behind the scenes

Anyone who has worked with Domino Theatre in Kingston, Ontario is familiar with the practical but rather stark actors’ dressing room.  White plaster walls, big mirrors, lights and a floating rack of costumes for whatever production is in the works.

DR1Last weekend the crew of Fault were challenged with turning that little room into a location for their movie, presumably a dressing room in the rural “Barn Theatre” where some of the movie action occurs.  Last year, scenes on the stage of the “Barn” theatre, in the lobby and lounge and outside the theatre were filmed. An additional pick up scene was required to finish the film and the original location was not available.  Fault‘s producer, Barbara Bell, coaxed her Kingston theatre friends to let Fault use the Domino dressing room for this scene.

The crew arrived at Domino around 6 pm after a day shooting outdoors and started to scrounge for set pieces to give the place more character.

Director Leigh Ann Bellamy contemplating how to dress this set.

Director Leigh Ann Bellamy contemplating how to dress this set.

Now, if you are going to look to dress a set, the best place to be is in a theatre.  Soon the small crew came up with pieces of wall and drapes and lights and set pieces that turned one corner of the DominoTheatre dressing room into a wonderfully warm set, rich with great character.

The scene, with Jennifer Verardi and Amelia MacKenzie-Gray-Hyre and directed by Leigh Ann Bellamy was shot from several angles, including one from between the costumes on the rack.

By 11 pm it was a wrap, the props and set dressing all returned to various cubby holes in the Domino Theatre and the crew on thier way home, anticipating one more day if shooting before the movie was in the can and ready for all the work of post production.

In the past year or two I have had the pleasure of working, in varying capacities, with friends who were shooting movies in Kingston and in Kenya. I worked with “director greats” McGuire, Hincer, Nielson and Bellamy and was even a background performer (along with 200 other Kingstonians) in the major studio Guillermo del Toro film, Crimson Peak, shot in Kingston market square in April.  It has been fascinating to participate in this process and given me great appreciation for all the work and planning that goes into even few seconds of motion picture.

Here are some glimpses of what you might eventually see and what it took to make that magic happen in Fault. Watch for it.

Leigh Ann Bellamy and Director of Photography, Christian Paulo Malo, contemplate a camera angle.

Leigh Ann Bellamy and Director of Photography, Christian Paulo Malo, contemplate a camera angle.

Daniel Karan is boom operator. Sound is captured with lavaliere microphones hidden in the actor's costume and an overhead boom.

Daniel Karan is boom operator. Sound is captured with lavaliere microphones hidden in the actor’s costume and an overhead boom. Jennifer’s microphone was in a box of Kleenex on the counter.

Here is what you will see in the movie , or close to it. A far cry from the bare Domino dressing room.

Here is what you will see in the movie , or close to it. A far cry from the bare Domino dressing room.

Jennifer Verardi and Amelia MacKenzie-Gray-Hyre in a scene from Fault.

Jennifer Verardi and Amelia MacKenzie-Gray-Hyre in a scene from Fault. When you see two characters quietly talking in a movie scene there is a whole crew only inches away making that happen.