Watching this year’s films

3 12 2014

I’ve been catching up on some of this year’s films recently in an attempt to do a best-of list at the end of the year. I wanted to do one last year but I had no way of tracking which films were included in the year; I rate every film I watch on imdb, which records my rating, but it doesn’t tell me when I rated the film. This year, though, I believe the first film I saw in theatres was Stranger at the Lake, so I’m going to count that and go from there.

Tonight, I caught Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night), Belgium’s official entry to the upcoming Academy Awards. I’m not going to post an entire review for it (I have a bit of a headache at the moment), but it was good. Marion Cotillard certainly can act.

I think I’ve missed out on a lot of international films (mostly because, apart from Slant Magazine’s reviews, I don’t really know what’s out there that’s good), but I’ve been seen a few year-end lists already that have some interesting-looking international films.

Are there any films I should check out while I’m at it?


17 09 2013

Saw this and felt very sad after (I still am). Ohad Knoller is so good in this. I just want to hug him and hold him close.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

21 08 2013

A gay-themed film from Taiwan? I’m there!

I had heard of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? before it was announced that it would be screening at Out on Screen. The premise of the film is deceptively simple: Weichung, a middle-aged married man, confronts his sexuality when his wife wants to have another child. There are a bunch of subplots as well, all involving romance and love, like Weichung’s romance with a cute flight attendant, and Weichung’s sister Mandy and her ambivalent feelings towards her fiance. What makes Love Me different than the typical, formulaic Hollywood rom-com or even coming out stories is writer and director Arvin Chen’s handling of the subject. With the addition of whimsical and absolutely wonderful fantastical scenes, like Weichung’s eyeglasses shop manager floating away holding an umbrella, Chen effectively renders his film aesthetically open to all sorts of possibilities of magical realism. Even the detail of his manager holding up a bright blue umbrella and waving goodbye to Weichung before whisked away by the wind is something out of a Miyazaki film. Other fantastical scenes exemplify characters’ internal emotions, such as Weichung fantasizing about kissing his would-be lover, only to snap back to reality and still be standing face-to-face with him.

It doesn’t always work though. In one of the last fantasy scenes, Weichung’s wife is drunk in a karaoke bar with her co-workers, singing a song when the bar transforms into a lighted stage, and her co-workers turn into back-up singers and dancers. The visual is interesting and fun, but isn’t a congruent representation of someone who is in a negative, depressed head-space (not to mention, also drunk).

What’s nice about Love Me is that it doesn’t sentimentalize queer identity. You get a sense that Weichung really did believe that after he turned 30, he was pressured to get into a straight relationship, even if it rings a bit of a cop-out of a reason to explore social stigma, familial and cultural expectations, or homophobia. There’s a bit of a hint of traditional beliefs from Weichung’s in-laws, but rather than feel universal, Weichung’s sticky situation comes across as staged and lacking pathos. The only other gay character in a relationship is married– to a lesbian, suggesting that same-sex relationships can’t be open and official, even if everyone knows. It’s a troubling yet interesting point director Chen makes, but this isn’t explored either.

Running 15 minutes too long with a middle section that drags, Love Me is certain to get some good laughs out of people, especially from slightly flamboyant Stephen: “I understand women,” he tells depressed dumpee San-San. “You understand shit,” his lesbian wife retorts. Chen’s lack of exploration into his characters and subject matter aren’t enough to set it apart from other rom-coms, or even coming out films. It’s just one with pretty colours and awesome magic.  Will I still love this film tomorrow? After I think about it, probably not as much.

Grade: C+

VQFF Day 2: Beyond the Walls

20 08 2013

Synopsis: the relationship between a couple living in France — a young white guy and an Albanian — is tested when one of them is sent to prison.

Super awesome things: like many European films, Beyond the Walls is slow in the exploration of its characters and the plot. There are short, lovely moments and scenes, like when the two characters lay at the other’s feet and play with toes while talking. You get a sense that writer and director David Lambert knows what he wants this movie to be– from the details in Ilir’s dingy hole of a home to the subtle twitches and expressions when they see each other in jail, there’s such a sense of naturalism between all the players that the film unfolds itself rather than dictated by a formulaic script as frequently seen in Hollywood films. That’s the beauty of Beyond the Walls, that we as the audience are able to glimpse at such a personal, intimate, and heartbreaking relationship between these two characters, that we see beyond the walls that they’ve both put up. Also, Guillaume Gouix is absolutely fantastic in this, and not just because I think he also happens to be absolutely beautiful.

Not so awesome things: for a good two-thirds of the movie, I was annoyed at one of the two main characters (Paolo, the skinny white boy). That’s not to say that all films need to have sympathetic characters, not at all, but when one is so grating, annoying, and immature, especially compared to Ilir, who is rugged, mature, and level-headed (most of the time), it makes for an unpleasant experience. That said, I was happy to see that Paolo does have an arc, but even then, I didn’t completely buy it. Could he really change that much in such a short period of time? It’s possible, especially with an older gentleman to guide (and pay) for him. When he walked out with a fancy trench coat and hipster scarf, the audience laughed. I’m not sure they bought it either.

Perhaps the most concerning thing about Beyond the Walls is what it has to say about queer relationships and gay men. The most obvious thing it says is that queer relationships are difficult. They’re not always fairytale stories, like in many North American rom-coms (and gay-themed rom-coms for that matter). That’s fair. There are other issues that the film doesn’t seem to want to contend with that unfortunately break the nice atmospheric naturalism. Paolo doesn’t want to come out to his girlfriend. Okay. Lots of gay men don’t want to. Everyone has their reasons. Paolo doesn’t seem to though. His girlfriend — who I might add is unfortunately relegated to evil-bitch-girlfriend status and stuck there for the whole film — even tells him she wants to know who Paolo has been seeing, but he refuses to tell her. There’s no reason given for him denying his sexuality, especially when he doesn’t seem to regret ever staying at Ilir’s for the night or leering at him at the bar.

Good for watching: as a double feature with Keep the Lights On.

Overall: Everyone struggles, and sometimes you can only watch behind a wall at what you used to have.

Grade: B+

Where have you been, Bollywood?

22 05 2013

I think I’ll have myself a Bollywood film fest, courtesy of 3 Idiots:

The Hobbit, or There and Probably Not Back Again

17 12 2012

was a bit of a disappointment.  I’ve read the book and absolutely loved it, and, of course, I try to judge adaptations as a film by itself.  Yes, there are many additions to the film that isn’t mentioned in the book (and many felt extraneous and really dragged the plot), but there were scenes that were just silly and lame (*SPOILER ALERT!* like when Radagast tries to distract the Orcs and Bilbo and the dwarves try to run but they keep bumping into the Orcs and so many times almost get seen.  It’s comes off as slapstick and just really silly, but it’s not even laughable).

Also, there was a piece of what seemed like steel wool in my popcorn (and in my mouth).  Also also, I had no idea Metropolis had become overloaded with utterly laughable ads — even putting a serious ad about not creating waste during the gift-giving season followed by ad where featuring a typical, white family ripping apart loads of wrapping paper and opening boxes, all likely going in the garbage can — and ridiculous game-things before the movie.  That really put me off to ever going to a Cineplex theatre ever again.  Ugh.

Farewell to intelligence

12 09 2012

Woman: “One for ‘Farewell to Rome.'”

Aaron rolls his eyes.

Aaron: “Do you mean Farewell, My Queen or To Rome with Love?

Woman:  “Oh!  I got mixed up ’cause someone over there was talking about it.”

Aaron:  “Uh huh.”

Woman:  “So that’s for Farewell, My Queen.” [pause] “No no no!  I meant To Rome with Love!”

Aaron:  “Is that your final answer?”

Fifth Avenue vs. Crazy Germaphobe Lady

27 06 2012

Fifth Ave: 1
Crazy Germaphobe Lady: 0

That’s disgusting, holy shit!

14 05 2012

Me: And… here is your large drink.

Customer:  That’s huge, oh my god.

Me:  And you can get free refills on your large drink, by the way.

Customer: That’s disgusting, holy shit!

Fuck that.

13 05 2012

Customer:  I’d like a medium frozen yogurt.

Me: Sure thing.

I go over to dispense the vanilla frozen yogurt from the machine, since we’re all out of chocolate.

Customer: Don’t you have a twist thing?

Me: Yes, but we’re all out of chocolate right now.

Customer: Why are you out of chocolate?

I look around at the massive amount of people in the lobby, waiting to order food and drinks.  I guess it wasn’t as obvious as I thought…

Me: Because… there’ve been a lot of people today, who have ordered lots of food–

Customer: Fuck that.

*stunned silence*

Me:  Um… do you still want the frozen yogurt?

Customer: Yeah, yeah.