By Barbara B. Davis, History, emerita
I love film, and I also love reading film reviews. It was most distressing to read Tim Peyton’s reviews of Juno and Atonement, two fine films. He seems not to understand that a critical review is NOT about himself and his own personal biases; he never defines some of his terms, either, such as what he means by “popular culture.” The Record is not a soapbox, it is a means of communicating news in an unbiased fashion; or should be.
One fateful day during Summer, 1935. The Tallis residence outside London, a lovely mansion set in a lush garden, with pools, fountains, grottos, all bespeaking the family’s wealth, taste, and social standing (Mr. Tallis is actually a minister in the government although we never meet him). It is a busy day with visiting cousins, a friend of the elder son, Leon, Paul Marshall, who is hugely wealthy and will become even wealthier from the impending war. All these minor characters are important, but the central figures are: Briony (pronounced Briney), a rather precocious thirteen year-old with a literary bend and an over-active imagination who has just finished writing a rather gothic, highly romantic play; her elder sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice) just graduated from Cambridge and wondering what next; Robbie (James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland) the son of a servant who is the protégé of Tallis senior, having also just finished his degree from Cambridge and thinking of becoming a doctor. A series of amorous incidents between Cecilia and Robbie culminate in a passionate assignation in the library. The problem is that Briony witnesses them, and, not really understanding love or sexual attraction, is free to distort them accordingly. So when her cousin, Lola, is raped, Briony is sure Robbie is the culprit. Part I ends with Robbie being led away by the police, and Cecilia, dressed in a billowing kelly green satin gown, watches helplessly. Director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) creates a luminosity of this scene that is both breathtaking and unforgettable. Continue reading ATONEMENT: A CRITICAL REVIEW
Review of Death Proof DVD release
Film geeks, around April this year, will remember the release of Grindhouse- Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodreguez’s B-movie double-feature. For those that don’t, Grindhouse was a sprawling action-packed horror thriller science-fiction epic, comprised of two films: Planet Terror and Death Proof.
Like most people who saw it in theatres, I had visions of a double disc box set, complete with novelty packaging, some fake blood and a mini-machine-gun leg attachment thrown in for a ridiculously jacked price. So I was surprised when I saw that, one, the release date had been shoved back to this Fall, and two, Planet Terror and Death Proof were being released separately. What was wrong with Tarantino and Rodreguiz? Did they break up? Did they not want our money?
Death Proof was released this past weekend, so I had the privilege of checking it out and seeing if it was actually worth the $22.99. For those who missed it in theatres, Death Proof is Tarantino’s story of a washed-up stuntman who stalks two separate groups of twenty-something lovelies. The first he slaughters messily, the second exact bloody revenge on him. A slasher movie embedded in a chick-flick.
So what’s on the DVD? Well, we’ve got 2 discs of “extended and uncut material” for one. Stuntman Mike’s lap dance (The cut “reel” that had entire audiences going “TARANTINOOOO!”) is restored, as are several other less pivotal moments. The lengthy girl-talk scenes, which garnered most of its criticism, are stretched yet longer. The usual DVD extras -interviews and behind the scenes shorts- are all present. Notably absent from both (!)DVD releases are the hilarious faux-commercials that broke up the two films in theatres.
Death Proof on its own definitely lacks the punch of Grindhouse. Fans of Tarantino should definitely pick it up; me, I’m waiting for my mini-machine-gun leg attachment edition.
Paris Je T’aime is an omnibus narrative, the likes of which haven’t been seen this side of the indie/horror circuit since Babel, which showed at the Little Art last year. Twenty directors were invited to create 6-8 minute shorts around the theme of love in Paris- in essence, writing a cinematographic love letter to the city. Just a glance at the poster was enough to have me twitching in the theatre, dreading the inevitable accordion chords and quaintly plinking piano melody that I anticipating accompanying a Wes Anderson cum Amelie flick about glamorous neurotics falling in love in a sexy, quirky European city. To my surprise, Paris Je T’aime had me liking it in the first five minutes. A series of neighborhood based vignettes who’s first line- in Montmarte, no less- is “Shitty neighborhood!”? I fell in love.
Paris Je T’aime is best consumed as an appetizer plate. A wide selection of everything, from directors (Wes Craven through the Coen Brothers), actors (Steve Buscemi through Natalie Portman), and themes (paternal through unrequited), it’s guaranteed that everyone will find something they love and something they can’t believe was committed to film in this movie. For me, the Cohen Brothers’ hilarious story of Steve Buscemi as a guide-book reliant tourist caught up unwittingly and unwantingly in a fiery Parisian relationship was worth the price of admission. At the same time, I could’ve done with less of that quaint Parisian custom involving white makeup and being trapped in invisible boxes. I’m looking at you, Sylvain Chomet.
Paris Je T’aime is a multifaceted love story, where love is used in the fullest, most inclusive sense of the term. Expect to walk out fantasizing about plane tickets.
Paris Je T’aime is playing at the Little Art on Thursday (tonight!), at 9.20. Run!
Ratatouille (helpfully spelled out phonetically on the movie posters, reminding us that yes, this movie is theoretically aimed at the under 10 crowd) follows the story of misfit French rat Remy, whose aspirations of becoming a chef are held back by his unsympathetic, garbage eating family. Destiny intervenes when a freak accident involving a shotgun toting grandmother and the Parisian sewer system lands Remy in the kitchen of his idol, the late Chef Auguste Gusteau. There, he teams up with the inexperienced “Linguini”, a garbage boy with similar dreams of chef-dom. The rest is director Brad Bird’s usual blend of sly wit, slapstick timing, and beautiful rendering. Beautiful rendering. I won’t subject you to the depths of my animation geekery here, but I will say that this is one of the most gorgeously animated films I’ve seen in awhile.
What impressed me the most about this movie was the depth to which Bird was willing to layer the story. The black and white messages usually crammed onto every inch of screen time were notably greyer, and as a result what should have been a simple animated feature held a note of realism I’d be gratified to see in mainstream non-animated films. Despite a humbler story-line than his previous films (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, and the wreck that was Cars) Bird retains a sense of pathos that comes across perfectly and sets Ratatouille apart from any other animated film produced this year.
I also have to throw out a nod to Pixar’s traditional pre- and post-film animation sequences. The short at the beginning, “Lifted”, is worth the price of admission alone. Fortunately, you won’t have to pay it: youtube.com/watch?v=Qs3FfayHBM8 Watch that, then keep in mind the following 105 minutes only get better from there.
(webeditors note – this URL returns ” This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by PIXAR” but you can do a search on youtube for ‘Lifted’ and possibly find one they haven’t yanked yet).
“The Malahat Review is “a high quality, visually appealing literary quarterly which has earned the praise of notable literary figures throughout North America. It’s purpose is to publish and promote poetry and fiction of a very high standard, both Canadian and international. We are interested in various styles, lengths, and themes. The criterion is excellence.” – Poet’s Market. What you really need to know is this: 1) Our very own Dr. Ben Grossberg has been published in the Malahat and 2.) it’s a Canadian literary magazine. Continue reading The Malahat Review Review