Archive for December, 2010

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Best of 2010

December 30, 2010

Notes from the Back Row appears weekly in Whistler, BC’s Pique Newsmagazine

Angelina always wins hottest actress of the year so this time around let's give it to Black Swan's Mila Kunis.

Notes From the Back Row

Best of 2010

There were 649 movies released in North America in 2010 and I didn’t watch nearly enough of them (not to mention all the foreign flicks I missed) but 2010 seemed an overall weak year for movies and an especially poor summer. It was a year plagued by hit-and-miss 3D technology and too many remakes and sequels but there were highlights and from where I sit (in the back row) these were the best films of 2010.

Best Romantic Comedy – This is usually a contest of which pile of shit stinks the least but Cyrus is the darkest, weirdest, creepiest rom-com of the year, and it’s also pretty good. John C Reily, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei use their acting and craft a rare romantic comedy that doesn’t make you want to gouge your own eyes out with a straw.

Best Comedy– 2010 was a decent year for laughs– Russell Brand’s Get Him to The Greek overachieved and Hot Tub Time Machine proved that no idea is too out-there if you have a strong cast (and Jessica Pare topless in a hot tub) but the winner is Fubar 2 for being smart, hilarious, heartwarming, Canadian, and a sequel that rocks as much as its predecessor.

Best Documentary–Marwencol played at the Whistler Film Festival and it was one of those strange/awesome docs that transports you to a place you could never imagine but the winner is Exit Through the Gift Shop. Director Banksy mixes incredible old-school street-art footage with a film-within-a-film-within-a-role-reversal-mindfuck that hints at how the concept of ‘Art’ as we know it might just be bullshit.

Best Action– Lots to choose from (Hollywood loves action movies ) but I’m giving it to Kick-Ass. Runner-up– Machete.

Best Drama– Inception was big, brave, and well executed. It also confused most of its audience and still made $800 million Worldwide. The Social Network was slick, smart and very timely. So who wins? Especially considering I haven’t yet seen Black Swan or 127 Hours or that King’s Speech movie? I’m giving it to David Fincher’s The Social Network– no explosions, no severed arms, just real human drama.

Best Horror– A decent year– Hollywood’s unnecessary remake of Let Me In was nearly as good as the Swedish source material and The Crazies, another solid remake, mixed up the zombie genre a bit. There can be only one winner though, and it’s Piranha 3D.

Prehistoric piranhas attack scantily clad college Spring Break-ers and the only person who can stop them is Elizabeth Shue? It’s as if the team from Inception went into my dreams and found my perfect film. A piranha puking up a guy’s severed dick and then another piranha eating it again, all in 3D, should also win scene of the year.

Best Animation– Toy Story 3. While Pixar milked that franchise for all they could, they also knew when, and how, to go out with a bang.

Best Movie you didn’t see– The Runaways ­– Sex, drugs and apathy amplified through the minds of some seriously young girls. Michael Shannon, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning kill it in this overlooked gem.

Worst of the Year– Now I love Amanda Seyfried, last summer I even described her as “creamy”, but what is up with Dear John and Letters to Juliet? The only thing more un-visually stimulating than watching a movie about writing letters is watching two of them.

Best of the year– I couldn’t fit it in any other category so Scott Pilgrim vs The World wins. Director Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead) videogame-saturated tale of love, ego and growing up was adapted from a graphic novel, filmed beautifully in Toronto, and is chock full of fresh filmmaking and honed storytelling. Plus the chick is hot. Happy New Year and thanks to all my faithful readers for sticking through another year with me.

 

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Christmas Movies 2010

December 29, 2010

Notes From the Back Row is a weekly column published in Whistler, BC’s, Pique Newsmagazine

looking for christmas cheer

Christmas 2010 (sorry this post is late. Christmas came like a kick in the nuts this year– sick kid, sick wife, sick parents, inlaws, snowstorms, wine, etc)

Snow drifts across the hard frozen ground, sadness and loneliness swirl on the winter winds. No, it’s not Christmas in Whistler when you’re miles from your family and working a double-shift serving noodle, it’s True Grit the new western revenge/morality flick from the Coen Brothers (Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men.) An adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, True Grit stars Hallie Steinfeld as a 14-year-old girl out to avenge her father’s death. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin all co-star and the Coens deliver a clean, efficient and, dare I say, gritty Western genre flick. They don’t reinvent the wagon wheel but they make sure it rolls along just fine.

Also playing this week at the Village 8, Little Fockers, by far the worst entry into that tired franchise. I guess even De Niro has bills to pay this Christmas.

Christmas movies are best watched at home with a little nog though, and the classic is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. You can’t beat the Griswalds–Chevy Chase on top of his game, Randy Quaid stealing the show, and a young Juliette Lewis is the cherry on top.

For the little kids Home Alone still stands up. It’s the elaborately set traps– an iron to the face never gets old. Good family fun plus the late John Candy does a cameo.

Speaking of family, 1983’s A Christmas Story makes the list because all Ralphy wants is a B.B. gun and they just don’t make Christmas flicks like this anymore. Asian waiters singing “Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra” might not be politically correct anymore, but it’s still funny.

The Grinch is the original Christmas badass (both the cartoon and the Jim Carey movie rule) but Billy Bob Thorton and Bernie Mac also make the list with Bad Santa because strippers, drunks and con artists don’t get the praise they deserve this time of year. There aren’t enough R-rated Christmas flicks.

But here’s one– R Xmas is a grim-but-awesome New York Christmas tale about two loving parents/heroin distributors just trying to find that super rare and popular toy doll for their little girl. Drea de Matteo (Sopranos) gets the doll on the black market but things go south when her husband is kidnapped by Ice-T and she’s supposed to raise the ransom in half an hour or return to her daughter with a doll but no daddy. Abel Ferrera (Bad Lieutenant) brings his trademark naturalistic directing style and hip hop pioneer Schoolly D contributes to soundtrack, giving R Xmas more street cred than a Salvation Army Santa Claus.

These days Santa is a lot more important to Christmas than Jesus and Santa’s Slay is my new favourite B-grade Christmas treat. The premise is that Santa is actually Satan’s immaculately conceived child (he gets one too) who was defeated by an angel in a curling match and banished from earth, a premise that puts the ‘high’ back into high concept. Anyhow, evil Santa returns on a flying buffalo-deer and ass-kicks his way down both the naughty and nice lists. Lots of tits, blood, puncture wounds and creative death scenes, as well as some of the best teenage dialogue ever filmed, make this 2005 doozy the DVD of the week.

Finally, Treevenge is a 13-minute short film staring J-Roc that sums up the holidays as well as anything can. Made by East Coast Canadians Jason Eisener and Rob Cotterill, this is standard viewing after Christmas dinner at my place. watch it here.

Ho Ho ho. Christmas can be cold and lonely (like Mel Gibson at the Christmassy beginning of Lethal Weapon 1) so let the movies warm your hearts this holiday season. Liquor helps too.

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Angelina back on top

December 9, 2010

nuff said... go watch the movie.

 

 

Notes From the Back Row is  a weekly column in Whistler, BC’s Pique Newsmagazine

 

Ponder this… Do kids know when a kids’ movie is shitty? Like, will a nine-year boy old walk out of The Chronicles of Narnia:­ The Voyage of the Dawn Trader and be able to understand that it’s a heavy-handed shovel cramming the values of ‘Faith’ and ‘Believing’ down his throat? Will a seven-year-old girl realize that Lucy’s new jealous/vanity character arc is handled with the graze of a late-stage leper juggling chainsaws? Or are kids just happy to see bright lights, Minotaurs, and characters they remember?

Narnia- Dawn Trader director Michael Apted doesn’t give the kids much credit. With over 20 films you’ve never heard under his belt, this director’s take on Narnia lacks childish wonderment and he really pushes his points, as if he’s lecturing children about adventure instead of taking them on one.

Will kids still like it? Yes they will. Can they tell crap from gold? Sure they can, but if you’re taking them out and buying them candy, who cares?

I care about The Tourist, an old-school, everyman/femme fatale thriller picture starring Angelina and Johnny Depp. The roles in this on-the-run flick are of a more classic, traditional, Hitchcockian but there is ass-kicking as well, fear not. Set in paris and Venice, The Tourist is written by Chris McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkry) and directed by a Euro named Florian Henckel Von Donnersmack (The Lives of Others.)Depp and Jolie rarely disappoint (Beyond Borders was good, so was Nick of Time) and thus The Tourist is a must-see. You can’t beat Angelina.

The hard-to-find movie of the week is Frat House a documentary Todd Phillips (Old School, The Hangover) made in 1998. After hanging around some of the douchiest jock assholes ever captured on film and lots of Guantanemo-esque torture/power-tripping scenes, Frat House follows Phillips as he endures the ten-week hazing process which climaxes with him being shoved into a metal dog cage while the “brothers” pour beer, tobacco spit, ashtrays and insults all over him.

The film does a good job of shedding light on a ridiculous sub-culture of American machismo and brotherhood, and it’s entertaining the same way a timelapse of maggots eating puked-up pizza would be, but the real interesting part is that HBO, after paying for it and screening it at Sundance, never released Frat House. According to an old interview Phillips did with Vice Magazine’s Alex Godfrey, it was because you can’t expose the true behavior of rich white kids without consequences.

“When you turn your camera on the sons and daughters of rich, white Americans, you’re going to get heat for it” Phillips says. “HBO has made many award winning documentaries about pimps and whores and strippers and crack and taxi-cab confessions and blah blah blah. They’ve made movies about skinheads and anti-abortion maniacs. Important movies, but movies about the fringe of society. The fringe, I feel, are easy targets, but Frat House is about upper white class kids whose parents are lawyers and doctors and politicians…people who have many resources, and will threaten to sue. You either fight that battle or you don’t.”

Unfortunately, the scale gets larger– These educated-idiot frathouse types end up becoming the educated idiots running American big business/Government (it’s the same thing) and when Wikileaks recently exposed a few truths about the rich white people currently in charge it went over just as well as Frat House did, with lots of,  “Get out of here or fuckin’ we’ll kill you!” or “You can’t do that!” and “But it was all for your own good.”

What bullshit. People with secrets are just people looking to screw someone over. Ponder that…

 

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Whistler Film Fest and Whistler Classics

December 3, 2010

Notes from the Back Row- nov 30

Hard Core Logo 2 is the movie of the Festival

 

By Feet Banks

This is Whistler’s biggest movie week of the year and the esteemed Village 8 is embracing the 10th annual Whistler Film Festival with open arms and won’t be opening any new Hollywood movies this week. The new Darren Arnofsky/Natalie Portman ballerina flick Black Swan comes out in Vancouver but it should be up here soon enough, in the meantime lets focus on the 80+ films showing on local screens this weekend.

Sunday night, operating outside the official boundaries of the Whistler Film Festival (and therefore well inside the boundaries of “shit yeah” coolness) the Troutsmen are a throwing a Food Bank fundraiser and presenting a special screening of two seminal pieces of local culture– Whiskey 2 and Parental Advisory

The Whiskey series of snowboard films are legendary not only because they’re bonkers-awesome or because they captured a brutally honest side of the birth of modern snowboarding, but because Boozy the Clown’s miscreant shenanigans were actually at the forefront of a new style of do-it-yourself, balls-out rogue filmmaking that evolved through the Big Brother skate flicks, the CKY videos and, ultimately, spawned the Jackass empire, which everyone agrees is comedic genius. Whiskey 2 is chock full of solid skating, riding, and utter badassery including the sheep, the Reservoir Dogs intro, Boozy’s big backflip, and Kearns’ killer pow segment (which has aged incredibly well seeing as snowboard-film pow segments are all but extinct.)

Parental Advisory was about as badass as skiing got and it also stands the test of time because the flick was made right here with heart and soul (and shots and gas masks.) Besides launching a few local careers and introducing a few now-seasoned pros, Heavy Hitting’s first effort is also enjoying its 10th anniversary (shit maybe we were the Whistler Film tipping point) and it’s gonna be a real treat to watch it on the big screen alongside a classic like Whiskey 2. It all goes down Sunday night at Merlins, bring a nice donation to the Food Bank or pay 5 bucks (minimum) at the door.

The other best thing going this weekend is the big Whistler Film Festival Gala featuring the premier of Bruce McDonald’s Hard Core Logo 2.

First of all, McDonald is the bee’ s knees– not just because he has three features playing at this year’s festival (see also Music from the Big House and Trigger) but because the main character of the first Hard Core Logo blew his head off on camera at the end and now there is a sequel. And it’s gonna rule. See you there.

The DVD of the week is, obviously, Hard Core Logo. It’s either the best Canadian movie of all time, the Best Rock and Roll movie of all time, or the best Bruce McDonald movie of all time. Or all of the above.

The other dvd of the week is 12 Monkeys just because all this “wikileaks” stuff reminds me of that film and we all know life imitates art, not the other way around.

Finally, sadly, lets all pour some on the block for Leslie Nielsen, a good Saskatchewan boy who recently called it a day. Nielsen began his movie career as a dramatic actor and was in over 100 films but he’ll perhaps best be remembered for his roles in Airplane and The Naked Gun series. He was the Brando of spoof flicks with genius timing and all I can say is,  “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” The man was a gift and will be missed.

 

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Whistler Film Festival is here.

December 3, 2010

This column first appeared in Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine

Whistler Film Festival part 4

By Feet Banks

 

It happens to me every year –I draw up a list of all the cool movies I want to see, then strategically plan a schedule with no overlaps. The perfect Whistler Film Festival timeline with room for fresh turns on the hill.

And then I go to the Whistler Creek Productions party on Friday night and hobnob it up with industry pros, longtime locals and the occasional starlet. Except by ‘hobnob’ I mean pound shots of Jack Daniels chased with double Salty-Dogs. It’s always a fantastic night but my first flick on Saturday afternoon inevitably becomes more of a movie/nap.

The amazing thing is that the programming directors somehow account for this when they build their line-up and always present a movie that’s intense and engaging enough to entertain but also paced and quiet enough to sleep through. Last year that film was Nurse Fighter Boy. This year it’s Jo Pour Jonathan, which plays at 4:30, Saturday Dec 4th at the Village 8.

Don’t take that the wrong way– Jo Pour Jonathon is not a bad movie by any means. It’s gritty and raw and a bit heartbreaking– a brotherly love drama with a seedy streak told in a patient, sparse manner full of small-but-real truths.

Made in Quebec, and competing in the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature, Jo Pour Jonathon is very visual, with minimal dialogue and long moody shots and stretches of near silence. It’s win-win really, depending on your energy levels you can either rest up or catch an interesting flick, or both.

Speaking of staying awake, it’s worth it to hit the special Late-Night screenings for the weird, cool, off-the-beaten track stuff you might not get during “decent-person” hours.

Thursday Night, Dec 2nd, at 11:15pm is a 10th anniversary screening of Ski Bums. This is a film with many fans in Whistler, not just because it was made here, stars people we know, and also the first movie ever shown at the first Whistler Film Festival, but because it totally justifies the local character and lifestyle. Who knew we all had a little Johnny Thrash in us? Doors open at 10 pm for this one, at the Conference centre, and it’s a free screening. Show up in your best “Gaper” outfit and enter to win free beer, potato chips, and ski and snowboard gear. Doors open at 10pm. This is gonna be a party.

Friday late-night is no slouch either, starting at 11:30 pm with Early Evening of Meth Head Hipsters, a Vancouver-made short that took grand prize at the Heavy Hitting B-Grade Horrorfest this year. Bicycles, disembowelment, wet t-shirts, meth and trucker hats don’t get better than this.

The feature presentation is Beyond the Black Rainbow, a crazy, visual big-brother acid trip of a movie with a soundtrack draped with big, heavy sci-fi bass hits. This one also plays at the Conference centre

Late-Night Saturday goes down at the Village 8 with Vanishing on 7th Street, a nifty little end-of-the-world film starring Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo, and Thandie Newton as survivors of the day the lights went out.  I haven’t seen a screener but this one looks like creepy B-grade fun. It starts at 11:45.

Ski Bums director Johnny Zaritsky has another film playing this weekend. Leave Them Laughing is about a terminally-ill woman’s refusal to go down without some comedy. It plays Sunday afternoon and then the Fest closes that night with 2 Frogs in the West, a coming of age feature filmed right here in town that should also speak to more than a few Whistler locals.

The screens are full of film and hills are covered in pow and the Whistler Creek Productions party is Friday night at the GLC. Does it get any better than this?

www.whistlerfilmfestival.com