CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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The 28th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival 2009 Opens

Written by Christopher Beaubien • October 01, 2009 • Start the Discussion!

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One of the many upsides to living in a beautiful city like Vancouver (besides the freshest tap water this side of the Pacific Ocean) is that it holds one of the five biggest film festivals in North America. The Vancouver International Film Festival opens today. About 640 screenings of the 360 films to come from eighty countries will be shown over the next sixteen days (October 1 – October 16). That means we Vancouverites and visiting film buffs can see movies as far as award-winners at Cannes, Telluride (TIFF), et al. to those that will never get distribution here. Without the interference of a ratings board, anything goes. Along Granville Street, and from Seymore to Howe, the cinemas are our roller coasters, our bumper cars, our Tilt-A-Whirls. It’s a good comparison seeing as how the line-ups won’t be any different.

I am still disheartened that Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime (2009), a semi-sequel to his wonderful Happiness (1998), is not playing in the festival. After it played last month at Telluride to a very warm reception, Life During Wartime didn’t get distribution like so many others. Unless Solondz distributes it himself or keeps selling to those willing to take a risk (Hello Lions Gate Films!), it might be a long while to view. On the bright side, the Coen Brothers’ new film A Serious Man will have a Sunday morning sneak preview at the Park Theatre on October 11 before opening nationwide on October 16. The Coen film, unlike Telluride, will not be part of the VIFF. I am catching the Sunday screening so for me, it is part of the festival.

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Movie Review: THE INFORMANT! (2009)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • September 28, 2009 • Start the Discussion!

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Put Your Fibs Together and Blow!

People are usually very straightforward. While talking with someone, you have a good idea of what they’re thinking. And yes, it is very boring. That is why the title character Mark Whitacre as depicted in Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! is cause for relief. The man has a two-track mind. His habitual expression is pleasant but blank. Just listening to his outrageous thoughts makes me wonder how exhausting it must be for him to keep a straight face. The thoughts — my God, the tangents! His brain must be covered with zigzag tracks. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to read the thoughts of others, if only for the entertainment factor. Then again, Mark Whitacre is a rare breed. Only such a character — emphasis on character — could inspire such a perceptive and infectious human comedy that hides under a corruption scandal thriller.

In the mid-1990s, Whitacre is a rising — beaming — star at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), an Illinois-based plant that processes corn into food ingredients and distributes them worldwide. He looks like a stereotypical businessman — a paunchy, rug-wearing, spectacled dweeb in a cheap suit. Why, he could just as soon sidle up to you with a grin that says “Say ‘Hi!’ to your family for me” or “I’ve got something really juicy to tell you!” Don’t get me started on his mustache. Listening to him talk about corn and the difference he makes in people’s lives, I can’t help but hear Jim McAllister self-congratulatory tone from Alexander Payne’s Election (1999) when he says, “The students knew it wasn’t just a job for me. I got involved!”

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Movie Review:
HARDLY BEAR TO LOOK AT YOU (2009)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • September 24, 2009 • Start the Discussion!

Here’s Looking at You, Kid.

At first sight, the couple walking and dining throughout Paris appear to be lovers. We are mistaken. Daniel, a trim and fortyish intellectual with a voice like Patrick Bauchau (The Rapture, 1991), is played by Jeremy Herman, the writer of Hardly Bear to Look at You (2009). Stella is a pretty performance artist in her early twenties, played by Anna Neil. A few years ago, Neil starred in a short film called The Yacht (2006), which was written and co-directed by Herman. The other director who also starred in The Yacht was Huck Melnick, who directed his first feature-length film, Hardly Bear to Look at You.

If you are enjoying the giddy sensation of your brain spinning, keep reading.

Daniel, an artist as well a connoisseur of fine food and wines, acts as a mentor to Stella. It’s questionable whether Stella realizes she is his muse — Sylvia to Daniel’s Marcello. Wandering the streets of Paris, he takes her out to restaurants and bars. Their relationship is one of flirtation, but never becomes one as intimate as in Guinevere (1999), though the Audrey Wells film took a more lacerating view of such a coupling. Daniel and Stella sleep in the same bed without sleeping with each other. Upon the description of this May-August romance, Daniel is surprisingly more sympathetic because Stella is never a victim and clearly has the upper hand here. Any advance made by him is either encouraged or vetoed. Director Melnick makes no judgment calls here, but I wish that Daniel had been scorched at least once. His feelings toward her are genuine, so why not challenge him?

He is utterly infatuated with her. The first two minutes of the film simply watches Stella sleeping in the morning light. Great concentration is made to the movement of her feathery collar as she inhales and exhales. Somehow, this does not feel perverse; it is a form of adoration in the sweetest sense. Known to savor the strong tartness of an olive, Daniel commits a silent declaration when he slides an olive into his pants pocket. More obvious is the shot of his jean-clad crotch after he has asked (read: directs) Stella to climb up three flights of stairs to ask her something. He admits to her that he has had sex with a number of women, including prostitutes. Stella claims to having had just a few lovers, but we suspect otherwise, considering how flirtatious and often she runs into other men she knew way back when. Sometimes she is cruel while feigning tactfulness. Being too close to Daniel’s perspective, his jealousy is infectious.

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The Victims of Colorization

Written by Christopher Beaubien • August 15, 2009 • 4 Comments

Film Still from “It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

“Keep Ted Turner and his goddamned Crayolas away from my movies.”
— Orson Welles

Vandalized Black-and-White Films (141)

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
30 Seconds over Tokyo (1944) (Turner Colorized Classic)
36 Hours (1965) (Turner Colorized Classic)
The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
An Ache in Every Stake (1941)
Across the Pacific (1942) (Turner Colorized Classic)
Action in the North Atlantic (1943) (Turner Colorized Classic)
Africa Screams (1949)
Air Force (1943) (Turner Colorized Classic)
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
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The Best Films of 2009’s First Half

Written by Christopher Beaubien • July 19, 2009 • Start the Discussion!

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Moon (dir. Duncan Jones)
Goodbye Solo (dir. Ramin Bahrani)
(500) Days of Summer (dir. Marc Webb)
Nightwatching (dir. Peter Greenaway)
The Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)


Coraline (dir. Henry Selick)
Gomorrah (dir. Matteo Garrone)
Polytechnique (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Revanche (dir. Götz Spielmann)
Up (dir. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)


Tokyo Sonata (dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Knowing (dir. Alex Proyas)
O’ Horten (dir. Bent Hamer)
Lymelife (As Seen at the TIFF 2008, dir. Derick Martini)
Drag Me To Hell (dir. Sam Raimi)