Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween, Vampire Style

I finally saw the lovely Let the Right One In - not often you use "lovely" to describe a vampire film, but it isn't your regular vampire film I guess.  At the core, it is a story about two outcasts - Oskar, a 12 year old boy so pale he seems completely bloodless, and his friend Eli,  a 12 year old ("give or take") who just happens to be a vampire.  The horror in this film is really Oskar's isolation from the parents who really don't seem all that interested in him, and the persistent bullying he faces at school.  And there is nothing elegant or romantic about Eli's vampire life ( a nice change from the earnest teen love vampire romance genre so popular today)  - she lives in a barren tenament apartment, and her need for blood to survive is just a brutal fact of life.   I'm not going to say much more, as it would spoil the fun.

For those worried about blood and gore - there really isn't much.  And for those who have cats - you'll learn that they are effective protection against the Undead.  Just don't rent the dubbed DVD - brave the subtitles, it is well worth it.

*update* - actually, hold off watching this on DVD until after Xmas, when a release that contains the theatrical subtitles will be available - apparently the original DVD release had extremely poor subtitling  - or, of course, you could go see it on the big screen if you get the chance!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finally, I have something in common with Lindsay Lohan...

I wasn't planning on it when I got up this morning, but that's how the day has ended up.

Yes, I ended up with a pair of Fiorentini & Baker boots.  Did I know the brand before today?  Um, no.  But now I am in love - they are nothing flashy, but they are as soft as a puppy's ear.   I don't make a habit of spending ridiculous money on apparel - the opposite in fact - but these ... well...  I fear that next time I make it to London, some serious damage will be done at their flagship store.

If I could marry my boots, I would.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm a bit dizzy but...

...I will try and make sense despite that.  I seem to be going through a minor vertigo recurrance.  Frustrating but oh well, could be worse - as it is, I'm drugged out on gravol and codeine so I'm feeling no pain.

Saw the engaging Chad VanGaalen at the Rio Theatre last week.  Firstly, I love the venue - the lighting is a bit crap as it is really a movie theatre not a concert venue, but otherwise it is great - nice high stage, great view, comfy seats for old people - what more could you ask for? The concert wasn't life changing, but it sure was fun - Chad is an engaging guy (even when sporting a bizarre black wig) and you couldn't help but get drawn in.  And as the pal I was with said, it was a bit like seeing a Neil Young concert, but without the guitar solos - I hadn't realized how reminicent of Neil Chad's vocals can be until I saw him live (listen to this and you'll see what I mean).  

As for video quality? Well, it's crap due to the poor lighting, but hopefully it captures the spirit of the night.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grizzly Bear...Again

Another fantastic time with Grizzly Bear last night.   What made it extra special?  The fact they were playing the Vogue theatre - a quiet, theatre style venue.  What a treat not to have the Commodore's constant clink of glasses and background chatter.  And cudos to a very respectful audience as well (with the notable exception of the insecure clingy girlfriend action in the row in front of us, which kept interfering with the view - I know, I know, not everyone needs to sit stock still.  Hang on - yes, in my world they do).

I don't really know what else to say about the night without sounding like a drooling idiot, so I will let the videos speak for themselves.  Sorry about the wandering camera in the second video - I was trying to avoid the giant head of the squirming girl sitting in front of me.  Sigh.  I didn't tape much, mostly because I didn't want to break the spell of just watching the band.  I should mention that security asked if I had a camera on the way in, and I furrowed my brow and said "camera?" like it was a foreign word, let him look through the main pocket of my bag (which didn't contain my camera, obviously), and walked merrily to my seat.  I think that the harsher the check is at the door, the less people they have observing the crowd for people filming.  Who knows, but it's my theory for today.

A shout out also to the opening act, The Morning Benders - very talented young guys, and they managed to keep me and my pal L. impressed and engaged the whole way through, which isn't actually that easy a feat.  Something tells me these guys were all in jazz band in high school - and it's paid off in spades.  There are smatterings of The Dodos and Grizzly Bear in what they do, but hey in the big picture those aren't bad influences to have.

Monday, October 12, 2009

And MORE....

Yet another very quick VIFF post - I only have two more films to go before my 20 picks this year are done.

So - my picks from the last few I've seen?  Broke. ; Pop Star on Ice; Cedar Boys; and I Killed My Mother (see trailer above).

You may have heard of I Killed My Mother - it cleaned up a few awards at Cannes, and has been chosen as Canada's pick for the Academy Awards.   For those of you that haven't heard of it, it is written, directed, and stars (and has art direction by) the now 20 year old Xavier Dolan, based on a story he wrote when he was 17.  Let's stop and think about this for a second: write; direct; star in; 20 years old; first film; Cannes; Academy Awards....


But it is well deserved.  The film looks gorgeous, and does a great job of capturing the technicolor intensity of teenage life through the explosive love/hate relationship between a gay 16 year old boy and his mother.  It has shades of C.R.A.Z.Y. and a few drops of Tarnation (particularly the b&w footage the main character takes of himself talking about his mother), but remains a strong, unique story about a very complex relationship.  And it fulfills my seemingly annual film fest requirement to view a gay coming of age story...I don't plan it, it just happens that way.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Too tired but...

Just a quick post on my one VIFF free, meeting free night this week.

First - I've included my favorite VIFF trailer for those of you who haven't already seen it - I laughed out loud the first time I saw it and it still makes me grin.

So how is VIFF going so far?  REALLY well.  I don't have the energy to talk about the films in detail - yet - but in broad categories so far:

GREAT:  We Live in Public (old news I know); Will Not Stop There - oh my what an expected treat this was!  When the film opened with a gypsy porn star playing a folk song with his nose (and that isn't a euphemism), I really wasn't sure what we were in for - but it is a really nicely layered story with great characters and a nice balance of comedy and drama...I may write more on this one later; Afghan Star -    the pop culture wonder of the American Idol style show is a great foil to highlight the issues, culture, and people of a very complex country...and it also proves that teenage girls will vote for The Cute Boy no matter where in the world they are; and The Maid, for a really richly rendered look at the life of a woman who has allowed herself to become defined solely by her role in her employer's family, while never really truly being part of it.

VERY GOOD:  Excited! (it ranks this high largely because the setting is VERY Vancouver! Nice story too.); Only When I Dance; Nora's Will; Rembrandt's J'accuse (lovely and entertaining, but hard to follow at times - information overload from the giant brain of Peter Greenaway)

GOOD: Gigante (lovely character, but slooooow)

NOT GOOD:  It's Not Anime (a couple of good things but largely a disappointment)

Enough for now, more later....

Saturday, October 03, 2009

VIFF highlights so far...

Well, I've seen a few very good films, one good, and one that hit the ball right out of the park:  We Live in Public.

Here is the synopsis from the film's website:
Ten years in the making and culled from 5000 hours of footage,  WE LIVE IN PUBLIC reveals the effect the web is having on our society, as seen through the eyes of “the greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of”, artist, futurist and visionary Josh Harris. Award-winning director  Ondi Timoner (DIG! – which also won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2004 – making Timoner the only director to win that prestigious award twice) documented his tumultuous life for more than a decade to create a riveting, cautionary tale of what to expect as the virtual world inevitably takes control of our lives.
Harris, often called the “Warhol of the Web”, founded, the first Internet television network during the infamous dot-com boom of the 1990s. He also curated and funded the ground breaking project “Quiet” in an underground bunker in NYC where over 100 people lived together on camera for 30 days at the turn of the millennium. With Quiet, Harris proved how we willingly trade our privacy for the connection and recognition we all deeply desire, but with every technological advancement such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, becomes more elusive. Through his experiments, including a six-month stint living with his girlfriend under 24-hour electronic surveillance which led to his mental collapse, Harris demonstrated the price we pay for living in public.
This one really keyed into some of my own fears about the new technological world.  I could talk more about the film specifically, but I really think it better you watch it yourself.
What made this screening so great for me is that the director Ondi Timoner was there and did a really extensive Q&A afterwards.   I love this woman's work - DIG! is one of my all time favorite films - and I have to say DIG! ranks higher than this one as a personal fave, but that is only because I have a particular love for stories of crazed musical genius.  Josh Harris, on the other hand, is not a likeable guy.   Timoner has no great love for Harris - she was hired by Harris to film the "Quiet" project over a decade ago (for which he stiffed her financially), referred to him during the Q&A as a charlatan, and admitted that for a long time she had no interest in stringing this footage together.  Thankfully, that changed - as she said in the Q&A, despite her conflicted feelings about Harris, she felt that this was a film that needed to be made - the time was right, and Harris gave her complete access to the footage, letting her tell the story she wanted to tell.

And oh what a story it is.  Harris truly believes that entertainment in the future will involve everyone having cameras in their house, the job of "producers" being to pull this footage into something that is engaging to watch.  Oh the horror - and I like to think (or hope) he is wrong, though the volume of "reality" tv shows is already testing those boundaries.  I get scared by things like the changing meaning of the word "friend"; that the self-worth of today's youngsters is starting to hinge on the number of online "friends" or "followers" they have, and that despite these fears I too have online conversations with people who I really don't know (name? location? age? family? schooling? job? no idea...and those are just the basics).  Are they my "friends"? No.  But how hard is it going to be to hold on to that distinction?  What role do these online connections play in how socially involved we feel?

Uncomfortable questions to be sure, but important ones.

(And I will say a big thanks to Timoner for keeing the "toilet bowl cam" footage to a minimum.)

(and for those of you that read this earlier - I've gone back and corrected some pretty whacky sentences - that's what I get for trying to blog before my coffee has kicked in)