Weirdos

“I’m just sick of watching Canadian movies with Canadian actors in Canadian backdrops and then they exchange money and it’s American cash.”

Ottawa born actor, director, screenwriter and producer, Jay Baruchel, Mansbridge One on one, March 2017

Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion on TV about Canadian cinema. Most of the people say that English Canadian films are boring and uninteresting. But to characterize all Canadian films that way, is a disservice to the artists who work so hard to make these films. Bruce McDonald has been making films in Canada for almost thirty years. His latest film, Weirdos, is a sweet coming of age tale. It begins when 15-year-old Kit (Dylan Authors) and his girlfriend Alice (Julia Sarah Stone) decide to run away from home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia , and hitchhike to Sydney, Nova Scotia. This takes place in 1976 during the American Bicentennial weekend. Kit and Alice are pretending to be spending the night at each other’s house. But it’s not long before Dave, Kit’s dad, finds out and is understandably worried. The teens are going to Sydney for an all night beach party. And, for some reasons, Kit wants to go live with his mom. They get lucky when they are picked up by a bunch of friends, who decide to drive with them to Sydney for the party. In the car, Alice witnesses Kit getting closer to Leo (Max Humphreys), the boy sitting beside him. Later at the beach, Alice’s suspicion is confirmed: Kit is gay. After the initial shock, Alice affirms her support for her best friend. Together they go to meet Kit’s mom. Laura, (played with delicately laced hysteria by Molly Parker) it is now clear to us, is suffering from some form of mental instability, and is not the right person to raise a child. Like in most of his previous films, Bruce McDonald has a great selection of Canadian songs everywhere throughout Weirdos. With the film’s innocent outlook and the luminous black-and-white photography (Becky Parsons was the cinematographer), all you need is a songs like Last song by Edward Bear, Carry me by The Stampeders or even Snowbird by Anne Murray to feel you are watching The Andy Griffith show. It does not take much. Kit walks down a country road and one of those songs is playing, and I hear Opie Taylor’s familiar whistling. What I liked about Weirdos is the innocence. The innocence of those black-and-white TV shows, of my teenage years during the 70s. The innocence that is part of Kit’s life and that I hope he’ll never lose. Thanks to Daniel McIvor for his sensitive screenplay and to McDonald for Weirdos and for his contribution to Canadian cinema. Go see Weirdos.

To see… I caught a great interview with Canadian filmmaker Jay Baruchel on (Peter) Mansbridge One on one. Baruchel is as articulate about Canadian culture and cinema as he is on our heritage and hockey. Here is another quote from that interview: “If we were in any other country in the world, it wouldn’t even be a discussion. If someone wanted to make a movie in England that took place in England, no one would ask them why.” Here is a link to that interview:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/mansbridge-one-on-one-jay-baruchel-1.4021480

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Weirdos

Directed by:
Bruce McDonald

Screenplay by:
Daniel McIvor

Starring:
Dylan Authors
Julia Sarah Stone
Molly Parker
Allan Hawco
Cathy Jones
Rhys Bevan-John
Max Humphreys

85 min.

Rated 14A

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Living is easy with eyes closed (Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados)

The title comes from the Beatles song Strawberry fields forever, which John Lennon wrote it in 1966 while he was  filming Richard Lester’s How I Won The War in Spain. Antonio (Javier Cámara) is an English teacher obsessed by The Beatles. He uses the lyrics to their songs to teach English to his pupils. When he hears that Lennon will be in Spain, he decides to drive to Almeria, where the filming took place, in the hope of meeting him. On the way there, Antonio picks up two young hitchhiker: Belén (Natalia de Molina), a pregnant 20-year-old who wants to return to her family, and Juanjo (Francesc Colomer), a teenage boy who has run away from a strict father. Arriving in Almeria they find shelter at a farmhouse. The three of them become friends. And Antonio will try to meet Lennon. Living is easy with eyes closed is the Spanish entry for the Best foreign language film at the 2015 Academy Awards. It is a pleasant film, a bit thin on plot but with good production values and acting by all. Lead actor Javier Cámara’s Antonio is at first sight a bit peculiar, but wins us with his kindness and generosity towards his two road companions. In other words : pretty good.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Living is easy with eyes closed (Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados)

 

Directed by: 
David Trueba
 
Screenplay by: 
David Trueba
 
Starring: 
Javier Cámara
Natalia de Molina
Francesc Colomer
 
108 min.
 
Rated 14A
 
In Spanish and English with English subtitles

  

 

The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared (Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann)

It’s not very often that we see a Swedish comedy. The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared is certainly not Ingmar Bergman, but it is one heck of an absurdist comedy. The main character is Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson), who on his hundredth birthday, like the title says, climbs out the window of the old folks’ home. At the bus station, as he is waiting for the next bus out-of-town, Allan runs into a skinhead who has to go to the toilet, and asks Alan to keep an eye on his suitcase. But Alan’s bus is leaving and he boards it with the suitcase. When the suitcase is opened, it is full of money belonging to a gangster. Pretty soon, everyone is trying to find the old man and/or the money. As this story unfolds, we see snippets of Alan’s life in flashback. As a child, Alan got obsessed by explosives and blowing things up . As an adult, he worked building bombs, and also got to interact with great men. Alan meets Truman, Franco, Stalin, Churchill, Reagan and others. In the funniest chapter, he encounters Herbert Einstein, Albert’s dumber (and fictional?) brother. If the film lags a bit in the middle, it picks it up again towards the end for a great, funny finale that includes an elephant named Sonya. The film is helped by a lively score with a tuba, composed by Matti Bye.

And the nominees are… The team of Love Larson and Eva von Bahr are nominated for Makeup and hairstyling. This is a rare occurrence for a foreign film. I don’t think it stand a chance.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared (Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann) 

Directed by:
Felix Herngren
Screenplay by:
Felix Herngren
Hans Ingemansson
Based on the novel by Jonas Jonasson
Starring:
Robert Gustafsson
Iwar Wiklander
David Wiberg
113 min.
Rated 14A
In Swedish and bits of German,
Russian, English, Spanish, and
French with English subtitles

The rover

The rover is set in Australia 10 years after a global economic collapse. It stars Guy Pearce as Eric, who drives is sedan through the most post-apocalyptic desert you have ever seen. The sedan gets stolen by three men who have crashed their truck. They all have guns and seems to be fleeing trouble. One of them, Henry, is badly wounded. Eric manages to start the truck again, and tries to find them to get is car back. The reason why this particular car is of such importance to him only becomes clear at the end of The rover. In his search Eric finds Rey (Robert Pattinson), a young man who happens to be Henry’s brother. Like Henry, Rey is wounded as a result of a robbery gone wrong. Rey will lead Eric to the gang’s hideout. Along the way : mayhem, violence and death. Australian director David Michôd is a master at creating a foreboding atmosphere. His first feature film was the brilliant crime drama Animal kingdom. Good acting here from Pearce and Pattinson. Although Pattinson can mumble at times, he still creates a compelling character. Cinematographer Natasha Braier shows a dirty and ugly desert, but still manages to also show a beauty of epic proportion. And there is a vibrating score by composer Antony Partos assaulting our ears, and announcing bad things coming. Very bad indeed.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 The rover

 

Directed by: 
David Michôd
 
Screenplay by: 
Joel Edgerton
David Michôd
 
Starring: 
Guy Pearce
Robert Pattinson
Scoot McNairy
Tawanda Manyimo
David Field
Susan Prior
 
102 min.
 
Rated 14A

Ida

The two women are holding each other. The younger is wearing a nun’s habit, while the older stares blankly and seems a little distraught. The framing of that shot also includes the ceramic wall behind them. Every shots in Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida are perfectly composed, always showing us the characters and their surroundings. Set in the early 1960s in Poland, Ida‘s main character is Anna, a young novice nun. Before taking her vows, she has to make contact with her only surviving relative. She meets her aunt Wanda, a chain-smoking, alcoholic, bitter woman. Wanda tells Anna that her name is actually Ida Lebenstein and that she is Jewish. They travel to find out what happened to Anna/Ida’s parents. The farmer who hid them during the war is reluctant to talk. The two of them are an odd pair. Anna, the nun and Wanda, the atheist who gets testy when Anna mentions God or pray. And Wanda smokes and drinks a lot, which does go well with Anna. But they become closer through the truths they uncover. Along the way they meet Lis, a young handsome saxophonist who was hitchhiking. Anna and Lis become friends. This film is about truths that have to be told, so that the younger generation will be aware of the their past. Ida is interesting on two counts: The acting from newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza (winner of the Polish edition of Dancing with Stars). Kulesza is especially excellent, bringing some needed humor and cynicism. And that marvelous black-and-white Cinematography by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski. There are lots of things to like in Ida, but I found the film too slow and the topic of little interest. However, esthetically Ida is as close to perfection as a film can get.

And the Oscar went to… Poland won its first Foreign language film Oscar in history for Ida. Accepting his award, director Pawel Pawlikowski ignored the musical cue signaling the end of his alloted time. The audience was having a ball, seeing that whatever the orchestra did, it had no effect. Pawlikowski kept speaking over the music. It was funny the first time, but when every winners did the same throughout the night, it got quite annoying. Next Oscar, install a trap. That’ll be funny!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Ida

 

Directed by: 
Pawel Pawlikowski
 
Screenplay by: 
Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Pawel Pawlikowski
 
Starring: 
Agata Kulesza
Agata Trzebuchowska
Joanna Kulig
Dawid Ogrodnik
 
80 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance
 
In Polish with English subtitles.

 

Cas & Dylan

Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslany give road movie Cas & Dylan more than enough to make it worthy. Dreyfuss plays Dr. Cas Pepper, a man dying of cancer. Cas wants to leave Winnipeg and drive to B.C. to be with a woman he loved. Enter Dylan Morgan, a young excentric wannabe writer with a motor mouth. She is escaping an abusing boyfriend. At first Cas can’t stand Dylan, but soon they get to appreciate each other. This is, like it or not, quite formulaic. Clashing personalities, funny at times with a thick slice of pathos toward the end and, of course, characters who were not supposed to get along ‘changing each other’s lives’. I liked Dreyfuss and Maslany’s company more than Cas and Dylan’s. Tatiana Maslany is better known for TV show Orphan Black in which she plays a multitude of characters. In Cas & Dylan, her wide expressive eyes let us penetrate inside a character that would otherwise be one-dimensional and annoying. Dreyfuss succeed in showing the gradual hold the cancer has on Cas’ body and spirit. This is for the most part a two character film. Canadian actress Jayne Eastwood has such a small part as the hotel receptionist that if you blink you miss it. Cas & Dylan was shot in Sudbury and Calgary with postcard cinematography and songs provided by Canadian performers like the Sheepdogs blasts through the car radio. This is Beverly Hills, 90210 (also Canadian) actor Jason Priestley’s directorial debut.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Cas & Dylan

 

Directed by: 
Jason Priestley
 
Screenplay by: 
Jessie Gabe
 
Starring: 
Richard Dreyfuss
Tatiana Maslany
Jayne Eastwood
Eric Peterson
  
90 min.
 
Rated 14A