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Lullaby for Pi (2010)
Recently widowed musician in deep depression meets quirky female through a bathroom door and rejoins the living
Basically, this is a movie that for all intents and purposes, doesn't quite exist. I don't remember having heard anything about the movie, but came across it by accident while flipping through the movie listings on TV. And that is a shame! Okay, it hasn't gone completely unnoticed, as the tumblr blog people have an extensive post about it.
Synopsis: young brilliant musician goes into a deep depression with the death of his wife and stops music. Instead he spends his time in the hotel room where he first met her, waiting for her to call. A young woman, who doesn't want him to see her face and who lost several years of her youth to being in a coma, forms a friendship with him through the bathroom door. And, like magic, and with the help of the kindly chess playing hotel desk man, the two eccentric people tentatively and quirkily begin to live. He, again, she for the first time.
And it is the quirkiness that I can see being a thumbs down for some. Why? I've been struggling to articulate my thoughts, but it comes to what may be an odd split in the human population between those who delight in Magical Realism versus those who delight in cartoon violence or the un-magical realism of saccharine sentimental (happy / sad) movies. The emotional life of the characters is brought forward in the storytelling through exaggerated setting and character. So the young woman struggling to find her place in the world hides in the bathroom of the man having lost his place. Each have erected a wall between themselves and the world which, by the magic of life, is embodied in the locked bathroom door.
And thus we see a visual metaphor dance around the theme of finding/losing/rediscovering one's voice. The metaphor is re-enforced with the subplot of the young musician who has to struggle to keep his own musical voice while it is being excoriated by the good-intentioned father.
And, in the best of a magical realism typical of many Canadian writers, such as Barbara Gowdy and Margaret Atwood, the theme is explored in different ways. The young woman begins to find her voice using mute media: she uses film frames clipped from the movies she's paid by a theatre company to project and, with a kind of homage to Timothy Findley's novel Famous Last Words, journal writing on the wall of her loft that she would paint over until the day she met Sam.
This is a fun movie. The directing kept it light, and the performances by the leads are engaging and don't fall into maudlin sentimentality. Forest Whitaker as their unassuming spiritual guide was perfect in the role. The filmography is good and contributes to the story with its own subtle quirkiness. And the music is also excellent. As is noted, Charlie Winston contributes perfectly to the sound track, including Rupert Friend's extemporaneous blues/jazz 'hit' I'm in Love With a Bathroom.
Post Review: This movie participated in a delightful little synchronicity that, for the curious can be found at egajd.blogspot.com
Year of the Carnivore (2009)
Learning about sex is weird
I watched this, by accident last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I turned to it, I didn't know anything about it, but quickly realized that it was a Canadian film. There is some weirdness in how Canadians see sex/love, and this film captures that in spades. There is nothing clearly explicit, except for a couple of naked buttocks. However, the scenes of sexual exploration are invariably just slightly off centre and very funny. Does Sammy learn the difference between sex and love?
The acting is excellent, and I enjoyed the quirky characters and pacing of the film. In typical Canadian fashion, the denouement is surprising, but ends hopefully. Sook-yin Lee, with the delightful Cristin Milioti as Sammy Smalls, makes this a gentle film with a crunchy satisfaction to it. A surprising delight.
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Director's Cut Far, Far Better than IMDb's 6.4 Rating
I have watched this movie several times through my idiot box, without having any awareness of how it did at the box office or of its reviews. (I don't remember even noticing it or anything about it when it was released.) Even before seeing the director's cut, I thought it very good.
Tonight I watched what I didn't know existed - the director's cut. Even having seen just the box office release I would have rated TCOR about a 7 to 7.5, mostly because of the excellent special affects and the quality of the action sequences, but also because of the intensity of Diesel's portrayal of the anti-hero struggling with his feelings for Kyra.
The director's cut completes the story's continuity, and removes what had until tonight puzzled me. And so the 7 easily becomes a 9 or even 9.5.
The only thing that keeps me from giving it a ten is that the parameters set out for the atmosphere of Cremotoria are quite blatantly violated. A small quibble, I assure you, but just enough for me to keep it from a 10.
It is a very dark, and funny, and sad, and very entertaining sci-fi action movie. A fully satisfying movie.
You Kill Me (2007)
Brilliant, Unsentimental Life-Affirming Comedic Black Melodrama
This infectious quiet comedy grabbed me by the heart and didn't let it go. As a movie it worked at all levels - script, production, acting. The concept of the drunk killer being played straight could have fallen miserably if any of these parts of the film had failed. But every part contributed to the whole, to which I would like to particularly commend the director/producers for the beautiful restraint they showed with the film's score and music.
Some of the commentators here expressed concern over the mobs of Buffalo, but that was one of the straightest jokes on film! The Polish and Irish squabbling over pennies and snow removal as if these were the meaning of life!? This sets the counterpoint for Kingsley brilliant portrayal of Frank, the reluctant AA member who begins to leave his old ways of living and join the living. He's left the dead of winter for the possibility of life while learning to dress dead bodies. In SF he discovers that he is no longer bound by tradition, in which like a loser he had done as he was told. And this counterpoint is extended by the petty mobsters moving with puffed up TV melodrama towards their deaths because they are bound to a code that they are unable or unwilling to break.
Frank's hesitancy in embracing AA is well scripted and acted, but becomes brilliant once he decides to join and takes the part about honesty to heart. Following his motto about the importance of precision, Frank conscientiously chooses to be 100 percent honest. Some have said that anyone could have done that role, but I don't think many could have made it believable. It was scripted and acted well enough that I did not have a credibility problem with Frank's honesty.
However, the brilliance of the movie comes fully to life with the introduction of Leoni 's portrayal of Laurel and the development of the relationship between her and Frank. In a very few short lines the two characters establish an awareness that they have a common quirk - unflinching honesty, which was affirmed with Laurel's humorous acquiescence to Frank's observation that the dead step-father's toes would need to be broken in order to fit his feet into the stolen bowling shoes.
And I would like to stand and give Leoni my ovation and apology. I had made a point of avoiding her films until I accidentally saw "Spanglish.' In that movie she opened my mind to the possibility that she has some acting skill, because she managed to keep a thoroughly unlikable neurotic character human and interesting when it would have been very easy not to have been able to do that. Here, as Laurel, the subtlety of her reactions of surprise, disappointment, and the myriad other emotions she needs to act is a brilliant dance of words and discovery with Kingsley, who portrays with straight man comic brilliance his surprise and fear at wanting to reach for something in life other than a bottle or a gun.
When Frank reveals to the group that he kills people, the reaction of everyone in the room is wonderful, especially Laurel's. You can see in their faces a bit of disbelief, then a kind of shock. But, as Frank continues to tell his story as a drunk, their initial shock is replaced by the alcoholic's recognition of his or her drunken stories in him. What he does for a living falls away as less important than living in the moment, alive, one day at a time. "I think it went better than you think," his sponsor says after the disclosure. And isn't that a beautiful and affirming life message from a hit man's AA sponsor? Too, too funny!
I was so surprised at how good I found my first viewing of this movie that I watched it a second time, the following night. And it was even better the second time. Bravo!
A delightful and subtle film
I loved this film! It has a great heart and great bones. I stumbled onto it by chance and I had no recollection, not even an inkling, of this movie from promos or reviews or word of mouth. I remember reading, many years ago, a journalist who commented on the value of watching movies without having them contaminated by the pre-judgement of reviews or the false shill of the promos. And this seems to be the single most common source of the critics' negative reaction to the film: it failed to meet expectations of it being a comedy, or a slice of life, or character driven. I had no expectation about the film, and so it was comedic - but I only laughed once or twice - without being a comedy; it was about a person, but so eccentric that it wasn't slice of life; it was about a character, but the character was so intelligently optimistic and trusting of her instinct to life, that it wasn't the angst-driven sentimental melodrama so typical of American 'serious' film - as I wrote that I realized that writer/director Lisa Krueger managed to poke fun at this schlock American sentimentality in the husband! And very cleverly too! And Kreuger was able to keep the cloyingly sentimental ending from the screen, when the wayward, not prodigal, husband returned with his tail shrunk between his legs. Bravo, Ms. Krueger, bravo! (Now I will be watching this film again, as it is getting better and better as I reflect on it.)
Graham's performance as Joline is brilliant. I loved how subtly but completely she was able to portray and convey intelligent awareness of her committable commitment to honouring her words and actions - she knew that in keeping her word with a band, or friends, or husband that she was setting herself up to ridicule and/or disappointment in a world that was unable to honour commitment as she was able to do. But even with that strength, she was fully connected to humanity, and embraced with a fully committed heart their frailty and failures. The character of Joline was amazingly well acted, and I left the film surprised that I had no recollection of awards nominations for it. Okay, not that surprised, as American awards tend to go to women in 'serious' roles, filled with angst and the proper amount of nudity, which this film did not have. What it has was far better, which was heart in this woman's discovery of herself with the assistance of new friends and a self-deprecating shaman.
I admit to being a bit of a soft touch for eccentric characters who manage their peculiarities while remaining honest and true to themselves as they move through the minefield of what comprises 'proper' societal behaviour and 'acceptable' interpersonal discourse. So, if people must conform to normality in your world, then this film will not be to your liking. And that was, it seems, one of the common threads in the critiques.
And I am always a sucker for a good play on words when it raises questions of human behaviour and ethical/philosophical values. Until this movie I hadn't made the emotional connection between being committed (to a cause or honesty or something) and being committed (to an insane asylum). At what point does one's commitment to a personal sense of truth and action in life become a one way ticket to insanity? This sounds like a simple question, or one that is easily dismissed as being rhetorical. But is it? And yet few of the critics - I think maybe two, commented on this aspect of the film either directly or indirectly.
A lovely film. 8/10.